The Cult of Side Eye: Fame and Blogging

4ed52b7429991528e46b0e4881512045This morning was a waste. Instead of curing male pattern blandness or writing the Next Great American Cocker Spaniel Novel, I hunted virtual big game. There were villains, unleashing side eye on the innocent, and they must be stopped!

You see, this isn’t my only home on the internet. Away from our wonderful world of sarcastic ranting, I run a small, personal sewing blog. It’s not exactly revolutionary stuff – pretty dresses, witty commentary, and sewing pattern reviews – but I love doing it. Unlike other parts of the internet, the sewing community is almost universally supportive, which provides a lovely mental respite. In the four years I’ve been writing it, there’s been nary a death threat nor a hateful body snark in the comment section. Meanwhile, my first big post for Spinsters earned both, in less than two days.

Unfortunately, checking my stats this morning was a wake-up call. A handful of people found my little slice of paradise, thanks to a site called Get Off My Internets. Despite an hour of perusing threads, I couldn’t find the link itself, but instead discovered an entire side of blogging previously unexplored. This is a site, complete with its own blog and forum, dedicated to making fun of other bloggers. There are threads for all the most popular blogs around, in which people discuss, tear down, and debate every aspect of those bloggers’ posts. From what I could glean, before running away screaming, a lot of that involves speculation about these bloggers’ personal lives. It’s a supremely meta, worldwide burn book. 

It’s, also, fucking terrifying.

First off, blog hate is understandable. The first rule of writing is that universal adoration is a pipe dream. People will find you annoying for all sorts of reasons, no matter how inoffensive your work seems. That’s just fine. I’m a believer in feeling your feelings, as Kate and Mae can tell you. (They’ve had to listen to this motto a thousand times, at least.) If your feelings say that I’m a man-hating socialist, that’s cool. Personally, I think have some redeeming qualities, but you can’t win ‘em all. What scared me about this site wasn’t the hate itself, but the in-depth research and dissection happening in its forums.

There were threads debating whether someone had gained weight, because she was pregnant, or just because she’d eaten too many of her picture-perfect cupcakes. People discussed the financial details of bloggers, down to how much their husbands made at their jobs, and the imprudent travel habits of one D-I-Yer. The attacks were personal, detailed, and sounded like the most salacious tabloid headlines. Only…they weren’t attacking celebrities. They were attacking normal people, who happen to blog.

Is there no longer a line between blogger and celebrity? There’s no denying that the internet is a public forum, of course. We write with the knowledge, often with the hope, that other people will come along and read our work. And yet, most of us don’t blog out of a desire for fame. The statistics are just too dismal. There are millions upon millions of blogs, filling every niche from snarky twenty-something feminism to anthropomorphic basket-weaving. The number of bloggers who have earned traditional fame–TV show, movie contract, book deal sort of fame–is scant in comparison.

We started Spinsters out of a desire for community. Kate, Mae, and I would meet for dinner and rehash all of the ridiculous things that we’d experienced that week, from workplace sexism to dating disasters. Our stories were normally funny, but also touched on what being a modern, single, twenty-something meant. We decided to blog, out of a suspicion that those experiences were common to other women like us and should be shared. Since then, our lives have changed quite a bit–from promotions, to big moves, to marriages–but we still blog for the same reason. We believe that speaking out, that sharing our rants, reminds other young women that they’re not alone. Plus, it’s really fun to wax poetic about beards every now and again.

Who’s to say that other bloggers, who may now be popular through their efforts, didn’t also begin out of a sense of community? Surely, it’s one thing to dissect people who put their lives out there for actual media consumption, for traditional fame, and another entirely to denigrate normal people who are sharing things on the internet. In this modern age, when so much of what we everyone does is on the web, that harsh spotlight could fall on so many perfectly innocent people.

There is a reason we blog anonymously. Originally, I thought it was to protect us from the censure of friends and family, but maybe the world at large is more the threat. If one lifestyle blogger is open to weight comments and financial dissection from a community of haters, why couldn’t three funny harpies be next? The internet is a fish bowl. I suppose it makes sense that, somewhere out there, piranhas are lurking. We have been warned.

