The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

Aug. 30 2016 2:13 PM

Study Shows People Divide Chores By Gender Norms, Even For Gay Couples

If an actual glass ceiling breaks in a couple’s home, which partner sweeps up the shards? According to a new study from Indiana University, most Americans would give that duty to the woman. Study participants who read sample marriage scenarios assigned more chores in general—especially traditionally “feminine” chores like cleaning, cooking, and childcare—to women, even in scenarios that described straight couples where the woman earned more money than the man. Nearly 75 percent of participants thought women in straight couples should be the ones to buy groceries, cook, do laundry, and clean the house; nearly 90 percent thought their male partners should do the auto work and outdoor tasks.

Aug. 29 2016 6:07 PM

The New York Times Reassures Parents That Their Sons’ Penises Are Probably Totally Fine

As Boys Get Fatter, Parents Worry One Body Part Is Too Small.” It’s hard to say whether this New York Times article title violates Facebook’s algorithmic crackdown on “headlines that withhold information required to understand what the content of the article is.” On the one hand, the headline doesn’t explicitly say what the “one body part” is. On the other hand, anyone with even a passing familiarity with common euphemisms can guess what the body part is: the ear.

Just kidding, it’s the penis. “Questions about penis size have become more common over the past decade, as my colleagues and I have all seen more overweight children coming in for physical exams,” writes pediatrician Perri Klass, who offers no statistical evidence to back up her observation. (To be fair, it’s probably not easy to secure funding for longitudinal studies about parents’ penis anxieties.) “I see dissatisfaction with the phallus very regularly,” Dr. Aseem Shukla, a man who has a way with words, tells Klass.

Aug. 29 2016 3:43 PM

A Rape Accusation at Rikers Island’s Women’s Prison, Among the Worst in the Nation for Sexual Abuse


A corrections officer at New York’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex was indicted Friday of raping a female inmate in November 2015.



Any sex between a guard and an incarcerated person—who cannot legally consent—is rape. The woman the New York Daily News has identified as the victim, Jacqueline Healy, has said that the guard, a 9-year veteran of Rikers named Jose Cosme, forced her into a storage closet out of view of the security cameras. There, she says, he raped her with a blank look on his face, “like he wasn’t there.” Healy told the Daily Newsthat she mailed the shirt she was wearing at the time of the attack to relatives, hoping to preserve the evidence.


Aug. 29 2016 3:26 PM

Anthony Weiner’s Downfall Is a Farce. But It’s Also a Tragedy.

Now that Huma Abedin, soignée aide to Hillary Clinton, is leaving Anthony Weiner following his latest sexting scandal, there is no longer a fig leaf of public justification for prying into his sad compulsions. It is time to give him the privacy he can’t seem to decide if he actually wants.

I’ve felt bad for Weiner since his sexual exhibitionism was first exposed to the world five years ago. Unlike, say, Eliot Spitzer, Weiner broke no laws and betrayed no one but his wife.* There wasn’t even an allegation of hypocrisy, since as a politician Weiner was no puritan. The justification for the scandal lay partly in the fact that he was reckless enough to risk a scandal, which always seemed rather recursive. It never made sense to me that Weiner had to step down while the socially conservative David Vitter, who was linked to a prostitute and rumored to have a diaper fetish, stayed in the Senate. Weiner’s greatest sin wasn’t that he had online sex, but that he was caught red-handed looking ridiculous.


It’s not that Weiner was an otherwise admirable politician brought down by a weird sexual peccadillo. He was an ineffective grandstander with a reputation as a bad boss who was brought down by a weird sexual peccadillo. At Business Insider, Josh Barro aptly described him as the Ted Cruz of the left, a man who annoyed his congressional colleagues with big gestures on issues such as single-payer health care, riling up his base while acting as an impediment to useful legislation. One reason Weiner had to resign from Congress in the wake of his sexting scandal is that he’d alienated too many of his fellow lawmakers, leaving them unprepared to stand by him through the media tempest.

