Four Planned Parenthood Centers Close in Iowa Today, Thanks to State Defunding Measure
Four of Iowa’s Planned Parenthood health centers will close today, a result of a “defunding” measure passed by the state’s legislature and signed by the governor in May, hitting Planned Parenthood with a $2 million loss. The shuttering clinics represent one-third of Planned Parenthood’s presence in the state and served almost 15,000 unique patients over the past three years.
The GOP-led Iowa legislature and Republican Gov. Terry Branstad were able to block Medicaid reimbursement for Planned Parenthood by turning down $3 million in free federal Medicaid family-planning funding. Yes, Iowa Republicans decided they’d rather put $3 million of extra pressure on their own state’s budget than let low-income residents on Medicaid use their coverage for birth control, STI screenings, cancer screenings, and other non-abortion care at Planned Parenthood clinics.
The clinic closures will hit hard for the women of Iowa, especially those who rely on subsidized health care. Three of the four health centers are in counties where Planned Parenthood currently provides 80 to 96 percent of publicly-funded contraceptive services. Iowa Republicans claim that there will be no interruption in service because other clinics can pick up the slack. This is patently untrue. A recent Guttmacher Institute study found that, without Planned Parenthood, federally qualified health centers in Iowa would need to at least triple their client loads to make up for the drop in care providers. Suffocating the country’s largest and most experienced provider of reproductive health care just to make a political point would leave hundreds of thousands of women without access to care.
Iowa legislators have also argued that establishing a new independent family-planning program, which will exclude health centers affiliated with abortion providers, will alleviate any strain on existing publicly-funded providers of contraception. The example of Texas crushes that myth. After the state defunded Planned Parenthood and changed its Medicaid-funded family-planning program to a state-run program, Texas saw enrollment decline, contraceptive use drop across the board, and Medicaid births spike in counties where Planned Parenthood affiliates had once been able to provide care for low-income patients.
So it’s no surprise that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the U.S. would see thousands of extra unplanned births if Trumpcare passes. The proposed health-care bills in both the Senate and the House would take a policy like Iowa’s and apply it to the entire country, preventing Planned Parenthood clinics from getting reimbursed for Medicaid services for one year. This is a wildly unpopular policy in Iowa, even among Republicans. More than three-quarters of respondents in a February Des Moines Register poll said they supported state funding of Planned Parenthood, up 3 points from the previous year. Sixty-two percent of Republicans and the same proportion of evangelical Christians said the same. A nationwide Quinnipiac poll released this week found that 61 percent of voters oppose cutting federal funding from Planned Parenthood, a number that jumps to 80 percent—including 67 percent of Republicans—when it is explained that no federal funding goes toward abortion care.
Why, then, are Republicans hell-bent on passing these defunding provisions? Possibly because Planned Parenthood is a powerful political actor in addition to being a health-care provider (though those two arms are separate under the tax code). By cutting off reimbursements for care provided to patients on Medicaid—more than half of Planned Parenthood’s client base—Republicans believe they can strike a blow to a large pillar in the country’s feminist organizing infrastructure. Keeping essential health care services from women is apparently a small price to pay for that political win.
English Police Apologize to a Woman Who Reported Her Stalker 125 Times Before He Stabbed Her
Helen Pearson of England endured nearly five years of harassment at the hands of her neighbor Joseph Willis. After she turned him down when he asked her on a date in 2009, he began a relentless stalking campaign. He cut her tires, damaged her car, left a dead cat at her door, vandalized her neighborhood with the phrase “Die Helen,” and sent her letters that hinted at impending assaults. She reported him to the police 125 times before he stabbed her several times with a pair of scissors in 2013.
Now, the Devon and Cornwall Police, which failed to protect Pearson from her stalker, has apologized for its negligence. In a report produced after Pearson’s family filed a complaint, the police force claims that “a number of failings both from individuals and organizationally” led to Pearson’s attack, the Guardian reports, and the “investigation and victim care did not meet the high standards we expect.” Three officers involved in Pearson’s case are being investigated for misconduct. “It doesn’t do anything for me,” Pearson said of the apology and report. “I am still suffering every day because of what happened to me.” Willis was charged with attempted murder and is now serving a life sentence in prison.
