The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Nov. 3 2015 11:34 AM

Skinny Jeans Are Finally on the Wane. (Hooray?)

Did you know that there’s an agency that takes a ruler to the pant legs of all the denim that struts down the catwalks in New York, London, Paris, and Milan, to forecast trends in width? According to Quartz, this is so. (The agency in question is called WGSN.) This year, the pant-width-measurers have spoken, and their message is as follows: The reign of the skinny jean is finally at an end.

This is far from the first such forecast to punctuate the skinny jean’s strangely prolonged dominance. Most pant styles get just a few seasons in the fashionable sun before they’re replaced, relegated to be worn while cleaning, or on those Sundays when you barely leave the house. But best estimates put the rise of the skinny cut around 2005, meaning the look has been going strong for a decade.

As long as skinny jeans have been popular, it’s been popular to complain about their unrealistic body messaging and possible side effects on circulation. But it seems they’ve outlived the allotted lifespan of a trend for the very simple reason that women actually like them. Bloomberg reported last year that retailers like Gap had thrown themselves into coming up with a new style, but “women kept right on buying their skinnies.” (To be fair, Gap’s best efforts apparently included “zippered sweats and capri track pants.”) As Jezebel’s Kara Brown observed, “The fashion industry is panicking. They very much depend on being able to sell women entirely new wardrobes like clockwork and at the moment, they're having trouble prying those damn skinny jeans from our hands.”

Guardian writer Paula Cocozza has a theory about why that is in her magnum opus on the topic. “For all their bad press about being only for skinny people (admittedly, their name has not helped with this), skinny jeans are in fact benignly elastic and surprisingly democratic, stretching comfortably to include all shapes of bottom and all social groups,” she points out. Skinny jeans look good with most everything, from ballet pumps to boots, from a slouchy sweater to a sculpted blouse. We’ve been wearing them so long, Cocozza argues, that they’ve become “less a fashion choice than a default setting. … This is not usually how fashion works.”

But the usual order may be about to reassert itself. Last year’s Paris Fashion Week spawned trend pieces about the return of the 1990s-era straight-leg jean. This year’s shapes have ranged from slim to wide to very wide—but no skinny. Maybe it’s time to say bye bye, skinny jeans, see you on the next turn of the denim merry-go-round. I’ll be looking for you around 2045.

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Nov. 3 2015 7:00 AM

Kesha’s Lawsuit Against Dr. Luke Reveals the High Stakes for Abuse Survivors

Though it may cost her in career terms, Kesha is pushing ahead with her lawsuit against top-tier producer Dr. Luke, who she alleges sexually assaulted and emotionally abused her for the better part of a decade. Kesha is contractually bound to make three more albums with Dr. Luke and his Kemosabe Records label, which is owned by Sony, and unless a judge grants the injunction she’s requested, Kesha won’t be able to record any more music until she fulfills her obligation to her alleged abuser.

According to the suit Kesha filed just over a year ago, Dr. Luke (aka Lukasz Gottwald) began his abuse soon after she signed with him at age 18, when he started making frequent sexual advances. Once, Kesha says, she awoke in Dr. Luke’s bed, naked and sore, after taking “sober pills” he’d given her. She now believes the pills were GHB, which is often used to incapacitate victims of rape. Kesha has also implicated Sony in the suit, claiming that the label did nothing to stop the misdoings of its star producer, putting its female artists at risk.

Last month, ThinkProgress notes, Kesha and her lawyer filed for a speedy injunction, citing concerns for her stagnant career:

Other labels, she says, won’t take her on; she presented affidavits from people in the entertainment industry attesting to the fact that major labels won’t touch her because they’re concerned they’ll be sued for tortious interference. She also made the case that she can’t wait for her legal battles to be over and then start recording again without the downtime negatively impacting her earning potential; pop singers’ careers only last so long.

In her injunction request, Kesha presented an affidavit that claimed Dr. Luke "took credit for songs he didn't write, for a television show he didn't actually produce," and elaborated on the harm he allegedly caused. "I know I cannot work with Dr. Luke," Kesha wrote. "I physically cannot. I don't feel safe in any way."

