The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

March 14 2017 2:10 PM

CBO: Trumpcare Would Block Contraception Access, Resulting in Thousands of Unplanned Births

The Congressional Budget Office released its highly anticipated analysis of the GOP’s proposed health-care plan on Monday, and Republicans are scrambling to avoid talking about the agency’s sobering projections of the bill’s impact. The American Health Care Act, also known as Trumpcare, could cause 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance over a decade according to the report, though the White House itself says it’s more like 26 million. For some older Americans, insurance premiums would rise 750 percent in the next 10 years.

March 14 2017 1:51 PM

There Are More Future Female Chefs Enrolled in the Culinary Institute Than Ever

In 1946, the New Haven Restaurant Institute opened its doors in downtown New Haven, Connecticut. The school would eventually evolve into the Culinary Institute of America, one of the country’s most prestigious culinary schools, with a main campus in Hyde Park, New York, and satellites in Texas, California, and Singapore. But at the time of its founding, its ambitions were more narrow: to train World War II veterans in the culinary arts. Whether the CIA could be called a patriarchal institution from the start is a bit murky. Unlike the vast majority of sites of higher learning, it was founded by two women, Frances Roth and Katharine Angell. But its first class included 50 students, and 49 of them were men.

March 13 2017 5:55 PM

New York Court Affirms Poly Parenthood With Three-Way Custody Ruling

A New York judge granted custody to each of the three once-throupled parents of a 10-year-old boy last week, further cementing the state’s reputation as a place where queer families can grow, thrive, and stay together.

 

Two of the parents, Dawn and Michael Marano of Long Island, got married in 1994. Around 2001, their downstairs neighbor, Andrea Garcia, joined their relationship and soon moved in. Dawn Marano was infertile, so when the three decided to have a kid together, Michael Marano and Garcia stepped up to be the biological parents. After a year and a half of parenting the boy together, Dawn Marano and Garcia left Michael to be a twosome; Dawn sued Michael for divorce in 2011. Garcia and Michael have since shared custody, but the boy lives with Garcia and Dawn, who are no longer romantically involved.

 

March 13 2017 4:03 PM

Ivanka Trump Is No Centrist Bridge-Builder on Paid Leave and Child Care

Ivanka Trump’s personal PR campaign to portray herself as a reasonable, intelligent advocate for women struck a major victory on Sunday, when a piece about her work for paid parental leave ran in the New York Times. Painting the president’s daughter as a centrist family-policy crusader, the paper article ran under the headline “Ivanka Trump Takes On the Child Care Divide.” The digital version was triumphantly titled “Even Child Care Divides Parties. Ivanka Trump Tries Building a Bridge.

March 10 2017 4:51 PM

What Happens When the World’s Few Female Leaders Get Impeached?

South Korea officially removed Park Geun-hye, the country’s first female president, from office on Friday, after she was impeached in the midst of a far-reaching corruption scandal. Park leaves office just six months after the first female president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached and forced out for manipulating the federal budget.

The ousters of two women from top offices in populous nations in such quick succession made a big dent in the already tiny proportion of female heads of government and state. A just-updated report from the Pew Research Center found that only a little over a third of the world’s countries have ever had a women in the top office, and only 15 currently do. (The list of current leaders doesn’t include Park, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, or Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, whose foreign late husband and children prevent her from being president.) Of the 146 nations with data reported by the World Economic Forum in 2014 and 2016, just 56 have had at least one year with a woman as head of government or state over the past 50 years.

Compared to men, these women didn’t last long in office. In 31 of the 56 countries, women have been in the top role for five years or less, and in 10 of them, they only stayed one year. The average length of tenure for the world’s leaders of nations is far higher. On top of the 56 nations who’ve had at least one year of female leadership, there are 13 countries who’ve had women as heads of state or government for less than a year, usually as interim or acting leaders. Ecuador and Madagascar, for instance, each got the benefits of women as leaders for two days. Women are very likely to be brought in as interim leaders or likely-to-fail scapegoats after men have caused a scandal or otherwise mucked up (see: Theresa May). This is known in business and politics as the “glass cliff.”

