The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Sept. 16 2016 5:44 PM

Donald Trump Promises Unprecedented Abortion Crackdowns if He’s Elected

Donald Trump has released a letter outlining his plan to make abortions more expensive, harder to get, and outright illegal. Addressed to “Pro-Life Leader,” the letter seems meant to shore up Trump support among abortion-rights opponents who doubt his commitment to preserving every fetus in America. “As we head into the final stretch of the campaign, the help of leaders like you is essential to ensure that pro-life voters know where I stand,” it reads.

Most of the letter is dedicated to Hillary Clinton, and it characterizes her views on abortion in a breathless way that would probably rev up an average reproductive justice rally: “Hillary Clinton not only supports abortion on-demand for any reason, but she’d take it a step further: She wants to force the taxpayers to pay for abortions by repealing the bi-partisan Hyde Amendment.” Finally! Low-income women should have access to essential health care, too! It’s about time progressives realized that choice without access is no choice at all. Trump continues: “When asked on Meet the Press when unborn children have constitutional rights, Clinton bluntly responded, ‘The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.’ ” Yes, Hillary! Fetuses don’t have those! “She will only appoint Supreme Court justices who share this view.” Damn right she will!

But I guess some people would find these truths to be demerits for a presidential candidate, and those people haven’t found it easy to get behind Trump. The letter announces that anti-abortion leader Marjorie Dannenfelser—president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life electoral advocacy group—will head up Trump’s efforts against abortion. The Cut points out that earlier this year, Dannenfelser, on behalf of the Susan B. Anthony List, backed a statement encouraging voters to back “anyone but Trump,” saying he “cannot be trusted” on abortion issues. The statement said Dannenfelser and her peers were “disgusted by Mr. Trump’s treatment of individuals, women, in particular.” Now Dannenfelser has joined the campaign of the man she once determined was “unacceptable” to serve as president.

The letter also lists a few to-dos for a Trump presidency, including getting anti-choice judges on the Supreme Court, defunding Planned Parenthood for as long as its clinics provide abortion care, making the Hyde Amendment a permanent law, and signing a law that would ban abortions beyond 20 weeks’ gestation.

If anyone’s derived a modicum of vague comfort from the memory of Trump’s former support for abortion rights, his illiteracy on the topic, or the general feeling that he doesn’t have any actual beliefs, this letter should shatter it. He’s now been well-trained by the GOP and anti-choice establishments, and the latter will use his lack of policy know-how to fill his agenda with the most extreme crackdowns on women’s autonomy they can muster. “Unacceptable” doesn’t begin to cover it.

Sept. 16 2016 5:19 PM

Dean Accused of Sexual Harassment Sues His School for Racial Discrimination

The Berkeley sexual harassment scandal took an odd turn on Thursday when Sujit Choudhry, the former Berkeley Law dean, filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the school. Choudhry alleges that Berkeley violated his rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment in responding to his executive assistant’s claims that he harassed her. Specifically, he alleges that Berkeley singled him out on account of his race “as a means to try to improve the University’s image”—while treating white professors accused of similar misconduct more leniently.

At this point, the Berkeley story has taken so many twists that it’s difficult to keep track of each party’s purported wrongdoing. The trouble began in March of 2015, when Tyann Sorrell—the executive assistant to Choudhry, who was then dean of Berkeley Law—complained to the school’s Title IX officer. According to Sorrell, Choudhry had routinely treated her in a “rude and demeaning manner” and inundated her with unwanted “lingering hugs” and kisses up to six times a day. Following an investigation, Berkeley concluded that Sorrell’s complaints were valid and, in July, meted out its punishment to Choudhry: professional training, a letter of apology, and a 10 percent cut in salary.

Sept. 16 2016 3:34 PM

Big Law Firm Makes It Easier for Nursing Mothers on the Road to Ship Breast Milk Home

Big Law isn’t exactly designed for working mothers. Corporate law firms pay well, but they demand long hours and, sometimes, hectic travel schedules of their lawyers. Women lawyers looking to achieve the coveted work-life balance often find they have to choose between starting a family and pursuing a high-power career.