- Grace

Coincidentally, my dad just sent me this video of celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves on Jimmy Kimmel. It seems remarkably apropos, no?

These Two Things Are Not The Same….

I was speaking to a male blogging friend recently about some of the worst comments he has ever received (because bloggers share comments like soldiers share battle wounds) and something really struck me. Lets see what you think…

His 5 Worst Comments

  1. I hope you die
  2. Your grammar is incorrect
  3. You’re not as smart as you think you are
  4. You’re an asshole
  5. You should do more research

My 5 Worst Comments (Warning – graphic)

  1. I hope you get raped
  2. I’m going to find you and dick slap you
  3. I can’t wait to beat your cunt
  4. If you get raped, know you deserved it
  5. I’m going to shove my big dick up your ass until you bleed

So…those are not the same. All awful, but not exactly equal. What really struck me, is that my friend blogs about what might be considered controversial topics and I…well…I don’t. (At least not on the blog where I received these comments) I blog about happy things and things that make me laugh.  So, why are my worst comments so much more violent than his?

I have a pretty good theory as to why – it’s because I have a vagina.

BUT – before I add another thing to my sexism list, I thought a larger sample was in order. So, male bloggers – have you ever received violent comments? Feel free to be as vague as possible (aka, just say “yes”) as I know this can be very painful and difficult to rehash. I’m just interested to know if my friend is just super lucky in the comment troll department, or if there is something bigger at play here.

Let me know your thoughts! (And ladies, if you would like to, feel free to share as well)

- Mae

Behold The Man-Hater: A Modern Myth

The-Suffragette-front-pageThis morning, my rage kettle boiled over. On an eons old post, we received a well-written and seemingly thoughtful comment, that intimated I didn’t deserve to question men, because they are the ones who lay down their lives for this country and who gave me the right to blog in the first place. Shockingly, this is not the first time I’ve heard this argument. It essentially consists of “Feminists are evil man-haters, who don’t understand all that menfolk have done for them!”

I just—

I can’t even…

What? 

There is so much wrong with this argument that I’m actively worried about the state of education in the West. Ignoring the obvious—which I’ve compiled a list of at the bottom of this post, because fuck all the fuckery—there is a major problem with this whole line of thinking: feminism isn’t about hating men or soldiers or any group of people, except perhaps misogynists. Feminism means believing in equality of the genders. That’s it.

Blog over! 

Y’all, that’s Kindergarten level simple. Why do we still let people—many of them young women, who are directly victimized by patriarchal structures every day—go around saying that feminists hate men? There’s not a single feminist I know who wishes to banish all men from Earth. That’s not really our thing, darling. Such a goal would be not only irrational, but severely limiting of our social lives. After all, it’s not like Dillon-who-bags-my-groceries is the reason I get paid 11,000 dollars less than my male colleagues. It’s society at fault, not men specifically. We’re all culpable.

Throughout history, people have bought into the notion that women and men are not only unequal, but not even deserving of the same the treatment. It’s reinforced in every aspect of daily life, not just our relatively recent right to vote. When you play for a girls basketball team called the “Lady Warriors,” you’re being victimized by the system. That’s your school saying that you’re not the real team—representing them with honor and talent—you’re just the girls. When the church you attend has a weight loss bible study for women, but not one for men, that’s society at work again reinforcing the notion that women are meant to please to the male gaze. Sexism is everywhere and it’s unending. It’s like that pink slime from Ghostbusters II, popping up in all social settings, seething below our streets like a glowing mass of unseen douchery.

Just the act of calling us “man-haters,” instead of feminists is patriarchy at work. Every time that is said, the cause of gender equality is devalued one more time. Rare is the teenage girl, riddled with insecurities and fear of social doom, that is willing to label herself a man-hater. If she’s less likely to call herself a feminist, because that cute Liam Patel might judge her, then she’s also less likely to speak up when she experiences gender inequality. The concept that “we shouldn’t be so sensitive, because that’s just the way things are,” is internalized in one more young woman. This hurts everyone. Young men are just as at risk from this thinking, as seen by each “locker room culture” scandal. The more we say women are one thing and men another, the more none of us are allowed to fulfill our true potential.

