In early April, Lane Bryant, a popular clothing retailer for women who are “plus-size,” launched a lingerie campaign called #ImNoAngel. By design, this line of bras and panties contrasts with Victoria’s Secret’s infamous Angel Collection which has, for years, featured very thin and fit women with (mostly) very large breasts. But #ImNoAngel was highlighting that most women don’t actually look like Victoria’s Secret models. It’s main point: without being an “angel,” women of all shapes and sizes are sexy.

This campaign was very well received among most; writers and social media aficionados applauded the campaign for being more representative of women in our society, for being body-positive, for enabling women to feel sexy in their own skin. I agree with all of that. But no ad campaign is perfect, and I would like to point out a few flaws with this progressive campaign. Admittedly, most of these issues were brought to my attention when reading media responses to Lane Bryant’s release, so I cannot take credit for being the first to recognize the downsides. But I will summarize them here, doing this with the hope that in the future, we keep pushing ourselves to be more inclusive and more aware of the impact these campaigns can have on women.

As Amanda Richards points out in her response article in xojane, #ImNoAngel is not truly representative of the women who shop at Lane Bryant or plus-size women in our society. She points out that all of the non-angels are around a size 12 or 14 with “proportionate” bodies, whereas the majority of Lane Bryant customers are actually a size 20 or above. Richards refers to herself as plus-size, and mentions that she has never seen a Lane Bryant advertisement that features a women whose body looks like hers. A big problem, right?! And so, Richards takes things into her own hands, encouraging women to post their own photos on instagram, using the hashtag #ImNoAngel and #ImNoModelEither. She’s hoping that this will allow women to see real pictures of real women, who are proud of their bodies — whether or not their proportions are “plus-size model perfect.”

Richards also takes issue with the premise of the campaign. She states that the #ImNoAngel hashtag is explicitly pitting larger-bodies women against smaller-bodied women. It’s not a competition. Just because one group of women is sexy does not mean the other is not. Sexiness is not a zero sum game.

I couldn’t agree more. Sexiness comes in all shapes and sizes and is ultimately a state of mind. But this point — making sure that all women know they are sexy — this brings me to the third downside of the campaign. I can’t help but be rubbed the wrong way by this advertisement: another commercial, telling me to be sexy.  In my opinion, and perhaps it is mine alone, this campaign is still unnecessarily objectifying and sexualizing women. Granted, in the video above the models do speak about what makes them feel sexy, rather than look sexy to observing eyes. But, what if I don’t feel sexy? What if I don’t want to feel sexy? Should I, must I always want to be sexy? According to the media, I should. I get it, they’re trying to sell lingerie, and lingerie is designed to “be sexy.” But if we’re talking about promoting body diversity, if we’re talking about women feeling good about themselves, maybe we should stop pushing sexy, and start pushing other characteristics. #ImNoAngel could mean that I’m a free-thinker. It could mean that I embrace a different kind of femininity. It could mean that I do what I want. There are all sorts of ways for women to feel good about their bodies. Sometimes, it doesn’t have to be about sex.


Forced to Live a Lie

Forced to Live a Lie


A 64-year-old Egyptian woman was recently rewarded by the President of the country, for being “an exemplary working woman,” proven by her ability to work and be the sole provider for her family over the past 43 years. There’s just one twist to this story: every day that she worked, she did so disguised as a man.

Sisa Abu Daooh, whose husband passed away in the early 70s when she was pregnant with her daughter, knew she must take care of her family, and she quickly realized that it would be much easier for her to earn living wages if she presented as a man. So she wore traditional men’s robes, and she worked in a town where no one would recognize her.

There are two components of this story that deeply frustrate me. The first is that she was forced into this situation to begin with. It’s terrible that she lived (and still lives) in a society that is so opposed to women being a part of the workforce, that she would have been unable to provide for herself and her child without pretending to be someone she’s not. This is a very straightforward and overt example of cultural sexism in Egypt. Although the situation may be slightly better today than it was 40 years ago, there are still many regulations and practices in place to make earning an income challenging for women. Obviously, that’s a huge problem.

