The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

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.

March 8 2017 4:43 PM

Vladimir Putin to Women: Y’all Do So Many Great Chores! Also Please Smile More.

America’s bosom buddy Vladimir Putin graciously tweeted a note of appreciation to Russia’s women on Wednesday, in observation of International Women’s Day. His face a stone mask of irrepressible enthusiasm, the Russian president offered “congratulations” to the women of his nation for being both alive and woman on this very day.

March 8 2017 2:35 PM

How Activists, Newsrooms, and #Brands Are Handling International Women’s Day and the Strike

Well, here we are! It’s International Women’s Day, and here in the U.S. of A., it’s “A Day Without a Woman.” That means, at the urging of the organizers of January’s Women’s March on Washington, thousands of women are on strike and withholding patronage from all but minority- and women-owned businesses. Strikers and allies are also wearing red, creating a fun game by which we all get to guess whether people in red are feminists or victims of coincidence, forced against their will into solidarity with women worldwide.

March 7 2017 6:23 PM

The Anti-Feminist Lady-Power Shtick of Meghan Trainor’s New Song Is Totally On Brand

Meghan Trainor seems to have been dreamed up by the same man-executives who greenlit those pink Bic “for her” pens that caused a mini–Internet earthquake a few years back. It’s clear that she is formulated to appeal to women, maybe even make them feel like she’s just “for” them, not “for” men. But Trainor’s narrow aesthetics of womanhood are so reductive, they advance contemporary feminism about as much as a disposable writing tool that’s pink instead of black.

March 7 2017 5:54 PM

A Bronze Little Girl Has Arrived to Face Down the Wall Street Bull. This Should Go Well.

The statue of a bronze bull near Wall Street symbolizes American big business’s legendary take-no-prisoners attitude, but until this week, it never had a specific target to charge at. Now, a statue of a little girl has been plopped down directly in the bull’s path in downtown New York City’s Bowling Green Park. A helpless child about to be attacked by an angry wild animal: What a perfect metaphor for American society at this moment.

March 7 2017 2:55 PM

The GOP Health-Care Plan Would Effectively Dismantle Insurance Coverage for Abortion

On Monday, House Republicans revealed the plan they want to replace the Affordable Care Act. There are a few things to celebrate: The GOP decided to drop a segment of an earlier draft that would have allowed insurers to sell policies that didn’t cover prescription drugs and maternity care, which the ACA mandates. But overall, the proposed plan represents a sweeping rollback of coverage for women’s health care, including abortion, for people on both public and private insurance.

March 7 2017 8:47 AM

Chrissy Teigen Seemed Like the Coolest Person on Twitter—While She Was Struggling With Postpartum Depression

Chrissy Teigen is a model and is married to singer-songwriter John Legend, but the main thing she’s known for, the thing that she was able to leverage into writing cookbooks and a gig as a television personality, is that she’s really, really good on social media. Whether she’s making fun of her husband for his resemblance to PBS’s Arthur or roasting Piers Morgan, she always finds a way to play to the internet’s endless hunger for sass tempered by self-awareness. After she had a baby last year, she added shaming attempted mom-shamers to her clapback repertoire and continued her reign of social media dominance. Cool mom seemed to fit seamlessly into her already-established identity, adding another facet to her growing brand. Or that’s what it looked like, anyway.

March 6 2017 6:21 PM

Under Proposed DHS Policy, Detained Immigrant Mothers Would Be Separated From Their Kids

Immigrant mothers and children apprehended after coming north across the U.S.-Mexico border may be separated from one another if a proposed Department of Homeland Security policy goes through. Three government officials told Reuters that DHS is considering changing its current system, wherein families crossing the border are either detained together in family detention centers or allowed to live in the U.S. while applying for asylum or waiting for their court hearings, which could be months or even years away.

March 6 2017 2:13 PM

Marines’ Secret Trove of Nonconsensual Nude Photos Is About Power, Not Sex

Hundreds of veteran and active-duty Marine Corps members are under investigation for distributing nude photos of female Marines and other women on a secret Facebook group. According to Marine Corps veteran Thomas Brennan, who reported the allegations on his War Horse news site and on the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal, the number of photos shared may number in the thousands.