Cases like Pearson’s, in which a stalker causes severe injury or death before he is brought to justice, are far too common. A 1999 survey from researchers at Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere found that three-quarters of femicide victims and 85 percent of attempted-femicide victims were stalked by their attackers first. According to the results of this 10-city study, stalking is an even better predictor of future femicide than intimate partner violence. Yet law enforcement agencies rarely do enough to protect stalking targets from future victimization. The 1999 study found that more than half of femicide victims had previously reported their stalkers’ harassment, usually to the police.
In the U.S., where more than 15 percent of women say they’ve been victimized by stalkers, stalking isn’t an easy crime to prosecute. Some states require that a victim demonstrates fear of actual death or severe injury, not just emotional distress. Some states hold that for harassment to count as stalking, it would have to frighten a “reasonable person” or the victim herself. Some require a victim to prove that her harasser has a specific intent at heart. In any case, a victim must keep a detailed log of harassment, which often means waiting for several frightening threats, incidents of being followed, or evidence of internet spying before even making a claim.
Many victims may not feel safe reporting stalkers to law enforcement. In response to Donald Trump’s draconian new immigration policies, Latinas and undocumented people are reporting far fewer cases of domestic abuse and sexual violence for fear of being deported. Other people may get frustrated with a lack of action or a feeling that they’re not being taken seriously—not everyone is as willing and able as Pearson to stick it out through 125 reports. One U.S. Department of Justice report found that 3 percent of stalking victims reported their stalkers to the police in excess of 15 times. How many gave up before their 15th incident of harassment?
The DOJ study also reports that half of victims who reported their stalkers to the police felt that their situations didn’t change at all after their police reports. The others were equally as likely to find their situations worse than before as to say they improved after contacting law enforcement. Victims of cyberstalking are even less likely to find justice through traditional means. One cyberstalking expert told the Atlantic in 2014 she knew of only three or four cases in the entire country in which a target of online threats, spying, and harassment has led to a victim winning a monetary judgment in a civil case against her stalker. The Supreme Court overwhelmingly voted to overturn a conviction that year of a man whose violent Facebook posts read as threats to kill his ex-wife.
Pearson’s case is extreme; few people would have the strength and emotional capacity to doggedly document five years of abuse and file an average of two police reports a month while her stalker continued his escalating harassment. But her eventual, if inadequate, vindication should be a lesson to law enforcement officers and social service workers everywhere—a reminder that stalking is often a precursor to far greater crimes, and a victim’s fears can be a helpful indication of harm to come.
In Developing Nations, 214 Million Women Want to Prevent Pregnancy But Have No Contraception
About 214 million women of reproductive age in developing nations want to postpone or prevent pregnancy but are not using modern contraception, according to a study from the Guttmacher Institute published Thursday. This represents one-quarter of all such women who want to avoid pregnancy, a substantial decrease from the 225 million women in developing regions estimated to have unmet contraceptive needs in 2014.
These women, the majority of whom live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, account for 84 percent of all unintended pregnancies in developing countries. If they had access to contraception, Guttmacher estimates, unintended pregnancies in these regions would shrink from 89 million to 22 million per year, and induced abortions would drop from 48 million to 13 million per year.
Currently, supplying the 671 million women who use modern contraceptive methods in developing regions costs $5.5 billion a year, about 88 cents per woman. To close the 214 million–woman gap, which includes 59 million women who use traditional methods such as the rhythm method or withdrawal, donor governments and health organizations would have to double that figure.
But that’s nothing compared to the costs of letting hundreds of women who want to avoid pregnancy go without adequate contraceptive care. Guttmacher estimates that for each dollar invested in expanded contraception access, global health funds would save $2.30 that would have otherwise been spent on care for unintended pregnancies.
Contraception access is essential to both women’s personal economic security and the economic solvency of developing countries. It’s impossible to address global poverty without giving women the ability to prevent or space out pregnancies, allowing them to earn and save more money, give their children better education opportunities, and depend less on government assistance. “No country in the last 50 years has emerged from poverty without expanding access to contraceptives,” the Gates Foundation noted in its annual letter earlier this year.
Lack of access to birth control also has dire consequences for the health and survival of women and infants. When women can space out their pregnancies by at least three years, their children are twice as likely to live to see their first birthdays and their bodies are better able to endure the strains of pregnancy and childbirth. Contraception allows young women to postpone pregnancy until their bodies are fully developed, too. The Guttmacher report states that, with fully met contraceptive need in developing regions, an estimated 76,000 fewer women would die from childbirth-related causes each year.