My second frustration stems from the fact that she was rewarded for doing this…and nothing else happened. Not that she doesn’t deserve recognition for supporting her family — she absolutely does! Being a single parent, and earning enough to support oneself and one’s child is certainly challenging, and anyone who successfully accomplishes this task deserves accolades. But rather than simply rewarding someone for making the best out of a terrible situation, perhaps we should take a look at how the culture must be changed. In all of the articles I read regarding Daooh’s story, not one referenced any policy changes that were proposed or even discussed. Seemingly, the President said, “Wow. Great job navigating a whole host of barriers. If you can do it, everyone else can too.” This is not enough.

How many stories like this do we need to read? How many times will women fight the system, challenge the patriarchy, find the loopholes, before all of that work — all of that deception — is no longer needed? I get it; she is an amazing woman and she beat the odds. She deserves her reward; and with that said, maybe more than $6,500 would have been nice. But, don’t all women deserve the opportunity to provide for their families? Shouldn’t all women be able to access living wages, without hiding the fact that they are — gasp — female?


Sorry Mr. Jackson

Sorry Mr. Jackson


In the year 2020, we will be celebrating 100 years since the 19th Amendment was signed. We will be celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage. How fitting, then, that we use our votes to demand that we see a women’s face on at least one type of US paper currency?!

As you saw from the above video clip (and perhaps Tina’s latest blog post), there is a grassroots campaign to replace Former President Jackson’s face on our $20 bills with a woman. And, as Tina enthusiastically expressed in her last blog post, the finalists to take on this important role consist of three women of color and a white civil rights activist!

Not only do we have a grassroots campaign, however, but now we also have a (different kind of) bill that is actually going to be considered by the Senate. You guys, this may actually happen! I’d also like to mention that in addition to these two routes that *may* lead to change, Obama himself has expressed interest in putting some female faces on our money. Apparently, an adorable letter sent to the President by a 9-year-old girl made an impact.

If this happens — and I really hope it happens — what does this mean about our society? Does this mean that we as a culture are no longer sexist? Does it mean we’ve made it? I would have a hard time believing anyone who makes that argument. It’s similar to the argument that “Barrak Obama is our President. Racism is dead.” Umm…. NOPE. But it does mean that we are recognizing that there’s still more to do and that we are taking steps in the right direction.

A woman’s right to vote — ensured nearly 100 years ago — did not fix sexism. It didn’t fix the fact that I see a male’s face every time I pull out a dollar bill. It didn’t fix the fact that women are still paid less than men. It didn’t fix all of the other issues I’ve addressed in this blog so far — the interpersonal, the internalized, the institutional, the cultural sexism I continuously mention. But it did fix the way women and men can band together to affect change.  We can use our right, use our votes to keep pushing. Feminists* are still fighting. Feminists are still pushing for equality. Feminists are still voting. So go vote for a woman’s face on your $20 bill. And hope that the people in power are listening.


*I use the term feminists very intentionally. I like this word, and I stand by it.

Division of Labor

Division of Labor

When it comes to roommates, I would rather live with men than women. It’s nothing against women. I’m not the type of woman who claims that “I have no girl friends” or that “I just get along better with men” or even that “I’m one of the guys.” I love my female friends, and I have a lot of them. But in general, in my experience, I have had much easier, much lower-conflict roommate situations when living with men.

Whenever I tell people this, I always get the same response, “But boys are so messy!” (This, too, is a sexist comment, making a lot of assumptions about the men), but I usually agree. “Yes, they are. But I’m kind of a clean freak no matter what, so I don’t mind picking up after them.”

In general, this is true. I’m a very clean person, and I often find myself cleaning up after my roommates. Usually I just assume (rightfully so, this assumption is based on experience, after all) that they probably won’t clean to my standards, so I’ll probably end up cleaning even after they have cleaned.

I never thought about this as a sexist issue, until I was telling a girl friend about a recent experience.

