One of the worst people we know, conservative commentator Steven Crowder, is getting a divorce. Theoretically, this should be good news, not only for Crowder’s soon-to-be-ex wife, but all of womankind given that his behavior shines a bright, unmistakable light on why he should stay single the rest of his life.
As soon as he learned of his wife’s totally justified and legal escape, Crowder began rallying the chuds against no-fault divorce. Because why acknowledge that marriage is a partnership of mutual interests between two people when you can just be a man chaining a woman in a basement like the founders intended? Unfortunately for us, conservative reactionaries can’t help making their problems our problems.
Speaking on his show, the far-right podcaster recently lamented that his former wife “decided that she didn’t want to be married anymore and in the state of Texas, that is completely permitted” while complaining that she “simply wanted out and the law says that that’s how it works.” Crowder went on to specifically blast no-fault divorce, a seminal feminist victory which he complains “means that in many of these states if a woman cheats on you, she leaves, she takes half. So it’s not no-fault, it’s the fault of the man.” He ends with his policy proposal, demanding that “there need to be changes to marital laws … I’m talking about divorce laws, talking about alimony laws, talking about child support laws.”
Steven Crowder’s endorsement of no-fault divorce, of course, adds yet another anti-woman policy on top of the hideous GOP agenda. Not that they were hurting for ideas.
No-fault divorce has been a staple of the last half-century and a major feminist victory, allowing millions of beleaguered partners to escape ill-fated marriages without having to demonstrate specific harm or beg for permission from their spouse. It’s not a surprise that Crowder, who was caught on camera verbally abusing his pregnant wife while smoking a cigar, would cry and shout for a return to the “traditional value” of keeping women hostage in marriage no matter what harms are inflicted. It tracks perfectly that he’d whine prolifically about his wife being an autonomous human with her own desires. The problem is that perspectives on the wingnut welfare circuit have the disquieting tendency to find their way into Republican-run statehouses.
Already in last year’s midterms, J.D. Vance suggested an end to no-fault divorce on the campaign trail to his Senate seat. With ground-level activism from literally the worst humans also pushing that direction, it’s only a matter of time before we see bills being introduced. So let’s talk counter-strategy.
Like the rollback of Roe, any effort to unravel no-fault divorce is likely to ignite a feminist backlash. But the disquiet and disagreement will also spread further, with people who weren’t considering the law or only perceiving it in the abstract becoming animated as the policy shifts from theory to reality. Rather than wait for the Republicans to fuck around, we can hasten the “find out” by flipping an old talking point: “Government is coming for your relationships.”
Packaging these policies together as an assault on autonomy doesn’t just correctly characterize the costs of GOP governance, but connects constituencies that normally wouldn’t ally with each other. The more people who see Republican rule as a threat to their well-being, the easier it will be to push back against their efforts.
Yes, it means partnering with people who were oblivious or even hostile before Republicans began threatening them specifically. But it also activates people who thought all of this political noise had nothing to do with them. No-fault divorce means the right to end a marriage on our own terms, to create and sustain partnerships for our own sakes, and to know that when we pick a spouse, we’re choosing them—not being chained to them.
Being able to make that argument in terms that resonate far and wide is the ounce of political prevention that spares us a pound of cure. (Also the impact on the reality TV marriage market will be catastrophic. Can you imagine a season of “The Bachelor” or “Love Is Blind” without no-fault divorce?)
So even though it’s small right now, it’s worth paying attention to what the rabid right wing is setting its sights on next. Because we know after Dobbs — and everyone else does too—that when conservatives aim for a fundamental right, they’re not bluffing. By staying ready, neither are we.
As of this past weekend, it has been 112 years since a mixture of capitalist exploitation, malignant neglect, disregard for vulnerable members of society, and unfortunate chance led to one of the most terrible industrial accidents in U.S. history and the deaths of 146 people, mostly immigrant women and girls. The story of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire is not one of heroism or redemption or narrow escape, or even accountability — the two men who owned the factory leaped safely to another building during the conflagration, were acquitted of all charges, and opened another factory within months.
So why do we remember it?
The answer is, of course, that the tragedy provided the impetus for a spate of labor reforms that would protect workers for decades, form the backbone of the New Deal, and drive Frances Perkins to do the work that would make her the first woman appointed to the Cabinet—as Secretary of Labor.
And that would be enough for a Women’s History Month acknowledgment all by itself. Women suffered; women became activists, and women won some protections! Yay us. But in our modern moment of increasing government inaction, widening income inequality, and creeping capitalist hellscapes, I wonder if the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire could be an inspiration as a key juncture in the Progressive Movement.
Part of the reason that the mass immolation of poor immigrant girls and women got so much attention was because barely a year earlier many of them (or people like them) had been on the streets in a strike called the Uprising of the 20,000. From November 1909 through February 1910, thousands of garment workers walked off the factory floor in protest of low wages, extreme hours, and—you guessed it—unsafe working conditions.
