What do we want? Representation

As I said goodbye to everyone after my kickboxing class tonight, this little queen stopped me right in my tracks. She had a cardboard box slung over her shoulders like a backpack, with a paper towel tube affixed to the side of it with yarn. Does it look familiar to you?

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You guys, she’s a Ghostbuster:

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This young child is out here busting ghosts with her lonchera cookie box and I am LIVING FOR IT.

If you think that movies are “just movies”, I hope you’ll see that this is a perfect example of why representation matters. Cookie box backpack girl saw a big summer movie about a group of smart, funny women who save New York City, where she lives. It affected her. She now wants to be like them: a scientist and a hero at the center of her own narrative.

This is exactly why I was obsessed with Special Agent Dana Scully as a child. She was not secondary to her male partner, Agent Mulder. She totally kicked ass on the X-Files, furrowing her brow skeptically at Agent Mulder’s nonsense, frequently shutting it down with a simple “I’m a medical doctor, Mulder.” She saved the day on multiple occasions…with science. Apparently, actress Kate McKinnon (who plays Dr. Holtz in the Ghostbusters reboot) was obsessed with Agent Scully as a child also:

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Amazing right? Still, though we have our Scullys and our Holtzs, when I think about the other women this little girl sees depicted in movies and on television, I am reminded of just how much work there is left to do. When her parents watch TV, she sees women who only speak about the male character’s story. She sees women who don’t speak at all. Women who only look a certain way. Women who are props. Women who are punchlines. Soon enough she’ll get the message that we don’t really care about women that much, and she’ll be right.

The 2016 Ghostbusters reboot was the subject of vitriol, before it even came out, just because it featured women. It is the most “disliked” movie trailer on YouTube. After its release, actress Leslie Jones was harassed on Twitter by a bunch of racist trolls for daring to be a non-white, non-model-sized, non-model-aged woman in a movie.

But it doesn’t stop us. We demand better. We demand to be seen and heard. We tell our stories anyway.

AND we support films with women in front of the camera and behind it. I hope you went to go see Ghostbusters opening weekend, as we discussed, and if you didn’t, I hope you saw it shortly after. I went opening weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie in a packed theater. Everyone was cracking up.

And I really hope I see more little girls with ghostbusting cookie box backpacks around Brooklyn as a result.

-S

A Friendly Reminder

Hello beauties! This is just a friendly reminder to put your money where your mouth is this weekend to support females in film! As we have discussed, the best way we can support female made and female centric films is to go see them opening weekend, since the success or failure of a movie is measured on how it does at the box office on those crucial first few days.

GHOSTBUSTERS (2016) is directed by Paul Feig, produced by Ivan Reitman & Amy Pascal, and written by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig. So this definitely counts! Let’s go rouse some rabble, rabble rousers!

Also, I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but all the Ghostbusters are… um…women.

I know you all love rabble rousing, so you probably already have tickets. Further, do I really need to convince you to go see a remake of a beloved 80s movie starring Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy?

I mean:

 

Based on the trailer alone, it obviously passes the Bechdel-Wallace test and will likely top our Beauty Coup list of passing movies for 2016. Honestly, I hope there are so many passing films that it doesn’t even make sense to have a list this year. We’ll just say, hey, there were multiple movies that featured women talking to each other about something other than a man this year. Was that really so hard?

So, it’s a date I hope. GHOSTBUSTERS comes out this Friday, July 15th. I’m really excited.

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xo

-S

Merry Swiftmas! The Swift-Off (Round 1)

A Note From E: As S and I embark on the Swiftiest of Swift-Offs, please keep in mind the following… Over the years we have debated Tay Tay to such degrees that we are able to see many sides of this shiny, blonde, leggy enigma. We could deliberate Her Swiftyness for hours, and find certain opinions overlapping. But for the purposes of these posts, we’ve agreed to go full-on Debate Class, with me taking the For argument and S taking the Against. Merry Swiftmas to all, and to all a fair fight!

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Dear readers, as you have probably guessed, my dear friend Elizabeth and I agree on a lot of things. Taylor Swift is not one of them. While E is on Team Swift (or Squad Swift, I guess?), I am just not, and it’s high time we hashed this thing out.