The Trump administration is currently doing all it can to stymie global efforts toward better contraceptive access and maternal health care. Previous Republican presidents have cut U.S. family-planning aid from all foreign organizations that so much as discuss abortion with the people they serve, but Trump has expanded the so-called global gag rule to cover all U.S. foreign aid: $8.8 billion, including funds that go toward HIV/AIDS prevention and child health programs. Since the U.S. is the world’s largest government provider of global health aid and provides an enormous proportion of the developing world’s contraceptive supplies, millions of women who currently rely on reproductive health organizations funded by U.S. aid will lose access to their means of preventing pregnancy.
We can confidently predict the catastrophic outcome of Trump’s beefed-up global gag rule by looking at substantial historical precedent. After George W. Bush signed a global gag rule with a smaller scope in 2001, rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion spiked in sub-Saharan Africa, where women had previously depended on U.S.-funded contraception. Sixteen developing countries around the world lost access to all their USAID-funded contraceptives, because they were distributed through the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which provides abortion care. Millions were forced to resort to less effective traditional methods of birth control, or none at all. These women lost their reproductive autonomy, their ability to determine the courses of their own lives, and their best shot at greater economic independence—all for a feel-good moment for the U.S. GOP.
Trump No Longer Seems Able to Hide His Raw Misogyny. Good.
The president of the United States began this morning as he often does, tweeting juvenile insults at the news media. But even by Donald Trump standards, today’s jabs at TV hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were unusually gross. Taken together, they read: “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
There’s a lot you can say about these tweets; among other things, it’s striking that Trump thinks that when journalists seek access to him, it means they like him. But I was most struck by Trump’s raw misogyny. Obviously, that’s not because Trumpian misogyny is anything new, but because, from the time he was inaugurated until this week, he’s mostly been holding it in.
Trump does not get much credit for being disciplined, but for the last five months, he’s mostly checked his tendencies to leeringly appraise women’s looks, at least in public. (Vanity Fair did report in April that during a visit by the Japanese Prime Minister, “the president told an acquaintance that he was obsessed with the translator’s breasts.”) So far, there’s been no reported pussy-grabbing in the Oval Office, no stumbling in women’s changing rooms or fantasizing aloud about female subordinates on their knees. Instead Trump, like other Republicans before him, has sublimated his misogyny into policies: expanding the global gag rule, sabotaging federal family planning programs, eroding enforcement of the law against gender discrimination in education.
But Trump appears to be feeling a lot of strain. He’s obsessed with the Russia probe, and a recent Washington Post story reported that his friends “privately worry about his health, noting that he appears to have gained weight in recent months and that the darkness around his eyes reveals his stress.” When you’re under pressure, it can be harder to hide your true self. And Trump’s true self is a pig.
On Tuesday, Trump interrupted a phone call with Ireland’s Prime Minister to sexually harass an Irish journalist named Caitriona Perry. Calling her forward, he said, “And where are you from? Go ahead. Come here, come here. Where are you from? We have all of this beautiful Irish press.” She stepped forward awkwardly and he looked her over. Then, returning to the call, he said with a smirk, “She has a nice smile on her face so I bet she treats you well.”
Trump’s insult of Brzezinski is the other side of this connoisseurship. To Trump, women’s worth lies in their fuckability; it’s why he’s praised his own daughter by saying he’d sleep with her if they weren’t related. Trump’s tweet was meant to make Brzezinski seem grotesque and pathetic, a failure in the struggle to remain attractive—the only struggle that, in his eyes, really matters for women. (Another Vanity Fair story alleged that he only let his third wife, Melania, have a baby on the condition that she would “get her body back.”) The reference to Brzezinski “bleeding badly,” of course, also recalls his claim that Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her whatever” when she aggressively questioned him during a debate; he instinctively projects his own revulsion toward menstruation onto women who threaten him.
I’m not sure that even well-intentioned men understand how relentlessly degrading this presidency is for many women. Having a man who does not recognize the humanity of more than half the population in a position of such power is a daily insult; it never really goes away. Perhaps this is why many women found the TV version of The Handmaid’s Tale so resonant, even though Trump, the former owner of a casino strip club, is the last person one can imagine instituting a Calvinist theocracy. Gilead’s fictional dystopia captures our constant incredulous horror at finding ourselves ruled by thuggish, unaccountable woman-haters who appear to revel in their own impunity.
