For the past decade, Slate has had a specific place for its coverage of women’s issues. What started as a blog, XX Factor, turned into a standalone website, DoubleX, and then eventually came back to Slate proper as the DoubleX section. Now we’re changing all that—saying goodbye to DoubleX, distributing its coverage across the magazine, and launching an exciting new lifestyle section, Human Interest (more on that here). But we didn’t want to make this change without marking the essential contribution DoubleX has made to Slate, and to the broader conversation around gender, over the years. To that end, Slate editor in chief Julia Turner recently sat down with the founding editors of DoubleX—Emily Bazelon, now a writer for the New York Times Magazine; Meghan O’Rourke, author, most recently, of the poetry collection Sun in Days; and Hanna Rosin, co-host of NPR’s Invisibilia—to talk about the scary early days, how they managed to come up with a name no one likes, whether “ladyblogs” have broadened or stifled the conversation, and what’s changed since they first got together and said, Let’s try this, and let’s try it together. Below is an edited excerpt of that chat. Listen to the entire thing using the player below.
Julia Turner: It’s so fun to have you three in a virtual studio together. We’ve gathered for an Irish wake of sorts. We have just announced here at Slate that we are closing DoubleX the section, which began as a Slate blog, XX Factor, during Hillary Clinton’s first campaign for the presidency, then launched as a standalone site before taking its place on Slate proper. It has fostered some of the best work Slate has ever published and some of the sharpest voices over the past decade. Among them, Amanda Hess, Christina Cauterucci, and Ruth Graham.
In a moment, when matters of gender are vital to our coverage of news, politics, culture, and technology and when there’s a hunger for family and lifestyle coverage for and by readers of all genders, we’ve decided to pull up stakes on an idea of the editorial section that carves out womanhood as a particular focus. We’ll continue to cover matters pertaining to gender in our new section and across the magazine, and we’ll feature parenting and lifestyle issues in a new section called Human Interest intended for readers of any gender. The DoubleX podcast, which Hanna still hosts, will continue as an audio outpost of smart and lively conversation among women that you three helped cultivate nearly a decade ago.
I’m enlisting you today to help give DoubleX the loving send-off it deserves and also to convene a classic DoubleX-style conversation about where women stand today. It’s been an eventful couple of years and months and even weeks on that front, but let’s start with the history. Meghan, tell us a little bit about the origins of DoubleX?
Meghan O’Rourke: I’m so interested, Hanna and Emily, to see if we all remember this in the same way, but in anticipation of our conversation, I’ve been nostalgically over my hot chocolate thinking about those original days, and my memory of it is that we started XX Factor, the blog, and the idea germinated for it during one of our Slate retreats. It was the lead-up to the 2008 election, and as I remember, Emily, we were talking about how so much of the political coverage at Slate and the world was written by men, and here we have this strong female primary candidate, Hillary Clinton, and it seemed odd to us that the coverage was being written almost exclusively by men. We started talking about creating a space where women would write about the election.
In my recollection, I think one thing I said at the time is: I would love to write about politics, but I’m not a policy nerd or a politics nerd either, and I don’t feel I’m as informed as some people who are career political writers, but I have so many thoughts and feelings about what’s happening in the election right now. Hillary crying, the backlash to that, all of those things that were … I don’t know if that had already taken place, but were in the air. To me, the space of the XX Factor was really exciting because I think I felt comfortable writing. It was like a way of dipping my toe into the water.
What I remember, and I’m curious if you remember this, is that from the very beginning, it was not designed as a space for women to read. It was designed as a space for everyone—men included—to read, but where the voices were primarily women’s, with a focus on issues that might be of particular concern to women but really were of concern to everybody. That was what was really exciting about it in those early, early days to me.
Emily Bazelon: Yeah, I do remember it similarly, and I also remember feeling like it was a collective enterprise. And I think that it had this feeling of thinking out loud and of processing all of these things that had never really come up in a presidential election before, because Hillary Clinton was the candidate. I remember being hungry for conversation among women, and, Meghan, I remember worrying a little bit about how since we were all responding to each other constantly, I wasn’t even sure how readable how it would be. Now, we’re so used to that from social media, but this was really pre-Twitter.