Latham & Watkins, an international firm ranked No. 1 on American Lawyer’s annual ranking of law firms by gross revenue, just made nursing lawyer moms’ lives a bit easier. In a move it says is a first among law firms, Latham now offers its lawyers a breast-milk-shipping program so that nursing moms travelling for work can send their breast milk home on the company’s dime. reported that the program was thought up by Latham associate Hayley Gladstone, who is the global co-chair of the firm’s Parent Lawyer Group.

Sept. 16 2016 2:21 PM

Terry Gross Asks Abby Wambach If She Needed Sex With a Man to Decide She Was Gay

Terry Gross has a theory about lesbianism, and she tested it out on recently retired soccer star Abby Wambach in a Fresh Air interview this week. The day after her new memoir, Forward, was published, Wambach spoke with Gross about her recent DUI arrest, being the top-scoring soccer player of either gender, and coming out as gay to her Catholic family.

It’s that last bit that really got Gross’ mental gears churning. Here’s what she said:

So I want to ask you more about like comprehending your sexuality, your sexual orientation. You’d had a boyfriend in high school. You went to the prom together. You were considered, like, the jock couple of Rochester, New York. Was it helpful on Long Island to have had a boyfriend, to have had sex with a boy, so that you could know with more certainty, “no, I love women?”

I had to stop and reread this question a second time before I believed it was true, because Gross is a heavily decorated interviewer, and one of the first things a journalist should ask herself before asking a gay person about her sexuality is “Would this sound weird if I were asking it of a straight person?” In other words, do straight women need to try having sex with other women just to figure out if they’re actually straight? Do straight men need to sleep with other men to justify their sexuality to themselves and the world? Most straight people would object to that preposterous proposal—they know who they are and what they like, and they don’t need to prove it to themselves or anyone else by trying out every other option. Gay people deserve the same respect for their sexual self-determination. To suggest otherwise is to say that being gay is some kind of aberration, a curious bug in the system.

The theory of homosexuality that hinges on an unsatisfactory sexual experience with someone of the opposite gender casts doubt on the legitimacy of gay identity. Gross, who told the New York Times Magazine that she’s battled rumors that she’s gay, is essentially positing that gay people must have a good reason for being gay, that some lesbians can’t really be lesbians until they’ve ruled out men by sleeping with them. That’s absurd, insulting, and fundamentally untrue.

Wambach would have been justified if she’d walked out of the interview, but she soldiered on and gave Gross an extraordinarily thoughtful, honest, self-aware response:

Yeah. I mean, I think the person that I am … I will pretty much try anything once because I can’t have an opinion about something that I don't know of or that I haven't experienced. And that’s kind of the same thing that went into sorting my sexuality out, right? … I went to Catholic high school, Catholic grade school when I was younger, believing in this God that was basically telling me that the feelings that I might be having internally were sinful. I was like, “all right, well, I got to try this other life out. I got to see about it.” And I tried.
You know, I did what I was kind of, quote, unquote, “supposed to do” as a kid. And I dated the boy and I experienced the boy, and as soon as I met and started dating my first girlfriend, I then got it. I understood what I was missing all along, and this is no disrespect to my boyfriend in high school. This is just, like, more of a knowing—like I met this woman, and I was like, “oh, I get it now. This is how you're supposed to feel.”
I remember having conversations with my friends in high school, like, “what do you think love feels like? You know, I don't know. I think I’m in love.” And if you ever in your life say, “I think I’m in love,” you’re not, right? When you are in love, it’s a knowing. It’s a knowing like you know your own age, and you know your own family’s, like, last name. That’s what love feels like. And if you are in question of it, you probably aren't in love, and I’m sorry to tell you that.

