A Story About My Purse

This morning I learned that the woman who designed my purse decided she no longer wanted to be alive.

I didn’t know Kate Spade in any capacity, save for the brand she built around herself. A quirky, preppy empire that speaks forcefully to my inner Charlotte, with its world full of bows and clean lines and tiny, golden charms.

“Get yourself a statement purse. It’s such a reliable conversation piece.”

This advice was given to my class during a workshop with two kickass Hollywood women, while I was completing my MFA in TV & Screenwriting through Stephens College. One of these women was in the process of selling a script to Disney, and the other was on the verge of being nominated for an Oscar. If anyone was going to help me rationalize my purchase of a fabulous purse, it was these two. I clearly had to listen to them and their sage, successful women wisdom.

Within the week, I’d purchased one of my three bucket list bags: a purse from Kate Spade. As a writer myself, I obviously couldn’t afford it at full price. I was not only shopping the sale section of KateSpade.com, I was accessing it via their Sale On Sale link sent exclusively to email subscribers. And yes, I’m plugging an email subscription to Kate Spade for anyone reading this who also covets the line but can only justify it at 70% off things that are already on sale.

My bag is indeed fabulous. It has two oyster-colored panels accented with bright yellow sides. The trim is navy because navy is the perfect collegiate compliment to yellow and oyster. My bag has carried my laptop to coffee shops and meetings, wipes for my daughter’s bottom, tiny toys to keep her entertained, snacks, hand sanitizer, mints, a small emergency makeup kit, my favorite sunglasses, a Christmas gift for a new love, and luggage claim tickets I always save until I’m positive my suitcase wasn’t lost en route to my destination.

After two years of tearing open my soul and typing more words than I could ever count, I earned my MFA. During our twice-yearly residencies, we stayed at the Beverly Garland Hotel, which is even more adorable than it looks. At the end of our last session, I browsed The Store with my newest lifelong friend, carefully selecting a memento to honor our time spent in that space, our little conclave away from home, witness to the words and adventures of 20 ambitious people navigating unchartered territory… I chose a pin. It’s a small, blue pin that embodies the spirit of the work our cohort would set out to create. I took my badge of accomplishment and moxie, and I pinned it to my purse.

Every day, I carry this purse with me. It has indeed sparked conversations and lent itself to forging new relationships, making connections that are so essential to a life of creative work.

Fashion is a mode of personal expression, an escape into other identities, a form of celebration and exploration. It’s creativity we can wear, and art to adorn our bodies. I will never get to tell Kate Spade what my purse means to me. Sure, in many ways, it’s “just a purse.” But it’s also so much more than that. I cannot begin to quantify all of the journeys it has carried me through. So I write this post as a posthumous thank you.

Thank you, Kate. I love my purse.

Writer, Actor, Shameless Hussy

An Open Letter to Mayim Bialik

Dear Ms. Bialik,

With a meager 17 IMBD credits to my name, I am no one and you’ve never heard of me. My voice carries less weight and my platform is not as high, but I wanted to reach out, for what it’s worth.

Because I’ve heard of you. With starry eyes and a hopeful heart, I watched you on Blossom, and it made me feel like maybe I, too, could realize my dream of acting in movies and on TV. You showed me that it was possible for a “less than perfect” looking girl to be successful, recognized, and valued. It meant a lot to a chubby kid with crooked teeth and asymmetrical features; so much so that I owned an embarrassing number of floppy hats decorated with giant flowers.

Which is why it’s so painful to have to tell you this: you are part of the problem. It isn’t that your choices are wrong, but rather your inability to see the choices of other women as valid and equally deserving of respect. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter what you meant by your op-ed in the Times. What matters is that you didn’t stop to think about what women like me would hear. And yes, I know “what kind of woman” I am.

I’m the kind of woman who is reprimanded for skirts that are too short in the workplace, as if that were more important than doing my job.

I’m the kind of woman who has been branded everything from Prude when I won’t give it up to Slut when I do, Difficult when I voice my opinions, and a Bad Influence when I encourage other women to openly embrace the full, beautiful complexity of their sexual selves, in any way they choose.

I’m the kind of woman who hears “no one wants to read that” about my creative work, because I write about women who love sex, unabashedly and without reprisal or retribution. And as you have so plainly illustrated, lots and lots of people are threatened by the power of an overtly sexual woman.

