The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

July 22 2016 8:15 PM

By Picking Anti-Abortion Tim Kaine, Hillary Is Testing Feminists’ Loyalty

After months of speculation that Hillary Clinton might select Sen. Elizabeth Warren as her running mate, creating the first-ever two-woman ticket, or perhaps Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a civil rights lawyer who would’ve been the first Latino VP, her choice of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine will bitterly disappoint some of her most progressive supporters.

It’s not just that Kaine, like all 47 veeps in our nation’s history, is a white dude, not a “first” who could have driven home just how historic Hillary’s candidacy is. He’s also, at least in his personal views, opposed to abortion due to his Catholic faith—a symbolic kick in the teeth for the feminist organizations that faithfully championed Hillary over Bernie throughout the long primary season. “Is Clinton a progressive? Not if she chooses Tim Kaine,” Jodi Jacobson of the reproductive rights site Rewire wrote Thursday.

That’s not to say that Kaine is running to be a heartbeat from the presidency while nursing a secret plot to overturn Roe v. Wade. Like Vice President Joe Biden—another Catholic, personally anti-abortion Democrat—he’s said that he supports the Supreme Court ruling that established a woman’s right to choose; also like Biden, Kaine has seemed to drift leftward on the issue of late. But his personal beliefs have sometimes seemed to influence his public policymaking, making his selection an optical, and perhaps actual, move toward the center for Hillary.

The Tim Kaine who has represented Virginia in the Senate since 2012 has seemed several shades more liberal on reproductive rights than the Tim Kaine who led the state as governor from 2006 to 2010. As Politico wrote in a deep-dive about Kaine’s “abortion predicament” earlier this month:

Kaine has tried to cultivate an image as an abortion-rights champion. He’s pleased reproductive rights’ groups with a perfect voting record. He’s railed against GOP attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. And he’s celebrated in their legal victories, including last week’s Supreme Court ruling tossing out a Texas law that tried limiting a woman’s access to abortion clinics.

But it’s hard to know whether Kaine’s new look reflects his own changing attitudes, or the changing shape of the Democratic Party. In 2005, he ran for governor on promises to promote adoption, reduce abortion, and support the farce that is abstinence-only sex education. While in office, he backed a so-called partial birth abortion ban, which prohibits a certain method of mid- and late-term abortion, though he supported exceptions in cases where a woman’s health was endangered. He also supported a parental consent law that requires minors to get a parent’s signoff before obtaining an abortion—and though that law theoretically includes a “judicial bypass” option, teens are often prevented from using it by misinformation, as the Huffington Post has reported.

Kaine also bears some responsibility for Virginia’s “informed consent” law, which, among other things, requires women seeking abortions to submit to a medically unnecessary ultrasound. He said in 2008 that the law would provide “women information about a whole series of things, the health consequences, et cetera, and information about adoption.” But the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-reproductive rights research organization, has found that many states provide women with “incomplete or inaccurate information,” and that laws like the one Kaine shepherded into Virginia’s constitution often amount to “informational manipulation” of women in already vulnerable situations.

In 2007, NARAL Pro-Choice America gave Virginia an “F” in its annual reproductive freedom report and called Kaine a “mixed choice” governor. Two years later, Kaine incensed local and national women’s rights groups by signing a law that allowed the sale of “Choose Life” license plates whose proceeds went to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers. “It is unfortunate that, even after receiving thousands of messages from Virginians and pro-choice activists across the country, Gov. Kaine has opted to sign a bill that advances a divisive political ideology at the expense of women's health,” Nancy Keenan, then-president of NARAL, said at the time.

How much should progressives care that Clinton picked Kaine, a man who has loyally voted with his party on abortion in the Senate, but who created barriers for women in the state of Virginia? After all, it’s possible that he could spend four or eight years as V.P. and never touch the issue. In a smart piece on Kaine, New York magazine’s Ed Kilgore argued that his critics’ motivation is largely philosophical: “[I]n recent years, there's been a trend among pro-choice folk that's less friendly to the old ‘personally opposed to but’ pivot, or to any other attitude that condemns abortion morally while tolerating its legality. More and more feminists are insisting on recognition of abortion as a routine medical service like any other, if not an actual social or moral good.”

Still, symbolism matters in politics. As a popular moderate from a battleground state, Kaine is a savvy choice in lots of ways, and Clinton may have correctly calculated that, after all her years advocating for women’s rights, feminists will stand by her regardless. But it’s hard to get excited about Kaine. Worse, his selection begs the question of whether, on an issue that had seemed so near and dear to Clinton’s heart, we can be sure that we know where—or at least how firmly—she stands.

