In this week’s Wednesday 5: Liz Benjamin comes under fire for asking political candidates about Fifty Shades of Grey; Isabel Allende recounts the story of the baby girl wrapped in a rag who changed her life; Danuta Kean questions why women are writing more violent crime fiction than men; Grace Coddington of  Vogue reveals that she doesn’t do emails or texts; and Niall Billings proves that fashion and art make a beautiful love story.

“Senator, Have You Read Fifty Shades of Grey?”

While our Chris Lombardi argues that debate moderators Martha Raddatz and Candy Crowley are bringing the integrity and responsibility of journalism back to the debates, others are criticizing another female journalist, Liz Benjamin, for asking U.S. Senatorial candidates Kirsten Gillibrand and Wendy Long whether they had read Fifty Shades of Grey during their one and only debate last week. Julie Burton, president of The Women’s Media Center, voiced dissent shared by media watchdog groups such as Name It. Change It and She Should Run. According to Burton:

As a moderator, Liz Benjamin was entrusted to ask these candidates about issues affecting the voters of New York. Her question about Fifty Shades of Grey, a highly sexualized work of fiction, trivializes the democratic process and by its sexist nature hurts all women who run for office.

How big a deal is this? Well, in the post-debate coverage, the Fifty Shades clip (see below) is what made the headlines—not anything substantive said by these two women. What we find even more egregious is that both Gillibrand and Long missed the gravity of the moment. Instead, they, too, joined in the laughter.


Isabel Allende on How a Mysterious Baby Girl Sparked Her Fight for Women

As we linger on the fate of  Pakistan’s Malala Yusafzai,  acclaimed Chilean-American author Isabel Allende tells The Daily Beast about an experience she had in India that transformed the way she saw, and helped, girls! As she was leaving a rural community, one of the village’s women placed in her hands a newborn baby girl wrapped in a bundle of rags. Allende recounts:

“I kissed it and tried to give it back to the mother, but she would not take it. At that moment our driver came running, took the baby from my hands, and returned it to the woman, then he pushed us into the car and we drove away. When I recovered a bit from the shock, I asked, “Why did that woman give me her baby?” The driver said: “It was a girl. Who wants a girl?”

It was that encounter that inspired her to start the Isabel Allende Foundation to empower women and girls through education, health, and protection. Click here to read the article, How a Mysterious Baby Girl Sparked My Fight for Women, on how Allende has moved her activism beyond the page.

Are Women Crime Writers Deadlier Than Men?

Publishing expert and blogger Danuta Kean is asking an important “woman question” this week (and it has nothing to do with the elections): Are Women Crime Writers Deadlier Than Men?  For Kean, it’s an astounding yes, “because of the sheer number of women inventing new and vicious ways to kill.” These crime-writing women at the helm of an explosion of heightened violence are “pushing boundaries with work that is getting nastier as a result,” says Kean. She asks a more serious question that taps our nation’s current realistic landscape of crime and violence:

But why do women write books in which we suffer horrific sexual violence when all the statistics show that men are the biggest victims of violent crime? And, as women buy 80 percent of these books, why do we read them in huge numbers?

Click here to read Kean’s response and other responses from the growing body of women crime writers.

Grace Coddington’s Inspirational Words for Young Women in Fashion

If you saw The September Issue, the 2009 documentary on Vogue, you probably know that it was Grace Coddington, the magazine’s creative director for more than  40 years, who stole the spotlight.  She recently shared some wise words with over 500 young women in fashion industry at Teen Vogue’s Fashion University.

We learned, via the folks at Independent Fashion Bloggers, that despite Coddington’s success, she doesn’t have an email account, she doesn’t text, and she doesn’t pay attention as much to a person’s outfit as to how she puts it together. And, when asked about the secret to her success , she offered: Stay quiet and let your work speak for itself. We are looking forward to delving into her memoir, aptly titled Grace, to be released in November.

When Fashion Reflects Art

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And since we’re talking about Fashion, we couldn’t help but share this beautiful and stunning collection, by Niall Billings of, of fashion reflecting art. In the post, Billings selects pieces from this season where it seems designers have “tak[en] a paintbrush” and assembled “ideas from some of the most famous paintings.” We are shown Aquilano Rimondi invoking Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period and John Galliano in conversation with Georgia O’Keeffe’s vibrant palettes, among others. All in all, in these designs we see the beautiful and long-lasting marriage between fashion and art.

Read more at 5 Dresses and the Famous Paintings They Look Like.

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