Category Archives: smart chicks

#outwiththeoldinwiththenew #theyearofwordsbywomen #ohhey2015

Welp. I’m starting this year out in bed with a wicked hangover because I drank too much champagne in Brooklyn last night. Thank god the L train wasn’t a total disaster and thank god for my amazing friends that I danced and sang and counted down and took photo booth photos with. There is a vegan cheese and tofu hangover cure in my future (shout out to seamless.)

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Speaking of the future: lets talk about some goals for this year. I have one main goal, resolution, whatever, that I wanted to share with you guys. This year, I want to read more. And not just finish more books or up my word count. I want to make reading a priority in my life. I want to make space for it, remember how to delve into pages and get lost. I want to think about how words can fit in my day, take up some of the time I spend scrolling through feeds or watching TV.

Before you get all defensive, let me just say that I think that feeds and TV are just fine. I love TV, and sometimes TV is what I need to unwind. TV is also great when you are doing other things like writing a New Year’s blog post, or cooking, or other activities that inhibit your ability to hold a book and turn pages.

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But I want to take a step back and think about when it is possible for me to choose pages. I’ve started making it a habit to get up in time to read for 30 mins in the morning, before I do anything else. Before I get on the computer for work or check my email or the weather, I make my hot water with lemon and I get back into bed and read. Usually a half hour,  no more no less. It really has changed the whole vibe of my days. Starting with words on a page is much slower than screens, and it’s internal and it’s self centered and it’s quiet. It’s actually be quite transformative.

So not only am I going to make as much space for books as I can spare, but 2015 is going to be the year I read books by women. Only books by women. I want to explore beyond the big names, although of course that’s where I’m starting (Cheryl Strayed and Adrienne Rich, and let me tell you they are making my heart shine and my soul sing.) But I recently had this feeling in my gut, this feeling that was absolutely sick and tired of the way creative women are talked to and treated. It started when I read Heroines and it hasn’t abated. And I began searching for some of those ladies to sink my teeth into. I want to hear the stories that women live with, that they held inside of them and couldn’t live without sharing. I want to support the creativity of people whose creativity was not valued, was not allowed to flourish, was pathologized and stunted. I want to focus on the voices that were shushed and quieted. So far, it feels right. Great, actually.

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If you wanna make some exclamations at this point about reverse sexism or misandy, let me stop you right there. Take that somewhere else. I do not hate men, or male writers, nor do I think that female authors are better than their male counterparts. I grew up, like we all did, reading the wonderful works of the great men that make up the literary canon. Even though I had a pretty liberal education both in high school and college, it wasn’t until I got to grad school that my reading list became truly diverse. The work of women writer’s is still considered cursory, emotional, niche. It’s outside the canon. And I’m over that. I’m gonna make my own canon, and attempt to balance the scales of my life as a reader so far.

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As for reverse sexism, that doesn’t exist. Because like reverse racism, it’s impossible. Sexism and racism are not just about the personal feelings of people who judge, dislike, or outright hate another group of people. They are about systems of oppression that are enacted by entire groups in power, by the state, and by ideas and emotions that we are taught as part of our culture and world view. The largeness of these things combined cannot be overstated, and the people with the power cannot be truly discriminated against in the way the marginalized groups are. Now if we think intersectionally then we must think critically about the ways in which we all have some privilege, and the ways we don’t, and how that plays out in our lives. But what I really want to say is that my desire to read the words of women is not an attack on men and if you feel that way I urge you to consider the fact that men have never had to question if they can write, if they should write. Almost all the great works that are held up in the light are by men. The ancient, the classic and the contemporary, all by dudes. But what about little girls who have a story inside them they are dying to tell? Where can they find examples of other women who wrote and were great? How can they feel as though they have the right? How do they learn to trust their voices?

This is a fight that is, still, in 20 freakin’ 15, happening. I know for sure that to be a good writer I must be a good reader, and I know that I have neglected that. I want to make myself better, as a writer and as a human, and I want to support the voices of other women with a story to tell. I think reading books is a great way to learn about the world and to evoke empathy. And radical empathy, self love and compassion, are what I believe truly will save us all and remake the world into a safe space of social justice and community.

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Cheers to that, and cheers to your all. Be safe, stay fly, and spread love.

Happy to be alive, 20-1-5 ❤

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Let’s Take a Break from Apocolytpic Emo Breakdowns and Talk Natural Body Care

Let’s talk about hair cuts and natural body care products cause the rest of the world is exhausting and it’s just too hot to keep raging!

