The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

May 11 2016 6:31 PM

New Study: Anti-Abortion Laws Don’t Reduce Abortion Rates. Contraception Does.

Abortion rates are at an all-time low in the developed world, having dropped by more than 40 percent over the past 25 years. But in developing countries—many of which have outlawed abortion and make contraception difficult to access—the rate of abortions has stayed nearly constant, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization.

The new estimates, published Wednesday in the Lancet, provide another bit of evidence that criminalizing abortion does not curb the practice. In countries where abortion is completely illegal or permitted only to save the life of the pregnant woman, the most recent data places the average annual abortion rate at 37 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. In countries where abortion is legal in most cases, the rate is 34 per 1,000 women.  

May 11 2016 5:30 PM

Why Women, and Doctors, Are Turning Away From The Bubble-Wrap Approach to Pregnancy

Last week, the New York City Commission on Human Rights announced a new set of guidelines to prevent discrimination against pregnant women. Among them are requirements that protect pregnant women in the workplace by “[r]equiring employers to accommodate reasonable requests from employees related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition” and “[r]equiring employers to initiate and engage in a  ‘cooperative dialogue’ ” with pregnant employees who need accommodations. The guidelines also aim to prevent pregnancy discrimination in the public sphere, including one stipulation that bars and restaurants can’t deny pregnant women entry into their establishments or refuse to serve them a drink.

May 11 2016 1:24 PM

Ronan Farrow Pens Damning Essay About the Media’s Coverage of Woody Allen’s Alleged Abuse

Woody Allen’s son, Ronan Farrow, has delivered a harsh indictment of the media’s indifference to decades-old allegations that his father molested his sister, Dylan, when she was 7. In an essay for theHollywood Reporter published early Wednesday morning, Farrow writes that legacy media outlets and Hollywood power players have intentionally ignored allegations of celebrity sex crimes to preserve their relationships with publicists and advance their careers.

Farrow includes himself among the ranks of journalists who have side-stepped uncomfortable questions and inconvenient narratives when it comes to celebrities accused of sexual assault. On MSNBC in September 2014, Farrow interviewed a Bill Cosby biographer but, at the behest of his producer, diverted the focus away from the rape allegations leveled against Cosby long ago because they’d never been proven and weren’t in the headlines at the time. Now that 60 women have come forward against Cosby, Farrow writes, “reporters covering Cosby have been forced to examine decades of omissions, of questions unasked, stories untold. I am one of those reporters—I'm ashamed of that interview.”

May 10 2016 6:18 PM

Russell Westbrook Is Turning the NBA Playoffs Into a Personal Runway Show

If there’s an accessory too outré or a print too colorful for the NBA, basketball star–­turned–fashion plate Russell Westbrook hasn’t found it yet. In a disintegrating Ramones T-shirt and bleached jeans, a leopard-print duster, or a shirt bedecked with cartoon dancers, the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard is making basketball fun for fashion nerds and, one hopes, teaching basketball fans a little something about the world beyond mesh shorts.

Westbrook, who’s in the middle of a tied-up conference semifinal series against the San Antonio Spurs, is a very, very good player—he just finished fourth in the MVP voting, behind Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron James. It’s saying a lot, then, that he’s drawn as much attention for his wardrobe in recent years. Since Westbrook dropped by a 2012 press conference in lensless red glasses and a Lacoste shirt covered in fishing lures, sports media have speculated about and reported on his outfits like he was Lupita Nyong’o and every game was a red-carpet event. When he showed up for a game last month in sunnies, drawstring cropped pants, and a cloche (!), he strutted down the line of cameras like he was working the catwalk.

While some pro athletes hire stylists to help them make the transition from sports personality to all-around A-lister, Westbrook spent years shopping for and dressing himself, hitting the outlets and bargain shops like Zara and Marshall’s in addition to luxury department stores. (Now, he employs stylist Calyann Barnett, who also dresses Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade.) Westbrook can trace his statement-making style back to high school, when he says he was voted best dressed for his prom outfit: a white tux with turquoise vest and white-and-turquoise Stacy Adams shoes. Now, he’s a regular face in men’s fashion magazines like GQ and Esquire; picks outfits for Barneys promotions; and designs mass-market clothes for men who like to bare their nipples.

These mainstream props haven’t inoculated Westbrook against ribbing from his teammates. “He's a diva,” fellow Thunder player (and snappy dresser) Kevin Durant told ESPN Magazine in 2013. “I call him [Beyoncé alter ego] Sasha Fierce. On the court, he's a fierce competitor. Off the court, he's chilling in front of the mirror, making sure he got the right lip balm on.” Sports fan philistines—the type who take their fashion cues from Jeff Van Gundy rather than Jean Paul Gaultier—made fun of the ripped-up Slayer shirt Westbrook wore in January, calling him a “stripper on laundry day” and likening him to Avril Lavigne.

