When You Accept Being A Woman…

accept-being-a-womanSaturday was odd. It started out a funny sort of awkward, had some slight awkwardness in the pursuit of kitschiness, and then by dinner time, went full-throttle into just plain awkward. But the real kicker of it all is that at about 10 PM, I went to the bathroom and made the discovery that I was starting my period — and you know what my first thought was? I thought to myself, “Oh, that explains it.” As if my freakin’ period & all the hormones it implies were somehow responsible for the stuff that happened that day.

Could hormones make my eyes more sensitive to my neighbor’s blinding shirt? Sure. And maybe you could argue that my psychic prediction of his request was female intuition inspired by my moon time. But the irony of his request, the still-drunk-the-morning-after oddness was not my doing. And there’s no way in heck that the stationary dry hump I received from a drooling disabled girl can be attributed to my soon-to-be-on-the-rag status. But still, that was my first thought.


Because we women are told that we are nutty when we’re on the rag. We’re told, directly or via insidious “jokes,” that strange things occur because we menstruate. Or because we are pregnant. We women are driven by our hormones, you know, to the extent that anything & everything outside of us is our hormones’ fault — or at the very least our hormones color our perceptions. Our bosses aren’t asshats, our husbands aren’t abusive, those guys aren’t too handsy; we’re too bitchy, too sensitive, too moody.

The message gets pounded into your brain, your psyche, to the point that you no longer have faith in your own response, your own experience — you see a bit of menstrual blood and there you are, questioning whether or not the days events actually occurred.

Accepting being a woman does not include accepting the notion that menstruation invalidates your experiences — or that you should shush yourself, counter your beliefs, or otherwise weaken your voice.

The “inner yous” the women need to clean, the emotional douching that needs to be done, is to get rid of the notion that our biology makes us crazy. Because the notion that as women our perceptions are all wrong because we have hormones is the crazy one.

Cheap Thrills Thursday: Throwing Out Body Issues

They say you can tell a lot about a culture by their garbage — “they” being anthropologists, social scientists, & historians (their amateur varieties too), folks who monitor consumerism, as well environmentalists & “green” eco types. And dumpster-diving garbage pickers like me & my family.

Yes, I dumpster dive and “rescue” things found curb-side — and I’m not embarrassed to admit that we teach our children how to appropriately do the same. Especially during our city’s annual cleanup week; that time of year when folks are assisted in their spring cleaning (and post-flood clean-up) efforts by being allowed to rid their homes & garages of things that normally cannot be left curb-side for the municipal garbage pick-up.

This year, during our city’s annual cleanup week, among the major appliances & numerous vintage toilets (presumably so plentiful this year due to flooded basements resulting in insurance checks to refurbish basement bathrooms), we scored big time (including, not shown there, boxes of books and antique farm items). But there were also number of things I just took photographs of because they were too telling about our society…

One was this old personal home sauna — one of those kitschy retro icons of weight-loss & female self-es-steam, er, self-esteem — modeled here by my daughter Destiny.


(Probably the grossest thing she touched that day; imagine the sweaty, possibly nude behinds, that sat in that seat! Hand sanitizer to the rescue!)


Another day & neighborhood away, we found this orange nightstand covered in food, fashion & weight-loss clippings.


Both girls both, 13 and 20, loved this & were planning a battle for which one would get it. *sigh*

Unwilling to allow either girl to absorb the sorrow of such a “motivational” piece of furniture, I forbade either of them to get it.

But, willing to concede the cool factor of reinventing a shabby piece of furniture, I told them to keep their eyes open (curbside or at thrift shops, rummage sales &/or flea markets) for a small piece of functional yet ugly furniture and I’d show them how to transform it with paint, magazine clippings & decoupage glue. They’ll just have to select some other theme.

Because there’s no way I’m adding more female body issues to the world; not with my kids, and not in memorabilia for future trash collectors & anthropologists.

Your Momma Wears Capri Pants

I was reminded the other day (details to follow) of Christopher Titus & his stand-up bit where he hates on Capri pants, saying that they are butt-widening, leg-stumpifying, pasty-white-cankle-showcasing monstrosities that are neither pants nor shorts. Who can argue? Few can face the bottom (or leg) line of Capri pants.


But the point of Capri pants is not to make you hate yourself for not being able to mold yourself into the (physical) ideal of Hepburn (Audrey, not Kate; Kate eschewed skirts and wore tailored “men’s” pants and was far more shocking than fashion-trend-setting Audrey) — Capri pants were supposed to be liberating.

Frankly, the discernible characteristics between Capri pants and peddle pushers (and, sometimes, leggings & stirrup pants — hello, 1980’s!) are few and fuzzy. I’m not just talking about fabric pilling on the knit versions either. Strictly speaking, Carpi pants are supposed to be a tad shorter and looser than peddle pushers, but for the sake of this post I won’t split hairs, except to give credit where credit is due — and the credit for peddle pushers goes to designer Lynn Eccleston in the 1940’s. Eccleston experimented with shortening the legs of women’s slacks and the sporty look caught on with active women who, like those who abandoned their corsets in at the end of the 1800’s, wanted more ease in riding bicycles — thus the term “pedal pushers.”



