The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Feb. 17 2017 5:07 PM

Feminism Is the Latest High-Fashion Trend

Shirts proclaiming feminist slogans are standard issue for many college students; but who would have predicted that they would become a key trend on the runways? Woke couture sent out its first shoots last spring, when Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri paired a flowing tulle skirt with a T-shirt that declared, "We Should All Be Feminists." The shirt, retailing for $700, was an immediate social media success and has since been worn by Natalie Portman and Rihanna. Political T’s positively proliferated at this year’s New York Fashion Week: Jonathan Simkhai gifted front-row attendees to his show with “Feminist AF” shirts, and Prabal Gurung, citing January’s women’s marches as inspiration, debuted T-shirts decorated with messages including “The Future Is Female” and “Nevertheless She Persisted.”

It isn’t immediately clear how these shirts are different from others you could find on Etsy, eBay, or even Amazon, other than the 3,000-percent price difference. The novelty seems to be rooted in the notion that Dior is making a feminist statement. Suddenly, the fashion crowd has embraced political clothing. Some observers have suggested this might even make feminism more palatable to a new crowd. Britain’s Daily Telegraph said Chiuri was “reaching women who might not normally be receptive to any kind of socially progressive message.”

Feb. 17 2017 1:09 PM

The House Voted to Make It Easier for States to Defund Planned Parenthood

The House of Representatives voted on Thursday to repeal a rule Barack Obama signed in December as a hail-Mary effort to protect Planned Parenthood from GOP defunding efforts. The rule reiterates that state governments may not block federal family-planning funding from specific health care providers for any reason other than their ability to competently provide family-planning services. In other words, state legislators cannot deny Title X grants to certain clinics just because they offer abortion care.

Feb. 16 2017 2:37 PM

Female Alumni of Top Colleges Still Make Less Money Than Men From Non-Selective Schools

Male alumni of elite universities can expect a substantial salary advantage over peers from less selective institutions. But the gender wage gap is wide enough to put women who graduated from even the country’s best colleges behind men who graduated from the least selective ones.

Feb. 16 2017 12:42 PM

Job-Creator Trump Is Destroying Jobs at Refugee Resettlement Agencies

One of Donald Trump’s most consistent promises to the American people is that he will create jobs. This week, one of his policies destroyed them.

On Wednesday, the large international relief and development organization World Relief announced that it will lay off more than 140 staff members in the United States. It will close offices in Columbus, Ohio; Miami; Nashville, Tennessee; Boise, Idaho; and Glen Burnie, Maryland. According to World Relief, those five offices have collectively resettled more than 25,000 refugees in the last 40 years.

Both the headline and first sentence of the organization’s announcement of the layoffs laid the blame squarely on the president’s shoulders. “As a direct result of the recent decision by the Trump Administration to dramatically reduce the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. throughout fiscal year 2017, World Relief has been forced to make the difficult decision to layoff 140+ staff members,” the press release began.

Feb. 15 2017 5:17 PM

Don’t Believe Playboy’s Latest Attempt to Pretend Its Nudity Is Progressive and Cool

Playboy’s attempt to quit nude photo spreads didn’t last long. The magazine published the first non-nude issue in its 63-year history in March 2016, and just one year later, it’s reversing course. Cooper Hefner, founder Hugh Hefner’s son and the company’s new chief creative officer, tweeted on Monday that nudity will return to Playboy in its March/April 2017 issue.

Feb. 15 2017 1:33 PM

Obamacare Saved Marriages From “Medical Divorce”

Divorce is rarely a sunny event, but so-called “medical divorce” is a particularly heartbreaking phenomenon. When one member of a couple under age 65 is diagnosed with a debilitating long-term illness, it can be financially responsible—even necessary—for them to divorce in order to push the sick partner’s assets below the threshold to qualify for Medicaid. Otherwise, the family’s retirement accounts and other savings could be consumed by health care bills, even if their income was relatively low. “A thousand little things have been ripped away from us,” said one Tennessee man who had separated from his epileptic wife in 2014 so she could qualify for the state Medicaid program. What a neat health care system we have here in America!

A paper published this week suggests that the Affordable Care Act has kept many of these imperiled marriages intact. The “asset tests” that incentivized divorce were removed under the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid. As long as the sick partner had an income below 138 percent of the poverty line, they could tap into Medicaid, and the healthy spouse could hold onto his retirement accounts. In the new paper, researchers compared the divorce rates between 2000 and 2015 in states that opted in to Medicaid expansion and those that didn’t. As it turned out, a state’s decision to expand Medicaid led to a 5.6 percent decline in the divorce rate among people age 50 to 64—the cohort most likely to fall prey to medical divorce. The paper, by two economists at the University of Kansas, was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Feb. 15 2017 12:55 PM

Andrew Puzder’s Ex-Wife on Oprah in 1990: His Physical Abuse Caused Permanent Damage

The ex-wife of Andrew Puzder, Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of labor, appeared in disguise on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1990 and said the Carl’s Jr. CEO “vowed revenge” after she accused him of domestic abuse.

