The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Jan. 8 2017 9:25 PM

The Golden Globes Red Carpet Was a Winter Formal in 70-Degree Weather

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom showed up at Sunday night’s Golden Globe awards with portraits of her fellow cast members painted on her nails.

Few stars were so committed to custom detail on the first major awards show of the 2017 season, but the famous people arrived with plenty of little shiny bits to show off. Sparkles, spangles, and lush textures of all sorts dominated the red carpet this year, making a hot evening out in Los Angeles look like a winter ball after all.

In a dramatic long-sleeved number with cues taken from a tuxedo jacket, Kristen Bell admitted in a red-carpet interview that she was steaming up in the California heat. Amy Adams and Janelle Monae, also in black sequins, did the look two ways: simple and elegant for Adams, and playful in cartoonish paillettes for Monae.

Tracee Ellis Ross, who won for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical, was a stunner of the evening in two fistfuls of rings and a pearl-white gown meticulously structured around her curves. Michelle Williams made white look like ’90s goth in full-on lace and a doll-like choker.

Tracee Ellis Ross and Michelle Williams

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Jeweled flowers adorning the hips of Jessica Biel and Kerry Washington added a bit of pleasant chaos to already-busy patterns.

Jessica Biel and Kerry Washington

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Drew Barrymore dressed as a flying fish for this year’s Golden Globes, in a Monique Lhuillier dress with stripes of shine in the wings. Trace Lysette wore her sparkles in swirling emerald, one of the sexiest dresses on the red carpet.

Drew Barrymore and Trace Lysette

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Two stylistically opposed floral gowns from Zuhair Murad were perfect on Lily Collins and Olivia Culpo. Culpo looked like an impressionist painting come to life, and Collins looked like she stole the fluffy princess comforter from L.A.’s most spoiled little girl. (These are compliments.) Extra points to Collins for making short sleeves work in embroidery.

Lily Collins and Olivia Culpo

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Loving’s Ruth Negga, in slinking silver, and Sienna Miller also chose T-shirt sleeves, a fresh, youthful look in a sea of straps and strapless.

Ruth Negga and Sienna Miller

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I know from women in suits, and still, I was impressed by the menswear on the ladies this year. Nominated for her brilliant turn in Hidden Figures, Octavia Spencer wore a navy suit with perfectly fitted pants and satin lapels. Her bob is her best-ever hairstyle in this bob-owner’s opinion. Kathryn Hahn, one of Transparent’s top talents, wore just a bra under her more feminine jacket. And Evan Rachel Wood, praise be, wore a rather topical pussy bow and a debonair pompadour. Wood has spoken at length about the internal and external challenges she’s faced as a bisexual woman; she told Ryan Seacrest that she wore a suit to send a message to young girls that dresses aren’t the only option for fancy womenswear. It was also an homage, she said, to fellow androgyne David Bowie, whose 70th birthday would have been Sunday.

Octavia Spencer, Kathryn Hahn, and Evan Rachel Wood

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Viola Davis, Regina King, and Priyanka Chopra opted for all-over sparkle and shine, making the case for glamorous metallics as neutrals.

Viola Davis, Regina King, and Priyanka Chopra

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Nearly the entire cast of Atlanta dressed in Slate’s favorite holiday fabric, velvet, making the Golden Globes a true winter formal. The show’s Zazie Beetz was a standout in a lush ballgown, and Teresa Palmer (not from Atlanta, but somehow peeping the memo) looked old-school fabulous in a waterfall of navy.

Zazie Beetz and Teresa Palmer

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Brian Tyree Henry and Lakeith Stanfield, also of Atlanta, paired a velvet jacket and pants, respectively, with unexpected accessories, giving them more personality than most of their fellow men in tuxes. But in his white brocade Chanel jacket from 2012, Pharrell wore the night’s best bling: some kind of bejeweled cross-body strap. Also: a beanie!