If there is the barest sliver of consolation, it’s that Trump appears almost as miserable and anxiety-ridden as we are. He’s losing the tiny bit of control he had. It’s better for Trump to show us all who he really is than to let his lackeys pretend he’s remotely worthy of his office. Every time he tweets, he reveals his presidency as a disgusting farce. Let’s hope he keeps doing it.
Katy Perry Adds Emotional Complexity to Orlando Bloom’s Naked Paddleboard Moment
As the dog days of summer begin to slip by, America fast approaches the one-year anniversary of the day we saw Orlando Bloom’s penis for the very first time (for most of us). Last August, Bloom simply mounted a paddle board in Italy, neglected to cover his privates, and rowed away with a smile.
At least, that was what everyone assumed at the time. In lieu of any definitive oral history of the moment we learned one of the biggest heartthrobs of the mid-2000s has a pretty average-looking penis, Katy Perry has stepped up to tell her side of the story. Perry, perched a mere 2 feet from Bloom’s genitals, had a front-row seat to history, and here’s how she remembers it: “He wanted to show off for all the people back at the shore. He thought it was funny,” Perry told a Sydney radio show.
In NSFW images of the incident, Perry looked fully covered in her bikini and far less stoked about the situation. “He had the willy out,” the Australian radio show reminded Perry of her then-boyfriend. “Why weren’t you also nude in that? Did you have the foresight to realize there could be photographers here, but he was like, ‘Nah, they’ll be none, pet’?” Apparently, Bloom tried to get Perry on board. “He asked me if I wanted to [be naked], and I was like, you know, it was one of those things where I was like, ‘Ah, no,’ ” she said.
She also provided a nugget of insight into the way making out works when you’re a celebrity. “You know when you’re dating someone sometimes, it’s exciting to be like, ‘Ooh, should we try and make out over here in this place?’ or, you know, what have you,” she said. Perhaps each various and sundry new make-out place is more exciting when people are watching? But “I was just not in the mood,” Perry said. “I saved it for the boat.”
The radio host would not be deterred. “Normally when one is not in the mood, the other stays clothed,” he pressed. Not Bloom! He was determined to show his junk, and Perry was just along for the ride. Though Perry was barely complicit in the act of exposure, the ensuing social media frenzy about Bloom’s unobstructed penis—and its exaggerated shadow—changed the course of her life forever. “I’ve had lots of therapy about that moment, actually,” Perry said. Yeesh. Kudos to the intrepid morning-show hosts at KIIS 1065 for unveiling the bleaker underside to this seemingly sunny story. May we continue to process the emotional nuance of the paddleboard penis moment for years to come.
Black Girls Are Too Often Treated as Older Than They Are—and Suffer for It
In her 2016 book Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, writer and activist Monique Morris wrote about the “age compression” experienced by black girls in America. Black women are often stereotyped as dominant or hypersexual, and black girls, in turn, are frequently treated as adults. “Half of us look older than our age,” one 13-year-old tells her, speaking about her experiences evading arrest for truancy. “By whose standards?” Morris writes in response.
A disturbing new report confirms that 13-year-old’s assessment of how she is perceived by the world. “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood,” from the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, details what it calls the “adultification” of young black girls. Compared to white girls of the same age, black girls are perceived as needing less nurturing, comfort, and protection. They are also perceived as being more independent and knowing more about sex and other adult topics. And the bias begins early: Black girls are seen as older and less innocent than their white peers starting as young as age 5.
The phenomenon of viewing black students as miniature adults means they are likelier to be punished harshly within the school system, and their cases are likelier to be passed along to the juvenile justice system rather than handled within the school. Think Progress reported last year that black preschool students were 3.6 times likelier than white children to receive an out-of-school suspension, for example. A paper published earlier this year in the journal Urban Education found cases where elementary-school girls were handcuffed and removed from school property in police cars for infractions as small as having a tantrum. Overall, black girls receive out-of-school suspensions at higher rates than any other group of female students in the American public school system.
The new report builds on experimental research on how black boys are perceived as older and more criminal than their peers. Social psychologist Phillip Goff has found that black boys are perceived as older and less innocent than their white peers starting at age 10. In one experiment, undergraduate subjects were shown photographs of white, black, or Latino boys between ages 10 and 17, alongside descriptions of crimes. The subjects overestimated the ages of the black boys by an average of 4.5 years, and found them likelier to be guilty of crimes.
