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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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: Iamapeacekeeper.com.

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: Maccosmetics.com.

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: Thebodyshop-usa.com.

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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Sexy Feminism Excerpt: Lessons Learned from Dieting

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! 

My dieting history is totally cliché and utterly unfeminist. I was a teenage dancer-cum-anorexic. I tried half a dozen fad diets and as many cleanses, and I regularly embarked on extreme workout regimens to prep for things like the beginning of a school year or a wedding. I actually can’t remember a time after adolescence when I wasn’t on some form of diet or weight-loss mission. I know; this all sucks for my feminist cred. So I was shocked when the one event in my life that I expected would throw my body image into disarray turned out to be the thing that made me chill out and stop dieting altogether. I got pregnant, gained forty pounds, and stopped obsessing.

To be truthful, it took some time and serious hard work to get my mental health in check. When I first stopped fitting in my regular clothes, I freaked out. I knew that was coming, but it happened at around four months, when I didn’t really have a baby bump yet; I was just a little bigger everywhere. I remember envying women clearly in their third trimesters—it’s impossible not to look adorable with a baby bump, no matter what you wear. I wanted that key accessory instead of just bigger thighs and boobs. When my bump finally came, I embraced it. I wore form-fitting dresses, leggings with slender tunics, and bikinis. I felt beautiful, mostly because I was so proud of the little life, now clearly showcased, causing all these changes. And dieting? Obviously: no. Not just because it’s unhealthy to restrict your food intake too much while pregnant (deadly, even), but also because I wanted to eat better than I ever had before—healthy, wholesome, delicious food—and as much of it as I needed.

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Sexy Feminism Excerpt: Compromise in Marriage Doesn’t Mean Throwing Out 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! Here, a portion of our chapter, “Feminist Relationships: From Long-Term to Life-Long Partnership.” 

I have some confessions: I make dinner for my husband, I added his name to mine (no hyphen), and I am the primary caregiver for our son. And, yes, I am a feminist in a feminist-leaning marriage. What does that mean? It means real life sometimes doesn’t allow for a perfect combination of empowerment and responsibility. It’s a relationship that requires compromise—sometimes more difficult than you’d ever imagined—to make things work. As is the case for so many heterosexual couples, my husband makes more money than I do, works in an industry that demands more of his time outside of the home, and carries fewer of the domestic responsibilities. But we make it work, feminism intact. Here’s what I learned from some of my own compromises:

Feminists make dinner too—even if we don’t like to. I am a domestic goddess of the most reluctant variety. When I lived alone, I used my refrigerator to store beauty products and never once turned on my oven. Now that I’m married and a mom, grabbing sushi and smoothies are not practical options. There are three of us who need to eat, and I have chosen to take on the responsibility of making sure we eat well.

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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.

Sexy Feminism Excerpt: What Cosmetic Surgery Really Means

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?” 

Extreme cosmetic procedures also happen to be a serious threat to  health. To understand why plastic surgery is a feminist issue, we need to look at what it is—the ugly, bloody details. Imagery surrounding plastic surgery more often than not focuses on the “after.” Women showcasing smooth, tight new parts are shown smiling and dancing, usually on a beach. The reality of what they must endure to achieve the end result of smoother, tighter, younger (and happier?) are details usually confined to the doctor’s office. Here’s what the most popular procedures entail:

Rhinoplasty

What it is: The good old-fashioned nose job is now so common, it’s often used as a comedic aside in film, TV, and standup acts—and the butt of the joke is always a woman. Remember poor Jennifer Grey’s ribbing and effective ousting from the entertainment industry after she got the nose her agents and managers no doubt talked her into? Here’s what they’re laughing at: After the patient is sedated, her nose is cut free from the cartilage so doctors can get to work sawing and hammering it into a new shape. Advertised recovery time is a few weeks, but most cases require six months to a year, and often a follow-up procedure is necessary to fix any imperfections or complications—including infections, blockages, and trouble breathing.

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