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This is an update on my natural body care journey (for a full breakdown on ‘why the hell am I doing this?’, see here and here.) First of all, I cut my hair. My fears, it turns out, were unwarranted. I love it. I don’t feel less pretty, I feel light and free and cute. Since I provided photos before, here is my new ‘do, shout out to Marika in Delaware who is the best and always does what I want but better than I imagined:

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Also, I have been washing with honey and it’s been great. Honey is moisturizing for the hair, slightly acidic to balance the PH of your scalp, and it’s also anti microbial and anti fungal. The recipe I used is 3 parts water and 1 part raw honey (raw is important, but it’s not wildly expensive and you don’t use a lot of this mixture per wash so it will last.) I warmed the mixture over low heat to make sure the honey was fully dissolved. I let it cool down, and then put it all in an empty hair product bottle I’d cleaned out (reduce reuse recycle!), and I’m keeping it in the fridge to avoid spoiling. Not that I have hair to really focus on, but this mixture should be massaged into the scalp rather used to saturate your hair. It smells great, my hair is soft, and I don’t have to wash everyday. Additionally, I now have way less stuff in my bathroom. Less plastic bottles, less products, less clutter. It feels great to clear the medicine cabinet and shower caddy, and to know exactly what is coming into contact with my body. Plus I haven’t had to sacrifice any quality in terms of how clean I feel! My skin and hair aren’t oily, I’m not breaking out, and actually my showers are quicker. So far, oil cleansing and honey shampoo are a success.

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But it hasn’t all been hunky dory. My natural oral care experiments have been…. less than wonderful.

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I did not like the toothpaste recipe I tried, which consisted of coconut oil, baking soda, vegetable glycerin and peppermint essential oil. The texture is kind of grainy, and you cannot honestly describe it as ‘minty’. It didn’t leave my mouth feeling fresh, however I suspect I will have to try and re-calibrate my taste going forward so that ‘fresh’ isn’t automatically ‘minty.’ In any case, I haven’t given up on toothpaste, but I will be trying some different recipes and maybe different essential oils for flavor. Lemon or orange oil would be nice, and also help with whitening. For now I’ve gotten a fluoride-free toothpaste from Tom’s, and I’m psyched to have a minty mouth again!

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Additionally I’ve been oil pulling and… well… I’m not crazy about it. Full disclosure: the time ranges people suggest vary, and I’ve been shooting for 10 whole minutes, but honestly I’ve never hit a full ten (I get close, like 8 and 1/2 or 9 ish and bail.) I will keep practicing and try to keep my eyes off the clock, but that’s a long time to keep swishing. Even so, I am going to continue with this, because I think it’s a mindful practice and I’m kind of into that. But again, it doesn’t leave my mouth feeling super clean (no mint…), although I do not mind the over all taste. It does, however, help with morning breath and whitening, and like I said you have to kind of slow down and focus. So this gets a reserved thumbs up. You can read up on it here, here, here, and here.

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That’s all the news for now. I have to say that it’s been fun trying all these new things, as it is all moving me in what I feel is a positive direction where I have less extraneous and potentially poisonous stuff, not to mention more time. Having less hair has been amazing in this heat, and actually I think it’s the best thing I’ve done for my yoga practice since… going to yoga. I’m less distracted, I still feel sassy, and the lack of maintenance is super empowering. Next up to try is homemade deodorant, and I am hoping that this works as well as folks claim because I am a very active human and it is really very hot in NYC right now and I don’t mind sweating but I sure don’t wanna stink. Have any of you guys tried any natural body care stuff, with or without success? Please share any stories, insights or resources in the comments!

he (and i) really wanna know! <3
he (and i) really wanna know! ❤

Maya Angelou: A Thank You Letter

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Maya Angelou died today. She lived an incredibly full life, which you should read about here. She was an accomplished writer, a Tony nominated actress, a singer and dancer, a mother, and much much more. She influenced me greatly in my formative education. Something about her voice resonated with me, miles away from and decades after she grew up in the segregated South. That’s the power of poetry, of literature and memoir. The power to speak across the barriers of time and space.

caged bird                         maya-angelou-barack-obama

There has been and will continue to be much written about Ms Angelou. I don’t claim to be an expert, I’m just a fan. All I can say is that hearing voices such as hers, when you are young an eager to explore, is truly the best way to learn about the world. We must make space, on pages and in our hearts, for ever more diverse voices. Women, folks of color, people from different countries and different neighborhoods. People with different experiences than our own. This is how we learn compassion. It’s how we broaden our horizons. It’s how we learn the lessons of history, and how we figure out what we want the shape of our futures to become.

