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.
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.
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.
There are a lot of pervasive myths in our society about women and sexuality. If you were to take the bulk of film, TV, and advertising at face value, you would likely assume the following:
Men are more interested in sex than women
Women over the age of… let’s say 35… are not sexy
Women who are mothers are not sexy (and should not be sexual)
Women are either deviant sexpots or chaste asexual beings
Yes, the Madonna and the Whore dichotomy is alive and well
When women are sexual it’s solely in the interest of pleasing men
Female sexuality is only acceptable when presented by and for men
Unsurprisingly, I’m here to tell you that this is all a load of bullsh*t. Here’s the truth as I see it, based on my lifelong experience as a woman (who is also intimately close to a substantial number of other women).
1 – Oh My God do we love sex. Not all of us, of course, but an awful lot of us really really really love sex.* And – brace yourself – not every man does.
2 – Most women…
Can we sidebar with the disclaimer that yes, I am making generalizations and there are exceptions to every rule and so on and so forth? Agreed? Good. Back to it.
2 – Most women are at their sexiest once they reach their 30s and 40s, for no other reason than we are at our most confident. We are more comfortable in our skin than ever before, having shed the angst and neediness of our twenties. We also know what we want, what we like, and (hopefully) how to express those desires. (Seriously, I think we can all agree that right now, JLo is the sexiest she has ever been.) Speaking of sexy mamas…
3 – I know, I know… you don’t want to think of your mother as a person who has ever been sexual. But guess what? You exist, so. Your mother has had sex.** This inability to separate a woman’s individuality from her identity as A Mother is dangerous for many reasons, but right now we’re focusing on her sexual agency. To wit:
I am a mother. I can see 40 in my not-too-distant future. I am also sensual and alluring, and I love sex.
Not only do I love sex, but I am and always have been a fiercely sexual being. When I consider creating art / working on projects / writing posts like this that embrace and celebrate women’s sexuality, there is a part of me that questions that choice, because I am a mother and according to society…
4 – I am not allowed to be Charlotte and Samantha at the same time. I am supposed to be one or the other. But the truth is, I am both of those women. I love being a mother and I love sex. And when I consider what I want my daughter to see and experience and know in her core to be true, it is this:
Sexual Expression vs. Objectification – There is An Enormous Difference
5 – Rape, harassment, sexism, etc… these are not byproducts of women expressing their sexuality. It’s when women are Sexually Objectified that things fall apart. Sexual Objectification diminishes women’s agency over our own bodies and our worth as human beings.
But guess what?
If I want to start an Instagram account celebrating my sexy ass body and my love of lingerie (which is real and profound), it is not an invitation to violate me.
This is what we need to teach our children. That women are allowed to be sexual creatures, and to express our sexuality however we choose, and in a better world we would be able to do so without fear of scorn or (at times horrifying) retribution. Which leads me to my final point:
6 – Yes, when I express myself in a sexual way, I enjoy and appreciate a positive response. (I’m a Leo, so. Duh.) However, my sexuality is mine and mine alone. If I want to express it privately or publicly, shyly or brazenly, coyly or salaciously, these are my choices. When it comes to my own personal sexual expression, you don’t get to tell me how to behave.***
The patriarchal approach to women’s sexuality is to appropriate it and manipulate it, because – frankly – a woman solid in her own sexual power is terrifying. Patriarchal society only thrives when women are repressed and oppressed, and if you think that isn’t the case today, that we’ve reached any kind of gender parity where sex is concerned, just ask the victims of the college athletes who’ve been in the news lately for sexually assaulting unconscious women. Ask those women if they feel valued. If they feel justice was served after they were robbed of their sexual agency.
For those of you who prefer visual aids, here are some examples of Sexual Expression vs. Sexual Objectification:
The moral of these musings, my darling rabble rousers, is simple:
Celebrating women’s sexuality and sexual expression = GOOD! Turning women into sexual objects = BAD
Also, I may just have to start that Instagram account, because there shouldn’t be anything shocking or scandalous about a mother who can see 40 in her not-too-distant future, who is also sensual and alluring, and loves sex.