But Westbrook has only deepened his commitment to dressing outside the norms of mainstream men’s fashion. When Sports Illustrated recently named him one of the top 10 fashion personalities in pro sports, Westbrook told the magazine that he pulls inspiration from womenswear and “fabrics and art on the walls” of the hotels he visits during basketball season. He once said he takes 45 minutes—about three outfit changes—to get dressed in the morning and sometimes texts his mother a picture to get her take before he walks out the door. Now that he’s launched his own line of glasses frames and a Barneys design collab, Westbrook takes clothing even more seriously. “I took the time to do my research and learn about the fashion world before I was able to get in to it,” he told Sports Illustrated. “I had the pleasure of sitting down with [Vogue’s] Anna Wintour and André Leon Talley to pick their brains about the origins of fashion and how it all began.”

Westbrook isn’t just making a personal fashion statement. He’s pushing the sartorial boundaries of a league bound for the past decade by a strict dress code. In 2005, then-Commissioner David Stern mandated that players wear business attire before and after games, during official press appearances, and while sitting on the bench in games they didn’t play. The policy, spurred in part by a 2004 fight between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, was widely panned as racist; it specifically forbade hip-hop attire: baggy jeans, chain necklaces, jerseys, sneakers. Players like Allen Iverson, whose tattoos got airbrushed off the cover of the NBA’s Hoop magazine in 2000, protested that the policy punished men for their personal style and implied that the (mostly black) men who dressed that way were criminals.

Westbrook told ESPN the Magazine that, as a rookie in 2008, he “was trying to figure out the dress code and not get fined.” Now, he stretches its limits. He wears jerseys and jeans, and even designs the latter. Last week, Westbrook arrived at a playoff game in a bandana and a Patagonia T-shirt with the sleeves cut off and the sides billowing open—hardly business attire. But while Westbrook was fined last month for cursing at a fan, Commissioner Adam Silver has never penalized him for wearing a T-shirt that was too distressed. Indeed, what league would dare to fine a player who’s brought loads of new attention to the sport (hello, NBA, I am now writing about you) and proven himself worthy of the hoity-toity fashion world’s most discerning gatekeepers?

The Thunder point guard is schooling the NBA in how fashion functions as a social code that shifts over time and usage. As in the English language, norms in fashion have been used to devalue specific cultures, and to exclude marginalized populations from positions of authority. Westbrook’s look is far from hip-hop: He got famous for wearing lensless frames—why let the curse of perfect vision preclude him from accessorizing his face?—and has experimented with flip-up sunglasses and preppy cardigans. He arrived at Tuesday's game in skinny white pants, a denim jacket, and an ivory tunic. But his chic twists on certain elements of that style (jeans, jerseys, bandanas) have exposed a blatant hypocrisy in dress codes that single out clothing associated with black men.

“He don't care what people say when he plays or when he dresses up,” then-teammate Thabo Sefolosha told ESPN of Westbrook in 2013. “He knows what he is and he doesn't care what other people want him to be,” echoed Nick Collison. In an interview with Esquire, Westbrook gave similar advice to admirers grasping for some of his eyewear swagger: “You can wear anything if you are confident in it.” Westbrook’s self-assurance and self-made style make him a worthy role model for everyday kids and aspiring fashionistos. His unflagging disregard for the customs of basketball dress also make him an example for the entire NBA.

May 10 2016 4:43 PM

Um, No, to Ummo and All Speech “Improvement” Apps

A few years ago, my family went on vacation with two of my parents’ close friends. One evening, the pair turned the topic of dinner conversation to how much they hate hearing young people say “like.” I was only half-listening, contemplating a second helping, until one of them turned to me. “You don’t even hear it when you do it,” he said. I forced a smile, then excused myself to go for a fuming walk.

I wasn’t just livid; I was shaken. I’d been sure that I had decent control over my voice—or at least that I was capable of suppressing “like” in more formal situations such as family gatherings and, especially, work. Could I really not hear it? I spent the rest of the trip trying to prove the friends wrong. For days, my brain felt like a fist around my speech, clenching to make sure it didn’t misbehave, and constraining my mental dexterity in the process. The middle and outer reaches of my vocabulary were suddenly inaccessible. I felt as inarticulate as I ever had. By the end of the trip, I was most at ease when I avoided speaking at all.