Of the 15 women heading countries around the world, eight are the first woman to hold that position in their nation. And around the world, women are more likely to ascend to the top leadership position in government if it’s an appointed prime minister spot instead of an elected president. In parliamentary systems, people usually vote for political parties instead of individual candidates, and party leadership members are often more amenable to female leaders than the general public is. On the national stage, competing to be seen as both tough and human, a woman faces harsher criticism and highly gendered double-binds. As a prime minister, she only needs to prove herself worthy to her party members, so skills like policy aptitude and interpersonal politicking come more into play.

Countries in Asia have enjoyed some of the longest stints of female rule, with many of the continent’s female leaders coming from established political families. Bangladesh has had two female leaders for a total of 23 years since 1992. India has had a total of 21 years under female rule; the Philippines has had 16, and Sri Lanka has had 13. Europe has also fared well in this regard: Ireland is tied with India with 21 years, Iceland has had a female president or prime minister for 20 of the past 50 years, Norway counts 13, and Finland has had 12.

Most of the world’s female heads of state and government were replaced by men, and most countries who’ve had a woman at the top have only ever had one. It’s been said that a country’s second top female leader is the true harbinger of progress in gender equity, because the failings and qualities of the first are often ascribed to her gender. Once there’s been more than one woman in charge, the idea of female leadership is less remarkable.

This is why the dismissals of Park and Rousseff, both the first women to hold the top seats in their respective countries, are so troubling for the future of gender justice in South Korea and Brazil. The National Democratic Institute’s Raissa Tatad-Hazell told Fortune last year that Park’s scandal “could be used by those who aren’t big fans of equitable representation of women” to discourage the advancement of future female political leaders. The campaign for the impeachment of Rousseff was as viscerally misogynist as the campaign against Hillary Clinton: Marc Hertzman of the Cut reported last April that Rousseff’s wardrobe, hair, and body were mocked; decals of her image with her legs spread wide were placed around cars’ gas caps; and she was called a prostitute and every imaginable gendered slur.

The issue here isn’t that Park and Rousseff are innocent—they aren’t. It’s that men—including Rousseff’s replacement, Michel Temer—have committed similar deeds or much worse and kept their political office. Hertzman elaborated on this in his piece about Rousseff:

Brazil’s previous two presidents, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Rousseff’s mentor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, both faced numerous similar—in some cases, more serious—charges (17 counts against Cardoso, 34 for Silva), none of which prompted impeachment hearings.
Meanwhile, Eduardo Cunha, the leader of the Chamber of Deputies and architect of the impeachment, is himself under investigation for corruption and taking bribes. Unlike Rousseff, who has never been accused of taking public funds for herself, Cunha and several other politicians leading the charge against her are accused of siphoning spectacular sums of money from public coffers into their own pockets. What’s more, Michel Temer, Rousseff’s vice-president, is also accused of corruption — while working avidly against Rousseff. At least for now, he seems destined to replace her, which would make for the ultimate sexist double standard.

It’s impossible to say whether Park or Rousseff would have avoided their fates if they were men. But it’s clear that female leaders, in the rare cases that they’re elected or appointed at all, face higher bars for success and, in many cases, seem set up to leave office quickly or fail altogether. Then, countries are left mapping one failure onto an entire gender, and aspiring female politicians are left with one fewer role model to help them solve the ever-challenging puzzle of how to get to the top.

March 10 2017 2:05 PM

Child Marriage, More “Abortion Reversal,” and GOP Tears: This Week in Women’s Rights

While Republicans in Congress presented a master plan to protect women from indoor-tanning taxes and insurance coverage for abortion this week, state legislators around the country kept busy with their own women’s-rights pet projects. Here’s a digest of some of the recent decisions American elected officials have made about the stuff women are and aren’t allowed to do.

