The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Sept. 29 2016 5:49 PM

Is It OK to Mock Donald Trump for Being Fat?

If there were an Advent calendar of Donald Trump’s shortcomings for the months leading up to the election, “lifelong disgust for women’s bodies” would be behind this week’s little door. Since Monday’s presidential debate, conversations about Trump have centered on his pathological urge to evaluate and criticize the weight and shape of women he encounters as he goes about his day.

Sept. 29 2016 5:08 PM

How Donald Trump Measures a Woman’s Worth

Earlier this year, it seemed like Donald Trump was going to try to use Bill Clinton’s infidelities against Hillary Clinton. “She’s married to a man who was the worst abuser of women in the history of politics,” Trump said at a rally in Spokane, Washington. “She’s married to a man who hurt many women.” Later that month, Trump released an Instagram video of Bill Clinton chomping on a cigar as unnamed women accuse him of sexual harassment and assault; the spot ends with the sound of Hillary Clinton’s witchy cackling. Trump apparently saw this as a winning line of political attack. On July 13, the New York Times reported that the Republican National Convention would feature a “presentation detailing former President Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct.”

But the presentation never happened, and Trump mostly dropped the subject. The reasons seem obvious. As a notorious philanderer, it wasn’t in Trump’s interest to make adultery a campaign issue. Further, as many Republican consultants know, women—including Republican women—really don’t like attempts to hold Hillary liable for Bill’s affairs. Earlier this year, I spoke to Katie Packer, Mitt Romney’s 2012 Deputy Campaign Manger, about right-leaning women’s attitudes towards Hillary Clinton. “One thing that causes them to come to her defense is when they feel like she’s being blamed for her husband’s bad behavior,” she told me.

Advertisement

Trump’s decision to revisit the issue of Bill’s sex life now, with less than 40 days to the election, is thus an odd strategic move. Yet that is what he is doing; his campaign has issued talking points telling his supporters to bring up Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, and Monica Lewinsky. Many in the GOP are not happy about this approach; a Politico headline says, “Republicans to Trump: Keep Lewinsky Out of It.” But the Trump camp is pressing forward. In a radio interview with Sean Hannity on Thursday, Eric Trump described Bill Clinton as “maybe the worst” sexist that’s ever lived.

For the Trump campaign, the superficial justification for bringing up Bill Clinton’s extramarital sex life is that Hillary Clinton “enabled” it, which invalidates her claim to be a champion of women.  “Are you blaming Hillary for Bill's infidelities? No, however, she's been an active participant in trying to destroy the women who has come forward with a claim,” said one of the Trump campaign talking points.

This is pure concern-trolling. Before entering politics, Trump criticized Bill Clinton not for mistreating women, but for failing to find hotter mistresses. He once called Jones a “loser” and said of the Lewinsky scandal that “people would have been more forgiving” if Clinton had slept with “a really beautiful woman of sophistication.” Trump’s message in bringing up Bill’s adultery now is the same as the right-wing slogan he retweeted last year: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

His belief that Bill Clinton’s affairs reflect badly on Hillary demonstrates something key to his psyche: For Trump, the only salient distinction when judging a women’s worth is whether she is fuckable or unfuckable.

The fuckable/unfuckable schema is so deeply rooted in Trump that he can’t fully grasp that not everyone shares it. Consider how, the morning after Monday’s debate, he defended himself from Clinton’s accusation that he’d bullied former Miss Universe Alicia Machado for her weight. Speaking to Fox and Friends by phone, he said, “[S]he gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem.” On Wednesday night, speaking to Bill O’Reilly, he continued to paint himself as the victim of Machado’s sudden-onset unfuckability, suggesting that he deserves thanks for trying to save her job. “I did that with a number of young ladies,” he said. “Look what I get out of it. I get nothing.”

Trump’s defenders argue that, as a beauty queen, it was Machado’s job to remain desirable. “You’re not supposed to gain 60 pounds during the year that you’re Miss Universe,” Newt Gingrich said at a Log Cabin Republican dinner on Wednesday night. Yet as the Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday—in a story that would be a huge deal, if there weren’t so many Trump outrages competing with it—Trump also demanded the firing of insufficiently hot employees at one of his California golf clubs. In a 2008 court filing, the club’s former director of catering, Hayley Strozier, describes an order to axe a “highly competent and professional” female employee because, her superior said, “Mr. Trump does not like fat people.” (Strozier refused, and the staff apparently took to hiding the employee when Trump was around.)

