The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

July 30 2015 4:05 PM

Dating Tips From Woody Allen

Woody Allen has done something bold and painfully self-aware, something that his many detractors might never have expected of him: He has come clean about the sins he's committed in the past against the women in his life.

“I was selfish and I was ambitious and insensitive to the women that I dated,” he confesses to Sam Fragoso in an interview with NPR. “ ... As I got older and [saw that women] were humans suffering like I was ... I changed. I learned empathy over the years.”

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When did this happen? Sometime after his “early 30s,” Allen says.

Woody Allen turned 30 in December 1965. In January 1992, when Allen was 56, his longtime partner Mia Farrow discovered—via nude photos Allen left out on his mantelpiece—his affair with her 19-year-old daughter Soon-Yi, sister to Allen's three children with Farrow.

At the start of his relationship with Soon-Yi, who is now his wife, Allen tells NPR that he “thought it would just be a fling, it wouldn't be serious.” But soon, he says, it took on “a life of its own.” Why does it continue to work so well, even decades later? Allen muses: 

I think that was probably the odd factor that I'm so much older than the girl I married. I'm 35 years older ... I was paternal. She responded to someone paternal. I liked her youth and energy. She deferred to me, and I was happy to give her an enormous amount of decision-making just as a gift and let her take charge of so many things. 

So we can distill two key pieces of dating advice from Woody Allen: 1) Wait until you're around 35 years old to start dating and 2) Date women who are around 35 years younger than you are.

Maybe there's a third piece of advice: 3) Be paternal. Then again, the opportunity to date your partner's daughter and your children's sister isn't one that's readily available to most men. As Allen himself puts it to NPR, “That's why I'm a big believer in luck.”

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July 30 2015 2:47 PM

Why Does Every Presidential Campaign Need a “Hairgate”?

According to the New York Post, a bank of elevators at Bergdorf Goodman was temporarily shut down on Friday so that Hillary Clinton could get a trim at the pricey John Barrett Salon on the ninth floor.

It’s hard to know what the Post thought was worse—that Clinton, like any celebrity, can get her hair done in a private room where no one can see her (or snap photos of her) or that she might have paid owner Barrett as much as $600 for a cut and another $600 for color.

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“Hillary Clinton receives haircut that costs more than average American makes in a week,” howled the Washington Free Beacon. “Your jaw is about to drop when you find out how much Hillary paid for a haircut,” claimed IJR Review.

In presidential politics, the expensive haircut is one of those supposedly telling details—somehow meant to convey that a candidate or spouse is attempting to be one of the proletariat but has a secret life as a card-carrying member of the elite. It dates back to the early days of—naturally—the Clinton administration, when Hillary Clinton, on the advice of pal Barbra Streisand, began to see one Cristophe of Beverly Hills, who charged her $200 (or about $330 in 2015 dollars). By the time Bill decided to do the same, Hillary had moved on to New York’s Frederic Fekkai at $275 ($454 in 2015).

Then, in May 1993, Bill Clinton received what “may have been the most expensive haircut in history,” as Thomas Friedman speculated in the New York Times. The dubious story was that Air Force One tied up traffic at LAX in 1993 solely so the presidential locks could receive a $200 coif. The press went insane over “Hairgate,” even though the cut resulted in no actual delays on any commercial airlines. Controversial beauty treatments would continue to haunt the Clintons. In 1994, there was gossip claiming that Hillary Clinton did not tip after a visit to Gessner & Camp, a Coral Gables, Florida, salon, while Tipper Gore supposedly left a $90 gratuity.

We went about a decade without a Hairgate, a drought finally relieved during the 2004 presidential race by Matt Drudge, who outed John Kerry for flying Cristophe employee Isabelle Goetz from Washington to Pittsburgh. (It should come as no surprise to discover that Hillary Clinton was also reported to be a Goetz client.)

