The Wednesday Five: Nuns in Trouble, Sonia Rykiel’s Bombshell, and the Power of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s ‘Veep’

This week, our blogs wondered how nuns got controversial, mused on recent news about brainpower and aging, and giggled at TV’s newest fictional vice-president. 

  •  Ever wish you’d been a fly on the wall to learn the secrets behind famous creative partnerships like Rodgers and Hammerstein, John Cage and Merce Cunningham, or Mike Nichols and Elaine May? Cartoonist Nicole Hollander was: “My personal favorite was the collaboration between Billy Wilder and A.I.L. Diamond (Some Like It Hot).”  At her blog Bad Girl Chats, Hollander turns to WVFC’s Roz Warren, whose recent Salon essay “Will Write for Crab Cakes” describes the dynamic with her humor-writing partner Janet Golden. Continuing a conversation Golden began last fall for us, Warren reflects on their differences: “I spend my evenings reading magazines; Janet prefers movies. She’s happily married; I’m happily divorced. But we’re both opinionated and fairly clever, and neither of us is afraid to fall on her face when reaching for a joke.” Click over for the rest and for photos of the pair, with Roz in her Bad Girl Chats T-shirt.
  • When WVFC ran our Parkinson’s Update on Monday, some of us had no idea that the illness affected designer Sonia Rykiel, someone we mentioned last month during Fashion Week. We first learned the unhappy news from Hayley Phelan at, who explains that Rykiel is revealing this in a new memoir, N’Oubliez Pas Que Je Joue (in English, Don’t Forget It’s a Game). It features the designer’s reflections on the disease that has plagued her for more thab a decade. “Though the 81-year-old designer appeared increasingly frail in public, it seems that very few knew of her struggle with Parkinson’s. Indeed, Rykiel said she had attempted to keep it a secret for as long as possible.” There’s more at the link, including a cover image for the book and Phelan’s thoughts about the future of the line.
  • Bridget Crawford, at Feminist Law Professors, zooms in on a story that has mesmerized us: the Vatican’s recent rebuke of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the largest organization of U.S. nuns, for its members’ tendency to focus on social-justice issues instead of areas such as abortion and homosexuality. Crawford cites a letter to The New York Times that asks, “How can there ever be too much focus on poverty and economic injustice?” before getting to  what many of us felt: “It is baffling that the Vatican would condemn women religious for public statements that ‘disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals,’ [when] the bishops were responsible for the systematic cover-up of sexual abuse of children.” She predicts, as we do, that Catholic congregations will rally around those working to help them every day: “Advantage, Sisters.”
  • We were surprised and pleased to see all of the New York Times Magazine this past Sunday devoted to “It’s All in Your Mind,” a special issue on keeping your brain healthy. The medical librarian who runs Happy Healthy Long Life agrees: “It’s chock full of news you can use, now!” including “Can Running Make You Happier?” and “How Exercise Leads to a Better Brain.” Click over to see what else she recommends, with fuller descriptions and links.
  • Ms. Magazine gives us the 411 on HBO’s new satire Veep, in which Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays a Washington insider and half-reluctant VP. “The job is not all it’s cracked up to be for Selina, with awkward public appearances, tricky political agendas and the president ignoring her,” writes Kerensa Cadenas, adding that “Veep does make explicit that many of the things Selina deals with in office are colored by the fact that she’s a woman. Considering that only 90 women serve in Congress–17 in the Senate and 73 in the House–it’s great to see a cultural representation of a woman in as powerful a position as vice president. Although the show is played for laughs” Cadenas adds, “many of the issues Selina deals with are practically ripped from the headlines.” Given that Veep is the brainchild of In the Loop creator Armando Iannucci and contains the hilarious Dreyfus, we suspect it’ll be at least as feminist as our fave Mad Men.