Brian Tyree Henry, Pharrell, and Lakeith Stanfield

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Ryan Michelle Bathe and husband Sterling K. Brown both had big years—Bathe in This Is Us and Brown in The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story—and comprised the red carpet’s most shimmering power couple.

Sterling K. Brown and Ryan Michelle Bathe

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Jan. 6 2017 5:43 PM

NYPD Captain: Majority of Rapes Are “Not Total Abomination Rapes” Committed by Strangers

In 2016, sexual assault reports in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn were up 62 percent (a jump of five reports) from the previous year, according to statistics reported by DNAInfo. In response to the rise in reported sex crimes, Peter Rose, who heads up the 94th Precinct of the New York Police Department, said at a community meeting that the majority were “not total abomination rapes where strangers are being dragged off the streets.”

In other words, just two of the 13 rapes and attempted rapes reported in the neighborhood in 2016 were committed by people the alleged victims didn’t know. “If there’s a true stranger rape, a random guy picks up a stranger off the street—those are the troubling ones,” Rose said at the meeting. “That person has, like, no moral standards.”

Rose’s comments beg the question of what amount of moral standards a man who rapes a non-stranger possesses. Middling moral standards if he forces a girlfriend into a sex act she doesn’t want to perform? Low but not too shabby moral standards if he rapes a Tinder date after she willingly returns to his home? Minimal but still existent moral standards if he fondles a co-worker while she’s passed out drunk?

“Every rape should be investigated. I wish we could do more. It really becomes a balancing act for the investigators,” Rose told DNAInfo. “Some of them were Tinder, some of them were hookup sites, some of them were actually coworkers. It’s not a trend that we’re too worried about because out of 13 [reports], only two were true stranger rapes.” Rose’s division of rapes into “troubling” and, presumably, “non-troubling” cases might be read as the muddled response of a jaded police captain trying to reassure residents that there’s no random serial rapist on the loose, no rash of abnormal crime to fret over.

But it sounds an awful lot like investigators are balancing “troubling” (read: stranger) rapes with less-“troubling” (read: acquaintance) rapes by spending more effort on the former. Comments like these are a sorry reminder that even institutions that are supposed to protect people from sexual violence can further entrench the victim-blaming tropes that encourage that violence. When a police captain minimizes the severity and trauma of a sexual assault committed by someone the victim knows, he tells potential perpetrators that those acts are bad, but not that bad. He tells future survivors of acquaintance rape that their police reports will be taken less seriously, that what happened to them is not the “total abomination” it absolutely is.

Rape by non-stranger is also by far the most common type of rape, contrary to the stereotype of sexual assault women are taught to fear. According to Department of Justice statistics recorded between 2010 and 2014, only 28 percent of rapes are committed by strangers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts that number at 13.8 percent for female victims and 15.1 percent for male ones. Sexual-assault statistics are notoriously difficult to compile, because many victims don’t report those crimes, in part due to the evidence-informed belief that they won’t be taken seriously. But prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement officials the world over have long cast suspicion and blame on survivors who report rapes committed by dates, partners, or friends.

Here are a few of the unabominable, unsolved Greenpoint rape reports of 2016, from DNAInfo:

On June 14, a 27-year-old photographer told police she was on a shoot when her boss made advances and forced her to have oral sex.
On Nov. 18, a 34-year-old woman who had been out drinking with coworkers was raped in her home after telling a male colleague he could come home with her and sleep on her couch, police said.
On June 4, a woman who met up with someone through a dating website had drinks with the man and then went back to his condo where she was hoping to sleep, police said. He forced her to have oral sex with him and raped her, police said. The woman later flew back to California where she was from, police said.

One wonders if Rose could look these alleged victims in the eye and tell them that what happened to them was less than a total abomination.

Jan. 6 2017 4:18 PM

Texas Health Official: We Envisioned Fetuses Being Buried in a Mass Grave for $2 Each

Days after the Supreme Court struck down Texas’ onerous and medically unnecessary regulations on abortion clinics, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services quietly proposed a new rule, forcing clinics to bury or cremate fetal remains from abortions and miscarriages. In December, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks temporarily blocked the rule from taking effect while he considered a lawsuit alleging that it violated women’s constitutional rights. Sparks has been holding hearings on the issue, during which Texas health officials have struggled to justify their new regulation. One of the most fascinating revelations from these hearings was an admission by Jennifer Sims, deputy commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, that her agency envisioned fetuses being buried in a mass grave.