maya         angelou_free

I studied this poem in high school, I think my junior or senior year, and it has stuck with me ever since. The confidence, the pride, the unapologetic joy in her own body. It’s such a powerful message, and one that I think many young girls could seriously benefit from today. I present it now, with the utmost gratitude. For the beautiful collections of words she created, and for putting pen to paper and using her voice despite an overwhelming consensus that her’s wasn’t a voice worth hearing. I’m inspired by her words, and by her life. She remains a national treasure, a favorite poet, a phenomenal woman.

 

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me. 

Bill O’Reilly on Beyonce: He’s an idiot

I usually try to ignore the comments of folks who troll for a living. Especially if those folks are also narcissistic ego-maniacal assholes on Fox.

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Be forewarned, his own sense of self importance will induce vomiting.  Any how, he is taking a shot at Beyonce and I can’t just stand by because his whole viewpoint is one that silences female sexuality and locates the source of a problem he claims to be concerned about in the wrong place.

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Bill takes particular issue with the song Partition, which describes a consensual sex romp in a limo. With her husband. It’s hot. But Bill thinks that this grown woman expressing her sexual self in the context of a monogamous relationship is part of the problem young black women face. He even got into an argument with Russel Simmons about it (seriously?) He thinks she is to blame for the teen pregnancy epidemic, and he’s at it again claiming that she doesn’t care about young black women.

She knows, this woman knows that young girls getting pregnant in the African-American community now, it’s about 70% out of wedlock. She knows, and doesn’t seem to care… that’s my problem with her.

Hm, I wonder if Bill has considered actually asking her about how she feels about this issue… nah, making assumptions is better for rating. FYI, teen pregnancy rates are actually on the decline, although racial disparity does still exist. He also mentions that young people with out parents are particularly at risk when exposed to the content of her music and videos.

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Let me start with the obvious: artists do not have a responsibility to raise anyone’s kids. Absent parents cause their kids to be vulnerable to outside influences, not pop stars. She made an album that was true to herself and where she is in her life: she is a WOMAN, over 30, married and a mother. Many have pointed out that she is pop cultures biggest advertisement for marriage, and that is certainly true. But the fact that she is married and still criticized for being too sexual is extremely telling. Because what it really means it that no woman, anywhere, at any time in her life, is allowed to be in control of and vocal about her sexuality. The virgin/whore dichotomy is in full effect. Bill claims there is nothing empowering happening here, but he is both ignorant and not listening. First of all, how the fuck would he know what is empowering to young women? He’s so personally involved in the lives of young black girls that he can speak for them?

doubt it.
doubt it.

But his focus on this one song/video, the most sexual on the album arguably, are very telling. He is reducing her work as an artist to this one aspect of her expression, when in fact there are other less sexualized elements that are also deeply empowering for her fans. Like featuring a prominent Nigerian/author feminist on her track (***Flawless). Or writing songs that laud female empowerment outright(Grown Woman/Who Run the World).

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All of this nonsense is meant to distract us from one important fact: the teen pregnancy epidemic actually has nothing to do with Beyonce. It’s about access, to education and health care. And young black girls don’t have a lot of access to either. In fact, if Bill and his friends had their way, no young women would. Beyonce and her hubby just announced a summer tour, and $1 from every ticket sold is going to his foundation to help underprivileged kids access higher education. What is Bill doing for the youth? Particularly the young black females he is claiming to care so much about?

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Yonce hasn’t responded to Bill. And why would she? She is aware of the reach and impact that she has. She is aware that as a black woman this kind of criticism is going to be leveled at her. She went ahead and made her record anyway, on her own terms and with her own take no prisoners release plan. She explored her personal, intimate relationships, knowing that women will always be criticized when their sexuality is deemed as threatening. Bill’s comments show a fundamental denial to acknowledge how culture is actually working, and at it’s heart it’s misogynist and mean. Which isn’t surprising. I just can’t stand by and let people hate on Bey! This album is, still, everything.

 

Mad Men: Seas 7 Premiere, Time Zones *SPOILERS DUH*

Friends, readers, loves of my life, let’s talk about Mad Men.