The Wednesday Five: Dominique Browning in Seattle, Police and Gorillas in Arizona, and Big Questions About SlutWalks

September 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Fashion, Newsmakers, Television

From law enforcement to critiques of the SlutWalk to Julianna Margulies’ hair products, this week’s blog assortment has something for almost everyone. And Dominique Browning, as ever, makes us taste new places and think about the meaning of life.

  • Blogher writer Suzie Ivy’s Bad Luck Detective wins the Best Post Title of the week: Gorillas, Swords and Marijuana Don’t Mix. Ivy, who says her career in Arizona law enforcement was born of “a mid-life crisis,” describes here some adventures investigating along what she calls the “marijuana highway”: Knocking at the door of a local methamphetamine dealer, she writes, “I had studied the layout of the house and I went to my assigned rooms with gun in hand. I entered the first bedroom, did a sweep and yelled clear as I turned and entered the next room. A queen size mattress was on the floor and a closed closet door was to my left. Standing slightly to the side, I threw open the door. Filling the four foot space was a huge fur covered monster that came within an inch of its non-life of being shot. I let out a terrified shriek, and then a relieved, ‘Oh shit,’ as I realized I was staring at a life sized mannequin wearing a gorilla suit.” Click over for the full story, and for more of Ivy’s tales.
  • Many of us have been ambivalent about the SlutWalk movement from the beginning, wondering whether police dismissal of sexual assault was a reason to reclaim the title “slut” in all its dimensions. Now, Bridget Crawford’s Feminist Law Professors points to an “Open Letter from Black Women to the SlutWalk,” signed by hundreds of black academics and journalists: “We are deeply concerned. As Black women and girls we find no space in SlutWalk, no space for participation and to unequivocally denounce rape and sexual assault as we have experienced it. We are perplexed by the use of the term “slut” and by any implication that this word, much like the word “Ho” or the “N” word should be re-appropriated. The way in which we are perceived and what happens to us before, during and after sexual assault crosses the boundaries of our mode of dress. Much of this is tied to our particular history… We do not recognize ourselves nor do we see our lived experiences reflected within SlutWalk and especially not in its brand and its label.”  The whole letter is worth reading, and attention needs to be paid.
  • On a lighter note, Dominique Browning is on a book tour! Which means another engaging photo essay from her at Slow Love Life. In Seattle, Browning visits a fish market and meditates on the meaning of plenty: ‘There are days I feel I have mermaid blood, and it makes me sad to see all my brethren iced. Yes, I am becoming what a dear friend of mine calls… a nutter. But I know that Pacific wild caught fish is clean and good for us. And seems to be taking steroids. I have never seen such enormous crabs. I love the artful way in which the bounty is stacked up. And I stopped to give thanks that we have such bounty at all. It is quite amazing, when you think about all the people starving in the world, to see such plenitude and beauty.” Click over for photos that might get you buying a ticket West.
  • On the Issues Cafe links artistic freedom with government’s threats to women’s reproductive freedom, as Linda Stein asks artists about the implications for women of the recent withdrawal of an installation from the Smithsonian. “Wendy Olsoff, co-owner of PPOW Gallery, which represents the estate of David Wojnarowicz, believes that the fast-moving process was not different than the Congressional assault on women’s health care. ‘Where are our elected officials? Why aren’t they speaking up?’  she asked. ‘An image taken out of context of ants crawling on a crucifix for eleven seconds is hardly the issue and merely a smokescreen for the real horrors that Americans will endure if the Democrats do not speak up quickly and take a stand—the censorship of a “Fire in My Belly” should be a call to arms.’ Joan Marter, Rutgers University Professor of Art History and co-editor of the Woman’s Art Journal, agrees that “the actions of the Smithsonian in removing a video installation from the show are outrageous.” We hadn’t considered it that way, but maybe we should.
  • Before we leave last week’s Emmy Awards completely behind, Fab Over 40 found some lessons to be learned from the ageless Julianna Margulies (see video below). “Her cream colored dress was an Armani Privé and her hair had a modern day Veronica Lake style. Matthew Monzon styled her hair using Leonor Greyl products. Here he gives us a breakdown on how he created the look. ‘For Julianna Margulies’ Emmys look, I wanted to mirror the glamour of her gorgeous Armani prive gown with an old Hollywood, Veronica Lake-inspired style. However, I still wanted Julianna to look modern, so I kept the style somewhat deconstructed. I started with damp hair and worked Leonor Greyl’s Lait Luminescence Bi-Phase Detangling Milk through her hair…’ ” Click over for a fuller description, and if you try any of product let us know if we should be stocking up too.