July 22 2016 4:58 PM

Court Vacates Purvi Patel’s Feticide Conviction, Landing a Blow Against “Personhood” Laws

The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed the February 2015 conviction of Purvi Patel, an Indiana woman sentenced to 30 years in prison with 10 years suspended for allegedly taking black-market abortion pills. Patel became the first woman in the country to be convicted of “feticide” for self-inducing an abortion.

Patel’s case has become a major flashpoint in the abortion debate: Abortion rights activists have said that she exposed the hypocrisy and lies of an anti-abortion movement that claims to want to punish abortion providers, not abortion seekers. The case also provided an example of how fetal-rights laws, purportedly written to punish criminals who assault pregnant women, can easily be used to incarcerate women and intimidate them out of perfectly legal abortions.

Prosecutors said that Patel ordered abortion pills from Hong Kong and took them during her second trimester in 2013, when her fetus was barely past the threshold of viability. Using texts Patel sent to a friend, they pieced together a story that had Patel taking the pills, delivering a live fetus, then failing to seek medical attention for it, leading to its death.

Patel denied that the fetus was alive when it entered the world; after she showed up at a hospital with vaginal bleeding, she told doctors she’d delivered a stillborn fetus and left it in a dumpster. State prosecutors argued that the fetus took at least one breath, making it a live child. Thus, Patel was found guilty of the puzzlingly contradictory charges of fetal homicide and felony child neglect, essentially punishing her for killing a fetus, then also killing a baby through inaction.

There were many problems with the prosecutors’ case against Patel. They found no evidence that she actually bought the pills, much less took them, beyond the text messages. Their claim that the fetus was born alive and viable rested on a widely discredited “lung float test.” “Abortion is supposedly legal in Indiana,” wrote Amanda Marcotte after Patel’s conviction, “but here is a woman going to jail because she told a friend that she hoped some pills she swallowed would cause an abortion.”

On Friday, Patel saw her feticide conviction overturned and her child neglect conviction reduced from a class A felony to a class D, a switch that will likely result in a new sentence of six months to two and a half years, all or much of which Patel will have already served.

But as long as laws granting personhood rights to fetuses remain on the books, other women will most likely follow in her wake. National Advocates for Pregnant Women has compiled hundreds of examples of other pregnant women who’ve been detained, arrested, and/or incarcerated for allegedly violating the rights of their own fetuses. Fetal rights measures are often justified with arguments about illegal-abortion doctors and abusive boyfriends, but they’ve been twisted to punish women who try to end their own pregnancies. (Barack Obama predicted this exact legal quandary as a 29-year-old law student.)

Patel’s case also points to an uncomfortable truth about prosecuting women for obtaining illegal abortions. Misoprostol, one of the drugs Patel allegedly took, is a legal drug that can be used for a few different purposes, one of which is abortion. In a society that asks medical practitioners to keep an eye out for illegal, self-induced abortions, even women who get a misoprostol prescription for other reasons (like an incomplete miscarriage) are at risk of harassment and discrimination from doctors or pharmacists who have moral qualms about abortion or a fear of prosecution. Patel’s case raised the profile of black-market medical abortions and stirred up suspicion around women who need those drugs. The fact is, it can be hard for a doctor to tell whether a patient has attempted a self-induced abortion or undergone a partial miscarriage. That’s why, in El Salvador, where abortion is illegal, women have been jailed for presenting with the conditions of a miscarriage.

But U.S. abortion policies are not El Salvador’s, or so we’d like to think. Anti-abortion activists routinely claim that they’d never want to punish women for seeking illegal abortions, just the doctors who provide them. (Donald Trump made the mistake of botching this logic-bending talking point in May, and he couldn’t deny it fast enough.) Patel’s vacated feticide conviction, then, is sure to inspire a celebratory statement commending the Indiana court for granting her justice. I’ll wait.

July 22 2016 1:12 PM

Why Roger Ailes’ Resignation Doesn’t Feel As Good As We Thought It Would

In the weeks since Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, his personal and professional reputations have taken a severe public beating. Carlson’s legal team says more than 20 women have come forward with further allegations of sexual harassment by Ailes in the wake of the suit, which has gotten massive attention in the press. Even Megyn Kelly, Fox’s highest-regarded female journalist, said that he harassed her early in her career.