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I decided to take the plunge and re-cap all the juicy gender issues this show serves up as a way to ease the pain caused by the show’s impending end. I started binge watching this show with Claire Bear back on 96th street, and it continues to be the best show on TV (in my humble opinion). I love that watching it is more like the experience of reading a novel than a short story, and I love that the details make the show feel historic while the writing makes it accessible and contemporary. I think it perfectly reflects how much progress we have made, and how little, often in the same exact scene.

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Alright, enough love professions, let’s talk about this premiere. I want to talk about Joan, which won’t shock you if you’ve ever engaged me in a conversation about Mad Men before. I think Christina Hendricks is one of the most beautiful women in the world, and her character and her beauty stand out in a show full of beautiful and complex women. This episode was fun because seeing her spread her account wings is truly thrilling for me. Back in the day, Joan was a secretary waiting for a husband. She first advises Peggy that the right moves will land her in the country, and also to stop dressing like a little girl if she wants to be taken seriously. Oh season 1, you were so retro! She eventually found a doctor to marry,  but he was a bum, and she started to realize that the things she’d thought she wanted weren’t making her happy.

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So she kicked him out, confident she could raise her son on her own. Of course that is Roger’s kid and not Greg’s, but as far as she is concerned Roger is unreliable and she is a single parent. She knows she will need to focus on work to keep her family afloat. One of my favorite moments on the show is when her and Peggy chat after Don announces his engagement. Both women have traveled a pretty windy road to get to where they are, but being focused on their careers allows them a unique bond. They understand that their accomplishments are overshadowed by the men they work for, even when those men are recklessly getting engaged to their secretaries. Second marriage cliches not withstanding, they get each other.

And Joan get’s herself a partnership, in an episode that truly showcases this actress’s talents. But she still isn’t satisfied, and last season we watch her land her first account: Avon. She was ruthless, and frankly insubordinate, but she got it. This episode Ken sends her on a meeting with the head of marketing at a shoe account. Right away their meeting is awkward, due in large part to his not subtle condescension. He doesn’t bother to hide the fact that he’s disappointed, but makes it a point to imply that this is silly because any man would be an idiot to be disappointed to be meeting with her. He also references her perceived availability by commenting that ‘It must have been hard for you to keep this seat empty.’ He basically dismisses her, leaving after only a few moments without allowing her to engage with him.

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Not one to give up, Joan heads to a university to get some help from a professor in what I assume is business. She has a weird moment in the professor’s office, because she is always very guarded about perceived advances (especially with business associates, especially since Jaguar.) Which is totally understandable since she spent most of her life being coached to believe that her desirability was her most valuable trait. Moments like this stem from her own insecurities, indicating that she still believes that other people don’t take her seriously. And who can blame her, when schmucks like the shoe guy are so dismissive! But she rebounds, impresses the professor, and buys the company more time with the shoe account.

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And the reason we should all be rooting for Joanie? Because her struggle is still happening today, every day, for women everywhere. I can site multiple instances of being dismissed or not taken seriously by someone while at work, usually by customers. In fact, I’ve had customers specifically ask if a man is available (while working at a store that sells technology, FYI.) And women still aren’t getting paid as much as men, and the Senate just blocked passage of The Fair Pay Act, because some folks don’t think equal pay is a real issue. Balancing a family and a career continues to be an issue and a discussion mostly centered around women, because women continue to complete the majority of household and child care tasks. Joan breaks my heart a little because she had to face extreme and total disappointment before realizing how great she was at her job. She truly came from a time and place where college and/or work were just stepping stones to your real life. I admire her so because instead of staying unhappy and clinging to the vision of the life she’d wanted, she kicked out her no-good husband and kept right on moving. She accepted that work made her happy, and she changed courses. Her ascension, for me, is even more riveting than Peggy’s because Peggy was always a little weird and I don’t think she was ever truly hoping to marry quick. Joan is strong but vulnerable, she is hard working and even ruthless, she is gorgeous and ethereal and I just can’t wait to watch her wiggle her way into accounts.

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“Alternative” Visions of Beauty.

