The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Aug. 12 2016 12:22 PM

Planned Parenthood Will Register Voters at Health Centers Across the Country

In the months leading up to November’s election, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America will register voters at its health centers and college campuses in 45 states, the organization announced last week.

Volunteers will set up tables outside Planned Parenthood clinics and at community gatherings to register voters, inform residents about their state’s voter ID laws, and engage in get-out-the-vote efforts in the weeks before Election Day. PPFA is also directing people to its “My Vote, My Voice” website, where they can pledge to vote, get an absentee ballot from, find out where to vote from Rock the Vote, and get a voter registration form by email.

Planned Parenthood is a particularly apt organization to lead voter registration efforts, since its clientele is disproportionately populated by members of historically marginalized demographics. A quarter of Planned Parenthood’s patients are Latina and more than three-quarters live at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty line. For people who don’t speak English or live in poor or rural areas, Planned Parenthood may be one of the most accessible, affordable community institutions. In these places, a health clinic may be the best way to reach those without easy entry points into electoral politics.

“Planned Parenthood health centers see 2.5 million patients annually,” read the organization’s announcement. “Many of these people are young voters, people of color, or people with low-incomes—the same communities that historically have been disenfranchised and continue to face unnecessary hurdles and discriminatory voter suppression laws when trying to vote.”

Since the Planned Parenthood Federation of America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, its voter registration program is nonpartisan and not affiliated with any candidates. The organization's lobbying arm, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, endorsed Hillary Clinton in January, its first-ever endorsement in a presidential primary.

PPFA has held voter registration drives in the past, but this year’s efforts, launching in the wake of several important court victories involving voting rights, are getting a lot of extra attention. After a year of repeated attempts to “defund” Planned Parenthood, all that hullaballoo about the straw man of fetal tissue donation, and state and congressional hearings excoriating Planned Parenthood for all manner of fictitious misdeeds, the impact of representative politics on women’s health care has never been clearer.

Aug. 11 2016 6:16 PM

Fox News Thinks Female Olympic Athletes Should Wear Makeup to “Look Beautiful” on the Podium

Should female Olympic athletes wear makeup? Can it make them feel more empowered and more like themselves during competition? After USA Today published an article on this subject last week, a Fox News show called Sports Court decided to take it on. This being Fox News, the commentators offered intelligent, well-reasoned, nuanced opinions on the matter.

Just kidding.

“Why should I have to look at some chick’s zits?” That pearl of wisdom came courtesy of media personality Bo Dietl.

Aug. 11 2016 5:29 PM

Kayla Harrison Won Judo Gold for the USA. For Sexual Abuse Victims, Her Triumph Is Twofold.

Last week, an Indianapolis Star investigation revealed USA Gymnastics officials ignored allegations that coaches were sexually abusing their underage athletes. In at least four cases, executives neglected to report accusations to authorities, allowing the coaches to continue victimizing girls for years before their eventual arrests.

For these women and other survivors of sexual abuse, 26-year-old judoka Kayla Harrison provides a glimmer of hope. The Olympic gold medalist won two national judo championships by age 15, all while training in Ohio under Daniel Doyle, a coach who sexually abused her from the time she was 13.

Harrison first spoke out in a USA Today story published in November 2011, less than a year before she became America’s first-ever gold medalist in judo at age 22 at the 2012 London Olympics. On Thursday afternoon, in a match-up with France’s Audrey Tcheumeo, Harrison won her second consecutive Olympic gold.

As a young teen, Harrison battled depression and suicidal ideation as Doyle abused her for more than three years. “Daniel was one of my mom’s friends, he babysat me and my brother and sister, he came over for family barbecues,” Harrison told the Telegraph in 2012. “It was devastating. When I was young, he would say, 'We have to keep this between us or we will get into trouble’ and, honestly, as I got older, I was pretty brainwashed.”

Her breaking point came when she was 16 and discovered Doyle had gone on a cruise with another woman. “I had wanted it to end for a long time … but I also thought that I loved him and that was betraying him—me wanting it to end,” she said. “So when that happened, I saw it as my escape.” She told fellow judoka Aaron Handy* what Doyle had been doing. Handy told Harrison’s mother, a former judo athlete, and she told the police.

Doyle pleaded guilty in 2007 to the federal crime of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country (he abused Harrison while they were traveling for judo championships) and was sentenced to the maximum 10 years in prison. Harrison moved from her Ohio home to Massachusetts to train with former Olympian Jimmy Pedro, who coached her to victory in the 2010 judo world championship, the 2012 Olympics, and again in Rio.

Kayla Harrison
Kayla Harrison celebrates at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 11, 2016.

Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Harrison is now a motivational speaker with a line of workout clothes branded with the word “fearless.” Her Fearless Foundation is designing a program to help sexual-abuse survivors find healing and strength through judo practice. Because she went public with the story of her abuse and pushed forward with her judo training, Harrison told the Telegraph, she’s been able to move on:

For years, there’s been a kind of taboo about being a victim. I remember [after I came forward] reading online judo forums and people insinuating ‘well, we don’t know if she’s telling the truth,’ and that devastated me. Because of this taboo our society places on being the victim, I couldn’t look in the mirror and had no self-esteem. Now I can’t imagine not speaking up against that. It’s so wrong and I don’t want others to have to suffer what I did. … For me, having [the 2012 Olympics] to strive for allowed me to say, ‘You did it, you got through it, despite everything.’ I was able to look back and reflect that nothing can stop me.