For black girls, like black boys, “adultification” means their minor misbehavior is likelier to be read as potentially dangerous or criminal. Take the police officer who notoriously broke up a McKinney, Texas, pool party in 2015. He pulled a girl’s hair and forced her to the ground while she begged him to stop and asked for her mother; she was 15, but it was obvious she was being handled like an adult criminal. The officer “did not think he was restraining a helpless teenaged girl, but a ‘black woman,’ with all the stereotypes and stigma that includes,” Huffington Post commentator Zeba Blay wrote at the time. Meanwhile, black girls in particular are often seen as sexually mature, even sexually aggressive, at young ages. And “adultification” also has implications for the child welfare system, which was designed to provide protection and nurturing—which black girls are seen as needing less of than white girls are.
The new report traces “adultification” back to chattel slavery, when black children were put to work as early as their toddler years. They were rarely allowed time to play, and were punished for behaving like the children they were. In many ways, that pattern has continued.
Texas Republican Doesn’t Understand Sex Determination, Was Never a Baby, Had No Mother
Republicans love to make funnies, and what’s easier to laugh about than women? Inspired by the “women be shopping” and “women be talking” school of comedy, the men of the GOP have exactly one joke about health care: Men don’t need coverage for maternity care or mammograms, because men can’t have babies and don’t have breasts! Those are woman things.
Seriously, Republican men adore this joke. “Has a man ever delivered a baby?” they have asked, arguing against the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that insurance policies cover maternity care. “I don’t need maternity care,” they have laughed. “I wouldn’t want to lose my mammograms,” they have joked. It never gets old!
Rep. Pete Olson, a Republican from Texas—the state with the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world—tried his hand at the gag in his recent comments on the GOP’s current Trumpcare proposals, which would not entirely do away with the ACA mandate on prenatal care. Not cool, Olson said. “We have what’s called an X chromosome,” he joked to a fellow man on a Houston radio show, “which means we can’t have a baby.”
The scary thing is, everyone has an X chromosome—even men. It may be a small correction, but since this guy is currently trying to legislate health care out of the hands of poor people, medical accuracy seems important. If we can’t trust his faulty understanding of the very thing that marks the difference between the sexes, what else is he getting wrong? What’s next—men having babies after all?
Olson, who calls himself “a staunch defender of the unborn,” is also forgetting a very important part of pregnancy: the baby that comes out at the end. Sure, people with Y chromosomes don’t get pregnant, but they do grow inside women who are pregnant. Olson can’t have a baby, but once upon a time, he was a baby! Whatever maternity care his mother got when she was pregnant with him helped him grow into the healthy, thriving, intolerable jerkoff he is today.
The conservative position on health care is “I am not a woman, I had no mother, I was never a baby, I have never been weak and vulnerable”— Gabriel Roth (@gabrielroth) April 1, 2017
Babies are more likely to survive their first year of life when their mothers make doctors’ visits while pregnant. Pregnant women are far more likely to visit the doctor if their care is covered by insurance. It takes a brain capable of far more pretzel-twisting than mine to understand how men who argue that fertilized eggs are people who should be protected at all costs could turn around and argue that those all-important human eggs don’t deserve health care because the people who incubate them aren’t men.
Once Olson finishes reading his textbook chapter on sex chromosomes, his schedule might free up so he can learn about the human lifecycle. Men like him, and the doofy right-wing radio host with whom he yukked it up over the incompetence of male reproductive organs when it comes to hosting a fetus, were once boys. Those boys were once fetuses. Taking away maternity coverage means depriving boy fetuses, who will one day become unfunny men, of their best shot at healthy development. If that doesn’t convince Olson that maternity care is good for people he cares about, perhaps a reminder that men also help make fetuses—including the fetuses that grew up to be his very own children—will do it.
Wait, Are Feminists Supposed to Drool Over Women’s Butts or Nah?
Being a feminist is hard work! We must endure weekly lashings from fellow pro-women writers on Twitter, late-night meetings where we craft our feticidal agendas, and the spiky discomfort of the transition phase between smooth- and hairy-leggedness. There is no rest for the feminist, who must follow closely the ever-changing consensus on whether and how we are supposed to dance across the political minefield that is women’s bodies.
Last I heard, we were all supposed to be casting hexes upon David Edelstein and Rich Cohen, magazine writers whose approach to criticism involves analyzing the shape, angle, and degree of sexiness of individual body parts as shorthand for an actress’s character. But also, the same outlets that are telling us to slay all day and clap back at body-shaming haters are salivating over those same body parts.
