The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Jan. 11 2017 6:01 PM

New York May Force Insurers to Fully Cover Birth Control Even If Obamacare Gets Repealed

New York’s attorney general is making moves to protect no-cost access to contraception in the event that a Republican-controlled Congress and a Trump-controlled executive branch roll back the current contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act.

Under the ACA, all health insurance plans must cover birth control with no out-of-pocket cost to the patient. If congressional Republicans get their way and repeal the ACA, the piece of legislation Eric T. Schneiderman introduced on Wednesday will ensure that people covered by state-regulated insurance companies will still get free birth control.

Jan. 11 2017 2:58 PM

In 1986, Coretta Scott King Said Jeff Sessions Posed a Threat to “Fulfilling My Husband’s Dream”

As a U.S. attorney in Alabama, Jeff Sessions harassed black voters with prosecution, doing “what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods,” according to a letter Coretta Scott King wrote in 1986.

In the wake of the first day of confirmation hearings for Sen. Sessions, Trump’s nominee for U.S. attorney general, the Washington Post published a previously unreleased letter King wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986. At the time, Sessions was up for a federal judgeship.

Jan. 11 2017 2:53 PM

Like So Many Mass Shooters, the Fort Lauderdale Suspect Has a History of Domestic Violence

In the year before he allegedly shot and killed five strangers in the Fort Lauderdale airport, 26-year-old Esteban Santiago had at least five encounters with police in Anchorage, Alaska, according to new reports. The incidents included two accusations that he had choked his girlfriend. The Anchorage Daily News reports that one of the encounters, last January, led to charges of assault and criminal mischief. In that incident, Santiago’s girlfriend called the police and said he was yelling at her and had tried to smash in her bathroom door. When an officer arrived, the door had been bashed off its frame, and the girlfriend said he had hit her and tried to strangle her.

One of the reasons mass shootings are so terrifying is that they seem to come out of nowhere. They can happen at any time of day, in any state, and in shopping centers, movie theaters, dance clubs, or airports. The victims can be anyone, and even the killer’s identity can feel arbitrary at first: The public has never heard his name or seen his face before he emerges from the crowd and starts shooting. That aura of total randomness is part of why these crimes grip the public imagination.

In fact, however, a history of domestic violence and aggression toward women is a remarkably common theme in the lives of men who become mass shooters.

Jan. 10 2017 5:56 PM

IUD Demand Has Risen 900 Percent Since the Election, Planned Parenthood Says

Planned Parenthood has seen a 900 percent increase in demand for intrauterine devices since Donald Trump’s election, the organization reports. President Cecile Richards told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday that women are “desperately concerned that they might lose their access to health care” after Inauguration Day, so they’re preparing their bodies with a contraceptive device that could outlast a Trump presidency.

Jan. 10 2017 5:12 PM

Why Clare Hollingworth, the Reporter Who Broke News of World War II, Is a Hero for Our Times

Clare Hollingworth, who died Tuesday at 105, nabbed the “scoop of the century” in 1939 when she broke the news of the start of World War II as a 27-year-old cub reporter. Her swashbuckling career as a war and foreign correspondent spanned about as many continents as it did decades, and Hollingworth is remembered as much for her journalistic coups as she is for her antics and quips: She was accused of being a spy for both her native England and for other countries; she frequently slept in trenches and continued to occasionally sleep on the floor of her home into old age to keep from going soft; a few years ago, she told the Telegraph, which printed that first scoop, “I must admit that I enjoy being in a war.”

Jan. 10 2017 4:24 PM

Fox Disciplined Roger Ailes While Protecting Bill O’Reilly From a Parallel Scandal

While Fox News was showing former chairman Roger Ailes the door for allegations of sexual harassment, it was working behind the scenes to hush similar accusations against its most famous on-air personality, Bill O’Reilly, according to a new report in the New York Times. On Tuesday, the Times reported that Fox paid former host and reporter Juliet Huddy “a sum in the high six figures … in exchange for her silence and agreement not to sue” over claims that O’Reilly pursued her sexually, and punished her for rebuffing him, between 2011 and 2013.

Jan. 10 2017 1:24 PM

Denmark’s Hygge Aesthetic Is Comfy, Cozy, and Complicit With the Rise of Xenophobic Populism


This winter, in preparation for what looks to be a terrifying year, millions of people traumatized by the ceaseless death and social turmoil of 2016 have decided to crawl back into the womb. Their return to fetal bliss is an Instagram-ready remake of the second half of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, complete with knitted sweaters, “adult” coloring books, and copious cups of calming teas. There are candles everywhere.



With a bilious mess of daddy-didn’t-love-me assuming the U.S. presidency in a matter of days and the Britain slowly inching its way out into the Atlantic, hygge—the vague Danish aesthetic import that elaborates comfort into a life philosophy—has crept towards the English-speaking West at just the right time. The endless stream of books published on the subject stress the benefits of Ugg-booted inertia and snug living rooms, covers pulled right up around adherents’ necks against the chilly world outside. These stocking-filler texts drive us towards a definition, too: The Little Book of Hygge has it as “cosiness of the soul;” Hygge, the Danish Art of Happiness compares it to “a compass, steering us towards small moments that money cannot buy.”