This second gold medal might be Harrison’s last. She’s said she may retire after the Rio Games and follow her former roommate and training partner Ronda Rousey to the world of mixed martial arts. “Once the Olympics are over, and everything sorts of settles down, I can decide whether or not I like to punch people in the face,” she told SB Nation last week.

Whatever she decides—this new fan hopes she sides with the face-punching—Harrison, in her public perseverance and professional domination, has already provided an indelible example of the kind of strength and courage abusers seek to extinguish in their victims. Many young athletes who are victims of sexual abuse end up quitting their sports to try and escape their abusers. Harrison's moment of glory on Thursday, singing “and the home of the brave” as she beamed from the medal podium, was a victory for all those who never made it to the Olympics. It might be the most meaningful gold medal of the Rio Games.

*Correction, Aug. 11, 2016: This post originally misstated that Harrison and Handy are married. They were once engaged but never married.

Aug. 11 2016 5:12 PM

Can You Guess What Arianna Huffington’s New Company Is From How Investors Describe It?

On Thursday, Arianna Huffington announced that she will leave the Huffington Post to devote her attention to a new company. “I thought HuffPost would be my last act,” wrote Huffington on Twitter. “But I’ve decided to step down as HuffPost’s editor-in-chief to run my new venture, Thrive Global.”

What is Thrive Global? See if you can guess by reading a few quotes from rich people who have invested in the company, as reported by a Thrive Global press release:

Aug. 11 2016 2:05 PM

That Poll Asking Voters if Hillary Is the Devil Was Doing Trump’s Dirty Work for Him

Like a lot of stories this election cycle, this one begins with words coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth. At an August 1 rally in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Trump appeared to refer to his Democratic rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, as “the devil.” The remark was a momentary flare-up in a week already rife with incendiary Trump gaffes, and quickly burned itself out.

Or at least it would have been had not Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina-based polling firm, resurrected it. On Tuesday, PPP released a poll that, in addition to showing Clinton leading Trump in North Carolina for the first time since March, found that fully 41 percent of the state’s likely Trump voters believe the Democratic presidential nominee to be the literal incarnation of Satan. “Do you think Hillary Clinton is the Devil, or not?” read question 21 of PPP’s survey, which 830 hapless denizens of the Tar Heel State dutifully answered.

Aug. 11 2016 1:02 PM

Four New Jersey Lesbians Sue Over Preposterous Rule That Delays Their Fertility Coverage

Four lesbian women are suing the head of a New Jersey agency over a state mandate that requires health insurers to cover fertility treatments for women under 35 only after couples have had two years of unprotected sex.

The New York Times reports that Erin Krupa, one of the women bringing the suit, was diagnosed with uterine cysts and endometriosis in 2013, when she was 33 and beginning the process of getting pregnant with her wife. Her doctor told her not to worry, since New Jersey is one of 15 states that require insurers to cover fertility treatments. That’s when Krupa found out that her insurance provider, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, would only pay for treatments under the conditions required by the state’s 2001 mandate.

Under the current rule, a woman must prove her infertility through two years of unprotected sexual intercourse if she’s under 35, or one year if she’s 35 or older, to get guaranteed coverage. The New Jersey mandate does not account for the fact that failing to make an embryo through unprotected gay sex doesn’t make anyone more or less fertile. In fact, the rule defines sexual intercourse as “sexual union between a male and a female” and infertility as “a disease or condition that results in the abnormal function of the reproductive system” such that a male can’t impregnate a female, either partner is medically sterile, the female can’t carry a pregnancy to term, or she can’t get pregnant in one or two years of straight sex.

A literal interpretation of this mandate leaves behind gay people or single straight people with normally functioning reproductive systems but a lack of all the biological doodads necessary to make a baby. (Insurance companies have also denied fertility treatment coverage to single people, resting on laws that only guarantee treatments that use a spouse’s sperm.)

The lawsuit the Krupas and two other women are bringing against the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance claims that this mandate discriminates against gay people by forcing them to pay out of pocket when they are certain to need fertility treatments, regardless of their age. Of the states that require insurers to cover fertility treatments, only California and Maryland have changed the language in their mandates to encompass patients and couples of all sexual orientations. There are two bills pending in the New Jersey state legislature that would leave it up to a physician to determine if a woman or couple is facing infertility, but they’re still in committee.

This move would do right by straight couples, too. Forcing couples to prove infertility by having a year or two of sex without getting pregnant is medically unsound policy. Many cases of infertility can be explained by diagnosable medical conditions: low ovarian reserve, low sperm motility, hormonal imbalances, abnormal levels of cervical mucus. If a doctor evaluates a patient and determines that she’s unlikely to get pregnant without medical assistance—as Krupa would have been, even with a cis male partner—wasting two years before getting started would cause needless frustration.