Initially the men-only newspapers covered it as a novelty. As days and weeks passed without it weakening, it was given the import of a “serious” strike, especially as it spread to Philadelphia, where beleaguered factory owners hoped to source scabs.
But the biggest shift in the uprising and the source of the attention and advocacy that would follow the Triangle fire tragedy was the alliance of society suffragettes who supported their cause.
Powerful, wealthy, prominent and opinionated, several of New York’s suffrage-minded socialites supported the uprising, renting halls where strikers could meet and organize, using their political influence to secure march permits and massive rally space, and yes, even paying bail for girls who were attacked by strikebreakers, or got into altercations with scabs.
It’s hard to imagine it now, with the midcentury social mobility still in living memory, but these were radical acts of cross-cultural solidarity. In 1909, immigrant women were only conditionally white, many of them having limited English, few to no resources, and living conditions that would make you grateful for that indoor-outhouse studio apartment that made you gasp while scrolling on TikTok. To get the support of some of the most prominent women in society was extraordinary under these circumstances.
That’s not to say that the socialites’ support came without an agenda: they were looking for future suffragists in the crowds of overworked women, even if they tried to frame their support as incidental. The wealthy women correctly noted that protections for women workers, for women’s spaces, and for women’s lives would not be taken seriously without the ballot.
In the wake of the fire, it was this political solidarity that created a rapid response from society and state and local governments to do something to prevent another tragedy in “women’s work.” The commission that was formed made dozens of suggestions after extensive tours of manufacturing facilities, and the changes they wrangled out of the system are ones we still use: internal sprinkler systems, fire escapes, sanitation, and safe storage for volatile materials. In four years, the Factory Investigative Commission would draft and pass three dozen bills into law, addressing everything from safety to child labor.
The response to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the unique bonds that made it stand out in an era of labor malpractice can inspire us today to forge alliances across improbable gaps, to align our causes where we can, and to recognize the power of organizing in mutual interests.
And yeah, if you have it, don’t forget to toss some cash towards a cause. If we’re aligned enough, supported enough, and funded enough, maybe we won’t need a tragedy to change our world.
Remember the days when feminism was seen as a dirty word? When, in interviews with major publications and on dates, you’d have to avoid answering if you consider yourself one. Chuckling nervously and muttering that while obviously you support equality for all sexes and genders, you like shaving your legs and think bras are too expensive to burn? Thank god those days are over—I mean, can you imagine being seen at your local coffee shop, brunch, or Women’s March without the big F word emblazoned across your chest? So awkward, people might think you haven’t even read Lean In. But thankfully we now live in the year 2021, a time period in which both our Vice President and God are women! Being a feminist is totally easy and cool!
Except for one small thing.
This is super uncomfortable, but this is a safe space, right?
It’s like, really hard to be a feminist in New York City. Specifically in the summer. Specifically, around the end of May or early June, when it becomes time to put my AC unit in the window. (Similarly, it’s almost just as hard to be a feminist in mid-October, when the AC has to come out.) Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that men are automatically stronger than women, or anything like that. And I’m not even trying to say that women are not as capable as men of doing certain tasks! In fact, I wholeheartedly believe that women can do anything men can do.
There’s something about the action of putting my AC unit into my window. It’s clunky, I guess? Heavy, and rather unwieldy. And you’ve got to line it up against the frame just right, or else it could fall out and kill someone. I don’t want that on my conscience, do you? But see, straight men do this kind of thing all the time, no problem—make risky choices that could potentially have negative consequences on the people around them. And they’re totally fine doing it! I mean, aren’t most serial killers men? I’m just saying.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe I’m a strong, independent, powerful #badassbitch who can do anything she sets her mind to… except this. Not to lean into the stereotype that women are nurturers or anything… but like… I just don’t want any innocent passerby to be injured. And I mean, isn’t that in and of itself just another iteration of the patriarchy, that women are punished for being too nice? So really, it’s sexist if I don’t ask the guy I’ve gone on two dates with over to my apartment simply so he can do some chores for me and then leave. Plus, if I try by myself (or like, with the help of my roommate) and fail, and I can’t blame my problem on a man, then what? Take personal responsibility? Do some introspection? No thanks.
And I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is no. I can’t ask my dad for help because he lives too far away. My landlord won’t even fix our bathroom door that hasn’t locked since we moved in (Is that suspicious? Should I call someone?), let alone install an AC that I could theoretically do myself, were it not for my overwhelming concern for humanity. So what if I linger over by the weight racks at my local gyms for strong-looking men who are just lonely enough to perform light manual labor?
I mean, it’s hard enough to be a proud feminist and (please don’t tell anyone I told you this, it would ruin my brand) be attracted to men. I know, I know, they’re the worst! White men, amiright? If they could just stop white men-ing, the world would be such a better place. (Sometimes I masturbate to the very thought while browsing Pornhub.)
