Sexy Feminism Excerpt: Our Feminist Meet-Cute

To celebrate the publication of our book, Sexy Feminism, we’ll be sharing some short excerpts of it with you, the readers who helped make this book possible! 

Jennifer and I met when we were both on a journey to find—and become—our true selves. We met when both of our lives were in apparent disarray, because we had just lost the men in them. Jennifer had recently broken up with her fiancé, and I had just moved to New York City and left behind a ten-year relationship. A mutual friend recommended I connect with Jennifer because she thought we would click. What an understatement. We bonded first over broken hearts but quickly moved on to a shared passion to do something bigger than the traditional framework of our lives had outlined for us. In a way, we answered each other’s need to become a feminist revolutionary.

Our first “date” we went to see, appropriately, Bend It Like Beckham, a story of female soccer players and friendship. Afterward, as we talked, we agreed we hated current women’s magazines and wished we had our own publication for which to write, one that would print stories on things we cared about. Bust was just emerging as a more modern Ms. (and note: swoon!), but the newsstand was dominated by women’s self-help magazines—the kind that tells women how to do everything they already know how to do and how to fix everything that isn’t broken. Don’t get me wrong: we both loved fashion, makeup, entertainment, and sex. But if we must write about makeup and fashion, we reasoned, couldn’t we write about the ways they both empower and restrict us? Wasn’t there a lot to be said about how pop culture treats women? Shouldn’t someone be writing more in depth and frankly about women’s sex lives? Where was all the real information in women’s media?

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Links for Sexy Feminists: Real Beauty, Anorexia, Girl Geeks, and more

Real Beauty:  We posted last week about Dove’s latest ad campaign, but The Frisky has a great article about issues the ad raises.  Writing for the Houston Press, Abby Koenig says that even if you find the ads problematic, they’re a step in the right direction.  Her article also discusses the controversial “You Are Not A Sketch” campaign, which Dodai Stewart of Jezebel says “passes the buck and misses the point.”

The Point Being: Speaking of anorexia, modeling scouts in Sweden apparently recruit from a clinic for those suffering from the disease.  Ick.

Girls and Geeks: The two terms aren’t mutually exclusive at all, of course.  But a great post by a guy about wanting to play videogames with his 9-year-old daughter is both sweet and thought-provoking.

Women Are Hilarious: And one of our favorite funny feminists, Katie Goodman, needs your help to get to Edinburgh Fringe.

Feminism in Action: A new UK arts project attempts to get us all thinking about how our feminism is part of everyday life.

Catcall Patrol: Writer Emmie Mears on why catcalls feel threatening.

Sex and Gender: After a recent post which compared a woman refusing sex with her husband to child neglect, NYMag has an appropriately eye-rolling response.  It’s worth mentioning that one of the experts quoted in the original article was talking about sexual desire irrespective of gender, and that’s clear in the article itself.





Embracing a Full Mastectomy

After years of fearing the worst, culminating in a diagnosis of breast cancer, Michelle Cottle says, “Good riddance, girls.” In fact, she calls removing her breasts the culmination of a wish.

Links for Sexy Feminists: Gosnell Abortion Trial, Eve Ensler Tour, Female Sexuality, and more

Gosnell Abortion Scandal: We were horrified to learn about the unsanitary and unethical conditions which plagued a Pennsylvania clinic, and predictably, the right wing is using the case as ammunition.  The Atlantic asks why none of the protesters who prayed outside the clinic ever heard of the awful conditions.  Writing for Jezebel, Katie J.M. Baker points out that the clinic’s conditions show all too clearly the risks of overregulation: women with limited legal options may have no choice but to visit such a squalid clinic.

Go Meet Eve: One of the great feminist icons of our time, Eve Ensler will be touring in support of her latest book, so be sure to check out her site to find out if she’s visiting your city.

Wearing Makeup: Why no feminist has to choose between makeup and feminism, and makeup is about so much more than simply looking good.  On the other side of the beauty spectrum, you will doubtless be hearing about Dove’s “beauty sketches” in the coming weeks, but it may be helpful to keep these thoughts in mind as well.

Pregnancy Empowerment: Don’t tell pregnant women they should worry about getting their old body back; their new body could be an amazing testament to their experience.

Female Sexuality: Think it was always the case that women were stereotyped to want sex less?  Not at all!  Alternet explores how for most of Western history it went the other way, and traces the shift.

Teen Girl Watch: Cyberbullying has compounded the trauma of sexual violence in other cases besides Steubenville, with tragic consequences.

