The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

April 21 2016 5:21 PM

Why I’ll Miss Chyna, the Female Wrestler Who Broke All the Gender Rules

The “Ninth Wonder of the World” is dead, the only female wrestler to hold the World Wrestling Federation Intercontinental Championship, the female wrestler who fought the men and, as often as not, beat them. 5-foot-10. Muscles on her muscles. Chyna wasfound dead in her apartment by police after a friend discovered her there, unresponsive. She was 45.

Chyna, who was born Joan Marie Laurer, was something of a hero of mine. I can still remember watching wrestling, at my childhood home or in my dorm room at college, and the feeling of excitement and wonder that would come over me whenever she was on camera. She made me want to scream. She made me want to punch boys. She made my heart feel as if it might burst with pride, or break.

April 21 2016 4:33 PM

Bravo’s New Show Reveals How Mommy Groups Aren’t Always a Force for Good

Anton Chekhov’s famous storytelling rule is that if a gun appears at the beginning of a work, it has to be fired by the end. Bravo’s method for storytelling is to hand every cast member a gun at the beginning, and then sit back and watch as these emotional assassins clumsily, and often incoherently, fire bullets at one another. It’s a formula that’s worked well for the reality juggernaut that is the Real Housewives franchise, and that Bravo has replicated in the new unscripted show There Goes the Motherhood, which premiered Wednesday night.

The show stars seven bronzed and coiffed women, all with access to many-zeroed bank accounts to which they don’t contribute. (Yes, they are mothers. Yes, care work is real work. The point isn’t that they don’t do anything, just that they are all rich.) The conceit is that they belong to one of  “the most coveted mommy groups in” Los Angeles, in which they are supposed to seek and provide support from and for the other moms. But this is Bravo, so instead we get lots of sideways eye rolls and occasional full-frontal personal attacks, the content of which frequently has little to do with parenting. One would hope that the specter of their children, if not their actual presence at family get-togethers, would prompt these women to at least conceal, if not put down, their weapons once in awhile. This rarely happens.

April 21 2016 4:23 PM

How One Extremely Raunchy Prince Song Led to Those “Explicit Content” Stickers on CDs

One sign of how well Prince’s music has stood the test of time is that, even to a jaded listener in 2016, his songs about sex can still sound utterly, joyously filthy. And there is perhaps no greater tribute to the power of the man’s dirty talk than the fact that, back in the 1980s, it helped lead to the creation of the “Parental Advisory” label, those little black stickers that signaled to teenagers which albums would be the most fun to listen to all through the CD era.

As the story goes, Al and Tipper Gore were listening to Purple Rain with their 11-year-old daughter, when they found themselves awkwardly ambushed by “Darling Nikki,” Prince's somewhat strange but rollicking ode to getting it on with a sexually adventurous young woman. 

April 21 2016 12:38 PM

Trans College Students Are More Likely to Attempt Suicide When Denied Bathroom Access

Transgender college students are more likely attempt to suicide at some point in their lives if their schools do not offer them gender-appropriate bathroom and housing accommodations, according to a new report from Georgia State University.

Researcher Kristie Seelman, an assistant professor of social work, pulled the data from 2011’s landmark National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the largest-ever study of transgender people. That survey included 6,450 participants, 2,325 of whom attended college and identified as trans while they were there, making them eligible for Georgia State’s analysis.

April 20 2016 5:31 PM

Utah Declares Porn a “Public Health Crisis,” Furthering a Mormon Myth About Porn Addiction

Utah officially declared pornography a “public health crisis” in a resolution Governor Gary Herbert signed at the state capitol in Salt Lake City on Wednesday. The text of the resolution claims that porn has a “detrimental” effect on brain function, contributes to “emotional and medical illnesses,” and gives rise to “deviant sexual arousal.” State senator Todd Weiler introduced the resolution in January; it passed the state legislature—unanimously!—in March. “Weiler maintains that the resolution is not a ban on porn or an attack on masturbation,” USA Today reported.

So, a curious Utahn might ask, what is it? It says Utah needs “education, prevention, research, and policy change at the community and societal level,” but it does nothing it provide those things, nor does it offer any evidence for the claims it makes. It’s a nonbinding, symbolic measure to legislate morality and shame Utah residents for seeking out a product that most people consume at some point without ill effects.