“People Have Just Realised Hilary Duff Is Thick And, Honey, They're Living,” read a BuzzFeed headline from earlier this month. I think that’s supposed to be celebrating Duff and her larger-than-average-for-the-film-industry butt? But it also sounds like something a gross dude would tweet while poking a pair of binoculars through her curtains. Which is it and where are we? The post is full of peach emojis and claims that “she’s got THAT CAKE” and is “👏 SERVING 👏 A 👏 LOOK👏,” approvingly aggregating tweets that would, in another context—and maybe this one, too?—amount to a series of online catcalls. A whole post about Hilary Duff’s butt, on a site that has an entire well-populated tag for stories about the horrors of “objectification”! The post’s URL even comes up with a new nickname for Duff to honor how much her tush arouses people: Thickary Duff, which sounds either like a schoolyard taunt or a secondary Harry Potter character.
As Jessica Roy pointed out on Twitter this morning, Cosmopolitan, too, is taking cheerleading body-positive rhetoric and bending it so far it comes around and slaps your ass on the other side. Here’s how Cosmo explains Rihanna’s airport get-up: “Rihanna's Butt in This Tracksuit Is Straight BOI-OI-OING.” That, reader, is the onomatopoeic rendering of a boner in motion. Where someone who described a woman’s body as ah-OOga, ah-OOga, sproooooing! would once be castigated as a pathetic horndog who thinks of women as heated-up sex dolls, he might now find himself writing headlines for a relatively woke women’s magazine. The duality of man, in one share line.
Plenty of other outlets have turned well-meaning appreciation for bodies and beauty into googly-eyed droolfests. Mic recently published a piece on “the radical power of Wonder Woman’s thigh jiggle,” pinpointing a moment in the film during which the flesh on Gal Gadot’s upper leg moves about. The Huffington Post applauds “23 Crazy-Fine Asian Dudes,” “stunning nude photos” of fat people, and men who are “Gay. Disabled. And Sexy As F**k” in headlines that could easily belong on a magazine in an opaque bag at a gas station. Marie Claire’s post on Khloe Kardashian’s exercise attire features a close-up image of her butt, noting that “Khloé’s butt also attended” the dance class, “as it's attached to her body.” Glad to hear it!
I’m not quite sure which wave of feminism we’re on at this point. I think we agree that people of all genders should be able to look sexy and show off—even flaunt—their bods however they want, but I’m not clear on why it’s empowering or slay-y to write about those bods like we are currently masturbating over them. That seems like something we should leave to fetishists and misogynists—otherwise, what will feminist bloggers have left to internet about, right?! Or maybe I’m just too thick—and 👏living 👏— to understand.
The Very Trump-ian Wedding of Steven Mnuchin and Louise Linton
It was every little girl’s dream wedding come to life: a groom in a tuxedo, a bride in a ballgown (though one with “a neckline that plunges nearly to the navel,” as the Washington Post couldn’t help but point out), Vice President Mike Pence officiating.
Wait, do most couples not dream of having their hands joined in marriage by a politician who strikes fear into the hearts of LGBTQ people and who once criticized Disney’s Mulan for attempting to indoctrinate children? Well, most couples aren’t as firmly ensconced in Trumpland as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, 54, and actress/producer Louise Linton, 36, who tied the knot this past weekend and who will shine for years to come as symbols of love in the time of Trump.
Practically the whole administration cleared their busy schedules of golfing, tweeting, obstructing justice, and dismantling health care to attend the ceremony at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.: the president himself, Melania, Ivanka, Jared, Ben Carson, Sean Spicer, as well as the secretaries of Commerce and Veteran Affairs departments. There were also Wall Street tycoons, probably friends from Mnuchin’s days at Goldman Sachs and as a hedge fund founder. You know, just your average everyday populists who survived the swamp-draining long enough to enjoy the evening's performances by “kilted bagpipers and ballerinas in white tutus,” per CNN.
It’s been quite the whirlwind year for Linton. Born in Scotland, she has acted in small movie and TV roles, but you might know her face best from Mnuchin’s confirmation hearings. Thoughout them she could be seen hovering over his shoulder, limpid micro-expressions of pride, concern, and adoring fascination flickering over her high cheekbones and sparking off her immaculate sweep of Ivanka-blond hair as Mnuchin opined on homeowner loan modifications. After Mnuchin stepped back from his position as CEO of film production company Dune Entertainment (which financed Wonder Woman!) to join Trump’s Cabinet, Linton was named—and then quickly un-named—his replacement.
