Posts Tagged: Lady Stuff

The Vilification of the Teenage Girl

taylor-swift-pr-l-barlow-2012
In high school, I was obsessed with Chuck Klosterman. I mean, I read his books multiple times, I underlined my favorite passages, and I wrote a letter that I thankfully never sent. But I always knew that, as a teenage girl, I wasn’t exactly his target audience. He spent a lot of time writing about music that came out before I was even born and television shows that were on when I was in kindergarten. I didn’t care, but I do remember one line that really stood out to me because it made me realize that I was definitely The Other when it came to his books. He was talking about hair metal (like usual) and he said something to the effect that hair metal’s decline was due, mostly, to teenage girls. Because once teenage girls start liking something, it’s over. It’s not cool anymore.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week, because everything I’ve been reading seems to point back to that concept: the inherent uncoolness of the teenage girl. Take, for example, this amazing excerpt of an article by Tavi Gevinson, where she explains the all-encompassing awesomeness of Taylor Swift while also explaining why people seem to hate her so much: “Swifties see the characteristic at hand for what it is: writing. Her songs are her point of view, making it her job to blow up the most minor event into something that more accurately represents the way she experienced it. As Tay quoted Neruda in her Red liner notes, “Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” This is basic Nabokov shit, right? Everything hits harder in memory. Everything changes color.”

Basically, Taylor Swift’s writing about feelings. And who cares about feelings more than anyone else on earth? Teenage girls. And me. That’s why I read so much YA; YA isn’t ashamed of feelings, of all-consuming, dangerous, ridiculous, over-the-top love, and that’s the only kind of love I want to read about. T. Swift’s writing about teenage girl stuff and teenage girls love it, so naturally it isn’t cool. Even though, as Tavi notes, she’s writing about the same basic concepts as Nabokov and Neruda.

And then there’s this video from a super-smart gal named Subi:

My favorite quote: “People don’t wanna be compared to the teenage girl; the teenage girl is hated, teenage girls hate themselves. If you listen to a certain kind of music, or if you express your emotions in a certain kind of way, if you self harm, you write diaries, all those kind of activities are sort of laughed at and ridiculed because they’re associated with being a teenage girl. Even just things like being cripplingly self conscious or overly concerned with our appearance, that’s considered like a teenage girl thing and therefore its ridiculous, it’s stupid, it’s not relevant or legitimate, and you know, what we needed at that age was legitimization and respect and support but all we got was dismissal and “Oh, you’re such a teenage girl.”

When I first heard those words, I got a flash or recognition. Yes. That’s exactly it. That’s what Chuck Klosterman was talking about all those years ago–no one wants to be compared to a teenage girl.

And it’s still true now. Stuff that girls like (or even stuff that we, as women, liked when we were girls) is inherently vapid, while stuff that teenage boys like (action movies, for example) is held up as nostalgically cool. I mean, how many guys do I know who have long conversations about the movies they loved in junior high, and how many of them have tshirts for their favorite action movies? I hope you said ALL OF THEM, because that’s the correct answer. And that’s somehow okay, encouraged even. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be okay, but to pretend that Twilight is someone less legitimate than any given superhero film? Give me a break.

And don’t get me started on the guys who will begrudgingly admit that Mean Girls, a “teen girl” movie, was “actually” good. No shit, genius.

The same goes for teen girl books, which I know quite a bit about. YA is a genre that’s written primarily by women and read mostly by teen girls (or, okay, women like me). But do you know which YA books often gain the most respect? It shouldn’t be a surprise…the ones written by men! The ones featuring male characters!* Meanwhile, the books that I focus primarily on in my column (those by women, for girls) are seen as fluff. Kid stuff. Teenage girl books. And, oh horror of horrors, what could be worse than reading something intended for a dumb little teenage girl?

I remember, very clearly, what it was like to be a teenage girl. To always feel like my teenage girlness, the very fact of who I was, was undesirable, stupid, less than. To always feel like my opinion didn’t matter, to always feel like my very approval of something instantly lessened its cool quotient. To get constant warnings that my feelings were transient, that I everything I cared about would be no big deal at all when I “grew up” and got out into the “real world,” as if the world I was in was some sort of alternate reality where pain, embarrassment, heartbreak, and frustration didn’t count.

How do we expect girls to grow up to be strong leaders if we treat them like this? No, really. I’d love it if you could tell me. We constantly tell them their thoughts and feelings are unimportant, trivial, silly. We make sure they know that their interests are vapid and trite. We hate everything they love, on principle. How are they supposed to grow up to be writers, thinkers, artists, lawyers, doctors, or anything when they feel subhuman?

