Is Fashion Feminist?

We've come a long way since not even being allowed to wear pants!

While I think most people would offer a resounding ‘no’, I submit that it is – or, it can be. At its most un-feminist, fashion is superficial, promoting personal expression through image alone, and attracts cattle-like trendmongers. But at its most feminist? Let me tell you about my own journey along life’s runway.

Fashionista qualities, to me, do not come from following in the footsteps of the Alexa Chungs of the world. In fact, according to my own personal definition, fashionistas don’t even necessarily have to be fashionable (i.e., trendy). I wouldn’t say a bag lady off the street is a fashionista – but maybe my unfortunate-looking, 10-year-old self was.

I used to wear this giant costume hippie shirt just about every day. I loved it. Every time I went out and I wanted to feel good, I would slip my lanky arms into its open and welcoming dashiki-patterned sleeves, imagining all the heads that would turn as I walked down Aisle 3 at BJs with my mom, or the model scout who would approach me as I stepped off the escalator at the mall. “Wow,” he’d say after catching up with me, panting, “I’ve never seen anyone with so much style and grace! Will you please be a model?” I’d whip around, my shirt rustling in the breeze of the air conditioning, flash him a winning smile and say, “Oh, alright, why not?” [Read more...]

SF Talking Points: Ladies Who Make Us Laugh, And Ladies Who Make TVs So We Can Watch The Ladies Who Make Us Laugh

Female Comedy Writers…Show Yourselves! It’s Women in Comedy Week over at Splitsider, and Sarah Schneider of CollegeHumor looks into the reason why the ratio of male-to-female writers on primetime sitcoms and other comedy outlets is so skewed. Her conclusion? It’s not that not enough women are funny — it’s that not enough funny women are trying to break into the biz. She puts it best herself at the end of the article:

“…there is SO MUCH ROOM for women to write comedy! Holy crap! The comedy marketplace is completely over-saturated with men and under-saturated with women. We just need to realize that the lack of female representation falls primarily on our (strong yet breathtakingly elegant) shoulders, and no one else’s. If you’re a strong female writer, now is the time to get noticed. The generations before us did the tough part, fighting hard against the misconception that women weren’t funny. Now all we have to do is not make it awkward for them.”

But perhaps all of the funny females out there aren’t entirely responsible for their small presence in the comedy community. Irin Carmon at Jezebel argues that there are still plenty of obstacles for those women trying to break in — specifically, the fact that many comedy outlets still only cater to men. Probably the most obvious of them is Comedy Central, whose unabashed target demographic is exclusively male. As Carmon points out, “The very first thing the channel lists under ‘benefits to advertisers’ is ‘Comedy Central Is A Destination For Young Men.’” Yet men only make up of 60% of the people who watch the channel. OK, 60% is a lot, but so is 40%! And that 40% — nearly half of CC’s viewers — are women. One commenter on Schneider’s article even wrote that she had submitted a pilot to the channel and they loved it — but told her that it wasn’t “male-centric” enough. [Read more...]

SF Talking Points: Female Politicians, Tech Gurus, and Soldiers

Women Rank As Most Effective Politicians: Don’t be discouraged by the Sarah Palins of America! Because just about all of the rest of our female politicians are, after rigorous criterion, found to be the most valuable of all of the lawmakers. Nevertheless, it is probably due to the “Jackie Robinson Effect” — that women, because they are a minority and less likely to be voted in to office (there was actually a net loss of female representation last year in the House of Representatives, while the amount of women in the Senate remained the same) have to work twice as hard and be twice as good to demonstrate that they belong there. Sadly, although researchers have found that bills that women sponsored “survived deeper into the legislative process, garnered more press attention, and were more likely to be deemed ‘important’ overall,” more than one out of five Americans say that they would not vote for a woman president.

Pretty, Pink, Sexist Flowchart Helps You Answer That Burning Question: “What Female Tech Influencer Are You?” There are so many things wrong with this. It would be nothing but hilariously stupid if it weren’t for the implication that, despite how far a woman will advance in her career and in the world, the shoes she wears, how she styles her hair, and her “dream man” are still the things that the public hangs on to. Shoes have nothing to do with technology! And the way the little blurbs underneath the women (who include COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg, Google VP Marissa Mayer, and journalist Caroline McCarthy) belittle their accomplishments… it all makes me cringe. Would anyone ever make something like this for Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates? I think not.

Women Should Be Allowed To Serve In Combat: At least that’s what a US government commission, comprised of current, retired, and senior non-commissioned officers have finally decided. Now, though, it’s not so much a concern of physical ability (though some would beg to differ) as it is of getting due credit. Women may not currently receive actual assignments to units expected to see combat, but, “they can be ‘attached’ to them and, in this way, fight in battles.” And because those female soldiers who have battlefield experience haven’t been acknowledged for it, women are falling farther behind in their military careers than men.