Feminism isn’t about hating men, it’s about hating systematic discrimination. This should be everyone’s fight, but we’ve corrupted the very language of our society with pervasive phrases like “man-haters”, “bra burners,” and “angry lesbians.” Our pool of advocates is winnowed down with each usage, obscuring the real intent of feminism. I wear a bra every day, damn it! The girls can still be high and perky, while discrimination shrivels.

Equality should be the cause of all people. We’re not here to take away rights, we’re here to ensure everyone finally gets them.

- Grace

Obvious Issues With This Argument: A List

  1. Women have, in fact, laid down their lives for this country countless times. The only difference is that we were not explicitly allowed on the front lines by the United States until this year. It wasn’t because we were lazy dilettantes who didn’t want to fight, it’s because we were again and again denied the opportunity. That’s the patriarchy, darling.
  2. Women were not just one day given the right to blog or do anything. Those nice men in Washington didn’t wake up one morning and decide women were finally ready to vote. We fought. Forever. We fought to not be property, we fought to own property, we fought to vote, we fought to work. We’re still fighting for equal pay and an end to the objectification of our bodies and all those other systematic little inequalities that are so prevalent in our society that we consider them normal.
  3. See: Lysistrata
  4. See: Women’s Air Force Service Pilots
  5. See: Harriet Tubman & co.

Nancy Drew and the Missing Abracadabra: A Halloween Rant

ea5e7f6c7b25c4e0a62f607ccea409e5There is a building down the street, white brick with cheap black window coverings, that plays host to terror. It’s not the zombies that bother me, mind you, as I believe the undead are unfairly besmirched by the living media. No, it’s something altogether more frightening. I am being haunted by the polyester impostors of Halloween present. There is evil in the Halloween Shoppe’s costume section and it must be destroyed.

Shockingly, I’m not talking about sexy costumes. While I think it’s a disgrace that Halloween has been reduced to a night when women are expected to expose our goodies to the cold, October chill, that’s well trod (hallowed) ground. We have a bigger problem. It’s not that we are overrun with sexy costumes, friends, it’s that we are deprived of interesting, well-made costumes at all. We don’t have any other options than sexy and, even those, are not truly sexy at all.

I want to stand next to a lightbulb, without fear of melting! I want to enter a costume store and have legitimate terrifying, gorgeous, or alluring costume choices! Why have we let Halloween descend into a night of cheap, ill-fitting suggestions of costume? This most wonderful of holidays, when a girl can dress up anything she delights in, has become one big avalanche of poorly made, poorly fitting, polyester swill that should never touch human flesh in the first place. We look cheap, darlings, whether or not we give into being Sexy Funshine Bear or not.

If I had any start-up capital whatsoever, I’d go into business selling one thing: well-made, fabulous costumes for women. When a woman wants to be scary for Halloween, she doesn’t want a plastic spider glued to a high school graduation robe, she wants realistic blood and an eerily deconstructed confection of gown. That Marie Laveau turban is so terrifyingly lovely, Hillary! Sure, we have our pick of supposedly “sexy” outfits from Harold’s Halloween Shoppe, but there’s nothing sexy about a polyester swimsuit covered in fake skunk fur. Just because I can see your bubbies, doesn’t mean you look hot, it means you might catch Sexy Woodland Creatures pneumonia. If you actually want to feel sexually empowered for the night, might I suggest that silk-lined burlesque costume a la Gypsy Rose Lee? Oh, wait. THAT DOESN’T EXIST.

d049df5b9fecbd8fb70a8c31f47ba1e1Halloween is meant to be a night of magic and mystery. Every October 31st, people step out of their houses clothed as something other than themselves. Why have we been driven away from that desire for whimsy and hoopla? It’s not that sexy costumes are bad, it’s that they’re barely costumes at all. No one actually thinks you look like “Sexy Rainbow Bright,” they think you look like you, wearing as little clothing as possible. That’s not sexual empowerment or fun, that’s being prey to an industry that wants to sell you cheap shit for lots of money. We can be sexy, but let’s also have some quality standards. More over, there should be options for women who want to leave our houses looking pretty, or horrifying, or breathtakingly repulsive. 

