Links for Sexy Feminists: Costume Play, Male Beauty, and more

Costume Play: Between Halloween and last week’s geek gathering at New York Comic Con, ’tis the season to disguise oneself. You might be saddened but not surprised to see some of the awful, creepy things that cosplayers have been told. These pale in comparison to what happened to one unfortunate soul who had her personal photo of herself as Lara Croft mocked after she accidentally left off the friendslock control on Facebook, yet she sounds empowered in the essay. Yet going in disguise has an important way of releasing inhibitions, according to My Other Me, new documentary about cosplayers.

Ancient History: New findings suggest that most cave paintings were done by female artists.

Sexual Violence: Why campaigns to end the stigma of female pleasure might be triggering for victims of sexual assault. And an empowering look at how an organization in Nashville attempts to turn the tide for domestic victims of sex trafficking.

Real Male Beauty: Since men are increasingly subjected to all the same b.s. beauty standards, it’s refreshing to see four average dudes pose in their underwear.

South Asian Women: Though Malala has been a viral sensation recently for her incredible poise, it’s too soon for her to win the Nobel, and just as well she didn’t. And we love this photoessay about maverick women in Nepal.

Black Women’s Hair: A new collection of photographs gives white women stereotypically black hairstyles, and Crunk Feminist Collective published a moving response.

Female In Public: This wonderful essay perfectly captures what it’s like to be a woman and realize that to some, you are public property.

Links for Sexy Feminists: Against Rape Culture, Female Beauty, and more

Against Rape Culture: Wonderful Indian actresses team up to explain why every rape ever is the woman’s fault, and their words ring sadly true for the U.S. And it’s too bad it was needed, but this great “Missed Connections” listing calls out a serious douche for street harassment.

African Feminists: Women in Rwanda are making great political gains through organized feminism, and we all could learn from them.

Bringing Home the Bacon: Why there was never a “traditional male breadwinner” in most of human history.

Intersectionality and Inclusion: If you’re a white feminist, chances are you could benefit from reading this simple list of ways to be a better ally against racism.

Not a Parody: Great humor piece about a woman who is making 300 sandwiches to get her man to propose. Flag this for use in your next “Make me a sandwich” style flameware.

Creepy Uncle Sam: We’re delighted that the “Other 98%” has turned the imagery of the Koch ad around on itself to argue against transvaginal ultrasounds.

Female Beauty Standards: Blogging for The New Yorker, Rebecca Mead uses the hook of Lena Dunham’s recent tweet on George Eliot to mention that the renowned writer of Middlemarch was probably far less desperate than her legend suggests.

Links for Sexy Feminists: Trayvon’s Friend, Feminist Slurs, Shaving, and more

Feminist or Not?: A male photographer documents the changing role of the sexes in Spain by photographing men in women’s clothes. The premise could certainly be read as feminist, except that he states on his website that he’s concerned about “men’s sense of loss of reference.” Concerned? Weigh in in the comments!

International Dress: An Indian American woman on proudly dressing in her salwaar kameese and dupatta.

Language Games: A fun romp through the dictionary to learn the origins of some common slurs for women.

Moral Abortion: We love this piece by a rabbi about how his Judaism causes him to see abortion very differently than the Christian right.

To Shave or Not: One woman’s take on the age-old feminist debate.

Lesbian Blues: A charming piece on the queerness of 1920′s blues singers.

Hard to Get?: Why playing “the game” plays into the patriarchy’s hand. And an interesting take on rape culture uses an analogy with banks to turn the tables on guys. On the lighter side, we love this excellently written parody on the “pickup artist” movement.

Women Travelers: Which leads us to this fine perspective on being a solo woman traveler.

Trayvon’s Friend: The star witness for the prosecution fell victim to some tired stereotypes about African-American women. Meanwhile, she has already suffered the devastating impact of being the last person to talk to her friend when he was alive. Crunk Feminist Collective gathers some nice notes in solidarity.

Links for Sexy Feminists: Real Royalty, Philosophy, Twitter, and more

Disney Princess Syndrome: Coming on the heels of Disney’s problematic contributions to current girlie-girl culture, a new “It Happened to Me” talks about Disney’s apathy and denial after a female employee was raped by a coworker.

Real Royalty: That’s why we were heartened to read this message of empowerment from Queen Rania of Jordan about her affection for her tomboy daughter.

Fathers and Daughters: We all know a few subtle sexists, so it’s encouraging to see this essay from a dad to his daughter on how he’s working on the problem.

Allies Unite: Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous has some advice for the allies in name only.

Underrepresented Women: A great piece on NPR wonders why philosophy is one of the few male-dominated branches of the humanities. It’s worth remembering that Simone de Beauvoir deserves to be recognized as a great philosopher for laying the groundwork of modern feminist theory.

Sexy Feminist: Enjoy this latest mashup Twitter, Feminist Taylor Swift.

Twitter Mishaps: And then gasp in horror at this British conservative politician’s crude potshot at Nigella Lawson.


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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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!

Sexy Feminism Excerpt: Plastic Surgery — Can You?

Leading up to the publication of our book, Sexy Feminism, on March 12, we’ll be sharing some short excerpts of it with you, the readers who helped make this book possible! Here, a portion of our chapter, “Plastic Surgery: Can You?” 

