Tag Archives: feminism

Working 5 to 9

Trust me when I tell you that you should buy the next issue of Bitch.  Actually, you ought to be subscribing to Bitch, but if you’re not, you should buy the next issue, because I have a piece in it.  It’s a Q&A with actress and writer Jamie Denbo, who is funny as hell onstage but over-the-top hilarious in an interview.

I loved doing the piece, not only because it gave me a chance to catch up with an old high school buddy, but because Denbo gives very good interview, and what she has to say is smart.  The Q&A covers comedy, sex, and – of course – being a chick in a man’s world.

What did not, however, make the final draft were a couple of interruptions.  First, my husband, exasperated at trying to get the kids to bed in the next room, decided to take Benjamin up to the attic to sleep.  (Don’t worry – it’s a very nice, finished attic.)

“Hang on a second,” I told Denbo.  “Honey, don’t take him up there.  That’s what he’s trying to get you to do.  He wants to go up there so he can stay up for two more hours and explore.”  I went back to the interview.  “Sorry.”

Denbo was laughing on the other end of the line.  “Please, don’t apologize.”

Fifteen minutes later, she told me to hang on a second.  “Hi, big girl,” she said to her toddler daughter, who launched into a description of a merry-go-round ride that her father had just taken her on.  Denbo’s husband (actor John Bowie Ross) started up Hairspray for the little girl, but there were several more interruptions to come – Denbo’s cell phone, my toddler daughter needing a kiss, Denbo’s infant son waking up.

After every interruption, we picked right back up in the conversation.  That’s just how we roll these days.


Several months later, I came downstairs at 5:30 AM to write.  I was working on an article for an alumni magazine about an entrepreneur who started a fair trade company.  (That interview was interrupted when Lilah got up early from her nap and then had a poopy diaper.)  Now I was trying to transcribe the interview so I could start writing the article.

I had been aiming for 5:00, but Zach has been having trouble falling asleep lately as he often does during a cognitive burst, and he had kept me up late the night before.  So, I only got in a half-hour of work before I had to shape a few cookies from the sun-butter, whole wheat dough I made the day before and put them on a cookie sheet.

While rolling the cookies, I noticed the sink was dirty.  Part of the nighttime cleaning is to wipe down the sink and counters.  Since I’ve been going to bed so early, I’ve left the evening cleaning to my husband, who both goes to bed and gets up later than I do.  He is less committed to wiping down the sink than I am, and – feeling myself getting annoyed – I forcefully reminded myself that I am less committed to things like filling out school and camp forms than he is.

I emailed my husband with the subject header “Please”: “put cookies in oven for 11 minutes at 375 degrees. bring up laundry from cellar.”  Then I stretched and left for a half-hour run.

When I came back, J had fed Lilah and changed her diaper.  I fumed because J had not washed the tray from the cookies.  He went to shower. Children were waking up all around us.  The cookies had cooled so I packed lunches.

I went up to shower.  When I came down, Benjamin had eaten, Lilah had yet another clean diaper, and the cookie tray was clean.  J left for work while I started pulling clothes over children’s heads.


My Facebook status update read: “I blame Betty Friedan for my lack of free time.  Also Gloria Steinem.”  My inbox was suddenly flooded by comments from women who – despite being committed feminists – knew exactly what I was talking about.

We decided to blame Dr. Sears, as well.

Where is the Belly Band playing?

I got an email yesterday from some woman who has been stalking me with offers to review products on my blog.  Apparently, she has not noticed the Blog With Integrity badge, because the shit she tries to get me to review is the kind of soul-destroying drek that no one with integrity would consider reviewing.

This latest email had the following subject heading: “Kourtney Kardashian Exposes her Secret to Ridding the Pounds Post Baby, in time for Mother’s Day.”  Yeah, so you see, we’re already going to have a problem with this.  Because I can’t quite figure out what “Post Baby” means.  It might be after one’s child is no longer a baby, perhaps when the child is potty trained.  Or it may be intended to indicate the post-partum period, in which case I object to the idea that the baby becomes an irksome thing to discard once one has given birth.  Of course, it could just be the time when the infant is screaming so relentlessly that his mother wishes she could stuff him in the post.

The implication is that a fantastic Mother’s Day gift is the ability to shed the baby weight.  Rather than celebrating motherhood, it seems, we are instead going to be hiding it as quickly as possible.

I’d like to say the email improved in the text.  Perhaps you would like to be the judge:

We’re working with Kourtney Kardashian as she shares her secret to ridding her post baby pounds in only four months by using the Belly Bandit. Please let me know if I can send samples for review.