Some credit Mary Tyler Moore for making the pedal pusher and other pants fashionable; others prefer to cite Audrey Hepburn. Technically speaking, Audrey sported pants in the 50’s while Mary’s Laura Petrie didn’t hit small screens until the 60’s.


But for our purposes of discussion today, it’s tomato tomato — not tomato tomatoe — because both babes had figures to carry off the slim look.

And this, my friends, is the reason for the, “Yer momma wears Capri pants” slur.

Most women wearing pedal pushers have stopped pushing pedals. If they continued the liberating exercise of exercising, they wouldn’t end up being the (wide) butts of Titus’ jokes. Even the middle-age spread would limit itself to some thickening of the torso, rather than the pear and apple shaped figures most now have. (And even liberal use of sunscreen wouldn’t keep us pasty-cankle bound.)

But, by & large, we’ve stopped pushing pedals; now we’re just large. And so maybe we should stop wearing peddle pushers and Capri pants. No, not even with the “over-sized” tees, sweaters, and tunics we think hide all the problem areas. (Notice where Mary Tyler Moore’s sweater sits; she doesn’t need to hide hips, belly or behind.)


I don’t wear Capri pants or pedal pushers, but I know why other women do. Like Titus said, they are neither shorts nor pants, so they seem to provide the middle of the road not-too-formal, not-too-casual fashion needs for summer. And if we had more choices, like we did in the 70’s and 80’s for light-weight colored denim and cotton pants, maybe we’d feel less pressed to push ourselves into unflattering butt-widening, cankle-baring pants. (Back then you could find warm-weather friendly pants in shades of watermelon, sunny yellow, every shade of Caribbean azuree inspired blue… Far more then today’s white & navy.)

OK, and some women wear these shorter length pants to show off their shoes. (And yes, Titus is right, this does include cork wedges.)

But mostly Capri pants are worn for physical comfort; not to be posing like the pedal pushers we aren’t.

What started me thinking about all this was spotting a young man at an outdoor event last week. In a display of teenage fashion defiance, he was wearing all black — from head-to-toe in the sweltering high temperatures. Following the solid, if somewhat wash-faded, black line of t-shirt to canvas belt to jeans, I was jerked to a stop at the wide folded denim cuffs at his calf where a 4-6 inch wide white swatch of pasty mid-west skin glowed glared behind its decorative tufts of hair. From there, more black: black socks over the edge of comically huge black combat boots. Seriously, clown shoes are smaller.

Between the heat, the black clothing, & the weight of those shoes, he half-crawled to his seat where he tried to make it look like he was nonchalantly sprawling himself instead of, as he was, stumbling towards & falling to a seated rescue.

The only thing that kept me from bringing him some water to revive him was the knowing look his white Capri pants wearing, non-heatstroke affected mother and I shared. (And then I had to turn away and make a non-related animated conversation with hubby so that I could release my held laughter.)

My point is, if you missed it and insist that I have one, is this: He was a poser, hiding behind his costume.

If over-weight women are to be mocked for exposing their least flattering sides (physical attributes and the attitudes which created them), then I feel the need to point out the ridiculousness of faux poser cool melting in the sun.

So the next time you want to mock someone’s momma for wearing Capri pants, be sure you & yours are not equally guilty of some fashion posing; I assure you, your sacrifice of comfort (and health) is no more flattering and it is equally noticeable.

And while we’re talking about such things, let me say, “Get on your bike and ride it!” Whatever you’re wearing, you’ll look & feel better for it.


Does Mattel Sock It To Us With Goldie Hawn Barbie?

Speaking of flags painted on Goldie Hawn’s body on Laugh-In


To celebrate Barbie’s 50th anniversary, Mattel’s 2009 Barbie Doll releases feature a number of iconic retro doll re-do’s & celebrity dolls — including a very accurate version of Goldie Hawn as seen on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Look at the incredibly detailed reproduction of Goldie’s bikini & body painted tattoos, as seen in 1968:


Part of the Blonde Ambition Collection (officially said to be available July 1st, the Goldie Hawn Barbie is available now at eBay, Amazon, and a few select doll retailers), Goldie joins Marilyn Monroe as a vinyl delight for collectors.

And this doesn’t offend me in the slightest.

In fact, I want one.

While Babs has often been cursed as the vinyl bringer of doom, providing body image issues to little girls everywhere, I don’t have a problem with a pop culture history reproduction. And it’s not because I’m a collector &/or that Barbie’s boobs have been reduced for the Goldie version.

First of all, the Goldie Hawn Blonde Ambition Barbie is for adults; not kids.

Kids should not be given a doll they do not understand (and that includes the societal context of the times she comes from). Kids also shouldn’t reduce a $40-50 doll to garbage; and let’s face it, Goldie’s tats, understood or not, would be abraded away with childhood play.

We adults already know of Goldie & the cultural context of the time. Our body image issues, however affected & formed, are also our own responsibilities; we are old enough to say to ourselves and the world, “I’m a woman, I look like this, and I’m happy with it.” Or not, as the individual case may be. (And then we should seek help for our own issues, no matter how they were formed; finger pointing alone won’t help us love our bodies or keep them healthy.)

