Sunday, November 25, 2012

These Haters Can't Hold Me Back: A Third Anniversary

"People either really love me or hate me." - Me 
"Yes, I've noticed." - Lane
The most valuable takeaway from the past three years of writing about other women's accomplishments has been creating a sense of accomplishment for myself. Even though I'm sharing my words and thoughts with many people, and constantly referencing "CalistaJones" in my daily life, I view the experience as very personal and internal. This is why any positive feedback is relished. I take it as justification for being me. Justification for thinking thoughts and stating opinions. Fuel to the fire, so to speak.

As I was regaling Lane with my job history and explaining to him about employers who either loved or hated me even though my performance was the same in all positions,  I expanded this determination to include most people. Now, I'm not naive enough to think there isn't any gray area, whether it's friends of friends who tolerate my presence, those who brush off my eccentricities as "Just Julia", or legitimate broken relationships. But for the most part it seems, without rhyme or reason, you're either for me or against me. 

My mom just loves me, Lane just loves me, my best friends just love me, my blog fans just love me. This doesn't mean they see me as flawless (hardly), it just means they love me despite my imperfections, despite my "Just Julia"-ness.  And as Lane wisely pointed out, (which I believe is very true even though I hate it because I want to be better than this), because of the high amount of love and adoration I've luckily received just 'cause, I tend to fixate on those who, umm, don't like me just 'cause. 

As hard as I may try to embrace the lyrics of Lane's current fav rap "These haters (radio edit) can't hold me back"*, the haters tend to hold me back. My brain just won't let them go.  More than a need to be liked and accepted, I have a desire to be understood and a belief that when I'm disregarded or disliked, it's based off of a misunderstanding. As a coping mechanism, I either lament a misstep I may have made or I zero in on the lack of depth and intelligence in the other party. For instance, after the election, as I watched my friend count depreciate on FB, I worried I had a been a little too "Julia" with one of my more popular updates:

All the rape idiots are losing!!!! woo woo!!!
Like · 

But now, evermore gleefully pleased with our feminist victory, I've decided anyone who bowed out of my Facebook life that day is a big time sore loser, with little appreciation for facts, truth,  knowledge, and goodness. Obviously, not an appropriate place to settle but trying to understand the other side or simply letting it be is less satisfying in the short term. I seem to be stuck in a never ending cycle of "Wait, is it me? Oh no, no, it's totally, totally, you." Which is the antithesis of progression, thus a progressive's worst nightmare and not where I want to remain. It's a false sense of overcoming your opposition when you just write them off as insignificant or take their rejection of you as feminist street cred. 

Much like "Julia, the person", Feminism, the movement, finds itself on a love/hate plateau. For those who embrace the doctrine and identify as feminists, there is little tolerance towards those who either actively work against gender equality, ie. Rape Idiots, or for those who clearly believe in the basic tenets of feminism yet refuse the label because of its negative connotations. An extreme, "You're either with us or against us" scenario. No gray area! In either case, it's clear misunderstanding is the cause and "Well fuck you then" is not the solution. So what to do...

As the year winds down and I look back at all of the great achievements in the last twelve months, I just want to do more. I want more posts on HelloGiggles, I want to tell more stories at The Moth, I want 60,000+ page views, and certainly I want to complete more posts. With regards to my blog, wanting more is exactly where I should be. In the Abraham Lincoln documentary "Lincoln", one historian suggests that Lincoln was never satisfied with his accomplishments even when he was in the White House and this trait is why he was incredibly successful. Now, I'm no Lincoln, but obviously I want to keep achieving. I want to make sure my achievements are farther reaching than"just" those who love me. I want to work to bridge the gap between what Feminism actually is and what "Feminism" has been demonized to be. 