As you may or may not know, Ms. Swift was born on a Christmas tree farm (because she’s just that magical), so December seems like the perfect time of year to finally hold our Great Swift Debate. When I started working on this post, I also discovered that Swiftmas is a thing where Taylor Swift buys you presents, and that the word Swiftmas may soon be trademarked. In the spirit of the holidays, Beauty Coup presents our latest two parter: The Swift-Off. AKA The Swiftening. The Twelve Days of Swiftmas. (Realistically, it’ll probably be more like two days.) I’ll have the first word, then E will have her rebuttal in Round 2.

A bit of Swiftstory

Two years ago, right here at Beauty Coup, I pointed out that Taylor Swift hates girls with brown hair, probably because they stole her boyfriend. She didn’t know what Feminism meant, but she DID know that she looked great in virginal white. But that was 2013, baby, and we’re living in a whole new world now. 2015 Taylor Swift doesn’t hate any girls– in fact, she’s best friends with ALL of them. Just look at her having a blast with all of her female friends:

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I’m not threatened by her, or her…
Taylor Swift seems to have it all figured out. Lena Dunham famously explained Feminism to her, and now she is ALL ABOUT IT. Which brings me to my first hang up on all things Swift:

This Shit is Phony and it ain’t Cute

I’m sorry, but I’m not buying it. I chose those words carefully, because Taylor Swift is a savvy business woman with a well crafted brand. She didn’t make $365 million dollars this year by accident. Seems to me like there was a lot of criticism about the negativity towards other women in her earlier work, she saw the writing on the wall, and took it as an opportunity to adjust her brand– right along with her shift away from country music. SMART. Now any time another woman has something to say about her, THAT woman looks like an asshole. Even Amy Poehler and Tina Fey!

Taylor took this performative friendship act with her on the road for her 1989 tour. She may be famous, but she’s so down to earthShe’s such a supporter of women. Just look at how she brings them onstage with her to share the spotlight.  That’s what’s she’s selling– and lots are buying!

Seriously, what is this? Karaoke night in Korea Town? Haha, wouldn't it be so funny if we all went on stage together and sang No Scrubs?
Seriously, what is this? Karaoke night in Korea Town? Haha, wouldn’t it be so funny if we all went on stage together and sang No Scrubs?
Now, you may be wondering how I can really fault her for any of this. This is her job, you know? She’s good at it– and good for her. I’m just saying it’s phony and I don’t think it’s cute, cause it ain’t. Onto her real crimes.

Such as, talking in the middle of your song using words you never say. An incomplete list of words that Taylor Swift would never use in conversation but appear in her songs:

  1. Fella
  2. Hella
  3. This
  4. Sick
  5. Beat

But seriously though:

Beyoncé Really Did Have the Best Video of All Time

I should probably amend my whole jam right now by saying that I’m not against Taylor Swift, The Person. It might not be reading this way so far, but I’m having a hard time writing this because I really do feel conflicted. I will go to the mat for Taylor whenever I hear anyone trivialize her success. I think she has put in the work. She had to go on tour opening for Brad Paisley, the poor thing. Her songwriting, which isn’t to my personal taste, speaks to a lot women (and young women) and that is valuable. My beef is that I think she’s celebrated disproportionately and for the wrong reasons, and the best way to illustrate that is to point out the ways other women are not celebrated.

It turns out that the crux of my Taylor Swift-aversion is that Beyoncé really did have the greatest video of all time. The 2009 VMAS are infamous as the origin of the Kanye West “Imma let you finish…” meme. We all looked on, mouths open, as Kanye strode on stage and interrupted Taylor during her win for Best Female Video, proclaiming he was going to let her finish her “little old me?” act, but first it needed to be said that Beyoncé had the greatest video of all time. The interrupting (and the Kanye-ness of it all) overshadowed his point, but I have to say that Kanye was one hundred percent right on this one. In what universe is this shit better than the Single Ladies video? Honestly. Re-watch this.

Heavy handed, predictable, trope-laden, slut-shaming (!!!), Americana milquetoast bullshit. I can’t decide if I want to PUKE or FALL ASLEEP. Oh, Taylor’s so “ugly” in those glasses. That brown-haired girl is so mean and slutty in her red car. That football boy is so good. But she won for this, you guys! Over Single Ladies. I don’t need to post the Single Ladies music video for you. Why? Because it’s ICONIC! Never mind that Single Ladies is just a better song than You Belong with Me, this was the Video Music Awards. And Taylor’s video is better? You’re going to look me in the eye and tell me it’s BETTER? No, you’re not, and yet, Taylor Swift has SEVEN GRAMMYS. This. Drives. Me. INSANE! NO WONDER KANYE WAS MAD AT THE VMAS.