After two weeks of increasing fervor around his alleged history of mistreating female employees, Ailes resigned on Thursday. This should be a celebratory moment for those who’ve long waited to see the man whose lechery was an open secret in the news industry get his due. But the final peg in Ailes’ Fox News career has come across as a bit of a letdown. Why doesn’t his comeuppance feel as good as we’d imagined?

For one thing, Ailes’ resignation letter lacks any measure of self-awareness or humility. Amid multiplying allegations that he shamed on-air female staffers into showing more skin and repeatedly propositioned them for sex, Ailes patted himself on the back for his contributions to gender equality in journalism. “I take particular pride in the role that I have played advancing the careers of the many women I have promoted to executive and on-air positions,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Ailes’ boss, 21st Century Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch, made a statement that seemed better suited for a jubilant retirement banquet than a resignation under accusations of chronic sexual misconduct. “Roger Ailes has made a remarkable contribution to our company and our country,” Murdoch said. “His grasp of policy and his ability to make profoundly important issues accessible to a broader audience stand in stark contrast to the self-serving elitism that characterizes far too much of the media.” Murdoch finished his letter of recommendation for Ailes without so much as a mention of the harassment allegations.

Most infuriating of all, Ailes’ future prospects look as bright as ever. He netted a $40 million buyout of the rest of his contract, and he doesn’t even have to leave Murdoch’s employ. In his resignation letter, Ailes said he’d continue as a consultant for 21st Century Fox, though later reports have him consulting for Murdoch with no connection to the Fox brand. It sounds like a cushy, lucrative gig for someone who was forced to resign after more than 20 women accused him of unconscionable treatment of his employees.

In one sense, it’s satisfying to see how Ailes’ relatively swift ouster came to be. As Nora Caplan-Bricker wrote in Slate earlier this month, the quickly mounting allegations against Ailes, and the public’s propensity to believe them, are a product of a post–Bill Cosby society that is less likely to make excuses for high-profile men who’ve previously sexually harassed and assaulted women with impunity. There is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the changing culture around accusations of sexual harassment and reason to hope that the next generation of men in power will learn that reprehensible behavior toward women won’t go unnoticed or unpunished.

But the Ailes case also reveals the shortcomings of our ability to hold alleged abusers and harassers accountable. Bill Cosby is not in jail; the nearly five dozen women who’ve accused him of sexual assault are all “alleged” victims. Ailes, who must be nearing retirement anyway, will get all the money he would have made through 2018 without having to do any of that work, then he'll transition into another great job that keeps him well-paid and in a position of influence.

He’ll even get to keep his sterling reputation among the people he cares about most. There is a not-insignificant part of the population that thinks what Ailes allegedly did to Carlson, Kelly, and others was not that bad. Some, like Donald Trump, will just choose not to believe the allegations, telling themselves until the end of time that women invent instances of harassment to get money or attention. Others, like these folks who popped up in my Twitter mentions, think Carlson shouldn’t complain about Ailes since she stayed at her job despite the harassment, and that raising a fuss over a boss who repeatedly reduced her to her sex appeal made her unpleasant to work with.

There is little evidence to suggest that Fox News will learn its lesson or change its culture of sexism, even with Ailes gone. The network’s entire paradigm around accusations of sexual assault has revolved around victim-blaming, distrust, and outright denial—Ailes will be seen as a casualty of the feminist war on men, not a cautionary tale. Fox News diehards will likely believe that that his ouster is just another example of a PC culture that punishes men for vocalizing their manly desires for sex with their employees.

As temporarily gratifying as it may be to watch Ailes incur a nominal punishment for his alleged misdeeds, that feeling of justice served shouldn’t last long. The future of Fox News isn’t a zero-tolerance policy for mistreatment of women. It’s Murdoch, Fox News’ interim leader, who removed Ailes from his post with a kiss and a wink and who didn’t find it necessary to renounce Ailes’ alleged behavior, commit to making Fox News a safe workplace for women, or say anything about workplace sexual harassment at all.

July 22 2016 12:49 PM

Condoms, More Than 10,000 Years Old, Are Too “Modern” for Mike Pence

Donald Trump’s pledge to “Make America Great Again” is a barely-coded promise to pull our country back in time, and his selection of the extremely conservative Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate is one of his first official acts making good on his word. Buzzfeed dug up a reminder of this fact on Thursday in the shape ofcomments Pence made in 2002, the gist of which is that even the Bush administration was too “modern” and “liberal” for our would-be VP.