But in court papers Kesha filed on Friday, she tells the New York judge that both Sony and Dr. Luke have committed to enforcing the exclusivity clauses that will prevent Kesha from making music with anyone but them until she finishes out her contract. Sony has gone so far as to refuse to work with Kesha unless she specifically records her albums with Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe Records.

Both Dr. Luke and Sony have accused Kesha of extortion; a statement from Sony calls Kesha’s suit a "transparent and misguided attempt to renegotiate her contracts." And if music-industry history is any indication, Kesha’s chances of getting out of her legal commitments are slim. “Nearly three decades after Holly Anderson, the lead singer of Frankie Goes to Hollywood, got out of a contract that a judge deemed unfair and one-sided, there are barely any examples of artists successfully extricating themselves from their record deals,” writes Max Willens at the International Business Times.

Even in Kesha’s rarefied world, where a Sony contract hangs in the balance, her case can help explain why non-rich, non-famous sexual assault survivors don’t often report their abuse. Most survivors know their abuser, as Kesha allegedly does, which means that coming out against them can have a domino effect on other relationships within a family, friend group, social scene, or workplace. By opposing a powerful, well-known figure in her industry, Kesha has drawn the ire of fans and made herself a less attractive business prospect for other record labels. Few have stood up to support her.

Other survivors don’t report assault because they’re worried they won’t be believed, especially when drugs or trauma have impaired their memories of the abuse. Within her own label and in the court of public opinion, Kesha’s allegations have been dismissed as a ploy to further her own interests. That argument has been used to discredit rape survivors since forever, especially when the accused rapist is a celebrity or public figure. Even after dozens of women came forward with remarkably similar stories of Bill Cosby’s alleged sexual abuse, for instance, comedian Damon Wayans called their accusations part of a “money-hustle” launched after acts of consensual sex. Kesha’s case also demonstrates how fame and money can be an effective cover for abuse: Dr. Luke helped make Kesha’s career and controlled it via contract.

In fact, Sony’s support for Dr. Luke may have more to do with the label’s business interests than whether or not its executives actually believe Kesha’s allegations. “The subtext of Sony’s response to Kesha’s pleas may be that it values its relationship with Gottvald (sic), a Grammy-nominated producer who has made dozens of Billboard-charting hits for artists including Pitbull, Kesha, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, and Flo Rida, more highly than it values its relationship with Kesha,” Willens writes. Money talks, and when millions of dollars are at stake, it can drown out almost any call for help.

Nov. 2 2015 3:12 PM

The Idea of a “Male Brain” and a “Female Brain” Is Likely a Myth

Men and women are equal—and so are the architectures of our brains, according to a new study by neuroscientist Lise Eliot of the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. According to a write-up in Wired, the study was aimed at evaluating the theory that the hippocampus is larger in women than in men; since the hippocampus is the part of the brain associated with memory and emotion, this has been proposed as an explanation for all those feelings ladies tend to have. Eliot and her team analyzed 6,000 MRI scans and found “no significant difference in hippocampal size between men and women.”

This is more than a matter of abstract interest for Eliot, the author of the 2010 book Pink Brain, Blue Brain, about how dubious theories of sex differences in the brain lead us to raise and educate boys and girls differently. She’s devoted years to decrying these kinds of stereotypes and their frustratingly strong grip on the American approach to childrearing. In 2011, she teamed up with other experts to write an article in the journal Science debunking the work of several same-sex education theorists, and in 2013, she debated conservative pundit Christina Hoff Sommers, author of a book that argues feminism initiated a “war on boys” in American schools.

The science involved in the claims Eliot tackles is usually impossible for lay readers to evaluate. For example, longtime same-sex education advocate Leonard Sax has argued that the male hippocampus responds better to stress and competition while the female one reacts better to gentleness; his counterpart Michael Gurian has argued that boys are born with a more developed “non-verbal, spatial, kinesthetic” brain while girls are born more “ready to use words.” As Eliot herself has acknowledged at Slate, these claims sound perfectly in line with everything our culture conveys about the innate differences between boys and girls. “It all sounds so sensible—right on target with most gender stereotypes and therefore perfect justification for educating boys and girls differently.”

