The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

July 1 2016 3:34 PM

Two Women Joined a Minor League Pro Baseball Team for the First Time in Decades

Two women will join the starting lineup of an independent minor league baseball team on Friday, making the Sonoma Stompers the first professional baseball team to employ multiple women since three women played in the Negro Leagues in the 1950s.

The California-based Stompers nabbed 17-year-old Kelsie Whitmore and 25-year-old Stacy Piagno for the team; they’ll start off as a left fielder and pitcher, respectively. Stompers general manager Theo Fightmaster recruited the two after a push from Stompers investor Virginia Dare, a nearby winery owned by Francis Ford Coppola.

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“My family would play co-ed baseball games and inevitably the star player would always be an aunt who could run and hit and that made the games so much more fun,” Coppola said in a statement on the team’s website. “When watching Major League Baseball, I always wondered why there couldn’t be a co-ed team. It’s the one major sport in which weight and strength come less into play. So when my Sonoma winery became involved with the Stompers, I had the opportunity to turn this thought into a reality and recruit these amazing women capable of playing alongside men.”

Past efforts to get women on the pro baseball field have been characterized as part talent recruitment, part publicity stunt. When Toni Stone replaced second baseman Hank Aaron on the Indianapolis Clowns, a Negro League team, in 1953, team owners thought a female player would be a good draw to keep the interest of fans who were starting to follow their favorite black players to the increasingly racially integrated major leagues. “Truly, the incentive was to get fans,” Negro Leagues Museum curator Ray Doswell told MLB.com. A generation later, when Ila Borders joined the minor league St. Paul Saints as a pitcher, coach Charlie Phillips griped, “People think I took her for the publicity—I don't need all this.” Indeed, reports of Borders’ first game still claim that she was hired as a bid for exposure.

That doesn’t mean Stone and Borders didn’t deserve their positions—by all accounts, they were extraordinary players and boons to their teams—but that audiences are unwilling to believe that a woman could be capable of outplaying the hundreds or thousands of men vying for a spot in the pros. The Stompers are trying to fight that narrative. “This isn’t a one-day event. That’s been done a dozen times. Let’s give women a chance to be part of a team, let’s give women a chance to play against men,” Fightmaster told MLB.com. “They are not going to be in the starting lineup every night so we can sell more tickets. It’s a big game on July 1 and they’ll both be in the lineup, and after that we’ll see what their performance dictates.”

Then again, the Stompers’ promo page announcing the news beseeches fans to “GET YOUR TICKETS FOR THIS HISTORIC EVENT!” The statement also says the team hired Piagno and Whitmore “in an effort to promote the recruitment, development and advancement of women in baseball.” That’s a noble goal, but framing the team’s recruitment of two world-class baseball players as an advocacy move is a good way to get fans to doubt their actual impressive qualifications.

But the Stompers are doing more than any other team to bring diversity to baseball without sacrificing top-notch talent. Last year, the team became the first in pro baseball to employ an openly gay man: pitcher Sean Conroy, hired based on cold, hard sabermetrics. There’s nothing like an unemotional spreadsheet to quell fears of a hire based on politics rather than skill.

July 1 2016 1:59 PM

Judi Dench Gets Cliché Tattoo, Proves She’s Human After All

Octogenarian celebrities are rightly granted quite a bit of leeway when it comes to quirky behavior. When you’re eightysomething, you can talk to empty chairs or, say, disavow then reavow your own upcoming book after you’ve told the Washington Post “its credibility is down the toilet.” You may get some eyerolls, sure, but you’re unlikely to seriously tarnish your legacy.

But the public’s magnanimity toward elderly celebs is about to be seriously tested. Dame Judi Dench has acquired a tattoo that reads “CARPE DIEM.”

July 1 2016 1:18 PM

Could Employers Be Liable for Forcing Workers to Travel to Zika-Afflicted Zones?

As doctors in the southern U.S. prepare their patients for the expected onset of the Zika virus, employers and employees are considering the health and legal risks posed by work travel to afflicted areas.

Employees in the early weeks of pregnancy and those considering becoming pregnant might have valid concerns about traveling to countries beset by the mosquito-borne virus, which can cause microcephaly and other birth defects in developing fetuses. But they may not be ready or willing to share their plans for children with their supervisors. And employers might want to do right by their employees and avoid potential lawsuits by exempting employees of reproductive age from traveling to Zika zones, but that would violate laws preventing gender and pregnancy discrimination.