I came home two nights ago, opened up the fridge to get some water, and realized that the bottom of the fridge was covered in coke. There was a 2-liter laying on its side on the bottom shelf, and the cap hadn’t been screwed on all the way. Normally, I would have immediately pulled out the crisper drawers and started cleaning. But… it’s finals. I’m stressed, and I’m moving out in a few weeks. I just didn’t have the energy. So, I took a few deep breaths, reminded myself that it’s OK for things to be dirty for a few hours, and waited until my roommate G came home.

When he walked in the door, I immediately became nervous. Remember, that since I always clean up after the roommates, I am not very well skilled in asking them to do chores. But I knew it had to happen. So I allowed him some time to settle in, then I asked, “Hey G, is that your coke in the fridge?” “Umm… yeah.” “Ok cool. It seems to have spilled all over the bottom of the fridge. Do you mind taking care of that?”

I DID IT! I asked him to clean up after himself! I am strong! I can handle confrontation.

And he did. He seemed to do so begrudgingly (I heard some huffs and puffs), but he did it.

It wasn’t until the next morning when I walked into the kitchen that I realized that in cleaning out the fridge, he got sticky soda all over the kitchen floor. I paused. I thought, “can I wait until tonight to have this cleaned up?” Ultimately, I could not. I did not. I just brought out the mop and dealt with it myself.

So… I was relaying this story to my friend. And she immediately said, “You should write about this in your blog!” And she’s right, but I hadn’t really thought about it before. What does it say about me that I would rather clean up after my (male) roommate rather than just have a conversation. Am I cleaning up after them because they’re men? Do they expect me to clean up after them because they’re men? Is this sexism or is this just me being a clean-freak?

Ultimately, I think it’s somewhere in between: I probably clean more because I’m borderline obsessive AND because I’m a woman who has been socialized to take care of others. But it’s definitely something to keep in mind for the future, especially as I move into an apartment with my partner. What is expected of me? What is expected of him? And how can we ensure that there’s a fair division of labor in our home?


Wow… just… Wow.

Wow… just… Wow.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/pregnant-model-sarah-stage-defends-tiny-baby-bump/story?id=29551634pregnant model

I came across these photos on my friend’s facebook page. She has apparently deleted the post since I last saw it, but her comment said something to the effect of, “This woman is going to make men of my generation think that all women look like this when they are 8 months pregnant. MEN: YOUR WIVES WILL NOT LOOK LIKE THIS.”

All I could think is: wow. These photos — this woman’s post — clearly touches on femininist issues, but… is it sexist? Before I can come to any conclusions, I need to break down the layers of emotional response that these pictures bring up.

First, this picture has clearly made women feel badly about themselves. I’ve never been pregnant, but my sister had her second child last December, and I remember very specifically that she did not look like this. And, she absolutely did not feel like taking selfies in a bra and panties. Also, my friend who originally posted this link was obviously upset. She is currently 8 months pregnant, and — like most women — is not currently able to see her abs.

Then, there’s the backlash that this model experienced for posting these pictures. Her instagram feed was covered with comments, expressing that she was “obviously” unhealthy; that she was doing something wrong; that she needed medical attention. Now, don’t get me wrong… I’ve never seen a 37 week pregnant woman with a baby bump this small. But I’m not a doctor, and I know there’s an entire television show called “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant,” so clearly pregnancy looks different for different people. Who am I to shame her for how her body has responded to pregnancy.

Finally, why is she posting these pictures to begin with? Who is she posting them for? Granted, she is a model, so she’s probably used to posing for pictures in her bra and panties. But what does it say about our society, that we are sexualizing and objectifying women even when they are nearly 9 months pregnant?!

I feel really conflicted about this woman’s post. I’m lucky (and happy) because these pictures don’t make me feel bad about my own body. With that said, I totally understand the impact it could have on a woman who is currently (or recently) pregnant. It also makes me a little bit sad that this woman is being so objectified. But on the other hand, she is happy with how her body looks and she’s proud of her appearance, so that makes me feel bad about feeling sad. Finally, are the women who are harassing this model for being “too skinny” propagating sexism by body-shaming? I just… I just don’t quite know how to feel.

