Princesses, Prince Charmings, and Fairytale Weddings

Ours is a culture that is obsessed with the idea of women as royalty. Not in the lofty, noble sense that would imply that we are treated like royalty, i.e. deserving of respect and veneration — but in a more media-influenced, rhetorical sense that is simultaneously vague and totally particular. Terms like “princess” have pretty much been stripped of any traditional meaning (except the submissive part) and replaced with that of being hyper-feminine, pink-loving, spoiled, and completely appearance-reliant. And this royal, girlie-girl language is peppered throughout our cultural dialogue without any seeming awareness of what it may be inspiring. We still call little girls “princess.” Grown-up women dream of finding “Prince Charming.” Even if you are, say, the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and you are being interviewed by an (apparently sexist) talk show host like Piers Morgan, you can expect questions like, “Do you dream of a fairytale wedding?”, and “Are you high maintenance?”

So when I decided to read Peggy Orenstein’s new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, it wasn’t because I’m trying to navigate the world of Bratz dolls and Hannah Montana for my own offspring. I’m only 20 years old and do not have or currently want offspring. I wanted to read it because I’ve watched the show Toddlers and Tiaras. I saw Piers Morgan’s cringe-inducing interview with Rice. I babysit a 3-going-on-4 year old who just adores anything pink, fairy-like, princessy, butterfly-laden, or all four combined — and the extremity of it all led me to wonder what I liked when I was a child, how that translates to who I am now, and how her (and all other young girls’) intense girlie-girlishness will inform who they become. Although Orenstein doesn’t come to many definitive conclusions herself about what to make of it all — which is partly why the book is so good — I found out a lot of stuff about the new culture of sugar, no spice, and everything nice. [Read more...]

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.

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...]

FemiNoshing: Living in a Food Desert

I moved into my first apartment when I was 27. I had just graduated with my master’s degree and gotten my first full-time job as a reporter. I was finally a grown-up, albeit a grown-up with high expenses (student loans) and a low salary (I worked for a newspaper). That low salary meant the apartment I could afford wasn’t in the most affluent part of town, but it was spacious and it was cute, with hardwood floors and high ceilings and lots of windows. And my hood wasn’t in “the hood” — that was a few blocks west, with its occasional gunfire and circling police helicopters. A few blocks east, the real estate prices soared, and so did the number of nice cars and golden retrievers.

Still, my neighborhood was nicely eclectic, with renters and homeowners, families, singles, and empty-nesters. Multiple languages could be heard from windows and yards as you passed, and every race seemed represented. Every year during Pride Week, my neighborhood was the hub of the parade. We had three churches, a branch library, an elementary school, and a firehouse (where the firefighters grew their own herbs and were always happy to share their recipe for chicken piccata). We also had an arthouse movie theater, a dozen restaurants (including a KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell), at least three hipster coffee houses, numerous  boutiques, two Pilates and yoga studios, and a pot dispensary (which also offered high colonics).

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FemiNoshing: It's Always Convenient to Blame the Woman

There’s been a lot of talk in the feminist blogosphere lately about Michael Pollan, food activist and author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan is anti-meat, pro-organic and pro locally grown food, and a major critic of the global industrial food complex. These are all fine things to be, since our healthy-food-is-only-for-the-rich lifestyle is having major repercussions on our health and happiness. It is, however, not so great when he jumps on the “feminists have ruined family mealtime by refusing to cook” bandwagon.

In “The Foodie Indictment of Feminism,” Salon’s Anna Clark points to Pollan’s most recent screed. She writes:

“So while reading Pollan’s latest piece in The New York Review of Books, I was nodding along as he articulated how the local food culture manifests the good kind of movement fragmentation — threading together diverse interests to create a powerful force. I was nodding, at least, until I got to the part where he discusses Janet A. Flammang’s new book, The Taste of Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society. Pollan writes:

In a challenge to second-wave feminists who urged women to get out of the kitchen, Flammang suggests that by denigrating “foodwork” — everything involved in putting meals on the family table — we have unthinkingly wrecked one of the nurseries of democracy: the family meal.

