Help me! I’ve never read Judy Blume.

http://outofprintclothing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/judy-blume_book-combo.jpgI have a confession. I have never read a Judy Blume novel. As a woman who does girlhood studies, it feels embarrassing–like saying “I’ve never read Hamlet.” But, there it is. My BFF, Emily (who is getting married next weekend (!!!)) was an avid Judy Blume fan so, in my head, I can hear her scolding me. Or was it Beverly Cleary? See. This is the problem. In my young mind, Judy Blume mixed in with other books I should have been reading and wasn’t.

How could this happen? Well, aside from reading every Caroline B. Cooney book I could get my hands on and Harry Potter, I wasn’t much into young adult literature when I was a young adult. I was kind of a snob. I was very serious. In elementary school, I played a game called pick the biggest book I could find at the school library and read it. (It was Robin Hood and my best friend Amanda and I laughed over the frequent use of the word bosom and called ourselves bosom buddies.) In high school, I read Shakespeare’s complete plays, all of John Steinbeck’s novels, lots of Russian literature, Sylvia Plath, and Harry Potter. I looked down my nose at my friends who read romance novels in which the young protagonists always died of some sad, terminal disease.

Now, although I don’t primarily study children’s/young adult literature, my lack of knowledge about Judy Blume weighs on me. I feel guilty about it. This morning, I read a wonderful article about Judy Blume’s legacy in The Guardian and I decided to follow through on something I planned to do last summer. I am finally going to read some Judy Blume, dammit. So, dear readers and friends, where do I start? What is your favorite Judy Blume novel? Is there a particular book that would be good to read with a certain girl of 10 who is on the cusp of puberty? I’ve checked out Summer Sisters and Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself as a start, but I’d love to know your thoughts and memories about Judy Blume’s writing.

Emily and me as the wicked step-sisters, back in my book snob days.

 

Bring Back Our Girls and “the Politics of Pity”

http://blog.pixlee.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/BringBackOurGirls.jpgIn the early morning of April 16, 2014, over 270 schoolgirls were abducted from their school in Chibok, Nigeria by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram, whose name translates to “Western education is a sin” in the local language. The abduction was not the first time the group kidnapped girls and women, particularly for pursuing their educations. The scale of the abduction, however, as well as the passionate response of the girls’ parents and communities, captured worldwide media attention. At a rally following the abduction, the girls’ communities put pressure on the government to do more to find them, holding signs that read “Bring Back Our Girls.” The slogan was quickly picked up by international organizations, including Girl Rising and Girl Up, as a Twitter hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls, aiming to draw media attention to the story and put pressure on the United States government to help as well. Momentum quickly grew as over one-million tweets featured the hashtag and dozens of think pieces were written debating the efficacy of hashtag activism. I think the real issue, however, is the use of the word “our” and the implications of images of sad-eyed white women replacing the original image of Nigerian mothers demanding that the government bring back their girls. Although the campaign is incredibly effective at bringing attention to the abduction and to on-going issues around girls’ education globally, I worry about the longevity of this concern (i.e. was it just trendy?), as well as the neo-colonial implications of the media coverage. In short, while I think attention to these problems is a great thing, I also wonder if a lot of this attention didn’t serve to make privileged Westerners feel good about themselves rather than to actually address the underlying problems that allow such gendered violence to happen continually. I don’t want to criticize anyone specifically, so much as open a space to reconsider the implications of human rights campaigns such as #BringBackOurGirls and how unchecked privilege can undermine good intentions.

Some Feminist Theory Background

Let’s begin with some feminist theory. In Feminism Without Borders, Chandra Talpade Mohanty argues for a feminist solidarity as a political and ethical goal, rather than “vague assumptions of sisterhood or images of complete identification with the other” (3). She also likens transnational feminist communities to imagined communities, “‘imagined’ not because it is not ‘real’ but because it suggests potential alliances and collaborations across divisive boundaries, and ‘community’ because in spite of internal hierarchies within Third World contexts, it nevertheless suggests a significant, deep commitment to what Benedict Anderson, in referring to the nation, calls ‘horizontal comradeship.’” (46) In other words, rather than relying on reductionist or essentialist ideas of what constitutes a woman, solidarity in transnational feminism is derived from the members of the community imagining commonality amongst themselves and investing in the good of the community over and against actual political and economic inequalities that may exist between members of the community. Continue reading

My Girl: The Drinking Game

http://31.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ltfw5yFnmQ1qaliojo1_500.gifIn 1991, My Girl, starring Anna Chlumsky, Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Macaulay Culkin, brought audiences precociousness, adorable coming of age tropes, some bizarre funeral home stuff, and so much crying. By the mid-90s it was playing every summer on TBS or TNT or whatever, just waiting for me to learn about becoming a woman from Vada and cry my eyes out. No story had made me cry so much since the death of Beth March. My Girl is now streaming on Netflix, waiting to be introduced to a new generation or for nostalgic viewings by adults. If you’re in that latter camp, I present to you The My Girl Drinking Game, a means of properly pacing your drinking for the more devastating and angst-ridden moments of the film. I treated myself to some Chardonnay and puppy snuggles to test the game out for you.

The My Girl Drinking Game

You’ll Need:

My Girl on DVD or a Netflix Account

A beverage of your choice. Can be adapted to a pint of ice cream if you prefer.

A box of tissues

Optional: girlfriends or sisters

A mood ring

The Rules:

The Cute and Strange. You must take a drink whenever:

  • Vada expresses hypochondriac symptoms. (Bonus: “I think it’s my prostate.”)
  •  Boys are dumb or gullible.
  • Motown or Vintage TV
  • Embalming, corpses, and such.
  • Grandmoo’s senility is ignored.
  • “I only surround myself with people I find intellectually stimulating.”
  • Hippies and Women’s Lib.
  • Mood ring
  • Seafood

The Angsty. Take two drinks whenever:

  • Child-sized coffin. Foreshadowing. It hurts.
  • Vada is hot for teacher.
  • Vada’s poetry reminds you of your own adolescent writings.
  • Mean girls.
  • “Do-wah-diddy…”
  • Grandmoo’s senility is discussed.
  • Vada’s mother is mentioned.
  • Bees. Run for your life.
  • Shelly acts as a maternal figure.
  • Vada has attitude about Dad dating.
  • Vada is hemorrhaging.

http://31.media.tumblr.com/15f0919e33f1eb64ba67a6e20410a99c/tumblr_mss7lhijFG1s04uboo1_250.gifThe Tears. Chug:

  • Thomas Jay dies.
  • Vada has a public meltdown.
  • Mr. Bixler is off the market.
  • Vada’s last poem

If at the end of the film, you are in tears, finish the glass.

Do you love My Girl? What’s your favorite or most moving part?

See Also:

Temporary Tomboys: Coming of Age in My Girl and Now and Then

Learning from Tami Taylor. Learning from Our Stories.

http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lxm4nzVdg81r6r1abo1_500.jpgI was in a relationship with another person (I call him He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named) when the last few episodes of Friday Night Lights aired. I was gripped by the argument between Coach and Tami while he puttered about, not really understanding what I was so invested in, since he hadn’t watched the show before. If you haven’t seen the show, as the finale drew near, Coach and Tami ended up in a deadlock over their jobs. Coach was offered a big job coaching college football in Florida and turned it down to stay with his team. Texas forever. Tami, on the other hand, is offered a tremendous opportunity to chase her dreams working as the Dean of Admissions at a small liberal arts college in Philly. That’s a pretty big jump–from high school guidance counselor to Dean of Admissions–and a testament to how awesome she was in her interview. Coach won’t even entertain the notion that she’d take the job. The fight, between two characters I loved and whose marriage I admired, had me holding my breath.

I can’t remember exactly what he said, but HWSNBN agreed with Coach. Without knowing the story, without loving the characters, he simply agreed with Coach, who was–by all measures–being an asshole. I was depressed during most of the relationship, so I don’t remember many things from that period, but I remember this moment vividly. I was washing dishes, preparing for a road trip between my apartment and his. I always open my blinds first thing in the morning, but my schedule had been interrupted by a late night with friends the evening before. Light slanted in through the blinds, casting a shadow over the apartment, a mess of half-packed bags and dog toys, and we were behind schedule leaving. We were still love-drunk on the beginning of a relationship. It was, I think, the last time I will ever allow myself to enter that sort of temporary blindness in which desire clouds out all signs that the person you’re with is just wrong for you. I’m not kidding. When Julio and I decided to transition from friends to dating, I put him through an hours-long interrogation. Anyway, in the kitchen, as I splashed about with the dishes and tried to listen to the end of the episode, a doubt punctuated that love-bubble. It was just one of several pin-pricks, some of which I was already ignoring, but this man was using Friday Night Lights as a way to tell me about his career and its incompatibility with my own. He was in the armed services and planned to be for the next twenty years or so. That trajectory would make it hard–improbable, if not impossible–for me to have the tenure-track career I’d been training for. Although he said he liked strong women (what man actually ever comes out and says the opposite?), he was telling me, clearly, that his career would always come before mine.

http://s3-ec.buzzfed.com/static/2014-01/enhanced/webdr03/31/12/anigif_enhanced-2020-1391188671-3.gifI ignored it. It was one of many ways I made myself smaller during that time in my life. Now, I’m not saying that the situation would be a problem for all couples, but for me it was definitely a problem. I wasn’t spending what would amount to a decade of my life in higher education just to brush my ambitions aside, however dreamy people said dating a lieutenant-doctor sounded. Regardless of what else happened between us, on a fundamental level, our dreams and values were incompatible. We weren’t going to work. And I ignored it. He showed me who he was and I ignored it. The voice inside told me to end things and I ignored it.

I have watched and rewatched FNL a few times in the three years since that summer morning. Every time Coach and Tami have that fight, I look back and I remember, achingly, how I ignored my better instincts and my needs and how badly I got hurt. I feel some mixture of angry and sad and relieved. And I make a mental note not to ignore myself anymore.

http://s3-ec.buzzfed.com/static/enhanced/webdr01/2013/3/5/17/enhanced-buzz-31826-1362523813-7.jpgMy current partner, Julio, played high school football, so I recommended FNL to him. Not long after we started dating, he devoured the show on Netflix. For six months spanning our transition from friends to us, I would wake up every morning to a lengthy email he had composed during the time difference between bedtime in EST and bedtime in MST. In one of those emails, sent on the kind of dreary November night that gets you thinking about mortality (at least if you’re of our sort of temperament), he explained several components of Friday Night Lights that resonated with him, including why he thought the Taylors’ marriage was a good example. He walked through that conflict, and some of their more minor ones, reflecting on partnership, balance, and why Coach was wrong, but how it wasn’t really about who was right or wrong.

The point is not that he agreed with me. Rather, what I take away from the different experiences I had with two men and the same TV show is that 1) I take stories very seriously and 2) the way we respond to stories can say something about who we are that we might not be able to say otherwise. Obviously, I put a lot of value in narrative. I’m doing a Ph.D. in literature. To a certain degree, the woman I am is built on the belief that it matters a great deal that I love Jane Eyre. I try to teach my students that reading, loving, and interpreting literature is part of being a well-rounded thinker and can help them better understand the world around them and the world within them. I could wax poetic about these things ad nauseam. It matters. It matters.

I grew up in a family in which we talked about stories. My dad and I read books together and went to bad sci-fi movies together. My mom and I watched romantic comedies and TV shows and talked about song lyrics. I think, as an adult, these conversations have created a space for me to talk to people about stories and use them as a springboard for talking about relationships. I think a lot of us do this and it’s worth celebrating. Julio and I discuss Parenthood as a way to figure out how we approach tough life choices. It’s been really useful without being daunting. After a different breakup, one of my roommates had us huddled up on the couch watching the Sex and the City movie because she thought Carrie’s depression and subsequent laughter over Charlotte’s…accident would speak to me where I was. My lit major friends and I do this sort of thing all the time.

http://s3-ec.buzzfed.com/static/2014-01/enhanced/webdr02/30/16/anigif_enhanced-22874-1391115934-8.gifI think the harder part is accepting our own stories and learning from them. There’s a part of me that is still mad at myself for making myself small and for ignoring myself. A part of me feels like I’m still making things up to myself and those who love me. As Tami would say, “There’s no weakness in forgiveness.” Owning my story depends on forgiving myself. I put a lot of work into taking control of my story and into surrounding myself with people who made me feel loved and strong and like I didn’t have to shrink-to-fit. I want to read, watch, talk about more stories like that so that I can learn and negotiate this complicated business of loving others and loving myself well.

Related:

19 Pieces of Advice from Tami Taylor That Will Make You A Better Person

10 Times Tami Taylor Said Exactly What You Needed to Hear

 

Skincare Favorites: Products I Trust Not to Kill Me (Or Break Me Out)

I’ve hinted elsewhere on this blog that I’m a bit of a product junkie who has been curbing her habit through simplification and Birchbox samples. Recently, I’ve been giving away or tossing samples or products that I’m never going to use or that are expired. That, paired with summer traveling, has lead me to really assess which products I consider essentials. While I don’t normally do beauty reviews, I wanted to share these products because they’ve been “game changers” for me and because, for the most part, they’re made of ingredients that aren’t scary.

For more on the ingredients in your beauty products, the blog/book No More Dirty Looks is an amazing resource.

It’s worth noting how many of these products I discovered either through samples in my Birchbox* or recommendations in editorial content. That alone has made my box worthwhile. Plus, a bunch of these I bought, at least in part, with points. If you’re not reviewing your samples each month, you’re missing out.  Others I got for reduced prices on Ebay because I am broke like that.

Left to Right: W3LL People Universal Color Stick, Origins Charcoal Mask, Supergoop City Sunscreen Serum, Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentrait, Karma Naturals nail polish remover, 100% Pure macara

Left to Right: W3LL People Universalist Color Stick, Origins charcoal mask, Supergoop City Sunscreen Serum, Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre, Karma Naturals nail polish remover, 100% Pure mascara

1) W3LL People Universalist Mutli-Use Color Stick: This bad boy I got using points at Birchbox after sampling it in my February box. My sample was Dusty Rose and it was a beautiful color for adding a bit of a rosy cheek on a makeup-free look. I ended up buying Creamy Peony, but only after an exchange. Some of the colors have glitter in them and I accidentally bought one of them. To me, it defeats the purpose of a natural looking makeup product if there’s glitter. Anyway, I love this product because it’s made just from plant-based and mineral ingredients and packs great color. I use it for my blush and on my eyelids on most days. In a pinch it works as lipcolor too. The tube is huge and doesn’t expire for 2 years. Considering that it works as up to three products, I consider that kind of a bargain too.

Continue reading

Girl Meets World: Pilot Review

girl-meets-worldLike a lot of people in my generation, Boy Meets World was an important part of my formative years. Cory and Topanga were my favorite love story. Feeney was my role model. All that. As a life-long fan of Boy Meets World, I was doubtful that Disney could recapture that magic. As a girlhood studies scholar and a big sister and a human, I was hopeful that the show could introduce BMW to a new generation.

On Friday, Disney made the pilot of Girl Meets World available on iTunes for free. (YES!) It airs on the Disney Channel on June 27th.

In the pilot. “Girl Meets World,” Cory and Topanga’s daughter, Riley, is trying to assert her independence and reinvent herself to be more like her best friend Maya, a bad girl strongly reminiscent of Cory’s BFF Shawn. Meanwhile, Riley leads a rebellion in Cory’s history class, fighting against the tyranny of homework. As Riley tries to become like Maya and Maya tries to get Riley to stop trying to save her and Cory tries to stop Riley from changing while also encouraging to “make the world hers,” the episode clearly centers on themes about being oneself while taking control of one’s life.

Girl Meets World is clearly very closely adapted from Boy Meets World. It’s built around a friendship of a rule-follower and a rebel, there’s a Minkus character–Farkle Minkus (who seems like a mix of Minkus and early Topanga). Cory is the history teacher set up to be a combination of Cory, his dad, and Mr. Feeney. It also seems like Lucas may be Riley’s Topanga, but it’s too soon to tell.

Still, as far as pilots go, Girl Meets World was pretty hit and miss. The characters are there and show plenty of potential for developing into the kind of endearing and complex characters we loved in BMW, but the dialogue hasn’t found its pace yet. The pilot was basically very, very cheesy. For example, the episode starts with Riley and Maya sneaking out the window to sneak onto the subway only to be caught by Cory who sends them out the front door to get on the subway. Riley asks, “How long do I have to live in your world?” To which Cory replies, “Until you make it yours.” And that was before the opening credits. Basically, the type of sappy lesson-spinning that is to be expected at the end of the episode (Feeeneeey!) was piled on from start to finish.

Here’s a run down of some of the hits and misses of the episode:

Hits:

  • Like I said, the characters are off to a good start.
  •  While Riley seems really goofy, like her dad. Maya had some pretty snappy lines, including: “Let me show you everything you need to know about boys and girls. Hi, I’m Maya. You’re really cute. We should hang out sometime. You make me really happy. You don’t pay enough attention to me. This isn’t working out. It’s you, not me. We can still be friends. Not really.”
  • Riley to Topanga in a line delivery that is very vintage-Cory: “”My teacher followed me home. Can we keep him? Can we keep him? Please say nooo.”
  • It’s nice to see a strong father-daughter relationship as well as father-mother and mother-daughter relationships. The push-pull between Cory and Riley comes off as affectionate and supportive of her finding her way while also sometimes too worried. For example: “Do you really think I’m one of those girls who follows all of the rules and never gets into trouble?” “I was hopin’”
  • The episode does feature a pretty strong message about being yourself in sometimes nuanced ways. As Riley tries to become Maya she faces resistance from Maya who tells her not to try to save her and from Cory who wants them both to stay out of trouble. When Maya sets off the fire sprinklers during her protest against homework, Riley asserts that she deserves dentition too because she got involved. Cory responds: “No you didn’t. And because you didn’t your best friend is in very big trouble.” In the moment, Cory’s assertion is more against Riley’s passivity than her getting in trouble. Later, he continues “You were so busy trying to be her, Riley, you forgot the best thing you can do for her is to be you.” The groundwork is clearly being laid for a similar pattern to Cory and Shawn in which they get in trouble together but Riley ultimately serves as the moral compass who keeps them from going too far–and that’s what Cory’s mad at Maya for–going too far.

Misses:

  • The show takes place in NYC and still all the characters are white except some people in the background and a token sassy black woman on the subway.
  • Cory reduces the Civil War to a lesson about standing up for what you believe in and “History shows that bad things happen when you don’t know who you are.”
  • Cory also vaguely threatens to kill Lucas in the El Paso border region, which we know is pretty violent. Yikes.
  • Not much real conflict in the episode and therefore it’s solved pretty ridiculously easy.
  • Perhaps this will come later, but I think it would have been more meaningful to have Cory assert his love for Maya rather than have Riley do it. While it was great to have the authority expressed by a girl, the lesson came off as really corny while having Cory look out for Maya more directly may have been more effective and more Feeney-like.

Did you watch Girl Meets World? What did you think?

Stay tuned for more as the show airs.