Not even the supposed “deluxe” costumes sold in Halloween shops are well-made or lovely. I refuse to believe you feel like a Clottette: Vampire Princess in that velvet faux-corset. There is no imagination in that outfit or any other sold next to it. Our magic—our fucking abracadabra— has been traded for cheap non-sex-appeal and flimsy construction. We’ve let our most spectacular holiday become just as shoddy as everything else we buy. Fast fashion has ruined Halloween and we should all be furious. We must demand quality, for Elsa’s sake!

Personally, I’m putting on a pinafore and penny loafers, tonight. Nancy Drew will be handing out candy to children, not fearing that a pumpkin might tumble over and set her aflame. Perhaps next Halloween, she will have solved the mystery of the missing abracadabra, or started her own damned costume company.

- Grace

If you’re trying to find a last minute costume, I’ve also suggested some easy, empowered costumes over at The Queen Latifah Show. Interesting uses for bananas, anyone?

Get In The Bathtub, Dude: An Advertising Field Guide to Men

179b653565641b1dee73ecbdf6a7a69fThe time is upon us once again. People are sporting garish color combinations, insisting their friends eat chip-and-bean casserole concoctions, and complaining at every Saturday wedding they attend. It’s football season, kittens!

Usually, I’m not much of a football fan. I enjoy watching the actual game well enough, but take umbrage with so many aspects of it—hyper-masculinity, health dangers, its effect on education, and those wretched pink Lady ___insert appropriately intimidating mascot__ Fan! t-shirts—that it’s hard to give more than a rousing “Woohoo!” when that College Team I Follow wins. Thanks to living with a man whose school is doing particularly well this year, however, I’m watching a lot more football. And, as a result, football commercials.

Y’all, these commercials have totally opened my eyes. Back before Professor McGregor, I semi-longed to understand the proverbial menfolk. My mind told me they were just the same as me—regular people, with the added bonus of a penis—but friends told me they were mysterious creatures, mystifying in their ways and hairiness. It turns out, all we needed to do was watch more ESPN to discover the truth.  There are lessons to be learned, in between those brief periods of programming you actually want to watch. Sports advertising understands men and gives the rest of us handy man-dealing tips.

Truth #1: Men love to take baths, especially with wolf soap. I would never have known this from living with my teenage brother, but men really love being clean. Just when you think a man wants some sexy time with his lady love – boom! – he suggests bathing instead. And not bathing-together-in-a-sexy-way either, but side by side, each person with their own bathtub. Men cannot share tubs with you! They want to enjoy the warm water and romantic sunset in their own watery space! The only creatures a man wants to bathe with are wolves and eagles, who lend their essences to man soap. I always thought Professor McGregor’s showery scent was something with sandalwood or cedar, but these commercials are pretty insistent that he bathe alone in animal extracts.

Truth #2: Low Testosterone is an epidemic that must be solved. Everyone knows that the most important part of being a man is having a vigorous man member, which rouses quickly at the slightest hint of a womanly presence. But when men age, their testosterone levels naturally decrease, apparently making it really hard to do the one thing men are supposed to do all the time! Judging by the amount of commercials, low testosterone is reaching epidemic proportions in America. Sure, your husband tells you that he doesn’t want to canoodle, because he has the flu, but that is really the fever of low testosterone. A man who cannot canoodle is no man at all! We must save the canoodling man bits people! Who wants to plan a benefit walk/run for canoodling with me?

Truth #3: Men hate cooking, but love cheese. When men get together, they don’t want to make things. That’s crazy talk! Men don’t cook, they grunt and swear and worry about their fantasy football stats. To keep up their energy, however, they need to eat. That’s where cheese comes in. If you’re hosting a man party, it will only be a hit if you buy fast food covered in dairy product. Chicken tenders + CHEDDER! Pizza + FOUR CHEESES! Tacos + CHEESEY SAUCE CHEESE BYPRODUCT! These are man foods. Leave the expertly barbecued pork loin at home, Harold, unless you want all the other men to mock you.

