Category: Feminism

“The Lip That Launched A Thousand Sticks”

“This is the first red lipstick that I ever bought.”
“So this is the lip that launched a thousand sticks?”
“…You’re really proud of that one, aren’t you?”
“Yep!”
– C. and Jeff

My love for lipstick is fairly well documented, but I was well into my 20s before I slicked that first wash of carmine on my face.

I wasn’t quite a tomboy as a kid, but I certainly wasn’t interested in makeup and fashion for most of my adolescence. A good portion of that was frankly bad old fashioned female-on-female disdain, I’m sorry to say. Growing up I always put a lot of value in my brainpower and based much of my sense of identity on my intelligence and interests rather than my personal appearance. This in and of itself is NOT a bad thing, but my major error was in simultaneously being harsh on girls who did put effort into their appearance. I too fell prey to the common but sloppy thinking that girls couldn’t be brainy and stylish at the same time, that to be interested in clothes or makeup was to be silly. It took me years to untangle that sort of black and white thinking around female identity and presentation!

The other reason I was so hesitant to really explore makeup in general and red lipstick in particular was because they intimidated me. Makeup was a skill that I didn’t possess and I was terrified of looking or feeling foolish in adulthood, as I often did with my early teenage forays. This is of course more or less a right of passage growing up, but to the young brain I think such fears are common. From time to time I dabbled with cosmetics, sometimes well but usually unsuccessfully. I particularly admired girls and women who worse intimidating slashes of red on their lips. They looked grown up, in command, at ease with themselves, and slightly dangerous–how I wanted to look and feel–but I never really bit the bullet and the few cheap drugstore lipsticks I bought usually languished barely touched in drawers for months before a move necessitated throwing them out.

I remember the actual image I saw that convinced me to just go for it, already. Here it is, I’ve saved the pin for years. I was working my first job after university at the time and remember being stunned at how pretty and simple the model looked wearing it–she wasn’t covered in a full vintage style slap, she looked fresh and chic. Aside from her obviously stunning red hair, the lipstick was her only highlighted feature, the only product doing any heavy lifting on her face. That doesn’t look so hard, I thought to myself. I bet I could do that.

Jo Goddard (of a Cup of Jo fame, the site where I spotted the image) was able to confirm the exact shade thanks to her contacts in the magazine world. The shade was Red Red Red by Clinique (which I think has been discountinued, or is at least as far as I have been been able to deduce, unfindable in the UK). I bought it the same day I saw that blog post, and wore it almost every day for months/years. Eventually I wore it down to the nub; to date it is still the only lipstick I have ever fully finished, but I still own the tube for sentimental reasons.

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I will never, ever throw this tube away.

That color became my totem for early adulthood. It was a silly, small thing, but it made a big difference in how I felt about myself when I slid the bullet over my lips. I was now a girl who word red. It gave me a sense of bravery, command, and self that I honestly didn’t have before I discovered that it was okay and not at all shallow, shameful, or otherwise silly to want to feel pretty. I coined the phrase, “Lipstick is armor,” during this phase, and I still mean it today. Much later on, lipstick has became a sort of brand item for me–a fact I realized when someone at my old job couldn’t remember my name to a colleague but described me as, The Girl With the Lipstick. My lip arsenal has grown by leaps and bounds since them, but I’m never without at least a couple on my person–different shades ready to be deployed as circumstances warrant. I could feel embarrassed by how many I own…but I don’t. They makes me feel beautiful.

Lipstick was a gateway drug into the world of beauty and make up, that strange place that in my adolescence I simply never felt brave enough to really enter.  The consequences have been, ah…pricey, but also really satisfying. I’ve made some beauty mistakes along the way, I’ve continuously experimented with different style personas, and I’ve occasionally laughed at my expense when the results don’t turn out great. I’ve had some hilarious misadventures in trying to find my correct foundation shades, and the skills required for a really killer smokey eye still escape me after years of trying. More than once I’ve left the house thinking I look fine only to catch sight of myself in a mirror hours later and think, I’ve made a huge mistake. That’s okay.

It’s just make up. It comes off. And if all else fails, I can put on a red lip with nothing else and still feel pretty damn great about the way I look.

International Women’s Day: The Ironic Wisdom of Learning to Keep My Mouth Shut

“Deeds not words.”
– Suffragette slogan

Becoming aware of how much criticism is heaped on women for their life choices is depressing. Becoming further aware of how much of this criticism stems from other women is downright devastating. For me personally, realizing how guilty I used to be (and occasionally still can be if I don’t watch myself) of this behavior was humbling.

