Stop The Hate: A Discussion on Girl-Hate in Popular Music

So there I was.

In the bathroom, up-close-and-personal with the mirror and a mascara wand (mascara face and all), jammin’ out to some dance tunes on Spotify and putting on my face for the day.
Just minding my own business, when it hit me like a ton of bricks: the amount of woman-against-woman hate in music is TOO DAMN HIGH.

The tune in particular that got the wheels a-turning in my head was a popular (albeit older) one: Pretty Girl Rock by Keri Hilson. Here’s just a sampling:

“Mad ’cause I’m cuter than the girl that’s with you”

“Girls think I’m conceited ’cause I know I’m attractive. Don’t worry about what I think, why don’t you ask him?”

If my iPhone wasn’t so precious to me, I’d have Hulk-smashed it into oblivion out of sheer frustration.

Pitting woman against woman? Basing your opinion of yourself on what a man (and not just any man, someone else’s man!) thinks of you? Keri Hilson, you should be ashamed of yourself. Of course, Keri doesn’t shoulder all of the blame. This kind of catty-girl banter is interwoven within every genre of the music industry, and the female population eats it up! One of the worst offenders is an artist I love: Carrie Underwood.
In her hit song “Before He Cheats”, Carrie sings about a “bleached blonde tramp” that her boyfriend is “getting frisky” with in the bar. She talks down about the fact that the woman in question can’t handle her liquor (don’t even get me started on the sexist/misogynistic undertones of this!) refers to her as white-trash…the list goes on. At no point does she clarify whether or not this girl that she’s verbally destroying has knowledge of the guy’s relationship status. And while this may seem like no big deal because it’s “just a song”, I think it’s very important to realize that while this is an imaginary example, this kind of stuff actually HAPPENS.

Almost every time I’ve heard about a cheating ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, the woman that was cheated with is always referred to as some sort of “slut”, “whore” or “bitch”:and not because she was aware of the cheating, but simply because she was involved. Regardless of her knowledge of the relationship, she is automatically branded as a harlot simply for being “the other woman”.

And do you know what, readers? I think that’s horrible.

20140114-000335.jpgShall we slap an “A” on her chest, too?!

If your significant other cheats on you with an unsuspecting individual, the blame should be placed SOLEY on them. If they sneak around behind your back with someone else and she is also being lied to, then you aren’t the only person being hurt, and she certainly does not deserve to be subjected to a verbal tongue-lashing. In more extreme cases, she definitely does not deserve to deal with harassment, acts of vandalism, or bodily harm. Instead of placing the blame on the actual perpetrator, women rage at someone who is possibly just another victim, because it’s easier: easier to blame a stranger, easier to dehumanize someone you’ve never met than it is to hold the right person responsible.

Think that’s bad? How about Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me”? Now, Taylor is the Queen of Pining Over Someone Else’s Boyfriend, but that track takes the cake. It’s your typical boy-meets-girl-girl-likes-boy-boy-has-a-girlfriend-so-let’s-slut-shame-her storyline: insinuating that this boy’s fictional girlfriend is somehow awful because they don’t like the same music, because she doesn’t “get” his sense of humor, and she must be a slut because “she wears short skirts”. To some, it’s a catchy pop-country tune but let us not forget that our impressionable daughters, nieces, and friends are listening to these songs that condone slut-shaming and disrespecting the boundaries of relationships. Teens and Tweens practically worship these idols, so it’s doubtful that these harmful messages are falling on deaf ears. Essentially, popular culture is telling girls that this line of thinking is acceptable.

Except, it’s not.

Slut-shaming, name-calling, lying, disrespecting and cheating are all regarded as generally unacceptable behaviors, and yet the music industry tells a different story. These woman-hating-woman songs and albums are mainstream, and so commonplace that adults don’t even bat an eyelash at them. Young girls tuning in is a non-issue, when in fact it should be just the opposite.

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So, how do we break the cycle? For many, the idea of cutting out the influence of the mainstream is downright preposterous, but changes can be made without cutting ties. Conversations need to happen. As a former teenage girl, I understand that communication can be downright impossible at times, but if parents and mentors take the time to talk to their girls, they will listen. (They might roll their eyes, but they’ll listen.) Talk about the basics: how to treat others, basic respect, self-respect. But what I think is most important is to lead by example. If our girls see us balking at these negative girl-hating messages, chances are they’ll do the same. Want more? How about a Girl-Positive Playlist:

1. “Girl on Fire” by Alica Keys

2. “Who Says” by Selena Gomez

3. ““Strip Me” by Natasha Bedingfield

4. “F’in Perfect” by Pink

5. “Hard Out Here” by Lily Allen*

What do you think, readers? Is it time to stop the girl-on-girl hate? What’s atop your Empowerment Playlist? Sound off!