On a panel of what the show called “high-class battered women,” Lisa Fierstein said Puzder was “too smart” to “leave marks” or “hit you in front of everyone.” “The damage that I sustained, you can’t see. It’s permanent,” she said. Puzder’s hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

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In January, Politico reported that Fierstein had appeared on Oprah to discuss Puzder’s alleged abuse. It obtained footage of the episode from Charlotte Fedders, who joined Fierstein on the 1990 panel, on Tuesday. Appearing in the clip under a pseudonym, Fierstein says Puzder threatened, “I will see you in the gutter. This will never be over. You will pay for this,” after she went public with her allegations.

Fierstein later retracted her claims of Puzder’s brutal violence during negotiations over a child custody agreement reached in the months after her Oprah appearance. Since accusing Puzder of beating her to the point of bruising and ruptured discs in the late ’80s, Fierstein has claimed that she made those allegations only to get a leg up in divorce negotiations, as Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley wrote in January:

The story of the accusations is somewhat convoluted, as Fierstein now says that she invented the two alleged incidents of physical abuse in question, which were said to have taken place in 1985 and 1986, after “impulsively” filing for divorce and being “counseled then to file an allegation of abuse.” But reporting from the time indicates that police responded to the couple's home during the 1986 incident, which took place in May, before Fierstein filed for divorce. Court documents posted by Politico also indicate that Fierstein formally filed a claim of abuse before filing for divorce.

Puzder is just one of at least four top Trump figures who have been accused of physically assaulting women. His history reveals little respect for women’s autonomy and dignity: He volunteered his time defending anti-abortion activists who would physically prevent patients from entering health clinics, and he has said the shameless Carl’s Jr. commercials of women’s wobbling, naked flesh are a good reflection of his “personality.” On Thursday, voters will learn how much of a fight their senators are willing to put up to avoid sending another devotee of misogynist ideology to the top tier of the federal government.

Feb. 14 2017 5:57 PM

New Study Suggests Delayed Pregnancy Could Yield Kids With Stronger Cognitive Abilities

Women in the U.S. continue to have children later and later in their lives, with the average woman approaching 30 for her first pregnancy. With more advanced motherhood has comes better average wages and educational levels for the mothers, alongside anxiety over riskier pregnancies. But a new study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology challenges the conventional wisdom that being an older mother is bad for the baby and indicates that, in a shift from previous research, children born to older mothers today may be more likely to perform well cognitively.

The study authors posit that the children of older mothers performed better because the mothers tended to be wealthier and more educated. The study, which divided women into age ranges of 25 to 29 and 35 to 39, found that the older women who gave birth in 2000–02 had children who performed better on tests. (The children were tested when 10 or 11 years old.) These studies are surprising when compared to similar studies done in 1958 and 1970, which found that children born to older mothers performed slightly worse. This study does not invalidate those studies but instead may point to changing educational and financial trends for women in the U.K., where the research was conducted.

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More advanced maternal age is still associated with a greater chance of genetic defects, and having a first child over the age of 35 is associated with a higher risk of pregnancy complications. But these concerns focus on the health of babies before and at birth, not on their health and development afterward, which can become entangled with external factors. Cognitive ability, which includes problem solving and memory abilities, has been shown to be hampered by poverty. This may be because poorer families tend to experience more stress, while wealthier families can afford healthier food and proper medical care, as well as more time to spend with their children and the resources for books and educational toys and other forms of mental stimulation. It makes sense, then, that because older mothers tend to have greater resources, they could therefore also have children more likely to perform well on tests of cognitive function.

This research did not, however, account for race. As Elissa Strauss writes of the delayed motherhood trend, black women in the U.S., for instance, can’t always “count on a better, healthier, more financially stable future.”

Feb. 14 2017 5:24 PM

Melinda Gates Credits Contraception With Her Personal and Professional Success

In its annual letter published Tuesday, the Gates Foundation reports on the impact of its initiative to get contraception into the hands of women around the world. Placing contraceptives alongside vaccines as “one of the greatest lifesaving innovations in history,” Bill and Melinda Gates write that 300 million women in “developing countries” now have access to modern contraception, about a 50 percent increase from 13 years ago.

Feb. 14 2017 4:27 PM

When Melania Trump Is Thanking You for “Support[ing] Women,” Something Is Very Wrong

Let's try to sort out what’s going on with Emily Ratajkowski and Melania Trump. OK, so Melania Trump, you’ll recall, is our embattled first lady. And Ratajkowski you might know from her breakout performance in the “Blurred Lines” music video and movies like Gone Girl and We Are Your Friends. On Monday, Ratajkowski tweeted that a journalist she sat next to, presumably at a private event, had told her that Melania was a “hooker.”

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