Jan. 9 2017 5:47 PM

Between Astronaut Jeanette Epps and Hidden Figures, Black Women in STEM Are in the Spotlight

In 2018, astronaut Jeanette Epps will become the first black American astronaut to join the crew of the International Space Station. NASA announced the upcoming months-long mission last week; it will also be Epps’ first trip to space.

Jan. 9 2017 4:06 PM

D.C. Dress Stores Refuse to Admit They’re Sold Out of Inauguration Gowns, Contradicting Trump


President-elect Donald Trump wants you to know that the inaugural balls held in his honor on Jan. 20 are going to be big. Huge. Probably the best ever. “We are going to have an unbelievable, perhaps record-setting turnout for the inauguration, and there will be plenty of movie and entertainment stars,” he recently told Politico. “All the dress shops are sold out in Washington. It’s hard to find a great dress for this inauguration.”



If we know anything about Trump’s relationship with the truth, it’s that he only says things out loud after he has thoroughly researched them and confirmed their veracity. That means that D.C. is currently in the midst of an unprecedented shortage of evening gowns. I decided to call a few D.C.-area dress shops and department stores to find out how they were handling the sellout—and what I found was heart-breaking: an industry in complete denial about the fact that demand for dresses had outstripped supply.


Jan. 9 2017 8:15 AM

This Is What Happens When #Boss Feminism and the Doula Industry Collide

For a few years now, an internecine conflict has emerged within the American doula community. On one side, there are the women—and as far as I can tell, they are all women—who want to maintain the status quo. They have little interest in formalizing the profession and believe doulas can do their best work in a lightly regulated system that focuses more on individual relationships. Their concern is that any attempt to make their work more official would lead to a commodification of what should primarily be a social and emotional relationship between two human beings.

Others are interested in professionalizing the job through the creation of universal standards of practice and a better regulated certification system. This would earn them more respect in the medical system, hold them more accountable, and likely make it easier for their services to be covered by insurance. Currently, anyone can call herself a doula and, voilà, she is a doula.

Into this fray enters ProDoula, a 3½-year-old for-profit doula certification agency. Founded by doulas Randy “Rock N’ Roll Doula” Patterson and Debbie Aglietti, the organization intends to change the doula industry by stripping it of its penchant for all things natural and turning it into a job women can actually support themselves doing. Some see the women of ProDoula as earnest reformers, bringing dignity to labor that has long been devalued and undercompensated. Others see them as a bunch of charlatans, peddling a #ladyboss version of a Mary Kay pyramid scheme with the main goal of enriching themselves. So far, the group has succeeded, becoming the fastest-growing doula certification agency in the country and, according to them, earning $1.25 million in 2016.

BuzzFeed reporter Katie J.M. Baker recently took a deep dive into the world of ProDoula and the controversy it has created in the doula community. In her story, we learn about the ProDoula private Facebook group “The Business of Being a Doula,” where volunteer doulas are criticized for “devaluing” the profession and are called “oxytocin vampires.” Doulas are drawn in by ProDoula's mandate to “charge your worth” and look to the organization’s business-centered trainings and support to help them figure out how to do just that. This is not an instance of greed: Most doulas make very little money from the work, and most doula-supporting organizations pay little attention to helping doulas find a way to support themselves and their families with this work.

ProDoula’s empowerment messages come off as both genuine and self-serving. They think women’s work should be valued. Great. They think the doula industry isn’t best served by its association with “all that woo woo, drum circle, doula heart stuff,” as one woman put it. Again, great. I’ve always been put off by the birth-support community’s predilection for all things “natural” and have long wished to see more efforts to create a support network that sees the decision to have an epidural or formula-feed as empowering as it does the decision to go pain-medication-free and breast-feed for years. (I’ve spent the last few months enduring sermons from a variety of prenatal yoga teachers and doulas who unequivocally declare having an epidural as “giving up.”)

Not great: They want to turn doula work into a luxury for the wealthy and think it is not their responsibility to worry about those who can’t afford it. “Do you think plumbers sit around fretting over the problem of people needing plumbing help who cannot afford it?” one doula asked. Also, while some doulas interviewed have found greater financial success through ProDoula, others feel burned by it. They say they felt compelled to spend thousands of dollars on services and courses that ended up being worthless and sometimes put them in debt. There were also anecdotes of the ProDoula community bullying doulas who challenged their orthodoxies. “You have to be all in, or they get rid of you because they don’t want any dissent,” said a woman who was previously involved with ProDoula.

It’s not surprising that an organization like ProDoula has emerged in recent years. Flawed as it may be, it’s clearly meeting a need for leadership and vision in the doula community, while also promoting the idea that this labor is valuable and should therefore be compensated. We don’t balk at the idea that therapists and social workers should get paid for social and emotional support. So why not doulas? The larger doula community should consider borrowing some of ProDoula’s ideas and continue working toward professionalizing their industry while simultaneously holding onto the idea that their services should be available to the rich and the poor, who are often the ones who stand to benefit most from having a doula.