*Four minutes and twenty three seconds of delicious satire, addressing the same sexism, objectification, and negative messages that I just soap-boxes about. Lily Allen, the next round is on me. You go, girl.

Redefining Sexy: Not Just For The Boys

Scarlet Johansson. Beyonce. Megan Fox. What do these ladies have in common?

Besides all sharing celebrity status and raking in boatloads of cash each year, I think it can be universally agreed upon that each of these three ladies bear the traits of the conventionally sexy. They are long legged and svelte, with pouty lips and bedroom eyes rimmed in long, fluttering lashes. Nobody is denying that all three of those supercelebs (as well as countless others that share those traits) are sexy. However, in our media-centric culture, it is very rare that any other types of sexy are celebrated. The world is such a beautifully varied place, it is nothing short of tragic that only one type of attractive is put on a pedestal. And while I could literally go on for days about all of this fantastic diversity, I want to devote just a little bit of blogspace to one of my favorite subcultures.

Lesbians.

I think that it can be agreed on that in general, the idea of female “sexiness” is marketed to the male community. However, the boys don’t get to claim sole propriety of female appreciation. There are lots of lady-loving-ladies out there, all with their own very different idea of what “sexy” could mean. Within the lesbian community, the idea of sexiness is not confined to cupid’s bow lips and come-hither eyes. (Though we surely do appreciate them.) Butch ladies in flannel have just as much heart fluttering potential as curvy femmes. For some chicks that dig chicks, sexy is a slim cut blazer and a crisp button up. (Sa-woooooon.) And it is with that in mind that I bring you this series of sexy that is not just for the boys:

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Mmm, sexy.

20131026-150348.jpgDefinitely sexy.

20131026-151625.jpgOh, hot damn.

20131026-153848.jpgOn the left? My kind of sexy. 😉

Now, nobody is knocking the stereotypically sexy. Give me some Christina Hendricks any day. Scarlet Johannson is a minx. Halle Berry, mmm. Admiring the sex appeal of those not “traditionally sexy” does not (and never will) take away from the beauty of others. Redefining sexy does nothing but broaden horizons, open eyes, and give you a little extra something yummy to ogle. So go ahead, give those photos another gander….I’ll wait. 😉

Salivating yet? Feeling flushed, maybe a little hot under the collar? I certainly hope so. 😉

Can’t get enough? All of the photos above were taken from my favorite weekly dose of delicious. Check out Autostraddle.com’s NSFW Sunday for more!

“The Second Mango” (Interview With The Author)

Today, I’m taking a break from blogging boobs, bras, and body image to discuss another topic that I love: books. And something I love more than just books? Queer, feminist, fantasy books.

So, color me surprised when the lovely Shira Glassman dropped a line in my inbox, informing me that she had written just that. Would I like to feature her book on my blog? Hell yes! Would she, in return, be willing to answer a few “Ask The Author” questions for me? Another resounding “yes!” and this post was born.

Now, you’re probably wondering. A queer, feminist, fantasy book? Does such a thing exist? Enter: The Second Mango.

The Second Mango by Shira Glassman

The Second Mango by Shira Glassman

Queen Shulamit never expected to inherit the throne of the tropical land of Perach so young. At twenty, grief-stricken and fatherless, she’s also coping with being the only lesbian she knows after her sweetheart ran off for an unknown reason. Not to mention, she’s the victim of severe digestive problems that everybody think she’s faking. When she meets Rivka, an athletic and assertive warrior from the north who wears a mask and pretends to be a man, she finds the source of strength she needs so desperately. Unfortunately for her, Rivka is straight, but that’s okay — Shulamit needs a surrogate big sister just as much as she needs a girlfriend. Especially if the warrior’s willing to take her around the kingdom on the back of her dragon in search of other women who might be open to same-sex romance. The real world outside the palace is full of adventure, however, and the search for a royal girlfriend quickly turns into a rescue mission when they discover a temple full of women turned to stone by an evil sorcerer.

Intrigued yet? 