And then there was John Edwards. Long rumored to be vain about his plentiful locks, he was caught paying for $400 haircuts at Beverly Hills’ Torrenueva Salon, a crime no one ever would have known about had he not listed them on his candidate expense filings. (He later reimbursed his campaign.) Maureen Dowd, among others, went to town, stating more than a bit prophetically, “All the haircuts in the world may not save John Edwards from a blowout.” (The last salon Edwards was spotted patronizing was a North Carolina SuperCuts, which charges $12.95 for a styling.)

Republicans have been largely immune: No one made much of a fuss when first lady Laura Bush reportedly received a clipping from one Sally Hershberger, who charged $700. An exception, as it so often is, came in the highly flammable form of Sarah Palin, who in 2008 ran up a bill in the tens of thousands of dollars for traveling with not only a hairstylist but a makeup artist (the latter was Emmy-nominated for her work on So You Think You Can Dance?).

Clearly, women are in a bind here, as likely to be judged for not primping as for expensively primping. Just last week, Hillary Clinton took a question in a Facebook forum about the “hair and makeup tax” that women pay for their upkeep—a tax on both their wallets and their time.

But when it comes to Hairgates past and present, men—or at least male Democrats—are as likely to get dinged for their choices as women. Maybe the celebrity haircut is a gender-neutral easy get—an instant way to paint a candidate as privileged, out of touch, narcissistic. That it takes more than a bit of narcissism even to consider running for president is conveniently forgotten.

So what comes next? I’m hoping for a candidate who takes a page from Denmark's first female prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt. When heckled for wearing designer clothes, she responded without apology: “We can’t all look like shit.” In the meantime, I just want Donald Trump to release a financial-disclosure form accounting for whatever that is on top of his head. 

July 30 2015 12:38 PM

Planned Parenthood’s Website Debilitated by DDOS Attack

This past month has been a rough one for Planned Parenthood. The health care organization has been the target of a misleading video campaign, a database hack targeting employees, an attempt to strip it of its federal funding, and a grammatically challenged tweet from Marco Rubio. Wednesday afternoon brought the latest ordeal for the organization, when its website suffered a “distributed denial of service,” or DDoS, attack, in which hackers flood site with traffic to prevent others from visiting.

Currently, Planned Parenthood’s site is still down, with the organization keeping it offline while it worked on security precautions. Visitors to the site are redirected to Planned Parenthood’s Facebook page, encouraged to use Google Maps to locate their nearest center, and to call to make an appointment.

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As reported by Wired, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Dawn Laguens said on Wednesday, “Planned Parenthood is committed to getting people the information they need to make healthy decisions and meet their goals in life—and we deeply regret that in order to more fully protect our websites from these extremist attacks, our full online content will be temporarily unavailable to people looking for good, accurate health information. We will continue to work to reach people where they are online, and our sites will be back up soon.”

As I detailed earlier this week, Sunday’s hack put Planned Parenthood employees in potential danger by exposing their names and contact information. And this new DDoS attack puts Planned Parenthood’s clients at risk by refusing them access to medical information they need.

Each day, some 200,000 people visit the website for information on a variety of reproductive health issues. If it really needs to be reiterated, the majority of Planned Parenthood’s resources is not devoted to abortion, which accounts for only 3 percent of the services provided. The funds for abortions cannot come from the federal government because of the Hyde Amendment. With the federally funded $500 million, Planned Parenthood provides information on birth control, STIs, and parenting, and it conducts life-saving medical procedures, including preventive screenings.

After this barrage of misinformation, the organization finally saw some relief when the Los Angeles Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order against the Center for Medical Progress, the group in charge of the inflammatory videos. The CMP is prohibited from releasing any more video footage that shows footage of officials from the California based StemExpress. But, since this legal respite only applies to StemExpress employees in the jurisdiction, CMP soon released another video with footage of a Planned Parenthood official in Colorado.*

So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the DDoS attack, and it is not yet clear if the attack is linked to 3301, the organization that hacked Planned Parenthood's database on Sunday. But whoever is debilitating the website is actually targeting the hundreds of thousands of Planned Parenthood clients in need of important medical information.