*We possess the only organ in the human anatomy that exists solely for pleasure, for cryin’ out loud! **She maybe even enjoyed herself. Deal with it. ***Unless of course we have an explicit agreement to that effect, because consent is sexy.
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!
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 Swiftmasmay 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:
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 earth. She’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!
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:
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?
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 aboutbad 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.
The time has come for our very special edition of Friday Feminist Funtimes: Beauty Coup’s 100th Post, Celebrating YOU!
Thank You, ever so much, to all of you who sent in your responses. Beauty Coup is a movement by you and for you. It means so much to us to hear your inspiring words and see your beautiful, 21st century self-portraits.
It never ceases to amaze me how hard we are on ourselves as women. Quite a few responses to this call for submissions included some version of the qualifier “This was really hard…” Unfortunately it seems our instinct as women is still to focus on the parts of ourselves that we think need ‘fixing’. And as one of our contributors pointed out, women have a tendency to judge one another, so we are hesitant to speak out about ourselves in a positive light, for fear of sounding arrogant.
It is precisely because women have such a hard time seeing their own beauty and value that Beauty Coup exists. It is because we believe we will accomplish so much more by focusing on our strengths, and celebrating the beauty we see in others.
We don’t just want to make it easier for you to see your own worth, we want it to be second nature.
We want you to be free of the insecurities that hold you back and make you second guess yourself.
We want you to wake up each day with the inherent knowledge that you are beautiful and powerful beyond measure.
We want you to take that power, go forth, and conquer the fucking world.
* * *
“I am beautiful cos (sic) I love without judgment. If you are or have been in my life it’s because you are wonderful and I love you. No judgement just love. It doesn’t matter what my opinion of you is, or anybody else’s for that matter – if you need me and I can, I’ll be there. Be who you want to be and I will support you to the best of my ability. As the Beatles said ‘all you need is love.'” – Jessica O.
“I am beautiful because I am finally accepting all of my parts, thoughts, and creative ambitions. Om Namah Shivaya.” – Catharine P.
“I am beautiful because I know when to give myself a break and laugh. Oh and also I have the nicest legs on this side of the Mississippi :)” – Maggie K.
“I am beautiful because I believe in myself. No matter the anxiety or struggle that peeks out from time to time, I somehow always shake it off and make magic.” – Izzy M.
“I’m beautiful because I’m strong and funny. I’ll punch you, then I’ll laugh! Just kidding.” – S
“I am beautiful because I have brains and booty, and I love both of them fully!” – Kira H.
“I am beautiful because I follow my heart!!!!!”
– Hannah J.
“I am beautiful because of my gentle inner strength and the steadfastness of my bravery. – Gwen E.
“I am beautiful because of the people I have met and places I have been!
Throughout my travels I have seen people from all walks of life from all corners of the world and by seeing the world you see beauty everywhere. And being a citizen of the world I know that I too am beautiful!”
– Marel H.
“I am beautiful because finding the beauty in others takes no effort, and my baby blues.”
– Megan A.
“I am beautiful because my body is capable of magic.”
“I am beautiful because you are.”
– Georgina H. E.
“I am beautiful because i am a badass lady who gets shit done.” 🙂 – Amelia A.
“I’m beautiful because I’m living the life of my dreams. And wearing makeup when I feel like it.” 🙂
– Katie B.C.
“I am beautiful because my daughters look up to me.” – Paloma P.
“I am beautiful because of The Light in my life.” – Alisia D.
“I am beautiful because I am loved.” – Jennie S.
“I am beautiful because, at age 33, I am stronger and more flexible in both mind and body than I’ve ever been in my life.” – Lynzie B.
“I am beautiful because I am. I am beautiful because I make my friends laugh.” – Vanessa A. R.
“I am beautiful because I am strong. I’m climb mountains strong, all in on a life of uncertainty strong, chop wood strong, put myself out there even though it’s scary strong, run for miles and miles strong, and live by my values even though I’m almost always the odd woman out strong.” – Richenda S.T.
“I’m beautiful because of all the amazing women in my life that encourage me to take risks, strive for more, and gossip endlessly with me over loads of red wine.” – Lucy D.