Courtesy of Shira Glassman

Courtesy of Shira Glassman

I had the opportunity to have a virtual sit-down with Ms. Glassman, who happily answered a few questions for me.

1. As a writer myself, I always want to get to know the brains behind the characters! Tell me about yourself! What made you want to start writing and what (this one I find is my most common problem) keeps you at it? 

The simplest answer is that I write when I love something with all my heart and it still leaves me wanting and feeling a little hungry. If I didn’t love it so much, it wouldn’t matter that it doesn’t satisfy all my wishes. I guess that’s the way I felt about fairy tales and fantasy/adventure stories–I love the magic and wonder, I love the dragons and the fancy clothing and fabulous buildings and messages about conquering adversity and finding love–but I don’t love being left out completely. There were no fairy tales with LGBTQ+ characters when I was growing up, and so for years I longed to write a fairy tale with a lesbian princess. I also grew up around a million stories of knights fighting dragons to rescue princesses, and I wanted, instead, for the dragon to be the good guy. In my story the knight and her dragon team up to rescue the “princess” (really a young queen who hasn’t stepped properly into her role yet) from herself.
 
My mind is an overactive storyteller, and that’s what keeps me writing. I’m happiest when I’m making up new things, fussing over details, figuring out what happens next. Writing scenes with characters I already love, such as those I’ve created for The Second Mango, is like getting to hang out with them, or getting to “play with my dolls”. That’s why there’s a sequel, Climbing the Date Palm, due out next July — and a third book that’s only six chapters in. I just really like my characters and didn’t want to leave them be!
 2. Your book is definitely one of a kind! Feminist literature, with varying sexual orientations and a fantasy byline. What inspired you to write this particular tale? 

I think it was a way of playing dress-up with real life–I’m bisexual and Jewish, and my spouse has a gluten problem. All these things are a constant presence in our lives, so I wanted to write my feelings about same-sex romance and culturally Jewish themes and “not having one’s allergies taken seriously”, but I wanted to write them against the background of swordfighting and wizards and magic potions (and, of course, the dragon) that doesn’t usually include people whose problems and hopes and dreams and joys are just like ours. We’re worthy of those adventures, too!
 
As for the feminist angle — that was also very important to me. I believe very firmly in women supporting each other and all standing up for each other. Often, the feminist answer to fairy tales is that the damsel in distress should rescue herself. In my version, I show a woman being rescued by another woman. It’s not unfeminist to need to be rescued from time to time, and rescuing someone else is a very cool sign of empowerment, if you ask me. I also just really wanted to write about relationships between women in general–not just romance, but also friendship, or just any interaction that doesn’t involve fighting over a male character. The sci-fi and fantasy and superhero epics central to our culture have a tendency to feature one amazing female character mixed with a troupe of men. It leaves her unable to have significant on-screen interactions with other women.
 3. From what I can tell, your first book is having some pretty positive successes. Any plans on writing more? (This is the part where I say “Please, please, please do! The world needs more queer feminist reading material!) If so, is there anything you can share about your next project?
The sequel, Climbing the Date Palm, is due out in July 2014, also from Prizm Books. The summary:
Queen Shulamit is eager to help Kaveh, the youngest prince of a neighboring country, when his father throws his engineer boyfriend in jail for leading his workers in protest over underpaid wages. But if she can’t find a peaceful solution that will keep everybody happy, the two countries could wind up at war.
 
Where the first book is very much a friendship story focused on personal growth, the second book is a bit political in that it takes a stand in favor of worker’s rights. My spouse is a labor activist and I’ve been jokingly referring to the second book as “Occupy Fairyland.” I also get more into bisexual visibility in the second book, which has two bisexual characters front and center, including Prince Kaveh.
I love it. I love, love, love it. Feminism? Bisexual visibility?! Be still my beating heart! Ms. Glassman is truly touching on topics that are either glazed over or ignored altogether in the modern literary world. If the storyline sneak-peek doesn’t grab you, the lovely woman that we’ve had the opportunity to get to know should. Shira Glassman is a passionate author, with a keen understanding of her subject matter, and an obvious love for the characters she has created. She is a new voice in writing–a voice that has something to say, and a voice we should take the time to listen to. Still not convinced? Take a look at the first few pages, available on Amazon. There, you can pick up your own copy for Kindle, or grab it directly from the publisher here!  Want to know more about the brains behind the book,? Check out Shira Glassman’s blog!