This memory comes back to me every time a new app hits the market promising to improve the way users speak—marketed as they usually are, explicitly or implicitly, toward women. My colleague Christina Cauterucci wrote this past winter about a Google Chrome extension that alerts the user to qualifying words such “just,” “actually,” and “sorry,” and tempering phrases such as “I’m no expert” and “does this make sense,” in emails. In March, The Cut covered an app that tracks the ratio of “likes” and other filler words to non-filler words in speech and delivers the user an overall “Articulate” rating. Now, a team of Harvard and MIT students is introducing “Ummo,” an app that Harvard Business School student Andrea Coravos described in an email as “‘FitBit’ for speech fitness.”

May 10 2016 2:30 PM

Your Definitive Guide to Totally Unobjectionable Commencement Speaker Picks

Another commencement season, another report about college students protesting their chosen commencement speakers. One of the latest altercations is at Scripps College, where students are debating whether Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state, is enough of a “modern female role model” to address the graduating class. 

It’s easy to find something protest-worthy about just about anybody—he didn’t go here! He’s not famous enough! She’s too famous!—except for the people on the list we’ve drawn up below. Commencement committees, the following people have been vetted as entirely unobjectionable and guaranteed to please. You’ll notice that this list shies away from white men, because in this day and age they are inherently objectionable and therefore unworthy of our attention. (Sorry, Matt McGorry!)

Shonda Rhimes. The savior of network television.

Steph Curry. Record-crushing, injury-overcoming basketball MVP who always has a smile on his face to boot.

Lin-Manuel Miranda. The creator of Hamilton, beloved by liberals and Dick Cheneys alike.

Oprah. She’s Oprah.

DJ Khaled. Inspirational force both on and off Snapchat.

Amal Clooney. Acclaimed human rights barrister with a hot wardrobe and somewhat notable husband.

Serena Williams. Winningest woman in tennis, and if you want to criticize her, you're probably wrong.

Tina Fey. OK, so maybe Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a tad controversial, but ... Tina Fey! Funny lady in glasses who makes everyone laugh.

Oscar Isaac. Actor and gift to humanity.

Idris Elba. “Too street” to play James Bond? Not exactly, but maybe just street enough for commencement.

Betty White. Universally admired comic of Golden Girls and Mary Tyler Moore Show fame, 94 and still kicking.

Beverly Cleary. The author of some of your favorite childhood books, from Ramona to Ralph S. Mouse, recently turned 100.

Virginia McLaurin. The 107-year-old danced with the Obamas in the Oval Office, earning herself legions of fans and making us wonder what life lessons she could give us all.

Joanna Goddard. The blogger behind Cup of Jo. A Scripps student suggested Emily Schuman, the Cupcakes and Cashmere blogger, as a potential replacement for Madeleine Albright, but some people find cashmere itchy.

Blue Ivy Carter. Child of Beyoncé and the man who may have cheated on Beyoncé, future world leader, and current 4-year-old.

Jacob Tremblay. We’ll give him a pass for being a white male because he’s only 9.

Will Shortz. We’ll give him a pass for being a white male because everyone loves the New York Times’ crossword editor.

Prince’s hologram. Will get even the stuffiest academics in the audience wanting to do onstage splits.

BB-8 from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. So cute, would give heartfelt speech of beeps and boops.

Bao Bao and Bei Bei. The panda cubs who live in the National Zoo.*

An inflatable waving air dancer. These guys are everywhere lately.

A can of LaCroix. Let’s say pamplemousse. (Why is everyone obsessed with this stuff?)

The 100 emoji. Unimpeachable.

*Correction, May 10, 2016: This post originally mispelled Bao Bao.

May 9 2016 6:13 PM

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Has Released a Sex Issue!

When we heard Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle site and unironic meditation on intemperate bourgeoisie, was set to release its first annual sex issue, we could hardly control the excited pulsation of our auras. Goop has brought us unending joy in the form of $2,500 capes, skincare products blessed with chants, and lotions that sound like period euphemisms. Just imagine what a generous glob of Goop could do for our sex lives!

The issue dropped Monday afternoon, and readers, it does not disappoint. This is the same Goop we’ve grown to know and love, the Goop that once recommended an herbal vaginal steam. This is a sexy, Goopy alternate universe where sex toys are custom-engraved 24-karat gold, a discussion of orgasms is cause for a detour into the lesser-known writings of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and a masked sex party is a “masqued” erotic theater!

The latter is an L.A. black-tie event called Snctm—a perfect counterpart to Goop’s pop-up shop, MRKT, which likewise abides by the philosophy that vowels clutter up the mindspace and pores alike with negative energy. Unlike most of Goop’s recommendations, women can access this one for free! All they have to do is volunteer to perform in some kind of erotic show for an audience of women who bought tickets and men who paid $10,000 for a Snctm membership. Attendees must first pass the discerning judgment of founder Damon Lawner, who only selects those applicants who would “enhance the experience of our current members.” Better break out the exfoliant and start that juice cleanse, Goopers.