72a16f1bdb1b793426a0cb0464eeeb0dTruth #4: Men are powerless, when presented with breasts.  All my adult life, I’ve had the power to rule menfolk and I didn’t even know it. When presented with breasts, men forget how to properly function as human beings. They crash cars, spill soup, and embarrass themselves in front of their friends, by following woman orders. This apparently, includes gay men, since I’ve never seen a sports commercial featuring a man distracted by great man shoulders. Surely, ESPN wouldn’t assume gay men don’t like sports and, thus, don’t need targeted advertising. Obviously, there’s just some sort of natural kryptonite reflex built into men, when it comes to breasts.

When Professor McGregor comes home tonight, I’m going to try out all these new, amazing lessons I’ve learned from sports advertising. Sure, he said he wanted to come home, make bison steaks and Brussels sprouts, then watch Much Ado About Nothing, but he’s a man! I suppose I’ll throw all those vegetables away, order a pizza loaded with four pounds of cheese, give him a blood test to diagnose his current testosterone levels, and force him into the bathtub instead. Thanks, ESPN!

- Grace

You Are Not A Before

lucky-ad-2Are you a woman over the age of twelve? You should definitely be on a diet. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or a size 20, there is always weight to lose or maintenance to be done. How will you ever find love and succeed in the world, if you don’t know your daily caloric intake? It’s not just about beauty, of course, it’s also about health. Everyone knows that health is a number on a scale. Today is the first step in a journey! You are a before now, but soon you will be an after!

We’ve all heard this message. As women, society expects us to be on a never-ending quest for perfection. If it’s not fat to vanquish, it’s wrinkles or cellulite. This message, this unyielding refrain of “Be prettier, already!”, makes me want to find the nearest dried up lake, fill it with full fat chocolate pudding, then wallow in its sugary goodness until I seize and/or drown. I am, it seems, alone in that. Lately, my Facebook feed has been overrun with women in their late twenties on a “journey.” Friends, of all shapes and sizes, are posting caloric counts and exercise logs and—worst of all—before and after photos.

You’ve all seen these pictures. On the left, there is a somewhat/slightly/vaguely chubby woman glowering into a mirror, while on the right is that same woman turned into a glowing, smiling health angel. The caption is, always, thus:

“I never thought I’d share this photo, friends, but it’s time for me to be brave. This was me three years ago: fat, depressed, and deeply out of touch with my health. Through hard work and hours of dedication, I’ve taken control of my life. If that girl can do it, so can you!”

Just last week, one of my old school friends posted an eerily similar photo-and-caption combination. When we were younger, she was always one of the chubbier girls in our class—not morbidly obese or anything, just somewhat out of the norm—which all changed when she went to college. She became a nutrition major, an avid runner, and is currently getting her physical training licence. That is all fantastic! She found her raison d’être and is super happy in life! What’s not fantastic, however, is that she completely disavowed the person she was before. By calling herself an after and raising up a picture of her teenage self as proof of what she had overcome, it turned that girl I loved into a negative. She’s now an after, not a before. 

girlancientprejudiceremovedLThere, right there! That’s my problem with before-and-after photos and the sensationalism of weight loss in this era. Losing weight doesn’t and shouldn’t make you a different person. More over, being overweight does not make you a before. A woman is not a butterfly, waiting to emerge from a cocoon of shame, with just a little diet and exercise. You are a real person, have always been a real person, and will continue to be a real person until you die…no matter what you weigh.

While I completely understand and support people wanting to lose weight, because of either happiness or health issues, a scale number shouldn’t be what defines someone as worthy. By framing our body image in terms of before-and-after shots, I worry that we internalize the narrative that after is always better. Weight loss doesn’t make you a better person and it certainly doesn’t make you a different one. You may be more confident, able to shrug off negativity more easily, or happier in your own skin, but you are still Odette. Losing weight is not a woman’s one great accomplishment. If we look at it as such, we are encouraging women who are not in perfect shape to hide away from the world, because conventional beauty is the sole characteristic of a successful woman. The message does not become one of inspiration, but one of shame.

