The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

April 13 2017 4:07 PM

Trump’s Support for “Beautiful Babies” Is Tremendous


“It was a slow and brutal death for so many,” Donald Trump said last week from Florida as he announced the American attack on a Syrian airbase in retaliation for the Assad regime’s reported use of chemical weapons on a rebel town. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.” If the images of the “beautiful babies” themselves swayed Trump’s heart, then his invocation of them seemed to sway many of his critics. This was a speech that turned the president of the United States into the president of the United States, we were told. This was a new president whose “heart came first,” and who is “an emotional man, but … also a very smart man.”



Some cynics, perhaps not understanding the consistency of the president’s support for beautiful babies, have been skeptical about his baby-induced change of heart toward Syria. “If Donald Trump truly cares about the beautiful babies of Syria, he wouldn’t have banned them from entering the United States as refugees,” California congressman Ted Lieu told MSNBC on Wednesday. Others pointed out that more than 55,000 children had already died in the Syrian civil war, seemingly with no emotional effect on the American president.


April 12 2017 5:22 PM

The Charging Bull Sculptor Is Right. Fearless Girl Should Go.


Wall Street’s “Fearless Girl” statue has weathered more than her fair share of mischief since she was erected the night before International Women’s Day. Just two days after her arrival in the Big Apple, she got humped by a man in a suit miming child rape. A few weeks later, supporters of our dear President Donald Trump nonconsensually draped her in MAGA gear and anti-immigrant placards.



Now, the sculptor of the decades-old “Charging Bull” statue the girl “fearless”-ly faces down is claiming she doesn’t belong there in the first place. Artist Arturo Di Modica, who installed his bull sculpture under the cover of night after the 1987 stock-market crash, called on Wednesday for New York City authorities to remove the girl statue, saying it violates his rights as an artist.


April 12 2017 4:28 PM

Donald Trump’s Modeling Agency Is Closing—Not That That Has Anything to Do With Donald Trump

The New York company Trump Model Management is shutting down, a piece of news that has nothing to do with Donald Trump. Sure, the agency still bears the vestigial name of its model-connoisseur founder. And yes, the president’s financial disclosure forms last year reported that he owned an 85 percent stake in the company and earned $2 million from it in 2015. But the truthier truth is surely what he has told the American people: He has handed over control of his businesses to his two oldest sons, he has absolutely nothing to do with those businesses anymore, and the details are none of our business. The matter is settled! So this is just a news item about a random failing modeling agency, which happens to have been recently accused of flouting immigration law by using foreign models who have overstayed their tourist visas.

As Mother Jones reports, the company’s president, Corinne Nicolas, emailed colleagues over the weekend to inform them of the company’s preparations to close. “The Trump Organization is choosing to exit the modeling industry,” she wrote. “On the heels of the recent sale of the Miss Universe Organization, the company is choosing to focus on their core businesses in the real estate, golf and hospitality space.”

Trump founded the agency in 1999, and it once represented top names including Pat Cleveland and Carmen Dell’Orefice. But Trump’s political career has hurt the agency. Several top models and agents have fled since November. The ’90s supermodel Maggie Rizer quit just days before the election, saying she adored Nicolas but “as a woman, a mother, an American and a human being, I cannot wake up Wednesday morning being the least bit related to the Trump brand.” That gives her something in common with the president, who insisted that he, too, woke up on Wednesday, Nov. 9, as a man unrelated to the Trump brand.

Meanwhile, here is another interesting tidbit of business news that likewise has absolutely nothing to do with any Trumps currently occupying the White House. Net sales of Ivanka Trump’s clothing collection increased by $17.9 million in the year ending January 31, according to a new annual report from the company that licenses the clothing. That means the steep decline in sales at Nordstrom, for example, did not put the brand overall into free-fall. But it’s a significantly smaller increase than the previous year.

It’s tempting to connect the flagging performance of the Trumps’ sprawling business empire to public perception of the Trump presidency. Why else would Eric Trump have bragged to the New York Times last month that “our brand is the hottest it has ever been”? And didn’t the Times also report that Ivanka still receives fixed payments from several of the family’s real-estate endeavors, and that she continues to receive financial reports on her company’s performance? And why do so-called “ethics experts” keep using phrases like “tremendous possibility for conflict of interest”? Never mind all that. Rest assured that the fortunes of Ivanka Trump the brand no longer concern Ivanka Trump the woman. The latter stepped down from her management role at the former in January, when her husband was named a senior advisor to the founder of Trump Model Management.