On Thursday, the Republican-majority New Hampshire house of representatives voted down a bill that would have raised the legal marriage age to 18. Under current state law, boys as young as 14 and girls as young as 13 can marry with a parent or guardian’s consent and permission from a judge. A handful of U.S. states allow child marriage, leaving doors open for child abuse and human trafficking. In some states, children can only marry people who’ve gotten them pregnant, and child rapists have avoided legal charges by convincing their victims’ parents to consent to their marriage. When Virginia passed a law outlawing such child-pregnancy-marriage last year, Republicans opposed it because they believed underage girls would choose abortions if they weren’t allowed to marry their fetuses’ fathers. In New Hampshire, Republicans opposed and successfully blocked the bill by arguing that it would prevent young soldiers from getting military benefits for their underage partners and “ensure forever that every child born to a minor will be born out of wedlock.” Because that's the biggest concern for a 13-year-old with an unwanted pregnancy: she's unmarried!

In the world of abortion restrictions, Georgia lawmakers gave a last round of approval on Thursday to a bill that would require doctors to tell women that they could stop a medical abortion midway through if they changed their minds by taking the first pill but not the second one. A nearly identical bill passed the Utah Senate on Thursday. Anti-abortion activists in several other states are working on similar “abortion reversal” bills. There has been no significant research on whether it's safe or effective to stop a medical abortion after the first dose, so these bills force doctors to misinform patients and promote an untested procedure—but that apparently is not stopping legislators so far.

Wyoming is seeing a comeback in ‘80s fashions: Governor Matt Mead signed into law on Thursday the state’s first new abortion-related restrictions in nearly three decades. The state now has two new laws on the books that will go into effect in July: One forces doctors to tell patients seeking abortion care that they have the right to see their fetus through an ultrasound before making their final decision. The other bans research on fetal tissue. The Associated Press reports that Wyoming’s last abortion restriction was signed into law in 1989; it required minors to get parental consent for abortions.

The great state of Texas is in the middle of a heated battle over the rights of trans people who have to go to the bathroom, and people who oppose those rights struck a victory this week. A bill that would keep trans people out of public restrooms that don’t match the gender on their respective birth certificates passed a state senate committee on Wednesday, and it’s expected to pass the full state senate, whose agenda is controlled by anti-trans crusader Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. The Texas Association of Business has said that the legislation, if passed, could cost the state $8.5 billion in its gross domestic product and more than 185,000 jobs in one year, just to make trans people unsafe and uncomfortable by making them use the wrong bathroom or avoid using the restroom at all.

Lawmakers also advanced a few expansions in women’s rights this week, starting on Monday, when anti-abortion Republicans in Idaho shed tears as they were forced to advance legislation that would repeal two abortion restrictions from 2015. The laws banned doctors from prescribing abortion medication through the video calls of telemedicine, requiring instead that patients travel for in-person appointments. Planned Parenthood argued in court that the laws presented an undue burden to abortion access in rural Idaho for reasons that had nothing to do with medical safety. The court agreed, and on Monday, Idaho anti-abortion legislators had to undo the obstacle they’d worked so hard to build. No word on whether there were tears in the Hawaii state senate on Tuesday when a committee advanced a bill requiring “crisis pregnancy centers” to provide visitors with information on abortion—but a girl can dream.

March 9 2017 6:52 PM

Hey, Prince Harry: Hurry Up and Marry Meghan Markle Already

For an institution known for centuries of grimly political matchmaking, the current British royal family boasts a striking number of endearing relationships. There’s Prince William and Kate Middleton, who dated for eight years before marrying, and who seem to genuinely like each other. There’s Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, a homely pair who fell in love in their 20s, endured decades of (admittedly not always dignified) separation, and found they were still crazy about each other in their 50s. And now, there’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the once-obscure American actress who apparently has won the heart that a dozen blonde British heiresses failed to claim.

News of the relationship between Harry and Meghan broke last fall. Since then, the relationship has progressed quickly, if you believe the gossip press. (And I choose to do so, because it’s 2017 and I’ll take any scrap of good news the world has to offer.) Harry introduced her to his sister-in-law Kate in January. Last weekend, they attended what was apparently their first wedding together as a couple. And this week, Markle wrote an admirable essay for Time about how the stigma around menstruation keeps many girls in developing countries from pursuing an education. It’s a downright Diana-worthy move.

