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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

195 looks like pursuing a second graduate degree.

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

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

195 looks like passing your physicals with flying colors.

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

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

And…

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 12.00.35 PM

http://www.dita.net/femme-fatale/gallery

Beyoncé = Boss = Sexual Expression

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 12.12.03 PM

http://www.beyonce.com/vault/?type=editorial

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

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 12.28.19 PM

https://www.instagram.com/hereisgina/

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.

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

Beauty Coup 100 – Celebrating You!

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.

 

Cat
“I am beautiful because I am finally accepting all of my parts, thoughts, and creative ambitions. Om Namah Shivaya.”

– Catharine P.

 

Maggie

“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.

 

Izzy

“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. 

Shan

“I’m beautiful because I’m strong and funny. I’ll punch you, then I’ll laugh! Just kidding.”
– S

 

Kira

“I am beautiful because I have brains and booty, and I love both of them fully!”
– Kira H.

 

HB!

“I am beautiful because I follow my heart!!!!!”
– Hannah J.

 

Gwen

“I am beautiful because of my gentle inner strength and the steadfastness of my bravery.
– Gwen E.

 

Marel

“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.
Megan
“I am beautiful because finding the beauty in others takes no effort, and my baby blues.”
– Megan A.
EDS
“I am beautiful because my body is capable of magic.”
– E
Gigi
“I am beautiful because you are.”
– Georgina H. E.
AA
“I am beautiful because i am a badass lady who gets shit done.” 🙂
– Amelia A.
Katie
“I’m beautiful because I’m living the life of my dreams. And wearing makeup when I feel like it.” 🙂
– Katie B.C.
Paloma
“I am beautiful because my daughters look up to me.”
– Paloma P.
Alisia
“I am beautiful because of The Light in my life.”
– Alisia D. 
Jennie 2
“I am beautiful because I am loved.”
– Jennie S.
Lynzie
“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.
VandMe
 “I am beautiful because I am. I am beautiful because I make my friends laugh.”
– Vanessa A. R.
Chendi
“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.
Lou
“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.
Tiffany
“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

Friday Feminist Funtimes – #MightyKacy

The bulk of Friday Feminist Funtimes came a little early this week, with a look at some of the highlights in our pop culture revolution.

So today we’ll keep it short and sweet. As one of the announcers said, “There is no limit to what this woman can do.” #MightyKacy

Pop Goes the Revolution

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.

Jenny Lewis – Just One of the Guys
So much to love in this gender bending song and dance. Special props to Annie’s faux-break dancing, for making me bust a gut.

TELEVISION
Viola Davis speaks
to 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.”

Orange is the New Black got **12 Emmy Nominations** because it’s one of the greatest shows ever!! Laverne Cox is the first trans actress to be nominated for an Emmy!! So Stoked to see these ladies on the red carpet, struttin’ their stuff.

OITNB

(Let’s hope the TV Academy gets their sh*t together next year for Tatiana Maslany and Orphan Black.)

COMICS
Um, the new THOR is a WOMAN.
As if that isn’t enough, the series writer Jason Aaron drives home the fact that this new character is no spin-off, sidekick, watered-down version of Man Thor: 

“This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”

Get it, Marvel!

STARLET SMARTS
Leighton Meester
isn’t the first person who springs to mind when thinking of feminist actresses. A lot of you may not even know who she is. Before today, I mostly knew her as Blair Waldorf (aka, she of the enviable wardrobe) on Gossip Girl. After today, I will know her as the actress who wrote that kick-ass piece for the Huffington Post about playing the character of Curly’s Wife in Of Mice and Men.

starlet feminists

 

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:

sparkle bey

#SashaFierce

Friday Feminist Funtimes – All About That Bass

Today my friend Megan posted this video on the book of faces, and it’s about as Fun as FFF gets. The song is catchy, the video is totes adorbs, and it’s had me tappin’ my feet and chair dancin’ all day.

Now I’m getting used to all the naysayers and the nays that they say, so before you shake fists and wave placards, allow me to address the lyrics that are sure to irk some folks out there…

“I got that boom boom that all the boys chase, and all the right junk in all the right places…”

“I’m bringin’ booty back, go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that…”

She also references “stick figure silicone barbie doll”s, and how “boys like a little more booty to hold at night…” I know, I know. This reopens wounds incurred by slogans like Real Women Have Curves and Healthy is the New Skinny. But before you decry the indignities of how ‘skinny girls are people, too!!’, there are a few things we need to acknowledge.

1. Yes, all women are real women, regardless of shape or size. We here at Beauty Coup do not support body shaming of any kind.

2. Yes, skinny women can also be healthy women. So can large women, muscular women, not muscular women, young women, old women, and so on and so forth. Let’s also remember that there are sick people in the world who are no less beautiful for their illness.

3. When it comes to media and entertainment, there is a crucial truth that is often ignored or overlooked. This truth can be summarized by a concept known as othering. 

If you’ve ever taken a media studies class, odds are good that you know what this means. If not, here’s the short, short version in non-academic language:

Othering is when we as a collective culture have distaste for that which is not like us. That distaste can run the gamut from disdain to fear to outright hostility. Othering happens when we judge another person or group of people who are not like us simply because they are not like us, without any understanding of their individual and/or collective humanity.

It is these marginalized groups, these victims of othering, who need to be put in the spotlight when it comes to supporting broader definitions of beauty, and creating a greater understanding of what it means to have value and worth as a human being.

In light of that, I have some tough news for some of you:

If you are thin, you are privileged.
If you are white, you are privileged.
If you are young, you are privileged.
If you are straight, you are privileged.
If you are wealthy, you are privileged.
If you are a man, you are privileged.

I started that list, by the by, with the two (and a half) ways in which I am privileged. As I see it, it isn’t enough to rouse the rabble only concerning the privileges denied to us, we also have a responsibility to celebrate all kinds of beauty – regardless of the shape, size, color, age, gender, economic standing, or sexuality that it comes packaged in.

So if you find yourself feeling slighted because you’re thin and this cute video is celebrating girls with ‘bass’, remember this: just because she says ‘skinny bitches,’ it doesn’t mean she thinks skinny people suck. Odds are really, really good that the skinny bitch in the video is one of her BFFs.

Take the time to acknowledge your privileges. When someone steps up to holler about and celebrate something that is usually diminished, ignored, slighted, or feared, and you find you have the urge to yell back, “but what about me???” I encourage you to pause and think about all that your privileges have already afforded you.

Now shake that money maker, whatever its size!