You may be wondering, What can this sex-obsessed harlot possibly be writing that in any way contributes to a meaningful life? Well, I am so glad you asked. I write about women who pursue passion with others and come to find it in themselves. I write about young women discovering their truth the first time they kiss another girl. I write about women who are beautiful, smart, and accomplished, because none of those things are mutually exclusive, and all of them deserve to be celebrated.

What you will judge the most, however, is the fact that I also write feminist erotic fiction. Feminist, in this usage, does not equal having a doctorate or dressing modestly. My feminism centers on fierce, unbridled sexuality without shame or apology. And also wearing whatever the f*ck we want. Like you, I am “a proud feminist with little desire to diet, get plastic surgery or hire a personal trainer…” (Although, have you ever had a personal trainer? I did, briefly, and it was awesome. Turns out physical exercise is beneficial for every human, not just the beautiful, sexy ones.) I also do not look like a typical starlet, and I never have.

Unlike you, however, I have been harassed, groped, and propositioned on numerous occasions, both inside and outside of Hollywood.

With the rash of spotlights being shone on sexual predators, so many people are sharing their stories of assault, harassment, and abuse – men and women alike. I’ve never shared my stories publicly, but like countless others inspired by your perfunctory opinion piece, I’ve decided to share my stories with you.

I’ve been molested three times. Once by a stranger, who put his hand under my shirt, groping my breasts. Twice by people I considered friends, who put their hands down my pants and between my legs. All three times, I woke up to these things happening. I was asleep. The stranger stumbled into my tent at a music festival. One friend climbed into bed with me at a house party, in a back room where I’d gone to lie down. The other friend took liberties after I’d spent part of our evening telling him about the other instances I’ve just disclosed to you.

Obviously, sadly, this point needs to be made again and again: I was not flirting. I was not dressed in scandalous clothing. I did not ask for it. I was asleep.

Inside Hollywood, I worked on an indie film with some well-known stars. I was on set as both a PA and a stand in for the lead actress. The DP made several untoward comments about my attractiveness while lighting scenes, and I just ignored him. I wanted to keep my job, and saying anything at all felt like a risk. At the wrap party, he cornered me and said, “We should go somewhere. Let’s go somewhere and fuck.” I wasn’t in his hotel room. I wasn’t asking anyone to help advance my career. I was a 22-year-old woman who wanted to make movies, thrilled to have one of her first real jobs on set. Tragically, my instinct and priority in this moment was to not get myself blacklisted from working on other sets. I did not want to offend this highly offensive man, because his was the position of power. Instead of kneeing him in the balls, I reminded him he was married, to which he replied, “So what?” and moved in to put his hands on me. By some miracle, the asinine trick of pretending to wave at a friend across the room and slip away from him worked. I then immediately found a large male grip who I trusted, asked him to walk me to my car, and left.

As you said, women should be able to wear what we want, flirt how we want, and be as sexual as we want, without fear of what liberties people will take because of ‘our behavior.’ We should also be able to do all of those things, and pursue a career in the film and television industry – or any industry – without someone in a comfortable position of esteem and success telling us that any behavior outside of modest clothes, prim interactions with men, and private sexuality is naïve.

The proliferation of women telling women’s stories is absolutely a part of the change we so desperately need in both Hollywood and our society. Another part of that change is to champion every woman’s agency, over her work, her body, her life, and her sexuality. What we need to do for each other, as women, is to advocate for all of us to live as we choose. For you, Ms. Bialik, shopping at Talbot’s and embracing propriety are not oppressive. For me, they are. In spite of, or perhaps because of, my past experiences, I refuse to shrink. I refuse to make myself smaller, to mute my sensuality, style, or personhood to a size that will make other people comfortable.

So the next time you see a woman in a really short skirt tossing her hair while she talks to a man, I urge you to practice adjusting your attitude. It’s a simple phrase, easy to remember:

Good for her, not for me.

Only when we are all seen, heard, and valued for the full complexity of our beings – including our sexual expression – will women truly be treated as equals in our society. Equally respected, equally worthy, and equally free.

Sincerely,

 

Elizabeth Dwyer Sandlin
Writer, Actor, Shameless Hussy

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Menstruation Nation

Editor’s Note: We here at Beauty Coup love a good guest post. We love sharing your thoughts, musings, ideas, and experiences. In light of the recent attacks on women’s rights and agency, we’re launching a new series (and co-opting a brilliant phrase that someone else coined) called Mind Your Own Uterus, about all things lady-parts-related. 