So maybe I don’t think men are completely useless. They put our AC units in, they take them out, they… well that’s about all I’ve got right now. I swear, the rest of the time, I’m totally like, full-on female power. Girlboss mug, the whole nine. I even have a membership to The Wing.
What Would Ruth Bader Ginsburg Do? It’s a question I’ve asked myself multiple times between her death on September 18 and the November election. Sometimes the answer’s easy: She’d give a hell no to ramming through a Supreme Court appointee, and she’d argue for voting rights, and she’d tell you that abortion restrictions threaten a woman’s autonomy—these positions we know, because she wrote them down for us. She pointed the way with her immortal words and fierce, unflinching convictions.
But now I’m asking myself: WWRBGD about an enormous portrait of her made from 20,000 hand-painted tampons, boldly dominating the lobby of a new hotel in Washington, DC? (God, if one more person asks me that today…) It’s not a hypothetical, because Hotel Zena DC, which opened its doors in October, features just that. When I heard about it, I wasn’t sure how to feel: Is this a witty and winky act of homage? A weird and squicky form of commodified feminism? A groundbreaking but objectively neutral example of large-scale tampon pointillism (tampointillism)??
To answer that, you need to understand more about the hotel—and where it sits in a hospitality ecosystem of feminism as a selling point. Hotel Zena bills itself as “celebrating women’s accomplishments through over 60 pieces of provocative and immersive art—changing the conversation in Washington DC and throughout,” per the press release I couldn’t stop rereading. The art “revolves around the courage of some of the world’s most notable individuals and their fight for inclusivity and change.” I was promised a tampon RBG. I was promised a 20-foot-long installation made from 12,000 protest buttons. I was promised a spot called Hedy’s Rooftop, named after the esteemed inventor and star of The Birds. You bet I got my ass in an Uber for a tour.
And my hackles were up. As a travel journalist, I’ve noticed the trend of pay-to-stay places leveraging rah-rah Girl Power to drum up business. Take the Grand Hotel in Oslo, Norway, with its so-called Ladies Floor—all the rooms on it are named after famous Norwegian women. Or we all know about the Wing (and Luminary and the Coven and the Riveter, et al): female-focused coworking spaces with beautiful lighting and feminist (?) decor choices, such as a highly Instagrammable conference room named after Christine Blasey Ford. (Full disclosure, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about this because my latest thriller, The Herd, is set in a fictional bougie all-female coworking space that looks hyper-feminist on the surface but suffers from, uh, the exact same inclusivity problems as the Wing.)
I could go on. Dukes Hotel in London offers Duchess rooms stocked with petite slippers, a fruit bowl, and a better-positioned hairdryer. In Hong Kong, Mira Moon introduced a ladies-only floor with hair straighteners, facial steamers, and an in-room tablet loaded with yoga and Pilates apps, and the Bella Sky Comwell in Copenhagen debuted women-only suites with international women’s magazines and a minibar stocked with smoothies, chocolate, and champagne. (The suites were later ruled “unlawful” after two men sued the property for discrimination, which is why we can’t have nice things.)
And, not to side with the litigious angry dudes, but I’m already not sure how I feel about “ladies-only floors.” On the one hand, the separation smacks of pinkwashing, like that idiotic Bics For Her pen: “OooOOoh, thank you, male-dominated industry, for providing tiny slippers and green juices appropriate for my inferior female body! #ladiesbeblowdrying!” Re: Hotel Zena, Arwa Mahdawi writes in The Guardian, “The whole thing feels like it was conjured up by Ivanka Trump in a fever dream,” which I’m not sure is true because the lobby is beautiful and Ivanka has no taste. But then… I like champagne, and I dislike too-big slippers. If you’re gonna name a suite after somebody, by all means, let’s go female. Hey, the vast majority of modern society was designed with dudes in mind—maybe it’s not a good use of righteous feminist anger to decry stuff created for women.
Was this brand-new hotel a true tribute to our gender or the guesthouse equivalent of a Women Who Rock issue, siloing women with their own little-league-y hurrah? Only one way to find out. I headed to Hotel Zena DC in late October, and the sprawling lobby lounge really does feel like an art gallery: white-walled and labyrinthine, with paintings, murals, and sculptures lurking in every nook and cranny. The press release promised more than 60 “large-scale and immersive” works of art focused on “female empowerment,” and I noticed all the wall art in the restaurant near the entrance was portraits of important women—some instantly recognizable, some I had to look up.