Leaning In to Rethink Marriage

After an initial rage of criticism, Sheryl Sandberg has steadily gained ground in both feminist and corporate circles. Lean In has been reviewed from every possible angle, and the book is actually a good, quick, entertaining, informative, and sometimes shocking read, which I highly recommend – but yet another review is not what you are waiting for. Instead, it’s time we tackle that other aspect of the dreaded term “work-life-balance.” Forgoing the temptation to criticize this strange terminology, as if work is not inherently part of life rather than juxtaposed to it (a point indeed made in Lean In), let’s focus on family life for a bit. And when it comes to gender issues, that automatically means the central role society assigns to marriage and motherhood, more than anything else, in the lives of women.

With discussions going on and on about equal marriage rights in the United States, a letter by “Princeton Mom” (and alumna) Susan Patton urging female college students to look for a husband while in university, and a recently posted CNN article about American couples living together without being married (shocking!), it is clear that marriage in the United States is still viewed as a sacred tradition and a number one priority – for women.

I have followed the arguments with a growing sense of discomfort – not to say downright shock. Time for some common sense.

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Celebrating Earth Day: Why Environmentalism Is Feminism

In this excerpt from our new book, Sexy Feminism, we argue why caring about the earth is the kind of activism that can actually save the world. We hope you’re inspired to do something today. We’d also love to hear what you’re doing to help Mother Nature while promoting equality for all. Email us at or comment below.

Why is environmental activism a feminist cause? At its core, feminism is about humanitarianism. Everyone must do her part to ensure a brighter future for the global population. Consider a few recent examples of natural disasters:

The 7-magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010 was the nation’s most devastating in two centuries, not for its force but for the insurmountable destruction. This already-struggling country was not equipped to take the brunt of such a tremor, which resulted in the cities crumbling. The death toll of 300,000 and more than 2 million left homeless was the worst blow. The unthinkable crimes against women (rape, beatings) and children (abandonment, illegal trafficking) that followed was the violent aftermath.

Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of starvation in the world — more than 40 percent of its residents are classified as malnourished, and 45 percent of all children are starving. This nation is one of the poorest on the planet, and it also has a history of natural disasters — tropical floods, cyclones, tornadoes, and monsoons hit every year.

In 2007, Cyclone Sidr killed nearly 10,000 people and caused a whopping $1.5 billion in damage — about 2 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

Even when disaster strikes industrialized nations — such as the 2010 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the ongoing hurricanes and flooding in the southern United States — those that suffer most are families already living at or under the poverty line. Every time one of these environmental catastrophes strikes, humanitarian efforts are derailed, making already bad situations much worse.

In addition to donating to charities that fight against these atrocities, you have to live your life with respect to how it affects the environment. It matters.

Sexy Feminist Action Plan

Reduce, reuse, recycle. It’s more than just a catchy slogan; it’s something that should be a part of everyday life. Simple, consistent actions can make a world of difference — and just the difference the world needs to survive. Some ideas:

We’d like to demand you never use another plastic bottle or grocery bag, but this is easier said than done. Invest in reusable everything until you no longer need these items, and recycle anything and everything you can. Visit your county’s website for details on everything that’s recyclable. It’s fascinating, surprising, and comforting to know how many things you can toss in the bin to be reused rather than piled in a landfill.

Drive less.

Walk more.

Plant a tree or join a community garden.

Clean out your closets twice a year and take your duds to a recycled-clothing store for credit, where you can buy new looks for way less. This is also a good way to shop when it’s 90 degrees in December but retail stores are stocked with wool turtlenecks and fleece leggings. (This could be happening more, thanks to global warming.)

Get crafty; create new uses for old things. We admit, we suck at this, so enlist a crafty friend or children (they are all awesome at this) to help spark some ideas.

Be a conscious consumer. If more of us buy consciously and demand better products from the corporations that sell us all the stuff we use, then that’s what the marketplace will supply. That’s how green cleaning products became mainstream and how the unfair, unsafe, and inhumane labor practices of some major manufacturers became public knowledge (visit for a directory of retail stores and companies that do not work with sweatshops). Every time you open your wallet, you’re sending a message. It’s an opportunity to speak up without saying a word.

Excerpted from “Sexy Feminism: A Girl’s Guide to Love, Succes, and Style” (2013 by Mariner Books). © Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and Heather Wood Rudulph – All Rights Reserved

Links for Sexy Feminists: Workplace Politics, Tech Solutions to Human Trafficking, and more

Sexism at Work: In the wake of the firing of Adria Richards, Colorlines has a great commentary breaking down how racism and sexism caused her termination. Meanwhile, Lindy West has a great piece talking about the right and wrong way to complement a female colleague, in light of Obama’s problematic remarks last week. And this week we observe Equal Pay Day, which represents how far into 2013 many of us had to work to earn what a man earned in 2012.
DIY Activism: You can make a difference, since the online feminist community is significant, large, and growing.
M.R.S. Revisted:charming rebuttal of the idea that one’s early twenties is the right time to go after a mate, assuming one is privileged enough to spend those years in college.
Ending Rape Culture: Raffi called on men to speak out against the phenomenon, to the delight of inner children everywhere.
Accessible Plan B: Ever since the drug first launched, research has suggested that it must be given ASAP. A Federal judge in Brooklyn recently ruled that all troublesome age and ID restrictions should be lifted. This editorial concludes that “An appeal would be unwise, unnecessary, unwarranted.”