Diversity In Lingerie

It’s been quite the whirlwind few weeks in the life of this blogger! What, with a week-long “workcation”, a flurry of unpacking, and a much-loathed trip to the dentist’s office, I’ve been a very busy bee. These facts can all be attributed to the uncanny silence resonating from my corner of the interwebs.

But now I’m back with a vengeance, and ready to tackle a topic that many other bra-bloggers have been buzzing about: Diversity In Lingerie.

The Diversity In Lingerie campaign is the brainchild of the lovely lady behind Braless In Brasil. It was started to show the lingerie industry that we want to see less photoshop, and more “women like us” in print, on runways, and everywhere in between–and we want it now.
A group of bra-bloggers have since expanded on this, by explaining what they want to see, and now it’s time for me to add my voice.

I want #diversityinlingerie because the tattoo art on my body is seldom seen on runways. It is airbrushed out of print ads, and viewed with crippling stereotypes. When you see body art in fashion shows, it is of the painted-on variety, and usually coupled with some sort of gimmick.
And when the lingerie industry does include ink like mine in their designs? It’s marketed as “edgy” fashion. Tattoo-printed stockings and body suits. To me, the message is: have the look without the meaning, and discard it like yesterday’s trash when you’re finished. No need to be ashamed of this, no siree, because you haven’t “permanently disfigured” yourself with ink! Like the washables of our yesteryears–there’s no commitment necessary. And while I respect that tattoos are a personal choice, they are treated by so many as something to be ashamed of. Cover it up. Airbrush it away. Hide, hide, hide. Be ashamed of your art (despite the deep personal meaning that may be behind it!), because it goes against everything that is mainstream.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I really want to see.

Give me #diversityinlingerie so that we can finally break free from the chains of the “norm”, and let everyone’s beautiful individuality shine through.

one of four, more to come

#diversityinlingerie

(PSSST: Want to see more of the #DiversityInLingerie campaign? Check out this list of bloggers who have contributed, and see what other ladies are looking for!)

Dear Douchebag,

Dear Douchebag,

I’m sure that it was pretty evident to you that you made a bad choice.

Of course I’m talking about the choice you made to tell me that I am only a lesbian “because I haven’t met the right man yet”. It may have been my “Oh no he DIDN’T” facial expression. Or, it could have been the fact that my retort was “you just asked a question that would get you punched in the face in some circles”. What you probably didn’t realize–or maybe you did, because I’m not good at hiding my emotions–is that the urge to actually punch you right in your smarmy mouth was hard for me to resist. Resist I did, though, because I’m a motherfuckin’ lady.

I wish that I could say I’m surprised at your ignorant mindset. Alas, no, because not five minutes before you said what you said, you referred to your girlfriend as “a nice pair of tits”. Thank you for that, because I was really hungry for a nice misogyny-and-objectification sandwich. So listen here, pencil-dick, because I’m about to impart on you some much-needed information about things you obviously know nothing about: like tact, manners, and how to NOT be a douchebag.

Lesson One: Just Because You Worship Your Penis, Doesn’t Mean Everyone Does

I think that this is a very important lesson for you to learn. While you may have a hard-on for your own, there are women (lots of us!) that don’t need an XY chromosome in their lives in order to feel complete. Trust me, honeychild, I can lift heavy things all by myself. I don’t need you to kill the spider on the wall for me. I don’t need you to build the dresser I just bought from Ikea. (This edit-out is for you, commenter Mark! 😉 ) Despite what you may have been taught, I don’t need a penis in my life to define who I am as a person. I would also note that it is especially unwise to assume that you know a damn thing about someone that you’ve only known for 45 minutes.

Lesson Two: Rudely Objectifying The Woman You Are Dating Is Not Funny

You sir, are not funny. In fact, I’ve seen more hilarious jokes come out of a gag reel from 1983. I don’t know for sure if you were trying to get laughs when you completely dehumanized the woman you are supposed to love. Maybe that’s just your personality. (NOTE: If so, you have a shitty personality.) I actually don’t know what you were trying to achieve, but I can assure you that all you managed to do was make yourself look like an ass. I have to say, my heart goes out to your girlfriend. Because if that’s honestly how you think of her, she needs to get the hell outta dodge before you try and rope her in for life.

