‘I’m Not a Chick Lit Writer’

Lynn Messina, the author of the forthcoming Girls’ Guide to Dating Zombies, rails against the derogatory term that just won’t die.

I’m not a chick lit writer.

Yes, I wrote a novel called Fashionistas, which featured well-heeled fashion editors drinking pink cocktails in swank hotel bars. But it was a satire taking aim at well-heeled fashion editors drinking pink cocktails in swank hotel bars. The editor in chief of Fashionista magazine puts Jesus Christ in haute couture on the cover because she thinks the messiah is the ultimate cultural get: As John Lennon proved, nobody is bigger than Jesus. She builds the entire issue around him with articles about must-have resurrection wear and hot nativity scenes owned by hotter celebrities.

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Links for Sexy Feminists: Katha Politt on Penn State, Video Game Girls, and more …

Katha Politt blames football — yes, all of it — for the Penn State scandal: The macho culture of the college gridiron needs an overhaul, she argues in The Nation

Girls in games: A critical history of that too-rare creature, the female video game character, over at Rookie

Feminism isn’t dead: So says Manifesta author Jennifer Baumgardner in an interview with Ms.

Why grown women love Twilight: The Huffington Post has a cute list (“We like glitter”) that doesn’t try to make this too deep or talk too much about creepy Twi-moms

Is anybody else as fascinated by this Natalie Wood thing as we are?: Maybe it’s all those viewings of Miracle on 34th Street, but we really want L.A. police to solve her decades-old death

Sexy Feminists Read: Pamela Haag’s ‘Marriage Confidential’

Pamela Haag‘s book Marriage Confidential shows — once again — how political the personal really is. She explores the history of marriage, an institution naturally wrought with feminist implications, and in the process reveals why so many are disillusioned with “’til death do us part” these days. We talked with the author about how to build a feminist marriage, avoid the dream-wedding trap, and stop worrying about “having it all.”

What should women, in particular, do to make their relationships the egalitarian partnerships they’ve dreamed of?

The first thing women need to do is to ask for it. We need to be willing—and brave enough—to be clear about what we expect. Sometimes, this might mean putting ourselves at odds with the men in our lives, or acting like an uppity feminist—at a time when “feminism” is a socially reviled term.

And, although this isn’t such a popular thing to say, I think we women need to hold ourselves accountable for our own dreams. It’s easy to fall for premature realism. It’s so easy just to burrow into parenthood, or standards of perfect mothering, and “give up” on the travails and the exhaustion that come with having other dreams and ambitions.

For example, in my book I describe a woman in her 40s who had debated with herself, and her husband, about having children for many years. When we went through the pros and cons, she commented that if she did have children, she felt like she could finally “just relax.” The comment puzzled me at first. But what she meant was that she could just focus entirely on being a mom, and finally give up on worrying about her career and other ambitions.

I think she was articulating a feeling that lots of us have had.  We have to fight against our own urges just to give up in the face of cultural or institutional barriers or judgment.

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News for Sexy Feminists: Saudi Sexism, Sleep Issues, TV’s Feminism for Men

Women in Saudi Arabia are once again being forced to hide the fact that they are, in fact, women. The state already requires women to cover their heads–and often faces–whenever they are in public. Now, Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (founded in 1940 to enforce Islamic law, which essentially means brutalizing women with sticks for infractions such as an exposed ankle or eye contact with a man) is requiring women with “tempting eyes” to cover them in public. First of all, what the hell does that mean? Doesn’t everyone have tempting eyes? Second, are you serious? Dear UN Human Rights Council: Ahem!

The Samuel L. Jackson narrated “Go the Fuck to Sleep” became a viral hit with frazzled, frustrated parents. But perhaps they should be reading it to themselves. A new Norwegian study reveals that poor sleep among women is a top contributor to chronic illness and pain, namely, fibromyalgia. Among study participants, even those with occasional trouble getting to sleep had double the risk of developing the musculoskelatal condition that affects the joints, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues–so you’re basically miserable all the time.

TIME’s James Poniewozik writes about the best new feminist characters on TV–and they’re dudes, citing Will Arnett’s character in “Up All Night,” one of our faves as well. But more importantly, Poniewozik writes, “Having more new sitcoms created by women is the best way to get more interesting and varied male characters on TV.” Fascinating point and we couldn’t agree more. If you look at the most dynamic casts on TV today — “Nurse Jackie,” “30 Rock,” “New Girl,” “The Office,” “The Good Wife” and (yes, still) “Grey’s Anatomy,” you’ll se one thing in common: Women are running these shows, or at least writing a heck of a lot of the episodes, in the case of “The Office.” Now that’s must-see TV.

Speaking about “The Office,” executive producer Mindy Kaling does a pretty awesome job of describing what it’s like to be a Sexy Feminist in this new interview with A.V. Club. Is there any wonder we’ve named her one of the leading ladies we’d love to see as the next Julia Roberts?


Leading Ladies We’d Love to See as ‘The Next Julia Roberts’

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Hollywood is filled with beautiful, talented actresses, but every time a new movie hits the theaters, it feels like the same cookie-cutter actresses (sorry, Katherine Heigl) are playing the lead roles while industry insiders fret over finding "the next Julia." We think it's time for a new type of leading lady in Hollywood, someone who can bring some diversity and authenticity to the movies we love. These are some of the talented actresses we want to see star in Hollywood’s next big blockbuster.