It’s a problem that has been laboriously debated with little progress — and it will probably remain somewhere in the big, untouched pile of unresolved issues up on Capitol Hill, since the recent repealing of DADT is on everyone’s minds. But the debate lingers because the concerns run deeper than the question of strength (not to say that that’s not still a bone of contention). Female soldiers have not settled on any guidelines if they were to be granted official permission to serve in combat: Would it be on a volunteer-basis, or would they be treated just like the men, with the same standards for assignments to combat arms units? And there are questions of women’s health that arise — some legitimate, some stupid (e.g. Would women be able to wash themselves during menstruation so as to avoid health problems? [legit] and What if women aren’t mentally stable enough for combat during PMS? [stupid]). Either way, the commission plans to present their conclusion to the President and Congress in March — which, at least, is a positive one — so we’re hoping that the women that make up 14% of the military will soon be able to advance as far as their male counterparts within it.

Welcoming a SexyFeminist Baby …

While one of the forces behind SexyFeminist was playing her first rock show (that’s me) the other was bringing new life into the world. Our own Heather Wood Rudulph welcomed a gorgeous baby boy into the world — and let’s face it, that’s a really dumb way of saying it. She brought that kid into the world, with all kinds of sweat and tears and muscles I plan as a childless lady to continue not to think about, and that is a stunning feat. She won’t want to get too earth-mothery about it and act like she’s the first person to ever perform the amazing act of giving birth, but I sure find myself in awe of it today. I know women do it all the time, but it’s different when it’s your best friend and business partner having her first kid. I feel confused and humbled and proud when I see the pictures of her new baby. I knew it was coming, and yet … wow. This is it: Life.

If I do say so myself, I’m impressed with SexyFeminist and all of her diversity today: We are all rockstars. We are all women. We can all do really cool and amazing and seemingly impossible stuff. Soak in the Oprah moment.

Debbie Gibson Wishes and Rockstar Dreams

photo by A. Jesse Jiryu Davis

Sometimes, if you are very lucky, life comes along and makes you think wishes come true. Long-held, deeply embedded wishes that have lingered since childhood — since, say, you were 4 and dressed in your mother’s silky pink nightie that looked like a long glamorous dress to you and you were belting out Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You” into a karaoke microphone attached to your Donnie & Marie record player. Just as an example.

Last night, life was kind enough to do this for me. I wanted to become a rock star. And it happened, for my 36th birthday no less.

[Read more...]

One Way to Make Your Makeup (Literally) a Feminist Act

Buy PeaceKeeper Cause-Metics! Their proceeds help needy women and children around the world, their ingredients come from female farmers in developing countries, and they’re green. Oh, right, and they’re gorgeous, too.

Why can’t all makeup make us feel this good about ourselves?

Why Is 'You're Fat' Still the Go-To Insult to Use On Women?

“I’m sorry but it just sounds like you’re fat and jealous of those women because they aren’t.”

This is part of a recent comment posted on a not-so-recent story I once wrote for FemiNoshing called “Why can’t even female TV cooks be fat?” While I agree that the story was written with a pretty heavy dose of snark, I’m not interested in rehashing that argument here. Rather, the comment, which devolved all too quickly into a personal attack, made me wonder why often the best way to knock a woman down, the best way to put her in her place and dismiss her, is to call her fat?

And it’s not just women doing this to each other. When men want to make a woman feel bad, whether it’s because she dared have an opinion, or because she rejected him in some way, they will point out that she’s fat. Sure, the words “ugly,” “bitch” and “slut” get bandied about too, but “fat” brings with it its own particular tinge of disgust and contempt.

Why is calling someone fat considered so effective? Oh, right — because being fat is not healthy! (My commenter talked about health, too, but I digress.) I’m not getting into arguments about health at every size here. Nor will I disagree with the concept that being morbidly obese often leads to health problems (and yes, note I pointed to the most extreme example here, because most fat people are not morbidly obese).

But there are lots of things people do that are not healthy. Smoking is not healthy. Drinking hard alcohol (wine, in moderation, is actually recommended) is not healthy. In fact, drinking and driving is downright dangerous. When was the last time being fat and driving caused a pile-up on the highway? [Read more...]