These theories may be tidy, but that doesn’t make them true. The Science article describes them as “misguided, and often justified by weak, cherrypicked, or misconstrued scientific claims rather than by valid scientific evidence.” Unfortunately, as long as they dovetail neatly with American culture, these ideas may remain popular with both parents and principles. As Eliot told Wired in regards to her newest study, “Sex differences in the brain are irresistible to those looking to explain stereotypic differences between men and women, [a]nd they often make a big splash. … Many people believe there is such a thing as a 'male brain' and a 'female brain.' But when you look beyond the popularized studies—at collections of all the data—you often find that the differences are minimal.”

Oct. 30 2015 3:37 PM

Ellen DeGeneres Still Obsessed With Fake Butts

What can explain Ellen DeGeneres' commitment to prosthetic butts? Just two weeks after the talk-show host aired a tasteless sketch that used a young black girl in padding to ridicule Nicki Minaj’s much-discussed backside, DeGeneres flaunted a new Halloween costume that gives the same treatment to the Kardashian clan.

Dressed in running shoes, a long black wig, and a zebra-print top cut down to her waist, DeGeneres posed as the unfortunate Kardashian sister who got cut out of the family’s reality show. “My name is Karla Kardashian—with a K, ‘cause we’re known for our double Ks,” DeGeneres said. She pointed to her gigantic fake breasts. “These are double Ks too, by the way.” She went on to wiggle a heavily augmented butt and joke that she’d signed an endorsement deal with Funyuns.

The Nicki Minaj skit drew comparisons to minstrel shows and the kind of exoticized fascination with black women’s bodies embodied by the sexual freak-show slavery of Saartjie Baartman, the “Hottentot Venus,” in the early 1800s. You’d have thought that DeGeneres and her writing team would have learned their lesson. Public opinion was clear: That video was emphatically tone-deaf and smacked of racism. Generous viewers or hardcore fans might have given the show a one-time pass for stupidity. But there’s no way the show’s producers could have been naïve to the resounding public criticism.

DeGeneres’s humor has long relied on prosthetic body parts to mock voluptuous women who wear revealing clothing. Minaj was also the target of DeGeneres’s 2013 Halloween costume, which centered on a cardigan with just the top button secured and nothing underneath. It was a direct hit on the outfit Minaj had worn as a guest on the show. “Nicki was on the show a few weeks ago,” DeGeneres quipped in that Halloween episode, “and her shirt was not.”

Whether it’s in Halloween costumes or everyday humor, when criticizing someone’s appearance, the line of decency lies between performative characteristics (long fingernails, gaudy jewelry) and innate ones (weight, chest size). As J. Bryan Lowder astutely pointed out in his guide to dressing as topical figures for Halloween, it’s best to “avoid cheap shots at looks, weight, disability, or anything else that a person cannot help; these traits aren’t really funny, and focusing on them suggests you aren’t the most inventive costume creator.” There’s enough substantive ways and reasons to make fun of the Kardashians—like, oh, I don’t know, Kim’s pregnancy-themed birthday party where all the guests wore fake baby bumps?—without needing to stoop to stuffing a pair of stirrup pants.

Oct. 30 2015 1:49 PM

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Swedish Doppelgänger: Many Theories, No Clear Answers

Genetics have been exceptionally kind to Swedish bartender Konrad Annerud. The 21-year-old, whose hobbies include skateboarding and posing topless for Instagram photos, bears an uncanny resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio. But not just any old Leonardo DiCaprio—the ‘90s-era Leonardo DiCaprio whose stringy, dirty-blonde hair was forever falling into his eyes, spurring a stirring in the loins of every lucky teenager who learned the story of the Titanic amid the heartrending wails of Céline Dion.