Here, Wambach shows that Gross’ question ignores the reality of a homophobic world. In a society that presumes everyone straight until proved gay, it does sometimes take a while for people to see any other strain of sexuality as an option. Especially in regions or cultures that devalue queer relationships and lack queer role models, as in Wambach’s Catholic community, it can be hard for young people to even imagine what their lives could be like as queers. So, many gay people do date and sleep with people of the opposite gender before coming out to themselves and the world. This does not mean they’re giving heterosexuality a trial run to confirm that they don’t like it. It just means that it’s the expected norm; as Wambach said, it’s what she was “supposed to do.”

For some gay people, Gross’ theory is probably absolutely true. Some people try out sexual and romantic relationships with both men and women, and could maybe go either way, but decide they like one better than the other. Others are bi- or pansexual. But most people don’t have sex with someone of the opposite gender and think, “Meh, that wasn’t great, so maybe I’m gay.” This is just one variety of queer experience. And it’s certainly not the case for Wambach who, just seconds before Gross’ question, characterized her own sexuality as “not a choice, [but] who I am.”

On the street and in the public eye, queer women (especially out journalists, actresses, musicians, and athletes) face routine harassment that sounds a lot like what Gross dealt out this week. A certain kind of man loves to suggest that all we need is a good screw—the “right man,” as it were—to make us realize what we’re missing. At its most vile, that line of thinking is also used to justify corrective rape. We’re used to hearing this kind of trash from online trolls, avowed homophobes, men’s rights lunatics, and people who’ve spent the past few decades of queer visibility in a padded panic room with no access to the outside world. Coming from NPR, in the soothing tones of public-radio empress Terry Gross, it’s a shocking blow.

Sept. 16 2016 12:32 PM

If You Change a Baby’s Diaper in Arizona, You Can Now Be Convicted of Child Molestation

The Arizona Supreme Court issued a stunning and horrifying decision on Tuesday, interpreting a state law to criminalize any contact between an adult and a child’s genitals. According to the court, the law’s sweep encompasses wholly innocent conduct, such as changing a diaper or bathing a baby. As the stinging dissent notes, “parents and other caregivers” in the state are now considered to be “child molesters or sex abusers under Arizona law.” Those convicted under the statute may be imprisoned for five years.

How did this happen? A combination of bad legislating and terrible judging. Start with the legislature, which passed laws forbidding any person from “intentionally or knowingly … touching … any part of the genitals, anus or female breast” of a child “under fifteen years of age.” Notice something odd about that? Although the laws call such contact “child molestation” or “sexual abuse,” the statutes themselves do not require the “touching” to be sexual in nature. (No other state’s law excludes this element of improper sexual intent.) Indeed, read literally, the statutes would seem to prohibit parents from changing their child’s diaper. And the measures forbid both “direct and indirect touching,” meaning parents cannot even bathe their child without becoming sexual abusers under the law.

Sept. 16 2016 11:31 AM

Hillary Clinton Says She Pushed Through an Illness Like “Women Do Every Single Day”

Hillary Clinton says she pushed through pneumonia to continue working, against her doctor’s advice, because women are socialized to put their own needs aside on behalf of their work, families, and communities. In a Friday morning speech at the annual Black Women’s Agenda symposium in Washington, D.C., Clinton addressed the recent clamor over her health with sly humor, referencing the gendered expectations placed on women in general and black women in particular.

“I’m thrilled to be with you; I’m thrilled to be associated with you. I’m also thrilled to be back on the campaign trail,” Clinton said pointedly, to laughter from the crowd. “As the world knows, I was a little under the weather recently. The good news is, my pneumonia finally got some Republicans interested in women's health.” Hey-o! Poking fun at GOP misogyny is an A-1 crowd-pleaser. She continued:

Now looking back, I know, I should have followed my doctor's orders to rest, but my instinct was to push through it. That is what women do every single day. I felt no different. Life has shown us that we do have to work harder at the office while still bearing most of the responsibilities at home. That we always need to keep going because our families and our communities count on us. And I think it is more than fair to say that black women have an even tougher road. And you, your daughters, your granddaughters … leave the house every morning, put on that game face that we all practice, and enter a society that consistently challenges your worth. With the images you see, the lower pay that so many take home, that try to silence your voices and break your spirit. Yet you remain fierce in the face of these challenges.