On the surface, Markle is a surprising candidate for future princess-dom. She’s American. She’s divorced. She is three years older than Harry (35 to his 32). She’s a lifestyle blogger. She’s an actress—and not only that, but an actress on the basic-cable drama Suits. But in the post-Wallis Simpson era, the more unlikely a royal match-up, the more romantic.

Markle is also biracial, and the British tabloids’ brutal early coverage of the relationship prompted Harry to make a less-than-classic gesture of gallantry last fall: He had his communications secretary issue a formal press release about her. The release condemned “the wave of abuse and harassment” she had suffered at the hands of the British press, and called her “his girlfriend” with swoon-worthy forthrightness. “Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her,” it read. Chivalry lives!

The press release was the first hint that Markle was not just another Cressida Bonas: Harry was obviously serious about her.

March 9 2017 5:43 PM

More Than a Quarter of People Worldwide Think Women Shouldn’t Do Paid Work

A gigantic new poll from Gallup and the International Labour Organization has found that more than a quarter of both men and women worldwide think women should stay home to raise kids and do housework instead of holding a paid job. The survey, which reached almost 149,000 adult participants in 142 countries and territories in 2016, was released Wednesday for International Women’s Day, and the pollsters says it's representative of more than 99 percent of the world’s population.

Participants were given three options for their preferred female employment situation: staying home to do unpaid homemaking and care work; doing paid work outside the home; or doing both. Of men, 29 percent said they thought women should just stay home, while a slightly smaller proportion, 28 percent, thought women should just do paid work. Among women, 27 percent preferred doing unpaid housework and 29 percent wanted just a paid job. A plurality of both—40 percent of women and 38 percent of men—wanted women to do both.

When the report’s authors separated the results by region, stark differences came to light. The men of North Africa were more likely than anyone in any other region to say women should stay home—51 percent registered that preference. In Arab nations, 45 percent of men felt the same. North American men were closer to the global average; 21 percent said a woman should only do unpaid work at home. Men in Northern, Southern, and Western Europe were most amenable to women in the workforce: Just 12 percent want women to stay at home.

The survey found that, though cultural and family norms are major predictors a woman’s desire to work outside the home, 36 percent of women who live in households that deem it not acceptable to do paid work outside the home still want to do so, whether solely or in addition to their housework. The poll’s authors note that, of the more than half of women worldwide who are not currently in the workforce, a 58 percent majority wish they were, and that 70 percent of women and 66 percent of men overall think women should hold paid jobs of some kind.

When participants were asked about the biggest challenge for women who work outside the home in their respective countries, the most frequently cited issue was balancing work and family life, followed by affordable child care. People in developed nations were more likely to express concern about wage equality, the top issue mentioned in the U.S., while residents of developing nations were more likely to cite unfair treatment, harassment, and workplace abuse.

One of the more telling takeaways from this survey is that a sizable plurality of both men and women in most regions, including North America, believe that women should both work a paid job and, as the survey put it, “take care of [the] family and the housework.” Though the gender “chore gap” is slowly shrinking, women do the bulk of housework and child care in every country where it’s been measured. That often translates to less capacity to take on higher-paying leadership roles at work and less energy for personal pursuits.

Perhaps oddly, in North America at least, more women than men think women should do housework in addition to paid work. In urban areas in the U.S. and Canada, 32 percent of men who took the survey thought women should only have paid jobs; just 19 percent of women felt the same. Perhaps the men of North America felt weird about assigning women so much labor. Urban women, meanwhile, under internal and external pressures to be high-achieving careerwomen who are also attentive mothers and homemakers, feel a clearer mandate to do both.

March 9 2017 2:10 PM

GOP Congressman: Indoor Tanning Tax Is an Unfair Burden on Women, Who Love Tanning

Republicans in Congress care about women. They care about women so much, their proposed health care plan would protect their wives and daughters from pesky insurance coverage for abortion. As a bonus, the plan would end the Affordable Care Act’s 10 percent tax on indoor tanning, a thing women love and should be able to access without undue financial burden.