Clark goes on to say that this is not the first time Pollan has idealized the notion of woman as food provider and keeper of the family hearth–nor is it the first time he’s blamed feminists for encouraging women to discard that role, which he implies has led (if only partly) to the mess we’re in now.

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FemiNoshing: Being a Responsible Carnivore

Let me get this out of the way–this is not an anti-vegetarian treatise. Nor is it a pro-vegetarian one. I eat meat, and plan to do so for the foreseeable future. No, this installment of FemiNoshing is for those out there who–like me–for whatever personal reason, like to make meat part of their diet, but want to do so as ethically and responsibly as possible. The issue is, how do you eat meat in such a way? It’s not an easy question and through my research I haven’t been able to find one single answer. However, responsible carnivors should consider the following things:

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FemiNoshing: My Organic Conundrum

It happens every time I go into my neighborhood supermarket. There I am in the produce aisle, with a long list of fruits and veggies I plan to turn into healthy meals for myself and my spouse.

As I stand there, surrounded by neatly stacked apples and oranges and onions, my eye invariably travels to the far wall. This wall is also lined with apples and oranges and onions (as well as lots of other stuff), but above all the veggies is a large green banner. The banner proclaims, proudly, that the produce beneath is “ORGANIC.”

Just in case anyone misses the ginormous banner, each fruit or vegetable is wrapped in a green ribbon with “ORGANIC” stamped on it.

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FemiNoshing: What I Won't Do for a Klondike Bar

I love chocolate, and I love vanilla ice cream, but guess what? I am not going out of my way for a Klondike bar anytime soon. I used to love Burger King’s French fries, but lately, I’d rather have fries at McDonald’s. And Carl’s Jr.? The last time I bought anything there was in 1998. Why? Well, Klondike, your insanely misogynistic “man cave” online campaign lost me completely. And while I chuckled at your Whopper and Whopper Jr. campaigns, Burger King, your King commercials—with a jerky pantomime patriarch—are a real turnoff. And what the hell was up with that XXX SpongeBob ad?

As for Carl’s Jr., you lost me long before you hired Paris Hilton to gyrate on a car. Your late ’90s campaigns showing people shoving your food into their mouths while smacking, slurping and snorting made me want to vomit.

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FemiNoshing: Food Is Beauty, Beauty Food

I’ve been covering some pretty heavy topics at FemiNoshing lately, and while that’s been quite cathartic for not just myself, but for many wonderful readers, it’s summer and I’m in the mood for something light.

I’ve always had a weakness for beauty products with fruity smells — Body Shop’s satsuma soaps, anything verbena, peach-scented lotion. Philosophy’s products are like crack, and I can’t leave a store that sells them without sniffing every sample bottle.

The problem is that, at least for me, the recession is still very much a reality, and I can’t really justify spending $20 on a body scrub. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Your average grocery store is full of ingredients you can mix up yourself, and then use the leftovers for a snack or light meal.

Now, I can just hear your groans. “I’ve seen this story a million times in women’s magazines! Do something different!”

I know, I know! My lovely colleagues here at Sirens tackled this very thing a few years ago, and proved, conclusively, that raw eggs and warm showers don’t mix. But bear with me — this will be different. What follows is not just about beauty treatments you can make from food: I am also including recipes to make something out of the food you have left. At FemiNoshing (during a recession), waste is not the watchword. (Many thanks to Sirens co-founder Heather Wood Rudulph for the beauty expertise!)

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FemiNoshing: Paleta Power

I spent a few of my formative years living in Mexico City. My house was across the street from a bunch of shops, and on the corner was a place that sold sandwiches (also known as tortas) and ice pops and juices (also known as paletas and aguas frescas).

When the summer weather started, my best friend and I would go buy paletas. They had as many flavors as Baskin Robbins, and some were more exotic than others, with chili or tamarind or guava or hibiscus.

My favorite was the strawberry, followed by the lemon. My best friend usually went for the coconut or the chili tamarind.

When I moved to the United States, I missed paletas a lot. Not that the ice pops on sale in supermarkets tasted bad per se — they just didn’t taste as fresh and fruity as the ones I was used to, and were often full of corn syrup and artificial colors. I realize having an ice pop turn your tongue green is part of the fun, but I never got into it.

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