Another of Goop’s sex-issue recommendations: a “new wearable out of Silicon Valley” that promises to enhance women’s libido without drugs. It’s called Fiera by Nuelle, and it’s a “hands-free device” that is “worn.” It needs “inexpensive refills,” and it’s “not a vibrator.” What is it, then? Where does it go? How does it work? Why are we refilling it, and with what? The other drug-free vaginal health option Goop presents is a CO2 fractional laser treatment called FemiLift, which is backed up by a doctor who says 100 percent (100 percent!) of her patients have seen results. Not positive results; just results. “There’s not a lot of published hard scientific evidence yet,” she says. Alas, such is Goop.

The sex issue also offers a Netflix-sponsored Q&A with a naturopath about sex-product toxicity; the doctor suggests using coconut oil, aloe vera gel, or olive oil in place of lube to avoid contact with potentially harmful synthetic elements. And we thought, between the dry skin cures, bubble baths, and dosha diets, Goop had already covered all the corners of coconut-oil use! With a freshly oiled bod and a FemiLift-ed pelvic floor, readers can choose from a truly elegant selection of Goop-approved sex toys. The guide—which is heavy with products from Lelo, a company that’s commanded a niche for sleek sex toys in pricey materials and luxury packaging—throws shade at the objects that didn’t make its list. Sex toys used to be “floppy rubber things,” it says; now, they’re “beautiful works of interactive art.”

One of those artworks, a $150 “love wand,” promises to “stimulate dreaming” and “dispel confusion” while teaching users to “avoid dangerous situations.” Goop notes of this Naturotica Wellness Mandingo, “It may not be high tech, but the bloodstone wand is thought to heal as it stimulates.” Mandingo, let’s remember, is slang for a black man with a big penis; it’s also the title of a film Roger Ebert called “racist trash” in 1975. Even when Goop is cloaking racist language in the fun parlance of a sex-toy guide, its ooey-gooey mysticism veers not from the brand.

May 9 2016 4:04 PM

More Women Are Putting Money Into Politics Than Ever Before

This election season has broken fundraising records for women donors. According to a Crowdpac analysis of Federal Election Commission files, 43 percent of all contributions to federal candidates so far this season came from women, a higher proportion than ever before. And since 2010, when the Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for massive super PAC donations, the proportion of women’s donations to those organizations has increased from 1 percent to 20 percent of all super PAC contributions. These figures only cover individual contributions over $200, which must be itemized in reports to the FEC.

May 9 2016 3:27 PM

Why the Osbourne Split Feels Sadder Than Your Typical Celebrity Divorce

Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne are breaking up after more than thirty-three years of marriage, E! news reported this weekend. A spokesperson for the couple has confirmed “Ozzy is not in the marital home. The rumor mill says Ozzy is having an affair with a ‘celebrity hairdresser.’”

Investing emotional energy in a Hollywood marriage is a game for naifs and People magazine editors. As a population, celebrities have a higher divorce rate than Donald Trump. They are attractive and insecure and they travel frequently—not exactly a formula for stability. Still, jaded observers will be forgiven for feeling a twinge of regret at this news.

From 2002 to 2005, the Osbournes were the stars of a groundbreaking reality show that was about nothing more than the fact that they were a long-time married couple. Ozzy was daft and goofy; Sharon was sharp and witty. (An alternate read: Ozzy was disturbingly addled; Sharon was naggy and grating.) The show often aped sitcom tropes: The Osbournes visit Europe! The Osbournes’ dogs misbehave! The Osbournes bicker! They were like Lucy and Ricky, but with cursing and black velvet.

May 9 2016 3:02 PM

Sheryl Sandberg Admits Leaning In Is Harder Than She Originally Thought

In honor of Mother’s Day, Sheryl Sandberg wrote a long post on Facebook that is part expression of support for single parents and part mea culpa for previously failing to recognize how difficult it is to raise children on one’s own.

“Before, I did not quite get it. I did not really get how hard it is to succeed at work when you are overwhelmed at home,” Sandberg writes.

The Facebook COO goes on to enumerate the emotional obstacles of raising children without her husband, who died last year, and prudently acknowledges how “extremely fortunate I am not to face the financial burdens so many single mothers and widows face.” Still, money, even billions of dollars worth, can’t compensate for the fact that her partner in life and parenting is here no more. It’s this emotional loss, the day-to-day reality of losing that one other person who loves, and worries, about her kids as much as she does, that appears to have inspired her newfound empathy and pushed her to rethink old assumptions.

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