Next was the unmissable RBG portrait, with NOTORIOUS weaved into the side and large spikes instead of tampons where her collar would be. (According to the marketing head who showed me around, one male patron had remarked, “I didn’t know tampons came in so many colors!”, a sentiment I’ll be laughing about for weeks.) It’s impressive in person, hard to take in without stepping way back. I asked if the artist was female, and the answer was yes, more or less: Andrea Sheehan, the interior designer who plotted out the entire hotel, had the idea and designed the portrait herself, and Julie Coyle Art Associates (a female-owned studio that does employ men and women) produced it using tampons from CORA tampons, a company that’s donated millions of menstrual products stateside and abroad. (So they didn’t hire a capital-f Famous Female Tampon Artist to do the work, but women were still behind it.)
Sheehan explains, “I knew she needed to be honored in a way that spoke to the essence of what it is to be female. I had found a piece of art made of lipstick cartridges as pegs on a peg board, when it just hit me. Tampons. The thing women have been taught to be secretive about, embarrassed about—menstruation. The female curse. Justice Ginsburg and those like her have been fighting the female stigma forever. What could be a better tribute to her power and contribution?”
There was a massive painting of an apple—the forbidden fruit—by a California-based female artist; a mural of Diana the Huntress via a Baltimore-based, female-run studio; a ceramic sculpture that looks simultaneously like a cocoon and a woman’s hips; a huge round birth-control pill case painted on the wall in the bathroom, bewilderingly turned into the male symbol. There are breathtaking portraits of Shirley Chisholm and Gloria Steinem and Wai Wai Nu and Rosa Parks. There’s a Wall of Honor covered in 221 charcoal portraits of important women from history—Sojourner Truth and Malala Yousafzai sharing space with Barbara Bush and Cleopatra—carried out by a group of female artists in the San Francisco Bay. Outside, there’s a mural of two female, non-white “warrior guardians” by local artist Miss Chelove. It’s all very cool and Instagram-worthy.
But it is, yup, a corporate entity (Zena is owned by Viceroy Hotels and Resorts) making money off the likenesses of powerful women. Some of whom are very much alive, in fact. Countless pieces of art have portrayed Gloria Steinem and HRC and Malala, no doubt, but how many of those make up the marketing material for a boutique hotel? No way the creators consulted with Malala before commissioning her charcoal portrait (although I do enjoy the thought of her getting an email from Viceroy and being like, “….I’m sorry, what?” in her magnificently poised way). I’m not calling any of it wrong, but soaking it in, I couldn’t help but vacillate between awe and ick.
I noticed the marketing manager kept mentioning “female empowerment” when she seemed to mean “feminism” and asked if their branding includes not using the F-word.
“That’s right, because we want it to be inclusive, not divisive,” she replied, which made my eyes roll right out of my head. Like, we can pretend feminism is a ~cONtrOversiAl tERm~, or we can all agree that the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes is a pretty basic starting point. (And c’mon, the assholes screaming, “Keep America Great,” internal logic be damned, are not about to book a junior suite in this particular property.) To me, this kind of language-policing kowtows to the “I’m not a feminist, but…” crowd, demonizing what’s not at all a radical word. But then I asked the PR team to clarify, and they told me, “We do use the word feminist to describe the artists (both male and female) who contributed to the hotel and the feminist movement that is depicted in many of the art pieces.” So, IDK. I guess if you’re in DC and want to appeal to the 74 million Americans who just sided with the pussy-grabber-in-chief, you choose your words carefully.
Speaking of feminist artists: About 80 percent of the artwork is by women, and 70 percent of the art focuses on women of color. Eight of eleven leadership positions at the hotel are held by women, and the lobby restaurant and lounge, Figleaf, sources ingredients from female-owned distilleries and farmers, and serves cocktails with names like HBIC, Empowermint, and The Earhart. (The head chef, however, is male.) A portion of each room rate goes to N Street Village, a non-profit empowering homeless and low-income women in Washington, D.C., and Rush Limbaugh detested the RBG portrait, which leaves me inclined to love it.
Basically, I see why some are cringing at the concept, but I dig what Hotel Zena’s trying to do—they seem to be living their values, and they’ve created a cool community space (anyone can hang out in the lobby) celebrating women. The hotel’s marketing person mentioned that the female interior designer has been drawing up hotel plans for decades, and the spaces are so often masculine: dark wood and heavy drapes and smooth metal, the penis-y take on ~luxury~. As a travel writer specializing in high-end hotels, I can back this up—even art-focused hotels tend to be dark and dramatic, and traditional hotels will unthinkingly cover a wall in portraits of, say, famous composers throughout the centuries (#somanywhiteguys). It’s thrilling to walk through a building with activists and goddesses and dancing female druids studding the walls. And—internalized misogyny alert—it should not feel so weird to see so much art glorifying women.
But WWRBGD? On the tour, the marketing manager mentioned they’d hoped to have an unveiling with her, but she passed away just a couple weeks before their doors opened. They trusted that the judge, known for her wicked sense of humor, would have liked it—or at least found it funny. Let the record show: She got a kick out of the Notorious RBG branding as well as, “You can’t have the truth without Ruth” T-shirts. (Would you find it funny if someone made a portrait of you out of 20,000 tampons? I would.)