To kick things off, we bring you Menstruation Nation by the one and only Amy Banks.

***

Kotex-sanitary-napkin-1922-crop-top

 

The other day after getting home from the gym, I realized, to my horror, as I was changing out of my sweaty workout wear, that I had bled through the back of my dove-grey compression leggings. Oh snap! I did the frame-by-frame bleed-through scenario in my head: when did it happen? On the elliptical machine? When I was doing pull-ups? In spin class? Just kidding, I only did one of those things (spinning), although I did hang a little from the chin-up bar to stretch out my spine afterward. Not like I could lift my own weight or anything! Geesh! But I know in my blood-spewing heart it happened when I got up from the stationary bike. I felt the gush of my flow, finally free after having been restricted and sealed off by my firmly-planted-to-the-seat nether regions. But I didn’t think I’d soaked through. I wore an overnight pad, for christ’s sake! And *gulp* I had been surrounded by gym rats: tons of women and several men. I even bent down in front of a group of them, all of them running on treadmills, to tie my shoe. OMG.

Old-as-hell me is still embarrassed by a little period blood? Apparently so. I shrugged it off after a minute of red-faced chagrin and went about my day. But for a moment, my wizened adult self was transported back to my cousin’s porch on a dog-day of summer, back when I was but 13 and a total newb to the Menstruation Nation.

A gaggle of us kids were hanging out, bullshitting, swearing just because the words felt swollen and ready to pop, drinking sodas purloined from my aunt’s private stash, thinking up more ways to do nothing. Somebody had the idea to ride our bikes down to the frog pond and catch some tadpoles (probably because they resemble sperm). I had to run home (next door) to get my bike, so I jumped off and over the edge of the porch to beat rocks before they left me behind. Suddenly everybody was laughing – like hooting and hollering – so I turned around the see why. They were all pointing at me. The boys were doubled over with giggle fits and the girls were laughing too, probably horrified but thankful it wasn’t happening to them. My cousin Kevin, always a nice kid, jumped off the porch and led baffled me away. When he told me why they were laughing, I felt like I would drop dead right there. He added, “Jesus, didn’t your mom teach you how to take care of this kind of thing?” I ran in my house and didn’t come back out that day, or for seven more days, until the nightmare was over. You guessed it, I had gotten the girl flu and the crimson tide had come in all over the back of my shorts. I didn’t even know. What’s worse is that Kevin hit a real sore spot by bringing up my mom. No, she did not help matters at all.

I distinctly remember the first time I got my period. It was a Saturday morning in summer. I know this because it was at the breakfast table and we were eating pancakes, which we did every Saturday morning. I was wearing a white tank top with lace trim, and my favorite shorts, which were pink and blue pinstriped. I was having a hard time eating because my stomach hurt so bad. Like really, really bad. Then it suddenly felt like I had wet myself. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and that’s when I discovered I had achieved Menarche. Level Up! Of course I had taken health class so I knew it was “normal” and that I wasn’t dying; I was the last of my friends to get it, and they all survived somehow (lots of Midol, ice cream, Depeche Mode and Elliott Smith was the advice I most frequently received). But I wasn’t expecting the cramps to hurt so much (I figured out what my stomach ache was) or for the blood to be so copious and, well, bloody. I had a sampler pack of feminine products from the school nurse stashed in the bathroom cabinet along with an extra pair of undies (on the advice of friends in anticipation of the grand event), so I carefully opened the cellophane package that housed a single, gargantuan sanitary napkin and pasted it to my panties. I remember making the choice to use pads after a particularly horrifying health class film depicting the insertion of a tampon into a graphic representation of a bleeding vagina, and later that same week listening to my best friend Rachel’s sister dry-heaving and swearing and crying, as Rachel explained in hushed tones that Donna had Toxic Shock Syndrome from leaving a tampon in too long. So tampons: No.Fucking.Way.

