Weekend Links

“It’s 4:58 on Friday afternoon. Do you know where your margarita is?”
Amy Neftzger

Another Friday is upon us and I’ve compiled a bit batch of weekend reading to get you through the long hours until the Sunday Blues! It’s been another wild week of news and we have much to discuss. Meet me in the comments!

#FreeTheNipple goes way back!

Something wicked

The joy of fall dressing is real!

A thoughtful take on the future of a franchise.

Super normal.

Super great.

“Be aware of false balance” is an editorial directive that should get behind a lot more topics and not just this one in particular.

Two queens. I appreciated the conversation this sparked about how and where women’s rage is still deemed inappropriate, even among champions. Also, women supporting other women (especially in the face of absurdity and impediments) is literally the best thing in the world.

This follow up piece resonated within me like a struck bell: demand the apologies you deserve.

More good things to look forward to as a species.

It’s not an accident that the US President and others has tried to rebrand protests against police brutality (and by extension racism, corruption or bad faith). It’s a conversation a lot of people are desperate to avoid.

More allegations. Genuine question: when does Ronan Farrow sleep? [ETA later this week: Moonves and others out. Good. But my god, do NOT try and fuck with or attempt to discredit Farrow.]

Just awful.

This should be unacceptable and completely avoidable in a modern, advanced society.

GOALS GOALS GOALS. Shut up and take my money!

A thoughtful take on this next phase of #MeToo we find ourselves in.

Another one bites the dust…I’m very sorry to say.

Answer: no, but good question.

Shock. Surprise. A lot of our preconceived notions and propaganda points about immigration are wrong and the actual facts are fascinating!

A break from terrible news for this tease!

This story is a good example of something that I find troubling and an example of how certain bad faith actors are incredibly good a manipulating media. It is very common for conservatives in particular to say that conservative viewpoints are censored–when what they really mean is unpopular in popular spaces like certain social media platforms. This is bad faith because it denies the reality of algorithims which cater and boost content relevant to the viewer in question–meaning that a person with a certain viewpoint is actually statistically likely to get their view reinforced with content. It is also bad faith because it fails to acknowledge the wealth, power, and influence of the conservative media machine and the fact that conservative politicians and appointees are in power at every level of state and federal government. What censorship?! The President routinely favors and calls into certain networks and platforms while vilifying others. Organizations who are led by left-leaning individuals are then pressured into appearing unbiased in favor of their own view points and, in my opinion, go out of their way to then cater to opposing view points. This is, of course, exactly what the aim of the accusations is in the first place. Again, bad faith.

We have a new president…of Planned Parenthood!

Absolutely fuck this noise. The number of immigrant children being detained has spiked again.

Let us celebrate the anniversary of his never-ending war with Eddie.

We have a contender for the “most dystopian phrase I’ve heard in a while, and boy isn’t that saying something” category from Mr. Bezos.

And finally, we have another contender for the “worst thing he’s ever tweeted” category this week:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

ETA: your Friday news blast.

Read Any Good Books Lately?

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” 
― Oscar Wilde

A question for your Monday, kittens: do you go through phases in your pop culture consumption? I ask because I’m trying to read as close to 100 books as I can this year and after a strong start, a couple of months ago I just sort of trailed off a bit. I must have been in a podcast kind of mood because the vast majority of my media, entertainment as well as information, has come through audio rather than books for a good couple of months. This is weird, because I LOVE to read.

So, I’m making a concentrated attempt at finishing some of the items on my library list, and I’m looking for recommendations.

I’ve recently finished, “The Power,” by Naomi Alderman, “Fantasyland: How American Went Haywire,” by Kurt Andersen, and “Norse Mythology,” by Neil Gaiman. I’ve been working on, “White Trash: the 400 Year Untold History of Class in America,” by Nancy Isenberg which should be required reading for anyone who ever wants to open their mouth on class or race in America in public. I am also counting down the days to a couple of new romances by Tessa Dare and Lisa Kleypas, who are two of my favorite writers in the genre.

Basically, I read everything. Give me a list of what you’ve loved and why in the comments. Has a particular genre tickled your fancy? I read a few political books earlier this year but have largely taken a break from them because…the news. I am particularly interested in more philosophy or economics if anyone has suggestions, but I also accept trashy bodice rippers, ground breaking YA, and trippy science fiction!

I Miss Style Blogs

“Create your own style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.” 
― Anna Wintour

Quick question, those of you kittens interested in fashion, beauty and style: which bloggers and channels have you followed for years, and why? I’ve unfollowed a lot of style blogs over the years–not because I don’t like or want to support them as a medium, but because I’ve gradually found so many of them to be less and less interesting or unique. In fact, in retrospect, I think I have tended to unsubscribe in batches when I just get bored of certain sites. I saw too much repetition, too much similarity of content, and too many overlapping aesthetics. Instagram and other social media have compounded the problem, both in the fashion and beauty spaces and (off the back of a chat with Katarina), I’ve been thinking about this lately in the wake of last month’s Week of Outfits project.

Frankly, I miss the “old” style blogs of about a decade ago. The ones where (mostly) women and girls crafted unique and instantly recognizable fashion senses, sometimes with a lot of money but often without. I never begrudged them the odd PR gift or contract because I trusted them to blend the items they received for free into the style they had taken the time to publicly develop, curate and share.

Of COURSE there are still people out there creating beautiful images and good writing around style and beauty, but I’m surprised by how few writers and videographers I follow now than what I used to. There are plenty of stylish (mostly) women out there who do really good and thoughtful writing about style but the rise of monetization and blogger-directed PR has complicated the kind of writing I see. The beauty space is sort of notorious for this. You can tell exactly when the PR machine has kicked in for a new launch because quite suddenly every single blogger and YouTuber will produce content raving about a product or line at exactly the same time, usually using very similar language. NARS just launched a new mascara and every beauty blogger and their photographer boyfriend seems to have ended up in Ibiza for the press party. I don’t necessarily begrudge them their good fortune either…but I’m not going to watch a dozen vlogs of the same event featuring the same people and rave reviews of a product they couldn’t possibly have road tested.

In some ways this new reality isn’t massively different from the magazine model, but I think that blogs and magazines are different platforms in key ways and that has always informed the kind of coverage they did. For a long time, editors were seen as arbiters not just of good taste and style, but also good judgement and trusted recommendations. PR has obviously affected this too and it is increasingly easy to either see or at least make informed guesses about how PR money is influencing coverage.

I get it, it was always sort of inevitable that a full blown business model would emerge around “influencers,” and as I’ve said I don’t really fault the women who are able to make livings off of it. Good for them! I sure as hell don’t think I could do it! But I still miss that era of internet writing and visual display all the same.

A few writers and YouTubers I still follow these days include…

Audrey a la Mode – writes about and films content on “slow fashion” and thoughtful shopping. Because her style is fairly classic, she is able to really demonstrate the value of second hand shopping and building an intentional wardrobe. A lot of her outfits are straight from Town and Country at any point in the last 50 years, but her content has always struck me as very authentic and genuine.

Where Did You Get That – equally enthusiastic about vintage and ready to wear, her enthusiasm for shopping and style is infectious and, because she makes a point to mix old and new pieces and buy what she loves, she has cultivated her own aesthetic. She loves clothes and it shows.

Sea of Shoes – one of the OG style bloggers who is famously eclectic in her tastes, mixing couture and eBay finds.

The Anna Edit – a British beauty blogger who has since branched out into a lot of style and lifestyle content, but one I’ve followed for a long time. She’s another example of a blogger who has maintained what feels like a very authentic and consistent voice, which I like, and she also writes thoughtfully on mindful consumerism and how she makes certain business choices.

The Frugality – Alex is another British blogger who I’ve met and briefly got some work experience overlap with in my freelance days at Red Magazine. These days she a full time freelance stylist and writer, who blogs about style but also the London home she and her husband are renovating together with a newborn in tow.

I clearly have certain “types” when it comes to the women I follow. I am interested in self-aware and authentic women who like what they like without excuses, and are intelligent and intentional about their lives and respective styles. I am interested in women who have something to show or say, and not just sell.

So again, who do you follow in the “style and beauty” world, and why? What about their content speaks to you? Let’s chat in the comments.