Annerud’s perpetual Leonine pout and upturned nose have made him something of a local celebrity, which he’s mostly taken in stride. “It can be quite annoying sometimes when people call me ‘Leo’ instead of my real name,” he told Swedish news site Nyheter24. “But it’s fun to look like him, I mean, he’s handsome.” (Thanks to Vanity Fair for the translation.) When he travels abroad, though, the badgering gets worse. He says he nearly shaved his head during a trip to Italy because the smitten crowds wouldn’t leave him alone.

Annerud has hit on an important nugget of truth, there. In his hair—a decidedly ’90s bad-boy bowl cut à la Rider Strong—lies the bulk of his power. Without it, and without the spot-on body language that links him to one of the greatest sex symbols of our time, would we still see the spirit of DiCaprio twinkling in his eyes?

Maybe not. But maybe—just maybe—the resemblance goes beyond coiffure and tricks of the light and into the lucky doppelganger’s very genetic makeup.

Let’s do the math. In 1993, when Annerud was likely conceived, DiCaprio was 18 and just hitting the big time in his Oscar-nominated role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. That film was directed by Lasse Hallström—a born-and-raised Swede.

It’s possible that Hallström alerted the government of Sweden to DiCaprio’s knee-weakening beauty. It’s possible that a well-timed cloning experiment made it so that just as DiCaprio aged out of his baby-faced glow, a carbon copy would be mature enough to take up the mantle, ensuring that the world would never have to live without his famous visage.

It’s also possible that DiCaprio—whose love interests have reliably stayed in their early 20s as he’s gotten older—has engineered a complex Benjamin Button scenario to safeguard his eternal youth.

It’s also possible that DiCaprio’s 1993 rise to fame gave him access to fancy people, adoring fans, and world-class travel for the first time. “Leo so could have impregnated a Swedish model at some point,” posits Slate copy editor Heather Schwedel. “It's just the kind of thing he would do.”

But maybe Annerud’s just like any other celebrity doppelganger, albeit one whose carbon-copy imitation of DiCaprio’s brood-face began as soon as he could get his sticky little hands on a baseball cap:

Instagram commenters have their own theory about Annerud’s father, pictured above, proving that there are far worse doppelgangers in the world than Leonardo DiCaprio—like Creed’s equally brooding Scott Stapp.

Oct. 29 2015 4:31 PM

Senators Gillibrand and McCaskill Slam Fraternities That Lobby For Sexual Assault Bill

“I would be very upset if I were a young woman in a sorority today,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) on a press call this afternoon. Along with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), McCaskill criticized the national fraternity and sorority organizations that are currently using their members’ dues to lobby for a House bill that would make it more difficult for colleges to punish alleged perpetrators of sexual assault.

The so-called Safe Campus Act would prevent colleges and universities from taking action to make their campuses safer under Title IX after a sexual assault unless the victim made an official report to law enforcement. Even then, the university would not be able to enact final disciplinary measures against the perpetrator until the police finished their investigation—a process that could take months or years, during which the perpetrator could remain on campus.

The two major U.S. fraternity and sorority coalitions—the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) and the National Panhellenic Conference, respectively—have joined with the Alpha Tau Omega and Sigma Nu fraternities and the Kappa Alpha Order to support the Safe Campus Act with help from big-time lobbyists like former Republican senator Trent Lott. Meanwhile, organizations that work with rape survivors have overwhelmingly registered their opposition.

“You have this anomaly they’re proposing, where a young woman could be robbed at gunpoint and decide that she wanted to just try to get that person off campus and go to her university and they could take action under Title IX,” McCaskill said today. “But if she was raped, she would not be able to do that unless she made the decision to go to the police.”

Law enforcement agencies and college campuses serve very different purposes in addressing sexual assault. The former will try to collect enough evidence to convict a suspect, who’ll be labeled a sex offender for life and maybe serve jail time. The latter, which must provide a safe learning environment for students regardless of gender under Title IX, is concerned with campus security, and can take immediate action to remove the offender from university grounds or withhold a degree. Colleges must take measures to prevent sexual assaults and create safe channels for survivors to seek help; police and courts do not.