So after performing these ablutions and looking for several minutes at myself in the mirror (searching my face for tell-tale signs of obvious womanhood) I burst forth from my bathroom cocoon, a beautiful, bleeding butterfly. I fluttered back into the kitchen, plopped myself at the table and announced to my mom, step-dad, and baby sister that I had officially begun to menstruate. My mom didn’t even look up from the morning paper, but said, “Well go put on a rag and stop bitching about it. It’s not something to tell people or be proud of.” Nobody else said a word and that was that. It was a deflating puncture wound that kept me feeling downtrodden, negative and pissed off at my mother for a long time. Other friends’ mothers had marked the occasion with a cake or a trip to the store to pick out their own favored personal hygiene products. My mother dismissed my experience fully, told me to shut up about it, and used an ugly slang term to describe what would be a lifelong monthly expenditure, an item even more important than clothing or movie tickets or haircuts or junk food. An item I needed, a necessity, part of my womanhood, personhood, my genetic right. It really was a crushing blow to a piece of my journey that felt special, and that I thought would unite us in sisterhood. To make matters worse: my period had ruined my favorite shorts, and though I scrubbed and scrubbed them in the sink, I never got the stain out (I didn’t know to use cold water and set the stain by using hot).

And now that I think about it, my mother never did supply me with my own feminine products. I just used hers, whatever I could find in the bathroom or bum off of friends. When I got babysitting jobs, I used the money I made to buy my own, which I kept hidden away shamefully like a pack of cigarettes stolen from your grampa or a porno mag, lest anyone see it and think you’re a shithead or a weirdo creeper perv. And following my mother’s example, I always bought generic, shitty pads that never quite got the job done and didn’t stick well and were too short to boot. I think she felt spending money on something you’re going to bleed on and throw out was a burden she wasn’t willing to make heavier by spending more on a fancy version. Here’s a secret: nothing is ever going to make your period enjoyable, but if you spend the extra buck on the fancy pads that soak up more blood, cover more panty area and come in their own pre-wrapped single packs, your life will be a little easier at that time of the month, and you will ruin less underclothes. It has taken me all this lifetime to find myself worth spending the extra dollar on the fancy foam ones. But guess what? I’m worth it, and so are you.

That lesson came to me through an enlightened friend, who has the most impressive stash of feminine hygiene products known to womankind. I was invited to her house once for a party, and when I excused myself to use the bathroom and flicked on the light in the loo, it was as though I was transported to a magical land of righteous girl power. On her massive vanity were candy jars and dishes – a whole confectionary shop’s worth! – full to the brim with maxi pads, tampons, vagina wipes and pantyliners in a gleeful rainbow of colors. I marveled at the display – I’d never seen anything quite like it – and was actually sad I didn’t have my period so I couldn’t sample any of the delights. Had she gone mad? She knew she was having guests (male and female) over – why would this attractive, fun, educated and poised single lady leave the accoutrement of the curse out in plain view for everyone to see? I realized she possessed something I had none of: total confidence in her womanhood and all aspects of it. And here I was, a 40-ish mess of a shame-bleeder.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my period. The beginning was not so great. Lots of times since have not been, either. My periods were so random and so harsh in high school that the family doctor put me on the pill. This made me “regular” and the cramps weren’t quite as atrocious. It also put a time limit on the bleeding, which sometimes before had lasted two to three weeks. Later I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which came with its own fun set of menstrual mishaps. Then I had babies, and the weirdness abated some. I became regular without the pill. I cramp less harshly. I flow for a normal amount of time. And at this late date, I can see an end of my monthlies in sight. But I’m not quite ready for that, even if I do occasionally still embarrass myself with a slash of crimson pride on my workout wear.

After all, menstruation is a cleansing of the body and to me, the spirit. Every month we women get a do-over. The build-up of a month’s worth of potentially life-hosting primordial lady sludge evacuates itself in a ritual our bodies know how to perform without our having to even think about it. We women are magical creatures, full of life-giving nourishment and the ability to grow human beings, in sync with the cycles of the moon, the tides, the sun. We chart our flows to the rhythms of our lives. We plan calendar dates around them, vacations, goals, reproduction. I look at my period as a time of renewal and a reminder of a choice I made to not have a child this month. Sound complicated? It is as much as it is not. It is nature, a miracle of a function, my bleeding birthright.