Lesson Three: Think Before You Speak

I know this one is probably asking a lot from you, because this last lesson requires you to actually use your brain. I think that with time though, even YOU can learn how to think before you speak–thus avoiding situations like this in the future. Think about it. Think about how rude it is to assume you know something about a person you never met. Think about how inappropriate to pass judgement on another person’s life, without knowing anything about it. Think about how fucking offensive it is to my girlfriend: the insinuation that I would actually leave the amazing woman that I love just because some meathead with a penis came along and “swept me off my feet”. There’s a hell of a lot more to it, homeslice, then what your peabrain is capable of understanding. And no, just because you cite your sister as a source (“My sister was a lesbian, then she got a boyfriend and she isn’t anymore”) does not count for all lesbians–or her for that matter. She could be bi, or pan, or straight, or gay, or whateverthefuck she wants to be and just like me, DOESN’T NEED YOU DEFINING HER SEXUALITY.

There you have it, man-boy. Three simple steps, and you’re on your way to escaping the debilitating Douchebaggery that must affect your everyday life. I can assure you that if you just listen to me, you will be well on your way to changing your life for the better.

And if you don’t want to listen to me? Well, judgement can be a two-way street. You tell me that I need a man to make me straight,I tell you that your pathetic pubic-hair mustache makes you look like a pedophile. Cheers! xx

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The “New” Normal

You should have seen her face.

You should have seen her face when I leaned in for that kiss. Panic. Fear. Involuntarily, her whole body shifted as far away from mine as she could get within the confines of the tiny red car that she drives. She didn’t say anything at first, but her actions spoke loud and clear: no no no no no. And then after that? A curt and nervous: “Yeah, ok, bye.”
My heart dropped, and my face flooded with embarrassment. In that moment, I felt like the little boy on the playground, chasing the little girl and seeking out an ill-advised first kiss. Except, in this scenario, I’m not a little boy. I’m another little girl, and that makes things a thousand times worse.

“It’s the PDA. It’s the uniform.”

I tell you. I can actually smell the bullshit from here.

Because if I were her husband, or she mine, and we were living in some hunky-dory heteronormative fantasyland, this would have never been an issue. But I’m not, and we aren’t, and despite living in a newly post-DOMA country, in a marriage equality state, it is still not “ok” for me to kiss my girlfriend of nearly a year goodbye. In front of exactly zero other souls. Apparently it is ok, though, to treat the woman you love as if she’s some sort of leper. Unintentionally or not.

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While there is a part of me that rages at her, the more sound, logical part of my brain realizes: this is not her fault. After all, she lived a military life long before DADT was repealed, and a hell of a lot longer before the recent DOMA ruling. She lived a life that she had to keep hidden, lest she lose everything she worked so hard to achieve. Old habits, and all that. And even now, in this newly emerging country, I’m willing to bet my entire left leg that there are some dirty scoundrels working in the higher-ranks that would no sooner toss her (and others like her) out for “one reason or another”: just because’s she’s gay. It’d all be a matter of convenience. The military is wrapped so tightly in tradition, I can understand her fear. But I can’t understand how continuing to keep things hush-hush is going to change a damn thing.

Some of you are rolling your eyes at me. “It’s just a kiss” you say. “There are more important things.” Well, sure, asshole, there are more important things, like world peace, and equality, and liberty and justice for all. And while my (lack of a) kiss on a military base can’t even hold a candle to the fights and struggles of other military couples like Ashley Broadway and her wife Heather Mack, it’s what I have to offer right now to our fight for equality. (Seriously, if you just crawled out of your hole and don’t know who she is, read her story. That woman is incredible, and is one of my modern day heroes.) If you still think that this is so simple, the point that you’re missing is that this fear of “just a kiss” has derived from something a hell of a lot more evil. It’s bigger then “just a kiss”, and if you would get your heads out of your asses, you’d realize that.

It’s about showing everyone that this “new normal” is not new at all. We’ve always been here. Now, we can just show it more freely without being (as) afraid of losing our jobs or our lives. It’s about showing the people who are against us that: A) We are just like them, and B)We are not going away.