That’s according to Rep. Jason Smith, R-MO, who’s on his way to becoming the next Matt McGorry with an impassioned statement he made on women’s rights (to tanning beds) on Wednesday. “I wanted to see who predominantly is taxed with this tanning tax. Is it men? Is it women? So I went to a little Google search,” he said. “What I found on Google is roughly 80 percent of who’s taxed are women. So out of the $600 million that has been created by this tax … $480 million has come from the backs and the pockets of women.”

“Today’s International Women Day,” noted Smith, who has advocated for legislation that would defund women’s health clinics. “It’s interesting that no one is bringing that up.”

Yes, women make up between 70 and 80 percent of indoor-tanning customers, and women under 30 tan the most. Smith uses this fact to argue that women are unfairly harmed by the ACA’s tanning tax. Dermatologists, meanwhile, connect the demographics of tanning to dramatic increases in the rates of skin cancer among young women in recent decades.

“Whoever decided to impose this tax seven years ago, before I was here, I’d be quite curious of why did they just randomly pick this tax to have it paid for on the backs of so many females,” Smith said in his feminist tirade, before again recommending his favorite search engine. “If you look at the number one cause of skin cancer, it’s not tanning beds. Do a Google search. It’s the sun.” Smith suggested that Democrats tax the sun instead of tanning salons.

The American Suntanning Association, which lobbies for tanning salons and suppliers, says the ACA’s tanning tax caused thousands of U.S. salons to close, eliminating tens of thousands of jobs. But there have been other developments in the tanning sector that could be equally, if not more responsible for the industry’s decline. First, there’s evidence that the indoor-tanning industry has always rested on unstable footing—Bloomberg reports that, between 2001 and 2011, tanning-salon owners were some of the most likely to default on Small Business Association–backed loans. There’s also the small issue of skin cancer, about which the general public has become increasingly aware in recent years. In 2014, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a warning about the connection between indoor tanning and skin cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states bluntly that “indoor tanning is not safe,” citing several studies published years after the ACA’s tax went into effect. When the Indoor Tanning Association began publicly touting the so-called “health benefits” of tanning (vitamin D absorption, happy feelings) in 2010, the Federal Trade Commission made it stop.

It’s also a stretch to argue that a 10 percent tax on an already-cheap luxury service has, all on its own, kept enough customers away to shut down thousands of salons. At Palm Beach Tan, one of the most popular chains in the country, tanning sessions cost about $10 to $20, depending on salon location. A customer who can afford to spend $15 on a tanning session is highly unlikely to give up tanning altogether rather than pay an extra $1.50, when she could just skip one session out of every 11 and pay the same amount. And one massive meta-analysis published in 2006 found that the risk of melanoma rose 75 percent for people who began indoor-tanning before they turned 35—so if cost really is the issue, and some customers are truly burdened by an $11 session but not a $10 one, the extra dollar is nothing compared to the health-care costs they'll face in the eventuality that they develop a life-threatening condition.

With the famously tawny Obamacare hater Donald Trump in the White House, the GOP is unlikely to budge on taxing a dangerous luxury purchase that raises health-care costs for everyone. Trump shares a love of a burnt-sienna complexion with Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi (who once bonded with Sen. John McCain on Twitter over their opposition to the ACA’s tanning tax), and super-cool reality TV stars like to stick together. Maybe someone can convince them to switch to a noncarcinogenic, untaxed, equally orange alternative: the spray tan.

March 8 2017 4:51 PM

5-Year-Old Edith Fuller Will Be the Youngest, Cutest National Spelling Bee Contestant Ever

Spelling bees have long been one of our nation’s most important sources of adorableness. A multiethnic gathering of tiny nerds, carefully reciting long words letter by letter into adult-size microphones—sometimes with a lisp? Step aside, Westminster Dog Show, you are never going to out-cute the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

But if you think the bee has already reached maximum charm, you haven’t met Edith Fuller. She’s five years old, she’s wearing a fancy white bow in her hair, and she knows how to spell “sarsaparilla,” “zephyr,” and “chauvinism.” And she just became the youngest person in history to qualify for the annual cute-a-thon in Washington, D.C.

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