*Update, July 30, 5:10 p.m.: This sentence has been edited to clarify that the restraining order only applies to StemExpress employees in the jurisdiction.

July 29 2015 2:49 PM

Major Supermarket Chains Are Covering Up  Cosmo Because It’s “Pornographic”

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The August 2015 issue of Cosmopolitan, a/k/a Pornography Monthly.

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You can spot a Cosmopolitan from a mile away: A shiny-legged lady in a playfully provocative pose, typography that runs the gamut from pink to purple, and lots of libidinous mad libs (e.g., "__ Sex Positions to __ His __ Wild!"). For teen girls, Cosmo reads like an instruction manual for their glamorous future selves. For more mature women, it's dessert in magazine form.

But for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCSE), formerly known as Morality in Media, Cosmopolitan is porn. The NCSE is behind a successful push—hardly the first of its kind—to place the magazine behind blinders in stores owned by two major chains, RiteAid and Delhaize America (which owns Hannaford Stores and Food Lion).

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Victoria Hearst, granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst (who founded Cosmo publisher Hearst Corporation), writes in the NCSE press release that the stores’ decision will “protect underage children from being exposed to the magazine’s sexually explicit covers showing scantily clad female celebrities and article titles with the words ‘sex’ and ‘orgasm’!” Hearst hopes the stores will either stop selling Cosmo entirely or forbid the magazine’s sale to anyone under 18. 

There are plenty of problems with Cosmo—like most women’s magazines, it still struggles with race and body image. (Try to count the number of non-skinny girls it’s considered sexy enough to grace its cover.) But its covers are not even as sexually explicit as commercials regularly used to promote a greasy burger chain. No child has ever been harmed by a lady pushing her boobs together behind a sexy word cloud. 

But hark: The NCSE claims there's a consensus about the dangers Cosmo poses to American youth. The center cites a “nationwide poll” in which a majority of (1,007) Americans agree that Cosmo covers are not appropriate for all ages. A sample poll query:

As you may know, Cosmopolitan Magazine frequently has sexually provocative headlines and models on its cover. Would you say that these headlines and models are appropriate or inappropriate for viewers of all ages?

It would be hard to craft a question that does a better job of answering itself. 

Of course, Cosmo is more—not always vastly more, but more—than revisions to the Kama Sutra and “Nicki Minaj Wants All Women to Demand More Orgasms.” In fact, this is a strange moment to be picking on Cosmo, given the feminist refurbishment it's received under editor-in-chief Joanna Coles: It won its first National Magazine Award last year for a terrific guide to contraception and publishes serious journalism on topics such as the ongoing threats to Planned Parenthood. If Victoria Hearst actually thinks Cosmo is filth, I suggest she flip through it sometime. She'd find that, unlike certain other magazines, people really do read it for the articles.

July 29 2015 12:13 PM

Ann Rule, Queen of a Genre Beloved by Women, Once Wrote Under a Man’s Byline 

Icon of furtive ladyreading Ann Rule died on Sunday at the age of 83. If my Facebook feed is any indication, she will be remembered fondly by roughly every woman over the age of 15 who enjoys reading. True crime, the genre Rule ruled, has a remarkable shelf life for relatively timely journalistic endeavors—true-crime books are passed down among generations and snatched up in used-book stores. A glowing obituary in the New York Times touches on all the highlights—particularly The Stranger Beside Me, Rule's 1980 smash about Ted Bundy, whom she befriended when they worked on the same suicide hotline before she discovered he was a serial killer. The obit also had one detail about Rule's career I hadn't known before:

She began writing for True Detective in 1969 under the pseudonyms Arthur Stone, Chris Hansen and Andy Stack, using male names at her editors’ insistence. She wrote two 10,000-word articles a week for the next 13 years.
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That's True Detective, the glorious tabloid rag of the 20th century, not True Detective, the dreary HBO show whose self-seriousness is tarnishing the True Detective name. 