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I grew up in a culture that has highly defined gender roles and a lot of codified expectations for women and girls. I’ve written about the dress codes here, which also touches on the expectation that women “should stay home,” that they should be the primary caregivers to children, and uncomfortable echoes of rape culture. I’m no longer in this culture or ascribe to a lot of those values in the same way. But being out here in wider society as opposed to a small religious group isn’t necessarily easier when it comes to the pressures heaped on women.

Unmaking a lot of the lessons I’d been taught about gender and femaleness from a young age took and still takes a lot of work. In either constructing or reconstructing my own views on gender and the female experience, I’ve had to critically examine not just the views I was raised with, but also the knee-jerk reactionary views I sometimes developed in response to opinions that reminded me of my childhood culture. As fiercely committed as I am to supporting other women and claiming my feminism, I still have a lot of work to do.

Unmaking your own critical tendencies is a hard line to walk. I have just as many opinions about  how to live as anybody, but what I have made a dedicated effort to do in the past few years, is simply decline to judge most women’s life choices. From sex to education, childbearing to careers, I’ve come to the conclusion that how other women choose to order their lives is almost entirely none of my business. Where another person’s choices do not affect me, or does not impact my ability to make my own choices or my legal rights, what I have learned and try awfully hard to practice is the age old wisdom of keeping my mouth shut.*

I’m not talking about politics or policy in this post, what I’m speaking of here is the personal criticisms or judgement we casually fling at women who chose to work full time, stay home with children, hire help, use professional childcare, ask family to babysit regularly, have multiple sex partners, practice celibacy, eat paleo, eat vegan, eschew social media, take selfies, wear short skirts, wear hijab, read Talmud, read romance novels, do bodybuilding, not exercise at all, go into military service, go into nursing, have an abortion, decline to practice birth control, grow their hair long, wear their hair super short, be atheist, pray at the Wailing Wall, have tattoos, cover their skin from neck to ankle…

The list is quite literally endless. It often feels like we can’t win for losing!

Instead of picking apart, examining, or even stressing about other women’s choices, what I’ve committed to is supporting their choices better. They may bear no resemblance to the choices I’d make for myself, my marriage, my family, or my career; I may even disagree outright with her positions. But where her choices work for her, break no laws, and cause no harm, the onus is on me to stand up for her decisions the way I’d hope others will stand up for mine. The world is still plenty hard on women. I’m convinced it will get a bit better if we are easier on one another.

And the only control I have over that goal is starting with my own behavior. I like to think I’ve gotten better, and I like to think I’ll get better still.

Amy Poehler popularly summed this up in her book Yes Please with the phrase, “That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me.” This idea is full of generosity and, dare I say, grace.

*I separate this from political activism/engagement, it’s worth noting. I put my money and my time where my values are.

Weekend Links

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”
― Oscar Wilde

Woof. I compile these posts throughout the week, updating it to make sure that news links are as current as they can be, and that notes of levity and enjoyment are liberally scattered throughout. I know things have gotten a bit heavy around here lately and I had every intention of a links post thick with Fashion Week highlights and apolitical links to lighten things up. I’ve got those too, but it’s also been a big week for news, which led me towards doing separate post on the big story.

Thus far I still haven’t put words together to speak intelligently about the presidential press conference–apt, since neither did the president in many ways. To date, he’s sowed the seeds to blame one branch of government if something terrible should happen (if committed by a Muslim of course, white people shooting up mosques seems to be fine), a second branch of government seems to be in some kind of grim Faustian pact to go along with him as long as he signs their legislation, and he’s on a tear of a campaign to delegitmize the fourth estate who scrutinizes his actions. So things are going great, guys!

To make up for the emotional roller coaster that is Western democracy at the moment, here is an extra large dose of links for you, kittens. Never say I don’t do anything for you!

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This piece by Andrew Sullivan for New York Magazine is important reading and discusses the unfortunate fact that we have a president who seems to throw out countless lies and mistruths weekly–usually in the face of empirical evidence–and thus far does not seem to have retracted or apologized for any of them. He is not being held accountable in any way. He also gave an interview to CNN that’s worth viewing. When, “No error is ever admitted. Any lie is usually doubled down by another lie — along with an ad hominem attack,” what is at stake for government and the citizenry? His position, somewhat daringly, is that the president is outright mentally unstable, which is the source of a decent amount of debate-including whether or not it’s even appropriate for people to speculate on the matter. This letter, for instance is a nice and effective rebuke. To the comments, kittens, and lend me your thoughts.

