The Bechdel-Wallace Test: 2015 Movie Edition

In her Bechdel-Wallace Test: 2015 TV Edition post, S reminds us of the what and why of The Test and digs into this year’s small screen offerings. My mission, which I heartily accepted, is to give you rabble-rousers a rundown of the Bechdel-Wallace* Test Approved films of 2015 (thus far; we still have the Awards Push season to scrutinize!)

Herein are the Gold Star Recipients of the Big Screen Bechdel-Wallace Test Passing Adeptly Awards:

As the biopic of the great Bessie Smith (played brilliantly by the great Queen Latifah), there are the inevitable conversations between Bessie and Ma Rainey, Bessie and her sister Viola, and Bessie and her lover (represented in the film by the character Lucille, who is a composite of the women in Bessie’s life). These conversations address careers, lady love, ambition, family, talent, recovery from addiction, and motherhood, to name a few of the Not Men subjects.

Bonus points:

  • Also passes the racial Bechdel-Wallace Test
  • Directed by Dee Rees
  • Queen Latifah!

Mad Max: Fury Road
When you see this movie, it may seem like Imperator Furiosa is the only woman who is actually named. In fact the wives have names, too, they’re just weird, post-apocalyptic names. I’d have to watch a second time to be sure, but I believe each of them is even referred to by name at some point in the film: Toast the Knowing, The Splendid Angharad, Capable, The Dag, and Cheedo the Fragile. Some of the elder women also have names, such as The Valkyrie and Keeper of the Seeds.

There isn’t a lot of dialogue in Mad Max, but when these women do talk, they talk to each other and they talk about the green place, survival, hope, repairing the truck, planting seeds, life and death, conquering the Citadel, and so on.

Bonus points:

  • Great feminist discussions permeated pop culture because of this film. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the key players:
    • Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa)
      1. “I knew instantly from understanding the project that George had an innate understanding of what women represent to society and he wanted that to reflect in a post-apocalyptic world in the most truthful way possible. People keep saying ‘strong women’ but we are actually just women. We had a filmmaker that understood the truth of women is powerful enough and we don’t want to be put on pedestals or made to be unnaturally strong. What we are capable of doing is really interesting and informs a story like this.”
    • George Miller (director)
      1. “Initially, there wasn’t a feminist agenda,” Miller insisted. Instead, the movie was simply designed to be an extended chase, and “the thing that people were chasing was to be not an object, but the five wives. I needed a warrior. But it couldn’t be a man taking five wives from another man. That’s an entirely different story. So everything grew out of that.”
      2. “She (Margaret Sixel, Miller’s wife) had never cut an action movie, and she said, ‘Why on earth would you want me to cut the movie,’ and I said, ‘Because if it were the usual kind of guys, it would look like every other action movie you see,’ and she said, ‘My job here is to stop you from embarrassing yourself.’”
      3. “I’ve gone from being very male dominant to being surrounded by magnificent women. I can’t help but be a feminist.”

furiosa and gang

Magic Mike XXL
I can see many of you shaking your heads… What is Magic Mike doing on this list? My answer? Oof, so many things. 

Magic Mike XXL is a celebration of female sexuality. Yes, really! If you haven’t yet, watch it, and see for yourself. (Also, Channing Tatum, so, you’re welcome.) To pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test, we have Rome naming all of her female customers who she sometimes engages in a (brief) tête–à–tête, and later we get the lovely allusions she shares with Paris regarding their shared past. Almost all of these interactions focus on women’s worth, pleasure, and agency. They cover sexuality, career, skill sets, viability, and the delightful idea that all women are Queens.

Bonus Points:

  • I get to post this gif

CT Dancing

Pitch Perfect 2
Becca, Chloe, Fat Amy, new girl Emily, and the rest of the Bellas, talk all things competition, talent, show routines, song selection, confidence, legacy, and sisterhood. PP2 wins all the things.

Bonus points:

  • Directed by Elizabeth Banks
  • Song and dance numbers
  • Becca’s aca-awkward interactions with the head of the German team

bellas camping

I didn’t LOL at this movie as much as I thought I would, but it was a refreshing spin on the rom-com and easily passes The Test. Amy talks with her boss Dianne about work, getting a promotion, story ideas (gray area here as they work at a men’s magazine), and her sister Kim about their family and Kim’s family and their sex lives and their childhood and so on. Also LeBron James as himself is amazing.