I recently read a very thoughtful and insightful personal essay written by an ‘alternative model’ named Carrie Jo. I put that in quotes because  I hate the term alternative modeling. It is almost always applied to women with visible tattoos and other body modifications. I think that women with tattoos are beautiful, period end of sentence. Their beauty isn’t about being different or exotic, or at least it doesn’t have to be.  What the fuck does alternative even mean?

adj.  offering or expressing a choice;

different from the usual or conventional: as

a:  existing or functioning outside the established cultural, social, or economic system

Alright, thanks Merriam Webster. So I guess in this case tattooed models are functioning outside of the established fashion system, where designers don’t want tattoos distracting from their designs. Both systems suck. In one, women are clothes hangers and must be shaped as such. And in the other, women’s bodies are the consumable product, existing only to be visually devoured and objectified. The author, Carrie Jo, comments on the well known Suicide Girls alternative modeling company, saying “While [Suicide Girls] still feature many different kinds of women with many different kinds of “looks”, the personalities of each individual model are lost. They are now just objects for masturbatory release, rather than women making a statement.” Her point is that Suicide Girls, nowadays, are practically interchangeable with traditional lingerie and pin-up models. Except they have tattoos. They are not, in reality, pushing the boundaries of what we consider beautiful. And they are often hypersexualized. In fact, I know a lovely lady who is tatted up and models, and indeed most of the photos she shares are very sexualized, bordering on pornographic. There is nothing wrong with that, and she looks super gorgeous. But why should she be limited to that kind of photo, that kind of look? Why should her tattoos restrict her versatility? Why are our visions of what can be beautiful, traditional, pretty and feminine so limited?

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The thing about feeling beautiful, is that in it’s purest form it is a feeling that is for you and not for others. When we talk about street harassment, one of the reasons some people don’t understand why it’s not a compliment is because they can’t fathom a world where women aren’t in constant pursuit of male approval. The assumption is ubiquitous that women make an effort to look good explicitly for men, and that they should be making this effort all the time. That assumption is sexist and heteronormative, which means that when you don’t conform to beauty standards, you are defying the patriarchy. And that makes you dangerous.

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But what about the things that make us feel beautiful that have nothing to do with an outside gaze? And I don’t even mean things like yoga, or being creative or being kind (which are super important, obviously.) I mean actual work you do on your appearance, that makes you feel pretty without necessarily making you more conventionally attractive. I like to paint my nails lots of different colors using vegan nail polish. And I recently died my hair lavender. And I’ve found that even though my hair is the longest it’s been in almost 10 years, I don’t really feel like myself and I cannot wait to cut it short again. I don’t dispute that it looks cute, but a very short ‘do just makes me feel sassy and real.

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Carrie Jo’s article hit me hard not only because I happen to have tattoos (and I totally agree that it’s still a radical claim to your own body and a very visible challenge to patriarchal aesthetics) but because the comments made on her photos are so vile and cruel. And she makes an extremely interesting point towards the end of her piece: “I’m not a ‘model for a magazine on the internet’, nor is this social media site ‘my employer’ putting me on display to be ‘judged.’ These photos are shared to be ENJOYED.” I thought that assertion was super important, because the commenters on her photos and indeed all over the web feel entitled and justified in their cruelty, because in their minds all images of women exist for them and for their consumption. They exist to be judged and if they are not up to par then they deserve to be called out. But what about the idea that images are for enjoyment, meant to be seen but not judged? Why is it that we can’t consume the images of women without dissecting their value against pre determined standards? Why do we tear them apart?

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I have gotten to a point in my life where I accept that certain parts of me will never change to be more conventional, and I do not (often) mourn that fact. I appreciate my body as it is (usually), and I try to express my true self in how I look and dress. I’ll never have flowing, feminine locks or feel comfortable in girly dresses and bows and heels. I used to wish that I was ‘prettier’, that I felt comfortable looking traditionally feminine (think Blaire Waldorf.) But that’s not me, it doesn’t feel authentic to me, and I am done fighting with myself. Self-love is a journey, and so I must strive everyday towards this end, towards being at peace with my physical self. I wish that the images we are bombarded with were more varied, more inclusive in their standards. It shouldn’t be so hard for girls to feel confident and secure. It shouldn’t have to be a life long struggle. I wish we were all more kind to ourselves, and to each other. I wish the media would push themselves to the point where women could be applauded for celebrating not just what is beautiful about them according to cultural standards, but what is beautiful about them according to themselves.