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The Huffington Post reports one anecdote of a pregnant woman whose employer wanted to send her to Brazil for an April meeting; she didn’t want to reveal that she was expecting, so she decided to say that she was trying to conceive and didn’t want to put herself or her potential child at risk. Her manager was understanding, as were executives at NBC, whose star Today show host Savannah Guthrie opted out of the network’s Olympics coverage in Rio de Janeiro when she announced that she was pregnant.

The Supreme Court’s 1991 opinion in Automobile Workers v. Johnson Controls, Inc. held that, under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers cannot prohibit or fire women from jobs that may harm their reproductive health. As long as employers inform women of the risks inherent in their work, and avoid negligent actions, they can’t be held liable for any negative outcomes on fetal health. As for the threat of Zika, employers should seek volunteers among qualified employees for necessary travel to Zika-afflicted areas and let people decide for themselves whether they’re willing to take the chance. Employers should inform all employees of Zika risks, not just men or women of reproductive age, since the virus can be spread through sexual contact to partners who may be expecting or trying to get pregnant.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act allows any employee to refuse a work assignment if she or he believes that there’s a significant risk of death or injury. But since Zika is a preventable public health threat and not a workplace hazard, some may choose to force employees to travel to an affected region (or work outside if they already live in a Zika-afflicted area) unless the employee is openly pregnant; in that case, she may be protected under laws that require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers. If employers do force their workers to do risky work in a Zika zone, they may open themselves up to negligence suits, and those workers may be able to claim worker’s compensation if any harm comes to them or their fetuses.

To protect themselves and their workers, employers should provide employees based in Zika-afflicted areas with long clothing and mosquito repellent if they work outside. But since most people whose employers pay for them to travel for work will have access to accommodations with air conditioning, keeping them safe from the open windows and doors that let Zika-carrying mosquitoes in, providing information about risks and prevention to all employees is the best move. Despite heavy media attention over the past few months, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Thursday found that just 13 percent of Americans understand Zika’s threats to adult health, which are amplified in older people and those with compromised immune systems, and only half know that Zika can be transmitted sexually. Just 6 in 10 know that the virus can cause birth defects in fetuses carried by infected women. Without proper information, employees who might be fine taking a measured risk won’t know to protect themselves and their pregnancies from potential harm.

July 1 2016 12:29 PM

Why It Matters That LGBT People Can Now Serve Openly in the Military

When all is said and done—and as of now, it nearly is—people will wonder what all the fretting was about. In fact, the forgetting has already begun, as talking heads asked their guests or correspondents why it took the Pentagon so long to lift its ban on transgender service, and why the ban existed in the first place. Either no one could answer (there appear to be no serious advocates or experts who can make a cogent argument against allowing trans people to serve in uniform), or we heard mutterings about disruptions to unit cohesion or military readiness or the difficulties of serving in the austere environment of warfare—the same shibboleths that have, for centuries, cast LGBT people as unstable, unfit, unable to take their place as truly first-class citizens like their straight and cis peers.

Of course, there are GOP politicians who continue to exploit hatred of queer people to score political points. They include Sen. John McCain, who bitterly opposed lifting “don’t ask, don’t tell,” insisting that openly gay service would do “great damage” to the military and “harm [its] battle effectiveness.” Boy, was he wrong. Yet he is now threatening to hold hearings on transgender service, to push legislation on the issue, and to demand further information about the financial cost of implementation.

July 1 2016 11:29 AM

No More Swimsuits in Miss Teen USA. Are Sports Bras That Much More Empowering Than Bikinis?

On Wednesday, the Miss Universe Organization announced that Miss Teen USA will soon be swimsuit-free. The controversial portion of the pageant is now being replaced by an athletic-wear competition. Since the announcement, reports have lauded the shift, but I’m not convinced that an athletic-wear competition is that much better than a swimwear competition.

According to Paula Shugart, the president of the Miss Universe Organization, "This decision reflects an important cultural shift we're all celebrating that empowers women who lead active, purposeful lives and encourage those in their communities to do the same. Our hope is that this decision will help all of Miss Teen USA's fans recognize these young women for the strong, inspiring individuals they are."

