In addition to continuing to share some of my favorite books here, I’d love to start sharing online articles or essays that have excited me/taught me something/made me think. Recently I came across an article which I have since reread multiple times and thought about often, so I wanted to share it with you. You can read the full piece here:
While the title says that girls don’t run the world, Constance dives into the ways in which teen girls have always been incredibly influential in shaping culture, from language to music to fashion. She explores the cultural shifts towards acknowledging the power of teen girls: young activists have found worldwide platforms, and music popularized or even made by teen girls has been taken more seriously. Unfortunately, as Constance points out, the sense that girls are powerful or deserve to be empowered has also been co-opted to sell them products.
I thought often of my teen self while reading this piece. I wish I had come across something like it back then. I felt conflicted at times about being a fan of musical artists that I knew weren’t treated seriously. I thought my tastes were just “uncool.” I personalized an issue that was really much bigger than me, and I wish I could have seen that. I also wish I had learned about the amazing history of teen girl fandoms. I would have seen I was in great company!
This piece was also a helpful reminder for my adult self, and maybe for others, too. I think it can be easy to dismiss something out of hand just because it’s not for you. This has often and too easily happened for things important to teen girls. Whether it’s an album, a social media platform, or anything else, I think it can be helpful for all of us to start from a place of asking what purpose it might be serving for those engaging with it. That’s of course not to say that we can’t critique anything. Sometimes we should. But I think to do so successfully and empathetically, we need to start from a place of understanding. Plus, I think we can all probably remember a time when we felt like someone just didn’t “get” what we were into. We all deserve to have who we are and what we love taken seriously.
If you have anything you’ve read lately that you’d love to share too, please leave it in the comments below!
“The Pretty One is a collection for the people who give a damn, for the girl who saw her differences as dangerous and ugly, who lived most of her life trying desperately to wish herself into another body, for the person who just wants to experience joy through a little sadness and laughter along the way.” – Keah Brown, The Pretty One (page 9)
Hey bookish babes,
The first book recommendation in My Dream Library series is a book I’ve listened to twice and thought about often. Like many people, I first become familiar with (and a big fan of) Keah Brown and her writing via the viral hashtag she created, #DisabledAndCute. After listening to her debut essay collection, The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me . . . let’s just say, I know we aren’t friends, but her vulnerable, honest, funny, and passionate work makes me love her as if we were.
The best way I can describe this book—which traverses across topics and throughout Keah’s life—is that it is like a stained-glass window. Each essay illuminates a different piece of her heart. In “Love You, Mean It,” we see Keah as a sister, grappling with the jealousy she felt towards her twin, who does not have cerebral palsy. In “The Human iPod,” she takes a deep-dive into the music that has been the soundtrack of her life thus far, from Toni Braxton to Demi Lovato. And in “I Like Me Now, Too,” Keah shares her journey to self-love, which is an incredibly personal one, but also a path that has brought light to so many others.
Taken individually, each essay is colorful, glowing piece to enjoy. Put all together, we get to see the kaleidoscopic beauty of what it is to really know someone, when they’ve shown us all the corners of their heart (from being a fan of cheesecake and The Sims to dealing with depression). I think it is incredibly masterful that Keah was able to capture such a thing on the page. It’s a gift, and I’m so glad she was willing to share it.
Links to Keah’s work and social accounts will be linked below. If there’s a book that’s really lit you up as of late, let me know in the comments!
I was going to write something for you today. I had a bit of an epiphany recently, and I was so excited to share it. Unfortunately, that idea doesn’t seem to be done cooking, so I will have to save it for another time (perhaps next month).
While I enjoy winter, I know it’s not everyone’s favorite. If you could use a pick-me-up, here are a few things that have added color to my days as of late.
A song: “Delight” by Avenue Beat
Like many folks, I was introduced to this girl group via their anti-ode to 2020. But I’ve gone back and listened to, well, everything else they’ve released. I really enjoy their sense of humor and lyrics, and this song is a *delight* to sing along to in the car.
A podcast episode: “Auld Lang Syne: A History and Remembrance” from The Anthropocene Reviewed
New Year’s is one of my favorite days of the year, and its unofficial anthem holds a special place in my heart. This tender deep-dive into the tune is slightly somber but full of hope. Which, actually, is how I’ve always heard the song.
A quote by Frida Kahlo Rebecca Martin*
I came across the below quote, oddly enough, while shopping for a new notebook. It has rolled around in my mind since. I like the way she puts it that, even when we feel strange or flawed, we’re never alone.
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” –Frida KahloRebecca Martin
What has been brightening your days as of late? I would love to hear in the comments below!
*1/27/2022: The quote in this post was originally attributed to Frida Kahlo, which is a common misattribution. It was originally written by Rebecca Anderson and shared on the blog PostSecret in 2008. Read more about it here on BuzzFeed.