According to Strozier’s legal declaration, this was not an isolated incident. “I had witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were ‘not pretty enough’ and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women,” Strozier said in the declaration, which was filed in support of an age-discrimination lawsuit. In another declaration, Charles West, the club’s restaurant manager, said he was told to hire “young, attractive women,” and that Trump’s general manager would have to vet job applications to make sure they were “sufficiently pretty.”

Trump is hardly the first man to judge women based on their looks. He is unusual, however, in being unable to admire, or even pretend to admire, any human qualities in women other than sexual attractiveness. He praised his daughter Ivanka’s “very nice figure” and said that if she “weren’t my daughter, perhaps I would be dating her.” (In other words, he called her fuckable, but in a paternal way.) He even discussed his infant daughter Tiffany in terms of her future erotic allure. Appearing on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in 1994, he said that Tiffany, then a baby, had inherited the long legs of her model mother, Marla Maples. Then, holding his hands in front of his chest as if he were cupping breasts, he added, “We don’t know whether or not she’s got this part yet, but time will tell.”

Consider, also, the way Trump has spoken of his wife, Melania. “She’s a great beauty, but she’s a great beauty inside, which is almost as important,” he told Howard Stern in 2005. (Note the “almost.) Stern asked Trump if he’d stay with Melania if she were disfigured in a horrible car accident. “How do the breasts look?” A bit of jovial banter over whether Trump will abandon his wife if she loses her looks follows.  “It is Melania’s job, in a sense, to stay beautiful,” says Stern. Trump doesn’t disagree.

It’s hardly unusual for men to prize their trophy wives for their beauty, but they usually at least pretend to a deeper connection. Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. But Trump doesn’t realize his shallowness is a vice, because he’s not aware that other systems of value exist. Hence his conviction, against all evidence, that reminding American voters of Bill Clinton’s affairs will delegitimize Hillary Clinton. He’s gone after Hillary on her emails, on Benghazi, on the Clinton Foundation. The race has tightened, but now he’s slipping behind again. So he’s hitting her with what seems to him to be her most obvious failure.

Because of Trump’s decisions, the news cycle is currently full of talk of Miss Universe’s weight and Hillary Clinton’s marriage. With any luck, we’ll look back on this as the moment when Trump started to implode again, after an anomalous period of stability. If he’s ultimately beaten by a woman, it will be in part due to his inability to see past the fuckable/unfuckable binary and recognize women as fully human. It’s hard to imagine justice quite so poetic.

Sept. 29 2016 4:46 PM

Why “Fed is Best” is Better Than “Breast is Best”

The breast is best ideology is so ubiquitous, so sneakily persuasive, that even those determined to remain open-minded to feeding options are overcome with guilt and panic when they press that first bottle of formula against their newborn’s lips. I’ve known many moms over the years whose prepartum insouciance was no match for the combination of vulnerability-inducing postpartum hormones and heavily biased lactation consultations offered by their hospitals. In fact, I was one such mom, and I felt like an absolute failure for having to give my son formula before my milk came in. That the alternative was his starving—dangerous for a newborn—did little to put me at ease.

Sept. 29 2016 2:39 PM

Reddit’s Vendetta Against St. Ives Apricot Scrub Is a Dermatological Inspiration

Some of us around the office have recently become devotees of/r/SkincareAddiction, a subreddit for people who want to achieve both clear skin—and the moral high ground that comes with it—through the maintenance of a meticulous, multistep skincare routine. And we’ve noticed that if you spend a good amount of time hanging out on that particular slice of the internet, a few themes start to recur: 1) If you think your moisturizer with built-in SPF is providing you with enough sun protection, you’re living a lie. 2) Those things you thought were blackheads are actually sebaceous filaments. 3) And maybe most importantly, St. Ives Apricot Scrub, the popular product available at drugstores nationwide that you yourself have probably used and seen in many friend’s medicine cabinets, is complete trash. According to the skincare addicts, you’d be better off dipping your face in a septic tank than using the stuff.

Sept. 29 2016 1:33 PM

Male Entrepreneur Advises Women to Disguise Their Gender If They Want Success

Of the thousands of pieces of advice for wannabe entrepreneurs, one of the most consistent is that it’s crucial to develop a personal brand. “Customers buy from people, not from a company,” after all. “We are in the digital age and there is little room to be silent about who we are and the businesses we are involved in.”