April 12 2017 1:08 PM

How a Hospital’s Design Could Affect Your Chances of Getting a C-Section

When pregnant women choose hospitals for their deliveries, they’re more often swayed by a particular obstetrician or midwife than by a hospital’s quality metrics, according to research published earlier this year in Birth Issues in Perinatal Care. Though previous research has found that nearly one in three women end up delivering with a health-care provider they’ve never met or only met briefly, 73.2 percent of pregnant women surveyed in January 2016 said they chose a doctor before evaluating the facility where she delivers babies. Only 17.4 percent picked a hospital first.

April 11 2017 4:32 PM

White House Waits So Long to Plan Easter Egg Roll, Only Deplorables Remain to Fill Baskets

We can’t blame the Trump administration for everything. “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” as President Trump said in February. Same for all the vacancies in the federal government—who could have predicted those would come up?

But when it comes to doing a subpar job of planning the annual Easter Egg Roll, a 138-year-old White House tradition, the administration has nowhere to look but in the mirror. The New York Times blew the lid off this scandal in Tuesday’s paper, with just a little under a week to go until E-day, Monday’s do-or-die event. 

April 11 2017 3:22 PM

The San Bernardino Gunman Had a History of Domestic Abuse, Like Most U.S. Mass Shooters

Monday’s elementary-school shooting in San Bernardino, California, left an 8-year-old student and a 53-year-old teacher dead and a 9-year-old student injured. Police say the gunman, 53-year-old Cedric Anderson, shot and killed himself after his shooting spree. He was the latest in a long line of American shooters whose histories of domestic abuse were warning signs, missed or ignored by authorities, of escalating violent tendancies.

April 11 2017 12:28 PM

Janelle Monáe Proposes a Sex Strike, Which Would Inevitably Be an Administrative Nightmare

In the May issue of Marie Claire, Janelle Monáe floats the idea of a sex strike. “People have to start respecting the vagina. Until every man is fighting for our rights, we should consider stopping having sex,” she told the magazine.

It’s a nice idea. Well, sort of. Let’s think this through for a moment—is this actually an actionable and potentially impactful plan? First off, women have more power than just the ability to provide sex to men, don’t they? Honest question! R.I.P. when women had power, at least for now, though. There’s also the not-insignificant point that some men do not have sex with women and some women do not have sex with men. How are those people supposed to go on strike? And then there are the single people who at any given moment might not even have someone to deny sex to. Can this movement afford to alienate the single people and gay people, not to mention single gay people? Already, this sounds like a big headache.

The Women’s March, the most successful protest in recent memory, was no easy feat to organize. A lot of it was essentially moderating a very large and very unruly Facebook group. There were also permits to obtain, in-fighting factions to quell, knitting patterns to distribute. Is Janelle Monàe willing to take on the role of organizing an event of a similar scale to mark the sex strike? Imagine taking all that social media unrest and introducing horniness into the mix. And there are a lot of questions to consider. For maximum impact, should all women walk out of their bedrooms and take to the streets in their lingerie at an appointed time? If we do this during the day to take advantage of the light, what if people confuse us for one of those pillow-fight flash mobs? Will it be too on the nose if we all knit chastity belts to wear? Or, oooh, pairs of blue pom poms for everyone? And you know those clickers for counting crowds—does such a device exist for counting a large group of people not-having sex? Do they have to not-have-sex in specific positions? Who even handles permits for publicly not doing something? See, you think it’ll be the not-having-sex that would get you, but really it will be all the clerical work and philosophical debates that will grind you down.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very on board with the idea of punishing men who don’t respect women’s rights. But what sounds in theory like a Lysistrata-inspired call-to-arms would be, in practice, an administrative disaster.

April 10 2017 5:19 PM

Why Do Movie Villains Have So Many Dermatological Issues?

In the real world, a prominent facial scar can cause embarrassment and social anxiety. In the movies, it’s enough to drive a man to murder. This discrepancy is the focus of a new investigation published in JAMA Dermatology last week. The authors, all dermatologists, reviewed the top 10 entries on both sides of the American Film Institute’s “100 Greatest Heroes & Villains” list and found that the best villains are highly likely to suffer some kind of skin disorder. They’re bald, wrinkly, scarred, and warty, with dark under-eye circles and bulbous tissue on their noses. While Dove is up in our TVs telling us that beauty comes in all sizes, textures, and blotches, Disney and MGM are up in our movie theaters arguing that prominent pores are a sign of moral decrepitude.

April 10 2017 4:39 PM

This Cruel New U.K. Policy Punishes Women for Having More Than Two Children

An exception to a rule often illuminates the rule’s essence. Take the rape exception to abortion restrictions. If abortion is what opponents say it is—the killing of a human being—then it’s not clear why the circumstances of conception should affect its legality. But if abortion restrictions are also about punishing women for sexual behavior, then a rape exception makes perfect sense: If it’s not her “fault” she got pregnant, it’s only fair that she should be exempt from punishment. (For what it’s worth, some conservative politicians now oppose such exceptions. Points for consistency.)

