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!

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

Guest Post by the beautiful and ferocious Cara Greene Epstein

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.

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

Beyoncé = Boss = Sexual Expression

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 12.12.03 PM

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

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 12.28.19 PM

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.

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

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

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!

Friday Feminist Funtimes: To Shailene or Not Shailene?

The thing about writing a blog centered around bolstering positive body image and dissecting representations of women in the media, is that one never finds oneself lacking in topical content.

There’s the power of the Book Girls and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign to consider, or the practice of using T&A as click-bait for feminist articles to discuss. Endless consideration could be given to the horrifying, violent, misogynistic rampage of the UC Santa Barbara shooter – further evidence that sexism isn’t just, like, totes annoying, but is in fact fuel for brutal, savage acts against women.

These are all subjects that deserve our time and attention, and may one day be broached on Beauty Coup, but today we’re going to talk about Shailene Woodley. This is Friday Feminist Funtimes, after all, and Shailene Woodley is causing a real fuss about the word ‘feminist’ and what it means to Shailene Woodley.

For those of you wondering “what’s a Shailene Woodley?”, here’s a quick primer:
She’s a young actress who first got attention as George Clooney’s tiresome teenage daughter in The Descendants. She’s also on the verge of some mega-stardom with two huge films out this year: she’s the lead in both Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, two extremely popular YA novels.

In addition to her film successes, Shailene is also known for being an outspoken hippie vegan who shuns labels, loves mushroom powder, enjoys sunbathing her vagina, and doling out hugs “…so you know I’m real, and then you’re real too.”

This is Shailene:


This is what Shailene has said about feminism…

From an interview with Time magazine:

Is she a feminist? “No because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance. With myself, I’m very in touch with my masculine side. And I’m 50 percent feminine and 50 percent masculine, same as I think a lot of us are. And I think that is important to note. And also I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn’t work either. We have to have a fine balance.

…My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism. I don’t know how we as women expect men to respect us because we don’t even seem to respect each other. There’s so much jealousy, so much comparison and envy. And “This girl did this to me and that girl did that to me.” And it’s just so silly and heartbreaking in a way.”

Then she went on to clarify these thoughts with The Daily Beast:

“…the word “feminist” is a word that discriminates, and I’m not into that. I don’t think there has to be a separation in life in anything. For me, bringing up the whole “sisterhood” thing was about embracing each other’s differences. Embrace my point of view even if it’s different from your point of view, but see that our end goal is the same. The way that we’re getting there might be different, but as long as we approach life with kindness and compassion, that’s all that matters.

I was talking about this with one of my close girlfriends… and she said, “Listen, Shae: labels are labels. I don’t need to label myself because I know who I am.” That clicked for me really hard, and it was this defining moment in my life that I’ve taken with me and encourage others to do the same. Labels are for other people to understand us, so for me, I know how I feel and I don’t need to call myself a “feminist” or “not a feminist” because I know what my truth is. If you need in your own mind to say that I’m a feminist so you better understand where I’m coming from and what my ideals mean, then that’s for you. Labels are for people to understand one another, not for us to understand ourselves. I know where my cayenne sits in my spice cabinet.”

The unequivocal Elaine Lui of Lainey Gossip recently posted a link to a summary of Shailene’s views on Celebitchy, alongside the statement, “I think Shailene Woodley is a dumbass. Do we agree on this?”

Do we agree?

I agree that substituting the word feminism for sisterhood or even humanism is a bit of an eye-roll-inducing cop-out. But, I’m a decade older than Shailene. I am of the Righteous Babe era, when so many of us wore Feminism as a proud badge of honor and courage and sometimes outright warfare. Not with the battle cry of We Are Superior, but rather We Are Not Objects, We Have Just As Much Value And Worth As You. I want her to own the label because to my mind, feminism is misunderstood, in part, because so many feminists are afraid of embracing the term.

I agree with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who defines feminist as “a person who believes in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes.” It’s that simple. If you believe in those things, then you are a feminist. It irks me when Shailene claims that feminism is divisive, discriminatory, and intent on raising women above men. To imply that loving men = can’t be a feminist, or being in touch with one’s masculine side = can’t be a feminist is pure idiocy. So in that sense, I agree that she sometimes sounds like a dumbass. Or at least like someone who has completely misconstrued the message and intent of feminism.

What I do love about Shailene is that she’s an atypical starlet and a contrary voice in Hollywood, aka a sea of predominantly indiscernible young female voices. As much as I brandish the label of Feminist, I agree that labels can sometimes be more trouble than they’re worth, and that we often take them on more for others than for ourselves. For example, I don’t need to label my sexuality for myself, but when people become very inquisitive I choose to give them the word queer. I use that word precisely because it requires explanation and sparks conversation, and because neither straight nor gay nor bisexual encompasses who I am. So if Shailene continues to shun the label of feminist and it continues to trigger tête-à-têtes with a young Hollywood actress about feminism (instead of just her diet or her love life or her fashion sense), well then bully for Shailene.

Another reason I do not agree that Shailene is a dumbass, is because in spite of her distaste for Feminist she is broaching really important feminist topics, even in polite company. When she appeared on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon asked her about being compared to Jennifer Lawrence. Because of a piece in NY Magazine, we know that this portion of the segment ultimately didn’t air because of Shailene’s response. First of all, she said, “Well… Comparisons always lead to despair.” And then the audience booed her. I don’t understand why that answer called for booing. But there it is, our collective consciousness. “What’s wrong with comparisons?? JLaw is Awesomesauce!”

Shailene went on to say:

“As women, we are constantly told that we need to compare ourselves to a girl in school, to our co-­workers, to the images in a magazine… How is the world going to advance if we’re always comparing ourselves to others? I admire Jennifer Lawrence, but she’s everyone’s favorite person to compare me to. Is it because we both have short hair and a vagina? I see us as separate individuals. And that’s important. As women, our insecurities are based on all these comparisons. And that creates distress.”

That right there is the opposite of dumbass. Those are valuable insights into how women are perceived and scrutinized and pitted against each other. I suspect this didn’t make the final cut of the interview not because Jimmy Fallon has issues with gender politics, but because gender politics do not jive in the Crackle Happy Pop world of The Tonight Show. Which is a shame, because we’d all be a little better off with some challenging of the status quo served up next to our double turtleneck ping-pong.

Shailene is young. She knows what her truth is at 22. As a fellow outspoken, opinionated woman, I sure as f*ck knew my truth at 22, too. And like most of us who’ve been through our 20s, my truth has changed a bit since then. Shailene’s truth is very likely to evolve over the next five to ten years, and even if she occasionally sounds like a dumbass, I for one hope she keeps talking about it.