Links for Sexy Feminists: The Feminine Mystique, Fashion Week, Lena Dunham, and more

The Feminine Mystique: 40 years after the landmark book’s publication, Stephanie Coontz reflects on why gender equality stalled. On the positive side, a recent study suggests that menopause and grandmothering were critical to human evolution.

Diversity is Hot: NYC just wrapped up Fashion Week, and way too few women of color hit the runways.

Your Rights at Risk: Just in case you thought Mississippi was the only state passing legislation that severely endangers a woman’s right to choose, Alabama is here for you.

Exhibitionist Girls: Vulture on why Lena Dunham may be an iconic feminist but her nude scences aren’t “brave.”

No to Shame: On the other side of the world, feminist women are courageous in standing up for their human rights.

Hey Oscar! Women are talented behind the camera, too, yet the categories with no women or one woman nominated suggest an industry bias.


Sexy Feminists Read: ‘Airbrushed Nation: The Lure & Loathing of Women’s Magazines’

We’re sometimes-proud, sometimes-guilty junkies of women’s magazines, so we couldn’t wait to get our hands on Jennifer Nelson’s new book Airbrushed Nation, in which she gives Glamour, Cosmo, et. al. a critical once-over. We talked to Nelson about the good, the bad, the unrealistic, and the terrifying behind the glossies that rule so many women’s lives.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned about women’s magazines in researching this book?

I’d have to say what was most surprising was how I hadn’t even noticed that every topic was approached from a “women aren’t good enough as is” mantra. All the articles from relationship pieces to sex tips to dieting, beauty, aging, even health and money stories are approached as though women need to fix something about themselves, or everything about themselves. This is very different than how men’s magazines approach their stories. There, they think men are just glorious as they are, and they simply offer up articles to inspire, inform, provide humor, or entertain them. Women’s magazines call their books “service,” which is supposed to mean that the stories provide advice and a take away for everything you read, but service has really become another word for makeover.

Why is it so important to look at what women’s magazines are doing? Does anyone take them seriously anyway?

Well, yes actually, that’s the problem—women are taking them seriously apparently. Research has found that after one to three minutes of paging through a chick slick, women feel worse about themselves than they already did. And that three quarters of the cover lines on these magazines provide at least one message about altering your body via beauty products, dieting, exercise or cosmetic surgery. That’s a lot of negative messaging women absorb for simply
browsing through the silky pages. Young women and girls seem to be most affected but that’s where it starts—when we’re young. No matter which magazine you read from Seventeen to Good Housekeeping, typically thought of for older women, the message is the same, the mantra that we’re not good enough and that every photo needs to be airbrushed is drilled into our psyche from the teen years and beyond.

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Links for Sexy Feminists: The Olympics tackle what it means to be a lady, the bikini celebrates a birthday, and more …

What do ‘male’ and ‘female’ mean?: The philosophical debate will take center stage with hormone testing at this year’s Olympics, The Atlantic reports.

Guess what! Stripping is not glamorous!: A male stripper sets us straight about Magic Mike on Details.com.

Happy 66th birthday to the bikini!: The LA Times celebrates.

Youth group advocates for contraception-free sex: Monogamous, marital, pill-free sex is the best kind of sex, the group says, according to The Huffington Post. We’re inclined to agree, except the part where sometimes you wind up with unwanted children.

Herman Cain mistress Ginger White writes about life after going public: “When I spoke out about our 13-year affair, my world crumbled,” she says at Salon.com. “Meanwhile his eccentric political career carries on.”


Links for Sexy Feminists: Fashionable violence against women, ’50 Shades’ in libraries, and more …

Being Single Can Be Awesome, Your Tango says: Agreed.

Jezebel Analyzes Violence Against Women Disguised as ‘Fashion’: A serious discussion of the history of violent fashion imagery.

Today in Lady Sports News: Venus Williams has achieved the ranking she needs to become a four-time Olympian.

50 Shades of Debate: Should libraries stock the wildly popular, sort-pornographic 50 Shades of Grey? The Washington Post says yes.