Slow Days

“I don’t want to be alone, I want to be left alone.”
– Audrey Hepburn

Its not terribly exciting, but one of the things I really like is “doing nothing” with Jeff. We both work hard and long hours during the week and make it a priority to spend the weekends mostly together. Of course we’ll occasionally meet up with friends or run errands (Jeff goes golfing with the guys, I will meet up with friends for brunch or coffee, and so on), but most weekends will find us at home doing un-glamorous grown up things like laundry and cleaning the house.

Often, and especially during the cooler months, we may spend whole weekends at home and barely leave the apartment. This is by no means an every weekend kind of thing, but during particularly busy seasons or after a grueling week, by mutual consent, we’ll decide to do as little as we can reasonably get away with. We call these “Slow Days,” and they have a very specific formula.

Pajamas and exercise clothing feature heavily. Actual exercise is optional.

Podcasts. It’s a bit of a family tradition but we normally listen to NPR classic “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me” together while we cook breakfast. Breakfasts are either roasted potatoes with eggs and avocados, or french toast. Almost without fail.

Naps may be involved.

We’ll play video games. Jeff is much more of a gamer than me, but there are some that I like and do play regularly. We may also play board or card games.

We’ll read. I normally have at least one book and audiobook going at any given point, and Jeff will catch up on news. We are both political junkies, but we take Slow Days to catch up on a lot of the news that we might have missed in the sturm und drang of the day to day media churn.

We will normally do a few chores to help justify our extreme laziness, but we usually do them together.

I’ll normally indulge in some skincare and slather a mask on my face. If I’m feeling particularly energetic I’ll groom my brows, wax my upper lip (let’s be real), and

At some point, because I’m hyper, I’ll get a bit bored and probably tidy something up or run a small errand. This is when my spice rack gets organized, or my pile of clothes that need to be taken to the dry cleaner gets separated from items for the regular wash.

Quite often, we’ll go hours not speaking to one another, even if we’re in the house together. Not in an unhealthy sense, but in a companionable silence sort of way that I’ve really come to value over the years. At the end of the day, there’s only a few people who I feel able to be “alone” with, without trying to be funny, clever, engaging, or “switched on” in some way. These people are my best friends (shout out to X. with whom I spent many a summer vacation day reading in silence–the stuff lasting teenage friendships are made of!) and my husband.

When you give yourself permission to have a slow day, what does it look like and does it involve anyone else?

Weekend Links: Bread and Circuses Edition

“Two things only the people anxiously desire — bread and circuses.”
– Juvenal

Unpopular hot take: nothing in political news that happened this week is exactly revelatory. President Trump is exactly the same in private as he is in public–which is what interviews, background statements, and his own Twitter feed have been telling us since day one. A lot of people are willing to complain about him, but only anonymously, and few are willing to do anything that actually holds him to account. This is the new status quo.

Here’s a batch of weekend reading for you, my lovelies. It’s not all bad political news, I promise.

Another book about the Trump White House dropped this week and unfortunately (for him) this one’s by an author that a lot of D.C. takes pretty seriously. He’s also got receipts.

The Academy walks it back!

Hideous, but not surprising. I’m immensely sorry to say.

Equally horrific and unsurprising at this point.

Mix me the perfect green, someone.

Somebody check on Sandra Bullock and George Clooney real quick.

A compelling longform piece about, ah, enhancements.

New Gambino video!

I have been pondering lately on the reality that an entire industry exists to put people in financial thrall to the government, making the government quite a tidy profit. The more I think about this, the angrier it makes me.

I genuinely teared up reading about this news story this past week. Cultural heritage is human legacy and it’s irreplaceable.

?!?!?!?!

Okay, I put it off for a bit and tried to get some fun content in…but we’ve got to talk about it. Even by the absolutely topsy turvy standards of the times, this op ed was astounding. And the theorizing commenced immediately. Lots of theorizing. It’s fun to speculate (I mean, as “fun” as the public debate over whether your democratically elected leader is in fact 1) unfit for office and 2) is actually being managed by a shadowy cabal–either of these options being bad for said democracy in some way or another–can be) but my possibly unpopular take is that this op ed feels self serving and cowardly instead of brave: either sign your name to your opinions and quit like a principled public servant, or protect and serve an administration you genuinely support. To do anything other is to be complicit in destabilizing the country. These background style interviews and exposes are of decreasing value to us as citizens. Go on the record if you feel the situation is really so dire, or shut up.