How to Make Yourself Feel Beautiful

Don’t worry, we’re not going to make you say affirmations in the mirror or break out your journal. Nor are we going to talk about makeup, hair, or diet tips. In the spirit of fighting The Beauty Myth, we’re going to get just a little Oprah-Remembering-Your-Spirit-ish here and share some of our ideas about how to make yourself feel good — a close cousin, incidentally, to a dear feminist concept expressed by Audre Lorde known as “self care”: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Here, some ways to indulge in a little positive warfare — share your ideas with us as well!

Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself. Important corollary: Ditch anyone who makes you feel like crap.

Wear only stuff that makes you feel good. You know that top that every time you take it out, you’re like, Ugh, why did I buy this? Donate it to a thrift store. It will fit someone else better and then they can feel how you wish you always did in it.

Put yourself out there. Sing, perform, speak. Once you get through it, even if it doesn’t go perfectly, you’ll feel good just for trying and overcoming your fears. If you kick ass at it, you’ll feel even better. Warning: You’ll probably get addicted to this feeling and have to go to karaoke every week. For example. Not that this has happened to us.

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Revisiting ‘The Beauty Myth’

beautymythI just finished re-reading Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, which I haven’t actually read since college women’s studies class. It was pretty new then — I distinctly remember Wolf visiting Northwestern’s campus to fire us all up about the idea of Third Wave feminism — and it certainly spoke to me, as a budding feminist and beauty product enthusiast. But revisiting it now, 20 years later, evokes an all-too-common feeling I get when reading old feminist texts: Holy shit, nothing has changed. Or, actually, things have only gotten worse, in this case — I couldn’t help wondering what Wolf would make of bikini waxes (perhaps they’d warrant their own chapter, as they did in the book I co-authored, Sexy Feminism) or “vaginal rejuvenation.” At one point she evokes the spectre of sewed-up labia as a possibility in a terrifying future. Welcome to that future.

If you’re not familiar with this book, first, I recommend reading it immediately. If you’re a woman, it will change your life; you will realize you are not irrational, or crazy, or silly. There are compelling reasons you find yourself comparing your wrinkles to other women’s on the subway, or secretly delighting in shots of celebrity cellulite, or spending your whole paycheck at Sephora. Those reasons are systemic, cultural, and hell-bent on patriarchy.

Yeah, it’s a little depressing, but awareness is the first step. And at the end, Wolf outlines some great ways for us to take action against the Beauty Myth — which we must continue to do so that our daughters will look back at us and laugh: Why did you think you had to lose another ten pounds? I’m recording some of those ideas here in handy list form, both to remind myself, and in hopes that anyone else might join me:

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Sexy Feminism Excerpt: Feminist Beauty Companies

To celebrate the publication of our book, Sexy Feminism, we’ll be sharing some short excerpts of it with you, the readers who helped make this book possible! 

Consider these feminist-minded companies the next time you need to  stock up on your favorite products.

PeaceKeeper Cause-Metics: Founded on the principles of nonviolence and truthfulness, this company gives all of its after-tax distributable profits to charities that support women’s health and human rights. It  sells only products that come from companies that practice fair labor policies and do not test on animals:

MAC: A favorite of stage actors and drag queens, MAC launched its line of VIVA Glam lipsticks and lip-glosses in 1994 to contribute to HIV/AIDS research and treatment. The MAC AIDS Fund has raised more than $250 million worldwide through sales of VIVA Glam products, which are often endorsed by sexy feminists such as Christina Aguilera, Cyndi Lauper, Mary J. Blige, and Lady Gaga. The lipsticks are freaking gorgeous and they last longer than most. So splurge—and save lives:

The Body Shop:Long gone are the days of hemp oils and patchouli perfumes (though you can still get those here). The Body Shop has a complete modern line of face, body, and beauty products—from mango body butter to mineral makeup—all derived from natural ingredients and sourced from communities around the world to help sustain them. The company also has active campaigns to stop sex trafficking and domestic violence and to raise awareness of global HIV/AIDS:

Pre-order your copy of Sexy Feminism today!

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