The Wednesday Five: Erica Jong’s New Book, Tenant Confessions, and Bonding with the Feminist Hulk

June 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Humor, Newsmakers, Tech

Image: Markus Schoepke, Flickr

This week’s blog tour is more fun than we planned between Feminist Hulk, Erica Jong’s new collection of sex memoirs, and a geek-festival of a Ford Motor Co. tour.

  • We’ve fallen in love with the blog of Texas writer Ruth Pennebaker, and we thought it perfect for WVFC when she headlined a post “This is What Maturity Looks Like.” What follows, of all things, is a bemused meditation on the ethics of renting: “I admit it. In our long history together, my husband and I weren’t always the most conscientious tenants. When we were young and foolish — which was almost four decades ago — we did have a few disgraceful episodes involving urine ice cubes and a bogus newspaper ad for a 1957 Chevy with overhead cams for $75 […In any event] We grew up, got married, became semi-respectable, and now we kind of see the error of our youthful ways after we’ve finished falling down from laughing about them. That was what made me so proud of us when we spent our 10 months in New York City last year. I realized we’d finally become mature when we completed without incident what was probably an illegal sublet….” Click over to hear the story, and more from the acclaimed Texas Observer columnist.
  • Want a free peek inside the U.S. auto industry? Ronni Bennett at Time Goes By did when she was invited on a special tour of Ford Motor Co., and says it was a blast. She came back full of fun facts: “Who knew the company has a smell lab in which they test for and correct offensive odors from components? Or that there is an entire department devoted to studying and developing the sound of horns for different kinds of vehicles which includes, in addition to safety, incorporating cultural influences that inform Ford about the audio preferences of people in different countries?” Click over to see photos, including one demonstrating tricks the company is learning from film animators.
  • Speaking of animation, Ms. Magazine’s blog welcomes the newly beloved Feminist Hulk, who’s been delighting many of us on Twitter for over a year. (Sunday’s tweet: HULK HAVE CONFLICTED RELATIONSHIP WITH FREUD. IMPORTANT, INFLUENTIAL, BUT SOMETIMES A CIGAR IS JUST A SEXIST CREEP.) Now, Ms. features an interview with Feminist Hulk and its creator, J. Asked about how to stay amusing while “smashing the gender binary, J concedes that “a lot of Hulk’s core beliefs, like his feelings about the gender binary, need to be constantly reiterated for new followers, but they need to be expressed in new enough ways that the long-standing followers don’t get bored. It’s a tricky balance, one I continue to work on.” Hulk adds that “FEMINISM NOT ABOUT SIMPLY REVERSING PATRIARCHY’S TERMS. IT ABOUT RETHINKING THE ROLE THAT PRESCRIBED GENDER PLAYS IN REINFORCING PATRIARCHAL STRUCTURES. THAT NOT MEAN CATEGORIES ‘MASCULINE’ AND ‘FEMININE’ DO NOT DEEPLY IMPACT DAILY LIFE, BUT THAT ANY SYSTEM WHICH GRANT LEGIBILITY TO ONLY SOME LIVES DO INJUSTICE TO ALL LIVES.” When not channeling Judith Butler, Hulk comments on baking scones, Sarah Palin and poetry. Go look.
  • We’ve often found our Wednesday Five items at Feminist Law, but this week they let us in on a secret: a list of some of the best feminist attorney blogs. It’s worth bookmarking — not just for celebrities like Mad Law Professor Patricia Williams and Katherine Franke, also seen at the NY Times, but such handy blogs as  Linda Beale’s tax law blog A Taxing Matter. The investors among us, for example, might find Barbara Black’s Securities Law Blog a useful supplement to our finance guru Jacqueline Darien. It’s a long list; please tell us in comments below which others we should be keeping track of.
  • Just before President Obama was delivering news last week about Afghanistan, Afghan women were in Washington to offer insight on the situation there. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon at Foreign Policy’s Afpak Blog checked in with them: “Until now, support for women in Afghanistan has been seen largely as a women’s rights issue. Afghan women themselves, however, see their involvement in their nation as a security issue — and not just for themselves. In their view, the battle to contribute to their families and get their girls educated is also in the interest of the international community and all those who want to see a stable, more secure Afghanistan that draws on the talents of all its citizens.”
  • Is Erica Jong still flying? If you haven’t been keeping up with the author of the 1976 Fear of Flying, you might want to check out this interview at Westword, where Amber Taufen asks Jong about her new book Sugar in My Bowl. Jong notes that some of her contributors didn’t agree to write about sex without asking their partners: “Women are very careful. Women are not Anthony Weiner! They’re very careful, and they think it’s their obligation to hold the family together, and I think that sometimes kind of causes women to not want to write about their personal lives. So it moved them to ask permission.” The results, however, she found surprising: “First of all, how hard it was to write frankly about your life. But the other thing was that when I coaxed people and got them to write, they came out with astonishing stuff. I have in this book Liz Smith talking about sex during World War II in a very tender way. Many people wrote against type, they didn’t write the things they usually write, and that was wonderful.” And because Westword didn’t borrow clips from Jong’s Youtube channel, see below for another glimpse of the book. Do you agree with the authors about Oprah’s term “vajayjay”?