I came across something awesome happening in Girl World this week, and I wanted to share it here in case you hadn’t heard about it yet. Refinery29—an awesome women’s website that features everything from cultural commentary to nail-art ideas—started an initiative called “The 67% Project.” The idea behind it is this: 67% of women in the U.S. identify as “plus-size,” wearing a size 14 or up in clothing. However, those same women are only represented in 1-2% of images in the media. Here’s how Refinery29 is addressing this problem through the initiative, in their own words:
“During the launch week, 67% of the bodies you see on our site, in our newsletter, and on our Instagram and Snapchat channels will be plus-size. To do this, we’ve made significant changes within Refinery29 to fully represent the 67% this week, and beyond. For the last six months, we’ve been shooting stock photography and redesigning illustrations to more accurately reflect the women who make up the majority of our country. And we’re partnering with Getty Images to make this collection available to other outlets that wish to join us in closing the representation gap.”
A sample from Refinery29’s homepage today, 10/2/16.
Browsing the site this week, I realized that every time I saw a photo of a plus-size woman, I immediately assumed that the article was about either plus-size fashion or body positivity, because often, that’s the only time plus-size women appear in women’s publications or media. However, that wasn’t the case on Refinery29 this week; images of plus-size women appeared alongside a variety of articles, from “3 Health Benefits Of Being Nice” (pictured above)to “31 Days Of Halloween Beauty Inspiration.” Refinery29 is treating these women not as a niche but as the norm—because that’s what they are.
Though the launch week of The 67% Project ends today, I’m excited to see where Refinery29 goes from here. Beauty in the real world is incredibly diverse, and having media that reflects that diversity is good for all of us. I am thankful that Refinery29 has taken this big step in the right direction.
Today is a very big day in Pop Culture Land: the Vanity Fair issue with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover hit newsstands. The cover made the internet rounds last week, so I’m sure by now you’ve seen it, as well as commentary on it from many a source. Admittedly, I’m pretty selective as far as what comes up in my various feeds (the internet can bring you down, man!), but the vast majority of what I’ve read regarding Caitlyn’s cover story has been supportive. Many have been cheering her on for not only making the change she felt she needed, but also for being open about her story in the hopes of helping others. Watching all this unfold sparked me to reflect on some of my other favorite celebrities who attempt to use their fame-power for good. Today seemed like a great day to acknowledge them.
Taylor Swift, my favorite musician of all time, has taken the top spot of DoSomething.org’s “Celebs Gone Good” list for the past three years. Part of what makers her so “good” is her commitment to donating to charity. She’s even donated her music, so to speak; all the proceeds of “Welcome to New York” go to the NY public school system, and all the proceeds from “Ronan” are donated to cancer charities. One of the things I enjoy about Taylor most, however, is how far she goes to connect with her fans. There were the 1989 secret sessions. Then there was Swiftmas. Best of all, though, are the times she reaches out to fans on social media that are going through something, be it a bad breakup or even the death of a parent. Taylor certainly has a knack for returning the adoration to her most devoted fans.
Here’s the thing: it’s entirely reasonable to be skeptical of celebrities, even when they’re doing good. The celebrity world is a very fun one to observe, but it’s also meticulously crafted, and at times, fake. So it’s healthy to take it in with a proverbial grain of salt.
But beyond that initial side-glance, I have a few thoughts on the matter. My first is, I get it. No, I’m not a celebrity by any stretch of the imagination. But when I first started writing, I had two driving impulses. The first one, the initial spark, was that I wanted to write things that would help people the way things I’d read helped me. The second was, Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if my stuff reached lots and lots of people? If in the process of helping others, I made a name for myself as well? And that’s the reality. I don’t think impulse #2 takes away from the good of what I’m trying to do. If anything, it’s become a good checkpoint: am I writing this because it’s a message I believe in, or primarily because I think it’s very social-media-sharable? And I think, or would like to believe, that for celebrities like the ones I’ve mentioned, the sentiment is fundamentally similar. In fact, Caitlyn Jenner has already addressed potential skeptics head-on:
“I’m not doing it for the money. I’m doing it to help my soul and help other people. If I can make a dollar, I certainly am not stupid. [I have] house payments and all that kind of stuff. I will never make an excuse for something like that. Yeah, this is a business. You don’t go out and change your gender for a television show. O.K., it ain’t happening. I don’t care who you are.”
Perhaps I am overly optimistic. Even if that’s the case, my next thought is this: doing good is doing good is doing good. If someone reads Caitlyn’s story, or watches one of Demi’s interview, and feels more educated or prepared to fight their own battles, great! If a Disney Channel fan follows Zendaya on Instagram, and feels inspired to speak up for themselves the way she does, awesome! And I have no doubt that tears and happy dances have been the direct result of Taylor reaching out to her fans. If celebrities get a publicity boost from their do-good endeavors, that’s fine. We can always use more good in the world, so whatever motivates someone – celebrity or not – to go out there and provide it, well, I’m all for it.