Even jerks, however, don’t deserve the sort of gleeful public shaming visited on Weiner. It was enough to almost—almost—make me root for him when he was running for New York City mayor, simply as a victory for second chances. And then, in the midst of that race, he lost his chance at redemption with yet another sexting scandal. It was excruciating to watch even before the documentary Weiner gave us an intimate look at a man slowly realizing that he’s condemned to be a punch line for the rest of his public life.

It shouldn’t surprise any of us that Weiner, a man with a bottomless need for affirmation, was unable to give up virtual sex in the aftermath of his first epic humiliation, before his attempt at a comeback was fully underway. Think of your worst habit, your most shameful vice. Imagine trying to quit it immediately after losing your job, at a time when your marriage is uncertain and your professional future bleak. Nor should it surprise us that, with his most cherished ambitions thwarted, he’s still trading naughty pictures on the internet. Shame rarely makes people better than they were.

There appears to be some sort of half-conscious masochism at work here: The woman at the center of Weiner’s most recent sexting scandal is reportedly a Donald Trump supporter, and Weiner had to have suspected that she would sell him out. Maybe on some level he missed the public attention, no matter how negative. Maybe he just has an impulse for self-destruction. Either way, the media is all too eager to help.

One slim reed of public justification for this renewed bout of interest in Weiner’s virtual sex life is that his young son was in one of the pictures. Apparently the boy climbed into his bed late at night while he was messaging with the Trump supporter; Weiner sent her a photo in which his erection shows through his underwear while the boy lies next to him. “Daddy sexts while taking care of tot,” announced the cover of the New York Post, which published the picture with the boy’s face pixelated. Online, Weiner is being accused of child abuse. “Man needs help, shouldn't be around kids,” tweeted Luke Russert.

I certainly don’t want to defend what Weiner did: Having your child walk in on you during sex is no crime, but Weiner’s decision to take a picture juxtaposing the boy’s unknowing innocence with his own arousal is disturbing. Still, if this picture is so lewd that it justifies separating a parent and child, perhaps the Post shouldn’t have put it on the cover. As long as the boy was oblivious to what his father was doing, he was unharmed. The picture can only damage him because it was made public, and the only reason it was made public was to put a moralistic gloss on another round of jeering at Weiner.

I don’t begrudge anyone his or her interest in goofy Weiner and his glamorous wife; once you’ve consented to a documentary that’s largely about your marriage, you can’t blame people for wanting to follow new developments. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that this story is a tragedy as well as a farce. We’re watching a lonely man undone by his inability to resist the furtive gratifications he finds on the internet, even as people on the internet laugh and laugh.

Correction, Aug. 29, 2016: This post originally misspelled Eliot Spitzer’s first name.

Aug. 29 2016 2:19 PM

The 2016 VMAs Were Great for Pants and Pregnancy

The red carpet at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards was different from those of all the other awards shows in the land. First of all, it was white, making all the stars look like they were strutting into the living room of their grandma’s condo in Naples. It was also trodden upon by an unprecedented number of women in pants.

Aug. 29 2016 1:43 PM

French Towns Continue Harassing Muslim Women Despite Court Ruling Against Burkini Bans

Muslim women sporting burkinis on French beaches faced harassment from law enforcement this weekend, despite a Friday ruling in which the country’s highest court forcefully defended their right to the swimwear. The court called burkini bans—which bar from the beach anyone in the full-body suit favored by some observant Muslim women—“a serious and clearly illegal blow to fundamental freedoms of movement, freedom of conscience, and personal liberty.” But so far, local authorities in Nice have vowed to “continue to fine” anyone caught wearing one, according to the Agence French-Presse.

Aug. 26 2016 5:23 PM

Eco-Friendly Branding Must Be Super Manly to Attract Manly Men, Study Says

Men are more likely to buy eco-friendly products and donate to environmental charities if the branding strokes their fragile masculine egos, according to new research in the Journal of Consumer Research. A series of seven studies from researchers at universities in the U.S. and China show that people link “greenness” to femininity, making men less likely to engage in behaviors that might support the health of the planet they too must inhabit.

Researchers found that consumers who take sustainability into account when making purchases view themselves as more feminine than those who don’t; outsiders perceive these consumers as more feminine, too. “Building on prior findings that men tend to be more concerned than women with gender identity maintenance, we argue that this green-feminine stereotype may motivate men to avoid green behaviors in order to preserve a macho image,” the authors write.


In one study at a BMW dealership in China, researchers surveyed shoppers about a well-known eco-friendly car with a name that explicitly nodded to sustainability. When they changed the car’s name to “Protection” but kept all other descriptors the same, more men expressed interest in the car. Another study found that men were more likely to donate to a charity called “Fun for Wilderness Rangers,” featuring a logo of a howling wolf, than to a charity called “Friends of Nature” branded with a green tree.

This won’t surprise anyone familiar with the concept of “Prius Repellant” and the insufferable masochists who retrofit their diesel-burning trucks to use gratuitous amounts of fuel, emitting streams of sooty exhaust out of smokestacks. This is called “rolling coal,” and it’s supposed to be some kind of macho political statement against the pussification of America. “To get a single stack on my truck—that’s my way of giving [liberals] the finger,” a smokestack seller told Slate in 2014. “You want clean air and a tiny carbon footprint? Well, screw you.”

The new findings also align with the marketing strategies of companies that make grenade-shaped bath bombs and black-label sunscreen that boasts “TRIPLE DEFENSE” against UV rays. Sandwich bread, throat lozenges, basic hygiene: These are things men associate with women, and they will not buy related products unless the packaging somehow reassures them that they can still be men after making the purchase. Advertisers have long painted certain kinds of diet sodas and smartphones as products for girly princess wimps in an effort to sell men other kinds of diet sodas and smartphones, which are meant for manly destroyer beasts. A successful sustainability campaign might have to have a tire-tread print or tactical grip to get wolf-loving—NOT TREE-LOVING—men on board.

Aug. 26 2016 4:36 PM

Appeals Court Issues Scathing Ruling Against Michigan Sex Offender Penalties

Like so many states, Michigan is addicted to punishing sex offenders—not just once, but over and over again, through a series of measures designed to shame, stigmatize, and ostracize even those offenders who have been fully rehabilitated. On Thursday, the application of these laws to a large group of offenders was invalidated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in a vitally important ruling that suggests the judiciary has finally begun to view draconian sex offender laws as the unconstitutional monstrosities they obviously are.

Over the last decade, Michigan has amended its sex offender registry law to ensure that sex offenders are continually penalized for years after they complete their sentences. Offenders are required to inform law enforcement in person when they wish to move, change jobs, enroll or unenroll as a student, change their name, register a new email address or “internet identifier,” travel for longer than a week, or buy or sell a car. They are also barred from living, working, or “loitering” in a “school safety zone.” (These “zones” sprawl across most cities, driving sex offenders to the fringes of society.) Their names, addresses, photographs, and biometric data are provided to the public in an easily searchable database. Some purportedly “serious” offenders must update law enforcement (again in person) with the most minute updates of their life every three months.


Aug. 26 2016 3:27 PM

Nate Parker Supporters Use His Rape Accuser’s Mental Health History to Defend Him

Four people who knew Nate Parker in college have released a lengthy statement in support of the director, who’s come under fire in recent weeks for rape charges levied against him 17 years ago. A jury acquitted Parker, then a Penn State student, of all charges, but his accuser maintained that she was drunk and drifting in and out of consciousness while Parker and his friend (and co-writer of Parker’s much-anticipated film Birth of a Nation) Jean Celestin had sex with her. (Celestin and Parker both say the sex was consensual; Matthew Dessem has a detailed account of her accusations and testimony here.) In a statement to the Root, four Penn State alumni who witnessed the 2001 trial say the media has “cherry-picked the most salacious elements” of Parker’s case to convict him in the court of public opinion.

“We are both dismayed and disappointed at the gross and blatant misinformation campaign regarding the events that took place during that time period,” the statement reads. “We believed some 17 years ago that Jean Celestin and Nate Parker were innocent of rape and we believe that now. This belief was supported by the evidence that eventually fully cleared both Mr. Celestin and Mr. Parker. Evidence that many media outlets have chosen to ignore, overlook or mischaracterize today.”


In a 10-point list, the statement denies that Parker stalked and harassed the alleged victim between his arrest and trial, as she said he did. It also claims the police threatened and coerced testimony from an eyewitness for the prosecution; denies that the jury’s acquittal had anything to do with testimony that Parker and the alleged victim had had prior consensual sex; and accuses the media of focusing on one recorded phone call when, in fact, there were several.

The statement’s authors—LaKeisha Wolf, Assata Richards, Lurie Daniel Favors, and Brian Favors—say Parker and Celestin’s trial was “another example of the blatant racism and violent hostility faced by black students on Penn State’s campus” at the time. They connect the rape allegations against Parker to a long history of white people demonizing black men as sexual predators and imprisoning them for made-up sexual offenses.

That’s one of the most troubling parts of Parker’s case: We know that black men are disproportionately arrested, convicted, and incarcerated, often on trumped-up charges or because of racist policing practices. We also know that rapists have gotten away with their crimes for centuries, while survivors of sexual assault are mistrusted, blamed, and personally vilified when they speak out about violence done to them.

But it’s hard to empathize with Parker when he’s hardly afforded his accuser the same consideration. In multiple interviews, the director has framed his trial as a “very painful moment” in his life, a personal setback that he overcame to learn valuable lessons that led him to his current success. He’s compared internet furor over the rape allegations to other “obstacles” in his life, like his father’s death and growing up in poverty. He made the bizarre decision to bring his 6-year-old daughter to an interview with Variety about the case, an alarmingly cynical move meant to make him a more sympathetic figure, no doubt. His recent Facebook statement on the resurfaced allegations suggests that while “the encounter was unambiguously consensual,” it was wrong because it was somehow immoral and unbecoming of “a man of faith.”

Whatever positive effect the statement in the Root might have on Parker’s reputation, it is outshone by one glaring affront: the authors’ employment of the alleged victim’s mental health history in Parker’s defense. His accuser killed herself in 2012 after attempting suicide multiple times in the months after her 1999 police report. “Misinformation suggests that a spiral into depression was triggered by the alleged incident in 1999,” Parker’s four friends write. “However, court records and testimony by medical professionals revealed a history of chronic depression that dated back to childhood and the use of antidepressant medication that preceded this event.”

No one can know what compels a person to suicide. There is no one final truth that court documents, medical history, or health records could reveal. In their efforts to clear Parker’s name, the people who wrote this statement have taken a deceased woman’s personal story and twisted it for his benefit. Using an accuser’s mental health records to boost the reputation of the man she called her rapist is a callous move that aligns with generations of strategic victim-blaming. If Parker deserves fair treatment and the benefit of the doubt, his accuser, who’s no longer here to defend herself or clarify the record, deserves as least that much.

Aug. 26 2016 1:36 PM

Robot Babies Meant to Prevent Teen Pregnancy May Actually Promote It

At my high school in Tallahassee, Florida, every student was required to take a class called Life Management, which was largely about not getting pregnant (or not getting someone pregnant) before marriage. As far as these courses go in the South, Life Management wasn’t really that bad: Yes, the teacher told us she wished she could “sprinkle fairy dust” on us to keep us abstinent throughout our teens—but she also taught us how to use condoms, for which I give her immense credit. Still, one fundamental purpose of the course was to scare us into medium-term celibacy. And to that end, the focal point was a 24-hour simulation of infant caretaking utilizing so-called Baby Think It Over dolls. This exercise involved each student “nursing” a robot baby by twisting a key in its back when it cried at random intervals.

By this point in my life, I was fairly confident that I would never engage in the acts necessary to commit accidental insemination. But I was not exactly forthcoming with this information, as the South at this time was not the most welcoming environment for young gay teenagers who were already pretty strange. So I completed the robo-baby exercise uncomplainingly—and quickly grew convinced that this utterly fatuous task would have exactly zero impact on straight, hormonal teenagers’ desire to engage in potentially procreative intercourse.