The Wednesday Five: 150 Years of Vassar, Fashion Winter Wonderland, and Sundance Joins Name It-Change It

December 29, 2010 by  
Filed under World

As much of the country shivers and New Years’ approaches, our blog treats include photo essays of Vassar and winter in Gstaad, a tribute to civil rights pioneer Dorothy Height, and a new documentary charging that at this rate, we won’t reach gender parity in government ’till the year 2510. Cheers!

  • While snow blankets the Northeast, we’re imagining ourselves somewhere just as snowy but a tad more glamorous, via this Winter Wonderland fantasy from WVFC’s Stacey Bewkes at her Quintessence blog. Even if you’re safely in California or Key West, we bet you’ll still enjoy Stacey’s highlights of winter in Gstaad, including the Swarovski -crystal-laden holiday tree in the town square. Stay for Bewkes’s always-invaluable fashion musings, including skiwear from luxe casual chic Moncler and glitter snow-jewelry like  Jean-Francois Fichot’s Queen of the Sea necklace.
  • Bridget Crawford at Feminist Law Professors tells us that a post office near Washington, D.C.’s Union Station has been named for Dorothy Height, longtime president of the National Council of Negro Women. As Crawford wrote when Height died this past April, “Many people are aware of her work as a quiet but determined worker for the cause of black progress. Far fewer understand that she was also instrumental in helping to forge bonds between black and white women and between people of differing religious beliefs. She championed causes both large and small, and was a counselor to presidents as well as an advocate for the rights of poor children. As the New York Times reports, for much of her early life she was pushed to the background by the male leaders of black civil rights groups and the female leaders of white feminist groups. But she kept working nonetheless.”
  • Sally Jane Vintage Fashion has a fun online exhibition: 150 Years of Vassar. “The photos range from the women’s 1901 basketball team in their wool turtlenecks and Gibson girl hairdos through present day,” the author writes, then admits that “my interest in the photos waned around 1969, when the photos turned color (and boys were admitted to the university!).”
  • It’s a little too late for Christmas dinner, but we’re still grateful for professor Betty Ming Liu’s guide to “old-school social-networking” as it applies to formal dining rooms. We especially loved her mnemonics and helpful little drawings, so we can not only set a proper table but won’t end up eating dessert with the soup spoon.
  • It’s a touch too early to flash to the Sundance Film Festival, but we already have a film to cheer for: Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s new documentary, Miss Representation, which tackles the media sexism trends we’ve been tracking for years. We learned the film was chosen for Sundance from our partners in the NameIt.ChangeIt campaign, whose blog explains that “The film, which addresses underrepresentation of women in public office, casts a spotlight on the effects and implications of sexism against women in media. As the film conveys, it will take another 500 years for women to achieve political parity if progress continues at the current rate.” Check the trailer below for BFFs like Jane Fonda, Condoleezza Rice and our own Jennifer Pozner, but stick around as middle-school girls wonder why their peers are so scared that they feel they need pounds of makeup.