The swimsuit competition was creepy and overtly sexualized, but is an athletic-wear competition going to be that much better? Shugart mentions that this change will help Miss Teen USA “evolve in ways that celebrate women’s strength, confidence, and beauty for years to come,” but couldn’t a swimwear competition also be said to do that? Swimming is an incredibly challenging sport—the strength displayed by women competing in the Olympic trials is impressive.  Swimmers like Katie Ledecky or Natalie Coughlin are strong, inspiring women.

June 30 2016 5:23 PM

North America’s Hottest Male Leaders Gather for Steamy Three-Way Politics Sesh

Europe may yet dissolve beneath the xenophobic ramblings of an off-brand Donald Trump bootleg, but here in North America, our political leaders are showing off the sex appeal of progressive politics.

In what some are calling the Three Amigos Summit, Barack Obama is meeting with Canadian prime minister/feminist dad Justin Trudeau and Mexican president/total dreamboat Enrique Peña Nieto in Ottawa this week, setting hearts aflame across borders and prompting a million fantasies of a Black Mirror-like scenario in which some enterprising terrorist would blackmail the three into a passionate livestreamed makeout session. (A million fantasies, right guys? Right?)

June 30 2016 2:36 PM

A New Survey Shows Most Women Groom Their Pubic Hair. Should We Be Concerned?

It seems like just yesterday that the New York Times was reassuring female humans that it was OK to grow fluffy hairdos around our genitals because Cameron Diaz and Gaby Hoffman were doing it. “In certain corners of Manhattan, the bald look of the Brazilian has become déclassé, more suggestive of a naked Barbie doll or a reality television starlet than an organic lifestyle of cold-pressed juice and barre classes,” wrote Marisa Meltzer in a 2014 trend piece.

Now, the gray-pubed lady is worried that too many of us are following Barbie’s lead when it comes to vulvar styling. “Most Women Prefer to Go Bare, Citing Hygiene (and Baffling Doctors),” declares Wednesday’s Well post on a new study of U.S. women’s pubic hair grooming patterns. The study, published in JAMA Dermatology this week, surveyed a nationally representative sample of 3,316 women, 84 percent of whom reported engaging in some form of pubic hair removal by scissor, razor, wax, tweezer, depilatory cream, laser, or electrolysis.

June 30 2016 8:34 AM

You Don’t Have to Invite Kids to Your Wedding. But You Should.

If you want your friends to invite your children to their wedding, shaming them into it is probably not the best strategy. Nevertheless, much of the argument made by David Andrew Stoler in his recent Salonessay commanding couples to include their friends’ kids centers around the idea that leaving kids off the invite list is an act of selfishness that the bride and groom, bride and bride, or groom and groom will later regret.

I’m sympathetic to Stoler’s case. Modern Americans are living in a time and place that is highly unaccommodating to parents, and we breeders could use all the help we can get. Still, I think it’s a couple’s prerogative to have a child-free wedding if they want one. I also think they shouldn’t want one, and not for parents’ sake, but for their own. Here’s why.

June 29 2016 5:39 PM

Nike’s Wimbledon Dress Raises the Question: Why Do Women Still Play Tennis in Skirts?

All the moisture wicking in the world couldn’t save Nike’s Wimbledon dress. The slip-like getup, designed for women paid to play in the brand’s clothing, would be a cute, comfortable piece of clothing if it were a nightgown—but as a tennis outfit, it bombs in both form and function.

A New York Times evaluation of the baggy, crotch-length dress found tennis stars saying things like “when I was serving, it was coming up, and I felt like the dress was just everywhere”; “it was always going up, so you can see the stomach, everything”; and “I didn’t feel comfortable showing that much.” One coach said his player was too cold in the sheer, sleeveless number, and she kept accidentally grabbing the loose folds of fabric when she reached to hold her racket with both hands.

June 29 2016 4:36 PM

Evangelical Christians Are Not Happy About Trump’s Silence on the Texas Abortion Ruling

When a man who has spent decades shouting his opinions suddenly clams up, the silence is particularly deafening. It has been well over 48 hours since the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling striking down Texas’ strict rules for abortion clinics. Donald Trump has yet to mention it.

The opinion itself, which held that Texas’s regulations placed an undue burden on abortion providers, threw conservatives into a frenzy of rage and mourning on Monday. And the presumptive Republican nominee’s silence has poured a stinging shot of Trump Vodka into the wound.

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