In May 2011, a young mother sat down for a TV interview to defend giving her eight-year-old daughter regular Botox injections. She said it was the edge her girl needed on the ultra-competitive beauty-pageant circuit. Those mussy lines on her face just wouldn’t do. According to her mom, this eight-year-old’s lips were too weak as well, so she added Restylane injections to the child’s regular beauty routine, which also included spray tanning, teeth whitening, and virgin waxing—waxing the child’s body (legs, arms, armpits, labia) to permanently prevent hair growth. (See chapter 2 for more on that.) In June of the same year, the mother of a seven-year-old embarked on her own media tour to defend a gift she’d recently given her daughter: an IOU for breast implants.

Weird plastic-surgery stories are nothing new. For decades, there have been tales of “cat women,” women so addicted to plastic surgery that they’ve erased the humanity from their features. But at least these are grown women making choices—choices that have feminist consequences, and we’ll get to those in a bit. But little girls don’t know their faces have lines, that body hair is ugly, or that their breasts will be inadequate unless someone  feeds them this message. What have we done to women that their idea of beautiful is so twisted it  causes them to subject their children to needles and scalpels? Alas, dads are doing it too. In a 2011 episode of the talk show Anderson, a male plastic surgeon defended giving his teenage daughter breast implants and a nose job. Sigh.

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Links for Sexy Feminists: Women Working, Domestic Violence, Silver Vixens, and more

Women Working: Women face and handle workplace stresses differently than men, according to a recent study covered in the WSJ. What’s more, they often face subtle stereotyping after becoming new mothers.

James to Janice: The etiquette of addressing a friend’s gender transition.

Single and Loving It: A great piece on why simply being married (or single) isn’t the magic bullet for your life.

Feminism and Abuse: One woman’s perspective on an abusive ex sheds light on the damage the patriarchy did to the male abuser.

Silver Vixens: Portraits of women who let their natural silver shine.

The Girls Controversy, Continued: Film Critic Hulk Smash compares Lena Dunham’s show favorably to The Sopranos in an astute critical piece.

Sexy Feminism Excerpt: Making Over Feminism

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! 

Expression through makeup can be exhilarating. “One of the things that defines us as women in a positive way is we get to enjoy the colorful aesthetic—and the fun—of beauty,” says Vivian Diller, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change and What to Do About It.

The millions of products on the market today mask imperfections, smell delicious, and make us sparkle, and on top of that, they’re literally playthings—eye-shadow palettes in gorgeous cases with rhinestones; lip-gloss samplers in a rainbow of shades and flavors; bronzers with retractable brushes; nail polish in hologram hues … These items have become our favorite accessories, and with them we can paint our own identities and assert our uniqueness. They allow us to express our internal selves to the world just the way we want to or  change the way people see us with the stroke of an eyeliner pencil. Just ask trans women, many of whom have mastered this easy, accessible method of self-expression.

Buying makeup can also be a feminist act if you support the right businesses. It’s one of the few industries largely populated by female entrepreneurs. Most businesses that became beauty powerhouses were founded in the kitchens of women and turned into international corporations. Estée Lauder, Mary Kay, Avon, Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden, and Madame C. J. Walker still dominate the $10-billion-a-year industry nearly a century after the companies were founded. Though men now run many of these corporations—still, sadly, how business goes—women are often the pioneers, and the revolutionaries. Just a few of them:

  • In 1968, magazine editor Carol Phillips consulted with Park Avenue dermatologist Dr. Norman Orentreich for a Vogue article entitled “Can Great Skin Be Created?” The article caught the attention of Estée Lauder, and Phillips was brought on board to help create the first dermatologist-developed skin-care line: Clinique.
  • Bobbi Brown founded her makeup and skin-care line in 1991 on an aesthetic that’s pretty darn feminist: enhancing—never masking—a woman’s natural features. Her muted skin-tone-based cosmetics and bestselling books and web tutorials taught millions of women how to apply makeup correctly (trust us, we weren’t doing it right before) and master the art of “less is more.” She was also one of the first to use African American models regularly in makeup ads and show them as brides, a practice until then unheard of even in the late twentieth  century.
  • Leslie Blodgett became CEO of a small company called Bare Escentuals in 1994. (It didn’t hit QVC and every woman’s makeup bag till the late 1990s.) The mineral-based line that addresses problem skin made headlines:  Blodgett was committed to having real women represent the brand, and she hit the road to recruit American women throughout the United States. The ads featuring average Janes across the country helped create trust and loyalty for the brand.
  • Maureen Kelly was a mom who wanted better makeup—chemical-free, easy to use, and cool-looking—when she founded Tarte Cosmetics in 1999. It’s now one of the fastest-growing brands in the business and donates part of its proceeds to charity.

Links For Sexy Feminists: Oscars’ Opening Fallout, Sephora Addiction, Body Acceptance, and more

Rape Culture and the Oscars: This New Yorker blog offers a great, balanced look at the problem with Seth MacFarlane’s opening number. And his independent blogger calls us all out for ignoring rape culture when it comes attractively packaged. Finally, though we don’t normally think it’s fair just to turn the tables and objectifiy men, but this video pokes lighthearted fun at the whole thing.

Solve for XX: For a nice antidote, check out this talk by Geena Davis on media portrayals of women and girls.

Makeup Addiction?: Sephora can be fun, but beware: it’s an expensive habit. To keep it fun, moderation is key!

Women’s Health: Heart disease is a leading cause of death for women, yet too many people see it as a “men’s issue.”

The Body Beautiful: You don’t have to fall for the trap of trying to lose weight specifically because you’re getting married. Find a bit of courage from photographer Haley Morris-Cafiero, who documents others’ reactions to her body. From a medical standpoint, this article offers insight into how doctors should approach a “weighty” conversation.

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