It's interesting to consider, all these years later, that editors worried about readers not taking female writers of true crime seriously, especially since the genre is such a women's genre. There aren't hard numbers on this, alas, but if you see a shadowy cover image of a scary house interspersed with smiling yearbook photos of victims and a grisly title in a high-impact font, it is highly likely that a woman is behind that cover reading that book.

Why did '60s-era editors shy away from letting female-heavy audiences know that their fellow lady humans were writing the grisly stories they loved so much? Did they think the stories would have more impact if they were perceived as coming from an authoritative male voice? Was it about upholding the illusion that women are too delicate for such matters, even though editors must have known that women made up the bulk of the audience? The answers are lost to the mists of time.

Another mystery is why women are the dominant fans of true crime in the first place. There have been completely implausible "evo psych" explanations for it, with researchers speculating that women are searching the texts for tips on how to stay safe, even though men are actually more likely to be victims of violent crime. (Slate's Jessica Grose once cast cold water on this theory, reminding us of the obvious: that people read true crime to be titillated, not to assess their own risk profile.) Maybe estrogen makes you more macabre.

Or maybe one clue can be found in an Ann Rule quotation from CNN's obituary. In a 1999 CNN interview, Rule said she once feared that writing about murder all the time would leave her jaded, but it hadn't. "I am not a cynic, because I find at least three dozen heroes for every bad guy or gal I have to write about," she said. "The good in humanity always comes out way ahead." Perhaps women, for whatever reason, are more keen on stories that take you to the darkest edges of humanity, but then reassure you that, amid the violence and horror of a few of us, most of us are good and decent people.

July 28 2015 6:39 PM

Hackers Go After Planned Parenthood Employees’ Information

Late Sunday night, hackers gained access to Planned Parenthood’s internal database containing employee records. According to the Los Angeles Times, “the names and contact information for more than 300 Planned Parenthood employees have been published on a private website hosted by a group of hackers, part of an organization called 3301.”

As Slate’s Future Tense has thoroughly documented, hacks targeting everything from the Census Bureau to the Office of Personnel Management to Sony have all occurred within the last year, putting millions of people at risk for identity theft, fraud, and blackmail.

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In this landscape, the attack on Planned Parenthood’s database might blend in with an overall trend, but it shouldn’t. While the others relied on a large-scale attack to make their impact, this hack targets a selected group—only a few hundred workers—and is all the more frightening for it. By releasing the information of a relatively small number of employees, the hackers are enabling and encouraging the harassment of Planned Parenthood workers.

As David Cohen and Krysten Connon explained in Slate in February, the anti-abortion harassment comes in many forms: “Providers told us about being physically assaulted, picketed at home, threatened over the phone, and stalked around town. Providers’ children have been the subject of protests at school, providers’ parents have been harassed in nursing homes, and their spouses have been targeted at work. The list of tactics is almost endless.”

The group’s political motivation is clear: They want to bring down the organization. The Daily Dot spoke with one of the hackers, who said that “trying to mold an atrocious monstrosity into socially acceptable behaviors is repulsive. … Obviously what [Planned Parenthood] does is a very ominous practice. It'll be interesting to see what surfaces when [Planned Parenthood] is stripped naked and exposed to the public.”

The timing of the hack, on the heels of the Center for Medical Progress’ undercover videos, is serious cause for concern. These videos—with more promised on the way—are heavily manipulated to misconstrue the providers’ activities and their legality. (CMP might be the ones guilty of illegal behavior, as a review by California Attorney General Kamala Harris will soon determine.)

While the information from the hack is currently being held on a private website, the hackers told the Daily Dot they will release decrypted internal emails soon. Concurrently, Planned Parenthood has reached out to the FBI and U.S. Justice Department to address the security situation.