The theme for this upcoming year will have a "No man is left behind" approach. (I love repurposing military quotes.) I don't want the haters to hold me back, but the idea of leaving them behind without doing as much as possible to encourage them to move forward with me seems to be regressive. We'll all be in the same future after all. I want to use my collection of women to show anyone who thinks feminism to be inherently at odds with "traditional values" or set to destroy white men how truly wrong that misunderstanding is. More people could be on board with the message if they just saw how misled they've been by this idea that change determines everything that is or once was to be wrong. My belief in gender equality does not mean your desire to change your name after marriage is a problem in and of itself or that society as we know it should be obliterated. It just means I see more sides to humanity than "Male" or "Female" and believe inclusion and acceptance will benefit us all. 

It's not hard to find examples of the "Feminist Stereotype". When women began protesting Reddit for allowing posts with photos of unsuspecting women's upskirts, the below "Feminist Nazi" Meme was created:

There were several other variants with the same theme all touting this idea that women have it SO good, we just like to make a fuss just 'cause. YOU'RE POSTING PICTURES OF OUR BODIES WITHOUT OUR CONSENT!!!! How is that not just cause for a protest!? Setting aside the Reddit issue, an identical meme was created by feminists to contest the clear stereotype and misrepresentation of the original: 

I don't know why people fear feminism or think it is just a bunch of confused women yelling. In my attempts to understand the other side, the best answer I can find would be the popular rigid belief that women can only be happy with their traditional status OR erratically enraged by it. Another either/or, no gray area situation. But that is just not true. Human beings, regardless of gender, have varied likes, dislikes, and experiences. Feminists are human beings so even with their shared beliefs, they represent a wide variety of people.

While I may be an imperfect example, I certainly am a multifaceted feminist. I am in love with a heterosexual white male so I clearly don't want "them" to become disenfranchised; a common misconception. And just because I want more than pink for girls and believe a woman's "place" is anywhere she damn well pleases, I personally love cooking, cleaning, and homemaking and can understand why someone would CHOOSE to focus on those areas. In fact, out of my parents three daughters, I am the most outspoken about feminism while also upholding more of our family traditions. Example:

My Swedish Heritage Christmas

Traditions like these remind me of my family so they are important to me. I choose to spend time baking our recipes and hanging our decorations because it feels nice. When women choose to uphold conventional attributes in addition to protesting the establishment, it shakes up the unfavorable characterization of feminists which makes people feel uneasy. The collective OCD of society doesn't like it when women color outside the lines. This female juxtaposition is often manipulated into a hypocrisy, thus permitting the stereotype to persist and memes like the "Feminist Nazi" thrive as a result.  

Feminists have always twisted negative imagery to our favor.
BUT! You can be a traditional person who questions traditional ideas. These traits don't have to be exclusive to one another. Even though I liked cooking a classic turkey dinner for my loved ones this Thanksgiving, I also like learning more about the transgender community and how Evangelical Christians were pro-choice in the 70's because of Biblical interpretations yet to be manipulated by Evangelical leadership set against feminists and homosexuals. This isn't a new wave or a change from typical activism as feminists have never been the negative, one dimensional male haters they've been portrayed as in the media. The point has always been to expand the definition of an "acceptable woman" and extend opportunities.

There are good and comforting parts of our past that should be preserved, but there are better parts of our future that can only be created by questioning and editing what is already accepted. It's all about finding a balance. Many tend to focus on the fear of losing privilege when they really should consider all they will gain from progress. There are so many women (and spoiler alert: men ;) who are shining examples of what can be gained by intentionally questioning comfortable "norms" in the name of bettering life for all. 

So maybe, if you've written off this blog (me) before as a waste of your time or in direct conflict with your core values, you should give it (me) another chance. Let's work on understanding one another and appreciating our differences as a way to come together. Maybe this won't be the most successful theme yet but I'm excited about it. And if you've been a long time follower and Julia supporter, THANK YOU! I promise it's just going to keep getting better! 

For fun, by the numbers:

50 Posts totaling 88,939 words = basically a book! A slowly written, slowly read book. Cool!

*In no way shape or form are Rick Ross' "Hold Me Back" lyrics a feminist approved manifesto or Lane's favorite rap. ;)

Example of "intentional questioning" by an 8 year old girl:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Asha de Vos

Question 1: Would I say I'm an animal lover? Hmmm...