Slut-Shaming Dress Codes: High school students stand up for their rights with “Slutty Wednesday.” Jessica Valenti reports for The Nation.


Links for Sexy Feminists: Start Being Bitchy, Stop Wearing Fur, and more …

UCLA will hold its Thinking Gender conference Feb. 3: The event, which is open to the public, will include research presentations on women in arts, “subcultures of rebellious women” (think Riot Grrl), and “creating community and meaning with household artifacts” (think cookbooks). We’ll be covering several sessions ourselves.

Jezebel tells us “how to quit worrying about being bitchy”: Helpful assertiveness advice for those of us taught ladies should be nice.

Born Free USA is holding a fur-free fashion design competition: Fashion + consciousness = good fun.

YourTango talks depression and marriage: A writer who’s battled depression for two decades comes clean about how she gets through as a wife and mom.

We’re officially obsessed with RookieMag: The teen site is now running a series about girls’ relationship to drugs and alcohol.


Introduction to Queer Girl Fashion Part I: Androgny: Behold, Ambiguity

Getting my tomboy on in one of my favorite shirts ever.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. True, everyone’s got their ideal definition of what constitutes beautiful. (Not to mention, hot, sexy, and plain drop-dead gorgeous.) In the queer world, I’ve found variations spanning a wide spectrum, not unlike my straight counterparts. We girls who like girls just have a different set of categories: butch to soft-butch

to femme to lipstick to androgynous to hipster dyke to granola to tomboy and everything in between. (Supplementary glossary, anyone?) It’s partly what makes queer women so fascinating—there’s no one way to express yourself, including how you choose to dress.

As I sit here in my New York apartment—a city that is arguably an epicenter of fashion—I’m wearing plain blue jeans and a fitted black sweater. Nothing fancy, nothing out of the ordinary. I’ve also got pierced ears and I’m wearing rings and a silver watch. To the casual observer, I’m just another chick with not terribly interesting fashion sense. But allow me to open my closet (and by extension, all queer women’s) to you. (And yes please go ahead and laugh at that ridiculously obvious pun—it’s too easy.)
Recently, a male friend and I have been sharing debates concerning the physical attributes of women—in other words, what makes a woman sexy. While we may argue over low-cut blouses versus button-down shirts (the latter being a favorite of mine), we can agree is that each woman’s style is as unique as the woman herself—which leads me to the fashion sense that gets my eyes wandering and my heart racing.I’ve got everything from a pinstripe suit to a very revealing little black dress in there—almost as many pieces of clothing as I have moods. On one day, I’ll wear Doc Martens and an army jacket I’ve had since I was fourteen. The next, purple tights and a crazy patchwork skirt. I see many shades of gray in the black and white of what constitutes so-called female beauty, partially because I’m gay. The point is it’s all awesome.

Androgyny: Behold, Ambiguity

I know some straight women out there are a bit puzzled by the term, “androgynous”—not only what constitutes androgynous-looking but what exactly the appeal is. Allow me to be your guide. These are some of the most beautiful women on the planet. It’s taken me years to articulate my gravitation toward the ambiguous, but now I know it’s the blending of genders, appearances, and even ideas that make androgyny, and therefore the clothing associated with it, sexy.

 

Putting on a sexy little black dress is easy--it's the shoes that kill.

To clarify, androgynous fashion, at least to me, is not simply a pretty girl wearing a man’s suit. She’s got to own the clothes. They’ve got to fit her perfectly—and not just in terms of size, but in terms of expression.

Take, for example, Jenny Shimizu. You may not recognize her name, but you’ll surely remember her from the infamous Calvin Klein CK One ads back in the mid-90s. I would venture that Shimizu was one of the first mainstream models to make androgyny, well, fashionable. Just think back to the cyclical nature of the ad, “we’re all one” and “a fragrance for a man or a woman.” The blurring of gender and sexual lines was what got everyone to sit up and take notice. Since then, it’s become more commonplace to see women in clothing that is not traditionally thought of as “feminine”—and not just on the runway or on a magazine cover.

I see it nearly every day on the streets of this colorful city. There’s a swagger to androgynous fashion. A boldness. A confidence, bordering on near-cockiness. (Most times, stepping quietly back over that edge.) A “I can carry my bag, drink a coffee, and still have the best upturned collar and sweep of hair across the face you’ve ever freaking seen” smile. A shimmering bow-tie paired with lace-up leather boots. It’s a dare. It’s a risk. It’s a cleverness to combine elements that most people would never imagine combining.

To be sure, not every woman can pull this look off. Like I’ve said, it’s not just about the clothes, it’s about the attitude. And after all, whether you’re gay or straight, isn’t that the ultimate turn-on?


SF Talking Points: Bye-Bye to the Playboy Bunnies, F— You to Anti-Gay Presidential Candidates

NBC’s Playboy Club Becomes First Cancellation of the Season: The Peacock Network’s troubled drama has gotten the ax after just three weeks on the air — and probably more controversy than it even warranted. While the show was no feminist prize — the on-screen Hugh Hefner informed us in the premiere that his Bunnies were among the “few women who were allowed to be themselves” in the ’60s, which, just, no — it was also a pretty tame depiction of the Chicago club that helped kick off the sexual revolution. And yet the trusty Parents Television Council still fed the thing extra publicity by strenuously objecting. Luckily, none of this could make enough viewers tune in to TV’s most boring show about sex and murder.

Presidential Hopeful Herman Cain Defends Anti-Gay Stance: Adding to the chorus of distressing ideas promulgated by the Republican Presidential race (yay, executions? boo, HPV vaccines?), Cain told the ladies of The View this week that he’d bring back Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and that he sees homosexuality as a choice. He even challenged the panelists to “show me the science” that gayness isn’t biologically determined. Psst, Herman: As ThinkProgress.org pointed out, you can start by checking with the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Let us know if you need more.

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SF Talking Points: Women and Same-Sex Experimentation, Can A Wal-Mart Fashion Blog Empower Women?

College Not So Much A Place Of Same-Sex Experimentation: A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the “LUG” (lesbian until graduation) phenomenon is not as common as popular perception might suggest. Out of 13,500 responses, 10% of women ages 22 to 44 with a bachelor’s degree said that they’d had same-sex experience — compared with 15% of women with no high school diploma. And of the total 13% of women who reported having had same-sex experience, only 1% identify as lesbians, and 4% as bisexual. What could explain this? Quotes selected by the NYTimes suggest that it is because it’s erotically thrilling for people, especially young men, to imagine college women having sex, and the representation of college in the media bolsters this. Or perhaps it could be because women in college are just more vocal about their experimentation and are “out to prove something”, as opposed to high school dropouts, who may simply have sexual relations with women because they are living in “surroundings with few desirable and available male partners.”

It’s not surprising that this stereotype has been turned over on its head. Quite a few TV shows and movies about college life are made for young men who think it’s hot for girls to make out on top of beer-drenched tables — because that’s why women go to college, right? — but that’s obviously not an accurate representation of all college girls. [Read more...]


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...]


Lingerie: A Female Rite of Passage

Whether yours are big, small, perky, droopy, real, fake, old or new, the two masses that rest above the chambers of your heart are extensions of yourself that you’ve learned to adjust to, live with, fully embrace, pompously glorify, and — at times — even sneakily manipulate.

Where would we be without lingerie?

Everyone’s experience with girlie undergarments is different, but we all started somewhere. As young women growing up, it was impossible to escape the reality of our ever-developing bodies. Somewhere around our pre-teen years, someone planted the seed that it was time to take our inquisitive curiosity to the next level. First step: the training bra. In the confines of our rooms or amongst our closest girlfriends, our flourishing obsession with lingerie grew. We never asked, ‘for what are we training our breasts?’ Instead, we couldn’t wait to graduate from stretchy, white, glorified tank tops to pretty, colorful pieces of supportive art.

[Read more...]


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