As for my mother’s reaction to her eldest daughter beginning her cycle, it remains a complex mystery. Though as the mother of a now-adult daughter myself, I feel I may have gained some insight. When my daughter, my lovely, first-born baby girl, began her cycle it was a time to celebrate her, but also a time of grieving for me. It was realizing she would never be the fist-pounding, gurgling blonde curly-headed and drooling crayon artist that could never get enough of me again. It was a realization that she would, indeed, be leaving my household someday and beginning her own journey that wasn’t part of mine. It was the dawning of her passage into womanhood and the birth of my old age. But what it wasn’t was a dark secret. Unlike my mother and her mother before her, I didn’t sweep her experience away with the angry flick of a newspaper. I embraced it. I let her pick out and experiment with as many feminine products as she could possibly want. I probably embarrassed her with my gleefulness and celebratory machinations. I stopped short of sending engraved announcements, and I may have made it more about me than her, on accident of course. But I wanted her to celebrate being a grown-ass woman and to never feel shame about it. Today she is a Trump-protesting, artistic, feminist, bad mamma jamma who advocates menstrual cups and talks freely about topics like bloating and blood stain removal. I love her so. And honoring her cycle made me realize that it was time to celebrate my own, too.

Now when I menstruate, I carouse in my own special way. I buy the expensive pads. I inhale the special chocolate if I want to. I don’t feel embarrassed when I buy feminine hygiene products, even if it’s from a man. And I find that my healthy attitude makes menstruation if not fun, kind of special. I’ll be sad when it’s over, and I hope to enter the next phase of womanhood in a positive and upbeat way. I promise not to kick and scream. I’m actually kind of looking forward to it.

***

Take Action ~ Rouse Rabble ~ Lend a Hand
Want to help girls and women who may not have access to feminine hygiene products? Happy Period has got you covered. Menarche!

Becoming Gilead: How About We NOT

Editor’s Note: Our M.O. at Beauty Coup is positivity. We aim to celebrate, uplift, and champion all women. Today we feel compelled to take a break from our regularly scheduled exulting to address the unprecedented threats* to women’s rights in our country, and why The Handmaid’s Tale scares the sh*t out of us.

When I first read The Handmaid’s Tale, I was nineteen years old. Back then I was rattled by how possible a future it seemed for the United States, and moved by Margaret Atwood’s eerie ability to tap into a pear-shaped, unrecognizable world that still somehow felt like it was only a few clicks away from the present day.

After four episodes of the new series, I’m taking a break because the anxiety is overwhelming. In our current political climate, what once felt possible about Atwood’s story now seems plausible. One, maybe two clicks, and we could all be consumed by a plague of fear, hatred, and brutality born out of the subjugation of women.

To illustrate the extent of this anxiety, here’s an excerpt from another piece of Atwood’s writing, which was then condensed into this well-known quote:

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

As seen in the world of The Handmaid’s Tale, the whole truth is that the degradation and enslavement of women serves no one (except possibly an elite, demented few). If you’re a fervently pious sociopath, you’ll be happy in this world. But if you’re a layered, vulnerable human being – as most of us are – then, no matter if you are the oppressed or the oppressor, your humanity will be compromised.

I am actively trying, even in light of all the evidence to the contrary, to believe that there is too much goodness, too much kindness in the world for the atrocities of The Handmaid’s Tale to ever actually happen… but mothers being torn away from their children in the name of serving the state, female genital mutilation, subjection to a life of forced surrogacy, being branded an ‘un-woman’ and hanged for the crime of loving another woman… these are things that have already happened. These are things that are happening. Yes, they’re happening in other parts of the world… but they are happening. Human beings are inflicting horrible indignities on other human beings because of their gender, and sometimes right under our noses. Sex trafficking and forced marriages are not mythical injustices happening in faraway lands; these things happen in the present-day United States of America. Thanks to current U.S. immigrant policy, immigrant women and girls are the most vulnerable to these atrocities.**

Make no mistake, our democracy is at risk. The populace is electing violent men, self-serving men who care more for profits than people, and men who condone sexual assault into political office. We are giving these men power, and it is not them but us who will reap the damage that they sow. Many U.S. women are already suffering under restrictive laws and policies, as their rights are being legislated away by conservative lawmakers. If you’re feeling the heat living in a more progressive state, imagine the lives of women living in Texas and Indiana.

In another time and place, certain male behaviors would seem harmless, amusing, or simply eye-roll-inducing. When a man buys a ticket to a woman-only film screening as some sort of pouting protest, or a guy sues his date for texting during a movie, or another man places a statue of a peeing dog next to the statue of a fearless little girl so the dog is soiling her foot… it would be nice to see these incidents as innocuous and isolated, instead of a pervasive vitriol bubbling under the surface, on the verge of boiling over into actions that are far more harmful and ruinous. But how many clicks away are those men from becoming the men who beat their wives, or rape an unconscious girl behind a dumpster, or shoot up college campuses because they feel rejected by all women everywhere? How many clicks away are we from giving too many of these men the power to strip us of our rights, our agency, and our very humanity?