The Wednesday Five: Art Exhibitions, 40 Years of Our Bodies, and a Reality-TV Tease

November 10, 2010 by  
Filed under World

This week’s blog assortment is particularly diverse: WVFC fashionista Stacey Bewkes on fine art and cool apps, the upcoming 40th anniversary of Our Bodies Ourselves, and a promo for a TV show that’s anything but ‘Our Bodies Ourselves.’

  • We’ve loved Stacey Bewkes‘ Quintessence blog since we first saw it. And while WVFC depends on Bewkes for her terrific over-40 fashion sense (whether in white or camel), we’re thrilled when this former Simon and Schuster art director takes the time to give us a few glimpses of the art world.  In  Art and the Exhibitionist, Bewkes reflects on three disparate shows: Edward Hopper at the  Whitney, Italy Observed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and “The blockbuster museum show of the season, [which] is undoubtedly at the MoMA. Abstract Expressionist New York is so large that it is divided into three sections on three floors in an attempt to cover all possible art forms.”  Bewkes also reserves special love for the iPhone art-guide app “The Exhibitionist,” a free download that no New York art aficionado should be without.
  • At The Hairpin, the new women’s site from WVFC favorite The Awl,  Liz Colville thrills to a new friendship taxonomy necessitated by the Facebook era: “Susan Orlean’s four-item list of the different types of modern friendship, over at her New Yorker blog, is pretty spot-on,” Colville writes. “She does list two familiar types of friends on the list — ‘friend’ and ‘acquaintance’ — but in the era of social media, things have gotten hairy even for them.”
  • Bridget Crawford weighs in at Feminist Law Professors on the latest crisis involving Indian writer Arundhati Roy, who wrote about it in yesterday’s New York Times.  Last week, Crawford reports, “A crowd of up to 100 people assembled outside [her]  home, shouted anti-Roy slogans and attempted to break in,” after Roy published an op-ed defending her activism on behalf of Muslims in the state of Kashmir. Crawford reproduces portions of Roy’s Indian editorial, which goes well beyond the cry “Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds.”
  • Rachel at Our Bodies, Our Blog reports from the Consumers United for Evidence-based Healthcare Advocacy Summit, where women told their stories in preparation for next year’s 40th anniversary of the publication of Our Bodies,Ourselves. “I loved hearing…about how a small group of friends used the book to perform self-exams, how it motivated women to advocate for themselves or become active in women’s health and rights,” she writes. She then invites us all to join in: “If you have an OBOS story – however brief, or however “small” it may seem to you – please share it with us. We love to hear it, and plan to use the stories in conjunction with our 40th anniversary celebration and book release next year.”
  • And at AOL’s The Frisky, Jessica Wakeman discovers the promo for Bridalplasty, the new reality show mentioned in last week’s Q&A With author Jennifer Pozner. The trailer, Wakeman notes, “doesn’t actually show us any of the brides-to-be. Or cosmetic surgery before-and-afters. Or crippling self-esteem issues that would lead one to radically change her boobs, lips and nose before walking down the aisle.” Still, she’s braver than we are: she plans on watching the show. How about you?