I AGREE WITH KANYE

So you may be saying, but Shannon, You Belong with Me is her old stuff, from when she was still pretending to be a country singer. According to the person who lives with me, who grew up with two country music stations on his TV, You Belong with Me is marginally better than your average country music video. FINE. She didn’t win Best Country Music Video. Back to my original point: her shit is phony. Boys didn’t like Taylor Swift in high school? YEAH RIGHT, STOP LYING. Her faux-shock face, her “humble” routine, her “I’m awkward, just like you!” shtick is still going on and it’s still ridiculous. Take the Shake it Off video. Taylor Swift can’t dance and I’m supposed to think it’s cute? Why the hell is she dancing, then?

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I took this in Barnes and Noble yesterday. You really need this on vinyl, huh?
Oh, but she’s such a good role model for young women. Why? Because for some reason she reads “Christian”? Nary a cross to be seen, I might point out. It’s because she doesn’t “take her clothes off”. That’s her choice, and I won’t trivialize the importance of that choice. She shouldn’t have to. But valuing a woman for her “purity” is just as negative as casting her as a sex object. It’s the same thing. And if you think what she’s bringing is maturity to the table with those lyrics, you’re wrong. She’s still singing about bad boys breaking her heart and it’s conveniently never her fault. (There’s also one song about being in a fight with another girl). That’s great role modeling?

When Nicki Minaj spoke out earlier this year with a critique on racism in the music industry, Taylor made a mistake by taking it personally and accusing Nicki of tearing down her fellow woman (because Taylor was nominated and Nicki wasn’t). Taylor graciously invited Nicki to come up on stage with her if she won (wow, gee, thanks). Nicki ended up taking the opportunity to educate Taylor by sharing information on the issue. Taylor ended up apologizing and agreeing she had missed the point. Unfortunately, most of the coverage labeled it as a cat fight, belittling what it really was– a real moment between two women. Not a fake ‘get on stage with me’ performance. A real moment of solidarity about a real issue, a woman of color and a white woman illustrating inclusive feminism! That’s a headline! (It wasn’t the headline).

I love this. Honestly, this is what I want to hear from Taylor– about all of it. I wish she would stop the “lucky girl” routine. She isn’t lucky. It’s a combination of working hard, being a gifted story-teller, and happening to be thin, white, and blonde in a culture that values that. I just wish she would acknowledge this. I understand why she doesn’t, though. She is celebrated for being “humble”, read: grateful. A woman should not be too proud, lest she be considered vain and stuck-up. She can’t be sexual, unless it’s in a little innocent package. It makes me crazy. It isn’t her fault that is this way, but couldn’t she use her position to do something about it?

It seems as though things could be moving in that direction. Until that time, I guess I’m with Kanye.

xo
S

The Bechdel-Wallace Test: 2015 TV Edition

When we last checked in on how the ol’ TV box is stacking up with regards to the Bechdel-Wallace* Test, it was 2013. Best Friends Forever and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt 23 had been tragically cancelled, but New Girl, 2 Broke Girls, and just plain Girls were all going strong.

To review, the “Bechdel-Wallace Test” was featured in Alison Bechdel’s 1985 comic strip, The Rule, in which Bechdel includes a handy tool for measuring the significance of female characters in movies. You’d think that passing said test would be easy! The movie “passes” if it…

(1) Contains at least two women

(2) who speak to each other

(3) about something other than a man.

As you’ve probably noticed, women in real life talk about lots of things, but on-screen women seem to have much less to say.  Let’s see how some of our favorite 2015 TV shows are measuring up.

 True Detective: Season Two / HBO

Porn?!

The first season of True Detective failed the Bechdel-Wallace Test so miserably I almost couldn’t believe it. Great show– but the characterization of women was weak, y’all. The only “women” on Season 1 of True Detective were Wives, Mistresses, Prostitutes, and Dead Prostitutes.

By way of a rather obvious apology, Season two offers us the character of Antigone “Ani” Bezzerides, portrayed by Rachel McAdam’s deeply furrowed brow. Ani is a lady cop with sick knife skills and a flagrant disregard of her workplace’s sexual conduct policy.