There’s a similarly transparent logic at work in a cruel welfare policy that went into effect last week in the United Kingdom. The new policy limits tax credits to a family’s first two children. Any children beyond the first two will not be eligible for the credit, which could cost those larger families £2,780 a year, according to one estimate—about $3,500. If a subsequent child was conceived through rape, however, the family may receive the additional tax credit.

The policy itself is disturbing on its face: More than 870,000 families with more than two children claimed tax credits in 2014-15, and one research group estimates that 200,000 children will be at risk of falling into poverty once the new policy is fully implemented. Family size in England has been shrinking for years, although the number of large families has also been on the rise in recent years thanks in large part to immigration. One is tempted to surmise that a policy punishing large families may have something to do with that latter trend! But one would be speculating, of course.

The rape exception was mentioned by policy-makers from the start, but it was only last week that it became clear how the government would adjudicate such claims. Last Thursday, the Department for Work and Pensions published a form that asks women who claim the “non-consensual conception exemption” to provide the name of the child or children conceived by rape, and sign a declaration that they do not live with the child’s father.

The policy and the exemption have received harsh criticism from a wide variety of sources since they were announced in 2015. One member of parliament called the exemption implementation “inhumane and barbaric.” Feminists have pointed out the cuts disproportionately affect women. A coalition of the U.K.’s largest Christian denominations and Jewish groups pointed out that the policy discriminates against people whose religion compels them to have larger families. A United Nations committee on children’s rights asked the British government to explain the policy last year, because of concerns about women having to somehow prove they were raped.

The rape exemption is particularly cold-blooded. Imagine having to write your child’s name on a government form that stated she was conceived by rape in order to receive basic government benefits. The fact that women must also swear they don’t live with their rapist punishes women who have not yet found the resources to escape an abusive relationship.

The rape exemption also exposes what should be a fundamental conflict between fiscal conservatism and social conservatism. Fiscal conservatives are happy to slash government spending by nudging women to have no more children than they can afford to support on their own. Social conservatives, on the other hand, view children as “a blessing rather than as a burden,” as the religious coalition that opposed the policy put it in 2015. “A third, fourth, or fifth child is no less precious than the first. Anything which sends the implicit message that a child is unwanted, unvalued or superfluous should be strongly resisted.” Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way, since many social conservatives also have an interest in corralling women’s sexual activity. Still, a policy that overtly discourages child-bearing—and perhaps even encourages abortion—ought to give social conservatives pause.

Finally, the policy also relies on “the old stereotype of the feckless poor, who breed for benefits,” as sociologist Pam Lowe pointed out in 2015. That stereotype relies on the notion that responsible people are able to perfectly control their fertility, and that they will precisely calibrate the number of children they have to their current and future plans and financial capabilities. Life, of course, is often more complicated than that. Cherie Blair, the wife of former prime minister Tony Blair, confessed in her autobiography that she conceived her son Leo quite by accident during a visit to the Queen’s vacation estate in Scotland in 1999. During a previous trip there, she had found her bags unpacked for her by staff when she was out of the room, so she was too embarrassed to bring contraception with her after that. Leo was born nine months later. He was her fourth child.

April 10 2017 2:24 PM

Rep. Maxine Waters Learns What “Throwing Shade” Is, Is Giddy About Her Internet Fame

When Donald Trump and BFF Bill O’Reilly do things that make progressives angry, there’s little we can do about it. The election is over. We’ve already never watched The O’Reilly Factor, so there’s no way to boycott it. We can tweet and write blogs about them, but the chances of them reading our missives are slim.

And so Maxine Waters, a Congresswoman who has had it up to here with all that right-wing noise, has been a welcome liberal release valve. With a prominent platform and a withering side-eye, Waters has embodied the unadulterated rage and indignation many have felt watching incompetent white men try to drive America off a xenophobic cliff. Her frank disregard for the very existence of Trump and his cronies is unmatched by nearly any of her mainstream political peers. “I don’t honor him, I don’t respect him, and I don’t want to be involved with him,” Waters spat out in an MSNBC spot a few days before Trump’s inauguration. A few dozen of her colleagues politely tweeted that they’d join Rep. John Lewis in boycotting the ceremony. Waters’ announcement was shadier by a few dozen degrees, more Mariah-on–J. Lo than Congress-on-president: “I never ever contemplated attending the inauguration or any activities associated w/ @realDonaldTrump. I wouldn't waste my time.