I think it’s wonderful to share accomplishments, especially ones you’ve worked so hard for, but maybe we need to check which ones we’re assigning highest value to . It’s okay to be unhappy at a size 18, but it’s also alright to be happy as one. There are more important things to you than skinny or chubby or gaunt or fat. Are you kind to other people? Are you pursuing a long held dream? Do you make really awesome apple pie? All of these things make you more worthy than fitting into tiny pants. I wish there were more people posting before-and-after shots of academic success or pie baking attempts. If I’m going to be an after someday, I want to be the after of literary success and dressmaking skills.

In the end, however, I don’t want to be an after. I want to be Grace, living her life. I am not Before-Grace, just as you are not Before-Odette. This day, this person you are right now, is just as important as the one you will become. Neither one should be judged by the size of her pants.

-Grace

My Heart Is Dainty, My Hips Are Not

Audrey-Hepburn-audrey-hepburn-30174987-500-668I was born to wear a sheath dress. Ignore the abundant rear curve and my chest’s propensity for becoming—in strict geographical terms—mountainous. My soul longs to be twee.

It is, of course, never going to happen. The gods could curse me with an immortal tapeworm and my bones would still be Viking-esque, more suited to leading horn-wearing he-men into battle than ethereally floating into tea. Despite my love for all things delicate and feminine—lace, tiny cups, dogs named Claudette—pursuit of a different Grace is fruitless. In my mind, I may be Betty, but anyone with eyes can tell I’m a Joan. So, what do you do, when the outside is never going to match the inside?

Not give a damn.

This is a recent epiphany, kittens. For most of my life, I tried to pretend I wasn’t soultwee. The word “flattering” was my best wardrobe pal. People praised my sense of style, my knowledge of what worked with my generous hourglass shape. Which was all well and good, but have you ever noticed how subtly offensive “flattering” can sound? It intimates that you aren’t attractive, so much as benefited by the outfit you’ve donned. Flattering means that you’re wise to hide certain parts of you, lest someone suspect you don’t possess a perfectly flat stomach or appropriately pointy hip bones. Flattering is something we say all the time to women, as if the best thing she can do is camouflage her squishy parts—or flat parts or whatever it is that doesn’t measure up to our ideal—under yards of fabric or a strategically long cardigan.

Flattering has held me back. Y’all, I want to wear sheath dresses. Who gives a crap if Stacy and Clinton decree that they don’t work for my body type? Sure, I love a fit-and-flare dress like it’s clothing cake, but sometimes I want sartorial pie instead. In writing there is a delightful saying: “Learn the rules, so that you can break them.” That is how I have come to feel about wardrobe choices, as well. For a decade of my life, it’s been all waist-cinching, layering, bust-highlighting rules for hourglass Viking princesses. I know what looks good on me, so isn’t it time I got more comfortable with what supposedly doesn’t?

This summer, I pulled the trigger on my first sheath dress. One of my favorite independent pattern companies, Colette, came out with a lovely little column dress that I gleefully ordered. I tweaked the lines of the pattern a bit—scooping out a bit at the waist for a suggestion of curves—but at the end of the day, it’s a sheath dress. It is exactly the wrong thing for my body type and I adore it. The dress is absurdly comfortable, easy to throw on if I’m in a hurry, and dresses up beautifully. Initially, though, it made me uneasy. I’d pair it with a belt, cardigan, and heels, in an effort to remind the world that I understood my body type. Wear a sheath dress, Grace, but remember who you are! Slowly, however, the accessories disappeared.

Audrey-Hepburn-audrey-hepburn-30467816-500-664I don’t get as many compliments on this dress as my full-skirted, cinched pieces, but who cares? When I wear it, my inner 1960’s ingenue perks up, giving the camera her best Audrey Hepburn smirk. If no one else sees that, I don’t mind. Some days even the Swedish milkmaid wants to feel sweet and delicate. Why shouldn’t she? We are entirely too bound by all those supposed rules, when at the end of the day, our clothes should please only ourselves. I’m all for looking pulled together and stylish, but my style is my own, not one handed to me by society.

I propose we stop obsessing over the styles that work for us. Wear the skirt you love, but is made for the tiny-waisted. Buy that tiki dress you covet, despite the model’s larger chest bunnies. Don a swimsuit without a skirt, because cellulite should not hold you back.

