Confidence, Media, Sisterhood

The New Cosmo And Can I Be Joanna Coles When I Grow Up?

The other day NPR made me cry. Literal tears in my eyes crying. And worst, it was about Cosmo.

Joanna Coles, the new editor in chief of Cosmo was being interviewed and she is getting added to my list of women I want to be when I grow up.

The interview is fantastic. I suggest you listen to it right freaking now.

Highlights:

This headline: “I Feel Lucky That I Can Wear What I Want, Sleep With Who I Want And Dance How I Want And Still Be A Feminist.”

“I think that women’s lives are multilayered. I have no problem understanding that women are interested in mascara and the Middle East. Men are allowed to talk about sports relentlessly, and yet we still take them seriously. I don’t understand why women can’t talk about fashion, or sex, or love, or wanting more money and not be taken as seriously as men.”

Joanna also reads a headline which includes the words “How to make him better in bed.” HIM BETTER IN BED, NOT YOU. I’M DYING.

Or how about how my new personal idol hired the COO of facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, to be the editor of the careers section and explain the wage gap or how to ask for a raise.

For years I’ve been avoiding the magazine like the plague. I guess that won’t be necessary anymore.

Obedience, Sisterhood

Don’t Tell Me What To Do!

Having been physically ripped from my best friend I’ve found a new group of friends to love fiercely.  I’m certainly the feminist out of the bunch but as we spend time together I’m hearing from them more and more “I was watching The Voice last night and there was this commercial and in it this woman was like ‘I thought I did the dishes already’ and it made me mad because why does she expect that her husband doesn’t know how to wash dishes?  What have you done to me!?”

One of the biggest conflicts between us is how I talk to guys.  It would be quite a stretch to describe me as ‘shy’ and a few weeks ago we were on a beach checking out some guys on wakeboards.  My friend was doing her thing which I will describe here as ‘I’ll strip down to my bikini and wait for him to notice me amongst this sea of bikinis.’  After a few minutes of us watching him and being annoyed that he… you know… was actually interested in what he was doing, I put my hands up in the air, waved them around and shouted HEY until he came over and talked to us.  My friend was mortified.  In fact I think mortified is too subtle a word.  To say that she wanted the earth to open up and swallow us would probably be more appropriate.

Nonetheless he came over and I asked him about the board he was on, where he lived, and what cool bars he could suggest.  Then we said our farewells and we each left.  No harm done.

Herein lies the question.  My friend was sure that behavior like that would never get me anywhere, was unladylike and unattractive.  I say that I don’t want to be with any guy who wouldn’t be cool with a strange woman introducing herself first (granted probably not like I did in this example, but in truth it’s just one example in many).

I like to say Hi.  I don’t want to sit back and be coy and wait for some guy to notice me.  If I noticed you I’m going to say Hi and it might be loud, so be prepared.  And if you’re not into that, well at least I know now that you’re not right for me before I sink time and effort into you.

What it comes down to is this: Why should I pretend not to be the kind of person who is going to raise her hand in the lecture hall, to dance on the bar, to volunteer at Blue Man Group?  What reason do I have to pretend to be someone more ‘conventionally likable’ just so I can turn around ‘after the honeymoon period’ and turn out to be (shocker) me.

The ‘tactics’ my new friends suggest sound ripped from the pages of cosmo magazine.  Lean on the bar, stand in a group of people, point your belly button at him if you’re interested, don’t wear too much clothing.

These tricks might work well for some couples and honestly I’m a little envious of them but the truth is that if I did that stuff I’m pretty sure I’d end up with a guy who likes girls who lean on things, silently, shirtlessly, and never move their feet.  Sooner or later he’d find out that I tricked him into thinking I’m that girl and we would be over.

From The Rules:

  • Don’t talk to a man first and don’t ask him to dance
  • Don’t call him and rarely return his calls
  • Always end the date first
  • Don’t see him more than once or twice a week
  • Don’t open up too fast

Some research from Broadblogs shows that men have very mixed reactions to ‘playing hard to get’ which in my opinion supports my ‘some people like this and some people don’t’ hypothesis.