I refuse to “tone it down” or hide who I am for someone else’s comfort. I’m not streaking in the streets–I’m kissing my fucking girlfriend goodbye before she leaves for a long workday. I’m holding her hand as we walk through a city park. I’m buying groceries, and taking them home, and cooking her dinner–just like everyone else. I have never, ever felt shame about my sexuality. I have never felt fear of showing who I am. Who knows. Maybe it’s just my personality. Maybe I don’t give two fucks. (Scratch that, I definitely don’t give two fucks.) And here’s a newsflash to you, (Far-Righties and religious zealots especially) I NEVER WILL. I know that I’m lucky to even have the option to be as outspoken and aggressive as I am. Many LGBT community members live in places where it is downright dangerous to even resemble “gay”. And because of that, it is even more important that I keep fighting: for myself, and for those who can’t. It’s because of people like Ashley Broadway, and Edie Windsor, and even the little voices like me, that one day, we will be equal. This is the new normal, and it is here to stay.

(You know, I never did get my kiss this morning. I, in my signature hot-headed Italian way, walked off in a fury. But my love gets done work in ten minutes, so we’ll see. I’ll admit: I’m taking a chance publishing this post. It has massive potential to land me right in the doghouse. I could be sleeping on the proverbial couch for a while. Oooor….she could wise up, and I might finally get that kiss. 😉 )

An Open Letter

Unless you’ve just now crawled out from the cave you’ve been hiding in for a few weeks, you’ve probably heard that recently, the United States Supreme Court has ruled both Section 3 of the Defense Of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 as unconstitutional.
As a member of the LGBT community, I am rejoicing in this news. And as such, I’m taking a break from blogging about undergarments to write an open letter to the Supreme Court, as well as to all the gay-marriage “haters” (my god, I hate that term, but it’s so appropriate right now.) out there.
Ahemhemhem….

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image from TheNewCivilRightsMovement.com

Dear Supreme Court,

I wish there was a way to put this delicately…
It’s about damn time!

Admit it, you probably made up your minds way before last Thursday. DOMA and Prop8 were probably a done deal halfway through the hearings, but you just had to make us sweat it out, didn’t you? I mean, waiting until the very last day to hand down rulings on two of the most landmark cases in history? Pure publicity stunt, for sure. Pure genius, because the internet exploded about 25 seconds after the rulings were announced, but still. A little cruel, guys, a little cruel. I sat on pins and needles for weeks, waiting to hear if I would finally be considered equal under the eyes of the law. And imagine, at 22 years old, I have hardly seen any hardships compared to the discrimination that the older, wiser members of the LGBT community have experienced.

It started at Stonewall, and it will end with you. Because 5 out of 9 of you thought enough to remove your heads from your asses, millions of American citizens can sleep a little more soundly at night, knowing that if anything were to happen to them, they wouldn’t have to worry about their partners being barred from their bedside. I don’t have to worry about being viewed as a second class citizen by the USAF, should my girlfriend and I decide to take the plunge and wed. Our children would be eligible for military benefits, just like any other military children. I would like to extend personal Internet High-Fives to Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor for being the ones to say “Up yours” to DOMA. I’ll buy you all drinks, the next round’s on me.

As for Justices Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, and Alito?

Where is my javelin? Because those bastards deserve to be javelinned RIGHT OUT OF THEIR SEATS AND INTO OBLIVION. Perhaps, Justices, someone needs to remind you of your job description. Maybe then you’d stop trying to push your ridiculous, bigoted agenda on the rest of the country. If you four can not see the blatant and disgusting discrimination that was written into that now by-gone law, you need to have the prescription of your bifocals checked.

An extrasuperspecial “Fuck Off!” to Antonin Scalia for his frothy dissent of the court’s decision, wherein he gave special comment to “homosexual sodomy”. Slow down, ol’ boy. You certainly have a lot to say about what happens in homosexual bedrooms. Battling some inner demons, eh?

So that’s it, folks. We’ve won this battle. Though the war is far from over, we can rest easy for a bit knowing that this time: we won.

I Want To See You Be Brave

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Sara Bareilles just released a new song and video from her upcoming album, entitled “Brave”. It encourages the listener to be brave, speak up for what they believe in, and to not let fear control their lives. (I think this is awesome. Ten thousand brownie points for Sara Bareilles!)

As I was driving to work, I was listening to this song (over, and over, and over again), and it got me to thinking: what does it mean to be brave? For a lot of people, the word “brave” conjures images of superheroes and war veterans. You know, the few and the proud. For others, it brings to mind great, heroic actions: rescuing someone who is drowning, throwing oneself in front of a bullet for another, saving a life. And while all these things are massively brave things to do, I believe that bravery–like people–comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

For someone struggling with addiction or disorder, bravery is finally asking for help.

For someone who is being bullied, bravery is finally standing up and staying “Stop”.

