Writer, Actor, Shameless Hussy

An Open Letter to Mayim Bialik

Dear Ms. Bialik,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good for her, not for me.

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



Elizabeth Dwyer Sandlin
Writer, Actor, Shameless Hussy


Menstruation Nation

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Consent is Sexy, and So is Your Mom

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:

  1. Men are more interested in sex than women
  2. Women over the age of… let’s say 35… are not sexy
  3. Women who are mothers are not sexy (and should not be sexual)
  4. Women are either deviant sexpots or chaste asexual beings
    • Yes, the Madonna and the Whore dichotomy is alive and well
  5. When women are sexual it’s solely in the interest of pleasing men
  6. 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

– 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:

– 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:

Boobs = burgers = boobs are food = Objectification

Proposal = she’ll let you bone her = Objectification

Everything about this = Objectification 

As for Sexual Expression, let’s include those images right here in the post, yes? Because who doesn’t love a little sassy, saucy, sexual agency?

Dita von Teese = Burlesque = Sexual Expression

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Beyoncé = Boss = Sexual Expression

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Gina Rodriguez = Self-Love, Acceptance, and Celebration = Sexual Expression

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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.

And a Happy Swiftyear! The Swift-Off (Round Two)

As mentioned in Shannon’s postAs 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!

The Swift-Off / Round Two: Elizabeth

For the Tay-Nay-Sayers, S got your back during the festive holiday season. Who cares if Swiftmas is a real thing wherein Taylor Swift surprises unsuspecting fans with oodles of holiday treats? S set out all the reasons Tay Tay grates on your Grinchy heartstrings, and I am here to do the opposite. I’m here to kick off 2016 with lots of reasons for loving Taylor Swift, starting with a not-at-all-secret confession:

I’m a fan. Yes, a fan of Taylor Swift’s music, that’s me! To be fair, it only started recently. I couldn’t name a song of hers that happened before Red, and my favorite album is her latest, 1989. The former is just enough pop-country crossover to make an easy fan of me, and the latter is just enough throwback to the music of my youth that I became completely sold. Her sh*t is catchy, y’all. Frankly, if you’ve ever been a teenage/early twenty-something girl, I don’t know how you can listen to this song or this one (or this one) without some real, deep down, Girl, I Feel You feelings.

Which brings me to Point #2: in a world of cookie cutter autotune pop stars who act like little sexy baby divas I can’t help but give props to the woman who has worked her ass off for her fame, and continues to show nothing but gratitude and affection towards her 60 million fans. Sure, maybe it’s an act. But even if it is, it’s a) smart, and b) Really Nice! Think of a musician whose work you admire, whose songs get your toes tapping and your lips synching… If you met that person, would you rather they acted like this:

Photo via Just Jared

Or like this:

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 3.55.03 PM
Photo via @HerNamesJen

Sort of sidebar: yes, I just berated human marshmallow fluff Ariana Grande for her “sexy baby” look, but this does NOT mean that I think Taylor Swift is somehow superior for dressing more conservatively.* The sexy baby thing bugs me (an entirely different blog post), but all-in-all I am a very sex positive person and I support women having agency over our bodies and how we dress and presents ourselves and so on and so forth. Suffice it to say, I’d bet a lot of money (and I have no money) that AG doesn’t curate her own image. 

Back to Tay!

Not only is Taylor Swift a gracious celeb, she is also genuinely talented. Even if you aren’t a fan of her music, it’s still refreshing to see a young woman carve out a career as a singer/songwriter in this day and age. Country was a logical launchpad for her career, as that’s where you’ll find most singer/songwriters these days, but as Red and 1989 prove, she has other music to share, and she crossed over very successfully.

Which means, the girl also has business sense. So she’s talented, nice to her fans, gracious in the face of crazy huge fame, and a savvy entrepreneur. I have to say it folks… It’s no wonder she’s friends with Beyoncé.

Proof via Pop Sugar

Which brings me to the only point in S’s argument that I cannot debate. While Taylor Swift brings a lot of good into the world, this is in literally no way superior to this. It just… isn’t. Beyoncé wins.

Still, that video (and video awards) blunder aside, there’s a lot to love about Taylor Swift. She’s not only everything I’ve already mentioned, she’s also open to growing and learning from her mistakes, and as a Mega Super Star, that sometimes happens very publicly. Like when Lena Dunham made a feminist out of her, or when Nicki Minaj took her to school on Twitter.

Like all humans, Taylor has her shortcomings, and so in the interest of furthering the debate, I leave you with more Taylor Tidbits to help you decide: Nay Tay or Yay Tay!

Hope everyone had a Merry Swiftmas, and that you’re all looking forward to a bright and shiny Swiftyear!

giphy (9)

*disclaimer: I don’t have one type of look, and I love all sorts of fashion, but if I have a fashion spirit animal, it’s a hybrid of Penélope Cruz and Taylor Swift.

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!

Screen Shot 2015-12-19 at 3.21.21 PM

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:

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.


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?

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.


#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.

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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

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