April 20 2016 3:00 PM

Please Ask Me About My Womb

Next week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and Resolve, the infertility advocacy organization that began the annual event in 1989, has introduced a new hashtag in its honor. The #StartAskingcampaign encourages anyone who has experienced infertility—which, according to CDC numbers provided by Resolve, includes one in eight American couples—to demand better treatment. Suggested actions include asking one’s employer for insurance coverage, calling for better protections from lawmakers, and seeking support from family and friends.

The logic behind this campaign proceeds from the idea that infertility treatment, including especially the exorbitant costs involved, won’t improve until there is more conversation about it in public. It’s a reasonable strategy—change often comes as a result of people speaking out as a group. But what’s interesting about #StartAsking is that it convincingly challenges the widely held belief that the status of a woman’s womb is her business and her business alone.

April 20 2016 1:53 PM

A Lot of Hillary Clinton’s New York Supporters Kept Quiet About Their Allegiances

Until Tuesday night, I had assumed that my neighborhood, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, was overwhelmingly supporting Bernie Sanders. Sanders bumper stickers and T-shirts outnumbered those for Hillary Clinton by what seemed like 20 to 1. A couple of times, I thought about putting my baby daughter in a Clinton onesie—whatever my hesitations about Clinton’s candidacy, I love the idea of my girl’s first image of an American president being female. But I always hesitated, not wanting to invite playground harangues from local dads about Goldman Sachs and the Fed.

When I looked up Cobble Hill on the nifty New York Times tool providing neighborhood-by-neighborhood results, however, it turned out that Clinton won the immediate area around my apartment by 59.4 percent. A block over, she won by 72.5 percent. She won all around me. A lot of Clinton supporters, evidently, have been keeping quiet about their allegiances.

There are a couple of explanations for this. Sanders fans seem to be more enthusiastic, though it takes a certain amount of enthusiasm to vote in a primary at all. Registered independents couldn't vote in New York’s closed primary, particularly given the absurd, undemocratic October deadline for switching parties. But I think there might be something else at work as well: an optical illusion that the candidate with the most white male support had the most support, period. I had let myself mistake the loudest people for The People.

I’m not trying to deny that the Sanders coalition is diverse or to erase the many passionate women and men of color who supported him. But the fact remains that according to exit polls, Clinton won every racial and gender demographic except white men. And somehow, I’d become convinced that, in my own backyard, their preferences were far more widespread than they really are.

I’ve heard anecdotally from other women who’ve kept their support for Clinton somewhat quiet, because they assumed they were in a minority. On Tuesday I spoke to Bushwick resident Savannah Cox, a 26-year-old writer and researcher at the New School, a famously progressive Greenwich Village university. “As a Clinton fan, I have had to be diplomatic even though I am patronized,” she says. “I am honestly sick of it.” She describes one male friend who offered to speak more slowly so she could fully grasp his point about Clinton’s complicity with the fossil fuel lobby. Cox says she has stopped talking about politics with her friends: “I can’t do it. I don’t want to engage.” (Bushwick’s neighborhoods were divided between Sanders and Clinton.) Again, this is a single anecdote, but it makes me think I’m not alone in being reluctant to advertise my support for Clinton.

I’m a little abashed that I missed what was going on in my own community. One of the most searing experiences of my political life was covering Ohio during the 2004 election, where it seemed as if the entire civilized world had mobilized to stop George W. Bush. I followed celebrities like Steve Buscemi, Julianna Margulies, and Matt Dillon as they campaigned door-to-door, often surprising people who weren’t quite sure why the canvassers looked so familiar. On election eve, Bruce Springsteen performed “No Surrender” for tens of thousands of elated Kerry supporters in Cleveland. I sobbed, unprofessionally, in the press stands. I was sure our national nightmare was over. The next day was one of the worst of my life. People took many different lessons from Kerry’s defeat, but one that I learned was not to mistake a massive, passionate crowd for a majority.