I don’t want to leave you in a state of despair. We need to hold onto our strength and our levity, even in – especially in – the face of all this awfulness. (There’s a reason this has become my #1 gif of 2017)

I know you’re tired, and overwhelmed, and frustrated. We are, too. But the good news is, that means we are not alone. And together, we are a force of nature.

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches.

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Via Lauren Duca on Twitter

 

*Women’s rights in the U.S. are facing greater threats than most of us have seen in our lifetime. Wondering what you can do about it? Volunteer for an organization that supports women’s rights, pay attention to and participate in local politics, support progressive female politicians, run for office, and/or donate money to reproductive rights organizations.

**If you want to fight sex trafficking and forced marriages in the U.S., here are some great resources: Polaris Project, Restore NYC, Unchained at Last, and the Tahirih Justice Center.

Written on the Train

Note from the Editors: If you’ve ever read our blog, you know that we here at Beauty Coup are champions of women. The political events of this week have us reeling with shock and uncertainty, but above all we are ready to fight. The next four years will not be easy, but complacency is not an option. S’s heart-wrenching writing below shows us only the preliminary glimpses of what we are up against.  
 
Know that we are here with you. We are Others, as many of you are, too. We are all in this together, and in the face of hatred and violence we will not back down. If anyone tells you to be calm in the face of all this hatred, you quote our good friend G: “I won’t be calm, there’s rage in Love. Ask mothers.”
 
In Solidarity,
S & E

train-station

Written on the Train 
things I heard and saw today
November 9, 2016

One
The morning after election day
You let me stay home from school.
It’s the first time you ever did that.
You are usually on the train by six– gym, work, meeting,
sorry sweetheart,
But today, it’s different because it’s already nine
and you let us wear our pajamas to the bodega,
where you and Mr. Wong talk quietly.

Two
Everybody on this train
Looks like they’re going to a funeral,
says the man as he gets off at Court Street,
laughing, and turning his hat around.
Cheer up, it’s still America.
Stand clear of the closing doors.

Three
My boss’s hands flit nervously–
Whisking thin blonde hairs back,
Wrapping and unwrapping the scarf at her neck
Tucking and untucking her shirt.
She’s slammed her office door closed
three times now
to cry.
But when her husband calls
she just asks him if they have an onion.
She’ll be home by six.

Four
You already called your mom, and she said was happy for us–
just upset that she couldn’t be here. Obviously.
You’re talking too fast, like you do
when you’ve practiced what you’re going to say.
When you don’t want me to see that you’re unhappy.
We stand on the steps of the courthouse. It’s raining.
It’s not how I wanted to marry you. In the rain. No party.
But what if next year
we can’t?

Five
We decided months ago what we would do
if he was elected.
I went to work, without my hijab,
to give my notice.
I begged the principal not to make me say goodbye
to my students.
Because, how could I explain?
She holds my hand. Says that the kids were all crying,
and holding each other, at breakfast.
One asked her,
Will my father be sent away?
She curses under her breath. But she respects my choice.
We will be safer with my family
in Pakistan.

Six
The older women are whispering in the kitchen
where I’m hoping to find coffee.
“He grabbed me, and they didn’t do anything. He was my boss.”
The others nod, click their tongues, let out soft sounds of affirmation.
“That’s how it was back then, remember?”
They do.

Three Things I’m Done With: Fear, Hiding, and Donald Trump

Guest Post by the beautiful and ferocious Cara Greene Epstein
www.thedragonflymovie.com

Okay, so I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s this guy out there who has made it his business, both literally and figuratively, to engage in and promote body shaming. This shaming is primarily aimed at young women, though if you read the volumes of his quotes on this subject, you will see that no one is safe. Apparently, this is the one area in which he does not discriminate.

Body shaming is a very personal issue for me, one that I’ve grappled with pretty much every day, all day long, for almost as long as I can remember. So much of my sense of self-worth is tied up in how I think others will see, perceive, and feel about my body. I ain’t proud of that, but there it is. Truth.

Shame feeds on the shadows. On whispers and doubts and looks and assumptions. On a million tiny little fears with beady eyes and long fingernails that hide in all of the nooks and crannies of a day. Or an hour. Or a moment.