Gillibrand remarked that colleges have already routinely underreported the prevalence of sexual violence on their campuses for PR reasons, and survivors could easily be discouraged from reporting their assaults at all if faced with the Safe Campus Act’s extra barrier. “The goal of any campus sexual assault legislation should be to encourage survivors to report the crime so that schools and law enforcement can be better equipped and able to fight it,” she said. “The sexual assault bill that was introduced in the House does exactly the opposite. … Their bill would worsen our understanding of a violent crime that is already drastically underreported, and their bill would reduce the school’s ability to properly fight sexual assault.”

Since last summer, McCaskill and Gillibrand have led a thoroughly bipartisan group of their colleagues in cosponsoring a different campus sexual assault bill in the Senate, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act. The law would drastically reform and standardize university processes for addressing cases of sexual violence. It would require universities to nominate and train a “confidential advisor” to serve as a resource for student victims of sexual violence or stalking; make their disciplinary proceedings conform to nationwide standards; solidify jurisdiction and division of responsibilities with local law enforcement; and pay a much steeper fine if they don’t comply. The bill also proposes a biannual survey of students at every university in the country on their experiences with sexual violence.

Both senators dismiss claims from advocates of the Safe Campus Act that the bill is all about ensuring due process for the accused. Gillibrand says the Campus Accountability and Safety Act is already written with due process in mind, principally by making campus sexual assault investigations uniform across the U.S.: “The kangaroo courts that exist today will be over.”

But if the Safe Campus Act were truly about due process, plenty of other students’ rights activists would have rallied behind it. It’s telling that these Greek organizations are the ones to push the bill—it seems like an implicit recognition of a culture that protects perpetrators of sexual assault. In fact, the NIC has a rather notorious ability to slink out of lawsuits aimed at individual fraternities. The bill seems far more concerned with creating a safer university environment for alleged rapists than for potential victims, especially young women.

The lobbying of the sorority trade organization, the National Panhellenic Conference, seems incongruous to McCaskill and Gillibrand, both of whom pledged sororities in their college days. “It concerns me that perhaps the sororities aren’t fully aware of the situation because this will overwhelmingly harm their members and harm the young women they represent,” Gillibrand said. McCaskill said she’s sent individual letters to fraternities and sororities in Missouri to let them know that “the organization they’re paying dues to is actually taking this giant step backwards.” The Safe Campus Act currently has only four cosponsors in the House, but McCaskill said she’s more worried by the implications of the Greek organizations’ support for the bill than with its slim chances of passing.

One fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, has cut ties with the NIC, with which it has been aligned since its 1909 founding. The fraternity’s international head released a statement that derided the NIC’s “counterproductive tactics that we believe are antithetical to our values.” Other members of these Greek organizations would be wise to question what kinds of values the Safe Campus Act upholds.

Correction, Oct. 29, 2015: An earlier version of this post erroneously referred to the Campus Accountability and Safety Act as the Campus Safety and Accountability Act.

Oct. 29 2015 12:25 PM

Most of the World Has Herpes, and There’s Little We Can Do About It

If you are a human being living on planet Earth, chances are you have herpes.

So says the World Health Organization, which released its first estimation of the global incidence of herpes simplex virus type 1 on Wednesday. According to the report, two-thirds of the world’s under-50 population—more than 3.7 billion people—are infected with HSV-1, the incurable virus most known for the oral cold sores it causes.

Most people with HSV-1 catch it through mouth-to-mouth contact during childhood, but the WHO has found this transmission method to be less and less common in wealthier countries with better hygienic conditions. This should be great news, but the upshot is nothing to cheer about: When someone doesn’t contract the virus by mouth, she’s more likely to get it from receiving oral sex later in life, leading to an HSV-1 genital infection. (Usually, genital herpes is caused by a different type of herpes, HSV-2, which the WHO says affects 417 million people aged 17 to 49 worldwide.)