Wear the things that scare you, darling. Society can go suck an egg, if it doesn’t think them flattering.

- Grace

Ignore a Pick-Up Artist, Save a Puppy

4256913449_e09b0c3219_oFriends, there is a plague upon us. It oozes up to you at a bar, telling you that you’re really pretty for a chubby girl and asking if you’ve read Hemingway’s lost grocery list. It encourages the objectification of women, turns love into a game, and wears too much cologne. The pick-up artist movement is still a thing and it’s boring.

Today on Jezebel, yet another misogynistic asscake and his poorly punctuated ramblings—this time on why his precious manseed only goes to deserving women— were highlighted. That’s right, I said highlighted. Jezebel’s intent was to castigate the blogger, of course, but we all know that’s not how the internet works. I’m not linking to his original blog, because every damned URL turns into followers and comments. Attention, of any sort, is the route to book deals and advertising. Y’all, we can’t keep giving our page hits to sad, delusional man children!

It’s important to know the face of your enemy, but pick-up artists aren’t the enemy of feminists. After all, they aren’t actually changing the dating landscape. When was the last time someone tried to “neg” you and it worked, kittens? I had six single years in my twenties, through the height of this supposed movement, and was never successfully picked up by one of these clowns. In order for pick-up artistry to be a threat, it would have to be working. These men think they’ve cracked the code to seducing women, but all they’ve done is find women who probably would’ve slept with them anyway. As one University of Kansas study found, the women in these relationships are just as sexist as the men. Like finds like, disastrous as the results may be.

We have loads of actual foes to deal with, from the continuing wage gap to society’s constant body snarking of women. Pick-up artists are, in the jungle of gender politics, gnats: annoying, harmless, and awfully noisy for their size. Yet, we continue to be scandalized and angered by them. We link to their blogs, angrily talk about their latest books, and give them entirely too much of our damned time. Are they misogynistic jerks? Totally. Are they having a tangible effect on the ways normal, well-adjusted young men and women view dating? Not so much.

A nice, well-informed man probably won’t pick up “The Game,” much less read it and follow its advice. The audience for such things already thinks women are prizes to be won, not equal partners to share in sexy times and adventures. Pick-up artists aren’t looking for love, they’re looking for bed-notches, and as a result they’ve missed the whole damned point of life. We’re here to foster relationships and leave a positive impact on the world, not shag ourselves straight into a syphilitic hallucination. Sex doesn’t last forever, so the small number of men who buy into this bullshit are destined to find themselves disillusioned and alone at the end of it all. Their comeuppance is of their own making, not from admonishments that will fall on deaf ears.

If you want to get rid of pick-up artistry, ignore them. Their game will fail and you’ll have much more time to devote to real issues. We have sexual violence to combat, systemic sexism to eradicate (the actual cause of this supposed trend), and puppies to save. Who has time for another douchebag in a velvet suit? Stomp on his tail, roll your eyes, and sashay off into the sunset with an enlightened manfriend.

- Grace

I Am Here To Suck Your Blood (and Culture Wars)

12129__1gellar_lToday, my secret was unleashed on the world. One of my college friends writes a book blog and, in today’s post, casually mentioned me. Not, much to my chagrin, as that up-and-coming writer or the girl who threw amazing Halloween parties, but as something altogether worse. I am the girl who gave her Twilight, pronounced it “SO GOOD,” and temporarily ruined YA literature for her in the process.

That’s right, chickens. I once liked Twilight.

A lot. I felt about Twilight the way Liberace felt about sequins: utterly beguiled. The story of Bella & Edward made my heart fucking jitterbug, y’all. Reading it, I laughed and cried and smiled over the triumph of vampy love. When I was done—less than twenty-four hours after picking it up—I loaned it to every girl I knew. Since these were the Halcyon days before “Robsten” and “I Drive Like A Cullen” bumper-stickers, there were quite a few people to receive my fangirl gospel. I told them it was the best book ever, forced it into their hands, and waited to share in its glory.