We’re treated to many scenes of Ani interacting with other humans, several of which were other women (ding ding ding!). Pictured above, Ani slut-shames her sister for her job as a webcam girl. Pass! (Barely)

Game of Thrones: Season Four / HBO

Brienne-and-Sansa

Much has been written about the depiction and treatment of women in HBO’S adaption of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Even more has been written by so-called “book snobs” who have boycotted the series rather than watch our beloved story lines butchered and maimed each Sunday night.

I could say a lot of things about the scene in this photo, like for example, how it doesn’t make any sense that Brienne of Tarth would do something so dangerous/idiotic as to declare her loyalty to a wanted criminal in a crowded inn, thereby blowing said wanted criminal’s cover even as she is offering her protection–or how Sansa Stark is for some reason engaging with her in this conversation (at full volume) like “Hey, you’re right, I AM Sansa Stark! Yes, of the Winterfell Starks. Yes, THE Sansa Stark, who is wanted for regicide! More beer, please, bar keep? The heir of Winterfell is in the house!”

I’m not here to discuss that. This conversation passes the Bechdel-Wallace Test. (But it does not pass the test of logic!) Pass. (of the Bechdel-Wallace Test.)

Orange is the New Black: Season 3 / Netflix

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Over at Netflix: Pass! So much pass! Orange is the New Black is like a master class in passing the Bechdel-Wallace test, and it’s still going strong in its third season.

Netflix gets extra credit for this show. Not only do its many female characters (!) talk to each other (!) about things other than men (!!), its plot is almost exclusively driven by dynamic, complicated female relationships. Netflix crushed it with this one, and THEN they proved that they don’t even have to keep women locked up to do it:

 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Season 1 / Netflix

Mole Women

Yes, even when the Mole Women were freed from the bunker, they continued to talk to each other, and other women, too. Oh, what I would give to time travel back to March, 2015 when I watched the entirety of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in a single Sunday. There are so many wonderful topics of conversation between the women of this show, such as:

  1. The Apocalypse (and how it was caused by our dumbness)
  2. Coping mechanisms for a stressful life in New York City (or underground, where you are being held against your will by Jon Ham)
  3. Rats in the air filter, what could it mean?

Jane The Virgin: Season one / The CW

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Wow, this list is getting pretty long. That’s dope.

Jane the Virgin made me so happy, and not just because it allowed me look at Miami in the winter time. Jane’s innermost thoughts reminded me a little bit of My So-Called life (RIP), albeit this time they were conveyed by a telenovela style narrator. The inner lives of a women depicted on television?! Yes, please.

The heart of Jane the Virgin is the relationship between Jane and her glamorous mother, Xo. Jane and Xo frequently hash it out in this adorable drama-dy, passing the Bechdel-Wallace Test easily (and stylishly) every time. Pass. Extra points for social commentary! #immigrationreform

 Another Period: Season 1 / Comedy Central

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This list goes on! Imagine my delight when two of my favorite comediennes successfully combined two of my favorite TV genres: period pieces and reality TV. Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome (creators and co-executive producers) star as Lillian and Beatrice, two wealthy Rhode Island socialites, in this spoofy take on the “wealthy family” reality TV trope. They start strong with the pilot, which features a full-on, hair-pulling brawl with Helen Keller, fueled by “cocaine wine”. So yeah. PASS! 

Extra points for Cristina Hendricks as a “plain” servant girl. Hilarious.

 Difficult People: Season one / Hulu

Difficult People

As I have said here on the blog before, Julie Klausner is my Oprah. What I mean by that is that I begin a lot of sentences with “Well, Julie says [insert nugget of wisdom here].” I’ve read every book and watched every movie she ever mentioned on her podcast, How was Your Week, and now, this! Her very own show on Hulu, co-written by the very funny Billy Eichner and produced by none other than Amy Poehler!

The central relationship in the show is of course between Billy and Julie, but Julie’s mother Marilyn and Billy’s boss, Denise, supply plenty of the Bechdel-friendly funny, also. Pass, of course.

GIRLS: Season four / HBO

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My favorite interaction on this season of HBO’s Girls was the one where Marnie was fishing for compliments on her truly god-awful music. “Well, you did it. You made a song.” #JessaBurn. PASS.