The nihilist’s takeaway is that herpes is everywhere and there’s very little anyone can do to prevent it or control its spread, short of avoiding oral and sexual contact entirely. HSV-1 is so inexorably communicable that researchers have accurately tracked the history of global human migration by the spread of the virus. Like most sexually transmitted infections, all herpes infections can be spread even when no symptoms are present, and the contagious area isn’t limited to what’s covered by a condom. Among unmarried women between the ages of 45 and 50, 50 to 70 percent have HSV-2. According to the American Sexual Health Association, more people in the U.S. have genital herpes than all other STIs combined.*

But HSV-2 transmission has far-reaching public health implications that would make a laissez-faire herpes strategy an act of extreme negligence. A person with HSV-2 is at higher risk of contracting and transmitting HIV, and HSV-1 can cause other complications like encephalitis and meningitis. The WHO is encouraging medical researchers to put more resources toward developing a herpes vaccine; trials funded by the National Institutes of Health and GlaxoSmithKline are currently studying the comparative benefits of a preventive versus remedial vaccine.

Wednesday’s report called for more education on both types of herpes viruses for young people, before they become sexually active. Still, it’s not clear what they’re supposed to do once they’re schooled. Some doctors have even recommended against widespread testing for herpes, since so many people have it and there’s not much they can do to keep themselves from spreading it. Without an accessible vaccine, we’re all stuck with the knowledge that we probably have herpes, but we’re in good—or, at least, crowded—company.

*Correction, Oct. 29, 2015: This post originally misidentified the American Sexual Health Association as the American Social Health Association. It changed its name in 2012.

Oct. 28 2015 5:27 PM

Who the Heck Is Alexis Ohanian, and Why Would Serena Williams Want to Date Him?

In a rare intersection of tech-geek celebrity culture and actual celebrity culture, Us Weekly on Wednesday reported that tennis star Serena Williams is dating Alexis Ohanian. You can tell this story is rock-solid because it’s attributed to “an onlooker” who spotted the pair at a gymnastics center in Los Angeles. “He called her ‘babe’ and they held hands,” the unnamed onlooker told the magazine. (If it seems like just yesterday that Williams was reported to be pregnant with Drake’s baby—well, it was.)

All of which has millions of Serena admirers asking the same question: Who the heck is Alexis Ohanian, and what does she have that Drake doesn’t?

First of all, Ohanian is a dude, not a “she.” And he’s best-known for co-founding the decidedly dude-centric social network and news site Reddit.

Ohanian, 32, is in many ways the archetypal tech bro. A University of Virginia graduate, he’s geeky and boyishly enthusiastic, handsome by tech-startup standards, and earnestly idealistic to an extent that stands out even in Silicon Valley, where everyone’s busy making the world a better place. Ohanian’s actual personal credo: “making the world suck less.” That’s like making the world a better place, but with facial hair.

Let no one speculate that Williams is dating Ohanian for his money. His net worth, according to a reliable source I’ll call “the Internet,” is in the neighborhood of $4.5 million, or approximately 3 percent of Williams’ own. That’s because he and co-founder Steve Huffman sold Reddit to Conde Nast in 2006, just a year after they launched it, and long before it blew up and became “the front page of the Internet.” Where was Justin Timberlake when Ohanian needed him?

A better theory—assuming we need a theoretical framework for what amounts to a half-baked rumor about Williams’ love life—would be that she’s attracted to his energy, charisma, and positive attitude. Dubbed “the Internet’s own cheerleader” by the New York Times, Ohanian’s is the sort of personality that tempts newspaper feature writers to substitute the verb “bounded” for “walked.” Forbes’ headline writers went ahead and elected him “Mayor of the Internet,” citing his leading role in the geek lobby that successfully opposed an ill-conceived federal anti-piracy law. The Forbes profile is a good one, for those eager to learn more about the man. But it took a John Herrman piece in BuzzFeed to correct a crucial error with respect to the scope of Ohanian’s ambition: He has actually been running for "president of the Internet."