So we’ll never know. I pressed the PR team for details on RBG’s reception (literal and emotional), and they couldn’t give an update. “It is with the utmost respect that we created this intimate tribute to an amazing woman,” came the reply. “This portrait honors both Justice Ginsburg’s life-long dedication to women’s rights as well as her humor, and does so in the most personal and intimate form.”
When I hung out in Hotel Zena’s lounge, I watched some children—a boy and a girl—zoom around the lobby, taking in all the artwork. Pinkwashing is a scourge, yes, but if those kids start to think it’s normal for public spaces to glorify women, well. Who am I to get all worked up (especially when there are very real political battles ahead)? In the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself, “Don’t be distracted by emotions like anger, envy, resentment. These just zap energy and waste time.” Let’s drink our smoothies and take the win, and then refocus on the work begun by the awesome women immortalized in a hotel lobby.
Images: Mike Schwartz Photography
I’m not sure whether or not this story can be categorized as good news or bad news. The limited nature of binaries fails us once again.
An…interesting new development in the history of Roe v. Wade has come to light this week, as a new FX documentary AKA Jane Roe about the woman known as Jane Roe was released. “Jane Roe” was the then-unnamed plaintiff in the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion. Jane Roe was Norma McCorvey. McCorvey herself never actually got an abortion, but for years after, she was a part of the pro-choice movement. Then, in the ’90s, McCorvey suddenly flipped her stance and began speaking out against abortion. She claimed to be “born again” as an evangelical Christian, even despite her identity as a queer woman. A real bummer that we ultimately did hate to see.
Turns out that change of heart — like many elements of the anti-abortion rights movement — was all based on a lie.
In the film, McCorvey reveals that her shift to pro-life ideals in the 1990s was all a farce, and that she only claimed to be anti-abortion because she was paid. Yay?.
In AKA Jane Roe, a documentary about McCorvey’s complex life, she reveals why flipped and started doing live speeches for anti-abortion groups. “I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money, and they’d put me out in front of the cameras and tell me what to say. That’s what I’d say. It was all an act. I did it well too. I am a good actress.” A tit for tat, as they say.
In the documentary, McCorvey wants to set the record straight while she has the chance — she passed away in 2017, before the movie was released. She says, “If a young woman wants to have an abortion, that’s no skin off my ass. That’s why they call it choice,” she said in her colorful “deathbed confession.”
Aside from the fact that it’s not just “young” women who need to end pregnancies, I can only hope my last words include the phrase “no skin off my ass.”
McCorvey’s shift to the opposing side of the abortion movement was disappointing, but it wasn’t random. In one of the interviews in AKA Jane Roe, McCorvey explains the resentment she felt towards the left-wing feminists who often looked down on her. They felt she was too uneducated to give public speeches, and instead wanted to use her as a silent symbol for the movement, without ever really treating her as wholly human. Naturally, McCorvey was turned off by that.
McCorvey was, in fact, uneducated. She came from poverty, and had endured abuse throughout her life. She represented the kind of woman who is often left behind in America, especially when it comes to reproductive rights. And yet, the leftwing feminists who fought for her still didn’t treat her with respect. In a sense, they used her too, just as the evangelicals did. So, I guess McCorvey went to the people who were going to pay her.
There’s a lesson here, that I *hope* we can remember. On the left, we often claim to be for the working class, but too often, that’s just symbolic. And that is how we lose their support.
People don’t want to be part of a movement that looks down on them. Why would they? Food for thought!
Image: mark reinstein / Shutterstock.com
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Lana, sweetie. Lana Lana Lana. Lana Del Rey, the Lena Dunham of pop music (how did I never before notice how similar their names are?) has come prancing down the path chef Alison Roman cleared all of a week ago with an Instagram rant that begins by name-checking seven successful female musicians, six of them women of color, for getting away with what she can’t, and, shock of shocks, the world is up in arms.
I’ve never especially liked Lana. In 2014, I was at Coachella with friends complaining aloud about how her whole Williamsburg broody hipster thing felt so affected and manufactured, and my friend Paul argued back so fiercely (“She is in charge of her own narrative!”) that a stranger tapped me on the arm and asked if I was OK, mistaking my gay bestie for an abusive boyfriend. Lana’s performance that evening was so lackluster (she shuffled around the stage smoking a cigarette, ew), I felt I’d won the argument by default. And yet.
