The XX Factor
What Women Really Think

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.

Aug. 26 2016 12:41 PM

Things We Hope Will Happen When Justin Trudeau Meets William, Kate, and the Royal Babies

Prince William and Duchess Kate are set to visit Canada in September with their very photogenic children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, and boy are we excited. Not because of the impressive itinerary Kensington Palace has released, chock full of wilderness exploring and First Nations celebrating, but because Canada is where a magical man called Justin Trudeau lives. You know, the prime minister? Handsome fellow, always in the news for his wedding-crashing, feminism, and shirtless cave escapades? When this hunky head honcho meets a couple of royal babies who the internet is also completely gaga for, why, just imagine the wonders that will ensue! It’s going to be madness! This alone could be good enough to make up for all that Brexit unpleasantness.

Trudeau originally extended an invitation to the young royals to visit Canada for the nation’s 150th birthday in 2017, so it’s a little strange that they’re not waiting until next year. Maybe they wanted to get in on Trudeau’s meme streak while it’s still hot. The man has been on fire this summer; can’t blame the ever-watchful Windsors for wanting some of that sweet Trudeau PR juju!


The royals won’t arrive on this side of the Atlantic for about a month, which gives us time to think long and hard about all the internet-breaking, eternal-glory-achieving things we hope will happen when Justin Trudeau meets George and Charlotte and their lofty ‘rents. The pressure is really on for Trudeau to do something great and rake in those likes. Think what a challenge it must be for him to continually think up new ways to outdo himself. When Jimmy Fallon wants to go viral, he has a whole writing staff at his disposal; Trudeau must do the same work using only his wits and rugged good looks. So feel free to direct the prime minister’s attention toward this wish list. (I assume his DMs are open.) Without further ado:

  • Trudeau takes the royal family on a spelunking expedition, and this time when he pops out of a cave to surprise some unsuspecting tourists … he’ll have the future king of England in his arms! Bam! But none of that balancing a baby on one hand stuff, Justin—maybe the spare but not the heir.
  • Trudeau coaches Charlotte and George in a tots hockey game. Wayne Gretzky happens to be there too.*
  • Celine Dion pops by to teach the kids Canada’s national anthem. (Both versions.)
  • To educate them more about Canada’s rich cultural heritage, Trudeau accompanies George and Charlotte to an epic concert featuring national heroes Drake and Justin Bieber. George rocks a toddler-size OVO T-shirt, Charlotte wears a Purpose onesie, and the event is catered by Tim Hortons.
  • Trudeau wears a bathrobe for the duration of the visit, in a bid to one-up the time Prince George met President Obama in a tiny bathrobe.
  • In an act of deference to his visitors (and to the fact that Queen Elizabeth is still technically Canada’s head of state), Trudeau hosts the whole family for a Great British Bake-Off marathon. Then he challenges William and Kate to make either a poutine-flavored cake, or cake-flavored poutine.
  • Trudeau takes the whole family on a trip to Niagara Falls (Canada side, of course), complete with a boat-tour photo opp with everyone in souvenir ponchos.* Kate’s hair remains completely perfect throughout despite the extremely wet conditions.
  • This would be simple but effective: Trudeau organizes a workout session for the menfolk, aka him, Wills, and little George: situps, rope climbing, the works. The gratuitousness of two adult men showing off (ideally shirtless) will be negated by how adorable it is to see a toddler try to do situps. Perhaps Kate and Charlotte have tea with Margaret Atwood while this is happening.
  • Maybe even more diabolical: Trudeau obtains a bunch of (Canadian-breed) puppies and surprises George and Charlotte with them.
  • Trudeau gifts Charlotte a Canadian Mountie action figure and George an Anne of Green Gables doll, citing the same principles that led him to name a gender-equal cabinet: “Because it’s 2015.” Even though it is now 2016.
  • Trudeau locates Grace van Cutsem, the little girl last seen hilariously frowning and covering her ears on the balcony at William and Kate’s 2011 wedding, and forces her to stand in the background of every photo frowning and covering her ears.
  • Trudeau stages a fashion show/walk off and insists on wearing the famous sheer dress that supposedly made William fall in love with Kate. He follows this with a white lace gown with a very long train that he asks his heretofore unknown younger sibling Jippa to carry for him.
  • While leading the family on a tour of the Yukon, Trudeau happens upon a literal sword in a literal stone, which he pulls out to prove that he was the one true king of England all along. Also, his shirt somehow comes off while this is happening.
  • The trip is actually an ambush: Trudeau declares independence from the British Commonwealth once and for all, imprisons William and Kate indefinitely, and raises George and Charlotte as his own children, like how Ned Stark raised Theon Greyjoy in Game of Thrones. This, of course, would be very un-Canadian of him.

Correction, Aug. 26, 2016: This piece originally misspelled Wayne Gretzky's last name. The piece also misstated that the group could go on a Maid of the Mist tour. The Maid of the Mist no longer operates from the Canadian side of the falls.

Aug. 26 2016 11:53 AM

Burkini Ban Violates Basic Human Freedoms, Rules France’s Highest Court

A French burkini ban that has enraged observers around the world was suspended by the country’s highest court on Friday in a decisive ruling that painted the laws as blatant affronts to basic human rights and liberties. The court’s action only applies to the burkini ban in Villeneuve-Loubet, a seaside town just west of Nice, but it will set a precedent that could topple bans in up to 30 other French municipalities.

