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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Discovering the Cure to Aging Anxiety

We had just been chastised to keep our voices down—this was, after all, a meditation retreat, and we were supposed to be in silence. But my roommates, two 60-something women named Joan and Linda, and I were amped up on late-night (in this context, that’s about 9 p.m.) girl talk. And I was about to receive the most profound insight I would all week, not from the six hours of meditation we did every day, nor from the spiritually rich talks the teachers would give. In fact, what my roommate, Joan, said next counts as one of the great insights of my life. “Jennifer, just wait until you get old,” she said. “Spending a thousand dollars on a Tempurpedic bed is no longer an indulgence, it’s a medical necessity. Getting old is the best!”

She said this without a hint of exhaustion, self-pity, or irony. I thought: She’s right. I can’t wait to get old! And the reason for that went beyond that moment, beyond a Tempurpedic bed—even though I covet that marshmallowy mattress. For the previous few years, I’d been coming to terms with the reality of aging. As I talked to Joan and Linda, however, I realized that perhaps I finally had come to terms with it, and the way I had done it was shockingly simple and inexpensive. As 9 million people underwent cosmetic procedures last year, I did something else. I hung out with older women.

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Sexy Feminists Read: Sally Koslow's 'With Friends Like These'

Sally Koslow’s latest novel, With Friends Like These, tackles one of our favorite topics: the challenges of female friendships, especially as we grow up and grow older. We talked to Koslow (who graciously read at our recent Readings & Rubdowns series) about how men, marriage, and real estate can come between even the best of pals — and she gave us some very wise advice about nurturing our girl-on-girl friendships. (She is a very smart lady.)

You’ve said you wanted to show female friends growing apart over issues other than the traditional ones (i.e. men!). Can you talk about some of these other issues and why you chose them instead?

Whenever a commodity is scare, people will compete for it. In today’s world
where jobs are hard to come by, it’s not uncommon for friends to covet the same
position, especially since many of us met one another through our work. One of
the situations in With Friends like These focuses on a professional opportunity.
A second situation connects to kids: one spot at an excellent kindergarten that
two sets of parents would jump over a desk to get for their child. Again, with American schools not as strong as they once were, it’s a sign of the times that parents may come to blows over who gets into an excellent school. I know parents of high school seniors who refuse to divulge where their child has applied to college for fear that their friend’s kid will apply to the same school and be the stronger candidate. The third conflict in the novel arises over real estate. This may strike you as odd, but talk to any residential broker and you’ll discover it isn’t unusual for people who know one another to secretly chase the same appealing, well-priced house or condo.

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Why Is 'You're Fat' Still the Go-To Insult to Use On Women?

“I’m sorry but it just sounds like you’re fat and jealous of those women because they aren’t.”

This is part of a recent comment posted on a not-so-recent story I once wrote for FemiNoshing called “Why can’t even female TV cooks be fat?” While I agree that the story was written with a pretty heavy dose of snark, I’m not interested in rehashing that argument here. Rather, the comment, which devolved all too quickly into a personal attack, made me wonder why often the best way to knock a woman down, the best way to put her in her place and dismiss her, is to call her fat?

And it’s not just women doing this to each other. When men want to make a woman feel bad, whether it’s because she dared have an opinion, or because she rejected him in some way, they will point out that she’s fat. Sure, the words “ugly,” “bitch” and “slut” get bandied about too, but “fat” brings with it its own particular tinge of disgust and contempt.

Why is calling someone fat considered so effective? Oh, right — because being fat is not healthy! (My commenter talked about health, too, but I digress.) I’m not getting into arguments about health at every size here. Nor will I disagree with the concept that being morbidly obese often leads to health problems (and yes, note I pointed to the most extreme example here, because most fat people are not morbidly obese).

But there are lots of things people do that are not healthy. Smoking is not healthy. Drinking hard alcohol (wine, in moderation, is actually recommended) is not healthy. In fact, drinking and driving is downright dangerous. When was the last time being fat and driving caused a pile-up on the highway? [Read more...]

Female Friendship Is a Feminist Act

You don’t have to march at a rally to show your feminism (though it certainly doesn’t hurt): Lady-power starts with empowering fellow women in their time of need. Here, our writers share some of their favorite female-friendship moments …

“Really? I told you to download ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’?” asks Anna, laying her set of Cynthia Rowley china on the counter in our new kitchen. “Was I drunk?”

“I don’t think so. You told me to download that and ‘Engine Driver.’ These cups are great, by the way.” The porcelain is illustrated with cartoonish naked ladies, dirty dishes printed on the bottom. “I thought it was really deep,” I tell her. “I wanted Sam, but I didn’t need him. You get what you need.”

“That’s hilarious. Sam.”

“Why did I like him?” I make room for the dishes in the cupboard.

“Oh, he was cute.”

“Yeah, he was.”

Anna and I met in the spring of my sophomore year, her junior year, of college. We were fast friends, commiserating over her heartbreak for her on-again-off-again guy and mine over a boy I wanted to date who thought of me as just a good friend. But it wasn’t until the following year—around the time I was dating Sam—that I realized Anna was the one who was sticking around. Despite different graduation dates, apartments at opposite ends of New York, my semester abroad, and the season I spent working at a regional theatre in Cincinnati, the years have only brought us closer. This August we finally moved in together.