Why is it so complicated? Why can’t I just look at her photos and rather than think about her motivation for posting the photos, the intent behind her internet commenters, the anger and shame that these photos “make” other pregnant women feel, why can’t I just accept that she is a really fit pregnant woman and think, “Wow… just… Wow.”


***UPDATE*** As I was writing this post, I found out that the model Sarah Stage delivered a healthy baby boy. He weighed 8 pounds, 7 ounces. I say it again. WOW.

Ellen Pao is Awesome: Part Two

Ellen Pao is Awesome: Part Two

As we are all approaching graduation and beginning the (super fun and not-at-all stressful) process of finding jobs, I thought it was appropriate to discuss salary negotiations. According to economists and authors of the book Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation — and Positive Strategies for Change, “men ask for what they want twice as often as women do and initiate negotiation four times more.” This ultimately means that over the course of a woman’s career, she may sacrifice over half a million dollars worth of earnings. Because she didn’t ask.

Now, I want to take a moment to recognize that this language is a bit victim-blaming. The title of the book “Women Don’t Ask” seems to be saying that women are not doing something that they should do; they are not doing something that men do. In our society, being a man is the norm, the standard to which everything else is compared. While I do not at all agree that this is the way our society should be, it would be foolish to argue that it’s not. So I am in support of ways to “level the playing field” as it were.

This book is one way. It speaks about how women can become more comfortable negotiating, and it offers strategies for women to ask for what they want without coming across as aggressive. (Don’t forget, it’s “aggressive” when women ask; it’s “confident” when men do…).

Ellen Pao, has another way. As the interim CEO of Reddit, she proposed getting rid of negotiations all together. She stated that “There’s no way [for women] to win,” in reference to the well-documented fact that even when women do negotiate, they experience negative consequences. In one 2006 study (linked to in the above article), the average evaluator’s willingness to work with an individual who negotiated went down 5.5 times more when the negotiator was a woman.

Getting rid of negotiations during the interview process could certainly help reduce the disparity between men and women’s starting salaries. And it has the added perk of not shaming or blaming women for behaving exactly how our sexist culture has socialized us to behave. Ellen Pao, I think you’re awesome.


Ellen Pao is Awesome: Part One

Ellen Pao is Awesome: Part One

On March 27, Ellen Pao lost her gender discrimination lawsuit against the venture capital firm where she formerly worked. Pao and her attorneys argued that over the course of her 7 year career at the firm, she was treated unfairly, was not promoted, and was ultimately fired due to gender discrimination. But the court, sadly, did not agree. Apparently the sexism she experienced just couldn’t quite be proved, as is brilliantly referenced in this New York Magazine Article.

We’ve talked about this over and over again in class. What’s better: Outright, overt isms? Or consistent, subtle micro-aggressions? They’re both painful; they both cause harm to the perpetrator as well as the recipient. But the more I think about the issue, the more I’m recognizing that micro-aggressions are more damaging. Not because they are any more painful to hear or process, but because the person on the receiving end must go through so much stress simply determining intent. “Did that person say that to me because I’m a woman? Was I reviewed poorly because I rejected his sexual advances? Would they have listened to my idea more intently if I were a man?”

It takes so much emotional time and energy to process these instances of sexism. We can drive ourselves crazy wondering! And beyond that, after we have determined that, yes! That was sexism! Then, we have to bear the burden of proof. If you’re called “a c*nt” in the office, everyone agrees that the perpetrator is sexist. If you’re called “sweetie,” how can you prove that it’s doing you any harm?

That’s the problem with this next-generation sexism. Women often have no allies, no one to turn to for validation, no one who believes their experiences. We’re left with this feeling that something is wrong, but we can’t quite prove it.

Ellen Pao tried to prove it. Unfortunately, she didn’t win in the courts. But perhaps she’ll win in other ways. After all, we’re talking about it, aren’t we?