I am totally mortified about this. I am, also, not. Have I since completely rejected the series? Yes, indeed. The feminist in me, much stronger than she was at age nineteen, hates wimpy wet crumpet, Bella. I think vampires should explode, when exposed to sunlight, and that there are only two reasons a 100 year-old dude marries a teenager: mommy issues or too many nights watching Deep Throat. Either way, not my dream date. Twilight is problematic on both a craft level—one more damned adverb, and E.B. White would have reanimated and gone on a head-bludgeoning rampage—and as a thematic representation of genre. I don’t like it.

And, yet…it seems disingenuous to malign Twilight the way I have in past years. Hype and hindsight have destroyed my love of it, yes, but there was once love. The writing isn’t wonderful and the characterizations put teenage girls back a good fifty years, but so many readers have responded to it for a reason. So, is it just that vampires are foxy? Or that young women like escapist fiction, because our brains are wee and mushy? Those are the easy (read: offensive) answers people like to argue. The more I think about it, the more I think there is something redeeming in Stephenie Meyer’s series, just as there is in all popular fiction.

Getting millions of readers to feel for your characters is no easy feat. People don’t stand in three-day lines or tattoo book quotes on their bodies for every vampire novel that comes out. Meyer’s strength is, perhaps, just that: triggering strong emotion. Similarly, Dan Brown really is excellent at plotting and James Patterson paces books brilliantly. I don’t think they’re the best writers ever, but they also aren’t as bad as most of us literary snobs make them out to be. Things aren’t popular because readers are weak-minded, they’re popular because readers care.

It shouldn’t be embarrassing to care. You can like popular fiction and still be an intelligent, thoughtful person. My own bookshelves are proof that pink covers can peacefully coexist with scientific tomes. Neither is inherently better. I sincerely don’t love Twilight anymore, but I do love what it once sparked in me. Passion for the printed word should be celebrated, not reviled.

Yes, my dear Mr. White, even if that word ends in -ly.

- Grace

I’m A Pussy & So Are You

105You’re a pussy.

Wow, it just got super hostile up in here. I can feel the rage boiling over, kittens. Did Grace just call me weak? Is she using female genitalia slang as an insult? My mason jar of whoop ass, it beckons! That anger is legit. The use of female genitalia, or the feminine in general, as an insult is both pervasive and shitty. Hands down, the worst thing a teenage boy can be called is something feminine. “Pussy” and “douchebag” flow as easily from the lips of youths as “Of course, I wasn’t drinking, Ma.” Being designated as feminine is to be weak and small—a nightmare in an adolescent world that values athleticism and aggression above all else.

Except, here’s the thing…pussies are badass. Vaginas are the physical embodiment of strength and resilience. Just think about it! An opening no wider than a couple of fingers is expected to push a living, squalling, life form out of itself. Hell, forget babies. Those cats get all the vaginal concern. Did you know that a penis needs two pounds of force to push into a vagina? That’s the same required to push through a swinging door.* Y’all, male members have engorge themselves with blood and become hard as steel, just to attempt breaching our forces. Your vagina is a baller, shot caller.

Perhaps you should examine your insults a bit closer, society. The next time someone calls their friend a “pussy” in my presence, they’re going to get an extremely vivid lecture about vaginal resilience. Being a “pussy” in the true sense of the word is something to be celebrated. This is what should be going down on basketball courts across America:

Youth 1: Don’t be such a pussy, Bryce! Get up!

Youth 2: Did you just call me a pussy, Aiden?

Youth 1: Yeah. What are you going to do about it?

Youth 2: Dude, I’m going to hug the shit out of you. Thanks so much! Did you know that your mom’s vagina expanded to ten times its normal width just to push your big head out of it? I didn’t realize you thought I was such a baller. That’s really sweet, man.

Dear reader, you’re a pussy and a cunt and a twat, but only in the very best sense of the words. You are strong, capable, and resemble an orchid in full bloom. If you wanted to, you could totally push a metaphorical baby out of your heart. Go pussies!

- Grace

Note: Special thanks to my friend and very favorite sailor, Admiral Nelson, for his insights into male humans and the awesomeness of vaginas.

*Source: Bonk by Mary Roach, which you should read immediately.