Broad City: Season 2 / Comedy Central 

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Let’s end this thing on a high note: with these classy broads. What can be said about Abbi and Ilana that hasn’t already been said? Remember when this show came out and people were all like “Wow, Broad City AND Girls? That’s too many shows about girls, let’s just pick one.” Well, beauties, we all knew it was baloney, and just look who’s talking now! (Still us– and we’re talking about all kinds of shit.) PASS.

IN SUMMATION:

I’m loving this. It’s been a great year, guys! That’s basically all of the TV I’ve watched in 2015, and there’s plenty more out there that passes the test. Please share them in the comments. The next question we should be asking is: if it doesn’t pass the test, why is it on TV at all? Who’s watching it? If it’s us, let’s stop. Let’s not stand for it.

Next up: E tackles the silver screen. How are women’s words stacking up in film?

xo

-S

*Alison Bechdel would like all of us to start giving credit to her friend Liz Wallace, who laid out these rules in a conversation with Bechdel, prompting her to include them in her comic ‘Dykes to Watch Out For.’ We’re all about credit where it’s due, so Beauty Coup will henceforth refer to it as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

#SelfieMay vs. #NoSelfie May

What happens when two gals swap social media behaviors for one month?

Back in February, Elaine Lui, founder of Lainey Gossip, wrote a piece for Flare magazine entitled Our Selfies, Ourselves in which she took one selfie per day for one month, and forced herself to publish the first take, with no filters. The idea was to post a kind of honest-selfie, one with minimal curation:

“What would we see in ourselves if selfies were truly one take, no take-backsies? Could we still stand to look? Do we even know what we really look like anymore?”

E sent this article to me at the time, as part of an ongoing conversation we’d had about the topic of the now ubiquitous “selfie” (which, I can’t help but note, spell check does not recognize as a word). Are they the emblems of a generation of raging narcissists or are they self-portraits that reflect an empowering act of self-love?

Our M.O. at Beauty Coup is recognizing your beauty as a whole. The beauty you see when you look in the mirror, and the beauty of who you are as an individual: all that you think and see and do. As if embodying two separate halves of this whole, your Beauty Coup co-authors engage in differing social media practices when it comes to the divisive selfie, and as an experiment decided to swap behaviors for the month of May and document their experiences. I was required to post only selfies. E was prohibited from posting any selfies.

These are their stories. (Law & Order DUN DUN)

S’s #SelfieMay

I don’t take a lot of selfies. Instead, I like to use my Instagram to document the beauty I see around me every day in New York City. (Pictured below: some food I made, some food I ate, a subway bench with penises drawn on it…)

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Pre-May Instragram

At the outset of our project, my relationship to the selfie was ambivalent. I felt silly taking them. I engaged in a mild, self-righteous judgement of certain selfie-takers in my social media circles who annoy me, albeit arbitrarily (Are you really #blessed because you’re eating an ice cream cone? Or is it just like… a pretty good ice cream cone?).

E: Or maybe you just look really cute giving that frozen dairy a lick… #wink

S: So then just say that. #lookin’cutelickin’stuff.

E: S, you can’t punctuate hashtags or they don’t work. #psyouresopretty 

Despite my personal reservations, seeing the faces of my friends brings me nothing but happiness, and I definitely agree that there’s merit to the argument that posting selfies can be a feminist act. If someone feels confident and beautiful and wants to share it, what’s wrong with that? I suppose I simply fell into the camp of “Good for her, not for me.

ShanSelfieMay
Selfie May!
The top-right corner was Mother’s Day, so that’s a bit of a cheat. Being that I’m a baby in the photo, I clearly didn’t take it. Other than that, you might notice that I don’t really have what’s known in the selfie-verse as “The Angles”. That’s because any time I was in public attempting to take a selfie, I did so by pretending to be engaging in normal phone-things. There was no lifting the phone above my head or moving my chin all around or posing. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It felt too embarrassing! Sometimes I snapped ten clandestine takes before deciding that one was passable.
Selfie Takes

Why does it feel so embarrassing to be seen taking pictures of myself? I don’t know. I notice that somehow I don’t seem to mind as much when there’s someone else in the picture. This feels more socially acceptable, something normal that people do at social gatherings. But stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to take a picture of myself? Alone?  Without checking over my shoulder to make sure no one else was there to see me? I can’t do it. This is something that I wasn’t able to shake over the course of the month of selfie-taking.