It would also decrease her chances of getting pregnant, an important consideration for insurance companies that presumably don’t want to have to pay for more rounds of treatments than they have to. Once a woman hits age 35, she becomes increasingly less likely to get pregnant with every passing year. Between age 34 and ages 35-37, the chances of a live birth resulting from a cycle of assisted reproductive technology drops 8 points. Between 34 and 38-40, it drops 19 points. Statistics show that a woman’s chance of getting pregnant from an ART cycle starts dropping around age 28 and accelerates around age 31. One or two years of unprotected sex is precious time wasted. And that doesn’t even take into account the risks of miscarriage, complications, and fetal chromosomal abnormalities, all of which increase as a woman ages.

In a statement, Horizon told the Times that it covers “infertility services equally, regardless of sexual orientation.” That’s the problem: Opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples do not face equal barriers to reproduction. To paraphrase the immortal words of the electro-pop band MEN, two cis women can fuck their best, but they’ll never produce a little tiny baby. For an agency that can wrap its head around the minute details of ovarian functioning and egg fertilization, the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance knows shockingly little about the birds and the bees.

Aug. 10 2016 7:20 PM

Italy Is Finally Guaranteeing Women Access to Epidurals During Childbirth

More than a hundred years after it was first used for labor pains, and decades after it became the go-to pain relief for the majority of American women who give birth, Italian women have finally won the right to an epidural.

Italy is finally adding epidurals to its “essential levels of care,” the list of medical services that the National Health Service is required to cover for all citizens who need them. This change is the result of a grassroots campaign demanding better treatment and pain relief options for Italian women during childbirth. Currently, only 20 percent of Italian women get epidurals, a figure much smaller than rates in the United States or France. Writing for Vocativ, Anna Momigliano explains why Italian women are demanding better care and speaks to a number of Italian women who recount how poorly they were treated while giving birth. Not only are Italian women expected to endure pain due to long held associations between motherhood and self-sacrifice—“as if the pain of labor were atonement for some unnamed sin”—but it’s also common for them to be insulted by hospital staff. One woman recounts being told to shut up while yelling during contractions and was then reminded that she liked it “when [she] spread [her] legs last time.”

Aug. 10 2016 6:07 PM

The Girl Scouts Are Introducing Two Different S’mores Cookies With the Same Name. That’s Crazy.

August 10 is National S’mores Day. To be clear, National S’mores Day is a completely made up holiday invented by the National Confectioners Association trade group to gin up sales of marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey’s bars. But this year it was also an occasion for great celebration, because Girl Scouts of the USA announced on Wednesday that they would introduce not one but two s’mores-flavored Girl Scout Cookies in 2017.*

The Girl Scouts, you see, were responsible for popularizing s’mores in the 1920s, although it took them a while to land on the proper spelling. According to a Girl Scouts press release, “The organization was one of the first to publish the iconic recipe under the name ‘Some More’ in a 1925 issue of Girl Scout Leader magazine, and then as ‘somemores’ in an official 1927 Girl Scout publication.” To take belated credit for their contribution to American campfire culture, and to celebrate 100 years of cookie hawking, the Girl Scouts are adding two new recipes to their current lineup of 12 cookies. The first of these new varieties will be “a crispy graham cookie double dipped in a crème icing and enrobed in a chocolatey coating,” according to the press release. The second will be “a crunchy graham sandwich cookie with a chocolate and marshmallowy filling.”

Aug. 10 2016 4:51 PM

Baltimore Police Blamed Victims for Sex Assaults, Exploited Sex Workers, According to DOJ

The Department of Justice released a report on the Baltimore Police Department on Wednesday, and it’s full of statistics and information from interviews that confirm previous allegations of racist policing practices. According to the DOJ investigation, BPD violated residents’ constitutional rights by stopping and searching black residents far more than white residents (even though they found more illegal guns and drugs on the latter), issuing explicit orders of discrimination, and making routine use of excessive force.

Some of the most gut-wrenching anecdotes from the report involve BPD officers who allegedly exploited sex workers, dismissed violence against women, and intimidated survivors of sexual assault. The DOJ has exposed patterns of disturbing behavior that suggest officers were not trained in the best practices of handling allegations of sexual violence and, in some cases, used their positions of power to exploit the very populations that most needed their protection.

Aug. 10 2016 4:47 PM

52 Percent of Women in the U.K. Report Experiencing Sexual Harassment  

In a report published Wednesday, British researchers found that 52 percent of women in the U.K. said that they’d experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The report detailed the results of a poll of 1,533 women commissioned by the Trades Union Congress and the Everyday Sexism Project earlier this year. The women answered questions about different types of workplace harassment, ranging from comments about their bodies to rape. The researchers found that one in eight women experienced unwanted sexual touching of their bottoms, genitals, or breasts, or attempts to kiss them while at work. For women between 18 and 24, the overall rate of harassment jumps to 63 percent—although the report acknowledges that younger women are more likely to be in lower paying or temporary work, where harassment is more likely to occur. As troubling as these statistics are, perhaps most upsetting is the fact that four out of five women did not report the incidents, fearing that they would damage their work relationships or not be taken seriously.