For someone who has body image issues, bravery is saying “Screw you!” to impossible standards of beauty. It is finally loving who they are instead of struggling to become who everyone says they should be.

For someone hiding their sexuality, bravery is standing up and saying “This is who I am! Take it or leave it.” And if people decide to leave it, bravery is telling those folks not to let the door hit them on the way out.

Bravery is standing up for what you believe in, and shouting it off the rooftops. It’s sticking up for those who can’t, and speaking loudly for those with no voice.

For me, bravery was finally saying “Enough.” to a bad relationship, and getting the hell out of dodge. Then, bravery was allowing my heart to be open despite all the hurt I had felt, and falling in love again.

Sure, those veterans and heroes are brave. But “big” isn’t the only measure of bravery. So, if it means putting on a bikini for the first time, coming out to your folks, or finally breaking off that toxic friendship/relationship, go ahead.

I want to see you be brave.

20130611-135521.jpgimage from tumblr

“You Would Be So Pretty If…”

We’ve all heard it. “You would be so pretty if…”

“…you just smiled.”
“…you lost some weight.”
“…you changed your hair.”
“…you changed your clothes.”

When I was 18, I had a dentist tell me that I would be “so pretty” and “attract so many boys” if only I just got braces to take care of my crooked teeth. (Well newsflash to THAT dick-for-brains, I’m a lesbian. An even better moment in that story? I was wearing a cheeky shirt that said “I Know What Girls Like” on the front. Guy was a moron.) So let me get this straight (ha), Mr. Dentist-Man. If I spend $2,500 dollars, and two uncomfortable years with a mouthful of metal, I will have done enough to change myself in order to make boys like me? Whoop-de-fucking-do.

Because you know what, when people drop these little lines, these “you would be so pretty if” nuggets, what they are really saying is: “You need to change yourself to measure up to what I find attractive, and only then will you be worthy.” And do you know what I say to those people?

You can fuck right the hell off. Seriously.

This morning, as I was sitting in rage-enducing traffic, I was tagged in a comment, meant to draw my attention to one of these “helpful” commentators. It was on an image of a woman on one of my favorite Facebook pages. She was kind enough to post a picture of herself in a new outfit, so that her fellow clothing-enthusiasts can see the products on her specific body type. In this particular photo, she was rockin’ a new top and some high-waisted shorts, and looked great, just stony-faced. She’s a regular contributor to the page in question, and I always look to her photos to get an idea of how any particular item would look on me, as we are close in shape. To clarify, this girl is a minx. She could be wearing a scowl and a burlap sack, and would still look good. So, when I saw one of those helpful “you would look so good if you just smiled”, I couldn’t help but be indignant.

Excuse me, Sir. She didn’t post that photo for your specialsnowflake eyes, only. In fact, I’d wager a guess that she didn’t post that photo for your eyes at all. (Shock. Gasp. Dismay.) And FURTHERMORE, if you’re only looking at this particular website to scope out clothing options for your wife, why the need for color commentary, huh? The jig is up, perv. And you aren’t fooling anyone.

This scenario is just one of many in which women are treated like, and expected to be accessories or objects. We’re expected to be malleable, and mold to become whatever any given person wants us to be. Because god forbid, we be whatever we want. Or who we are.
I’ll end with this little PSA for anyone who might be guilty of dropping those “helpful” lines:
I am not an accessory. I won’t smile/lose weight/gain weight/change myself just to gain your approval. If you aren’t willing to take me as I am? Well, you can go sit over there in the Box Of Shame with Douchebag Dentist and Pervy Facebook Guy. Because just like them, we don’t care what you have to say, anyway.

20130610-140631.jpgimage from KatieOrDieComics.com

To Wear, or Not To Wear? (A Discussion On Modesty)

The internet has been buzzing recently, and it’s all about modesty.

20130609-151744.jpgimage from Squidoo.com

First it was The Modesty Panel: a fascinating look at the different perspectives on modesty from various body image/bra fitting bloggers from around the world. Then, the web erupted when the news of Sarah Minder hit. (For those of you who have just crawled out of your cave, she is the Washington state high school senior who was instructed to “cover up her cleavage” or be barred from her prom.) This story hit every major media outlet like a lightening bolt in a storm, and evoked cries of “discrimination”! (It evoked cries of “bullshit!” from yours truly.)

This got me thinking about the topic of modesty. I said to myself “Jessica, what does modesty mean to you?” Turns out, it means quite a lot.

You see, modesty is one of those topics that you approach with caution. Talk about it to the wrong person, and you’re being screeched at that it’s “The Man’s” way of putting women “in their place”. (Seriously people, stop screeching. I’m not going to listen to you if you’re shrill, and I might punch you in the nose.) I don’t particularly like those people, and don’t want them screeching at me, so let me get this out of the way right from the get-go: I believe that grown women should be able to wear whatever the hell they choose.

With that being said, I think that modesty is one of those multifaceted topics that requires a lot of thought, and a good long look at all sides of the topic. Because let’s face it: there are certain situations in which modesty is appropriate. There are certain situations that it is necessary, and there are certain situations in which I don’t give a flying fart in space what you’re wearing. Allow me to outline:

If you are working in an office: it might be appropriate to dress for that setting. I don’t think it’s necessary to wear a miniskirt to a board meeting. If you are representing a company or business, you are serving a client. If you are working for a company that serves tightly-knotted, conservative older people, perhaps you should dress the part. And for the record, don’t even think about crying “sexism”. The same goes for men: Don’t show up to a board-meeting in an Ed Hardy deep-v and acid washed jeans. I’m not going to take you seriously as a businesswoman/man if you don’t dress the part.

If you are at church: Again with the conservatives, people. If the situation calls for it, it may be good to cover up just a little. I’m no church-goer, but I think the general consensus is this: if you would wear it to the club, you probably shouldn’t wear it to church. This is another one that goes for guys and girls alike. If it’s likely to make Great Aunt Ida fan herself and faint, you should probably tuck it back into the closet, and save it for a Saturday night.

If you are at the beach/Wal Mart/the Club,etc: Wear whateverthefuckyouwant, honeychild! The beach is one of those places where I expect to see various bodies in various stages of undress. If you want to wear that itty-bitty bikini or those teeny-tiny speedo shorts, go for it. I’m not judging you. In fact, I’m probably a wee bit envious of that rockin’ confidence that you possess. You work that suit, friend, and you look damn good. Same goes for if you’re headed to the club in a bodycon dress that hugs your body in just the right way, and makes you feel amazing. You don’t just FEEL amazing, you LOOK amazing too. Don’t forget it! And if you want to wear your pajamas to Wal-Mart, go for it.

If you are a child/teenager: This is going to be a controversial one. (And it’s also where the “grown women” parts of my beliefs comes into play.) I’m tapping my fingers together in anticipation of the angry comments/emails that I may receive. Bring it on, folks. I’m ready for debate. I strongly believe that it is important to instill this in our children: wear what you want, wear what makes you feel beautiful. BUT, be mindful of the rules, because they damn sure apply to you. This is in response to the prom-dress-fiasco, specifically. I don’t like the fact that so many people are siding with this girl because she “can’t help it”. Like she’s some superspecialsnowflake, and the rules should somehow not apply to her, simply because of her body. I don’t wanna hear it. There are resources out there for us boob-y ladies. Blogs, retailers, tailors: you name it. We aren’t the only ones “suffering”. Tall girls get called out in school for wearing “too-short” shorts, just because they have long legs. Busty girls get called out in school for showing “too much” cleavage. Boys get called out for wearing offensive tee-shirts, or too-saggy jeans. Are these rules silly? Some of them, yes. Are they necessary? I think so. Because school is not a fashion show. It is an educational facility, not a catwalk. I don’t know about you, but I went to highschool. In theory, the whole “No dress code, freedom of expression, FUCK YEAH!” thing is wonderful. In practice, it would never fucking work, not in a million years. Let’s not teach our children that the rules don’t apply to them. Let’s teach them how to work around it, how to make them work for them. And if they don’t like the rule, let’s teach our kids how to go about changing it the right way.

So there you have it, folks. For those of you who get turned off by walls of text:

TL:DR: Wear what you want, in moderation. Exercise common sense. Teach kids that dress code rules still apply/can be changed the RIGHT way.

Like anything, there is a time and a place for modest dress. And while everyone has differing opinions of what “modest” means, exercising some common sense never hurt anyone. I realize that this is only scraping the surface of such a complex idea. I also realize that some of you still believe that modest=sexism/being put down by “the Man” and this more important then anything I’ve outlined above. I’m open to some intelligent debate, but if you come at me screeching, I’ve got a punch in the nose with your name on it. 😉