People who care about things that matter and don’t want to dwell on things that don’t matter are rightly aggravated that any of us are still talking about Clinton, who inhabits a human body, getting sick. Medical records, after all, do not matter. It boggles the mind to consider the existence of a voter who is set on casting his or her presidential vote based on the candidate who is least likely to die first. And yet, some folks say they care.

Good on Clinton, then, for managing to make light of this opportunistic fixation on the fortitude of her immune system. Last week, she told Humans of New York a telling anecdote about learning to ignore sexist taunts from aspiring male lawyers during her college years, how she had to keep her focus and hide her emotions to make it in the overwhelmingly male field. Today’s speech neatly folds this pneumonia episode into her grander narrative of strength in the face of disproportionate scrutiny.

Sept. 15 2016 7:52 PM

Ivanka Trump’s Defense of Her Cosmopolitan Interview Is Ludicrous and Insulting

Ivanka Trump did not come off well in a Cosmopolitan interview published Wednesday, in which she seemed gobsmacked that journalist Prachi Gupta dare ask her substantive questions about her father’s child care plan instead of simply fawning over how great she was. So she sent out some tweets on Thursday afternoon in response to the interview. Unfortunately, she didn’t come off well in those, either.

As many critics have pointed out on Twitter, Ivanka’s argument here is full of holes. For one thing, it is impossible to set “politics aside” when discussing family leave and child care policies, which are crafted and enacted by politicians. Ivanka agreed to the interview with Cosmopolitan to discuss her influence on her father’s platform as he is campaigning for president. There is nothing about the situation that does not fall under the purview of “politics.”

Sept. 15 2016 5:26 PM

No One Likes Being Touched by Donald Trump. Here Are the Photos to Prove It.

Much has been made of Donald Trump’s hair, but what about his skin? His hands? His lips? Photographic evidence suggests that the average person does not like it when he puts these things on them. Ted Cruz made the news when he tried to force his daughter into a hug to seem like a normal dad on camera, but it looks like Trump has been foisting physical contact upon unwilling participants for years.

Sept. 15 2016 4:08 PM

Donald Trump Thinks You Shouldn’t Need a Prescription for Birth Control

Donald Trump doesn’t think women should have to have a doctor’s prescription to get birth control, he told quack TV personality Dr. Oz in a Wednesday interview. In the episode of the Dr. Oz Show, which aired Thursday, Trump said some women “just aren't in a position to go get a prescription,” but they should still have access to contraception:

I think what we have in birth control is, you know, when you have to get a prescription, that’s a pretty tough something to climb. And I would say it should not be a prescription. It should not be done by prescription. ... More and more people are coming out and saying that.

He also reiterated that he opposes a women’s right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.

Sept. 15 2016 12:33 PM

Leading Vaccination Skeptic Dr. Bob Sears Is at Risk of Losing His Medical License

Dr. Robert Sears, a leading vaccination skeptic and son of attachment-parenting advocate Dr. William Sears, is at risk of losing his medical license. The Medical Board of California filed an accusationagainst Sears earlier this month, contending that the doctor committed “gross negligence” while treating a two-year-old boy.

The charges against Sears center around his recommendation that the boy forgo vaccinations for medical reasons without looking into the boy’s medical history. He allegedly relied only on what the boy’s mother told him about her son’s previous response to vaccinations—he supposedly lost urinary function and went limp—instead of obtaining medical records. The absence of an “evidence-based recommendation” for the boy’s medical exemption left the boy, and everyone the boy comes into contact with, “at risk for preventable and communicable disease,” according to the medical board’s accusation.