Pence’s comments were about sexual health—an area where he remains in the Stone Age, as my colleague Christina Cauterucci has written. They came in response to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell support for condom usage, which he articulated in an MTV forum, saying, “I think it’s important for young people, especially, to protect themselves from the possibility of acquiring any sexually transmitted disease, but especially to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS, which is a plague that is upon the face of the earth.” Pence disagreed.

July 22 2016 10:16 AM

The GOP’s Godless Convention

In 1992, Pat Buchanan gave a speech at the Republican National Convention that became instantly notorious for its paranoid racism, crescendoing in an ugly evocation of the Los Angeles riots. Donald Trump’s dark and distorted keynote Thursday night was in many ways a re-upping of Buchanan’s noxious vision. But Buchanan's speech, directed squarely at Christian conservatives, was also memorable for its articulation of the culture wars: He blasted Hillary Clinton’s “radical feminism” and warned that “Clinton and Clinton” would impose an agenda consisting of “abortion on demand” and “homosexual rights.” By contrast, this week's Republican convention in Cleveland barely tried to pretend that its candidate cares about abortion, sexuality, or God.

Trump’s slog of an acceptance speech “focused”—if you can call it that—on his pet topics of immigration, crime, and trade. He has shied away from social issues on the campaign trail, and for good reason. This is a lifelong New Yorker who has previously claimed to be “very pro-choice” and who enraged both the pro-life and pro-choice communities in March when he blundered into saying that women should be punished for getting abortions. True to form, his convention speech side-stepped the issue of abortion completely.

 

July 22 2016 12:16 AM

Ivanka Trump Wants to Convince You that Her Father Is Hillary Clinton

The 2016 Republican National Convention has suffered from a serious anecdote deficit, with even Donald Trump’s nearest and dearest struggling to come up with the kinds of charming, detail-rich personal tales that serve to “humanize” a candidate. Ivanka Trump, apple of her father’s eye and the scion charged with introducing him on Thursday night, might have been expected to fill that gap. In a CNN interview this week, she rehearsed childhood stories of playing with Legos at her father’s knee, and she reminisced about her father’s heroism in an Atlantic City boxing ring in a passage of her 2010 memoir.

And the tried-and-true convention-speech formula of Anecdotes + Platitudes seemed at first to be what Ivanka was striving for in her speech, aside from a curious opening caveat about how, “like many of my fellow millennials,” she does not consider herself “categorically Republican or Democrat.” That’s a strange quirk to point out in the context of this Republican convention, where the cause of GOP unity has largely vanquished Trump skepticism and where on Wednesday night Ted Cruz engineered a fracas that almost ended in fisticuffs over the very question of party loyalty. “ ‘Vote your conscience’ has become a loaded term for Republican delegates over the past week,” as my colleague Jim Newell put it—but not so much for Ivanka, it seems. Her neither/nor admission was the first indication that her speech might veer from the RNC script.

But no one could have predicted that Ivanka would veer so far from that script that she’d end up reading from the DNC platform, on behalf of a candidate who sounded a lot more like Hillary Clinton than her father. “At my father's company,” she told the cheering crowd, “there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do, and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” She recited familiar stats on the gender wage gap, continuing, “As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put in place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce, and he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all.” She then reiterated her earlier point about the gender wage gap: “Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

Let’s pause for a moment. Ivanka Trump is talking about a man who once said, “I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing.” A man whose campaign has been sued for gender discrimination and that, according to an analysis by the Boston Globe, pays its female employees one-third less than its male employees. A man who once called pregnancy “an inconvenience for a business” and who threw a tantrum when a lawyer in a deposition needed to take a preplanned break to pump breast milk for her three-month-old baby, calling her “disgusting.” A man whose campaign manager, Paul Manafort, stated shortly before her speech that Trump can appeal to women because “their husbands can't afford to be paying for the family bills.” This is the man, according to Ivanka Trump, whom we can trust to end pregnancy discrimination, close the gender wage gap, and bring affordable, presumably subsidized childcare to American families, despite no evidence of any of these plans in his performance as an executive, in his campaigning thus far, or in the Republican Party platform.

Admittedly, there was a certain bewildered pleasure to be taken in this red-meat crowd roaring their approval for two of Hillary Clinton’s signature policy positions—it seemed to crystallize the chaotic ideological confusion that has characterized so much of Trump’s rise thus far. But what was Ivanka’s long game here? Was she making these assertions about her father’s policy goals to trap him into at least paying lip service to wage equality and parental leave as president? Is she trying to get Hillary Clinton elected by offering a wholehearted endorsement of big chunks of her platform? Was the speech not really a pitch for her father at all but rather a pitch in disguise for her #WomenWhoWork campaign and her forthcoming book of the same title?