Which actress do you think deserve a starring role? Tell us in the comments below!
Photo: David Moir/Reuters/Landov

5 Qs with ‘New Girl’ Creator Liz Meriwether

New Girl on Fox was this close to making our list of feminist shows to watch this fall — and has garnered our affection more with time — so we were thrilled to have a chance to talk to Liz Meriwether, the creator, writer, and executive producer of the show. Meriwether told us about creating a female centric show, the emerging prominence of female comedy in Hollywood, and the polarizing presence of star Zooey Deschanel.

Was it hard to pitch a series that revolved around women to a network?

It wasn’t hard. I felt really encouraged by the way the network received the show the whole way through. I think the first time I met Kevin Reilly, who is the head of Fox, he said to me, I want to keep this female character really unique and I want you to protect her throughout this whole process, which was really rare and the first time I had heard that from a network exec. I actually found that there wasn’t resistance to an odd female character at the center of the show, which I found really gratifying. I really don’t think the show could work if the network hadn’t understood it and really supported it.

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Girl Kisses (and More) In TV and Film: A 20-Year Retrospective

It’s been twenty years since two women first kissed on a prime time television series. (To find out which show, read on.)

So to celebrate, here’s a brief chronology of girls-who-like-girls characters in TV and film. While many such story lines are produced to merely titillate audiences (see Virginia Heffernan’s 2005 New York Times article on television series using lesbian subplots during sweeps week), I can’t deny that these shows also opened up a larger dialogue in our culture. Here are some of the most positive examples of girl love from the past two decades:

1991: L.A. Law delivers the first on-screen girl-on-girl kiss in the episode, “He’s a Crowd.” Here’s how it goes down: Abby and C.J. (played by Michele Greene and Amanda Donohue, respectively) share a meal together after Abby is turned down for a partnership at the firm. Afterward, they kiss outside in a parking lot. C.J. identifies herself as “flexible” (possibly the first character to ever use that term on television) while Abby considers herself completely heterosexual. Although this subplot doesn’t go very far (and was mostly used as a ratings ploy), I have no doubt that without it the list that follows probably wouldn’t exist.

1996: While the ten-year run of Friends did not primarily feature a lesbian relationship, the episode known as “The One With the Lesbian Wedding” is quite a milestone. Long before the legalization of gay marriage and civil unions, Carol and Susan walked down the aisle and declared their love in a relatively traditional ceremony. On a particularly sweet note, Ross, Carol’s ex, offers to give her away in lieu of her father who disapproved of the marriage.

1997: Ellen DeGeneres as Ellen Morgan comes out on Ellen in the now-infamous “Puppy Episode.” While the show’s ratings suffered and DeGeneres’s own personal revelation that she is gay set off a major backlash, it wasn’t long before she was back on top—hosting the Emmys in 2001, performing a new stand-up comedy routine on HBO, and of course, launching her daytime talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Oh and need I mention marrying one of the most gorgeous women alive, Portia De Rossi? She’s also a Cover Girl—which is both a milestone and an awesome slap in the face to her critics.

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SF Links: Perspectives on the Penn State Scandal, the Spice Girls, and More

News and perspectives from some of our favorite sources around the web:

The Nation‘s Dave Zirin on Joe Paterno and rape apologism: Zirin rails against a Penn State culture that prioritizes football over victims of abuse.

Rookie’s Sady Doyle in defense of the Spice Girls’ legacy: She wasn’t a fan when they came out in the ’90s, but she’s come around since then.

Are cookbooks’ days numbered?: The Inadvertent Gardener thinks so, thanks to the Internet. We still cling to our copy of Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Life like a life preserver though.

The Ms. blog on Cal State students’ battle against hate speech: Apparently they’re trying to use Title IX to shut down a hateful campus tabloid filled with rape jokes and homophobic slurs.

The Violet Room on whether it’s appropriate to say “thanks” after sex: We may have been guilty of this a time or two ourselves. Oops. Our moms taught us manners a little too well.

Why We Love Girl Scouts (and Seth Green!)

I don’t know if kids are still into being Girl Scouts. I hope so; I was a Brownie and a Junior, and it was a pretty rocking combination of exploring the Forest Preserve near my house and choreographing dance routines to Duran Duran’s “Wild Boys” (God knows why). It’s also the most natural training ground for future feminists if it’s done right, fostering cooperation and friendship among girls while encouraging them to have their own adventures and be self-sufficient. That’s why I’m heartened to see that the Scouts are keeping up with the times, as evidenced by this awesome video about media literacy, starring a bunch of teen stars, a few Desperate Housewives … and Seth Green! I haven’t been this fond of him since he was in Can’t Hardly Wait.

Pink Ribbon Remembrance: Farewell Evelyn Lauder

The woman who made pink the color of power has passed away at 75. Evelyn Lauder, an executive at Estee Lauder Cosmetics for decades, founded the pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness in 1992. She was responsible for getting October decreed National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and launched the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which has received hundreds of millions of dollars in donations since its launch–funds which have been used for invaluable research in the effort to cure breast cancer. To the end, Evelyn fought tirelessly for cancer awareness and research, constantly lobbying her deep-pocked friends and associates to get involved. She is an example of how following a passion–and turning it into action–can help change the world.

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