Sometime over the course of the month, though, I actually did experience a shift in one thing: my relationship to my face. The only way to describe it is that my own face began to look more normal to me, which sounds crazy. I started posting photos after fewer takes, when earlier on in the process I might have thought the first few looked “weird”. It bothers me so much when I get a great group photo and somebody makes me delete it because their “eyebrows look crazy” or something like that. These little obsessions with curating our self-images is what annoys me about selfie culture, about social media in general. Then again, isn’t that all social media is, anyway? I choose to post a photo of a beautifully plated dinner that I make one night, and choose not to post a photo of the Burger King wrappers on the floor of my car. (I’m not ashamed!)

I clearly still have some hangups with regards to selfies, hangups that could not be resolved in a mere 30 days. (I only managed to post 20 selfies, and 1 late-night karaoke screen cap of the Oops…I did it Again video.) But perhaps I feel closer to comfortable to posting one for no reason other than feeling #blessed.

Selfies within Selfies
Selfie inception with Meredith Burns of Modern Baby Improv

***

E’s #NoSelfieMay

In the dynamic duo of S and E, I long ago accepted my role as the louder, brassier, vainer friend. It’s genetic, my propensity for unabashed confidence (ten minutes with my family illuminates this point), but even I will see certain selfie-takers’ posts and think, Really? A bikini selfie in your bedroom? We know you have a hot body. We don’t need to see that you’re #readyforthebeach!

In essence I see selfies the same way I see any expression of self-confidence. As my wise, classy grandma once told me, “When you walk into a room full of people who love you and you know why they do, that’s confidence. Walking into that same room full of those same people and telling them why they should love you, that’s arrogance.” Translating that into the world of the selfie, I’m not big on the humble brag. If you’re going to brag, own it. If you’re going to post a selfie because it’s fun and it boosts your self-confidence, do it, and don’t apologize! And please reserve bikini selfies for the actual beach/pool.

My Usual Social Media Self(ies)

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This is pretty typical for me… Friend selfies, baby selfies, friends, baby, scenery, food, and more selfies. May definitely started out feeling like a long month.

In the first week, I think less about taking selfies, even in freak hailstorms and beautiful coffee outings – events that would normally command a lift of my phone and a tilt of my head. Then I have a really good hair day and I’m disconcertingly pouty about No Selfie May. I pout to my sister, who tells me that a selfie break is “probably a good idea.”

I start to see a few S selfies, which makes me really happy. I love seeing her lovely face! I also notice that (unlike my posed and primped I’m A Pretty Girl selfies), hers are understated and artsy. Very much like S herself. S is a Very Pretty Girl, but unlike me she feels no compulsion to flaunt it. All of her photos display varying degrees of ‘ugh do I really have to take this selfie?’, which makes me smile and also makes me want to shout at her picture, “why don’t you know how pretty you are??”

As the month goes on, my friends take selfies with me and ask if they can post them, even though I’m in them. This was never established as off-limits, so I say why not. My Narcissus is somewhat sated. I also text selfies to S, and she sends me pictures of her surroundings. We are creatures of habit.

I find myself wishing I were one of those Above It All people who don’t even want to post selfies. I start feeling like along the border of Confident and Arrogant, maybe I come down on the wrong side. My tendency to celebrate my physical/external self on social media is quite glaring in the face of #noselfiemay. Are my selfies the equivalent of telling people that I think I’m pretty? …Is it wrong to think I’m pretty? …Is it even more wrong to say so? My esposo tells me that he read an article claiming that people who take a lot of selfies are “certifiably insane.” This does not help.

Then I start to feel defensive. I was taking selfies in the 90s, before they were selfies! I called them “Thelma & Louise pictures”! It was fun and adorable and now I have super cute pictures of teenage me with my friends and my sisters and my mom! Later on, S tells me that Kanye West’s wife posits the same claim to fame in her recently published book of selfies, Selfish. This is not a person I want to feel aligned with. Defenses blown.

Before swapping roles, I told S that it seems like her social media presence focuses on her “internal self as reflected in her point of view.” I wish I could say that I channeled S easily and successfully for the entire month of May. Instead, I definitely posted pictures of myself that other people took (which are not selfies), and I definitely had a moment of frustration trying to get my esposo to take a picture of me the way I wanted (selfies equal creative control).

Which is not to say that #noselfiemay was a total bust. I had a lot of fun capturing moments and scenery with my self not included, I was still allowed to post plenty of pictures of my adorable child (admittedly its own form of narcissistic gratification), and overall I felt more creative about my approach to taking and posting images. To a point S made earlier, it still feels more natural to hold up one’s camera (phone) and take a picture looking outward, even for a veteran selfie-taker.

I posted 45 pictures in May, and seven of them included my face, as captured by others. I even chopped off over ten inches of my hair and managed to not post a selfie! Here are the majority of the pictures I posted:

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If you want to see all of my non-selfie photos, search Instagram for the hashtag #noselfiemay
(as far as I can tell, it’s unique to me)

The extra good news is that it’s June 1st, and I have posted two pictures today – one of the Word of the Day (jiggery-pokery!) and one of some beautiful roses. It did cross my mind to take a selfie with the roses, but they stood better on their own. I’m sure my selfie-taking* will eventually resume in full force, but I’m hopeful that it will be balanced with more images of the beauty that I see in the world.

*Update: At lunchtime I couldn’t resist posting a mother-daughter selfie. She’s too stinkin’ cute.

***

Beauty Coup is all about appreciating the whole of our self-worth and the whole of our beauty as individuals. As co-authors of Beauty Coup, we set out to challenge ourselves to acknowledge and appreciate the aspects of our own beauty that we often overlook. If E’s wise, classy grandma were still with us, we know she would sip her whiskey out of her teacup and say, “Darlings, you’re beautiful. What’s a ‘selfie’?” And then she’d pose for one with us, all radiance and beauty.

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E and her beloved grandma. (Thelma & Louise pictures did not allow for focus control.)
Selfie May Win!
The Elusive “Skype Selfie”. Love, S & E

Cinda…really?

Let’s watch the trailer for Disney’s Cinderella (2015), which grossed $67,877,361 on its opening weekend this month.

…what? Oh, sorry, did you say something? BECAUSE I WAS COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY ASLEEP. OH MY GOD.

You’re telling me that this is Disney’s “remake” of the classic fairy tale? This is their “updated” Cinderella? They spend $95,000,000 and all they can come up with is Lily James on a juice fast and Helena Bonham Carter in a blonde wig?

Maybe when I drifted off after the first three seconds of this snooze fest I missed the good parts. Are you sure they didn’t present us with Cinderella as an cyborg in Beijing? Or Cinderella on a crusade to undo a curse that left her doomed to life of feminine obedience? How about a Cinderella in a love triangle between a dangerous fairy king and a charismatic huntress? Or a Cinderella whose dearly departed mother reappears to her in the form of a beautiful fish, and then when her stepmother finds out, she COOKS THE FISH!? (That’s messed up, right?)

The only news stories about this movie are seriously about how Lily James went on a liquid diet to fit into “the corset”. Question: WHY DID THEY MAKE THE CORSET FIRST? WHY CAN’T THEY MAKE A CORSET THAT FITS LILY JAMES?

Disney’s Cinderella (2015), I pronounce you RIDICULOUS.

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OUCH.

Is the Into the Woods movie any good?

-S

ps. Please feel free to post additional FUN Cinderella retellings in the comments.

Boss Cake

It was last Friday afternoon, and I was leaving work early in order to make a doctor’s appointment with my new primary care physician. The organization that I work for has just changed insurance carriers, and I was randomly assigned to a new doctor within the network. As I rushed out of the Brooklyn middle school where I run the after-school program, students and teachers alike asked me where I was going. It was just as school was letting out, the time when I would normally be downstairs getting ready to start program.

“Yo, miss, there’s no after-school today?”

“No, there is, go on down!” I waved one of my students down the stairs, pulled on my heavy winter coat, and pushed through the door into the clear, cold afternoon.

On the sidewalk, I quickened my pace as I hurried for the subway.  I hadn’t left as early as I had intended to. There was a parent on the phone for me, and then I remembered I needed the principal to sign something that needed to be faxed before the end of the day. Then, I realized that I hadn’t–

“Just go!” My assistant had to tell me. “You’re late!”

As I sat in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, filling out paperwork, I managed to relax a bit. I had prepared my staff well enough to handle an afternoon without me. I can get pretty focused on work, and I often have to remind myself that it’s important to take care of my personal stuff, and make time to do grown-up things like scheduling doctor’s appointments.

This feeling of pride at accomplishing the small task of scheduling and keeping a personal appointment was still with me as I started the conversation with my new doctor, who I will call Dr. Alan. Middle-aged and glasses-wearing, my first impression of Dr. Alan was that he seemed normal enough. While looking over my paperwork and clicking his pen, he asked me all the usual questions that doctors ask, like do you smoke (nope), and so forth.

The trouble began when he asked what at first seemed like an innocuous question.

“Are you married?”

“Nope.”

“Boyfriend?”

“Yep.”

“And what does he do?”

Now, I know this is just small talk territory here. However, this question came before asking me what I do. I should have seen where the conversation was headed, but like so many of the tiny slights that women suffer on any given day, I hadn’t yet recognized this one.

“He’s a lawyer.”

“Wow, good for you!”

I refrained from rolling my eyes. So this guy is from a generation who still considers it cute to make jokes about how women are all just trying to bag doctors and lawyers for husbands. Whatever.

Dr. Alan proceeded to ask me how old my boyfriend was and how long we’d been together. When I explained we’d been living together for several years in several different cities, he took the opportunity to drop some knowledge on me about my generation.

“The young men of your generation have brainwashed you young girls. They have! They’ve brainwashed you into thinking that you don’t need to get married.”

He pressed a cold stethoscope to my back as I chewed on that little gem and inhaled deeply.

“And what do you do?”

Finally. “Well, I work a for a non-profit, I’m the director of an after-school program.”

He looked inside my ears. “Ah, working with the kiddies. And what’s the game plan there? Where do you see yourself in five years?”

The kiddies? The game plan?

“You should get a master’s degree. Did you know you have an ear infection?”

I opened and closed my mouth several times and readjusted my paper robe. “Uh. No. Really?”

“I’ll write you a prescription for some antibiotics.” He poked and prodded my stomach and my lower back. “Your muscle tone is not where it should be. Are we exercising?”

I felt a flush creep up my neck, and a laugh escape my throat. “Not particularly! But I do live on the third floor of a walk-up, ha, ha.”

He didn’t laugh. This was a serious matter. “You need to start thinking about getting in shape now before you start raising your family, because once you do, it’s going to be too difficult to catch back up. You’re going to be busy and you’re not going to have the time.”

Well. “Right.”

“You remind me of my wife when she was young,” he said, beaming at me and shaking my hand. “She was also a pretty brunette, like you.”

I smiled thinly, wondering why this man thought it was supposed to make me feel special that he had just described me the same way you could describe 3/4 of the human population. When he left, I dressed quickly. Feeling small. Within twenty minutes of meeting this man, he had criticized just about every aspect of my life: my job, my relationship, my body.

On my way home, I tried to get my thoughts in order by sending several cursory texts to E. Her reaction confirmed everything that I was feeling:

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After the initial supportive outrage, she also posed a very astute question that succinctly illustrates everything I was feeling: Has my boyfriend’s doctor ever told him that his muscle tone is not where it “should” be? Asked him why he wasn’t married? Told him to “get in shape” in preparation for having a family (which he has never mentioned he has any plans to have)??

I knew the answer. There are plenty of ways to frame the issue of exercise without the words “raising a family”. If a doctor ever told my boyfriend (or E’s husband, or any guy) to hit the gym, I’m sure it was framed as a simple matter of health. Just like if my boyfriend runs into our building’s super in the laundry room, he’s not going to get questioned about what he chooses to do with his life, but when I run into our building’s super in the laundry room, he encourages me to quit my job in order to become a plus-size model**. When my boyfriend grabs a coffee from the corner store, they call him “boss” and they call me “princess”.  When you know what? I’m the boss. THIS WAS THE BIRTHDAY CAKE THAT MY STAFF GOT FOR ME:

BOSS CAKE

I wish I could say that what Dr. Alan said to me didn’t hurt me, but it did. It hurts to be belittled and undermined, even by complete strangers. Even if you know it’s garbage, it still hurts when people try to tell you that the only thing you have to offer as a woman is your body, whether that be as something nice for men to look at, or as a baby making machine, or both.

Just take a deep breath. Text your best friend. Call your insurance company. Change your doctor. Eat your boss cake.

-S

**Actual thing a person said to me, in complete earnestness