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24 February 2014

#365FeministSelfie inspiring others

The thing about being creative, especially on the internet, is that once you put an idea out into the world, it grows in ways you may not have conceived or dreamed. I mean, the #365FeministSelfie project grew from the #FeministSelfie hashtag, as well as the countless posts about selfies being empowering.

A few selfie projects have come to my attention over the past month, including one inspired by #365FeministSelfie:

Katia wrote to tell me that this project was being applied to the glut of red carpet conversations about designers. She called it "Who Are You Wearing?" and asked moms to respond. And thanks to her project, #365FeministSelfie made it to Redbook!

Mensen is taking a really different direction on the selfie path. Hand drawn selfies! It grew out of her experiences with online dating.

And of course the Today Show is jumping on the empowered selfie train with their #LoveYourSelfie series this week. They are connecting the series to "a new TODAY/AOL Ideal to Real Body Image Survey, to be released [today], [showing that] 67 percent of adult women worry about their appearance regularly—more often than finances, health, relationships or professional success." Just ugh. I guess I feel like I worry more about bills and my career than what I look like.

Although I will admit that my appearance is a top 5 daily worry. I know in college I pretty much gave up trying to look "nice." I was living with my boyfriend, who is now my husband, and super focused on classes and my research. Then when I got my first real job after graduation, I started to worry about what I wore at work. What could be fun enough for a 24-year-old, but professional enough to be taken seriously? I feel like I'm back at a similar moment. Still working at a college campus, still look fairly young, but 40 is around the corner! Which is why I love curvy fashion blogs!

Still, I wonder what else we can do to help us realize that a lot of who we feel about ourselves is a good amount of attitude? And how to get that attitude with and without that perfect pair of jeans, high heels or lipstick?

21 February 2014

Guest Post: Mad Men Workplace Policies and Leaky Pipelines: Women Journalists Talk Gender Bias

Viva la Feminista welcomes, Ambar Mentor-Truppa as a guest blogger today! Ambar is a Chicago-based feminist and public relations executive committed to cultivating the next generation of women leaders. As a board member and chair of Women Employed’s Advocacy Council, Ambar mobilizes young professional women to advocate on behalf of all working women and families. 

“I lived through the Mad Men era!” That’s what author and trailblazing journalist Lynn Povich told the crowd gathered for a panel discussion co-hosted by Women Employed on February 13th.

The audience listened attentively as Povich continued, sharing the story of how she and her female colleagues confronted the blatant sexism at Newsweek in the 60s. When they were told that “women don’t write at Newsweek,” the women not only didn’t accept it; they fought against it. In 1970, Povich and 45 other women sued the magazine for sex discrimination.

“We loved Newsweek—we just wanted Newsweek to be better,” Povich explained. She and her Eleanor Holmes Norton, now a D.C. congresswoman. Their landmark victory sent ripples through the entire news industry, paving the way for sex discrimination lawsuits against the New York Times and the Washington Post. One measure of the suit’s success is that just five years later, Lynn became Newsweek’s first female Senior Editor.

Joining Povich at the panel discussion was recent Newsweek writer Jesse Ellison, who co-authored a Newsweek article on the 40th anniversary of the landmark lawsuit questioning how much has actually changed for working women. The two remarkable female journalists answered questions posed by moderator Peggy Davis, a nationally recognized lawyer who serves as the Executive Director for the Chicago Committee where she advances racial and ethnic diversity in the legal profession.

While Povich spoke about how she and the other women experienced blatant sex discrimination, Ellison described the more subtle forms of gender bias in the workplace today. In the 2000s, she and her fellow female journalists at Newsweek watched as men around them were given plum assignments, raises, and promotions, while they were left to “walk in place.” They had been raised to believe that they could do anything, that our society had achieved equality—so it took them a long time to identify what they were facing as gender bias. “Today, it takes longer to say something is sexist,” Ellison told the crowd. “It’s a watered down version” that is consequentially “harder to pinpoint.” It was only after Ellison and her female colleagues began sharing their stories that they realized they were facing a collective problem in a flawed system rather than individual failings.