And yet I’m about to kind of, sort of defend her. Speaking of abusive boyfriends: She was announcing she’s allowed to write about hers without being called hysterical or glorifying abuse. Her actual message, which no one bothered with because she started out by shrieking the names of female artists we unequivocally stan, holds water. She writes, “Can I please go back to singing about being embodied, feeling beautiful by being in love even if the relationship is not perfect, or dancing for money—or whatever I want—without being crucified or saying that I’m glamorizing abuse??????” (Six-question-mark emphasis hers.) If we ignore her supremely misguided first few lines (for just a minute), she’s basically saying: “My experiences are mine, and I can write them however I want without you calling me a bad feminist.”
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Which resonates with me in a BIG ol’ way. Why? I’m a novelist, and my latest thriller, called THE HERD, has something to say about internalized misogyny and commodified feminism; it’s a whodunit set in an elite, progressive, “empowering” all-female coworking space, and because I am a feminist and I created it, sure, fine, it’s a feminist novel. The LA Times even said I’d been “widely hailed as a master of the ‘feminist thriller,’” which is honestly news to me, but cool. Thing is: Not everyone’s quick to agree. Enter the handwringing, pearl-clutching readers and reviewers insisting THE HERD is anything but feminist, since it features a cornucopia of Nasty Women behaving in unladylike ways (and even using the word “c*nt.” The nerve!).
The argument makes me so tired. The idea that female-created art needs to portray women in only a positive light—that we can’t have songs about women entangled in emotionally abusive relationships or books about women being mean to each other—is actually pretty f*cking sexist. I don’t want to read a novel or watch a movie or listen to a song about women smiling beatifically and holding hands and singing Kumbaya. (It exists, and it’s called “Run the World” and it’s a fantastic song, so we can all move on to creating different things. Congratulations, everybody, we did it.) Men are allowed to make art about awful men; why can’t women do the same, especially, as in Lana’s case, when they’re sharing their own damn experiences?
And speaking of women being mean to each other! Our society loves a “cat fight,” a “mean girl,” a girl-on-girl “feud” with a fetishization and fascination that is so gross! There’s a reason Mean Girls has an eponymous movie, musical, and in-development nightmarish-sounding themed restaurant (oh yes), while the male equivalent (F*ckboys: The Musical?) remains a pipe dream. We love to see women as jealous shrews and harpies tearing each other down.
Um hi, who do you think benefits from the messaging that women are awful to each other, we can’t lift each other up, and the only way to succeed is to stomp on women’s backs? Drumroll please…f*cking men. The patriarchy. Gross.
And yes, Lana played into that trap by naming these women—more so by pointing the finger at women of color. To state the obvious, basically everything is harder for non-white women than for white women. For Lana to insist that all these artists get free passes while she’s the marginalized one, whine whine, is tone-deaf and out-of-touch. It’s Alison Roman all over again, her voice rising in horror as she let us all know she’d sooner die than follow in the footsteps of Marie Kondo and Chrissy Teigen. That was really, really, really, really, dumb of her. Alison’s apology was also off-tone and dumb. Chrissy graciously accepted it, but of course all anyone wanted to talk about was the *jazz hands* FEUD.
White women: DON’T BE STUPID. F*cking think about the proper nouns you’re using during interviews or, Jesus Christ, in PUBLIC STATEMENTS YOU VOLUNTARILY RELEASE. Name-check white men (how many stupid things has stupid Guy Fieri put his name on?) or at the very least, fellow white women, my lord. Lana, that was just as dumb as the time you shuffled around the Coachella stage forlornly sucking on a cigarette.
But what wasn’t dumb was what she said after—she was, I believe, trying to criticize the industry and not the female pop stars she named. Do you honestly think she has a problem with Beyoncé shaking her perfect ass and singing, “He Monica Lewinski’d all on my gown”? I don’t. Read the rest of the statement. She writes, “I’m fed up with female writers and alt singers saying that I glamorize abuse when in reality I’m just a glamorous person singing about the realities of what we are all now seeing are very prevalent emotionally abusive relationships all over the world.”
I’m just a glamorous person is an objectively hilarious line, but also, she speaks the truth! She’s allowed to write about her imperfect experiences and show herself in whatever the hell light she wants. I’m allowed to write about women f*cking up and trying their best and being vulnerable and struggling and showing their ugly sides, showing what’s beneath the perfect facade. We are, in the words of my fiery friend Paul, “in charge of own narrative.”
She writes, “There has to be a place in feminism for women who look and act like me…the kind of women who get their own stories and voices taken away from them by stronger women or by men who hate women.” The women who look like me part… give me a break. Now edit out the part where you claim all these other (mostly non-white) women get the free passes you don’t, but otherwise, I’m on board. Let’s show those angry “writers and alt singers” (of all genders!) that we won’t take the bait and put our fellow ladies down. Drop your cigarette. Write your poetry. Record songs that show yourself as messy and struggling and vulnerable of a light as you want. I still won’t listen to them, but I very much respect your right to make ‘em.