While Kourtney Kardashian prepares for the ultimate gift this holiday season, her baby boy, she is also making big plans to get back to her rocking, pre-baby shape. How does she plan to do this? One way is by using what has been dubbed “genius”, “a miracle worker” and the “must-have accessory” for moms post birth.   Kourtney plans to use her very own Limited Edition Belly Bandit®, a belly wrap that has new moms, from celebrities to second-timers, returning to their original forms quicker than ever before.

The Belly Bandit® can be worn snuggly around the waist as soon as the day after delivery. Wearing it after a c-section may actually decrease the post-op recovery time by minimizing associated incision pain, which allows greater mobility post surgery. To reach maximum benefits, it should be worn for 6-8 weeks post delivery.  Whether you’re a celeb or a domestic goddess, the Limited Edition Belly Bandit® by Kourtney Kardashian will aid in getting you back to your pre-pregnancy hotness faster than ever.

So, OK, the first problem here is that I had my last baby nineteen months ago, so I’m not sure how the hell I am going to review this particular product.

Nor do I think that losing one’s pregnancy weight just four months after having a baby is a particularly good idea.  Nine months and a few cheesecakes up, ten months and a whole bunch of sit-ups down.

Now, I know I am not a celeb, but I’m also pretty damned sure I am not a “domestic goddess.”  Hold on, let me ask the dust bunnies under the couch.  Never mind, I can’t find them because they are obscured by books, dirty socks, and quite a number of old peas.

To be frank, I have no desire to return to my pre-pregnancy hotness.  Anyone who knew me before I had children will tell you I was smokin’, of course, but I am OK with the fact that my body shows I have borne and nursed a few babies.  I have a bit of a belly now.  That’s just the way it is.  I like that I look like a woman my age and not a teenager.

My husband may or may not agree with me.

I do try to be reasonably in shape, and I am willing to put my body through all sorts of physical challenges to accomplish that.  I am not, however, willing to suction cup my belly for eight weeks.  Six to eight weeks?  Seriously?  Someone who just had a baby, is getting up all hours of the night, and is bleeding out her vagina is supposed to want to Velcro her stomach for six to eight weeks?  What the fuck?

See, I always thought the only “must-have accessory” for moms post-birth is a baby.

The email brings up all sorts of questions about feminism and body image and commercialism and whatnot.  But the biggest question, by far, is the obvious.

Who the hell is Kourtney Kardashian?

Fitting in

The YMCA here in this little New Jersey town is nothing like the one we were members of in Los Angeles.  This one is bright and clean, with new exercise machines set up before a bank of television sets.  In L.A., the kids just took swimming at the Y, but here there are art classes and science classes and a parent-and-me t-ball class.

Unlike Los Angeles – with its fancy-schmantzy gyms and twelve gazillion different programs a child could enroll in – this Y is the only game in town.  Everyone works out at the Y because there’s no place else to work out.  All the kids learn to swim at the Y because there aren’t any other pools.  The rhythm of so many mothers’ days goes: drop off at elementary school, drop off at preschool, work out at Y, pick up at preschool, go to Y for child’s sports-and-swimming class, pick up at elementary school, go to Y for other child’s art class…

Like the one in L.A., this Y is the great equalizer.  Almost everyone of every age ends up there sooner or later over the course of a week.  There’s just less to equalize here than there was in Los Angeles.

The most fascinating contrast, however, is the locker room.  For one, there is no homeless man hanging out in the men’s locker room here, which I think is sort of a shame but my husband considers a drastic improvement.  For two, there are no naked people.

In L.A., everyone sort of milled around after showering, making conversation as they lotioned and deodorized and brushed and whathaveyou.  Fit twenty-somethings and overweight seventy-somethings and everyone in the middle just let it all hang out, no modesty whatsoever.

Here, however, the locker room is completely devoid of naked people.

Now, I know that sounds strange.  It’s a locker room.  Traditionally, one would change one’s clothing in a locker room, which – even for the most creative and flexible yoga instructor – eventually will require some form of nudity.  Yet, somehow, no one is ever naked.  People manage to change, shower, dry off, and dress themselves without ever actually showing any skin.

I can’t figure out how it is done.  Yes, there are little curtained off booths that some people go into.  But, you have to get to and from the shower to make it into those stalls, and presumably you’d be naked when emerging from the shower.

I’m the oaf struggling to hold a towel around my chest while clutching my soap dish.  Not that I would normally go to any lengths to cover up my nudity.  That’s what locker rooms are for.  However, despite my habitual inability to pick up on subtle social cues, it was clear to me pretty early on that no one was going to go strutting around with her belly rolls flapping in the wind in this particular locker room.  So, for the sake of blending in, I try to cover myself the best I can.

Not that I am blending in anytime soon.

I like to read while I exercise, and this week I brought the latest issue of one of my favorite periodicals: Ms. Magazine. Those of you who subscribe have already seen the cover and are probably aware where this is going.