In fairness, Sims was in a tough spot. Under Supreme Court precedent, an abortion regulation runs afoul of the Constitution when it poses an “undue burden” to women—that is, when the burdens created by a regulation outweigh the benefits it provides to women. Texas’ fetal remains rule provides no benefit at all to women. Thus, if it poses even a moderate burden, it cannot pass constitutional muster.

Jan. 6 2017 1:43 PM

Knitters Across the Country Are Making Cat-Ear “Pussyhats” for the Women’s March

The Women’s March on Washington now has an unofficial uniform: a pink, knitted hat shaped to look like two pointy cat ears. Two California-based women and the knitting instructor who designed the hat have released the pattern for free online. They’re calling them “pussyhats.”

The Pussyhat Project, launched in November, aims to get people all over the country to knit hats for marchers to wear for the demonstration, which is set to take place Jan. 21, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Founders Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, a screenwriter and architect, respectively, are encouraging crafters to make one or multiple copies of the simple rectangular “Pussy Power Hat” design and either bring them to the march or mail them to the Pussyhat Project to be distributed. The project is also providing patterns for crocheters and people who sew to make similar hats.

The organizers told CBS that one man has already made 100 hats for march attendees, and other participants have included a 99-year-old woman and a 7-year-old child who’d never knitted before. According to the site’s new hat registry, where crafters can record who they are and how many hats they’ve made, the average participant is making seven or eight hats.

There’s no official count of how many hats are being made or how many will make it to the march, but a protest uniform is a great way draw photographers, unify groups with disparate agendas, and separate Women’s March attendees from the crowds of Trump supporters that will surely show up to antagonize them. “We hope these hats will become a symbol long after the march,” Suh told the Huffington Post, evoking the post-election safety pin some wore to signal their opposition to Trump and his worldview.

But the hats certainly aren’t for everyone. The design is less than flattering, let’s say, and the pink color (the only hard-and-fast requirement set by the organizers for its “unapologetically feminine” implications) is a little on the nose. Plenty of women’s marchers will object to the color pink in general, and the idea of compulsory femininity in particular.

The hats are supposed to reclaim the word pussy from its derogatory use by garbage men and one Donald J. Trump, who infamously said he liked to grab women by them. But invoking the president-elect’s casual boast of sexual assault feels more icky than empowering to some. Like the women’s empowerment group called “Grab Her By the Brain” and period underwear Thinx advertised as “pussy-grabbing-proof,” both of which I’ve written against, the “pussyhat” would do better to establish power for women on their own terms, not in some jokey reference to the misogynist violence of the man who will be president on the day of the march. “Are the hats supposed to look like pussies? Because not all pussies are pink,” one colleague told me when she heard I was writing this post, revealing a possible branding failure the project should clarify ASAP before people start thinking they’re knitting vagina replicas.

On the plus side, the hats do resemble the knit facemasks of Pussy Riot, a worthy role model for marchers, and they will provide much-needed warmth on the frigid January streets. And unlike the other big art project connected to the march—a call for poster designs by woman-identified artists—anyone can participate in the Pussyhat Project. People can make their own hats and donate their time to make hats for others, providing some mode of connection between marchers in different states, especially those who can’t make it to D.C. but may be taking part in local protests. It presents an opportunity for demonstrators to get together in their hometowns before traveling to the march, and for those who can’t make it to contribute to the effort in a tangible way.

The best part of the hat project might be its connection to the tradition of craftivism, an art form that uses conventionally feminine crafts (needlepoint, knitting, quilting, and the like) in subversive acts of protest. Some people knit pink blankets for World War II tanks. Some cross-stitch banners against mass incarceration. Some crochet hats that look like cat ears (or, depending on the angle, pink vaginas) to wear at a march for women’s rights. Taking a domestic craft and turning it into a symbol against misogyny makes a more powerful statement than any connection to pink or pussies.