Being a teenage girl is exciting and awesome, but it’s also scary and terrible. I know because I was there. And the absolute last thing any girl needs at that age is to feel bad–as Subi says in her video, what girls at that age need is legitimization and support.

I’m not saying you have to like Taylor Swift. But I am saying that maybe you shouldn’t roll your eyes every time you come across something teenage girls like. They’re people too. Trust me.

*This is a big generalization, and I don’t mean to imply that I don’t enjoy/appreciate YA books by or about males. Some of my favorite YA books are dude-written!

I Had a (Book-Themed) Bridal Shower!

bridal shower table
I try not to talk about my upcoming wedding too much on here, but the truth is it’s kinda taken over my life lately. It’s only about a month away, which is causing me A LOT of stress. I plan on writing about the (not very fun, for me anyway) process of wedding planning soon, but today I wanted to tell you guys about one VERY fun aspect of getting married: the bridal shower!

Here’s why I liked my bridal shower: I didn’t have to do anything. Seriously, I just showed up. I’m lucky that my best friend/maid of honor also happens to be one of those people who’s SUPER great at planning things (unlike me), and she threw what will probably go down as the best shower in the history of showers. The only worry I had about it was that no one would show up (I didn’t want to invite very many people, because I didn’t want to obligate people to buy gifts, but then I got super concerned that I’d invited too few people and it would just be me and Cat and my mom in a room), but almost everyone could make it! I knew Cat could handle every other detail like a boss, and she did. Seriously, guys, this bridal shower was book-themed. The favors were bookmarks with a Lorrie Moore quote on them. I don’t think it could have been more awesome.
bridal shower bookmark lorrie moore

Also there were books covered in tissue paper and quotes from books (and Winnie the Pooh).
brial shower flowers

Oh yeah, and Mama W. made a cake that looked like a book.
bridal shower cake

As you can tell (by, you know, looking at this blog), I enjoy pink and yellow, so I was all about the color scheme. Also, Cat doesn’t hate me so she didn’t make me play any stupid bridal shower games. We did play The Newlywed Game, which I always actually love at showers, and I learned a lot about H. Namely that he thinks my nose is cute (?) and he can’t remember the first or last movie we saw together. Enlightening!

I will tell you all, though, that parts of the shower were awkward, and I think that’s true of any shower. Mainly I’m talking about opening presents while everyone watches you. When you’re no longer a child, there are blessedly few times you have to do this. Basically, it’s limited to bridal and baby showers. You know why? Because it’s weird! I genuinely loved all of the wonderful gifts my friends and family gave me, but it still felt so weird to hold them up in front of a group of women and say, “OH LOOK AT THIS! I LOVE IT! THANK YOU!”

Also, it’s just a strange experience to have a lot of people you know from different places all in one room. Like, your college friends and your aunt and your future mother-in-law, just all hangin’ out. It’s not bad, but it is unusual.

To be completely serious for one damn second of my life, my shower was a really special day, and I’m so glad I got to spend the time with some of my favorite ladies. You guys know how much I love positive all-female environments (a lot). Everything was wonderful, thoughtful, and beautiful, and I loved it all.

Oh yeah, and in case you wanted to see how attractive my friends are, here’s a picture of all of the girls I’ve known since high school. I also have a picture that includes my college friends, but that picture is on my mom’s camera and when I asked her to send it to me, she said, “I don’t know how to do that. Ask Alex.” Classic Mama W. But look how attractive!
bridal shower girls

Ladyville Book Club: Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan

I love books and films about women. I especially love books and films that are set in entirely female environments, like boarding schools, convents, or homes for unwed mothers. I know “homes for unwed mothers” is not exactly a popular location for books (especially since I’m pretty sure those don’t exist anymore), but have you read The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett? Good gravy! I love (most of) that book! I also love books about all-female families (like Little Women. You can stay gone, Mr. March) and strong groups of female friends (don’t even talk to me about Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants because I’ll probably start crying). I took to Twitter a few weeks ago to get some recommendations for lady-centered books, and Carrie recommended Commencement. I went right to the library, got a copy, got distracted for two weeks, and finally finished it. And guess what? This is a perfect book to feature in Ladyville Book Club. It has strong ladies, feminism, a women’s college, romantic relationships, strong friendships, hard truths about serious feminist issues, and it’s fun to read.