Do I love cute lil baby bunnies like this

Small, blurry Ralphie

Did I wear gloves whenever I held Ralphie, my Soap Box prize money hamster, so I wouldn't have to touch his butt? (I really should keep a tally of SBD mentions on this blog.)

Did Jonathan Safran Foer's "Eating Animals" change my food lifestyle? 

Does my 4th roommate Welly's inability to bury his litter box poo drive me cray?
Yeah, duh.

Do I think puppy mills are the worst?
Of course.

Do I think PETA is the other worst?
Uh huh. 

So I suppose that makes my answer: Yes*. 

*I love animals but I think they're pretty ewey at times. Also, PETA is the worst.

I'm sure it comes as no to surprise to hear a feminist would take issue with PETA.  The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals regularly use sexist images of women to create attention for their organization. I'm not just talking about naked ladies, but oftentimes their ads depict violence and allude to sexual assault. How does this help animals? As an animal lover*, I do think we have a responsibility to care for other creatures, but I do not think it should be at the expense of women or people in general. 

Posing for a PETA ad campaign is popular "charity" work these days for both male and female celebrities. While the men and women who participate are usually in various stages of undress, the messages being communicated are very different. For example, two humorous anti-fur campaigns below: 

Joanna Krupa
David Cross
The female ad tells us fur is gross by equating it to lady pubes, while the male ad eliminates the need to wear animal fur by telling us to proudly rock our own body hair. Ok. We already know how I feel about the politics of female body hair, but this is a mixed message, no? Should we not wear fur because it's gross like a big bush or should we not wear fur because we have our own? Or are there different rules for men and women?

Now, hold onto your butts, (shameless Jurassic Park quote) I'm going to make ANOTHER reference to The Real Housewives. Joanna Krupa, a new Housewife on the Miami season, had production film this particular PETA ad for the show. Krupa is a very outspoken animal rights activist who makes grand statements like "I will fight for these animals until the day I am dead." She is also mainly against fur which is confusing since she is not a vegan, nor a vegetarian and wears leather. She justifies this, rather proudly, by stating leather comes from processing animals for food which is OK. Hmm. Seems a bit hypocritical but whateves. 

You can watch the scene from the show online and read about why she wanted to do such a "racy" ad. Apparently, a few years back she saw an undercover video of animals skinned alive for their fur, which was obviously very upsetting. Here are a few choice quotes from the shoot: 
"Tony had to glue on a wig. I think Roman would have killed me if I'd grown my own bush."
"You're going to get into a lot of trouble with the feminists, Joanna."  
"For people who don't have a sense of humor, they'll complain. But those that get it, will see the fun side of it."
Cat Fur
I get the joke; crazy hair down there! HILARIOUSLY ABSURD!!! Aside: Don't we think it's way more risque to have pubic hair nowadays? Isn't it coming back into style, sexily speaking, almost like a fetish? (Sexily: newest made up word!)  Anyway, propagating sexism in the name of saving animals seems unnecessary and counterproductive.  PETA and Joanna say they have to create controversy to get attention but in reality they would probably better serve themselves with more thoughtful and intelligent marketing. Again, Joanna isn't even against meat production which, how did Snooki famously say it, "They kill the animals when they are alive!" If you're anti-animal cruelty, a thinking gal would extend her protest to the food industry as well. Can anyone even afford real fur anymore? I know I can't. And is fur any worse than leather or meat production? Not saying I want to buy furs or support their manufacture, but I have to say my sister's fur from our late Aunt Bernie is really nice. I'd totally wear it to a Housewives shindig, even if it was 90 degrees and Joanna was there. Giving up leather and/or meat would make Joanna's work seem way more legitimate because it would suggest she's done her research. After all, she says:  
"Push comes to shove, I'm the doer. ...Show me what you do."
If "doing" is fat shaming, rape apologizing, and just plain confusing everyone, ALL THE ANIMALS ARE DOOMED!!! 

Editor's Note: Maybe Joanna thinks this is the only way she can save animals? Just a thought, and if that is the case, it's upsetting because she is probably capable of more positive for all approaches but has never been encouraged to do anything but model. 