Bonus Points:

  • Challenges stereotypes faced by men and women by flipping the gender norms about sex and relationships on their ass
  • Song and dance number (you’ll see)

AS Wine

Bianca, Jess and Casey, being best friends, talk about plenty of things other than guys. They discuss homework assignments, their friendship, their gifts and flaws, fashion, homecoming, parties (even Queen B Madison gets in on that conversation), and they have a pretty hilarious fight involving social media. Basically they’re actual representations of teenage girls, so The Duff passes with flying colors.

Bonus points:

  • Bianca also has some interesting chats with her mom, Dottie (Alison Janney always wins)
  • Two of the friends ditch their dates for their bestie in need <<— Realness


Here are a few other 2015 movies that pass The Test and are still on my To See list:
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Inside Out

And one that I will probably never see, but if you don’t mind Mush Mouth Lively, then I hear this one passes admirably:
The Age of Adaline

As a small bonus, here are some 2014 films that pass The Test, which we never got around to writing about, because in 2014 I had a baby and S was busy being really there for me.

  • The Book of Life
  • Birdman
  • Dear White People
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • The Lego Movie
  • Mockingjay Part 1
  • Maleficent
  • Obvious Child
  • The Other Woman
  • Selma

On a final note, a movie does not have to pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test in order to be considered good. The Test is designed as an (absurdly low) barometer for measuring representations of women in film and television. There are so many movies and TV shows (so many) that fail The Test, it would be wildly inaccurate to require passing The Test as a measure of quality. For example, This is Where I Leave You failed, and it’s a great movie.

The point of The Test is to remind us that when it comes to portrayals of women on screen, we can do so so so much better. We have a lot to celebrate when quality films pass, and the abundance of quality films that don’t pass reminds us that we still have quite a lot of work to do. #wegotthis

bellas boom

*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. S was required to post only selfies. E was prohibited from posting any selfies.

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

S’s #SelfieMay

Pre-May Instragram

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 above: some food I made, some food I ate, a subway bench with penises drawn on it…)

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.

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)

FullSizeRender (3)

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:


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.

FullSizeRender (5)
E and her beloved grandma. (Thelma & Louise pictures did not allow for focus control.)
Selfie May Win!
The Elusive “Skype Selfie”. Love, S & E

Amy Schumer Feminist Funtimes

Perhaps it was her “Milk Milk Lemonade” video or some of her stand up, or last Friday’s Feminist Funtimes when we discussed the charming notion of what makes a woman f*ckable… or perhaps you still haven’t paid witness to Amy Schumer. Whatever your first exposure to this crass lady of comedy, odds are good that you had a strong reaction to her and her raunchy brand of humor.

Full disclosure: it’s pretty easy to make me laugh. If you’re at all clever, odds are good that I will laugh at your jokes. That being said, I do tend to roll my eyes when I feel like there’s too much Try. If something that’s meant to be funny is also GROSS or CRASS or SHOCKING, then I feel like you’re Trying Really Hard to make me laugh, and instead all you get is this:


That was more or less how I felt about Amy Schumer, at first. So much Try. Her comedy reminded me of the diarrhea scene in Bridesmaids – it was funny for a minute, but quickly (for me) became overkill.

But as I’ve seen more and more of what Ms. Schumer is bringing to the table, the more I’m into it. Her comedy is still raunchy (and I would never want her to change that; it’s who she is), and as it turns out, she is also smart as hell and using the fame and attention she’s generating to make funny about some really serious sh*t. Cases in point:

As far as I’m concerned, rape has never been this funny.

Everything about this.

And the latest: this week’s episode of Inside Amy Schumer is a 20-minute remake of the 1950s film 12 Angry Men. Except it isn’t jurors in a room debating the fate of an accused murderer. In this version, the 12 angry (and sweaty) men are debating whether or not Amy Schumer is hot enough to have her own TV show. They also briefly mention the movie she has coming out, which b.t.dubs, looks hilarious.

