The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

April 27 2017 5:27 PM

How Did a “Men’s Rights” Supporter End Up in New Hampshire’s Women-Friendly Legislature?

In the popular Reddit community “The Red Pill”—a subreddit devoted to pickup artistry and “men’s rights”—browsers can find such helpful threads as "There is no Friendzone!,” and “The need to return to a more measured, Machiavellian frame of mind,” all part of the group’s mission of fomenting “discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men.” And who to thank for this gleaming beacon of misogyny? According to the Daily Beast, a 31-year-old owner of a small local computer-repair chain named Robert Fisher, who, when he’s not fixing computers or using them to fulminate against feminism, also happens to a New Hampshire state legislator.

Reporter Bonnie Bacarisse builds a meticulous case linking Fisher to the Red Pill, collecting various screen names and online identities, along with other blogs, message board entries, social media pages, and more. She digs up evidence that Fisher has ranted about feminism and dating, bragged about maintaining a “soft harem” of women who were mostly unaware of each other, and lambasted women who think “bringing a pair of boobs grants her equal footing with somebody bringing intelligence or a personality.” He said he keeps a video camera in his bedroom to prevent false accusations of rape, a subject of consistent paranoia. “Statistically I’m overdue for a false rape allegation,” he wrote in 2013. He is no longer the Red Pill's lead moderator, but has popped in to praise its success as recently as last year. Bacarisse’s reporting is pretty good for a member of the sex Fisher has accused of “sub-par intelligence” and “lack of curiosity.”

April 27 2017 5:04 PM

Stanford Becomes the Most Prominent School Yet to Adopt a Sexual Assault Reporting App

On Wednesday, Stanford University became the most prominent college yet to announce that it will use a reporting system called Callisto to combat sexual assault on campus.

Callisto, which launched in 2015, quickly set itself apart from the host of other apps and companies cropping up to cater to colleges on this issue. As Tyler Kingkade wrote at the Huffington Post, that might have a lot to do with the extensive feedback the platform’s designers, at the nonprofit Sexual Health Innovations, solicited from survivors of campus sexual assault to figure out which features would actually be salutary. (The organization’s executive director Jessica Ladd is a survivor herself, and has said that Callisto grew out of her own negative experience reporting an assault when she was in college.) Stanford, which will launch a three-year pilot in May, will become Callisto’s eighth user, to be followed by an as-yet-undisclosed ninth this summer.


Pomona College and the University of San Francisco were the first to try the platform, followed by two schools in Iowa—Coe College and Central College—and three in New York state: St. John’s University, Canisius College, and Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

For survivors, reporting a sexual assault raises fraught questions. Coming forward can set in motion an overwhelming disciplinary process, perhaps aggravating a trauma that hasn’t had time to heal. Many students wait to report—an average of 11 months, according to Callisto—but this can undermine their accounts in the eyes of administrators. Some students stay silent because of uncertainty about how to label what happened to them; others hang back out of fear that they won’t be believed.

Callisto provides students with three options: They can report the assault to their school’s Title IX coordinator from the privacy of a dorm room, typing up the details and submitting them electronically. They can save the report on Callisto’s encrypted database, recording details while they’re fresh and time-stamping the account for possible submission later on. Or, they can select a third option: to reveal the saved report to administrators only if it “matches” another entry in the database—or, in other words, only if another person has reported, or later reports, the same perpetrator. This feature is designed to single out serial assailants while providing survivors a sense of safety in numbers.

“If you think about asking someone to report someone they have classes or mutual friends with, it feels scary,” Ashley Schwedt, Callisto’s director of campus relationships, told me. A “match” can give survivors the confidence that “they will be believed, so they don’t worry as much about the social repercussions.” For some, it can corroborate an instinct they may not have fully trusted, or alleviate self-doubt that was holding them back.

An estimated one-in-five women are sexually assaulted in college, and the number is even higher for trans and gender non-conforming students. Roughly one-in-20 men are also believed to be victims of assault in college. But these figures are inexact, because only a fraction of survivors come forward. Callisto attempts to address this problem by turning the saved, encrypted reports in its database into anonymous data-points, balancing survivors’ desire for privacy with colleges’ efforts to understand the extent of sexual violence on their campuses.