The women discussed the ways this more subtle gender bias plays out in today’s workplace. Povich described how although there are women with the experience and skills to lead, they still aren’t getting ahead. Povich called this a “leaky pipeline” problem: our workplaces aren’t structured to allow women to both be good mothers and good bosses, so many of them either opt out or are forced out of upper management positions.
fellow plaintiffs won the lawsuit with the help of the ACLU and their attorney,

During the Q&A session, the discussion touched on many of today’s hot topics for working women, ranging from the confidence gap outlined by Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In to the evolution of feminism and the women’s movement. “Our feminism was a very visible feminism,” Povich told the audience, describing the sense of sisterhood and united purpose created by the women’s, civil rights, and antiwar movements. “Today, feminism is online.” She mentioned the recent article in The Nation, Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars [ed. VLF's response]. Ellison also spoke about the divisions among women today and how she and her co-authors faced backlash from other women for publishing their article on the 40th anniversary of the sex discrimination lawsuit. One of her hopes for the future is that women and men can overcome some of their differences and join together to fight against bias in the workplace.

The evening finished on a hopeful note: the message that Povich says she wants people to take from her story is that “it is possible to change the system from within.” It may not be easy, but as her own story testifies, it can happen. And what should that change look like? “The workplace has to be restructured for working parents. This isn’t a women’s problem—it’s a societal problem. And I’m hoping young men, who are far more involved in raising their children than my father’s generation was, will come together with their female colleagues, who still bear most of the responsibility for child rearing, and demand that their workplaces change.”

Watch the video below to hear Lynn Povich and Jesse Ellison talk about making change at Newsweek.

19 February 2014

#365FeministSelfie - Day 50 & a mini-challenge!

The number 50 holds a special meaning in our society. 50th birthdays and anniversaries are golden.

Over the past 50 days, I have observed that our group is one of golden fierceness. 

A few days ago someone posted a photo of herself in a new bikini. And she is not rocking a typical bikini body either. She posted the photo along with a long note about how scared she was. Scared to be posting a photo of it for the world to see and scared at the thought of being on an actual beach in her bikini. But she knew in a few days she would...and with a smile. 

What amazes me about #365FeministSelfie pics like that are that I wonder how many of you know how fierce you really are. Yes, you might be scared, but you took that picture. Maybe 20. Then you hit publish. Back during the single digit days, I saw many tweets about how others supported this challenge in spirit, but were too scared to do it themselves. You in the photo, the one on day 5 of the flu? You might be scared, but you overcame it. I saw you. We saw you. 

To those who were/are too scared to join us, know that we share that fear. We understand it. And if you ever want to dive on in, we're here waiting to welcome you. But if you never do, we get that too. We still love you. 

I am starting to realize why people write self-help books. I threw one pebble into the world and the ripples back are intoxicating. When I see others love themselves a teeny bit more because of this project, I smile and sometimes cry. Our society is built to tell us how broken, fat, unsuccessful and ugly we are. And if this pebble helps remind you that those messages are bullshit, then that's all I could ever ask for. 

Mini-challenge: "50 is golden and shines" is the new theme for the next 10 days. Take a photo with something (yes, that something can be YOU!) that shines. Maybe a day when the sun is actually out during this harsh winter. Maybe you asked for something big & got it. Maybe an A on your term paper. Maybe a photo of you fresh from the salon with that "I just had my hair done!" shine. You know what I'm talking about. Maybe you saw your lil one do something that melted your heart. For the next 10 days, let's shine, #365FeministSelfie! 

18 February 2014

Review: The How and the Why by Sarah Treem

"In 2009, women received a majority of the degrees awarded in biological and biomedical sciences, from associate to Ph.D., and earned 53 percent of the doctorates, according to The Chronicle's Almanac of Higher Education (source)." This is up from less than 5% of all PhDs in science and engineering going to women in the last 1970s (source). In 1992, women were earning less than 40% of PhDs in biology (source).

In "The How and the Why" a play by Sarah Treem, Zelda Kahn earned her doctorate in evolutionary biology in the mid-1980s, while Rachel Hardeman is in the midst of her studies. This is what sets up a generational divide that is equal parts solid debate and trope. For one thing, Zelda is a single, career-driven woman who subscribes to the meritocracy theory for science careers. When Rachel begins to discuss her fears of being attacked as a woman, Zelda brushes it off. Rachel is also struggling with her desire to have a family - something she believes Zelda sacrificed for a storied career. 

Keira Fromm, the director, prefers to consider this a humanist play over a feminist play. But this is a very feminist play. I say that because this play is about the differences and choices women in science have to manage. Differences between two women. One looking back at her life and career - mostly in an effort to support the rise of a young gifted scientist. The younger one interrogates the life advice as only a know-it-all 28-year-old could. Awww, I remember those days. Rachel struggles with the balance too many young women know far too well - how to chase your dreams while not alienating your partner.

This play balances stereotypes and tropes with the issues of being a woman in science and science itself beautifully. As someone who has studied not only the numbers of women in science for over 15 years, but also the themes of career, family, marriage, children, and so on, I found it fun and exasperating to see them discussed on a stage in this manner. 

SPOILER:  The first 15 minutes were pretty confusing because it is not clear from publicity materials that the overall plot point is that Zelda is Rachel's birthmother. Thus the first part of the play is filled with an awkwardness that comes from two women meeting for the first time like this. I only put this spoiler in as I know some people would want to know going into this play that adoption is a HUGE part of the story. 

And this adoption plot point is just one of a handful of tropes I feel is included. Be warned...as much as I enjoyed this play, there were some plot points that made me roll my eyes. 

Overall, the conversation between the women about family, career and life are conversations I have heard in real life many times. You obtain a new view of these conversations by seeing them acted out by strangers on a stage. If you are a woman in science, or even just academia, this play will feel far too familiar. You may want to make sure you schedule time to hit a coffee shop (or something stronger) to unwind after you see this. I know I needed to debrief afterward, it kept me up that night.

The How and the Why runs until April 6th at the TimeLine Theatre on Chicago's northside. The performance lasts almost two hours and includes an intermission. It also includes as interactive lobby area with information on women in science in history, displays of "classic" educational videos about menstruation as well as a gigantic uterus quiz. You will not be bored during intermission! Tickets range from $35 during the week to $45 on weekends. Students get $10 off.

10 February 2014

Review: Kinmont Restaurant

If you are looking for some great seafood and a delish drink, look no further than Kinmont in River North. I attended their opening in late January, Kinmont opened to the public on February 1st, and enjoyed the atmosphere and tastings.

First, the restaurant is beautiful. It has the look of a lodge, but with a modern feel. Dark wood, stone and large mirrors. 

In the bar area I found servers with trays of different drinks and I chose the Bridgetown Milano. Over the past few years I have discovered that I am allergic to wine, yes even whites, so I have been trying my hand at bourbon drinks. The Bridgetown Milano is made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, cinzano sweet vermouth, falernum and fernet branca. Strong and delish. 

As for food samplings, servers walked around with a lot of different options. There was also a buffet of shrimp, oysters, and lobster (just like on their reservations page!). I tasted a good number of things, but the one thing that made me really think, "I have to come back for this!" was the salmon tartare . 
Those who know me may find that funny, as I rarely even want to try anything close to a tartare. But it was soooo good! All I knew when I took the taste was that it was salmon with something on a chip (see photo at left).

And yes, eating salmon has been quite a quandary for me considering the state of our world ocean and the animals that live in it. I no longer buy salmon to eat at home and rarely order it when out. Kinmont claims to be the first entirely sustainable fish & seafood restaurant in Chicago, so that takes a smidgen of the guilt out of enjoying one of my favorite fishes.

So if you are looking for a new place to grab dinner & drinks, consider Kinmont. I need to head back to try their chicken and fish & chips.

Kinmont is located at 419 West Superior Street in Chicago.

09 February 2014

#365FeministSelfie is 40 days old! Plus a mini-challenge...

We made it!

The past 40 days have just been amazing. I have had a few interviews about the project, talked about it so often that I feel like I am boring all of you, but then I remember that there is just so much to talk about here. 

I often stop myself from truly talking honestly about what I have been a witness to the past 40 days. While I have not been able to see every photo and read every caption, I have read a lot. And the honesty in them is overwhelming. See, when I am interviewed about this challenge, people ask what I am seeing, but to give specific examples. Frankly, the honesty I am seeing on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, etc is just too honest for me to be the reporter. Yes, most photos are public and anyone can see them. But the stories attached are too personal for me to share. Participating in this wacky idea of mine does not mean I own your photo and certainly not your stories.

What I can say about what I am seeing is reminiscent of the early days of blogging, especially mom blogging. Honest talk about not living up to what we expect from ourselves and our mothering, evolving relationships with our partners, and a constant examination of society's beauty standards. Some of us are celebrating happy moments, some of us sharing a tough moment.

I know I am getting a bit bored with looking at myself and finding a new way to take a photo, but it's not a challenge if were always fun & games, right? haha...Seriously, this is why I want to celebrate some of these markers. 40 days is just over 10% of the way through the year.

Considering that those of us who have taken all 40 days of photos have now gone past that marker for establishing a routine, what other routines should we work on together? Should we try to do some healthy living #365FeministSelfies? Declutter #365FeministSelfie? Cause we can't plan the revolution if we're sick & can't find our poster making supplies. Leave ideas in the comments.

As always, thanks for participating. And huge thanks for encouraging fellow participants. Oh, yes, I see you commenting on each others photos, trying to support each other through tough days and sharing in joy of happy ones.

Mini-Challenge: Over the next ten days, take at least one photo of what feminism means to you. Are you a clinic escort? Mentoring a young woman? Baking with your son? Building that IKEA item with your daughter? Bringing home the bacon & frying it too? It's up to you. 

06 February 2014

Review: Mr. Chickee's Funny Money

Ever wonder what Scooby-Doo would be like if it were set in Flint, Michigan? You find out at "Mr. Chickee's Funny Money," now playing at the Chicago Children's Theatre at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts 1016 N. Dearborn, Chicago until March 2nd.

Ella & I went to the press opening last week and had a great time. Mr. Chickee is an exploration of friendship, Motown music history and not far from the surface, the struggle to maintain one's determination in Michigan. 

The plot is simple. A kindly elderly man, Mr. Chickee, gives Steven, a quadrillion dollar bill. Steven sets out to discover if it is real or not. At the same time a trio of U.S. Department of Treasury agents are out to find it and take it out of circulation. They are the bumbliest of blumbly characters - thus an excellent source of laughs. Joining Steven in this quest are his BFFs, Richelle and Russell. They call themselves the "Flint Future Detectives Club".  

As in Harry Potter, Richelle is the brains of this trio. I caught on immediately that she would say something, be ignored then Steven would say it and it was "BRILLIANT!" Don't worry, ladies, this subplot explodes near the end of this 90-minute musical. Richelle is not only smart as a whip, but she has dreams (once she's seen sporting a Harvard tee) and sings her heart out about them. All three kids do.

I am really surprised that people were not dancing in the aisles, especially when Steven's dad does his ode to James Brown. The musical numbers are so well done.

"Mr. Chickee's Funny Money" runs until March 2nd, with a special autism-friendly show on Valentine's Day. All seats are $25. Make sure you don't miss this performance. Especially to see the dog puppet you can see in the photo above!

03 February 2014

SmileBox: Valentine's Day is coming!

VLF is a now an affiliate of SmileBox. I will post occasional deals and project ideas. But anytime you want to support VLF and get some  cards & such things please consider using the SmileBox link in the sidebar. 
A friend asked me how I stand the overly romantic Valentine's Day cards that our kids are supposed to buy and then pass around at school every year. I guess I don't think about it until Ella & I are in the store aisle looking at the super gendered cards and then when she opens the box to find overly lovey dovey cards. Then I flashback to grade school and wanting to make sure I didn't give a "I Choo-Choo-Choose You" card to the wrong boy. And at least I could put people's names on the cards. Ella is supposed to just bring enough cards for everyone. In the end my friend made cards online. Honestly that's what prompted me to finally launch my affiliation with SmileBox.

I did find customizable "My Friends Trading Cards" where you can put your kid's photo in the card! Just like the ones that my friend bought elsewhere. I took a screen shot of some I made. There are cards where you can put your face in them, some are just illustrations. But the best part is that you can edit the words.


The nifty thing about SmileBox is that you can print the cards out at home (let the kids color them!) or print at a store.

If you use SmileBox, please let me know your experience!


This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.

What I'm Currently Reading

I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame
The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

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