You might also know Linton for her diamond collection, which she recently showed off in Town & Country. (“You never really own a diamond … You just get to keep it for a while before it begins a new journey with someone else.”) You might also-also know her for her “white savior” memoir In Congo’s Shadow: One Girl’s Perilous Journey to the Heart of Africa (!), which was eviscerated last summer for its inaccuracies and fabrications to the point that she pulled the book from Amazon and the Telegraph retracted and removed its excerpt, though not before passages like the below could find immortality online.
I know that the skinny white girl once so incongruous in Africa still lives on inside me. Even in this world where I’m supposed to belong, I still sometimes feel out of place. Whenever that happens, though, I try to remember a smiling gap-toothed child with HIV whose greatest joy was to sit on my lap and drink from a bottle of Coca-Cola.
I wonder if Linton invited that boy to experience possibly greater joys at her wedding! The elegant affair elicited the president’s biggest smile (previously seen when Sarah Palin, Kid Rock, and Ted Nugent visited the Oval Office), the smile Trump wears when hosting celebrities and lavish events inside his Mar-A-Lago of the mind. Here’s to a lifetime of smiles for the new couple—may they find a happiness as lasting as the joy that comes from foreclosing on tens of thousands of reverse mortgages in the wake of a financial crisis.
The Economy Has Been Great Since the Election, Say Men. Meh, Say Women.
If Newt Gingrich’s philosophy of crime statistics has taught America anything, it’s that feelings are more important than facts. Violent crime may be way down in the U.S., but if people don’t feel like it is—perhaps due to some potent blend of racist fearmongering and cable news coverage—Republicans will find a way to capitalize on their anxiety.
The reverse is true, too: If a demagogue brags about his made-up accomplishments enough, people will start to believe they’re true. Donald Trump is covering up his administration’s lack of achievement with stupid lies and barking about creating jobs through deals he had no part in. But at least two overlapping groups of Americans believe that the economy is getting better thanks to Trump’s diligent and capable work: old men and Republicans! Three out of four men over age 49 think the economy is doing well, as do 93 percent of Republican men and 61 percent of Republican women. Large majorities of those groups give Trump credit for whatever good stuff the economy has been up to lately.
Throughout history, men have almost always been more likely than women to think the economy is doing great. We can blame the gender wage gap and women’s larger role in purchasing consumer goods for that. According to a new poll from the Wall Street Journal and NBC News, the gender gap in economic outlook is wider now than it’s been in 40 years. Three-quarters of men surveyed said they thought the economy has improved since the election, while less than half of women said the same.
Gender differences in party makeup account for some of this 16-point gender gap, but not all of it. Republican women who were surveyed were four times as likely as their male counterparts to say the economy was not improving, and Democratic women were nearly 20 points more likely than their male peers to say so. In fact, a slim majority of Democratic men say the economy has improved since the election, and 14 percent of Democratic men say Trump deserves credit for that improvement. Since Trump’s election, men have gotten more confident in the country’s economy, while women have gotten less so.
The Wall Street Journal reports that, since the election, there has been no objective change in the labor market that has given men a better deal than women. Unemployment rates among men and women are nearly identical, and job growth for women has actually been somewhat better than it has been for men.
In other words, these economy feelings aren’t tethered to facts—they’re more usefully understood as proxies for general senses of security and well-being. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that men’s confidence in the country’s outlook has skyrocketed since Trump’s election, while Democratic women’s has plummeted and Republican women’s has risen slightly. Women do not feel represented and served by the current slate of policymakers charting America’s future, so their interpretation of the state of the economy is grimmer. It probably doesn’t help that they’re about to be priced out of their health care, either.
Trump and his cabinet have focused their rah-rah economy rhetoric on the jobs of white men: coal mining and manufacturing. Working-class women and people of color are far more likely to do care work, which is grossly underpaid, or hold jobs in the retail sector, which is hemorrhaging a much greater stream of jobs than the coal industry. As my colleague Jamelle Bouie wrote in April, to compare Trump’s devotion to the tiny, already-doomed coal industry with his virtually nonexistent response to the retail industry’s rapid decline is to reveal the racist and sexist biases at the heart of his economic plan. Whether the economy as a whole is up or down, women are watching the very real devaluation of their work. The damage is both economic and emotional.