PETA's confusing "Save the Whales" campaign

Thankfully for all the cute little baby bunnies out there, "the feminists"** believe in protecting animals and figuring out smarter ways for us all to live together on Mother Earth. Activism without sexism is completely possible. 

Question 2: Do I watch a lot of whale videos on YouTube? 
                         Yes, no asterisk.

Scene from my dreams
For the past year or so, I've been having all of these intense, vivid dreams about whales: Swimming with humpbacks in icy black water; pine-forest rimmed coves teeming with ominous orcas; or bobbing around with belugas. They're recurring, sometimes scary, and all consuming. When I wake up, all I want are MORE WHALES! I've never seen whales in real life, so I don't know why my brain is so focused on them or what these dreams could possibly mean. They've replaced the recurring cry-in-your-sleep nightmares I used to have about the Holocaust, though so I'll take 'em!

YouTube is so amazing for so many things like bunnies taking showers, but especially nature videos. And, "real" mermaid documentaries (I once spent a whole day terrifying myself with them.) Actual nature clips are the best though because animals once only seen in specific documentaries or in pictures, can now be easily found instantly. Take this sperm whale video for instance:

How awesome is that, right!? Outside of Moby Dick and pictures here and there, I really never thought much about actual whales swimming around and existing. But thanks to YouTube, I can watch dozens of vids like these. And I have; which means I now know about TED fellow Asha De Vos. Thanks You'tb. (Not all of my breves work)

Meeting people who are truly passionate about what they do for work, for fun, for sanity is one of my favorite things. Their enthusiasm emanates from within which automatically inspires anyone around them. Asha is one such person. She is a marine biologist from Sri Lanka who has dedicated her life to the study of a unique population of blue whales living off the coast of her homeland. 
Sri Lanka from Space

Positioned in the Indian Ocean, just south of India, Sri Lanka was embroiled in a civil war that ended in 2009. Despite declining freedoms since the military took over, the small island nation has been declared one of the fastest growing economies in the world. They produce coffee, tea, rubber, cinnamon, as well as many other exports that have made them a vital part of international trade dating all the way back to the Silk Road era. Because they are an island, the movement of goods in and out of the country is done by ship. This shipping super highway runs directly through the path of Sri Lanka's mysterious blue whale population.

The blue whale is the largest mammal that has ever existed on the planet. Out of dinosaurs, woolly mammoths, and other prehistoric animals; these guys are the biggest.  They average about 98 ft in length and weigh 200 tons. Until the 20th century when they were almost hunted to extinction by the whaling industry, they flourished in the world's oceans. This is why little is known about these massive creatures. After gaining international protection in 1966, their numbers have improved but pale in comparison to how many there once were. PBS has a fantastic documentary on their American Experience page highlighting the history of whaling which paints the picture of how these animals were affected directly as a product and now indirectly by the capitalist system. 

Growing up in Sri Lanka, Asha was not far from the world's most intriguing blue whales. Typically, blue whales migrate at different times of the year from warmer to colder waters and back again, but the Sri Lankan pod remains in the waters off the coast year round and no one knows why. While the island country is very proud of this group, they are at risk. The shipping vessels carrying goods in and out of the country, travel right through their feeding path. Now the nation is no longer at war, tourism has become more popular and expeditions to view the whales up close also threaten their safety. Since so little is known about them, protecting them from these threats is difficult. 

Asha de Vos studied marine biology as an undergraduate in Scotland. She has lived and studied in England, New Zealand, and Australia to prepare her for the work she is doing for the Sri Lankan blue whales. Her main drive to save the whales, stems from her deep fascination with the animals themselves, but also with a desire to actually learn and study them. Many times people just act in the name of doing good before they really understand the situation. de Vos strives to have a complete comprehension of all the different facets and factors involved, including the shipping and tourism industry,  in order to have the best chance for success. Education before action always seems to create the best results. A bit of a different approach from Joanna and PETA...

