Don’t tell me to smile

smiling faces

By Tara Cavanaugh

Let me first say that I have a serious-looking face. In photos where I’m not smiling, people ask me what’s wrong. In my passport photo, for which I was instructed not to smile, I look like a terrorist.

I’ll also say that I’m expressive, the kind of person who talks with her hands, and my moods are easily read on my face.

All that being said: Do not tell me to smile.

I hear it often. Brushing past a colleague in the hall: Smile! Rushing out the door late to an appointment: Smile!

There’s a whole bunch of reasons I hate being told to Smile. One, it assumes I’m going to be happy all the time. Two, it assumes that even if I’m feeling something slightly negative, I better not show it. Three, it’s a judgment that says: if you’re feeling something negative, well it can’t be that bad, so get over it.

Of course I won’t be happy all the time. And it’s my own face, dammit. So who is this stranger to judge whether or not I should be feeling something negative?

I’d much prefer for someone to say, “Hey, you OK?” When that happens, I usually snap out of whatever thing I’m scrutinizing in my head and I go, “Oh golly gee willikers, I’m great!” or something to that effect. Because whatever frown I’m wearing is probably due to the fact that I just realized I’m wearing my underwear backwards and they’re riding up. Continue reading

My Feminist Hero: Buffy Summers

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

By Lindsay Patton-Carson

Since I was a youngster, I’ve always been drawn to strong, independent female characters. It started with She-Ra, Princess of Power and the eclectic Jem, and then led into Punky Brewster and Kristy from The Babysitters Club.

Once I reached adolescence, I needed someone who wasn’t a cartoon or eight years old to look up to, someone who could guide me through this confusing and awkward time.

Buffy Summers, welcome to my life

My brother was the person who introduced me to my first taste of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Of course I’d heard of the film, but I was too young (I was nearing my eighth birthday when it came out) to let the film’s campiness and overall cheese turn me off from the television show.

I remember him watching the show, me walking in and saying mockingly, “Why are you watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer?” Then, I sat down and was immediately pulled in. I even remember the episode. It was “When She Was Bad” and I in front of my eyes I saw this assertive, commandeering woman. She had this confidence, yet all these repressed emotions she couldn’t show because she had the daunting task of saving the world. Every. Day.

How Buffy saved my adolescence Continue reading

Lena Dunham is selling her book for at least $1 million blergrumbleUGGGHHHHH

YOU GUYS. Lena Dunham is writing a book.

In case you don’t know, Ms. Dunham is the 26-year-old star and writer and director of a show called “Girls,” which is a melodramedey all about herself. And when she’s not busy reenacting her life (often naked) on camera, she is now writing a book of autobiographical essays that looks like an advice book but “isn’t an advice book,” which must be hipster code because I don’t know what the hell that means. Other than the book will include actual pages of her food diary and she muses about things like shopping and death. Mm-hmm.

“There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told,” Delusional Dunham says about writing her book, “especially if that person is a woman.”

Ahem. Narcissism and feminism are VERY DIFFERENT THINGS. Continue reading

Is domesticity just a little girl’s fantasy?

This music video says it is.

It opens with audio from an alarmist, 50s-era PSA: “Is the sweetheart you married the husband you expected him to be?” This little opener sets a (unnecessarily) critical lens on what you’re about to view in the rest of the video.

First: An overly makeuped girl in pearls sets a lavish dinner for a male mannequin in a suit. Scenes like these are interspersed with scenes of newbie singer Kimbra, grooving awkwardly and blankly in front of shelves of Victorian dolls. (Oddly, Kimbra, who hails from New Zealand, looks like a cross between Molly Ringwald and such dolls.)

And next, just to add another level of creepiness: There are two girls in the video, one who seems to “have” the mannequin man and another who jealously observes – while caring for a baby that may be his? I thought the two were the same actress, until I saw their clear height difference later on.

OK, so Captain Obvious says: Clearly there’s a problem with the whole cult-of-domesticity fantasy, because it results in an idiot girl hoping on an empty plastic man with a mistress. This idea is not new. But on another level: A perfectly modern young woman (Kembra) is saying “I want to settle down,” but all she can seem to think of is an idiot girl being cheated on by a plastic man.

We smart, sassy young women tend to believe that we don’t want to settle down, that there’s a danger in putting all of our hopes in a man – because a good father/husband may not even exist (as in, he only exists in plastic) or  he may turn out to be a baby-daddy cheater. There’s a fear there, a fear of putting your hopes on somebody and then watching all those hopes burn. The Victorian dolls end up in flames, by the way, at the end of the video (as if the statement needed more overstating.) As for the 50s-era housewife dream, we girls of 2011 are too smart to pin our hopes on it – and besides, many of us don’t even want it. Or so we say.

But: What if we do? What if we want to be full-time moms and wives? If we do, are we left with an empty fantasy? Kembra’s music video seems to be saying: Yes indeed. What do you think?

–By Tara Cavanaugh

P.S. Kembra must be fond of turning fifties dreams on their head, as she does in this danceable chick-anthem that uses the same two girls from the “Settle Down” video. The modern-day dance-club beats with a fifties-innocent chorus will also leave you somehow unsettled.