This shame, any shame, depends on two things to live: fear and hiding.

So those are two things that I’m done with.

195 lbs. That’s how much I weigh. I know because I just went to the bathroom and pulled out the scale (from where it was hiding, of course) and stood on it. 195. That’s my number.

I’ve been within 10 lbs. of this number for the last four years and I’ve been ashamed of it, of what it means, the whole time. But here’s the thing — here’s the thing that guy is helping me realize — I don’t think it means what I thought it meant.

See, that guy believes that this number makes me less than. Makes me difficult. Makes me incapable. Makes me a disaster. And I kind of believed those things, too.

And then I thought about all the things I’ve done over the last four years. And you know what? That guy and I were wrong. 195 doesn’t look like a disaster at all.

Here are some of the things that 195 does look like:

195 looks like running a half marathon and winning a medal the size of your head.

195 looks like writing, co-directing, producing and starring in a feature film, and then winning an award for it.

195 looks like having two healthy, awesome babies and helping them become healthy, awesome kids.

195 looks like teaching your art to classrooms full of students and challenging them to use said art to better connect with themselves, each other, and the world around them.

195 looks like celebrating 14 years of marriage to your best friend and the greatest guy on the planet.

195 looks like stepping up and taking on the challenge of a full-time job while you continue to pursue your passions.

195 looks like rocking the red carpet at your own movie premiere.

195 looks like pursuing a second graduate degree.

195 looks like dancing at Wrigley Field to a band you’ve been following since you were 17.

195 looks like volunteering at your kids’ schools and helping out people who are important to you.

195 looks like passing your physicals with flying colors.

195 looks like super fun vacations and celebrations with those you love.

195 looks like stepping out of the shadows and into the light.

And…

195 looks like any other number. Cause when you really take it out and look at it, that’s all it is, just a number.

So let’s all live our lives in the light and celebrate how awesome we truly are.

And please, let’s not elect that guy in November.

Cara at her movie premiere, flanked by two kickass women who are also much more than just their number.

Black is Beautiful

History proves that in every cultural shift, there is a moment when the fabric of our society stretches too thin. Where the people who are suffering reach a breaking point. It isn’t always a clear-cut moment, like Stonewall or Rosa on the bus. Sometimes the moment of breaking is an accumulation of too many other moments of agony.

That is the moment we are all living in, right now.

I’ve seen some calls to action for the next couple of weeks. September 25th has been deemed a Black Self Care Day, and Isaiah Washington is calling for African Americans to stay home on September 26th. There is a powerful political bent to this latter action, but it was the phrase “Our goal is to maintain the safety of our people…” that broke my heart.

What is this world we live in, where 15% of the U.S. population is not guaranteed safety in public spaces, for no reason beyond the color of their skin*? This is not 1916, it is 2016. This is the 21st century, and we as a people are better than this. We can do so much better.

These actions are geared towards the black community, and understandably so. If you, like me, are a white person who wants to be a proactive ally in this fight, here are several things you can do to help.

Per Luvvie’s rally cry, I intend to be a white co-conspirator. Starting with this post, every day for the rest of September (at least), I will Do Something to help. It may not always be a blog post. It may be something as simple as retweeting a powerful message from a beautiful black voice. Whatever it is, it will be something. I will use Luvvie’s list as my guide, and I will conspire with the black community to create change for people of color in this country, because this madness needs to stop.

To all the people of color I know and love, and to those I don’t know who are scared and angry and suffocated by these atrocities…

I see you. I see your humanity. You are not alone, we are in this together. This fight belongs to all of us. I stand with you. Together we will celebrate your lives and work tirelessly to ensure your freedom, the true freedom that belongs to every citizen of our colorful, multifarious, democratic nation. You are beautiful. You matter. Your life matters.

And because this blog is devoted to portrayals of women in entertainment and the media, I’d like to highlight some of the best, baddest, brightest black ladies in the game. Thank you for all that you are and all that you do.

Lupita Nyong’o / Tracee Ellis Ross
Taraji P. Henson / Leslie Jones / Kerry WashingtonJanelle Monáe

 

*if you are reading this and you truly believe that the epidemic of people of color dying at the hands of police officers in the U.S. is not race-related, I urge you to examine your conscience; if that isn’t enough, examine the Facts, and then examine your conscience again.