The full episode, 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer (heh) is available on Comedy Central’s website (you have to log in with FB or Twitter), and I highly recommend watching the whole thing. It is absolutely worth 20 minutes of your life. Not only because it’s funny, but because of why it’s funny. (For more on the why of it, read Duana’s post over at Lainey Gossip; she sums it up quite nicely.)

On that note, while we can’t all produce brilliant comedic sketches around them, we should join the Amy crusade and eschew the beauty standard by hashtagging our so-called faults, or something to that effect. Mine would definitely be #clusterteeth and #stonereyes (and since I’ve been breastfeeding for six months, odds are good I can join the #muppettits club).

Thank you, Amy Schumer, for being funny, for being yourself, and for calling attention to all this bullshit that women are inundated with every single day. I am officially a fan. #loveyourcabbagepatchface


image copyright GQ magazine

Friday Feminist F*ckable Funtimes

While I’ve said it often in conversation, I’m not sure I’ve ever said it on this blog: In my (almost never humble) opinion, Hollywood is the highest glass ceiling left in this country.

The sexism inherent in the entertainment industry first showed itself to me when I was in film school. In Film History, we studied the 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc. We were discussing the scene of her trial, and I started making a point about the powerful visual – mind you, this is a silent film – of Joan in her male garb duking it out with her accusers. The professor interrupted me to say, “We’re discussing filmmaking, not feminism.”

A fellow (male) student and I hit it off, until we discussed the dearth of women filmmakers in Hollywood, and he told me that “The movies women make just aren’t as good.” Moments later, it became clear that he was under the impression that I was going to have sex with him, probably because that’s how he envisioned women reacting to him as A Great Director.

These attitudes toward women in Hollywood are not isolated, subjective experiences. An entire Tumblr has popped up, devoted to the things people say to women in the film and television industry. This article in the LA Weekly runs you through some staggering statistics. It’s a relatively long read (I recommend making time for it), so here are some highlights:

“In 2013, 1.9 percent of the directors of Hollywood’s 100 top-grossing films were female, according to a study conducted by USC researcher Stacy L. Smith. In 2011, women held 7.1 percent of U.S. military general and admiral posts, 20 percent of U.S. Senate seats and more than 20 percent of leadership roles at Twitter and Facebook — and both companies now face gender-discrimination lawsuits.”

“…between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2014…

—  Warner Bros. released 72 films … 53 of which we produced; 19 were only distributed by WB. Of those 53 films produced and distributed by WB, three were directed by women.

— Twentieth Century Fox, 20th Century Fox Animation and FOX 2000 produced 45 films. One was directed by a woman.

— Combined, Universal and Focus Features produced 101 films. Five were directed by women and one was co-directed by a woman.

— Paramount produced 51 films. One was directed by a woman; one was co-directed by a woman.

— Sony’s largest studios, Columbia and TriStar, produced 62 films. One was directed by a woman.

— Disney Studios and Disney Animation produced 52 films. Two had women as co-directors.”

These statistics focus on directors, but the numbers are not much better for producers, writers, cinematographers… essentially any filmmaking job other than Actress. And how are things for actresses in Hollywood these days? Ask the ladies in Amy Schumer’s recent skit, or Welcome to the Dollhouse star Heather Matarazzo, who all shed light on the significance of being “fuckable” in order to be cast in decent roles. It’s a qualifier that only applies to women, of course. It’s what this author implies is the reason that the very talented Mae Whitman was not re-cast as the President’s daughter in the forthcoming Independence Day sequel, even though she’s proven to be a greater box office draw than the relatively unknown actress who was cast. (Not to mention, she already played this role! She’s still around, and working, and adorable, and charismatic, and making money for studios. How is this even a question??)

Ask Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Garner, and these eight actresses, who are all speaking up about the industry’s blatant sexism. This is my favorite thing about what’s happening in Hollywood right now. The tide hasn’t officially turned, but damn if it hasn’t started to swell.

As frustrating as it is to encounter such reductive attitudes, I think it’s a very exciting time to be a woman working in Hollywood. We are living in an era where the sexism is still pervasive, but women are no longer keeping quiet when it happens to them. It may still be harder and more challenging for women to rise up the ranks, but they aren’t staying silent once they get there, and a lot of them are making noise along the way. Because women are all kinds of Able. We are capable, we are estimable, and we are bankable.