Images: Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock.com; lanadelrey / Instagram
Living in quarantine during coronavirus has us doing things we never thought we would: justifying our cleanest pair of joggers as formalwear, going without showering for days on end, and, god help us, confronting the horror that is our front-facing camera for the sake of human interaction. It’s hard not to feel like we’re living in the Upside Down. Watching this season of Vanderpump Rules is no exception. After years of happily laughing at Scheana’s scheananigans (sorry, had to), something shifted this season. Once hilarious, the constant jabs at her now just feel cruel. I never thought this would happen, but Scheana needs a champion, and I volunteer as tribute.
The Show Wouldn’t Exist Without Her
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge our herstory. Had Scheana not had an ill-advised affair with Brandi Glanville’s ex-husband, we’d lack the crucial link that allowed Vanderpump Rules to spin off seamlessly from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Most people would be reluctant to openly own their role as mistress in an extramarital affair on national television. Scheana not only did this, but she took the heat (being called a “homewrecker” by Stassi seemingly every episode of season 1) and humiliation (never forget her gray tooth) with grace. She’s been carrying the show on her back ever since and has given us some of the most memorable storylines. Who can forget her quinceañera wedding featuring the iconic crop top wedding dress? Or her proclamation that Rob can hang a TV on the wall in under seven minutes? She’s also the only main cast member regularly interacting with the new sentient globs of hair gel cast members. She does all of this without complaint and laughs right along with us at her cringiest moments.
She’s Getting A Misogynistic Edit
Speaking of cringe, the editors have been portraying Scheana as f*ckboy man-hungry for several seasons since her divorce. And for a while it was pretty on point and funny, mostly because the editors were using Scheana’s own words to troll her. This season, new cast members like Max and Brett are piling on, and it’s no longer fun. It’s one thing to string together a masterful, symphonic compilation of the 97 times Scheana uttered the word “Rob” in season 6. But to allow two indistinguishable greaseballs who just arrived on the scene and have zero credibility to openly disrespect her on camera and call her “boy crazy” and “middle-aged” is a bridge too far. Off camera, Lisa has joined in and called her “desperate”, and an episode of Watch What Happens Live featured a “Desperate-O-Meter” to measure this alongside various clips of Scheana interacting with men. Meanwhile, Max goes from banging Scheana to Dayna to Vegas Baby Scheana in a matter of weeks and is now being inexplicably included in scenes with main cast members. It be ya own editors, which brings me to my next point.
She’s Being Portrayed As One-Dimensional
No one is denying that Scheana enjoys male attention and is clearly looking for a serious relationship, despite her claims otherwise. But that’s just one part of her and, unfortunately, it’s the only side of her the editors are allowing us to see. Throughout this season she’s brought up her egg freezing process and subsequent surgery, yet it’s constantly being minimized and reduced to a punchline. Her fellow castmates either barely acknowledge or ignore the subject when she brings it up. I can’t say I’m totally shocked, as self-involvement seems to be a prerequisite for getting cast on this show, but why aren’t the editors exploring this storyline a bit further? It’s incredibly relevant and relatable, as more and more women are delaying starting a family. And let’s not pretend we don’t have room for it in this trash heap of a season. If there’s airtime for LVP to hide her bra in Schwartz’s luggage, a funeral for a lizard who died by negligent homicide, and 12 episodes dedicated to Jax and Brittany’s Kentucky Fried Wedding, we could’ve delved into Scheana’s fertility journey a bit more. Then again, letting viewers see her as a complex woman balancing her dating life with her desire to one day have a family wouldn’t fit the narrative of Scheana as desperate psycho.
I love a good troll as much as the next Bravo fan, but Scheana’s treatment of late goes far beyond the fun shade we enjoy as viewers of Vanderpump Rules. It’s also tired at this point. She’s been the punching bag on this show for far too long, and it’s time we give her the respect she deserves. A couple of seasons ago I could have never imagined coming to Scheana’s defense, but hashtag it’s all happening.
Images: DFree / Shutterstock.com; Tenor (3)
It’s been almost five decades since the United Nations first celebrated International Women’s Day, but in the current political climate, it’s taken on new energy and a heightened sense of importance. Every year on March 8th, thought pieces are written, vague assurances are offered, and observance is given to issues that ought to command daily attention, not just a day of attention. At its core, International Women’s Day is an occasion to highlight issues important to women of all backgrounds, across the globe, and, to remind women that if we do no stand up and speak out for our own self-interest, the momentum of the movement for global gender equality will come to a screeching halt.
When Betches was founded almost 10 years ago, our brand was intentionally apolitical and capitalized satirically on being unapologetically unaware of our privilege; ironically, the second post we ever wrote was called “Not Keeping Up With The News.” We were half-kidding, but as 21-year-old college students, we didn’t fully understand how politics had already invisibly impacted our lives by giving us the privilege to not care. And of course, the ability to vote felt like an obvious guarantee we were entitled to as Americans and we did not know – nor were we taught – otherwise. It is this sense of unnoticed, or more often, reenforced, naiveté that has plagued communities of women around the globe and slowed the progress of achieving true gender equality.