O’Rourke: Right. It was very threaded. That was to me the really exciting thing about it—that it was a place, as you’re saying, of conversation, collaboration, and being able to talk in a different mode or register, which was one of thinking out loud and combatively sometimes thinking out loud, but thinking out loud.
Hanna Rosin: I definitely remember we didn’t know how to write. It’s not that we didn’t know what to write or what we thought about things, but we didn’t know what tone to strike. There was like a hesitant, “Am I allowed to mention the children? Am I allowed to write from a personal perspective?” Because Slate has an established tone, we’re like, “Well, are we supposed to be like Our Bodies, Ourselves here?” We weren’t sure. “Are we supposed to address each other by name?” Am I supposed to say, “Well, Dahlia, I disagree because blah, blah, blah, blah.” Are we supposed to be very skeptical, or is it supposed to have a sisterhood feel? It was very hesitant at first.
O’Rourke: But it kind of quickly found, I think, a freewheeling energy. I remember the delight of just getting into it and being able to think alongside all of you and what a pleasure and surprise that was to me, because I had been writing for a long time, and I thought of myself as a very comfortable writer. Someone who really had no problems putting my opinions out there, but there was something different about this, and I wonder if that’s true for you.
I think I felt emboldened to take some kinds of risks that I wouldn’t have taken otherwise to be more uncertain—and Slate especially in that day and age, it was the contrarian certainty—to be more uncertain in a way that was productive, it felt like to me at the time, and I wonder if you felt that.
Rosin: I totally get that feeling you’re describing, and the safety was in the collective. I have it a little bit now because I’m working in radio, so you work collectively on things. It’s much more of a collaboration, and the way blogs were done then, like if you think of Andrew Sullivan’s blog, it would be him trying things out. Blogs were for trying things out in conversation with an audience, and I think we did a similar thing, but we were trying things out on each other. It was just a little safer to do it that way rather than to throw it out into the world and get the bites back. We did it in our space. Now, of course, people were reading. People were eavesdropping on this conversation, but it didn’t actually feel that way when you tried out an idea. I felt like I was trying it out with you guys.
Turner: Well, one other thing it allowed for was this real range of views. I think just as we saw in this past election, there were a range of perspectives on Hillary, and you guys were able to surface both the excitement of having a serious female candidate and the disappointment that that serious female candidate was the complicated wife of a complicated former president. It allowed the section to not have a party line of any kind, which I think is maybe more of a problem on today’s internet than on the internet of 2008, which was a little bit more of an exploratory place. Even for the internet of that age, I feel like the range of views batted around was part of what made it so exciting to read.
Bazelon: Were we also making it safe for each other to focus on gender and women’s issues without feeling like we were hurting [our careers]? Right?
O’Rourke: Yeah. Totally.
Bazelon: I remember myself feeling uncertain about how much I could … What percentage of my writing output should be about those issues before I risk ghettoizing myself. I think the fact that we were all holding hands and doing it together made it easier, and obviously we were doing it at a time where this was happening elsewhere on the internet. Jezebel was up and running in particular, and there were places like Feministing that were either already there or on the way. The feminist blogosphere was becoming a player in the world, and we were trying to be a part of that, but also do something distinct.
Rosin: Although I have to say I was never totally comfortable with it, and the reason I knew that is because when the three of us would sit down and do interviews with other people about, “Why do you want to start a ladyblog? What is this for? What does this mean?” I felt like I could never exactly articulate or answer that question well.
O’Rourke: Yeah. For me, there was a real distinction between XX Factor and the launch of DoubleX. I never had that hesitation about XX Factor. I felt like it was very clear to me why it existed. It was because there was this paucity of women writing about politics. It also allowed us, as you’re saying, Emily, to focus our pieces in a slightly different way or to pitch pieces that we might not have … It also was fun to write in the blog form. It would let us play with tone and voice, that’s part of that safety I’m talking about. Then when we made this shift to DoubleX, I think it raised a different set of questions, which started to get into the questions about: If we have a whole magazine that’s around women’s issues, but we’re writing in some places about things that we would expect everyone to want to read about, why is it a separate entity? That raised questions for me in a way that XX Factor being hosted in Slate didn’t. And, you know, some of those answers were external to us. They were Slate wanted to branch out and this was this going enterprise and Jezebel and Feministing and all these places were doing really well.