Some guys like people like people who lean on things.  Some people like people who get the hell up and make fools of themselves.  I own my foolishness and want someone who will appreciate that.

What it comes down to is that I’d rather be rejected 9 times out of 10 by someone who happens to not be interested in the person I am, rather than worry for one minute that he likes a version of me that only exist in his head.

Confidence, Consent, Guest post, Relationships

Guest Post-Consent Culture Matters

A smart, funny, and did I mention absolutely brilliant friend of mine had an experience/revelation the other day and asked me if she could guest post (!!) it here.  Obviously I said yes and of course she rocked it out.  Without further ado:

I screwed up. Basically, in the simplest terms, I asked someone whom I have power over out. I spent time thinking about it beforehand – but all of that time was devoted to how I could be flirty or come off as confident. He said no, explained that it made him uncomfortable, but said we should hang out as friends.

I apologized. And was utterly mortified. I had put him in a situation where, without knowing much about how I would react or how it would impact his life, he had to make a decision about whether to say yes or no. For all he knew, I could be the type of vindictive asswipe who would make his life miserable for daring to say no to me.

When I asked him, I felt proud of myself for taking the initiative, despite the variety of reasons that it wasn’t a great idea. I was happy I had embraced something I wanted and I hadn’t thought much about how he might feel. I was too busy trying to make myself more comfortable with the situation to explain in advance that he could say no without any consequences.

I fell into the Cosmo mindset of “talking is unsexy.” Me! A feminist! Who cares about consent! Who wants to make sure her partners are happy, who asks, who is GGG. In a situation where I was uncertain of my own attractiveness, I reverted back to tropes that I’d heard in the media over and over – that it wasn’t sexy to lay out the rules ahead of time or to make clear my intentions.

Looking at it now, with the benefit of all of a week of hindsight, I believe it was because I was afraid of being rejected. What makes the Cosmo “giggle and point your belly button at him” idea so attractive is it doesn’t involve being brave. When all you are doing is leaving small hints and acting nonchalant, it’s easy to pretend that you aren’t invested or too interested in what you are doing. You can pretend you were just kidding or that you weren’t even flirting. You don’t open yourself up to the level of rejection that you would if you put your cards on the table.

But this is dangerous. It leads to relationships where people are too afraid to say what they mean, to ask for what they want, and to be who they are. Being rejected hurts, but the pain is transitory. It’s far worse to be stuck in a relationship where you feel like you have to hide what you actually want and feel from a partner than to be rejected at the beginning.

But back to our story. When I finally put myself in his shoes, I could see how I was blinded by a sense of privilege. I didn’t think through the consequences of my behavior beforehand because I’m not used to thinking of myself as predatory. Unconsciously, I assumed that he would be amenable to being asked out by a woman in a position of authority because “hey, what guy isn’t?”

If our positions were reversed, and I was the one who was in a lower position of power relative to him, I wouldn’t have hesitated to call him out as being sketchy. Putting a person in a situation where they can’t fully give consent? Sketchy. Not letting him know what was at stake? Sketchy.

But on the whole, it was a good reminder that enthusiastic consent isn’t just important in the bedroom. As feminists, we should always strive to put people in places where they can react honestly and consent enthusiastically. Not talking doesn’t work. Consent culture matters.

Had I been clear from the beginning that I knew I was in a position of authority, and that I was not in any way going to use that position to his detriment independent of his answer, I probably still would have gotten rejected. I might feel worse for putting myself out there more. But I wouldn’t find myself wondering whether he just agreed to get lunch with me because he couldn’t find a way out of it.

This friend of mine (whether she knows it yet or not) will be in positions of power for the rest of her life.  Women will be in positions of power and if that means we need to retrain ourselves or others how to flirt and interact in that environment then so be it.