Another option is that this is signalling to supporters of the policies, if not the man, to stay the course. Which also feels  like cowardly way to go about governing a country.

Finally, here’s a piece arguing in favor of Anonymous, positing the like-minded civil servants are really all we have between us and bad leadership. A cynical if ruthlessly cleared view of a government based on the honor system and how we cope with the reality that no one is playing by the rules right now.

This piece is both about Tucker Carlson, and not. Either way, it’s good.

Maybe don’t buy the fish

I have been following the Judge Kavanaugh hearings but only in small briefs from trusted news sources. I’m too angry to take in more than curt, factual summaries and at time of closing on this post, the story is moving too quickly for me to link anything. Between grandstanding politicians, leaked documents, and protests, I have no idea how this story is going to end…but I’m going to guess with a partisan confirming vote. No links, only gnashes of teeth.

Here at least is an op ed I can get behind.

Beauty YouTube drama, explained.

This is a statement. The risks for a campaign like this are not small for any business, but you have to admit it got people talking. I love it.

 

Automated

“We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.” 
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

Quick question, kittens, what do you automate or outsource? I subscribe to news and podcasts which are automatically downloaded to my devices daily. Books, video, and music can be delivered or streamed to me with a click. I can order a bunch of items or goods to my house instantly, and subscription services are a nice and growing industry. Much like google, Amazon is practically a verb now.

I like many aspects of modern urban life which have allowed me to automate or outsource things that previously required much more effort or time. Like many women, I’m time poor and married to an equally time poor man, so it’s worth it to me to pay for certain things to be automated on our behalf. As we’ve matured in our lives and careers, we’ve gotten better about budgeting for things that we are content to pay for rather than do ourselves. I’m deeply aware that this is a privileged experience and I don’t take that lightly, but I don’t hesitate to use them when they meet my needs. Some things I’ve automated…

Grocery deliveries. Once a week a box of produce arrives on our doorstep. It’s brilliant! Occasionally I amend my standing order to include things like dairy or special items for specific recipes, but as a rule it’s just a weekly delivery of seasonal vegetables and fruit in reasonable amounts for two people to munch through in a single week. This has helped cut down on the amount of food shopping I have to do dramatically, as well as the amount we physically have to carry when we do shop (as central Londoners without a car). It’s also helped reduce a lot of food waste, which is also something I’d like to be better about, as well as increasing our intake of vegetables.

Coffee delivery. We subscribe to a couple of companies that send us coffee throughout the month. Not only is this one less thing to have to pick up at the store, it fulfills our need for snobbery by constantly rotating the tastes and flavors we are exposed to, and allows us to try and funnel our money towards companies with transparency in their agricultural and labor practices.

If I had more money I would absolutely look into regular cleaning services as well. Not weekly, but perhaps quarterly to help maintain our home. I don’t want or need help in managing day to day mess, but it would absolutely be worth it to me to have professional help in the frenzy of seasonal cleaning when I’m looking to really dig into corners, scrub grout and defrost/broil appliances to get them scoured clean.

I wrote a post three years ago about the financial realities of dog and/or childcare and my views on this haven’t changed. If we have children, we intend to employ help for this too.

However, there are some automated services that I think are actively bad ideas. Clothing and beauty subscription services are popular these days, but do not represent sensible consumption in my opinion. Other novelty subscription services will deliver things like petcare or pop culture items to your door monthly, meaning that users often end up buying things they don’t need and never would have purchased normally and in greater quantities over the course of, say, a year. Some people subscribe to media platforms and never use them–why?!

I suppose in the end, what you value is where you end up investing money. I have friends who subscribe to meal services, wine deliveries, monthly deliveries of household goods (something I may seriously get into at some point to further reduce my shopping), various services and providers (including laundry apps!), and any number of things. One woman I know schedules two blowouts a week for her hair and economizes elsewhere to justify it. Some people do their own bookkeeping and taxes, some hire accountants.

What, if anything have you outsourced to other people or providers, and why?

Ruined Women

“Sometimes that’s what happens. No cigarette burns, no bone snaps. Just an irretrievable slipping.” 
― Gillian Flynn, Sharp Objects

I am still processing Sharp Objects as a cultural piece and still incapable of finding what I want to say about it as a series. However, in trying to force out some words, there is one moment of the show that has lingered in my mind for weeks now.