After all the hullabaloo about privacy and securing information on Secretary Clinton’s part, this is just ridiculous.

Well, now we’re totally safe… To be clear, there are plenty of images of past “football” carriers. But none that I’m aware of that have posed for pictures.

This is a pretty good breakdown of the legal quagmire that is the executive order on immigration as it stands at time of writing. (Things may change. As should be abundantly obvious by now.)

For heaven’s sake, we must avoid hurting his feelings!

This twitter feed is hilarious and heartbreaking. It envisions an alternate reality where Secretary Clinton won, the news is not wholly ridiculous, and First Gentleman Bill is sent on a lot of errands.

History and the rise (and fall?) of facts.

This woman makes my Money Month project look like amateur night at the roadhouse.

I loved this piece at The Everygirl about Beyonce and Adele at the Grammy’s last weekend, which speaks bluntly about black artists losing to white ones consistently and how what could have been a twitter war between the stans was prevented by the genuine positivity of women loving and supporting other women.

NPR has a deeper read into race and the Grammys that’s well worth a look in.

It took less than a month for a scandal to bring down a major player in the administration which, while in line with my predictions, does not bode well. All I will say is that given the layers to the Gen. Flynn story (most notably the fact that now-former Acting Attorney General Yates apparently alerted the White House to the potential threats and was fired only days later due to her stance on the immigration ban, and the fact that timelines being put forward by various staff simply isn’t matching at time of writing), I expect the press, government officials, and voting public to give at least as much scrutiny and attention to claims of foreign interference in our government as they did to Secretary Clinton’s emails.

Pantsuits on women was a major trend this NYFW. Cannot imagine why.

After all the shouting and bluster about security privacy and Secretary Clinton’s emails, to see national security policy play out as dinner theatre is completely beyond the pale.

How are our feelings about death, lately?

This is a thing?! My theory of dating (granted I’ve been out of the game for a decade) was that s/he who asks, pays. Full stop. Have the rules changed that much?

A piece from the New York Times about the rise and fall of celebrities at fashion week shows.

This interview with Kelly Cutrone on the state of the fashion industry is also a great read.

Gorgeous photos of a movement that I, for one, need to know more about.

NOPE. Also, if I’m a “host,” does that make any potential fetus a parasite? Careful what words you choose, people.

Into the Gloss tracked some of the best beauty looks from NYFW. I didn’t know I needed neon eye shadow, but suddenly I do. Intensely.

One of my “ones that got away” in terms of vintage or second hand buys is a leopard print coat that I to this day deeply regret not snatching up. Jenna Lyons is not helping my nostalgia.

All things considered this week, this news seems super not great.

The story of the assassination of North Korean dictator’s Kim Jong-un’s half brother gets more bizarre every day.

This post by the great and good Caroline Hirons is a nice catch up to some of the latest beauty launches, but her final paragraphs on blogging and having an opinion really caught my eye.

Here’s a nice, completely apolitical tale of humans being nice.

Album of the week: Life Will See You Now, by Jens Lekman

The Woman Card We’ve Been Dealt

“We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.”
― Margaret Atwood

Still processing my thoughts, and I’m trying to stay classy about it but the honest to god first thought I had the morning after was, “Wow. America really doesn’t like women.” Do I mean everyone? Of course not. Do I mean explicitly? No. Next to no one in this country is running through the streets with “Down with women!” signs or stroking cats evilly in a dark room somewhere, contemplating wrapping us in burkas.

I mean that as a culture, women are often instinctively reacted to as unworthy of being believed, supported, or followed. From rape survivors and wage equality to work leadership and our own health and care, we are not considered trustworthy in making decisions, telling truths, or seeking advancement. Suspicion and wariness are often the default. Our narratives are questioned before they are listened to much less believed.

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I did not vote for Secretary Clinton because she is a woman, though goodness knows I found the idea of the first female president breathtaking. I don’t think most people who voted against her did so because she is a woman. But I do think the culture and undercurrents about and towards women played a significant role in how she was perceived and treated by media, her opponents, and a lot of the electorate.

As women, almost every day, we see examples and stories of how our ambitions are threatening and (worse!) unattractive, our stories of victimization are suspect, those of us needing help are lazy or manipulative or moochers, our desires for control over our bodies are antagonistic or selfish, our expectations of work life balance are unreasonable, our emotions are unstable. We are not trusted. And I cannot help but see much of this inherent distrust in how Secretary Clinton was viewed and treated in this election. Her ambitions were unseemly, her cautiousness weak, her outspokenness offensive, her experience invalid, her whole candidacy insufficient and suspect.