You see, I have lived many places and done many things.  Rarely have I ever been accused of fitting in with the crowd, I must admit.  However, I don’t think I’ve ever felt as conspicuous as I did this week, walking from one weight machine to another in this small, conservative town, holding that magazine.

You want to stand out from the crowd?  Carry Ms. Magazine around in a Y where people are so reserved that people hide their nudity in a locker room.  With this cover on it:


Annoying feminist magazines whine about positive body images and mainstream media’s obsession with thinness. Glossy fashion magazines like their ladies rail-thin with a side of anorexia.  That’s because feminists are a tiny minority of butch, fat, hairy chicks who don’t shower and stick pins into the crotch area of little male dolls, while the majority of women are obsessed with lip gloss and are stupid enough to believe that a size zero is attainable with exercise and a healthy diet.


Maybe not.  In the September 2009 issue, Glamour ran an almost-nude photo of plus-sized model Lizzie Miller.  The most startling feature of the photo was a little flap of belly flab, sitting right out there for all the world to Twitter about.  The magazine got a mailbag full of rave reviews and decided to follow through on reader enthusiasm.  In the November issue, Glamour declared a “body image revolution.”

“These bodies are beautiful” declares the headline.  The accompanying photo of nude models reveals curves, bellies, hips, creases, and all that good stuff.

To which we all reply, “yeah, whatever.”  We have seen it before.  The same industry that gave us Kate Moss is suddenly declaring Emme the model of “real” beauty.  Readers get that glow of self-righteousness and the fashion magazines sell a few more copies.  Everyone wins, and then we all go back to business as usual.

This time, however, Glamour came through with a couple of concrete commitments, in addition to the usual declaration of intent to show “a wide range of body types.”  The magazine also pledged to start showing more “so-called imperfections” on its pages, perhaps signaling a decline in the fetish for blemish-free models.

Glamour also committed to giving “the best plus models not just work, but the same great work straight-size models get, partnering with top photographers, stylists and makeup artists. Because a generous helping of fantasy, in our view, is fabulous—as long as it’s extended to women of all sizes.”  And this is where things start to get interesting.  The magazine is not saying thin women are less real or heavy women are more real or women should have pasty skin and be thrilled as all hell with their limp hair and the huge dark circles under their eyes.  It is saying, “yep, we are all about the fantasy, and that’s OK.  But let’s start rewriting the fantasy.”

So, the final commitment – a call to designers to please, for the love of all that is decent and holy, send them some samples for photo shoots in, say, a size eight – rings true.  Glamour is not redesigning itself as a magazine dedicated to deconstructing the complete works of Djuna Barnes.  It is a fashion magazine and will remain one, with all the makeup tips and designer handbags that can fit into three-hundred pages.  But, just maybe, it can use its market share to let the rest of us in on the fashion.

Ultimately, it is a smart business move, because I’m betting there are a whole lot more women size-eight to -eighteen looking to buy magazines than there are size-two models who feel they need the kind of advice that Glamour dishes out.  I know I am subscribing, because I want to see how this one shakes out.

This is what a leader looks like




            Every time I tried to listen to Obama’s Cairo speech while nursing Lilah, she turned around to see who had just come into the room and begun expounding on the Middle East in her bedroom.  I could only watch it the last feeding of the day, when she is so absurdly tired that a mariachi band could be playing on the changing table without eliciting so much as an eye flutter.  It took a couple of days to get through the entire speech.

            So it was that Sunday evening, with the baby multitasking by both sleeping and nursing on my breast, I came to the forty-third minute, when my President stood up in front of the world and said, “I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons.”  For some reason, this was the moment it struck me for the first time: there is a feminist in the White House.

            Yes, I subscribe to Ms. Magazine, and yes, I stared for many a day at that sexy cover photo of Obama tearing open his shirt to reveal a t-shirt reading “This is what a feminist looks like.”  But, until that moment, feeding my only daughter as my sons settled down to sleep in the room next door, it hadn’t really sunk in that there is a real role model in the White House.

            Not a man who marries a strong woman but then treats interns as sexual playthings.  Not a man who calls himself a sports fan and then guns for Title IX. 

            A Feminist.

            A man who sees gender issues as part and parcel of his international policy.  A man who acknowledges there is work to be done right here in his own country.  A man who nominates Latinas to the Supreme Court and appoints ballsy former first ladies as Secretary of State and who created a White House council to address women’s issues and stands by my right to choose despite his strong personal opposition to abortion.

            All my kids were born during the second Bush administration.  But the first President they remember will be a man who is not afraid of the f-word.

            So go ahead, it’s your turn. I promise not to be offended if you disagree with me, but I really want to know.  What do you think of Obama’s feminism?