Mother to Tiger Mother

Call it the backlash to the backlash or just a need to play Devil’s advocate, but I have to speak up for embattled Amy Chua, author of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. There’s no way I’m endorsing the kind of strict child-rearing model that she’s espoused. And I know it’s hard not to resent her seeming sense of moral superiority or her status as a Yale law professor and a mother of near prodigies. But it’s frustrating to see the usual dogpile on message boards and from pundits as those who have not read the book chime in to castigate her. And to be honest, I haven’t read it yet either, but I’ve watched this woman on talk shows and read her comments defending herself and affirming that she’s not saying this method works for everyone or even that it works with every child —  or even every one of her own children. You can always debate her sincerity that this is simply a tale about her journey as a parent or her surprise that it would ignite just this kind of book-selling firestorm. But I don’t believe that anyone can doubt her desire to do right by her children.

It’s every parent’s fervent hope and desire to do the best for their children, men and women alike. But the burden on mothers — self-imposed or societally drawn — can be crushing. There’s hardly anything else in life that you will feel the full weight of responsibility for than the way your children turn out. And the quest to find all the right pieces of the puzzle to create a well-adjusted and accomplished adult has helped fuel the child-rearing and self-help industries for years. Chua is only adding her voice to the chorus of those who think they’ve found the magic bullet. [Read more...]

Jane Fonda's New Workout Sends a Feminist Message

God, I love Jane Fonda. She can’t help but be revolutionary in every thing she does, whether it’s sticking to her activist guns while protesting for what she believes in, winning two Oscars for powerhouse performances early in her career, making aerobics hip, trading sex jokes with Ellen DeGeneres, turning a stinker of a Jennifer Lopez movie into a hilarious sleeper hit or just being her fabulous, age-defying self.

The legendary actress and pioneering feminist (she founded the Women’s Media Center with Gloria Steinem and Ms. editor Robin Morgan) is 73 and gets hotter and more fiercely awesome every year. She stands up for women at every turn, especially her friends when they’re being teased — her appearance at this year’s Golden Globes was in support of buddy Cher, who’s been the but of a few jokes lately. She talks openly about the breast cancer she survived in support of the 1 in 8 women who will develop it in their lives. She makes jokes about her new hip as a lifeline of hope for those who go through the painful surgery. And now, she’s lending her celebrity, voice and body to a cause so few take up: promoting the health and sexiness of senior citizens.

With a new set of fitness DVDs targeted at the 65-and-over set, Workout Jane is back. Her mission: Get older people moving so that they can love living what she calls their “third act.”

“As Bette Davis once said, ‘Aging isn’t for sissies.’ It’s hard, I know,” she tells the LA Times. “The old paradigm was you were born, you peaked and then you just accepted decline.” All wrong, she adds. “Research is starting to show that besides quitting smoking and eating well, staying active is one the keys to aging successfully.”

The sexy feminism in this message is that working on our beauty — both inside and out — is akin to activism against sexism and ageism. In a society that continues to promote younger-skinnier-tighter as the aesthetic ideal, taking pride in our health — and hotness — is a form of fighting back.

The Hip Chronicles: Mysteries in Marriage

Editors’ Note: SF contributor A.K. Whitney has been sharing the painful process — physically and emotionally — of her recent hip replacement at an all-too-young age (before 40!). We’ve been so riveted by her brave, honest, poignant, and often very funny posts that we’ve shared one of our favorites here that shows exactly why we think she’s a Sexy Feminist.

In my series, the RA Diaries (which can be found in its entirety on my blog here), I’ve tried to write about the weird, the painful and even the comical parts of having a chronic illness. Very recently, I had what for many RA patients is a rite of passage: my first joint replacement. My new right hip, with its festive combination of titanium, cobalt and plastic polymer, is worth five times more than my car. And it will surely be a great source of amusement to TSA scanners worldwide, because on x-rays it looks like I’m packing some major heat.

Now, kind reader, let me tell you exactly how I went about getting my new hip. But be warned. It’s gonna get gross. And graphic. And, maybe once in a while, somewhat amusing. I hope you get something out of it. I’m certainly hoping I will.

Before I went into the hospital for my surgery, the plan was for me to come home after I was released. Since I would be released Thanksgiving week, my husband could get away with taking time off work to take care of me. Then in the next few weeks, my parents and my mother-in-law would come babysit three days a week (my husband would telecommute the other two days).

But by the second full day in hospital, I realized that my plan just wasn’t feasible. I needed far more help than I’d thought. Getting out of bed was difficult. Sitting up was difficult. Walking was difficult.

Getting dressed, cleaning myself and using the toilet were difficult, even with plenty of assistive devices. I minded the toilet part particularly, since I’ve taken pride in being independent there since toddlerhood.

Mostly, I didn’t want my husband to help me with the latter. It’s not like he’s Elvis Presley, and that the sight of my natural bodily functions would turn him off forever (apparently, the idea of Priscilla giving birth was enough to make Elvis never want to sex her up again). It was more about keeping some mystery in my marriage.

[Read more...]

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