“I am beautiful because I am strong, authentic, radiant, and full of love.” – Tiffany G.
Cheers to all of you and your powerful beauty. Thank you for supporting Beauty Coup, and for helping us to celebrate you! #beautyrevolution
For not the first, nor I suspect the last, time in my life, I have been pegged as a Bad Influence. The only detail I want to highlight here is a single common thread: each time I’ve been slapped with that label, it’s because the woman who I’m purportedly influencing has started to show signs of confidence, tenacity, and self-worth.
As much as I’d like to, I can’t take credit for these evolutions. None of us is powerful enough to fundamentally change another human being. Any moxie and/or gumption rearing its wild-eyed head can only be attributed to each of these women finding and deciding to make use of her long-stifled voice. If I played any part in helping her get there, then all I can say is: hoo-ah, hells yes, bully for me!
This also got me thinking about all the names and phrases thrown at me over the years, dripping with judgement, disdain, and acrimony. So I made a word cloud! It’s just a fun little sampling of the labels and monikers I’ve been branded with. You’ll notice that my cloud includes both prude and slut and a few words in between, because if there’s one thing people love to do for women, it’s define our sexual behaviors for us. #patriarchy
Some of these words were hurtful at the time, others have always proved a consistent source of amusement, and many I wear with pride. Every one of them has undoubtedly molded me into the woman I am today.
Know what else I am?
So here we are, on this afternoon of ye old Friday Feminist Funtimes, faced with the delightful prospect of celebrating women of a certain influence. As a good little feminist, you’ve almost certainly heard the quote “Well behaved women seldom make history”, which is frequently misattributed to Eleanor Roosevelt or Marilyn Monroe. It was in fact a statement made by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who coined the phrase in an academic paper in 1976, and later went on to write a book of the same name.
In honor of all lady misfits, hotheads, and rabble rousers, I dedicate this post to some of my favorite women – both historic and contemporary – who have, without a doubt, been a very, very bad influence on me.
Thirty-five isn’t what I would call old, but it’s old enough. It’s old enough to remember a time when daily doses of feminism were only found when sought out. To get a regular fix of Girl Power, you needed Bust or Bitch or Ms. Magazine on your nightstand, Ani or TLC in your discman (what’s up, 90s!), and Thelma & Louise on a constant loop in your DVD player.
What a revelation to look around nowadays and find that feminism is Everywhere. On TV, in the movies, in comic books (!!), music videos, and spilling from the pens of former CW stars. The Lady Movement has gone Pop.
But don’t let that fool you. It doesn’t mean we’ve won. On the contrary, the message of each and every one of these women is (in essence) that feminism is still needed. Sexism still thrives, male privilege still exists, and there is still a lot of work to be done.
All the same, I have to say… Seeing so many of us fighting the good fight? Feels pretty f*cking good. Here’s a sampling of delights to fuel your feminist fancies:
MUSIC VIDEOS Colbie Caillat – Try I’d heard her name but never her music. Time to give her a listen.
TELEVISION Viola Davis speaksto seizing a role in television, where female characters are almost always more dynamic than their silver screen counterparts.
“I have gotten so many wonderful film roles,” she acknowledged. “I’ve gotten so many where I haven’t been the show — I’ve been invited to fabulous parties to hold up the wall. I wanted to be the show – to have a character that took me out of my comfort zone, and that happened to be on a Shonda Rhimes show. So I did the only sensible thing and took it.”
Emma Watson has stated her feminist views before. Now she’s following in the Jolie’s footsteps by working for the UN. Emma “Hermione Granger” Watson will be joining the gender-equality branch, focusing on work with the HeForShe Campaign. Of this new adventure, Ms. Watson states:
“Women’s rights are something so inextricably linked with who I am, so deeply personal and rooted in my life that I can’t imagine an opportunity more exciting.”
Our little witch is all grown!
COMMERCIALS Some of you will nay-say this to rooms of your own and back, but I Like What Pantene Is Doing. #NotSorry.
There you have it, renaissance women! Not only is our revolution being televised, it is Everywhere. And because no pop culture feminist blog post is complete without her: