Open Letter to Hillary Haters: Misogyny, Madam Secretary, and the Marquise de Merteuil

This is a guest post for Reel Girl by Melissa Duge Spiers

To all women who loathe Trump but don’t like Hillary:

In the past week or so we have heard and seen an avalanche of (even more) unspeakable things come out of Donald Trump. Most of us are justly outraged by his attitude and actions toward women: Trump has proven he views us purely as sexual objects, reduced to—and rated ruthlessly on—how we look and our sexuality. Every day hundreds of women give myriad reasons they will not vote for him, and this is one of them.



Many of these same women also give reasons for disliking Hillary, however: she’s nauseatingly smug, she’s cold, she dresses like crap, she must be secretly lesbian. I have heard everything from “I hate those dorky headbands she used to wear” to “why can’t she stop making that awful grin-grimace?” And the number one reason I hear, time and again: I can’t vote for Hillary because she stood by her cheating husband.

At best the above statements would be right at home when judging a beauty pageant; they are all based on rating her appearance or sexuality. At worst, they’re the feminine equivalent of the oldest, most patronizing and paralyzing harassment we’ve each been exposed to forever: why don’t you give me a smile? Why don’t you dress like a girl? You think you can make [X] sexual choice? You asked for it! You’re a cold bitch, you’re a lesbian!

My fellow women: we have a chance to elect a female to the biggest power position in the world, and yet we are picking at her clothing, her smile, her sexual choices. We are basing our votes and the future of our country on our reaction to how she maintains her looks, her facial expressions, and her marriage.

Why do we do it? The simplistic answer is that sexual competition and judging – tearing down or eliminating other women – was traditionally our only source of power in most societies. Two-hundred and fifty years ago Laclos’ “Dangerous Liaisons” villainess, the Marquise de Merteuil, perfectly captured this primal female urge in her personal motto: “win or die.” For the few who have not read the book (or seen one of the film adaptations), the story can be summed up simply: women viciously destroy each other and the man wins. “When one woman strikes at the heart of another she seldom misses,” the Marquise flatly informs the Vicomte de Valmont, “and the wound is invariably fatal.” Indeed, all of the women lose big in Laclos’ tale, in particularly sexually-damning ways—Cecile, defiled, returns in shame to a convent; the Marquise is disfigured and humiliated into never showing her face or using her body again; and Madame de Tourvel is so shame-stricken and humiliated she simply dies (the ultimate sexual give-up) — while the man walks away, smirking, with all of the power in the palm of his hand.

Earlier in the 2016 election season, already disgusted with the playground taunts passing for politics, I tweeted a personal vow (which now seems hopelessly dated and innocent, given how things have circled the drain since): I will not talk about how women look for the rest of the season. I will not join in comparing Heidi Cruz to Melania Trump, I will not weigh in on Megyn Kelly, I will not critique the Trump surrogates’ clothing and makeup choices, I will not discuss Hillary’s wardrobe or everyone’s possible plastic surgery or the attire or looks of any of the reporters who are covering them. (Just to be fair, I am also not going to discuss Donald Trump’s hair, skin color, or hand size either, although I did relish that whole ridiculous defend-my-manhood exchange with Marco Rubio.) I confess: I fell off the wagon once and gleefully tweeted about Melania’s choice of the Pussy Bow blouse after her husband’s big sexual assault bomb dropped—but I have otherwise found the self-enforced ban to be very illuminating. I constantly have to censor myself: we are so conditioned to comment on and tear down other women it leaves one often speechless in finding another topic.

Once Trump paraded Bill Clinton’s accusers through the second debate and we were all newly reminded of Hillary’s marital issues I added an even more important personal ban to my list: I will not weigh in on another woman’s sexuality. Period. Does Hillary love Bill, or is it a marriage of convenience? Did she stay with him because she forgave him, because she secretly likes women better, or because she saw him as a stepping stone for her ambition? I personally hope Hillary has a rotating stable of pool boys at the local Country Club, but I will never say another word about it. I will not pass judgement on any woman’s marriage, I will not speculate on who or what gender she sleeps with, I will not entertain reports of her fidelity or lack thereof. Unless she (not her husband, her aide’s husband, her ex-husband, or any other man in her life) has broken a law with her own sexual behavior I will not form or voice an opinion. Women are not the keepers of morality, we cannot hold them responsible for any man’s sexual actions, attitudes, or behaviors. Furthermore, we cannot assume to know what goes on in their relationships. Most of us would never judge another woman for electing to divorce a cheater; why do we all feel we can condemn one for electing not to? How dare we judge any woman on who or how they choose to love, to divorce, to stay, to marry.

Which brings me back to “Dangerous Liaisons.” I do not think all women should automatically vote for Hillary because she’s a woman; that’s reductive and ridiculous. But every one of us needs to carefully examine our reasons if we choose not to vote for her: is our decision intellectually defensible, or are we allowing our Neanderthal brain, our vestigial sexual competitiveness to drag us into knee-jerk bitchiness? Do we disapprove of her policies or doubt her experience…or do we just dislike her marital situation, her sartorial choices, her personal presentation? And can we live with ourselves and our country if we let this particular man walk away, smirking, with all of the power in his tiny, little…ahem, with all of the power in his hands?

Melissa Duge Spiers is a freelance writer based in Watsonville, California, and a frequent contributor to Reel Girl. You can follow her on Instagram @mdugespiers or Twitter @MDugeSpiers.



Female athletes gone missing: Sports Illustrated’s objectification of plus size women isn’t progress

The internet is abuzz with joy and celebration because the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue features plus size model, Ashley Graham, on its cover.


Isn’t this great, girls? Even if you aren’t skinny, you can pout doggy style in the surf! Yes, apparently, it’s true that even if you’re not a size zero, men will still want to fuck you. No worries, sweeties, you still have value in the world.

Maybe we can get a woman over 50 to pose in a bikini. Helen Mirren? Never mind that she’s a great actress, it’s her body we want to show off. What about a plus size woman of color? Now that would be a real leap towards equality.

In 2013, researchers from the University of Louisville found that out of 716 SI covers, all of them from the years 2000- 2011, only 35 featured a female athlete. Of those, only 11 featured a female athlete of color.

Despite females’ increased participation in sport since the enactment of Title IX and calls for greater media coverage of female athletes, women appeared on just 4.9 percent of covers. The percentage of covers did not change significantly over the span and were comparable to levels reported for the 1980s by other researchers. Indeed, women were depicted on a higher percentage of covers from 1954–1965 than from 2000–2011.

Do you see we’re going backwards here? Putting a plus size woman on the cover of the SI swimsuit issue isn’t any kind of progress.

When Serena Williams made the cover of SI in 2015 as sportsperson of the year, she was pictured in stilettos and a black body suit, one bare leg slung over a chair.


Some defended Serena’s cover claiming it’s important to show that a woman can be powerful and sexy. But for men, it is their skill that makes them attractive. For women athletes, if they happen to be “attractive” it is in spite of their talent, not because of it. Men’s bodies are valued for what they can do while women’s bodies are valued for how they appear.

If you’re going to tell me this sexism is just innate, tritely quoting: “Women use sex to get power, men use power to get sex,” listen to me carefully: People who are not in power learn to survive and be successful by pleasing those who are in power. That need is the only thing innate about reducing talented, skilled, brilliant women to body parts. Men, as a group, not individually, are able to stay running the world as long as women, as a group, stay weak.

Here is what I blogged in 2014:

Memo to the world: objectifying fat women is objectifying women

Just saw this from Buzzfeed on Miss Representation’s Facebook page:

Plus-size swimwear company Swimsuits for All set out to prove that “sexy curves go beyond a size four” by shooting its own swimwear calendar, including a picture reenacting this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.


Are you kidding me? Do you think I’d be any happier if my 3 daughters saw that picture in the Safeway checkout line instead of this one?


All right, maybe I’d be a smidgen happier that my kids wouldn’t have to see more starving women defined as beautiful, but my goals and expectations are so much higher than what this image from Swimsuits for All represents. I want to see images of women where they are not defined by their sexuality, by whether whomever is looking at them finds them sexy or not, where what they look like in bathing suits is not the be-all end-all, where who thinks they are attractive only matters in a very particular context, like when they are with someone who they love or want to have sex with.

Swimsuits for All is in the business of selling swimsuits. The company has got to sell its product, so posing women in the merchandise that it’s marketing makes sense. I’m not indicting the company, but pretending as if seeing this image all over the internet is liberating is ridiculous. Also, it might be nice to see the women swimming in their suits. What about playing volleyball on the beach? Building awesome sandcastles? Doing something? There could be a shot of a woman or two sunbathing, as long as the “aren’t I sexy” poses were not the dominant, ubiquitous ones.

I’ve written this for a long time, but “fat” women beauty contests don’t represent progress. Women no longer paraded as meat is progress.


Still confused or want to see more images to make this point? Please take a look at Reel Girl’s recent post: Why do men in America feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons. You’ll see this famous painting by Manet (look she’s got fat rolls and she’s naked, isn’t that cool?) along with contemporary images of dressed men paired with naked women.


Of Fish Faces and Filters: Middle Age and Selfie-Esteem

This is a guest post for Reel Girl by Melissa Duge Spiers


“Cosmetic surgeons say patients who once requested celeb features now come armed with their own ultra-filtered selfies. About 1 million self-portraits are taken daily, and more than a third of these are retouched…” —Women’s Health Magazine


There is so much that is disturbing in the preceding statement it would take volumes to unpack, so when I initially read it I focused on the part I’d never heard before: ultra-filtered, retouched selfies? Like most, I had abstractly pondered bits and pieces of the selfie phenomenon (why do so many women take them in the driver’s seat of their car?) but I had only occasionally wondered about the photos themselves: the round-faced FB acquaintance whose rotating stock of profile photos shows random cheekbone prominence, the celebrity we all know to be zaftig suddenly appearing waifish. I saw them, but I didn’t really THINK about them, sort of like we all know our parents had sex because, well, here we are, but we really don’t give it any credence: it must have been a lucky shot somehow…surely not intentional.

I had frankly just ignored the whole selfie phenomenon, hoping it was a passing fad like jeans belted below the butt. It has, of course, become abundantly clear that both unsightly crimes of overexposure – both so self-consciously “casual” yet so obviously calculated – are here to stay. And while the low-pants problem seems to hobble only those who sport the style, the retouched selfie has a deep and reverberating effect on all women.

With the help of new apps and filters today’s self-portraitists make no attempt at truth: they have become impressionists, not photo-realists. Standard filters in every social media platform let you create perfect skin, erase wrinkles and blemishes, adjust your coloring and add or subtract makeup effects. Dozens of other free, downloadable apps and filters can make you appear taller, skinnier, curvier, blonder, or tanner, not to mention redesigning your nose and jaw, making your eyes bigger, and perfecting your skin. With Perfect365 you can adjust the structure of your face, create a new jawline, and make your eyes bigger. ModiFace also lets you change your nose, the size of your lips and the angles and curves of your jaw. Spring and Facetune give you tools not only to change your face but your whole body: create or diminish curves and height with a simple pinch of your fingers. Want to be taller and thinner, with a narrower waist, bigger boobs, and curvy hips, but skinny thighs? Just squeeze, slide, and save. Modern selfies are reproducing their subjects about as accurately as Picasso reproduced Dora Maar.

Of course, for years before Instagram, Photoshopping celeb photos was the dirty secret of magazine wizards, slimming down and prettying up their cover subjects and advertisement models. There used to be regular protests and outcry against such gross distortion and misrepresentation; suddenly there are no more critiques. Celebrities regularly tweak nearly all their candids and selfies (whole websites and blog posts are devoted to pointing out the doctoring of famous faces and posteriors), and where the social-media aristocracy has gone the rest of us have followed.

Talk to any teenage girl and she will confess to at least “trying” the face- and body-altering apps. Already struggling to grow up in the overly sexual, image-saturated 21st century with anything remotely resembling a positive body image (or, more important, a positive self-image based on something other than her body), girls now feel compelled to make Bratz dolls out of their photos. And while it’s so easy to blame “society” for this mess – those dolls, those magazines, those tv stars and models – a quick flip through Facebook or OurTime reveals that we can’t just finger media sources and stars. Beyonce and Kim Kardashian are not the only ones presenting unreal images to the world; we need to look closer to home. Instagram and Facebook (with an overwhelmingly middle-aged, female base) overflow with profile photos in the ubiquitous fish-lip kissy pose (instant cheekbones! Wrinkles smoothed! Puffy lips!) and now with over-processing from filters and apps our middle-aged-mom photo collections are becoming a veritable Madame Tussauds guessing game: is it plastic surgery or filters or Facetune?

Yahoo Labs’ reported, after studying nearly 8 million selfies, that “doctored shots were more likely to be viewed and draw likes” than natural ones. Instead of using our wisdom and experience to denounce this sham contest of popularity-based-on-pretend, women of a certain age are lining up like baby birds, mouths agape (with lips artfully puffed by app or derm), and competing for attention. In our younger, pre-selfie world we shored up fragile egos by fishing for compliments in the locker room, moaning “I’m so fat!” and counting on a chorus of “you are NOT. I’M fat!” and “You are SO not fat. I wish I had YOUR legs!” to make us feel better. Now when we feel a little insecure we post a soft-focus, subtly slimmed, kiss-puckered selfie with an aren’t-I-just-playful title like “My goofy date night face!” Or we post a blown-out b&w photo so artistically grainy you can’t tell if our eyes are open or closed and we demur modestly by using Trump-speak third person “Just me – just Suzie…no makeup – no filter…” Then we sit back and wait for the pile of predictable, soothing views, likes, and comments to roll in: “wow! Beautiful!” “You are so gorgeous, girl!” “Beautiful inside and out!”   Et voila – instant Selfie-worth! Selfie-esteem! Selfie-confidence!

The truth hurts, they say, and right now it’s staring middle-aged mothers in our over-filtered faces. We’re probably not fooling anyone with our fish kisses and filters, skinnied “Spring” selfies and sexy soft focus, but we are damaging our daughters without a doubt. We’re buying into a falsified reality – creating it ourselves, and using it to bolster our self-esteem…and we’re modeling it for our daughters in a very public forum. The real problem, obviously, is not the filters or fillers, the soft focus or Facetune. The problem is that we’re still getting our self-worth from our looks – and now they aren’t even our looks any more.

Read Melissa Duge Spiers previous posts for Reel Girl:

Thoughts that come with Dove’s footsteps by Melissa Duge Spiers, guest post

Say it isn’t so, Siri by Melissa Spiers, guest post

No Comment! A Commentary on the ChapStick Story, guest post by Melissa Spiers

Chapstick sticks it to women by Melissa Spiers, guest post


Melissa Duge Spiers is a freelance writer based in Watsonville, California. You can follow her on Instagram (@mdugespiers) or Twitter (@MDugeSpiers) – she promises never to post a doctored selfie.

11 yr old girl frustrated by sexist ‘Star Wars’ Halloween costumes

I got this comment on Reel Girl today, ARGH!

Thank you for your brilliant comment, Maya. So sorry you have to grow up in a culture that is so horrifyingly sexist, but your imagination will continue to protect you. Your costume sounds great! Please send me a pic of you on Halloween.  And you can call me Margot : )

Dear Mrs. Magowan:

My name is Maya, and I am an eleven-year-old girl. I am a big fan of Star Wars, and having read your blog for a long time, I am fully aware of the sexism in the movies. I could go on for hours about Princess Leia, Padme Amidala, the sparse females, and their sexual objectification (such as in Leia’s metal bikini), and I thank you for bringing attention to that issue.


Yesterday, my mom and I were browsing the website of Five Below and saw a very cool Star Wars T-shirt with pictures of many of the iconic characters, such as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and R2-D2. I was psyched looking at the shirt, until I realized something. “Where’s Princess Leia?” She was one of the main characters of the series, in addition to being the ONLY female. She needed representation. So on a shirt dominated by males, where the heck was she? I had the same problem when we were looking for Star Wars shirts at Wal-Mart. One of them had Star Wars characters in 8-bit pixelization. It was a really cool and fun shirt, but it had the same problem: although it depicted Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Stormtroopers, and even R2-D2, Leia – the only female character (and a totally kickbutt one at that, a perfect role model for girls AND boys) – was nowhere to be found.

Females need representation, in both girls’ AND boys’ merchandise, to show BOTH genders that in the world of fantasy, both males and females can do amazing things. So even if it IS a “boys’ shirt,” that’s no excuse for Princess Leia not to be there. I’m so glad Target realizes this, by showing Star Wars fans of both genders playing together. That advertisement sends the perfect message, and I’m grateful to Target for doing so. I would also like to thank you, Mrs. Magowan, for blogging about it and spreading the word to even more people.

I also have one more thing to share with you. Since I love Star Wars so much, I am probably going to dress in a Star Wars-themed costume for Halloween. The problem is, girls don’t have many options for Star Wars Halloween costumes. Boys have tons of Jedi, Sith, aliens, rebels, troopers, and even droids to choose from. Girls have Leia, Padme, Hera and Sabine from “Rebels,” and Ahsoka from “The Clone Wars.” That’s it. And although Padme practically has a new costume in every scene change and Leia’s wardrobe is nothing to sneeze at either, that is still very few options compared to the boys. Don’t fault the girls for that; fault the makers of Star Wars, for giving them so few choices in a franchise girls can love just as much as boys.

Even worse, my mother and I were browsing Star Wars costumes on the Internet, and almost every female costume for adults that we saw was SEXY. For every Darth Vader costume for males, there was a Sexy Sabine or Sexy Leia costume in revealing dresses that they were NEVER portrayed as wearing in the movies…or, even worse, a Sexy Darth Vader, complete with skintight “armor” and a miniskirt. Boys could have actual costumes that were actually relevant, true to the movies, heroic-looking, and covered them up well. If they were real heroes, they would be able to move, fight, and win in the outfits. Girls’ costumes needed to be sexy, skintight, and disturbingly explicit. There would be no way they would be able to move around or fight in those costumes, let alone do anything but LOOK pretty. The boys looked like heroes. The girls looked like objects for the boys to win. (On another note, wouldn’t people who wore those costumes be cold on Halloween? I mean, it’s an autumn night at the end of October. It’s going to be cold. People need to be covered up and warm, and sexy costumes are disturbingly impractical.) I decided to dress as a Jedi for Halloween. Since so many people were going to dress as human Jedi, I decided to do something different and go as an alien Jedi – a Twi’lek, which is the alien race of Hera from “Rebels”. We were browsing pictures of Twi’leks online, and all of the shown pictures looked disturbingly sexy and explicit – anorexic, supermodel-looking extraterrestrials with impossibly large breasts and barely anything to hide their privates. We had to look and look to find a picture of a Twi’lek that was actually well-covered-up, in cool Jedi robes, that actually looked appropriate. That is what I’m going as for Halloween. Interestingly, all the male Twi’leks were muscular, heroic, and not explicit at all. Hmm…I wonder why?

In conclusion, I would like to thank you for starting up this blog and making the sexism that plagues our society known to the world, especially in the fantasy inhabited by kids. When we are children, our minds are most vulnerable and open to new ideas, and when marketers shape those minds with sexism, that is a terrible thing. Thank you for helping make those ideas known to society and doing your part to eradicate sexism, empower women, and ultimately, lead to true gender equality.

Maya Blumenthal

Reel Girl’s blogs on sexism and ‘Star Wars’

Florida mom, I’d rather see my 4 yr old in orange jumpsuit than dressed as slave Leia

Slut-shaming Princess Leia or protecting childhood from adult sexuality?

Responding to #WeWantLeia campaign, Disney will stock stores with Leia toys

From the Disney store to Stride Rite to Whole Foods: the degradation and annihilation of Princess Leia in kidworld

Trade in your tiara for a light saber this Halloween

If you won’t buy your kids racist presents, don’t buy them sexist ones

In revolutionary new ad, Target shows girls and boys playing “Star Wars” together

Star Wars, where are the women?

Gender stereotyping leads to bullying

If a stormtrooper had no epic, would he exist?

My daughter teased for ‘boy’ shoes on soccer field



In revolutionary new ad, Target shows girls and boys playing “Star Wars” together

Just weeks after getting rid of gender-segregated toy aisles, Target put out an inspiring new ad showing girl and boy “Star Wars” fans playing together. Check it out.

YAY Target! THANK YOU. I did all of my back to school shopping at your store and will continue to shop the hell out of your chain whenever I need supplies for my children. I’ve got to admit, part of me can’t believe this blog post has to be written at all, that I feel the need to congratulate Target and express my gratitude, that my headline isn’t satire that belongs on The Onion. But sadly, as the mom of 3 daughters, I speak from endless personal experience of the rampant sexism in kidworld where gender equality is hardly allowed to exist even in our imaginations. Here’s a video where my youngest child, like many kids in America, was teased at preschool for wearing “boy shoes” in her case, “Star Wars” sneakers.

It’s kids like her who Target is helping now, because in spite of my daughter’s promise to keep wearing those shoes, and in spite of having a feminist mom, she was “choosing” “gender appropriate” footwear by kindergarten.

In May, I went on Fox News to support Amazon’s similar decision to drop gender categories from its toys. After I was intro-ed by an annoying gender police siren, I was told, as I’m so often told, that children just “pick “the toys they want. I’ve been repeatedly “informed” that girls are just born obsessed with how they look while boys who are denied toy weapons will bite their toast into the shapes of guns. That’s just how we are. As I told Fox News, in nicer words, we don’t have a fucking clue how we are.  Our brains are wired up based on actions we engage in, and these connections are never made more rapidly or elaborately than when we’re little kids. Why wouldn’t we want to expose our children to more stories, more experiences, more colors than pink?

When we live in a world dominated by sexist mass marketing, driven by male dominated narratives from the Bible to most of Hollywood’s movies to “great” literature and art mostly by men, where men and boys create and star the shows while females, if they exist at all, are usually sexualized and on the sidelines, there isn’t much free choice, especially not for kids. Women are half of the human population but make up just 15% of protagonists in Hollywood movies, 29% of all major characters, and 30% of all speaking characters. Outlets that sell toys like Target or Amazon still have a major stumbling block: Girls and women gone missing from most of the epics being marketed. We’ve got a long road ahead to create gender equality in the fantasy world and in the real one. I commend Target and Amazon on the important steps taken so far. I look forward to witnessing many more and hopefully the great day when Reel Girl becomes obsolete.

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2014

See Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2013

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2012

Reel Girl’s Gallery of Girls Gone Missing From Children’s Movies in 2011

Isn’t she beautiful, gorgeous, hot? Sexism and Caitlyn Jenner

I am late to take my kids to camp, and I have no time to blog today, but I’ve got to write: I AM SO SICK OF THIS CAITLYN JENNER OBJECTIVISM. ARGH. EVERYONE STOP!!!!



A few weeks ago, after Laverne Cox, also transgender, posed nude for Elle I blogged:

Is Laverne Cox posing nude cause for celebration?

Ideals of female beauty vary over time and geography, but what’s consistent in patriarchal culture, whether the idealized body happens to be Rubenesque or Twiggyish, is that women are shown naked. (For a gallery of images, please see my post Why do men feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons) Cox has has a unique opportunity to publicly redefine what it means to be a woman, and I’m disappointed she’s sexualized here. There’s nothing new or celebratory or original about a woman posing naked.

I don’t get why all of a sudden, if the naked woman is over 50 (like Julia Louis Dreyfus on the cover of Rolling Stone) or plus size, we’re supposed to do a 180 and be grateful for the sexism. Look, she’s 50 and topless! Isn’t that wonderful? People still think she’s pretty, men still want to fuck her, she has value in the world!


A few of you were upset with me for criticizing Cox. Cox is on her own journey, she has to so what she has to do, but I was blogging my reaction to her photo. Here is what Cox has to say today, in response to the attention given to Jenner:

Many have commented on how gorgeous Caitlyn looks in her photos, how she is “slaying for the Gods.” I must echo these comments in the vernacular, “Yasss Gawd! Werk Caitlyn! Get it!” But this has made me reflect critically on my own desires to ‘work a photo shoot’, to serve up various forms of glamour, power, sexiness, body affirming, racially empowering images of the various sides of my black, trans womanhood. I love working a photo shoot and creating inspiring images for my fans, for the world and above all for myself. But I also hope that it is my talent, my intelligence, my heart and spirit that most captivate, inspire, move and encourage folks to think more critically about the world around them.”

Here is Jon Stewart:

“It’s really heartening to see that everyone is willing to not only accept Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, but to waste no time in treating her like a woman,” Stewart began. “You see, Caitlyn, when you were a man, we could talk about your athleticism, your business acumen, but now you’re a woman, and your looks are really the only thing we care about.”




Is Laverne Cox posing nude cause for celebration?

Transgender actress Laverne Cox poses naked in this month’s Allure, telling the magazine:

“I said no initially, thought about it, and said no again. But I’m a black transgender woman. I felt this could be really powerful for the communities that I represent. Black women are not often told that we’re beautiful unless we align with certain standards. Trans women certainly are not told we’re beautiful. Seeing a black transgender woman embracing and loving everything about her body might be inspiring for some folks. There’s a beauty in the things we think are imperfect. It sounds very cliché, but its true.”


Ideals of female beauty vary over time and geography, but what’s consistent in patriarchal culture, whether the idealized body happens to be Rubenesque or Twiggyish, is that women are shown naked. (For a gallery of images, please see my post Why do men feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons) Cox has has a unique opportunity to publicly redefine what it means to be a woman, and I’m disappointed she’s sexualized here. There’s nothing new or celebratory or original about a woman posing naked.

I don’t get why all of a sudden, if the naked woman is over 50 (like Julia Louis Dreyfus on the cover of Rolling Stone) or plus size, we’re supposed to do a 180 and be grateful for the sexism. Look, she’s 50 and topless! Isn’t that wonderful? People still think she’s pretty, men still want to fuck her, she has value in the world!




After the Swimsuits for All image was hailed all over the internet, I posted: Memo to the world, objectifying fat women is objectifying women and wrote: “Do you think I’d be any happier if my 3 daughters saw the Swimsuits for All picture in the Safeway checkout line instead of the Sports Illustrated one?”



Fat women, trans women, women over 50 beauty contests don’t represent progress. What’s progress? When it’s no longer normal for my daughters to see women paraded as meat everywhere they look.

Thank you, SI for your annual contribution! Why do men feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons.

Sports Illustrated’s 2015 swimsuit issue cover shows a model pulling down her bikini with a come hither smile on her face. YAY! We get to see this image with our kids while paying for our groceries at Safeway. Yet another drop in the bucket to a mainstream, American culture that tells men they are entitled to women. Think it’s harmless fun?

America The Beautiful: Swimsuit Issue 2015

Last year 22 year old Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree after posting a video on YouTube and writing a manifesto describing his hatred of women, his anger for being rejected by them, his frustration and not being able to get a girlfriend, and his jealousy of sexually active men. All these signs were ignored. After the violence, most of the media cast Rodger as a crazy guy, a glitch in the system when in truth, he’s a product of it. Here were some exceptions:

The Atlantic reported:

Suffice it to say that the killer was a misogynist, and that lots of women have reacted to his rampage by reflecting on how women are denied full personhood.


PolyMic reported:

Rather than seeing Elliot Rodger as a product of society, the media has depicted him as a bloodthirsty madman, a mere glitch in the system.


New Statesman reported:

The ideology behind these attacks – and there is ideology – is simple. Women owe men. Women, as a class, as a sex, owe men sex, love, attention, “adoration”

The Daily Beast reported:

If the Santa Barbara shooter had been Muslim, and left the same sorts of video screeds and more, our government and media would undoubtedly be labeling this incident as terrorism. Just as an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist sets out to kill American infidels simply because they are “American infidels,” the Santa Barbara shooter set out to kill women simply because they were women. You tell me the difference. To fail to label the latter terrorism suggests a politicized use of the term, one interested in defending Judeo-Christian Americans and values, but not women.

The fact of misogyny America is not an accident. It is as deliberate as the shooting in Santa Barbara Friday night.  Those who seek to perpetuate misogyny, to actively further the subjugation and suffering of women, are not just nut-balls but adherents of a very specific and very ugly social and political ideology.  And those who take up weapons and kill large numbers of people in furtherance of that ideology? They’re terrorists.

Facebook posts popped up commemorating Rodger. On a page titled “Powerlifters Against Feminism” I read this:

Shoutout to my boy elliot rodger. He did the best thing us men could do. And paid the ultimate price. Let his death be a memorial day in which we hate against the subhuman species called women.


I contacted Facebook, asking them to shutdown the page, and I got this reply:

We reviewed the page you reported and found that it didn’t violate community standards.


After hundreds of Reel Girl fans contacted Facebook, the page was finally taken down, never explaining why they were so slow to label “that subhuman species called women” hate speech.

In the USA in 2015, we don’t take violence against women seriously because misogyny is normal here. Men are taught that they are entitled to women. Please look at the pictures in this post: Why do men in America feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons.

If you think SI is breaking ground with the plus size model featured in the 2015 swimsuit issue, please read Memo to the world: Objectifying fat women is objectifying women.


My name is Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky continues to tell her story, and I am happy she is speaking. From the first time I saw Lewinsky’s face on my TV screen, what upset me most was the repetition of the same old narrative, worldwide, through images and text: a powerful man was being brought down by the sexuality of a young woman. A man I voted for as a woman in my twenties because I thought that he would do good things for women.

It is this narrative and text that Lewinsky is speaking about right now. Finally, she’s taking control of her story.

So many say Lewinsky is just being used, she’s talking now because she’s trying to destroy Hillary’s run for president. Once again, this is Lewinsky’s story, not the Clintons’ narrative. Why don’t you listen to, and talk about, what she is saying instead of why you think she’s speaking?

Here is one of my favorite lines from Lewinsky’s speech: “Let me tell you about being publicly separated from your truth…Being publicly separated from your truth is one of the classic triggers of anxiety, depression, and self loathing. And the greater the distance between the way people want you to be and the you you actually are, the greater will be your anxiety, depression, sense of failure and shame.”

She also says this: “The problem is that I believe in the power of story, in the power of stories to inspire, comfort, educate, and change things for the better, fictional stories, stories from history, and yes, news stories.”

I do too. That’s the reason I started this blog, because I’m tired of the same old story. I want something better for my kids. From what I can tell, Lewinsky does too. Please watch this video.

Why do men in America feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons

On the Santa Barbara massacre, the Atlantic reports:

Suffice it to say that the killer was a misogynist, and that lots of women have reacted to his rampage by reflecting on how women are denied full personhood.