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Oh Westley, if only it were that easy. For now, we need to do our best to fight back against internet trolls, and that battle starts within ourselves. If you are consuming media, and you find yourself being harsh or judgmental when looking at models or actresses, check yourself. It’s not necessary. Don’t say it out loud, try to stop yourself from even thinking it. Because that’s just not a productive use of any of our collective energy. It’s hard though, I’m not going to lie. I caught myself thinking just yesterday that a girl in running gear didn’t have very well defined calves. I mean, what the actual fuck. Who is that thought helping? Not me. Not her. Not all of us who’ve been taught that women’s bodies are objects that exist for the enjoyment of others, that they ought to be dissected, that they are ours to comment on. And the internet is overrun with folks who are emboldened by anonymity,  drunk with it’s power and spewing their gross and ignorant judgments. Let’s overtake the negative with positive. Let’s make the spaces we inhabit online a force for joy and light. It’s not actually complicated: be kind. To yourself, to those you love, to those you just met, to those you will never meet. Recognize the humanity in the faces and images you come across, empathize with their struggle even if you don’t know the details, and appreciate what is beautiful and unique about people without measuring it against some bullshit pre-determined standard. Beauty is so much more than symmetry or a breast-to-waist ratio or small features or large features or lipstick or bare skin or silence. It can’t be completely described, and it certainly can’t be contained, and we are not bound to it any more than we allow ourselves to be.

So be free.

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And wild out.

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Be kind.

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Most importantly, love yourself.

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What the Spice Girls Taught Me About Feminism (How #girlpower leads to #flawless)

I woke up from some pretty vivid dreams last night with a Spice Girls lyric in my head. And so, naturally, I used my precious iPod Nano to plug into some nostalgia on my commute. As always, once those 90’s pop tunes started playing in my ears, I wondered to myself Why the fuck did you ever stop listening to this glorious music?

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You know guys, I know the 90’s were a frivolous time. And it would be easy to dismiss this group as frivolous. But that’s a huge mistake. These ladies were a global phenomenon, and for an elementary age kid like me they were PERFECTION. They were true role models in my formative years, with delicious pop tunes and a huge campy movie and one very simple message/catch phrase: Girl Power! And you know what, it doesn’t take much to plant the seed of an idea in a child’s head. That phrase stuck with me, as did their message of fun and friendship. They may not have been perfect feminist icons (cause really, who is?) but they felt so fresh and free.

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First of all, they had those probably completely contrived personalities, which meant you could definitely relate to one of them. I loved Ginger. She was sassy, sparkly, and loud. Emma was for the cutesy girls, Posh for the fashion obsessed, and then Mel B for the black girls and Mel C for the budding athletes and/or lesbians. Something for everyone! Maybe they weren’t super dynamic, but whatever. We were 8. Their image was campy, over the top, tongue in cheek and timely.  Once you knew which Spice Girl you were going to idolize forever, of course the only logical thing to do was bond with 4 other girls to round out your group of singing, dancing, globe trotting future pop stars.

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what i really really want

Which reminds me. The most important lesson these ladies taught me was about female friendship. Their first hit Wannabe is an assertive but not too aggressive list of demands. You have got to give. If you want my future, forget my past. Now you know how I feel. Say you can handle my love. The message was basically take me on my terms or leave. It was a breezy, silly, slumber party anthem. And the most iconic lyric, the crux of it all: If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends. How revolutionary is that idea!! It sets up a hierarchy in your life, where your friends come first and your lovers second. And sure, maybe that isn’t and shouldn’t be true at all times in your life, but shouldn’t it be true for us all as young-ins? Before shit gets real? After all, your friends are the ones who will accept and love you for who you really are (whichever Spice personality that is), through all the years when you’re confused and stumbling and naive and not-yet-formed. They’re your core, your support, your stage mates. They’re the ones you harmonize with.

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When I was listening to or pretending to be the Spice Girls, I was in a girl only zone. It felt amazing to have something that was just for me and my girlfriends. And sure, they dressed pretty sexy and mostly feminine, but you just didn’t feel like it was for boys. I know there is a lot of exposed midriffs, but damnit this was the 90’s! They  mostly dressed to fit into the very marketable boxes they’d created, and blah blah blah I know that’s phony & feigned & faked but WHO CARES! They made me feel like I should dress to express myself and dance because I wanted to. Boys just didn’t enter into it.

newspicegirlsGIF
seeing them on tour in my 20’s was a life affirming nostalgia fest

I’m not saying the whole world should be this way, or that girls rule and boys drool (although, yea, kind of.) But for young girls, so much of the world seems off limits. I think it’s super important to have spaces that are special for them, where  they feel safe and free. And I think the message that you can be who you are without worrying about boy friends/lovers/whatever is super empowering. You know, you don’t have to make it perfect or complicated for kids. They absorb a lot without us even knowing, and what they hear at a young age sticks and matures along with them. Girl Power, as basic as it is, is enough. Sure it’s not nuanced, but it’s a good place to start!

spicegirlpowerGIF

Oh, and one last thing. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that the Spice Girls opened up some space in the pop universe for girl super groups. Their success, I believe, was a direct pre-curser to Destiny’s Child. Which means that without the Spice Girls, we wouldn’t have Beyonce. And if anyone is pushing some mature and nuanced feminism right now, it is Queen Bey herself. So Viva Girl Power Forever, never give up on the good times with your surfburt, and if you can’t dance you can’t do nothing for me cause friendships never ends and we all woke up like this.

flawlessGIF

Women’s History Month (Belated. I know. I’m sorry.)