Whether 3301 is tied to CMP or was just inspired by the videos remains to be seen. What is clear is this all-out campaign against Planned Parenthood could have real and dangerous effects.

July 28 2015 2:47 PM

Macy Gray Has Written the Ultimate Song About Vibrators

Macy Gray is best known for her soulful late-'90s hit “I Try,” but if there’s any justice in the world, she will go down in history first and foremost as the author of the definitive song about vibrators. “B.O.B,” which stands for “battery-operated better,” is an ode to the piece of machinery that “fits like a glove” and is “always up for love, steady as a caterpillar.”

You might hesitate to watch this video for a number of reasons. Maybe you’re tired of hearing about how much women love their vibrators, or you’re annoyed by the fact that “battery-operated better” doesn’t make grammatical sense, or you have no idea what “steady as a caterpillar” even means. (Me neither!) Don’t let that stop you from hitting play—the song is charming enough to nullify any conceivable criticism. I wasn’t even bothered by the fact that Gray refers to her vibrator as “he” throughout the song, even though the personification of sex toys usually squicks me out. Such is the power of Gray’s playful tribute to B.O.B.

Furthermore, the video isn’t even NSFW—the visuals consist of an animated blue dildo with eyes, a mouth, and limbs taking a jaunty stroll around Macy Gray’s house. (Sometimes he’s joined by a yellow friend and a jolly AA battery.) If ever there were a video about masturbation you’d feel comfortable watching with your kids, this is it.

July 28 2015 2:27 PM

States That Sell Anti-Abortion “Choose Life” License Plates, Mapped

Across the country, motorists can purchase specialty license plates to show their support for state-approved groups or institutions, such as public universities, firefighters, veterans, and … anti-abortion activists? Twenty-nine states offer anti-abortion “Choose Life” license plates. Among them, 15 states explicitly route the proceeds to anti-abortion organizations or crisis pregnancy centers, nonprofits that advise pregnant women against abortion. CPCs have been caught lying about the physical and mental health risks of abortions, and many of them are affiliated with religious organizations.

Take a look at the map below to find out if your state is supporting anti-abortion activists.

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Note: North Carolina OK’d the “Choose Life” license plates in 2011, but the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state, arguing that the state was engaging in “viewpoint discrimination” by not also offering a pro-choice plate. A federal appeals court ruled in favor of the ACLU but must reconsider its decision after a Supreme Court’s ruling on a different plate earlier this year. Currently, North Carolina does not offer the plates.

July 28 2015 12:17 PM

The American Public Is Wising Up About Rape

Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen shared some very interesting opinions about marital rape this week. “You cannot rape your spouse,” he told Daily Beast reporters. “There’s very clear case law.” 

Reporters Tim Mak and Brandy Zadrozny had contacted Cohen for a response to their story about the 1993 book Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump by Harry Hurt III. Hurt recounts how Trump's ex-wife Ivana Trump, in a deposition during their divorce, described Trump raping her. Trump denied the allegations when the book came out, and Ivana, at the behest of Trump's lawyers, issued a statement saying that she didn't mean rape in “a literal or criminal sense,” but just that she “felt violated.” 

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Rape is a crime, however; it's not contained by how you feel but by objective questions such as Did she consent to the sex? By that measure, the scene in the book reads like rape. What's more, New York state banned marital rape in 1984, and this alleged incident happened in 1989. If it happened as described, it was rape in both the legal and “emotional” senses. 

It's shocking that the incident described might have been legal if it happened just five years earlier. It seems obvious that it should be criminal to force your protesting spouse into sex while pulling out chunks of her hair. Yet marital rape was only banned in all 50 states in 1993, when North Carolina and Oklahoma finally got around to it. As of 2014, eight states still had laws treating marital rape differently than other rape.