In one episode, dissatisfied with her daughter’s clothing in the face of an upcoming neighborhood event that requires a display of carefully maintained artificiality, Adora takes her daughters shopping. Nothing in the store will work for Camille, who covers herself from neck to toe to hid her private pain and after trying to demure or avoid her mother’s gaze, Camille finally flings open the dressing room door in a fit of anger to reveal her body. Adora sees Camille’s self-harm scars, the physical manifestation of Camille’s trauma and pain, and after a horrible pause to take in the tapestry before her the first words out of her mouth are a devastating summary: “You’re ruined.”

That line actually landed on my chest like a punch. I nearly started crying, it felt so quiet and harsh and all encompassing all at once. As Adora quickly shepherds her younger daughter away from her older’s bad influence and bared scars (and delivers a few final cutting comments for effect), Amy Adams’ Camille muffles a scream and sinks to the floor.

This is a deeply personal take, but in considering why I’m still thinking about it weeks later, I think it’s because almost every negative thought or rejection about women (at least as objects or concepts, to say nothing of people) can be boiled down to some element of that idea: you’re ruined. You’ve either done something or had something done to you that has made you less in some way.

You don’t have to look hard to find “ruined” women, we’re in every genre of literature–heck, it IS a genre–and almost every pop cultural narrative you can find. Eve ate the apple and ruined everything. Being ruined is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. Think of Lydia Bennett running off with Wickham and her mother’s hysterics on the ruination of the family, the fall of Madame Bovary, the secret of Lady Dedlock that she will go to extraordinary efforts to keep. When men declare, “I’m ruined,” they are almost always speaking in financial terms. When women say it or it is said about them, it is usually indicating some kind of permanent social death or devaluation that impacts every aspect of her life.

Having consensual sex for the first time? You’ve lost your virginity. Been raped? Don’t get me started on the horrible work society does to convince itself that the woman must have earned or deserved it in some way. Women who cut their hair too short? Insufficiently sexy. Women who try to attract the male gaze? Slutty. Relationship break up? You lost your man. Stay with a guy you shouldn’t? You don’t have any self respect. Cried at work? Couldn’t tough it out. Showed insufficient femininity? You’re a bitch. Make a parenting mistake? You’re a bad mother. Too involved as a parent? You’re an unnatural mother. In every case you’ve “lost” something of value in the eyes of the beholder. Your perfection, non-existent to begin with, has been tarnished and you are the less for it.

It’s not just sexual, even though that’s the easiest route to police and punish women’s transgressions. I think back to the Sunday School lessons I had on chastity and virtue in church with their object lessons. Emphasis on the object. My body and soul were portrayed as gum that once chewed or cupcakes once bitten into were less desirable and holy. God could repair the spiritual damage for sexual transgression, of course…but you can’t unchew gum.

It’s alarmingly easy to be “ruined” as a woman. We might not tar and feather them anymore (at least not everywhere…plenty of woman are still whipped or stoned to death, or raped in punishment), but Sharp Objects also did a deft job of showing how women can be excluded, gossiped about, antagonized, denied support or compassion, or ostracized for their failures too. Affection can be removed, respect can be withdrawn, punishment can be meted out in the court of public opinion, or even just in the dark recesses of our own minds.

I’ve been ruined–in mostly small ways, thank god. I’ve been deemed insufficiently feminine and too deviant for my community in ways that produced isolation and even once made me fear a job might be on the line. I’ve been called a bitch and gossiped about. I’ve left a faith. As an inveterate Type A personality, I have failed at things and felt my self of self and self-worth absolutely crumble. Whether from other people or self inflicted, the concept of being ruined is a powerful one. Rational or not, I fear it.

Less toxic by far, the memory that immediately sprung to mind at Adora’s words were from my own mother when I got my ears pierced at 13. She cried because, as she told me, we put holes in “something perfect.” I remember being really confused and even a little unsettled by her reaction. As an adult, and through this lens, it makes more sense to me now. I was just growing up and this was a normal rite of passage for most girls. It was a small kind of imperfection or change–a little ruination. But my mother still cried over it. It’s impossible not to internalize a life lesson like that.