It was on the one hand, from a business perspective, a natural step and almost a natural step editorially but maybe not quite. I think I shared your hesitations and questions about: How do we make DoubleX work as an entity separate from Slate?
Bazelon: Then, the three of us edited that separate site, which was still connected to Slate and a lot of the content.
Rosin: Wait. Can we just say how weird it was that the three of us chose to do it?
O’Rourke: I think that’s the best part.
Turner: Wait. Wait. I want to ask you about this. How did it come to be that you guys were a trio of consensus-based co-editors? It does feel almost like a cliché of, “OK, and then the three women are going to collaborate more.” They’re going to do away with all hierarchy and structure, and then …
Bazelon: It was a feminist utopia. We moved to a cabin in the woods.
O’Rourke: Our bodies, ourselves. We did do some waxing of one another.
Bazelon: We had babies together, too. Hanna had a baby, actually. That was true, but I don’t think either of us really helped with that.
Rosin: No, but it wasn’t a feminist utopia, because they essentially took one salary and split it into three. We were just being idiots.
O’Rourke: What? As I recall, the idea for DoubleX the magazine also came about at a Slate retreat, and Jacob Weisberg kind of posed it to us, maybe.
Bazelon: Yeah, it was Jacob’s idea.
O’Rourke: It was Jacob’s idea, and I had transitioned from editing the Slate culture section to writing. I was pretty interested in mostly writing. I know I didn’t want to do a full-time editing job. I think Jacob was like, “Would you want to do it with Emily and Hanna?” I was like, “Actually, that sounds amazing,” because in a way, I don’t know, I was more interested in the conversation than in having to run something on my own at that point.
Turner: I mean, that was part of what made the voice of it so distinct in that standalone iteration again, was that it really centered this sophisticated conversation among smart, interesting brains figuring it all out together. Seeing what you guys made of the notion of a women’s magazine was, again, completely thrilling as a reader and a project.
O’Rourke: I’m having flashbacks to 2008 or 2009, when I kept being like, “It’s not a women’s magazine.”
O’Rourke: I remember I said to Jacob—and then this was a big part of the conversation we all had, and I found myself returning to it over and over—as it started to take shape and some of the business pressures are to make it look more and more like a conventional women’s magazine. To me, what I had said was, “I don’t want to run a women’s magazine.
I want to help run a magazine that’s by women for everybody.” I think we spent a long time trying to come up with a tagline that would include men. Do you guys remember this?
Rosin: I totally remember that.
Bazelon: The naming and logo problems were … man, that was really hard. DoubleX as our name was a sort of act of desperation. We thought we were choosing something incredibly straightforward, which of course in retrospect seems like it left out a lot of people who decided to transition to becoming female and don’t have two X chromosomes. Oops.
Turner: Yeah, I mean I think it would be hard to imagine, I mean first of all, just the visibility of trans issues make the name no longer seem as inclusive as it once did.
O’Rourke: I don’t think anyone ever liked the name.
Rosin: No, we tried to come up with a new name.
O’Rourke: I think it was a compromise in which it was always the choice that some people were OK with.
Rosin: I wish I could remember what our alternate names were. I was trying to remember that the other day.
Rosin: Moxie? Jeez, that’s a terrible name.
O’Rourke: I wanted to name it after the female racehorse who didn’t let any male in front of her.
Bazelon: Oh right, I remember that. Maybe that would be great.
O’Rourke: I loved her. Someday my magazine will exist.
Bazelon: That’s great, Meghan. You go start the Ruffian. I’ll read the Ruffian.
Turner: It’s true that, yes, DoubleX has had some aesthetic qualms around it, but was a little bit difficult from a business perspective to sell because the two X’s made some people think it was a porn site, and then now turns out—
O’Rourke: We didn’t even think about that until—
Turner: And now it turns out to potentially also be transphobic.
Turner: The other thing that I think is striking is that if we were to be launching a standalone site by women in 2018, we wouldn’t have it done by three white women. I’m curious how you guys thought about race at the time.
O’Rourke: We thought about it in terms of writers. We definitely were, I think as I recall, thinking about that in terms of looking for writers of different backgrounds, color, et cetera, ethnicity.
Rosin: I think you’re right. We never would have done it the same way. I think that about the podcast, too. It’s just not an interesting way to do something now when we’re much more aware of it.