Stanford’s announcement caps an academic year of rapid growth at Callisto, where Schwedt says the team has more than doubled—from four people to nine—since last summer. Founder Ladd has ambitions of expanding beyond university campuses. In April, the Upright Citizens Brigade school, and incubator for improv and sketch comedy in New York and Los Angeles, announced that it would adopt the platform for its students. Schwedt says partnerships with military branches and academies are also on the organization’s wish list. In the meantime, Callisto’s code is open source and available for others to copy. As Ladd recently told CNN, “I want people to take this idea and run with it.”

April 27 2017 1:43 PM

Massachusetts Governor Proposes Bill Protecting Teen Sexters From Felony Charges

The Massachusetts state legislature will consider a bill that protects teen sexters from excessive prosecution while imposing harsher punishments on people who share nude photos with others without the subject’s consent. Filed by Governor Charlie Baker on Tuesday, the bill would prevent prosecutors from charging teen sexters as child pornographers, recommending that they be sent to an educational program instead of prison or juvenile detention.

April 26 2017 6:07 PM

The Gender Pay Gap In Medicine Is Abominable. Here’s Where It’s Worst.

A newly published survey of more than 36,000 U.S. physicians has pinpointed the metropolitan area where doctors experience the widest gender pay gap: Charlotte, North Carolina. There, the average female physician gets paid only two-thirds as much as the average male physician, making for an annual gap of about $125,000.

April 26 2017 4:56 PM

Why It Matters That Karen Pence Pursued Medical Assistance When Trying to Get Pregnant

Karen Pence used an obscure Catholic-friendly alternative to IVF when trying to get pregnant.

April 26 2017 3:20 PM

Trump Considers Revising Child-Care Plan to Help More People and Deregulate Daycare

Just days after the Center for American Progress calculated that Donald Trump’s proposed child-care plan would barely benefit low- and middle-income families, the administration is changing its approach. The Trump administration is reportedly revising its plan from a tax deduction to a tax credit in response to criticism from child-care advocates who noted that low-income families, who need assistance the most, won’t see the benefit of a deduction from their $0 in tax liability.

April 26 2017 10:21 AM

How a Fitbit Helped Solve a Murder Case

Fitbits and activity trackers are handy gadgets for monitoring your health, as you’ve probably heard. But if that doesn’t sell you on them, maybe this will: They can also help you avenge your wrongful death from beyond the grave.

April 25 2017 5:51 PM

The Trump Administration May Defend Birth-Control Coverage Against Religious Employers

With the Trump administration, it can be hard to tell whether decisions and orders—especially ones that appear positive from a progressive vantage—are backed by a sinister plan, evidence of a misstep, or simply a happy accident. How, for example, should voters interpret Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to keep fighting for the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate? Religious schools and nonprofits have been fighting in court to get out of notifying the government and insurance companies of their religious objections to providing contraception coverage for employees. They argue even the act of filling out such a form violates their religious freedom and “triggers” provision of contraceptives, even though someone else would be paying for those contraceptives. On Monday, the Justice Department signaled that it will continue the Obama administration’s legal battle against these groups.

April 25 2017 2:25 PM

Trump’s Annual Child-Care Tax Break Would Give Average American Families Less Than $20


According to Donald Trump, Donald Trump loves and respects women more than anybody in the world. That’s why he and daughter Ivanka have put forth a plan for affordable child care, an essential building block in the foundation of gender equality at home and in the workplace.



But Trump’s child-care proposal, which Ivanka is currently trying to sell to Congress, would function more as a handout to wealthy families than as necessary support for families already struggling to afford child-care services. Parents would get the subsidy as a bracket-based tax deduction, meaning people with higher incomes would get more money back. When I wrote about the proposal in February, I surmised that the minimum-wage workers who pour Ivanka’s coffee and do her dry-cleaning would get less money toward their child-care expenses than Ivanka and her husband, who are multi-millionaires, would receive.


April 25 2017 12:20 PM

The Latest Ivanka Trump Brand Scandal Reveals the Lie at the Heart of Her “Luxury” Image

Until this week, fashion brand Adrienne Vittadini’s biggest claim to fame might have been being name-dropped in the Lil’ Kim verse on the song “Get Money”: “Now you wanna buy me diamonds and Armani suits/ Adrienne Vittadini and Chanel Nine boots.” Adrienne Vittadini—the clothing brand, which has been around since 1979, shares a name with its founding designer—wasn’t quite the household name that Armani and Chanel were, but a mention among the likes of them was nothing to complain about. Now, a new report has thrust the brand into the spotlight, and instead of the luxe bedfellows Lil’ Kim associated it with, it’s in connection with a more controversial entity: Ivanka Trump and her fashion lines.