Second of all, as a feminist, I have a long and deep relationship with Barbie.

I played with Barbie as a young girl. And, while my sister thinks it’s so hysterical that she tries to embarrass me with this fact, I have no problems admitting it: I played with Barbies until I was 16. I loved to take pretty vintage handkerchiefs & other bits of fabric and pin them on my dolls, then pose them in little vignettes with the Barbie accessories, in the garden, etc. I was exploring visually, creatively with the tools I had at the time. I couldn’t sew; so I pinned on the fabric. I didn’t have a real camera (and the means to pay for all that film & developing); so I created scenes & literally used my hands to frame the images I’d capture in my mind’s eye — reconstructing, reposing, redressing, until I saw what I wanted.

I could be odd — and this may not be the “most normal” Barbie play; but then, when I see other kids playing with fashion dolls, I see quite a bit of that too… I don’t think my “oddness” stems from how I played — or how long I played — with fashion dolls.

Of course, as I got older I became suspicious of Bab’s and her figure. This was further complicated by media images, feminist discussion, and the fact that I looked far more like Barbie than most of my friends & family did…

I noticed that in books, films, television shows, etc., that the voluptuous women were most often the “evil” ones. We big-busted women were depicted as “man traps” and were not to be liked or trusted by other women either. Our assets were too compelling. We were competition. Our looks garnered looks — and the whole thing was diabolically unnatural (even when it was all so completely natural). It was bad, we were sinful; therefore we were The Enemy.

It was saddening, maddening.

But it wasn’t Barbie’s fault. It wasn’t even Mattel’s fault.

As a society we were sold on beauty & sex appeal, no matter how realistic or not the standards are; but if you dare to have it (and this was something deemed & defined by others, it was not even necessary for it to be exhibited or used by yourself), you were viewed suspiciously… Punished, ostracized.

But it wasn’t something a plastic doll did. And the only reason Mattel and others could sell it was because our culture greedily consumed it. And then made weird judgments about it. WTF.

While some blame Barbie for unrealistic body image, others condemn the doll, her world and her friends for an insipid, unrealistic, & exaggerated sense of romance; I find she exposes even more about our twisted cultural values & expectations. Barbie is a useful tool.

This relationship with Barbie is one I’m still trying to figure out… And the commercial processing of more dolls, how the marketplace reacts to them, and the resulting opines of others could all just get me closer to some better understanding.

Besides, if I don’t like Barbie, I don’t have to buy her — for myself or anyone else. What’s more, I can let her coexist in this world without buying her ideals either.

Can’t Be A Sleeping Beauty On Real Issues

Via Teacups & Couture I found the works of photographer Dina Goldstein which follows up with fairy tale princess and their “happily ever afters.”


Goldstein shares her exploration of Disney Princesses in Fallen Princesses at JPG Magazine:

These works place Fairy Tale characters in modern day scenarios. In all of the images the Princess is placed in an environment that articulates her conflict. The ‘…happily ever after’ is replaced with a realistic outcome and addresses current issues.

The project was inspired by my observation of three-year-old girls, who were developing an interest in Disney’s Fairy tales. As a new mother I have been able to get a close up look at the phenomenon of young girls fascinated with Princesses and their desire to dress up like them. The Disney versions almost always have sad beginning, with an overbearing female villain, and the end is predictably a happy one. The Prince usually saves the day and makes the victimized young beauty into a Princess.

As a young girl, growing up abroad, I was not exposed to Fairy tales. These new discoveries lead to my fascination with the origins of Fairy tales. I explored the original brothers Grimm’s stories and found that they have very dark and sometimes gruesome aspects, many of which were changed by Disney. I began to imagine Disney’s perfect Princesses juxtaposed with real issues that were affecting women around me, such as illness, addiction and self-image issues.

There are 2 more to be shot for this series which is going on exhibit on Oct. 15/09

The images are striking; the subject matter near to my heart.



I did some work in college on the messages in Disney images & stories. My project, Damaged By Disney, was similarly inspired by watching my then very young daughter digest Disney images — and now that I’ve had nearly two more decades of additional experiences I find I am only more interested.


I had to talk with Dina to see just what the two planned photographs would be about.


I was hoping she’d use one of the last two works to explore violence against women — it’s such a huge problem, one that’s not very well understood, in large part because few want to discuss it. Domestic violence and sexual assault of women are not covered as often as they should be; they are dismissed from discussion, deemed one part “taboo” and one part “drag.” But as both a survivor of domestic violence and a victim of date rape, I was hoping Goldstein would use her considerable talents to bring up the subjects.


When I asked Goldstein, she confessed that the two planned photos, featuring Ariel and The Princess & The Pea, would not address domestic violence or violence against women.


But I do think that I’ve planted a seed — Nay! I’ve placed the Domestic Violence & Violence Against Women peas beneath her mattress, and now I must just wait to see how many sleepless nights it takes to convince the photographer to lend her visual voice to the issues.