In essence, the tide is turning. We are on the precipice of what I believe will be a great shift in who helms the stories we are told. Don’t you worry, JLo. It is all happening, girl.

“Is the revolution happening now?”

I for one can’t wait to be a part of it. #wearebankable


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.



Is the Into the Woods movie any good?


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

My Body Post-Baby: Still My (Amazing) Body

Whenever a famous woman has a baby, you can count on at least two things:

1. The name of said baby will be a source of great fascination for far too many people, and
2. When said famous woman rejoins her publicly famous life and starts to be photographed again, all of the headlines will be some version of how she got her “Body Back After Baby”

Though there are countless examples of this, let’s just look at one recent case study for the sake of brevity: Blake Lively. She had a baby about two months ago (a girl named James, if you need the answer to #1 satisfied), and then showed up at New York Fashion Week. When Serena Van der Woodsen steps out on the town, her clothes are always a hot topic. This time of course, it was all about how she filled out her clothes because OH MY GOD SHE HAD A BABY.

Here are some of my favorite headlines, winners of the Utterly Ridiculous Headline Contest that I just held; I was the only judge:

Blake Lively Debuts Amazing Post-Baby Body At New York Fashion Week!

Hahaha… Debuts her body. Um, pretty sure she debuted her body sometime in the 80s and it’s been here ever since.

Blake Lively Makes First Post-Baby Public Appearance, Glows With Happiness at New York Fashion Week

“Glows With Happiness” aka “has a really great makeup artist”

Blake Lively Makes a Triumphant Post-Baby Return to Fashion Week

Triumphant. She is triumphantly dressed and standing in front of photographers. I’m all for congratulating the woman, but let’s not congratulate her for putting on a dress and going to a fashion show. Let’s congratulate her for Having A Baby, because that sh*t is HARD.

Then of course there are the blatant WE’RE ALL LOOKING AT YOUR BODY headlines:

NYFW 2015: Blake Lively Shows Off Flat Tummy

Blake Lively Flaunts Flat Tummy At NYFW 1 Month After Baby’s Birth

Blake Lively somehow looks like this after having a baby

Well, let me tell you how, Toronto Sun… It’s called Spanx. And having a personal trainer. And a nutritionist. And being a 27-year-old whose body was super fit to begin with, before all the baby magic happened.

Then there’s this little gem:

Ryan Reynolds may be the Green Lantern, but Blake Lively might have some super powers of her own.

She does! The super power of being a woman and growing, birthing, and nurturing a brand new human! Oh… you meant her flat stomach. Whomp.

I admit that I’m extra uppity about all of this because coming up on four months ago, I had a baby. I will also confess that throughout pregnancy and since giving birth, I’ve been concerned about things like gaining weight and getting back in shape. I like being fit and active, and in news that will surprise no one, it’s challenging to prioritize those things when you have a beautiful, captivating newborn to snuggle and feed and love and care for.

What I could not have told you with fervor and conviction before this whole experience, is that my body is Amazing. It’s f*cking Amazing. It isn’t amazing because I have a flat stomach. (I do not now, nor have I ever had a flat stomach.) It’s amazing because I grew another person inside of me, and then brought that person into the world with a staggering amount of effort and pain, and throughout all of it, my body was my body. I don’t need to “get my body back”, because it’s still here. It’s always been here. And it is magical.

My body isn’t the same as it was at 23, and it isn’t the same as it was a year ago. My body is capable, and mystifying, and a seriously impressive piece of bioengineering. My first and forever hope for my body is that it will continue to serve me well, for as long as I am lucky enough to live in it.

For anyone out there – especially anyone who has given birth – who feels bad about their own body when looking at pictures of Flat Tummy New Mom Blake Lively (or any of her New Mom Celebrity peers), please remember that it’s her Job to look like that. She has Employees who help her do that job, and she has Economic Resources that most of us can barely fathom. She is also, undoubtedly, wearing Spanx.

Your body is amazing. Your body is a seriously impressive piece of bioengineering. Take a moment to thank your body for everything it gives you every day, then stretch or run or jump or dance just because you can. Your body is amazing.

bebe body
before / during / after

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?”




“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:


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:


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.


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