Jan. 6 2017 12:32 PM

Tom Perriello Wants to Be a Progressive Candidate. Can He Overcome His Anti-Abortion, Pro-Gun Record?

Progressives greeted Tom Perriello’s recent entrance into the Virginia governor’s race with something akin to ecstasy. Perriello is a close ally of the president’s who won a single term in a fairly conservative Virginia district in 2008 and embraced Barack Obama’s legislative agenda during his short time in the House. A Yale Law School graduate and former human rights attorney, Perriello is being pitched as a liberal challenger to the purported centrist Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph S. Northam, who had hoped to replace the term-limited Gov. Terry McAuliffe without a primary challenge.

But this narrative isn’t quite right. Northam may have crafted a moderate image, but in reality he is a fierce advocate for liberal causes who hews closely to the Democratic platform. And Perriello, for all his progressive bona fides, has a voting record that clashes with the party’s current support for gun safety measures and, more importantly, reproductive rights.

Jan. 6 2017 10:13 AM

There’s Not Even Close to Enough Child Care in the United States for All the Families That Need It

The undesirable properties of child care in the United States are not dissimilar to those found at your local tasting menu restaurant: The prices are too high; the quality is mixed; and, salt-on-the-wound, the portions are tiny. Parents looking for good child care encounter the same trifecta: high costs; unreliability; and, according to a pair of new studies, not enough supply to meet the need.

For a recent poll, NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health surveyed more than 1,000 parents nationwide and found that a third reported difficulty finding care. In a story out earlier this week, NPR reporter Jessica Deahl looks at the burden this places on individual families. One spent more than $1,000 on wait-list fees to try to secure a place for its infant. Unfortunately, a spot didn’t open up in time, so the family resorted to asking the baby’s grandmothers to quit their jobs and split child care duties—until one did. Another devastating anecdote came from a California parents who spent much of their four-month maternity leave trying to find a place for their baby. After calling nearly 70 centers, they found a place for their son at an in-home facility. On his first day there, the boy was placed on his stomach to sleep, a big no-no, because it makes it harder for the baby to breathe and increases the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome. Tragically, he stopped breathing shortly into his nap and died—cause of death: SIDS.

In October, the Center for American Progress released a report on child care deserts. According to its findings, 42 percent of American children under 5 years of age live in areas where there is insufficient supply of child care centers. They defined this as a ZIP code with at least 30 children under the age of 5 and either no child care centers or a population that includes three times as many children under age 5 as there are spaces in centers. Parents who do manage to find a spot, whether in a child care desert or oasis, are unlikely to feel really good about it; just 13 percent of 2-year-olds who are cared for outside their homes are in settings rated as high quality.

Most of the conversation surrounding the child care crisis has focused on costs, which are staggering. Research from the think tank New America and released last September found that the average cost of enrolling a child age 4 or younger full-time at a child care center in America is $9,589 per year, which is higher than the average cost of in-state college tuition. As such, many of the solutions to the crisis, from both the right and the left, have focused on reducing these costs, whether through vouchers, tax credits, or rebates.

But as these reports on scarcity make clear, solving the child care crisis isn’t just a matter of reducing costs, but also of increasing the number of centers. Our current situation—low supply and high demand, even in spite of the high costs—illustrates why the marketplace can’t solve this problem on its own. The issue is that providing high-quality and safe child care is expensive and leaves little room for profit. As Deahl explains: “Costs are high, factoring in real estate, supplies, insurance and, above all, labor. Many states require a ratio of one caregiver to every three or four babies.”

There are a handful of large child care companies—including Bright Horizons, which manages 1,000 centers across the country—that manage to offer high-quality care at a reasonable price to parents and turn a profit. But the only reason they can pull this off is that they are subsidized by employers, which agree to pay part of their employees’ child care bills as a job perk. While there’s certainly room for this kind of marketplace-based solution to expand, it’s not one that we can count on providing care for everyone, particularly lower-wage earners whose employers don’t feel the need to seduce them with extra benefits.