Ignorance is not always bliss
Five years after launching Betches, during the contentious and (at the time) comical 2016 election cycle, politics, for us and many other women, started to feel much more personally relevant than it had previously and in ways that could no longer be swept under the rug.
Since then, we’ve watched events unfold such as #MeToo, limits to abortion access, voter suppression, and the crisis at the border; all of which threw into clear focus what the results of an election can really mean for the individual, and who it can adversely affect.
We started The Betches Sup newsletter for our audience members who, like so many of us, need a funnier and more candid take on what has felt like a relentlessly bad news cycle. As The Sup has expanded, we’ve actively sought to understand and become conscious of the advantages we have that enabled three young women to start a business in the first place. Inside of this reflection, it has become extremely clear that politics and policies impact all of us, and it’s neither cute nor acceptable to use ignorance as a shield, most especially when the stakes are so high. It’s also become just as clear that we need to work for all women to have the same opportunities as we do, and shed light on the disparity of access to basic rights among the communities of which women are a part.
Voter suppression is not a thing of the past
We chose to mark International Women’s Day 2020 – a day in service of women’s rights and empowerment – by launching a campaign focused on voter activation and registration. It has become abundantly clear that voting, while enshrined as a right, remains a privilege for too many. As people who have not faced systemic or structural barriers to our right to vote, but whose quality of life increasingly relies on election outcomes, this right has become personal to us and one we want our company to stand for.
Of course, we can’t mark this occasion without acknowledging that for women of color, the right to vote has always felt personal, and the fight for equality at the ballot box has never stopped. From the onset of the gender equality movement, white women were openly hostile towards incorporating racial equality into the narrative — a practice we now know as intersectionality — even when black suffragists raised the irony of excluding the most vulnerable in society from decisions that could offer them any degree of real protection.
As leading abolitionist and suffragist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper said in her remarks to the 1873 American Woman Suffrage Association, “much as white women need the ballot, colored women need it more.” For decades, intimidation, racist literacy tests, poll taxes and violence of Jim Crow kept many black men and women from accessing their right to vote.
After the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, states across the country imposed restrictions and requirements that disproportionately impact minority voters. Just last week, voters in Texas waited seven hours in line after the state slashed its number of polling stations, eliminating many that primarily served communities of color. These egregious attempts to stop people from voting make it an especially important issue to fight for this year. Thus, the #Keepit100 campaign was born.
In 2020, Betches Media is proud to honor International Women’s Day by working with UN Women to launch our Keep It 100 campaign. Keep It 100 refers to the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage and the passing of the 19th Amendment, which gave (some) women the right to vote. The campaign is a multi-faceted voting initiative aimed at registering, educating, and activating our audience throughout the election cycle.
For the IWD launch, we are partnering with a like-minded feminist brand Lingua Franca on a sweater collection, with $100 of each purchase going to UN Women’s efforts to pursue equality for women globally. On both a business and a personal level, this marks a significant milestone and embodies an evolution for us as a company.
This first phase of the Keep it 100 campaign features videos and pledges from influencers, celebrities, and Betches fans alike who are committed to showing the importance of exercising their right to vote. We are asking members of our audience to share what inspires them to vote and why voting personally matters to them – why they are “keeping it 100”. The Keep it 100 responses are shared to Betches’ 7M Instagram followers with the goal of driving home the true importance of voting in your best interest and the interests of those around you.
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Would you let your Netflix play obscure foreign documentaries without subtitles when all you want to do is finish “Love Is Blind”? No, of course not, because you don’t let other people make decisions for you. That wouldn’t be rational. And despite centuries of sexist stereotyping, women are pretty f*cking rational. It's been 100 years since the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave * some * women the right to vote. If nothing is stopping you from getting to the polls, you have no excuse not to vote this year. Join us, @betches, and the amazing women above and take the pledge to #keepit100 in 2020 and tell us why you’re voting. Throughout the year, we’ll share 100 submissions to honor 100 years of voting and all the work that’s left to be done. Check our Stories to see how.
In addition to social sharing, we are launching a voter portal in partnership with Headcount, where our audience can register online or via text, check their registration status, and pledge to get their friends to vote.
No woman left behind
Activating our community to combat voter suppression efforts across the country is central for us. We encourage everyone, from all corners of the country, to register to vote and show how they are #keepingit100 in 2020. The stakes are high and the action must be great.
Throughout 2020, we will have a limited edition Keep It 100 collection by Shop Betches, with 20% of the purchase price of each sale (excluding taxes or shipping) of Keep It 100 collection merch donated to the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.
Just like they say every election, this is the most important election of our lifetimes. If you’re not already taking it personally, now’s the time.