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.


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.

The Debate Over Makeup: Why Can’t Guys Play Too?

The New York Times‘ always-fun “Room for Debate” has a bunch of folks weighing in on whether makeup helps or hurts women, essentially, in the slog toward equality. It’s a topic dear to us — a plank in our founding, really. The debate at the core of this site has always been whether we’re “allowed” to love traditionally feminine things, as well as men, and remain true to our feminism. We’ve always argued that we are. That, in fact, as long as we’re armed with awareness and education, history and intellect, we can rack up points on the Sephora card, love men or women of our choice, and express ourselves through fashion. As long as what we’re doing doesn’t contribute toward oppressing either ourselves or others, we should have the freedom to do as we please.

Am I the only one who thinks it’s kinda sad for guys that they can’t wear makeup in most mainstream social circumstances without being suspect? (“Suspect,” of course, in a variety of ways, depending on the perspective of those around them.) I remember it being a bit of a revelation to me the day in high school when it dawned on me that I could cover up my zits but boys with the same skin problems mostly chose to display their blemishes in all their glory. That’s fine, of course, but some of them might have wanted to dab a little concealer on — I say they should be able to without worrying what others will think of their wearing “makeup.” (And at my Midwestern high school in the late ’80s/early ’90s, this still would’ve been a problem.) I think guyliner is sexy, but most men never even consider it. (Granted, I happen to like the kind of guys who’d wear eyeliner, which is part of it — they’re sexy because they have the confidence in their sexuality to pull it off. Also, rock ‘n’ roll. Pete Wentz, I miss you.) My brother, who is a rock star and a half even on the most normal day, wears lipstick when he performs with his glam-punk band, and I have never heard one person say anything about him except that he’s the coolest person they’ve ever met. I’m still not sure if I’m cool enough to hang out with him, but he’s forced to let me, because of family.

Perhaps more to the point, I adore using makeup myself. And despite having read stacks of feminist texts, I can’t think of one damn reason that’s bad for me or women. Ancillary effects can be harmful: The cosmetics industry needs to clean itself up and stop putting poisons in our products, and stop beating up our body images. But the act of wearing makeup, for me, is a huge part of my self expression. My go-to smoky eyes convey my rock and roll spirit; my recent forays into nearly-naked eyes with red lips make me feel glamorous and grown-up. I don’t feel like I need to wear makeup, and that, girls, is simply a matter of confidence that took until very recently to develop. But I want to — it’s a fun indulgence of my privileged life that I don’t want to give up. And as we tell you in more detail in our upcoming book, Sexy Feminism, the history of makeup is full of women using the stuff to empower themselves and fight oppression.

So when it comes to makeup, I say: Why can’t everyone play? Look into the brands you’re wearing; pick the ones that don’t poison or oppress; and have a great time.


Finding the Feminism In Green Beauty

I have loved makeup and beauty since the time I could remember what it was. My mother wasn’t a glam goddess–she rocked a beautiful, no-makeup hippie aesthetic–but she was devoted to her skin care. And it paid off; her skin was flawless. For Euro-blooded Southern California ladies, this is a tough feat. Skin care lectures came as early as sex talks from my mother: Always wear sunscreen. Never go to sleep with makeup on. Drink tons of water. It rubbed off on me; I’m as adamant about these rules as I am about brushing my teeth and breathing.

That devotion led to beauty-product overload. I became obsessed with trying any and all products to find the very best. This type of vanity can make a gal poor, but I was lucky: I spent several years as a beauty editor and had access to professional skincare products of all types, regular facials and makeup as far as the eye could see. This experience gave me the skills to spot parabens (preservatives that can cause cancer) and faulty claims in complicated ingredients listings. But it also made me a product junkie. I needed to reform.

My skin craved consistency and my conscience weighed heavily from all the consumption–and potential toxins I was releasing. So I threw it all out, responsibly. I recycled all the packaging and containers that I could, properly disposed of shampoos and nail polishes, and donated the rest to women’s shelters, which are always in desperate need of basic hygiene products; a few tubes of unused lipstick can be luxuries.

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SF Talking Points: Italian Women vs. Berlusconi, Foxy News

What Italian Women Really Think About Berlusconi: While it seemed, according to recent news, that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s scandalous sex life was either being accepted or celebrated by most countrymen, Italy’s women do not approve, to say the least. As Elisabetta Povoledo writes in a recent NYTimes article,

“Italy significantly trails European Union counterparts on equality indicators like employment of women or women in leadership positions, and indignant women say the latest scandal highlights a troubling message: the way for a woman to get ahead in Italy is to sell her soul, if not her body, to powerful men.”

According to the article, some 73,500 people signed a petition on the liberal newspaper L’Unità’s website, which asked Italian women to say “enough already” to Berlusconi and his callous and irresponsible behavior. And on February 13th, a nationwide protest promoted by women is scheduled to take place. But perhaps this is a blessing in disguise.

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One Way to Make Your Makeup (Literally) a Feminist Act

Buy PeaceKeeper Cause-Metics! Their proceeds help needy women and children around the world, their ingredients come from female farmers in developing countries, and they’re green. Oh, right, and they’re gorgeous, too.

Why can’t all makeup make us feel this good about ourselves?


Makeup Is a Feminist Act

With all the self-tanners on the market today, it’s hard to believe that women in the 18th and 19th centuries sought white, pale skin—the beauty ideal at the time. But just as we use product to make us look like we returned from a week in Cancun, Victorian women used primitive cosmetics to achieve their version of the perfect skin tone.

Interesting dichotomy, sure, but more interesting still is the political ramifications—or lack thereof—of a few ounces of powder brushed onto the skin of different eras. Victorian women likely weren’t as worried about setting their gender back a decade or two just by going all goth with the face makeup—but does hitting the Nars Laguna powder these days make us traitors to our gender? Some radical feminists have been known to blame patriarchy for coercing women into using beauty products. On the surface, they have a point: After all, anything we’re expected to do that men aren’t is cause for suspicion. But a look at the history of beauty products suggests otherwise:

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