Along with the recent rush of women accusing Bill Cosby of rape or sexual assault, the Trump story shows how rapidly public opinion is shifting on the subject of rape. We are reaching a cultural consensus that the dividing line between rape and not-rape is consent. It's hard for these women to speak out, but it's also increasingly impossible to argue that nonconsensual sex is somehow a “gray area” or just “bad sex” instead of rape.

Even while people shied away from the R-word in the past, they still had an intrinsic understanding that it's wrong to force women to have sex. Cosby's accusers describe the great pains he took to conceal his behavior. Ivana Trump described crying all night long; Lost Tycoon claims Trump gloated about how he hurt her—causing pain was the point. In reality, men who rape usually aren't confused about the question of consent. They do, however, enjoy it when others confuse the issue for them. 

What is shifting is that the rest of us are less and less willing to play that game for them. We still have a long way to go, however, as seen in this New York Times story by Sandy Keenan about affirmative consent standards on campus. “Men tend to rely on nonverbal cues in interpreting consent (61 percent say they get consent via body language), but women tend to wait to be asked before signaling consent (only 10 percent say they give consent via body language),” Keenan writes. “No wonder there’s so much confusion.”

Human communication is complicated, but that doesn't necessarily make it confusing. Other research has shown that men are just as capable as women of understanding subtle cues of nonconsent. We're all capable of telling if someone looks bored or reluctant or of interpreting “soft” noes such as “Gosh, I have to get up early.” Most of us practice affirmative consent implicitly: looking for signs of interest before proceeding, pulling back if someone stiffens up or starts issuing “soft” noes such as “I really can't right now.”

The “no means no” movement was about shutting down rapists who tried to confuse the issue over whether it really counts if she came to your room/she's your wife/she wore a short skirt/she accepted the drink you drugged. “Yes means yes” is about shutting down rapists who claim, falsely, to not know it's wrong to rape someone even if she is too drunk to stand/she said “I want to go home”/she just laid there crying instead of asking me to stop. It's about shutting down bad-faith excuses by shifting the discussion to how the aggressor knew he had a yes.

I hope future versions of us will be amazed that anyone thought this was confusing—just as amazed as our present selves are that the encounters described by Ivana Trump or Cosby's accusers constitute anything but rape.

July 27 2015 10:52 PM

A Facebook Post May Have Driven Topshop to Ditch Its Scary-Skinny Mannequins

Topshop, the British retailer with around 500 stores in 37 countries around the world, is known for reasonable prices, a coveted young customer base, and a rapid expansion rate that's the envy of many competing clothing chains. But starting last fall, the fashion giant ran into a serious problem with body image.

When images of a new style of Topshop mannequin surfaced last October, many observers pointed out that the mannequins—absurdly thin, taller than 6’0"—were unrealistic and ridiculous. Last week, after seeing the figures in a store in Bristol, a customer-service rep named Laura Berry posted a comment on Topshop’s Facebook page criticizing the ways in which the mannequins encourage young women to aspire to a “cult image.” Here’s part of Berry’s post, which received thousands of likes and hundreds of shares on Facebook:

I'm calling you out Topshop, on your lack of concern for a generation of extremely body conscious youth. I'm old enough and wise enough to know I will never be this size, but as we've all been impressionable teens at one point, I'm fairly certain if any of us were to witness this in our teenage years, it would have left us wondering if that was what was expected of our bodies... Perhaps it's about time you became responsible for the impression you have on women and young girls and helped them feel good about themselves rather than impose these ridiculous standards.
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Though it's unclear whether or not Berry and the company ever communicated privately, Topshop announced this week that it will stop ordering the mannequin style in question. The company is sticking to its claim that the mannequin is “based on a standard UK size 10” (!?!) while simultaneously insisting that it was never meant to “be a representation of the average female body.” 

Topshop can take comfort: Its mannequin faux pas wasn't as grave as that of La Perla last year. The luxury lingerie brand removed a mannequin with protruding ribs after it alarmed customers in a New York store. 

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Berry's post, alongside a photo she uploaded as well.

Screenshot Facebook/Laura Berry

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