Whatever the answer, we know that Ivanka Trump’s father values blind loyalty over most any other character trait. Perhaps the tenderest act of loyalty Ivanka could perform in this arena was to grossly mischaracterize his positions and beliefs before the biggest audience of their lifetimes.

July 21 2016 8:17 PM

Look at Vintage Photos of a (Brunette!) Hillary Clinton in Bow-Tie Blouses and Midi-Skirts

God bless Chelsea Clinton. Just when we were getting a little fed up with the Republican National Convention’s hold on the news cycle, she swooped with exactly the pick-me-up we needed: a “throwback Thursday” post full of glorious vintage photos of her mother. Is this shameless pandering to the all-important people-who-enjoy-looking-at-old-pictures demographic? Yes. Are we OK with that? Also yes.

July 21 2016 8:07 PM

Roger Ailes’ Forced Resignation Is a Repudiation of the Fox News Worldview

Rumors of Roger Ailes’ forthcoming ouster as chairman and CEO of Fox News have been circulating for days, but his resignation on Thursday nonetheless felt like a momentous event. The 20-year veteran of America’s most-watched news network, whose history of harassing women has been an open secret for years, lost his job within two weeks of Gretchen Carlson’s filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against him.

July 21 2016 4:44 PM

The UK House of Commons Commissioned a Report on How to Make Parliament More Inclusive

Given the misogyny and racism on display at the Republican National Convention right now, it is somewhat surprising to see governing bodies still interested in presenting forward-looking, inclusive ideas. On Wednesday, Bristol University professor Sarah Childs presented a report called “The Good Parliament” to the House of Commons. Childs had spent months interviewing and consulting with members of Parliament and their staffers in the aim of figuring out ways to make Parliament more diverse and welcoming to women and minorities. In her Wednesday address of Parliament, Childs said, “As we welcome the second female prime minister, we must not forget that Parliament itself remains far from diverse and inclusive. … Parliament needs to accept its responsibility to ensure a diverse composition of MPs and that present members are able to equally participate.” The report presents 43 recommendations which address three dimensions of “the diversity sensitive Parliament”: equality of participation (diversity among MPs and leadership positions), Parliamentary infrastructure (the physical and organizational structures of Parliament), and Commons culture (the customs and habits of MPs).

The recommendations addressing infrastructure are the easiest to implement, and will, hopefully, receive the least backlash. For instance, the report promotes “unisex/gender neutral toilets” because failing to provide them “will limit who can visit, participate in the formal activities of, and work in Parliament.” This seemingly minor change could make it much easier for mothers with sons, fathers with daughters, transgender individuals, and those with aging parents to more easily participate in Parliament. The report also recommends allowing infants in the Chamber of the House, which would allow mothers to breastfeed at work. “In addition to allowing Members to carry out their representative functions, permitting entry to infants would have symbolic benefits—showcasing the Commons as a role-model parent-friendly institution,” Childs writes.

July 21 2016 2:30 PM

Here’s Why Most Moms Don’t Go to Sex Parties While Their Kids Are at Camp

In a recent trend piece in the New York Post, reporter Doree Lewak writes about the ostensibly growing phenomenon of parents going wild while their kids are off at summer camp. Lewak presents us with a series of micro-portraits of modern-day Madame Bovaries and Anna Kareninas, women who spend much of the year feeling shackled by the confines of family life and seize upon the rare opportunity to let their suppressed libidos free.

There’s Elle, who has “been in nonstop [party] mode” since her children left—brackets in the original—and says she plans on filling her seven-week break from parenting with “parties with pot, magic mushrooms, ecstasy and group sex.” There’s Melanie, who is excited about getting drunk but most looks forward to an “epic bash” in which “[t]he couple goes all out—with naked girls and midgets.” There’s the Upper East Side mom who’s “typically quite modest when her kids are around, but all that changes when they leave.” Over the summer, she says, “I’m literally going to put on my tightest dresses. I’ve never worn a bikini in front of them—I don’t want to be too exposed. Now I’ll be walking around naked,” she explained. Similarly, there’s Tara, who made an agreement with her husband that they will be naked whenever home. On their agenda are “regular ‘Playboy party’ dinners with their friends: The women don as little as possible and the men dress like Hugh Hefner.” There’s only one anecdote about a dad letting loose over the summer, and it’s about a “professional Wall Street guy” who got arrested for urinating in public and spent a weekend in jail.

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