Am I partisan? Yes. I have seen examples of sexism throughout my personal and professional life, and in the lives of women and girls I know and respect. These experiences of course inform my point of view and my politics.

But I don’t necessarily think that means I’m wrong.

*This post expanded on comments left on a Broadside post

Incendiary Monday: Lady Rage and Internal Conflict

“Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked. This is because most books on witchcraft were written by men.”
― Neil Gaiman

I don’t know much about the history of assault allegations against President Bill Clinton (though I’m trying to research it to be informed) but my opinion, my experience at a police department, and my own persuasions around women’s issues tells me the right thing to do is believe a woman who comes forward with a rape or assault claim until evidence proves otherwise. Period. And so, until I read enough creditable reporting to convince me otherwise, I’ll accept these allegations as truthful.

The allegations that Secretary Clinton threatened Ms. Broaddrick or others are trickier for me as what I have seen has been largely reported on a platform that is quite literally hand in hand with her opponent’s campaign. I’m unsure if/where propaganda and spin begins, or even if it’s ethical for me to try and parse between the allegations against one person and another. I don’t think this allegation is as credible and I’ve not seen nearly enough to back it up yet.

(Usual disclaimer: I’m always open to my mind being changed here and I admittedly don’t know a lot about the allegations of threats against victims. Send me your links or suggestions of where I should seek out creditable reporting on this to be better informed.)

However.

There is a long, ugly history of trying to make women culpable for the actions of men. Whether blaming skirt length as a provocation to rape, questions over consent, or–no biggie–Biblical narrative, this is a problem that goes way back. I cannot help but see this in attempts to make Secretary Clinton culpable in her husband’s actions and it makes me angry.

I am angry that in 2016 in the developed world, the best way to attack a woman is still through sexuality. I’m even more angry that the double standard is such that you can still effectively attack a woman through someone else’s sexuality.

I am angry that Mr. Trump can make explicit remarks about his own alleged actions, and Secretary Clinton is expected to account for an entirely other person’s actions in response.

I am angry that the sort of language heard on the released tapes by Mr. Trump has been deemed “locker room talk,” as if that somehow makes the idea of sexual assault okay or more acceptable–at least in conversation. His history is being reviewed and some unsurprising parallels to his language are starting to emerge, but more importantly, it doesn’t matter if men do talk like this in private (and I don’t for one minute believe most do), it’s still repugnant.

I am angry that so many of the responses on the part of his supposed colleagues who were hastening to abandon him cited the feelings of their wives and daughters as reason for withdrawing support. Yes, it is admirable that these (mostly) men are putting themselves in the shoes of their loved ones. But if they wanted to make a moral argument, they should have been able to put themselves in the shoes of women who had no relation to them whatsoever long before this, in reaction to any of Mr. Trump’s decades worth of comments on women (and Muslims, and people of color, and…). Choosing to cry foul now holds no moral sway with me. Women shouldn’t be related to you in order for their experiences to matter.

I am angry that women still need to state this fact.

 

Weekend Links

“The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it. ”
― Roseanne Barr

Hi, kittens. This week’s links post is short but brought to you mostly by a big heaping dose of Lady Rage. Sit back and let it wash over you.

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First and foremost, Trump. I’ve long been baffled by his candidacy, actively dismayed in fact. But the whole garbage fire situation boiled over this week when lewd comments that frankly should have surprised no one, given his decades long public personality/persona, found their way into the light of day. Shock, surprise. Writing this, the fallout is still coming down, but at the end of the day, I’m more disgusted that this is what’s getting people to publicly distance themselves from his campaign. Not his racist comments or other sexist comments, not his strongman attitudes or attempts (or success) at demagoguery, not his statements flat out contradicted by fact checkers, his own previous public comments, or other world leaders…but this is the deal breaker? Being lewd/about a married white woman? You could not have encapsulated all of the conversations and flaws about our current political cycle and society, from gender and race, to rank and privilege, better if you tried. Political America, check your priorities.

Utah stikes again, but the cheerleaders strike back. #supportyourlocalgirlsquad

I enjoyed The Girl on the Train, but it lacked the same punch for me that Gone Girl did. This piece on the genre of women hitting back violently against the world/patriarchy and why it’s not going away anytime soon is worth a read.

How on earth is one supposed to be a woman in public these days?

A dive into the psychology behind victim blaming.

Book art. Because we needed something pretty.

And lastly, a touch of humor because FINALLY the questions will be answered!