March is Women’s History month!!! Horray!!!

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I have been somewhat remiss in my coverage of this super fun month, and for that I am truly sorry.  Also I’m still on vacation (visiting my bestie preggo friend for her spring break shout out to Lake City and the sugar bean.) So here are some other fun things you can read for women’s history month about Gloria Steinem (who just turned 80!), some fun videos, a trans Google Hangout event from Janet Mock and other events from womenshistorymonth.gov, a shout out from Google, and…

drumrollGIF

This super fun cool article I wrote as a guest blogger for the Association of College and Research Libraries blog, in the Women & Gender Studies Section! It’s called Mainstream Feminism: How it Works, Why It Doesn’t (Always.) A big thanks to the folks at ACRL, particularly Tinamarie and Melissa, for asking me to write and getting the post live.  And thanks to all my readers, old and new, for letting me holler at you about gender-y things, sex, love, etc. Enjoy the rest of Women’s History Month, I’ll be back next week to keep up the work of all the fabulous ladies who’ve come before me.

GIRL POWER!
GIRL POWER!
happy birthday!
happy birthday!
use your voice.
use your voice.
wake up. flawless.
wake up. flawless.

 

 

The Alliterative Campaign I Really Want to Like: #BanBossy

Listen, anything that Beyonce does I just want to rave about. Especially if she is using her considerable voice to point her legions of fans towards feminist issues. But I have what I can only describe as very mixed feelings about her collabo with Sherly Sandberg and their latest PSA to #BanBossy:

I mean, when she says “I’m not bossy, I’m the boss”, I get chills and pump my fist. But…

But. I’m not sure this is quite the best way to address this issue. After reading a whole bunch of intelligent pieces on this campaign, I think I’ve got my own thoughts in order on why this isn’t a slam dunk.

missed-dunk

One camp of folks thinks we should encourage girls to be bossy, instead of banning the term. The actual definition of bossy is ‘fond of giving people orders, domineering.’  Not exactly an endearing trait. I don’t think we should encourage anyone to be bossy. Then we will have a whole generation of corporate CEO type assholes, and I don’t see that as a positive step. (This echoes one reason some people weren’t enthused about Lean In, because it encourages women to conform to the patriarchal corporate system instead of making a new system that works better for more people. Valid.)

thatthrillsmeGIF
More of this?

Now, assertive is maybe a better choice of word. We should encourage young women to be assertive. I have no issue with that idea at all. But banning the word bossy doesn’t really help us encourage girls to do anything. Restricting words doesn’t empower girls or teach them anything about self confidence or being true to themselves. Overall, I think it would be more prudent to encourage everyone to think a little harder before using the word (would I be using this word if she were a boy? why is this word appropriate in this situation?) rather than just banning it. Because if a small person is being bossy, we should for sure call them out. But only if it’s a warranted observation and not a gender based insult.

take a second and think
take a second and think

So I don’t think restricting language is the answer, but I’m also not advocating reclamation. What I really would like to see is a campaign that says ‘Be yourself, you are enough.’ Because the truth is, not all women are ‘bosses.’ And you know what, not all boys and men are bosses. Some people are leaders, and some are not, and that’s completely fine. We need to work towards a feminism that will advocate for everyone. I think Lean In is very smart and articulate, but it’s only aimed at a small contingent of women. What about women who want more of a work life balance, and men who want paternity leave? Why not campaign for a federal family leave minimum and a greater variety of work hours/telecommuting options?

not everyone can perform preggo at the vma's, give birth and come back swingin/collaborating w/ their life partners. just sayin
not everyone can perform preggo at the vma’s, give birth and come back swingin/collaborating w/ their life partners. just sayin.

Or if you really wanna stick to this whole leadership track (which totally is a valid track because there is a very real female leadership deficit!) why not campaign for school programs that teach leadership skills for girls, or for schools to teach feminist theory in their curriculum? Why not talk about which books we can give girls with relatable heroines, and how we can get teenagers focused away from Twilight/boys and towards realizing they are worth more than their physical beauty?