Bazelon: Also, it limited the range of opinions, and writings, and views, and perspectives in a way that was—the site was poorer for it. I think you’re right that we did try to look for contributors.
O’Rourke: You know, that strikes me as being true even of the blog, because Obama was also a primary candidate, and I don’t think we had a lot of discussion about race on XX Factor.
Turner: Yeah, it was a way of kind of focusing on one of the lenses and not one of the others.
O’Rourke: Not one of the others.
Turner: I mean, I think there’s just a continuing tension here, and we feel this in the change we’re making at Slate now, too, which is when you create a space either to focus on matters pertaining to gender or that particularly facilitates different contributions from women writers, you do amplify those voices and issues. You create the hole that you have to fill with stuff about women, stuff about stuff by women. I’m aware in making this change at Slate that we’ll certainly be losing that pull and pressure to do that work. Then there’s the flip side of what does it mean to have these live in a separate place and be kind of apart. I’m curious to hear you guys talk about that.
Bazelon: I think we all felt a little nervous about the standalone aspect of it. It was exciting. It was fun to have our own project, and we were proud of it, but I think all of us just in this conversation have expressed a kind of philosophical set of hesitations about being off in our own space as women. I don’t think we ever totally reconciled our feelings about that, so it was like we were producing content we were happy about, but the package for it was less important. And I remember feeling basically pretty relieved when we folded the separate site back into Slate.
O’Rourke: It’s interesting that it wasn’t any of our ideas to turn XX Factor into its own site. That was not what we would have come up with necessarily on our own, even though it was so galvanizing and fun and just kind of wonderful to think about having a space to curate.
I think when you use the word package, that was a really crucial one, Emily. I remember one thing we came up against very quickly was we had this vision of a magazine that was by women and for women to read, but also for men. The sort of odd hybrid that didn’t really exist in the world, and we kept thinking about magazines like Esquire and GQ in their heyday as these kind of literary powerhouses that were seen by everybody as excellent magazines.
Yes, they’re tailored toward men, but they’re for everybody in some way.
I think we were trying to do that and we just kept running into advertisers’ befuddlement, as I recall. It was almost impossible to create that space, which was to me as an editor shocking because one of the things that’s so interesting about editing online and certainly online in the early 2000s was how much possibility there was, how much novelty, how much room there was to define things and make spaces. Yet you say you’re doing something run by women, written by women, and it has to look like this. It’s a pink triangle, or it’s pink ribbon. It has to be that, you have to have some column about makeup, you have to have a fashion column, you have to have these things that I think we were resisting and then also trying to figure out how to do really well.
I mean, fashion, I was totally into having something about fashion, but I just remember the kind of, “We have to get the makeup advertising, and we have to get this,” and it was so not what DoubleX was really about. I remember that being a huge problem.
Rosin: I remember it differently, which is that the constraint had more to do with speed and time than it did with advertisers. I personally was actually really excited about the idea of taking a women’s magazine and doing things like fashion differently. I actually loved the idea that you could take any topic that was traditionally covered by women’s magazines and not necessarily decimate it, which was how Jezebel did it, which was cool and interesting, but just do something different with it.
In my memory, it was more like things had to be done quickly. There wasn’t a lot of time. We were all doing other things. We write as women. Not all of the time, but we see the world as women, we write about issues that concern women. We all do that, but the pressure to produce it all the time, kind of a mill of women’s writing, that’s to me when then it becomes almost parodic. Then you’re just like, the filter on every bit of news is like, “What’s the women’s angle? What about this person’s hair? What does this candidate look like? What about the candidate’s wife?” Then you start to move into formula and parody when you have to do it consistently over and over again all the time.
O’Rourke: Yeah, and you get to a really important aspect of your question, Julia, which is that I think to be the best kind of writer and to produce the best kind of writing, we can’t be putting on the same lens all the time. I do think that’s one of the constraints to go back to your word, that something like a specially demarcated women’s section does create. I think you see this with women’s magazines. I mean, one of the big questions people ask all the time is, “Why are women’s magazines not better?” Sometimes they have actually quite a lot of good writing and reporting, but there’s something about that, the relentlessness of the lens—I think that’s right, Hanna—that it’s a bit parodic in the end or certainly constraining.
Bazelon: Is that true of any lens? One of the reasons I ask this—I was at a meeting last year about trying to increase the number of women who win particular kinds of serious book awards. As part of the conversation, one of the women writers who was there said in a really dismissive way that people who come up through the feminist blogosphere are very limited and that it’s just not a way to really excel as a writer. I actually thought that was wrong. I could think of 10 examples of people who are doing excellent work at the top of the field and who’ve really taken this on as a specialty.
O’Rourke: I mean, that’s a really good point because I’m thinking now of Rebecca Traister, who I think is such a fabulous cultural political critic in all ways, and she does have a lens of thinking about women, thinking about feminism. Maybe what I would re-say is: When we put on lenses, we risk that rigidity, we risk narrowing ourselves in that I think it takes a lot, and she’s a wonderful example of someone who there’s so much flexibility and capaciousness in how she reads situations, it’s almost like she’s a reader of the human condition who happens to write about women.
Turner: I want to ask you guys: How do you think the rise of ladyblogging—for lack of a less condescending and crappy term—women’s sites and spaces online have changed the conversation around gender in the last 10 years? Do you think it’s helped broaden it? Do you think it’s stifled it? Do you think it’s deepened it? Do you think it’s made it more central in other conversations? What do you think the overall impact has been?
Rosin: I think I would say both—that it in some ways has absolutely broadened the conversation. Our eyes are on you, we’re watching, nothing will slip through, you can’t get away with things. It’s legitimized big beats and deep reporting about women’s issues. I think ladyblogs get a lot of credit for that. But then, and we may be passing out of this moment, the kind of whoosh of ladyblogs created a sense that there were only certain things you could say. There was a moment where you felt like you couldn’t say something different than what the ladyblogs had deemed that you could say. I think that moment might be past, but there was that moment.
O’Rourke: I wonder, because in some ways it feels like that moment is more with us again. I mean, one of the primary issues women face is unconscious bias. I mean just the way that women are not taken as serious, the way that women’s testimony is dismissed as we’ve seen in the kind of rise of the #MeToo movement, the decades and decades of silencing of women who actually spoke and were silenced. Their testimonies were not taken seriously. I think the really important work that the blogs did was to create a space that demanded to be taken seriously. They did really important work to push back against unconscious bias, both internalized unconscious bias and the unconscious bias coming to us from the world around. [But] when you have a moment or you have sets of voices or you have these kinds of conversations, is there a risk of a kind of consensus settling in and sort of staidness?
O’Rourke: Orthodoxy, yeah. I mean, I remember writing a piece in my column about gender issues about men who didn’t want to watch their wives give birth. I tried to argue that this was OK.
Bazelon: At your peril, I bet.
O’Rourke: Oh my God. Katha Pollitt was so mad at me. But anyways I thought, “Well, let’s really take this question seriously.” Let’s not assume that those guys are evil guys. Let’s think about what’s really at stake here in terms of sexuality and domesticity. I actually think trying to look at questions in that kind of open-endedness is really interesting, and I do think sometimes we lose the ability to do that.
Turner: The internet more broadly has just become a less hospitable place for uncertainty, ambiguity, or let’s try this idea on for size-ism. It’s just a—you really have to gird up if you’re going to approach writing in that mode on the internet these days.
O’Rourke: Can I ask a question? I’m so curious what you all—Julia included—think. Julia, you were talking about where we are that’s different from our name, how that wouldn’t work now, and just the way that we don’t want to in some sense corral women’s issues into a separate place. My question for all of you that I’m really curious about is: Do you think we’re in a substantially different place? Do you think—it’s 10 years later—is it better? Are women writers better positioned? Are we going to see a flood of female editors running magazines? Is this a moment of actual change and difference?
Bazelon: Hanna, this is teed up for you, the author of The End of Men.
O’Rourke: Yes, exactly.
Rosin: Oh my God, I’m really thinking about this. Literally, it was flashing in my head, yes, no, yes, no. I mean, yes, I do think things have changed. I don’t think they’ve utterly revolutionized and transformed, but yes. There are conversations and ways of talking in the public sphere that were very prevalent 10 years ago that would be totally unacceptable today. Monica Lewinsky is one example. There’s a lot of surfacing of unconscious bias that still has to happen, but a kind of open sexism, an open casual sexism, not by sexists, but just kind of in the mainstream. I think that’s less acceptable. That’s one good thing you get by a policing of people.
Bazelon: And men’s level of fear has risen. I think there are things to be said by that. Well, I mean, one thing that I think about a lot: I now have two teenage boys. They are very aware that if a girl were to accuse them, God forbid, of some nonconsensual something, that that would be terrible trouble for them. It’s true about their friends. These high school boys have this awareness of risk and of self-preservation about sex that is totally different from the high school boys of my era. I feel grateful for that.
Rosin: Susan Faludi would say that the rise in power would—there would be a kind of backlash brewing underneath that, underneath that fear.
Bazelon: Yes, and there’s some evidence in support of that. As women rise higher, men use the tools they still have to bring them down. That is something to watch out for, but it is still the case that at least in the world my boys are growing up in, they have a sense of the damage to women, of the potential damage to themselves, which I think is a healthy kind of awareness.
Turner: And do they experience that—I mean, as someone who’s got two boys who are much younger and not yet facing these questions—as some woeful and undue burden?
Bazelon: They’re not budding men’s rights activists, as far as I can tell. They seem to be taking it in stride, and I think that they also feel some sense of justice about it, which … and I don’t mean to create them as ideal in some way. They have plenty of unconscious bias that they’re carrying around, but I just think their set of assumptions about these issues is totally different from the boys I grew up with in high school and in college.
Rosin: But you don’t want them to land at fear. Where you want them to land is almost like theory of mind, understanding. All the apologies say, “Oh, now I understand how I made these women feel.” That was a stock line in a lot of the harassment apologies. And women read that and are incredulous, but there is something in that, it’s like, now I see how the woman are experiencing that. It leads to some kind of connection.
Bazelon: Right, but also some shared perception of risk. Sex can be risky. Women have had to absorb all of that for the most part. To have young men also thinking about risk, that seems like a fine division of labor to me.
Turner: Just to go back to your question, Meghan, in the last 10 years it feels to me like we’re both higher and lower than we were. The extremes have gone in both directions. I feel like there’s an increasing awareness of the subjective experience of women around sex and power. There’s a set of things that just won’t fly anymore that shouldn’t have flown, and it’s great that they don’t. I hope that remains true, but I woke up the morning after the election just obliterated.
Turner: Feeling like, Oh, I didn’t get it. The notion that she could have lost to that guy, and yes she’s a flawed person, and yes we can go back and fight about her, blah, blah, blah, Robby Mook stipulated et cetera, whatever. Some piece of that is just—there’s a lot of people who don’t want to give that amount of clout to a woman. Having my eyes open to that also feels in some ways like the devil responds to the Weinstein stuff, which is on the one hand, how amazing that the subjective experience of women is now being more likely to be listened to, more likely to gain results, more likely to set new goals and to try to create change. On the other hand, the sheer pervasiveness of abject behavior and treatment across industry after industry, sector after sector, only some of which are able to be pursued through the lens of journalism. There’s only certain kinds of industries where people are famous enough or the harm pervasive enough that reporting is the tool that can right it. It feels like my sense of what the lows are is also bigger than it ever was. I worry a little bit that those two wobbling extremes will just collapse back into a mushy middle rather than tending toward progress.
Rosin: Why wouldn’t you experience this moment as a kind of excavation of that? You just experience this as an exposure of what is as opposed to an excavation?
Turner: No, I think it’s for the good. I think it’s to the good. I mean, yes, we knew it was there, but I feel like I don’t think I knew the extent to … I find myself surprised by just the sheer scale of it. Maybe that’s naïve, and I certainly think it’s good. I just worry about Hanna’s question about potential for backlash, about whether we can really take this moment and achieve some sort of catharsis through it and find ourselves in a better place for women or whether the backlash will be more pernicious.
O’Rourke: I think for the foreseeable future, we are going to be swinging between these pendulums of advance and opening and retraction and retreat. Obama to Trump, the 1970s to the backlash of the 1980s, as Susan Faludi chronicles in her book, Backlash. It does seem to me that there are these kinds of openings that happen that do shift the culture in a meaningful way, and we’re in one of them now. Will there be some kind of backlash retreat? Yeah.
One way of thinking about it, too, is that to me, and I wonder whether you all think this, I keep thinking the #MeToo moment wouldn’t have happened without Trump. In some way, it’s this upwelling of the national—or part of the national—consciousness that is so shocked that this serial sexual harasser and otherwise problematic human being is the president of the United States. Maybe that’s what led Jodi Kantor to double down on that story. Maybe that’s what led women to say, “I’m going to tell my story with Weinstein for the first time.” And I think there’s just this really complicated vortex of energies pulling back and forth.
Turner: OK, a couple last questions for you guys. What headline would you hope to read by or about womankind in the next year?
Rosin: The obvious one is: A women runs for president, and it runs differently. That’s the obvious one.
O’Rourke: Not Ivanka Trump.
Bazelon: That would be different. I don’t think that’s what Hanna had in mind.
Rosin: Another obvious one … I had the same thought about the high money places, the big money places. The places that have so far stayed out of reach of the sexual harassment thing.
O’Rourke: I guess in some way the headline I want to see is, “Women Get to Do Their Work.” That’s the headline—
Bazelon: That’s a great one, Meghan.
O’Rourke: That’s what’s really at stake here, is that we’re not able to do the things we want and are capable of doing still.
Bazelon: Do you all want a woman to challenge Trump for the presidency? I mean, I think the fantasy is a Wonder Woman fantasy of that person winning, but I’ve talked to a lot of people lately, male and female, who have said that the best person to challenge Trump is not a woman. I have been wrestling with that question.
Turner: I’ve totally been wrestling with that question, too. I was going to ask you guys that as well.
Rosin: You mean, because it will set up a culture war, and if the woman loses …
Turner: I’m afraid, and I don’t want Trump to be president anymore. I’m tempted to conclude from the last year that a man should run, because a man would be more likely to win. I don’t want that to be my conclusion, and I don’t like that that is an instinct I have, but it is absolutely an instinct I have.
Rosin: Why do you think that, Julia? A lot of the energy, I mean, I think entirely this sexual harassment, the way it’s exploded has to do with Trump. It’s the one gift that history will remember Trump giving this country. I wonder if that’s just an energy to tap into.
O’Rourke: It depends on the woman, right? I share the once bitten, twice shy feeling.
Turner: Twice bitten, thrice shy.
O’Rourke: Whatever. Yeah, 400 times bitten.
Turner: On the other hand, men have been running for so long that you can’t draw any conclusions, so that’s the problem in and of itself.
O’Rourke: I mean, and you know I think it’s a little bit like being a gender traitor, not in The Handmaid’s Tale sense, to say, “Let’s go for the safe option of having a man.” It really depends on the candidate. I mean, I feel with this election that so much is at stake. In another election I might, between two roughly equal candidates, maybe the man is a little bit stronger as a candidate, I might have gone for the woman. Maybe in this election in that situation I would feel like the best possible candidate has to be our candidate because he cannot win again.
Rosin: There aren’t a million options.
Bazelon: That’s right, that’s right.
Rosin: Yeah, I mean there are a couple of great candidates. There are a couple.
Bazelon: I do think it’s important to remember that one of the reasons, or maybe the reason, Hillary Clinton had trouble parrying Trump on issues of sexual abuse and misconduct was her history with Bill Clinton. There’s no other person for whom Steve Bannon could have trotted out these female accusers who in fact had not gotten their due and really changed that dynamic. I guess that’s the once bitten, twice shy part that we should be careful not to pay too much attention to. You would want a woman to be an effective responder.
Rosin: You know the thing you said about why XX Factor was useful, you sort of hesitated, there were certain things you didn’t want to express, and then there’s kind of a legitimized space for you to express them, parts of yourself that you hadn’t really realized were there and wanted to speak? I feel like the sexual harassment stuff has done that for a lot of women. A lot of women who felt hesitant about certain things, let’s say hesitant about running for office, hesitant about sharing a story, hesitant about doing a lot of things. This showed up in the public sphere because there’s a way in which women weren’t sure how to be when they were running for office, how subjective to be, how woman-ish to be. I feel like that eases now. Maybe you get a woman of a different generation who’s just more at ease running, for whom it’s just more natural to be out there speaking like a woman, speaking from a subjective place, whatever it is. I think that helps a lot.
Turner: This has been a wonderful DoubleX-y, XX Factor-y conversation. Thank you guys all so much for joining me to reminisce about XX Factor and DoubleX and for all of the conversations that you’ve fostered on Slate over time.