Villeneuve-Loubet’s prohibition of the full-body bathing suits worn primarily by observant Muslim women “dealt a serious and clearly illegal blow to fundamental freedoms of movement, freedom of conscience, and personal liberty,” the three judges of the State Council (Conseil d'Etat) wrote. Though the court will make its final ruling on the legality of the bans at a later date, this unequivocal decision makes it seem very unlikely that the judges could find reason to defend burkini bans in other towns.


Objections to laws that target Muslim women via their swimwear have intensified in recent days as news outlets printed photos of police officers in Nice ordering a woman in a head covering to remove her shirt. French news agency AFP reported that a Muslim woman wearing a full-body swimsuit in Cannes was ticketed for not wearing “an outfit respecting good morals and secularism.” A witness said she saw the woman’s daughter crying as bystanders clapped for the police and shouted, “Go home.”

Political leaders in towns banning burkinis have offered a slew of thin excuses for the laws. Ange-Pierre Vivoni, a left-wing mayor in Corsica said his town prohibited the swimwear to prevent skirmishes between Muslim families and the anti-Muslim residents who’ve been harassing them. He’s already said he won’t lift his town’s ban, despite the court’s decision. Villeneuve-Loubet’s right-wing mayor, Lionnel Luca, has said swimming in long sleeves and pants is unhygienic, but a tribunal in Nice said the Villeneuve-Loubet ban was “necessary, appropriate, and proportionate” to keep the peace in the town. Friday’s court ruling said the judges found no evidence to support the idea that any sort of bathing suit could be a threat to public order.

Whatever justification mayors provide for their regulation of women’s bodies, autonomy, and religious practice, they have the universal effect of stoking violence against Muslims and giving cover to those who use the language of women’s empowerment to cloak their radical Islamophobia. In a world that’s watching the unprecedented rise of a openly anti-Muslim leaders, the court’s explicit rejection of any pretext for making Muslim women remove their clothing is a much-needed beacon of rational justice.

Aug. 25 2016 5:51 PM

Researchers Find That Female CEOs and Senators Are Disproportionately Blond

It’s rare for a woman to make it to the very top of a large corporation these days, and it’s rare for an adult human to have blond hair. But blond women are far more likely to end up a chief executive or U.S. senator than women with any other color hair, according to recent research from two business-school professors at the University of British Columbia.

Just 2 percent of the world’s population and 5 percent of white people in the U.S. have blond hair, but 35 percent of female U.S. senators and 48 percent of female CEOs at S&P 500 companies are blond. Female university presidents are more likely to be blond, too.

Aug. 25 2016 4:55 PM

Pro-Life Activists Sue Chicago for the Right to Use Disturbing Tactics Outside Abortion Clinics

Anti-abortion activists in Chicago filed a federal lawsuit this week arguing that a law designed to protect abortion-clinic patients and employees from harassment is a violation of activists’ right to free speech. The city’s 2009 law delineates an 8-foot “bubble zone” for visitors once they are within 50 feet of a clinic entrance; an activist may not advance closer than that without the visitor’s permission. The lawsuit calls the strips of protected space “vast anti-speech zones.”

The Thomas More Society, a conservative law firm based in Chicago, filed the suit on behalf of four anti-abortion “sidewalk counselors” and two activist groups. The defendants named in the suit include the city of Chicago and mayor Rahm Emanuel, who are accused of “partnering with abortion vendors to violate the rights of those who wish to reach out to women seeking abortions.” The legality of ordinances like Chicago’s is murky at the moment. The Supreme Court upheld a similar Colorado law in 2000, which included an 8-foot bubble zone within 100 feet of health-care facility entrances. But in 2014, the Court unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law that prevented protestors from coming within 35 feet of clinics; at the time, justice Antonin Scalia suggested revisiting the Colorado law.

Aug. 25 2016 3:19 PM

The Anti-Gun Dildo Campaign Has Finally Begun at the University of Texas

Dildo-wielding college students are facing off against gun-loving gun lovers at the University of Texas’ flagship Austin campus, where a statewide campus carry law went into effect on August 1. In protest of the new law, which forces all public colleges and universities in Texas to allow people with concealed carry permits to carry firearms in classrooms and dorms, UT Austin students and alumni are openly carrying sex toys around campus under the mantle of a campaign called Cocks Not Glocks.

Recent UT alumna Jessica Jin planted the seeds for the protest last year, soon after Texas governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law. She made a Facebook event a year in advance for a campaign that launched this Wednesday, the first day of classes. Dildos and guns are equally effective at protecting innocents from mass shooters, Jin wrote, but silicone phalluses are “much safer for recreational play.”

Aug. 25 2016 1:35 PM

U. Chicago Sent Incoming Freshmen a Letter Decrying Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings

The dean of undergraduate students at the University of Chicago has sent a very odd letter to the class of 2020—one that seems more designed to strike a blow in the culture wars than to edify incoming freshmen. It starts with a bunch of smug back-patting about how “earning a place in our community of scholars is no small achievement”—so far, so normal for a letter from a selective private school. Then it devotes a paragraph to “our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression”: