April 11, 2014

Why Do Women Talk About Clothes So Damn Much?

The original title of this post was "If I Read Women's Magazines, I'd Be Broke and Bat-Sh*t Crazy." While that sentiment does not apply to all lady magazines (Hello Ebony and Ms.), many women's magazines have a ridiculous amount of ads that tell women what we should be buying and what to look like. When I really thought about it though, it's not just magazines.

Literally any and every topic directed towards women will talk about clothes. 100 sex tips? Make sure you have that special lingerie handy. Pitching a new workflow at work? Michael Kors got you. Doing research off the shores of Alaska? Dress warm, but get a figure flattering parka. There is no end to the ads, articles, blurbs, and chatter across bathroom stalls about what women should wear, to what, and when. For women, it's never just about the topic at hand.

If it seems like I am this making up, I'm going to guess that you live in a nudist colony with a never-ending supply of milk and honey, and that is OK. The funniest part about this though, is that men actually think we like this. While there are a select group of women who would die if they could not choose blouse vs blazer over and over again, I'll take a leap of faith and say the majority of us wouldn't mind slight variations on the same uniform. (As long as EVERYBODY did it. I'll explain later.)

I recently did a "Closet Audit." At the beginning/end of a season, I go through pretty much all my clothes to see what I may need for the upcoming season. If it was a ridiculously long winter (LIKE THIS ONE), causing me to expand a bit, I'll try clothes on. I will assign "go-to" work, date, and party outfits. Sounds like work right? It is. The alternative, however, is buying every new trendy thing or new versions of that "shirt I forgot I had" only to look at my bank account and wonder where my money went. Gentlemen this is why you still pay for dates.

The point of the post is this. While each woman may develop her own style and decide what looks
good for her, we dress to compete. We dress to survive. It occured to me, in pretty much every culture before the Victorian era the form of dress for women was some kind of long fabric wrapped around the body. Even though it may be a bit tough to manuever 10ft of fabric and there are different designs, it's pretty simple. If the only way your family eats is via hunting, or a farm- blouse vs. blazer becomes a non-factor on the survival list.
Me (right) in a Wedding Sari

Before industrialization the competition was nature against man. Although, what happens when you can drive, get a Hungry Man dinner, and be good in roughly 20 minutes? You go for more. Women are not shallow, society has evolved.

Studies show that women (and men) who do not take interest in their appearance suffer. They miss out on certain social interactions, dates, promotions, etc. We salivate over Olivia Pope and Claire Underwood's wardrobe because they look like powerful women. No one wants to be a loser, so we all play the game to the best of our ability. While I laugh when my money management site (geared towards women) shares its 5th post for the week on "How to Look Flawless for Less," I know that they can't help it, and I click on it in spite of myself.

To be clear, I am not referring to any particular style of dress. This is merely about the sheer VOLUME of clothes and appearance talk women are bombarded with. This is my brief commentary on why we (as women) perpetuate and ultimately buy in to much of it. I cheat. I wear dresses most of the time so my brain doesn't melt. Needles to say, winter winds can kiss my ass. Well, if I try to wear a dress they do... Mm. Need to find a better way to say winter sucks. Moving on.
QUESTIONHow do you manuever the appearance competition? On-line shopping? The Express Semi-annual sale? Let me know on Twitter!!!

April 4, 2014

House of Cards: A Feminist Review

If you have not seen both seasons of House of Cards, you either don't have Netflix or don't mind being clueless to pop culture references. That is OK, but if you PLAN to watch HOC click on another article now! I am writing this well after the release of BOTH seasons so there will be spoilers. I realized that I could have written this post 6 weeks ago, but I wanted to go IN.

From http://houseofcardsquotes.tumblr.com
Doug Stamper is creepy! (Wait, I thought this was a feminist thing why are we talking men?) I don't think there is a single character that shouldn't be allowed near women ever, more than Frank Underwood's henchman. Stamper fixes things for Frank. He's a do-boy with autonomy. I dig it, but his relationship with Rachel? Not OK! Not even a little bit. In the beginning it seemed fairly harmless, stupid, but I can understand caving in to a pretty hooker who's not on solid ground. Then the relationship goes full tilt crazy (i.e. Captor and captive), and she kills him. Yep, and for that I say go Rachel! Go find your lesbian lover and move to Mexico.

Sidenote: I was disappointed by the lesbian relationship of it all. Predictable = boring. I also believe that these depictions bolster the notion that people choose to be gay, which isn't really a thing.

This is where I pause and give you what you want. Overall, the depiction of women on House of Cards made me sad. Save for about 2 instances (3 if you count Rachel killing Doug), the women seriously toe the line when it comes to their interactions with men. Then at the same time, they are really bitchy to each other. I hate to put it in such simplistic terms, but the whole "you're the new mousy girl trying to steal my shine" bit by Janine made me want to punch her in the face. Kudos to Zoe Barnes for being the bigger woman but I'm glad she's dead too. Let me explain...

From www.indiewire.com
Make up your mind. Either you are going to play with the big boys, (and get more than one damn cocktail dress). Or you're going to play the lost puppy exchanging sex for leads you were going to get anyway. After Frank Underwood gave her the first story, any thinking person would say "Hey, who is this guy and why did he give this to me?" instead of really thinking her push bra worked on senator who was up for Chief of Staff two months ago. Maybe it would have ruined the show if they had made her smart. Maybe not. We'll never know.

Speaking of playing with the big boys, you don't sign a deal with the Devil and then tell him to go to Hell. Jillian girl, go back and try again. I'll admit that Claire sending a married woman to her house was petty, but it gave me some much needed drama. (The show is a bit dry.)

I did appreciate Linda Vasquez standing up to Frank, even if she bowed out at the end. We didn't get enough of Linda though. (This is another place where the drama factor fell short.) On the feminist scale I would give her a solid 8 -family oriented, proud Latina, dutiful, I dig that.

From http://house-of-cards.wikia.com/wiki/Jackie_Sharp
Enter Jackie "Don't you call me Frank Underwood" Sharp. I am a fan of her character. She's a bit on the ruthless, uncompromising side, but that is kind of the theme of the show. Sharp is tapped by Frank Underwood to fill his role as the Majority Whip, but betrays her initial supporter to do it. As the season goes on, we see that she can be compassionate, but will not be bullied. Any woman that can tell you she's killed a lot of people, then make you finish giving her an orgasm is on another level. Her ranking on the feminist scale falls down to a 4. There is nothing cool about giving rapists a slap on the wrist, especially in the military.

The First Lady and Catherine Durant just dance with the ones who brought them. NEXT. 

Let's all stare at Adam Galloway.  :D 

From http://bendanielsfiles.tumblr.com/

This brings us to the Pièce de résistance: Claire Underwood. If you did not fall in love with Claire after her interview, I don't know who you are or what you are doing with your life. I will admit she annoyed me the entire first season. (I mean you can't fire half your staff and expect that not to bite you in the ass.) While Claire's allegiance is to Frank, she will not just stand in the background and serve him. Who kills a bill to get well building equipment out of Uganda? Claire does. She gets in bed with bad guys (mainly her husband), on her terms. Her vulnerable moments show her humanity, but her resolve is solid. She is a calculating, power player who's character stands strong beside her husband. I dig it. ;) 

From elle.com
Honorable Mentions: Christina Gallagher and Margaret Tilden (Owner of The Washington Herald).
Christina plays the supportive girlfriend to Senator Peter Russo, then a supportive member of the President's staff. There's not much else there other than a new cut and hair color for season 2.

Bottom Line: At the very least, the women are not relegated to boring sexual objects. Overall feminist rating though, 6. I am glad I watched it, don't need to watch Season 3. Now bring on Orange is the New Black!!!

Who's your favorite HOC Character? Tweet us @herdiamondback

March 29, 2014

8 Things I Learned from a Female Journalist Who's Almost 50

I've always had a thing for talking to strangers. Recognizing other people, looking at them and engaging in conversation is to say, "I value that you are here, right now, in this moment." It may not be much, but in a city like New York it can make a world of difference. Attending several media events a month puts me in a position of having explain myself: what do I do? who do I work for? and so on.

The golden moment for me, however, is when I can connect with a stranger and we both share. We both listen- no explanations. After an event in Harlem last week, I caught up with Ms. J* -one of the most vibrant people I've met to date. What started off as small talk about the event and Scandal, evolved into a 3 hour conversation about life. The 48-year-old journalist certainly dropped knowledge on my 20-something self, and I just had to pass it along.

8) Romance isn't practical: Love and partnership lasts, romance not so much. Ms. J is currently not dating and not interested. The whirlwind of love, romance, and the heartache that comes with it can take years of your life. She mentioned past relationships that she was in, loved hard, and spent 2-5 years getting over. When you are finding or have found your groove, a romantic relationship doesn't always seem like the best use of time, and that's OK. This doesn't mean that it's ever too early or too late to find love, just that you shouldn't feel like that's what you should be doing at any given time. This leads me to...

7) Just do you: Ms. J doesn't drink because she doesn't like it. She's never had a problem she just thinks alcohol tastes gross, and honestly, most of it does. Don't give in to what other people think you should be doing. Being true to yourself and your own interest will take you far. I must also add that the woman looks damn good, so I'll probably be cutting back.

6) Stay in touch: My favorite stories from Ms. J were the ones about her sister friends. She has a hand-full of friends that check on her when they hear news about Harlem buildings collapse, and that she invites to movie premiers. As a journalist working mostly in entertainment and film, there is no shortage of celeb meetings. In addition, being a single woman gives her the ability to see her family and friends no matter what state or country the live in. Having love in your life is about maintaining those connections. Just because you have kids doesn't mean they'll see when you when you're 80 if you took the relationship for granted.

5) Make more money: "Why would I want to be old and still worrying about money? It just don't make sense." Ms. J is a freelancer with her own business. The mantra we are often told is to spend less and save more, but really we should all strive to make more money. I am not advocating that you can make millions and be reckless, but saving the same $100 year after year, won't get you half as far as saving 3x more every year you're working. Get more money, get an accountant, and don't let the government screw you on taxes.

4) There is a difference between being alone and lonely: Ms. J explained to me that many people try to feel sorry for her "situation." Being an older woman, never married, and childless would seem like a death sentence to some people, but not if your life is full of love and especially not if you love your freedom. Being lonely is feeling that lack of love. It often happens in a crowded room.

3) Men will always want to sleep with you: This one is pretty self explanatory, but I added it because as she told me about the men she's been turning down it reminded me that I am in no danger of losing "it." Knowing that someone will always want the cookie whether you're 18 or 80 takes the pressure off.   There is nothing more satisfying than waking up in your bed refreshed and ready for brunch, than sitting on the train thinking about some sex you should have just said "no" to the night before.

2) Be aware/stay in the know: "I knew there would be a Black president in my lifetime, just like there will be a female president in my lifetime," Ms. J said in the conversation. That was the first time I had heard an older Black person say that, ever, which blew my mind. She could have convinced me right then that she was a psychic on the side, but she cooly explained that she keeps herself in the know. Black CEOs, multi-millionaires, tech entrepreneurs were all signals to the "Change" we needed in 2008. Staying up on trends and current events is critical to successfully positioning yourself on the global landscape. If life is a game of chess, it pays to know who is moving where.

1) Never compromise yourself: Speaking of presidents, our conversation about Scandal led to the most important point of all. One of the big reasons Ms. J is not into the show is because it is not realistic, and the real-life Olivia Pope never had an affair with then President George Bush, Sr. She reminded me that when you have real skills, and have worked as hard as we work, you won't sacrifice it for something as silly as a fling. She mentioned all of the offers from men and women she's had over the years, but politely turned them down because they weren't worth it. At the end of the day Ms. J is still writing, traveling, and working like a boss. Yeah, I believe I'll follow that example.

What are some things you've learned from talking to older professional women? Do you think the decision to be single and childless, helps or hurts professional women? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter!

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