Ohanian’s idealism, I should note, tends more toward the “hands-off-our-free-speech” variety than what Redditors might call the “social justice warrior” mode. Ohanian has never condoned the ugly strains of racism and misogyny that thrive on the site he built. But, despite continuing to be closely involved with the site over the years, including a controversial stint as executive chairman, Ohanian hasn’t done a whole lot to stop it, either. On the other hand, he’s contributed to a long list of altruistic causes, spending time as a Kiva fellow in Armenia and leading a crowdfunding campaign for the nonprofit Black Girls Code. When he’s not raising funds, he’s doling them out as a startup investor and East Coast ambassador for the famous venture firm Y Combinator.  

Oh, and as long as we’re speculating wildly as to Ohanian’s appeal as a potential hand-holder for one of history’s greatest athletes: He’s 6-foot-5. Not that his slouchy frame would be mistaken for that of a tennis champion, but at 5-foot-9, Williams will look up to him in at least the most literal sense of the phrase.

Oct. 28 2015 3:29 PM

How Domestic Abusers Get to Keep Their Guns

Since 1996, convicted domestic abusers have been barred from purchasing guns. Even a misdemeanor will land one of these perpetrators in the FBI-managed database of people who can’t buy a firearm, thanks to the federal Domestic Violence Offender Gun Ban.

The policy was spurred by staggering statistics that even the gun lobby couldn’t refute: Ninety-three percent of women killed by men know their murderer, the majority of whom are their intimate partners. Guns are the preferred weapon of domestic abusers who kill their partners, and domestic assaults are 12 times more likely to be fatal if a gun is involved. Even the simple presence of a gun in a home makes domestic violence five times more likely to lead to murder.

But the federal law leaves two gaping loopholes, explored at length in a recent article from The Trace. Even though the victims of intimate-partner homicide are usually dating their partners, not married to them, the federal definition of domestic abuse requires that the couple be currently or formerly married, cohabitating, or the parents of shared children. This “boyfriend loophole” means that convicted domestic abusers who aren’t married to their targets can still purchase guns if they’re otherwise eligible.

The federal gun ban for domestic abusers also leaves a perpetrator’s existing gun collection untouched, which renders the ban ineffective against any abuser who already owns a firearm. Some local and state governments have passed laws that force convicted domestic abusers or subjects of domestic violence restraining orders to turn in their guns; these have been largely effective. The Trace cites a 2009 study that credited cities in these states with domestic gun murder rates 25 percent lower than cities in states without relinquishment laws.

But even in states and municipalities where it's possible for judges to make abusers give up their guns, judges don’t often take advantage of the law. Everytown for Gun Safety found that when judges were aware that a domestic violence defendant had access to a gun, they only ordered the defendant to surrender it 13 percent of the time. The lapse is exacerbated by local police departments, who aren’t always aware that they’re responsible for enforcing surrender and seizing firearms if necessary. Some police departments, disinclined to take on the duty of storing the seized guns, have struck up partnerships with gun-friendly businesses, as the Dallas Police Department did with an area shooting range.

The current situation is bleak, but the U.S. is trending toward a better solution for the overlap between gun ownership and domestic violence. According to Americans for Responsible Solutions, 30 new state laws addressing this deadly intersection have cropped up since 2008. And a new federal bill introduced in July, the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act, would extend the federal gun ban to convicted stalkers and abusers of current or former intimate partners of any sort, closing the boyfriend loophole. But an identical bill failed in 2013, and the current Congress is no friendlier to gun laws now than it was then. The proposed act may be a long shot, but for victims of domestic violence, the delay could be a matter of life and death.

Oct. 28 2015 1:23 PM

A Loving Tribute to Abby Wambach’s Androgynous Style Evolution

Yesterday, after a meet-and-greet with President Obama, the highest-scoring international soccer player of all time announced her retirement. “It’s been an amazing, wonderful ride,” said U.S. Women’s National Team forward Abby Wambach, who’s scored 184 goals over her 15-year career, in a statement. “I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life brings.”