PolyMic reports:

Rather than seeing Elliot Rodger as a product of society, the media has depicted him as a bloodthirsty madman, a mere glitch in the system.


New Statesman reports:

The ideology behind these attacks – and there is ideology – is simple. Women owe men. Women, as a class, as a sex, owe men sex, love, attention, “adoration”

I’m reposting a blog I wrote after seeing Jimmy Fallon’s Vanity Fair cover. Look at these images. When will women in America be recognized as human beings equal to men?

Vanity Fair’s sexist Jimmy Fallon profile erases his wife, highlights Victoria Secret models

I’m a huge Jimmy Fallon fan. This is why I bought the new Vanity Fair where he’s on the cover even though it annoyed me that Fallon is shown in a suit while he’s flanked by two nameless women in bathing suits.


There are more pics of Fallon and naked women inside the magazine. Reading the caption, I learned that the women are Victoria Secret models.

There is a third picture of Fallon and the women at what looks like New York’s Natural History museum. Once again, the women are in skimpy bikinis and we get a full view of ass. Fallon is once again pictured in a suit.

Showing important, powerful men fully clothed while women appear as naked accessories underscores the idea that men valued for what they do and think, while women are valued for how they appear. Vanity Fair repetitively resorts to this sexism. There’s a famous photo featuring naked Scarlett Johanssen, Keira Knightly, and Tom Ford. When Rachel McAdams refused to undress, she was asked to leave.


Of course, Vanity Fair is hardly alone in promoting this sexist imagery. Here are five GQ covers that came out simultaneously: four men are shown in suits, one woman is shown naked.


What about Rolling Stone?



There’s Justin Timberlake’s “Tunnel Vision” video where he is clothed and the women are naked.

Many claimed Timberlake was copying Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video where he is clothed and the women are naked, a pairing repeated in the infamous Miley Cyrus performance (where Miley was blamed for being a slut.)

“Alternative” musicians resort to the same cliche. Did you see Nick Cave’s latest album cover?


The truth is, we’ve been dealing with the clothed man-naked woman pairing for a long time. Here’s a famous painting by Edouard Manet in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris that would make a perfect Vanity Fair cover.


But here’s what really pissed me off about the Jimmy Fallon article. As I wrote, I’m a fan of the comedian, but part of the reason I bought the magazine is because I wanted to know more about his wife, Nancy Juvonen. She’s a film producer and a business partner of Drew Barrymore. Both Barrymore and Juvonen are interested in making movies where cool women get to have adventures. I wanted to hear the whole story about how Juvonen and Fallon met and fell in love, just the kind of thing you’d expect to find in a Vanity Fair profile right? They recently had a daughter, Winnie, so I assumed Fallon would be asked about being a new father. I’m an avid reader of Us Weekly and People and I often see pictures of their family. Fallon is always cuddling his baby, playing with her, smiling at her, and I was curious about his thoughts on raising a girl in the world. Another thing I wanted to hear about: Fallon is 39 while Juvonen is 46, a rare gap in Hollywood where a woman’s age is measured closer to dog years than man years. Do you see my point here? Fallon married a successful career woman who is 7 years older than him, and this, besides his talent, is part of the reason I admire the guy. But here’s the weird thing: Nancy Juvonen is missing from Fallon’s profile.

Juvonen isn’t mentioned at all until 5 pages into the piece. After writing that Fallon always watched “SNL” alone, the text reads:

His one concession to adulthood is that he now watches the program with his wife, the film producer Nancy Juvonen, and if she is awake his baby daughter, Winnie, born last July.

Can you imagine Vanity Fair doing a profile on a famous woman and not mentioning her big time producer husband or her new baby until page 5? The piece goes on for two more pages and there are just two more brief references to Juvonen. Here’s all the magazine has to say on how they met and why they married.

Though the Fever Pitch experience had a saving grace–it was through the film that he met Juvonen, one of its producers who he would marry in 2007– he considers his LA years kind of a lost period.

Here’s the final reference to Juvonen, about persuading Fallon to become the “Tonight Show” host.

It was Fallon’s wife who persuaded him to go with Michael’s instinct. “Nancy was like, ‘You’ve got to try it. You’ll be one of three human beings who have done it– Letterman, Conan, and you. You have to do it. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work,’” Fallon said.

That’s it. WTF? All Fallon’s wife gets in a profile is a few sentences in passing coupled with a cover and three photos where he’s shown with naked women? That’s not the Jimmy Fallon I love or wanted to read about.