Since high school, my dating choices have ranged from not-quite-right to airport-romance-novel ridiculous, and I think they’re slowly getting better. But my taste in friends has always been excellent. The guys, even when they’re pretty great, tend to disappear if things don’t work out. Anna and I aren’t planning to live together forever, but I’m pretty confident that whenever we do leave this apartment, the main thing I’ll loose will be those dishes—not her friendship.

– Lily Blau

Just this week a friend mentioned off-handedly that a woman had approached her on the subway, pointing out that her purse was naughtily pulling up her dress in the back. This made me consider all the times I’ve been stopped, always by a fellow lady, and informed of a slight wardrobe malfunction (of which there are apparently a lot). One woman in Philly literally chased me down the sidewalk to alert me that my shirt’s tag was sticking up. Though always a bit awkward, there’s something warm and motherly about these exchanges—female strangers grooming and fixing each other, making sure we’re walking around looking as non-ridiculous as possible.

– Julia Bartz

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Single-Married Relations

Female friendship is complicated in and of itself, but when one woman gets a ring, how do the rules change? We asked each other the tough questions in hopes of improving our communication—and preserving valuable female friendships everywhere.

Married Women: Remember what it was like to be one of the single gal-pals? If your quick answer is, “No, thank God I’m married!”, then you need to check yourself before you wreck your friendships with your still-single friends. The key to keeping these women in your life is to relate to them on an equal level. Every woman’s feelings and emotions are equally complex and relevant, regardless of whether they involve the birth of a new baby or the heartbreak of a new fling. Let your single girlfriends know you are there to listen—not judge.

Married Woman: How interested should I be in your dating/sex life?

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Girl Dates

My best girlfriend and I don’t get a lot of face time together—we live on opposite coasts—but when we are together, we turn into a montage set to a John Mayer song. We might spend the day shopping at some out-of-the-way downtown Manhattan boutiques, get mani/pedis, then go to our favorite garden restaurant for some red wine and Mediterranean food (we share it all, natch) before heading home to snuggle up on the sofa, sip tea, and watch a movie. Or we might go for a hike to catch the ocean view over Santa Monica, take a drive along Sunset Boulevard, then talk each other into some cupcakes (we hiked, after all).

This sort of activity prompts its share of jokes among us—sample text message: “I’m at a cozy makeout table in the back”—and, you can bet, the men in our life—sample remark: “When do you have the naked pillow fight?” But, all kidding aside, I have to admit: I get more romance from girlfriends than from any guys I date.

Now, I could hang this on modern men, whine that they’ve lost all imagination, deduce that we’re giving up the proverbial free milk too easily, etc. True, I bet if we all started donning chastity belts, candy and flower demand would skyrocket. And if we suddenly demanded walks on the beach as a sex prerequisite, there’d be a lot of sand stuck permanently between a lot of sheets. (Why can you never wash sand away?)

But I don’t buy that it’s a gender issue. I’ve had some great dates with my gay, equally planned by both of us, filled with concerts, romantic movies (he was the only person who could see “Bridget Jones’ Diary” as many times as I could), piano bars, and dinners he’d make me at home. A just-a-friend guy and I like to dissect our very separate, never-to-intertwine love lives over expensive, candlelit dinners. A guy I sorta dated (or whatever … trust me, this is no place to get into it) and I started having our best outings—interminable sangrias, hand-holding strolls around my neighborhood, deep conversation—once we determined that we were never going to be a couple. And some of my closest male friends are veritable geniuses at planning platonic outings—to cozy bars and restaurants, Farmer’s Markets, antique shops, two-mimosa brunches.

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The Best Girl Dates in Our Favorite Cities

San Francisco

What is it about blustery climates and our obsession with walking? San Francisco, also a schizo city weather-wise, is gorgeous for girl-date walks. We start the day with a walk/jog/run through the Marina Green, working up a sweat (or just getting some good gossip in). SF is known for its chic and boho styles, so we satisfy our champagne taste with boutique shopping in Pacific Heights, then respect our beer budget with thrift threads in vintage stores in the Haight/Ashbury district. So now we’re broke, but hungry. Popping in and out of wine stores in Sausilito, we sample awesome local vino and nosh on enough free fingerfood to keep up our stamina, which we’ll need once we hit the Castro District for some all-night dancing.

Los Angeles

Forget any and all tourist destinations and get in to nature (yes, L.A. has nature!) You’ll see some of the most majestic mountain, ocean and city views on a hike in Topanga Canyon, which starts with a brutal uphill climb, peaks with a panoramic view overlooking the Malibu coastline and West Los Angeles, and ends with a shady downward trek over a natural waterfall and through a peaceful enclave where LA’s spiritual sect practice Tai Chi. Now you’ll be hungry. Drive down to Santa Monica and gorge yourselves guilt-free on healthy lunch/brunch fixin’s (like Caprese salads, turky/asparagus wraps and stone-cut oatmeal) at Literati Cafe, then stroll the Third Street Promenade for bargain street jewelry and sunglasses (pricy, name-brads represent here, too). Take in a movie at the Arclight Cinemas (where the seats are so comfortable you could take a nap) and finish with dinner at Luna Park, where you can share chocolate and cheese fondue.

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