In his child care proposal, President-elect Donald Trump promises a series of deductions and rebates for families to help cover costs, as well as the creation of “family-based and community-based solutions, and also add incentives for employers to provide child care at the workplace.” While vague, this suggests that he believes the child care crisis can be solved with little or no investment of public resources into better infrastructure and more supply. Based on the high levels of scarcity and low quality in what’s currently available, this is an assumption that is not only wrong, but also dangerous.

Jan. 5 2017 5:59 PM

You’ll Finally Be Able to Buy a “Smart” Hairbrush That Grades Your Hairbrushing Skills

“Smart” household objects are usually engineered to make life easier. Smart curtains slide open and shut along with the sun’s movements to make a home more energy efficient. Smart cribs hear when babies start crying and rock them back to sleep.

But some—nay, most—objects are just fine without sensors and corresponding apps. The hairbrush, for one, adequately performs its intended function with just a handle and bristles. Tangled hair needs a bunch of stiff-ish pegs to unsnarl it. Hairbrushes provide those stiff-ish pegs.

Jan. 5 2017 3:00 PM

Gretchen Whitmer, a Passionate Reproductive Rights Advocate, Enters Michigan Governor’s Race

Michigan’s next gubernatorial election won’t happen for nearly another two years, but the first candidate has already entered the race. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democratic former state Senate leader, announced her candidacy in a Medium post on Tuesday.

Whitmer served in the Michigan House of Representatives for five years and in the state Senate for nine, taking on the position of minority leader for her final four years. She has been a vocal critic of the state’s handling of the water crisis in Flint, accusing current Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican who’s reached his term limit, of trying to push blame onto state employees. Flint was “not an isolated circumstance,” Whitmer said in January 2016, but one symptom of a failing system of Republican control of Michigan’s government.

Jan. 5 2017 2:33 PM

Tech Companies Love to Invent Pregnancy Gadgets That Most Women Don’t Really Need

I only had to make it through the lede of a recent SFGate story on Bloomlife, a new wearable device that measures uterine contractions during pregnancy, for my suspicions to be aroused. In it, an eight-and-a-half-months pregnant woman named Molly attaches the device to her belly and discovers that she is having mild, and likely perfectly normal, contractions. “[W]ithout the device ... and its corresponding app, she probably would have just passed the faint tightness in her belly off as nothing,” the article asserts.

As the story proceeds, we never learn what exactly Molly plans to do with this information—only that it possessing such knowledge has given her “more peace of mind.” “I know that things are working, and doing what they are supposed to be doing,” she explained to the reporter.

Jan. 5 2017 12:59 PM

New NIH Guidelines on Infant Exposure to Peanuts Upend Years of Parental Paranoia

In recent years, a child’s first peanut exposure has turned into a major milestone, the cause of much parental fretting and planning. I remember reading on one parenting forum that I should feed my daughter her first smear of Skippy in a car parked outside a hospital emergency room, just in case. For many years, medical experts advised parents to wait until high-risk children were at least three years old to even try giving them peanuts.

New guidelines from federal health authorities are completely upending that wait-and-fear approach. On Thursday, the National Institutes of Health announced that parents should feed babies their first foods containing peanuts when they are as young as four months old—which is the earliest that they should be eating any solid foods at all. Children who are at the highest risk of developing a peanut allergy because they have severe eczema or an egg allergy should try peanuts in that early window. Children with moderate eczema can wait until around six months, while children without any risk factors can have peanuts “freely introduced into their diets” once they’ve adjusted to other solid foods. “There is this magic window of opportunity, where you can introduce peanut-containing foods,” David Stukus, a pediatric allergist who coauthored the new guidelines, told Stat News. When “we introduce peanut-containing foods early, the immune system can get used to it.” Up is down, down is up, peanut products are for babies.