According to a blurb on the back, Entertainment Weekly called Commencement “a beach book for smart women,” and I can’t really think of a better description. There are all the hallmarks of “chick lit”*–ladies tryin’ to make it on their own! Relationships! Sex!–but also a lot of really serious information about sex trafficking, prostitution, porn, mainstream vs. radical feminism, and rape. What’s better than getting invested in a character’s love life and feeling physically ill after reading about the harsh realities of prostitution? Oh, and there’s a very detailed childbirth scene, which I always appreciate because childbirth is real life and I think we should read about it and hear about it all the time. The more graphic, the better. I need to know what I’m getting into (someday in the very distant future).

Commencement follows four friends who meet at Smith. April, Bree, Celia, and Sally are very different but they still become close friends. If that sounds a little cliche, that’s because it probably is, but it totally doesn’t matter. The characters and interesting and it’s fun to watch them interact, both at school and in the “real world” after graduation. If you’re still navigating the post-undergrad world, or if you recently did, then you’ll probably identify with the girls’ struggles as they go through their “freshman year of life.”

J. Courtney Sullivan is also one badass lady. She actually went to Smith, and she edited a book called Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists. Plus, she has amazing taste in books, if this article from The New York Times is any indication.

J. Courtney Sullivan recently came out with another book, Maine, that I’ll have to get my paws on. She’s an interesting writer who knows how to make a book easy to read without making it devoid of substance. I feel about Commencement the same way I do about brussels sprouts. They taste so good, but they’re also really good for me. I realize this analogy only works if you love brussels sprouts as much as I do (and if you don’t, just…I don’t even know what to do with you), but what I’m saying is that Commencement is great and you should totally read it.

If you have any recommendations for books set in all-lady environments, let me know! Especially if they’re in that elusive “home for unwed mothers” setting.

*I hate the term “chick lit” because, duh, it’s an offensive and reductionist way of dismissing any woman who writes about relationships and women’s issues.

Lady Inspiration: Tracee Ellis Ross


Tracee Ellis Ross is today’s lady inspiration for a few reasons. One: have you seen how beautiful she is? As you probably know, her mother’s Diana Ross, and I love that she looks so much like her. At times I think Tracee is a funhouse mirror version of her mother, and at times I think Diana is a funhouse mirror version of Tracee. That being said, most of the time I think Tracee looks like a more normal, but equally beautiful, Diana.
The real reason she’s today’s lady inspiration is her new website, traceeellisross.com. It’s basically a lifestyle website, kind of like GOOP but much, much, much more attainable for a “regular” woman. God bless and keep you, Gwyneth, but I literally can’t afford anything in your damn newsletter. Sure, I’d love to buy a $400 sweater or give a monogrammed cashmere throw as a houseguest gift, but that’s never going to happen. Tracee Ellis Ross writes about things like Lash Blast mascara and Naked by David Sedaris. She’s way more my style.
The site’s not just about stuff you can buy, though. She also writes about totally normal snacks (not juice cleanses, G. Pal!), artists like Marina Abramovic, and this incredibly interesting and well-written take on our cultural obsession with/confusion by fake boobs. Oh, and there are inspirational quotes. You know I love inspirational quotes.
Be sure to check out the site here. You can also find her on Pinterest! Consider yourself followed, Tracee Ellis Ross.

Lady Show: The Conversation

I think I might have found my new favorite show. I love nothing more than ladies talkin’ about bein’ ladies (check out my blog title for proof), and that’s exactly what The Conversation is. Host/Photographer/Wife/Mom/Superwoman Amanda de Cadenet interviews women about topics that are actually interesting. She doesn’t ask them about whatever movie they’re working on or fluff like that. Instead, she talks to Jane Fonda about feeling whole without a man, or to Gwyneth Paltrow about postpartum depression, or to Sarah Silverman about the importance of female camaraderie, or to Zoe Saldana about the decision to have children. This is the show for you if you miss Oprah but also you wish Oprah was more down to Earth. Amanda de Cadenet is smart, funny, and delightful, even if she doesn’t hide gifts under her studio audience’s chairs (or have a studio audience).

This show is amazing because, unlike other women’s shows with similar titles (The View, The Talk), it actually focuses on real conversations between women about their lives. Not the “She can do it all, and so can you!” pseudo-inspirational bullshit we’ve come to expect from our magazines and television shows, but actual real lives. It is reassuring for me to realize that Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t have all of her shit together all the time, or that Jane Fonda is still working some things out at 70. That’s real life!

Also you learn that Jane Fonda’s fake knee makes certain sex positions uncomfortable. The more you know!

Watch the first episode of The Conversation here! If you’ve seen it, let me know what you think!