The preceding chapters have brought Wambach a World Cup championship, two Olympic gold medals, and an unstoppable ball faculty some have called talismanic. And though it’s been a gift to fans of sports and powerful women alike to see Wambach become the world’s most reliable goal-maker, watching her come into her own on the style front has echoed and affirmed the often awkward evolution of androgynous dressers everywhere. At nearly six feet tall with delts for days and a head that’s scored as many goals as Pelé did with his entire body, Wambach has given interested parties plenty to kibitz about with her off-field wardrobe and steadily improving hair game.

In 2002, Wambach's abbreviated mullet betrayed the conflicted sensibilities of someone who was looking for a short cut but needed something to pull into a ponytail when the field demanded it.

Wambach, of the Washington Freedom, plays the San Jose CyberRays in San Jose, California in May 2002.

Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

There is no reason for anyone to ever wear a leopard cowboy hat, and I can only imagine that Wambach consented to this photo under duress.

Wambach holds the 2003 WUSA Goal of the Year Award in August 2003 at San Diego's Natural History Museum.

Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images

As one-percenter and presidential candidate John Kerry tried to prove he could relate to the average khaki-wearing American, soccer godsend Wambach dressed like every girl on your sister's high school soccer team.

Wambach and team member Julie Foudy pal around with Kerry in October 2004 in Brown Deer, Wisconsin.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This is pretty much the only publically available photo of Wambach in makeup and dangly earrings. Call this her femme-sperimentation period.

Wambach does the red carpet at the October 2005 Salute To Women In Sports Awards Dinner in New York City.

Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

My sixth-grade self would have killed for Wambach's 2008-era ponytails, with nary a bump in sight.

Wambach in Chicago, 2008.

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Even in game play, with the help of a headband, Wambach's talismanic ponytails remained pristine.

Wambach's hair refuses to fall in her face during a World Cup qualifying match in November 2010 in Padova, Italy.

REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

The headband worked just as well for one of Wambach’s most adorable ‘dos, this crazy tousled mess. This return to the short cut marks the dawn of the modern Wambach hair age.

In July 2011, Wambach has soccer fun in Frankfurt.

Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

Like every lesbian under 40 in 2011, Wambach tried out the side-swept bangs some have compared to those of a pre-pubescent Justin Bieber.

Wambach accepts an award at the Salute To Women In Sports Gala in October 2011 in New York City.

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Wambach's 2013 red-carpet look was a big step up from her previous fancy get-ups. Pros: Slicked-back hair, interesting blazer, power-patent shoes. Cons: Ill-fitting pants, white T-shirt. Almost there, Abby!

Wambach at the 2013 ESPY Awards in L.A.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for ESPY

This outfit suited Wambach well, but it was a little too fireside-with-the-boo for a press conference. And those baggy, wrinkled pants look like they might have cargo pockets, an unequivocal no-no.

This January, Wambach held court in Zurich.

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2015 was a big, bold year for Wambach’s hair. She got it cut high and tight, a hip look that's also practical for the field, and grown enough for a superstar in her mid 30s.

Wambach prepares to beat Mexico in a May 2015 match in Carson, California.

Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Newly blonde and more confident than ever, Wambach looks like she's about to stomp this red carpet to smithereens with her iridescent high-tops and a worthy display case for her guns.

Wambach joins teammates Christie Rampone, Ali Krieger, and Ashlyn Harris at the July 2015 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards in Westwood, California.

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"This team taught all America's children that playing like a girl means you're a badass," President Obama said at yesterday's press conference. With a helping hand from Megan Rapinoe, Wambach showed the kiddos that blazers and bleached hair are a badass pairing, too.

Wambach, Carli Lloyd, and Rapinoe hung with Obama at the White House on Oct. 27.

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After four more matches, Wambach's soccer career will end in mid-December. Her contributions to the sport will live on in the history books and halls of fame, but her contributions to the androgynous celebrity hair-and-wardrobe canon will always hold the gold medal in my heart.