More of this.
More of this.
And of this!
And of this!
LESS of this. Ugh.
LESS of this. Ugh.

Why not feature this dope chick in your PSA, and let girls be inspired by this realness:

The women featured in the #BanBossy video are just so great. They are successful. They are confident. And they are lending their voice towards an issue that I’m sure affected them as girls and in their early careers. But why can’t they use their considerable reach and resources to create a campaign with a more concrete goal? I’m a writer, so I understand that words absolutely matter. But banning or reclaiming a hurtful word isn’t going to solve the over arching issue. I can use the terms ‘bitch’ or ‘cunt’ playfully and say I’ve reclaimed them, but that doesn’t take away their power in the wrong hands and it sure as shit doesn’t solve the overall problem of our sexist, misogynist culture. I wish they had a plan that was less hashtag-able and catchy, and more results oriented.

sadsigh

That being said, the campaign has started a conversation, and gotten people talking about this issue. And any feminist agenda item getting lots of air and page time is a win. So is the fact that recognizable faces are showing support of this idea, and to that end I must return to Beyonce. There is no such thing as a perfect feminist, and the debates around her feminism are lively and important. But I really do think that this kind of mega star, a black woman/wife/mother/mogul, being outspoken about her personal feminism, is absolutely epic and a major step forward (away from other’s who deny the label.)

beyoncehairflip

So while I think #BanBoss is catchy and well intended but ultimately kinda weak, I’m still happy to see this campaign and happy to see these ladies working together and happy to see feminism getting a positive shout out. The more we shine a light on the variety of issues our younger sisters face, the more we can help them grow into the strong, capable, unique women they will become.

amen

Here’s to the next generation of leaders, artists, mothers, teachers, students, performers, writers, readers, thinkers, athletes, creators, dreamers, movers and shakers. I hope we continue to support them and push the world to be a safer place for them (and all of us) to thrive.

Girls Can! (feminism + marketing = magic)

The end of the Olympics has brought us the debut of a new Cover Girl Campaign sporting the simple hashtag #girlscan , and right off the bat I’m hooked:

I love Ellen. And I love Pink. And whoever that hockey player is. And especially especially I love Queen Latifah. (U-N-I-T-Y YOU GOTTA LET ‘EM KNOW!)

dumbledoredancingGIF

Oh! And I love that Sofia is speaking Spanish. Effing wonderful. Ok, but I get that not everyone will be amped about this. Corporations using this kind of marketing can feel disingenuous. And maybe it always will be a little bit, because they are still selling mascara. And it’s true that every woman in that video looks pretty flawless. But I still think this is a step up from silent models that function only as an image (an image meant to inspire insecurity and lead to purchases.) At least these women are speaking, and talking about facets of themselves that have nothing to do with beauty (at least not aesthetic perfection for perfection’s sake.) And to be fair, these ladies all are talented and have pretty iconic, off beat style. It’s not like they are all twiggy blondes (not that twiggy blondes are bad I happen to kinda like them but variety is the spice of life and variety in our beauty standards is also vitally important the the mental health and self-esteem of women everywhere.) And feminism going mainstream does have an upside. It means corporations are feeling the tides turning, and they get that this is what their consumers want (there is also a downside because voices with a lot of money then get to decide what is and isn’t on the agenda and that can skew the topics deemed ‘feminist’ and limit participation in the movement and marginalize some women and their concerns… but I’d prefer to save that discussion for later because sometimes I like to feel hopeful.)

Here are more wonderful gifs of these ladies being awesome. Girls hearing positive messages = good and for now, I’m gonna go with that. Dance how you want, play how you want, laugh how you want and do you. I think any act that boosts the self-image (and not just the beauty image, but their image of themselves as more than ‘pretty’) of any girl anywhere is one of the most positive things a person or persons can do. It’s an uphill battle with long reaching implications, and we should all be passionately involved in this endeavor.

cracks. me. up.
cracks. me. up.
she really does care about her fans, check her documentary 'Part of Me'
she really does care about her fans, check her documentary ‘Part of Me
i hear her live shows are bananas. that's cray.
her live shows are bananas. that’s making me dizzy just watching!.
killin it on Modern Family
killin it on Modern Family
yea you do! werk!
yea you do! werk!
i love when she raps. i love when she sings.
i love when she raps. i love when she sings.

I’ll give the final optimistic declaration to another dope chick:

yes.
yes.