That is, unless you’re a woman. In that case, John Greathouse, a former “serial entrepreneur” and partner at the venture capital firm Rincon Venture Partners, has some advice for you in the Wall Street Journal: Scrub the internet of any indication that your personal brand includes a vagina.

Sept. 29 2016 12:49 PM

Poll: Swing-State Voters Less Likely to Vote for Candidates Who Attack Planned Parenthood

The poll, which reached between 521 and 631 voters in each state, comes almost exactly a year after Republicans in Congress attempted to shut down the government to force women’s health advocates to agree to defund Planned Parenthood. That fight got so heated that conservatives pressed then-Speaker of the House John Boehner into resigning from his position because he didn’t love fetuses enough to cease government operations for them.

Sept. 28 2016 7:12 PM

Managers Are Afraid to Give Women Negative Feedback—Until Women Ask for Promotions

Another day, another study showing that sexism is responsible for the earning and achievement gap between men and women in the workplace. Earlier this month, Australian researchers published a study showing that “women ask for wage increases just as often as men, but their employers are 25 percent less likely to give it to them.” This week, LeanIn.org and the consulting firm McKinsey released their second annual Women in the Workplace study, which is based on a survey of 132 companies that employ a total of 4.6 million Americans. Its findings are drearily familiar.

“Women are still underrepresented at every corporate level and hold less than 30% of roles in senior management,” writes Sheryl Sandberg, the founder of LeanIn.org, ina summary of the report published in the Wall Street Journal. “And women hit the glass ceiling early: They are far less likely than men to be promoted from entry level to manager, and they continue to lose ground incrementally the more senior they become.” The report contains devastatingly effective data visualizations of this pipeline, in which women’s share of the pie grows smaller and smaller at each step up the corporate ladder. Women represent 46 percent of entry-level employees but only 19 percent of members of C-suite-level leaders. The path is even rougher for women of color, who occupy 17 percent of entry-level jobs but only 3 percent of the C-suite.

Sept. 28 2016 5:21 PM

Sabrina the Teenage Witch Is Now Heading Gary Johnson’s Campaign in Connecticut

The fates are smiling on third-party presidential candidate Gary Johnson this week. It once seemed that the libertarian darling stood no chance against the organizational heft and overflowing coffers of the Trump and Clinton machines, that nothing short of a miracle could land him in the White House. Unfortunately, miracles are made-up—but, luckily for Johnson, magic is real.

That must be why Johnson named Melissa Joan Hart, the titular sorceress of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, chairperson of his campaign’s Connecticut office. The former Clarissa Explains It All star has her work cut out for her with this latest pickle. But if Johnson can’t muster the polling numbers he needs to make it into the presidential debates, surely Clarissa can cook up one of her hare-brained schemes to get him on the stage! And while she’s at it, perhaps she can explain to the candidate what Aleppo isand why colonizing other planets is not a valid contingency plan for dealing with climate change.

Sept. 28 2016 1:54 PM

More Kids Are Dressing Up as Superheroes Than Princesses for Halloween

According to a survey from the National Retail Federation, this Halloween, more kids will dress up as action stars and superheroes than princesses for the first time in 12 years. With its recent poll of 6,791 Americans, the NRF predicts that more than 3 million children will wear hero costumes for trick-or-treating next month.

A quick glance at the survey results might suggest a welcome change in gendered expectations for little girls. Princess culture celebrates physical beauty and the attraction of male suitors; superhero culture celebrates daring and smarts employed for good. If children are starting to privilege the latter over the former—and if girls are starting to see themselves as capable world-savers as much as ballgoers born into royalty—that’s great.

Sept. 28 2016 1:44 PM

Morning Sickness Is No Fun for a Mom, but It May Be Good for Her Baby

A common misconception about evolution is that it always results in progress, and species and organisms become perfectly adapted to their environments and circumstances over time. The reality is that natural selection is perfectly content with good-enough, and is quite hospitable to maintaining traits that are deeply flawed.

I’ve long imagined that at least some of the difficulties surrounding conception and pregnancy fall under this category; the reproductive process for humans works, but it is far from ideal. The act of making, gestating and birthing babies is grueling, and subjects women to a considerable amount of discomfort. One of the biggest struggles comes during the first trimester, when the majority of women experience extreme exhaustion and nausea. I’m currently nearing the end of this period myself, and have spent much of the past two months wondering if, as some have suggested, there is an adaptive purpose to feeling like crap.

READ MORE STORIES