At least, I thought I’d learned it. Tuesday night, I learned it again, less painfully. Brooklyn is full of a certain kind of archetypal Sanders voter—young, hip, highly educated, and ideological. But in Brooklyn as a whole, Hillary Clinton beat native son Bernie Sanders by 20 percent. The borough was with her, even if it didn’t always feel like it.

April 20 2016 1:15 PM

Harriet Tubman Will Replace Andrew Jackson on the $20, Leaving Hamilton on the $10

Hamilton fans can stop their hyperventilation and money-hoarding: The Founding Father and recent Broadway celebrity will remain on the $10 for the foreseeable future.

According to Politico, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will reveal a plan on Wednesday to keep Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill and replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, rather than giving a historically important woman a place on the $10, as the Treasury had previously planned.

Replacing Jackson on the $20 instead of Hamilton on the $10 wasn’t the good-willed genius of the Department of Treasury, nor was it the bright idea of unofficial Hamilton lobbyist Lin-Manuel Miranda. It was the original demand made by the women who launched the Women on 20s campaign in 2015. The campaign crowdsourced nominations for the female currency candidate and collected more than 600,000 votes over three rounds. Tubman won, beating out Eleanor Roosevelt by just 7,000 votes. Women on 20s presented the results and the proposal in a petition to Barack Obama last May.

April 20 2016 7:30 AM

I Talked to the Kid Whose Mom Used Craigslist to Find Him a Feminism Tutor, and It Got Weird

A few days ago, a woman in Bel Air posted an ad on Craigslist looking for a “feminism tutor” for her 22-year-old son. The ad since been removed, but here’s what it said:

My son, Nate, is 22 and a student at UCLA. He has been struggling the whole quarter with his gender studies class that focuses on feminism and feminist theories, and he has a big paper that will be due in a few weeks, and he has not even started. He's a very typical young man his age - finds the whole idea of feminism and gender studies boring and uninteresting. However his graduation is dependent on successfully finishing this class.
I'm looking for someone who is knowledgeable in this subject and can meet with him 2-3 times a week and help him develop and bring this paper to fruition. We live in Bel-Air near UCLA and you can either meet him here, at any campus library or over lunch (he's quite the sophisticated young man who enjoys elegant restaurants!) I anticipate he will not need more than 1-2 weeks worth of time to prepare this.

The ad was funny! It got picked up by Jezebel (“Someone Teach This Lady’s Nightmare Garbage Son About Feminism Before He Flunks College”) and mocked on Twitter and Facebook. In just two succinct paragraphs, it seemed to sum up what’s wrong with parents, millennials, men, higher education, rich people, capitalism, and Southern California. It was a gift from the gods of the Internet.

April 19 2016 6:12 PM

Why Does the Teen Who Live-Streamed an Attack on a Friend Face the Same Charges as the Alleged Rapist?

Last week, two people were charged with the kidnapping, rape, and sexual battery of a 17-year-old, as well as with a form of child pornography, in an Ohio court. The first, Raymond Gates, is a 29-year-old man, who, after meeting two teenage girls at a shopping mall in Columbus, allegedly invited them to his home, furnished them with a bottle of vodka, and then pinned one of them down and raped her. The second, 18-year-old Marina Lonina, is the victim’s friend, who live-streamed the attack on the Twitter app Periscope. Lonina has said through her lawyer that she was trying to help her friend by recording evidence.

It’s hard to disentangle the many sickening elements of this case. There’s the rape itself—and the horrifying accounts that the victim can be heard screaming in the video, “No, it hurts so much,” “Please stop,” and “Please no.” There’s the choice Lonina made, disturbing whatever her motive, to broadcast her friend’s suffering—along with prosecutor Ron O’Brien’s allegation that she can be heard “giggling and laughing” in the audio. In an interview with the New York Times, O’Brien suggested that Lonina might originally have hoped to stop the attack by pulling out her phone, but that, in his words, “She got caught up in the likes” on social media. He added that she never called 911 but that a friend who saw the live feed contacted the authorities.

Still, it’s confusing to many that Lonina faces the same charges as Gates—and that, like him, she could serve more than 40 years in prison if convicted. Can that be just? Slate asked some legal experts to weigh in on the case.