Even though the You'tb didn't exist when I was a kid, I had a great book all about many of the Earth's whales. It was a pop-up book called "Mighty Giants of the Sea". My sister and I loved it; pulling the tabs making the whales swim or feed. The page about the blue whale opened up to 5 times the length of the book in order to demonstrate the massive size of their particular species. There is something about the ocean that completely captivates people, kids especially. Many of my friends wanted to become marine biologists due to their love of dolphins and probably Lisa Frank marine animal stickers. As we got older, maybe more realistic, we all became office employees or teachers, except my friend Katie. She is an actual marine biologist on the Gulf Coast of Texas where she is a research assistant. At one point, she was living on the beach tagging and studying sea turtles and their nests. Her career has taken a lot of work, time, and defense since some have wished for her to have taken a more traditional route. Regardless, she's living out her dreams and I'm so proud/jealous of her. 

Blue whale page from Might Giants

When Asha talks about the work she is doing, she doesn't hide the fact she knows it's not a traditional female field.  She directly confronts the lack of women leaders in Sri Lanka by making statements like,
"I don't need to be a man to do what I do."

Asha at work
Such an important statement for everyone to hear! She also doesn't need to be naked, aggressive, or create false controversy. Her conviction in her own ability is vital for her to be able to accomplish anything in the name of her work. If she doesn't believe in herself, who else will and who else will save the whales? As a TED fellow, she is recognized as a world leader in the conservation of blue whales. Education and study are the most valuable tools she has at her disposal which is why she is creating interest in her research. Asha and my friend Katie are unique in that they believe in themselves even if few examples of other women making similar choices are available. Lucky for current and future generations, YouTube has made Asha's work accessible for the whole world. She's inspiring many to become interested the whales she loves as well as encouraging inspiring the next generation of marine biologists. The blue whales are lucky to have her on their side and I can't wait to learn about the miraculous facts her research will turn up. 

Watch the video below to hear about what Asha has to say about her work and stay up to date on her work by reading her blog, The Unorthodox Whale! You can also donate to her research!!

** I love how "the feminists" are always spoken about as if we're this one monolithic group, set to destroy all goodness and joy. 
Cover Photo

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Carole Radziwill

Act One.

Death is a difficult concept to embody. The final act of life leaves behind a heavy burden for those associated with the deceased. Since we know nothing about what becomes of us once we die, we are often afraid of the finality and unknowns.  We project this fear onto those left behind with labels, awkward phrases (ie. "He's in a better place"), and a code of conduct for how they are to act and mourn. They may have some notice, such as a long illness or old age, but the pain of loss can come abruptly and without warning, delivering an excruciating and oftentimes life altering blow.   
"Once it was the four of us, with all of our dreams and plans, and then suddenly there was nothing." - What Remains
Carole Radziwill became a widow on August 10, 1999. Her husband, Anthony, succumbed to the cancer he had been fighting the entire 5 years they had been married. She had prepared for his death as much as anyone can prepare for death. She was exhausted. He wasn't getting better and watching him undergo procedure after procedure had killed almost all of her hope for their lives together. 

I'm not superstitious or hold belief in adages like "all things happen for a reason", BUT I've always secretly thought if one terrible thing happens, you're safe from another terrible occurrence. I know, I know, it's childish, overly naive, and directly contrasts the way I've lived my life since my car accident; I don't drive mostly because I'm terrified of another accident. So, maybe I don't really believe it, but since for as long as I can remember I've thought this way. It's comforting I suppose. When I hear a story like Carole's, newlyweds dealing with incurable cancer, I don't believe it could get worse for her because that's her one terrible thing. But we all know that's not how life works. 

Anthony Radziwill was the son of Lee Bouvier and Stanislas Radziwill. His father was a Polish prince and his mother was Jacqueline Kennedy's sister. He was American "royalty" and actual Polish royalty. Carole became a princess when they married and John F. Kennedy Jr. was Anthony's best man. Coming from a working class family, she was thrust into a life few of us can relate to. When John Jr. met and married Carolyn Bessette, Carole found a friend and ally to navigate this new upper class world. 

Carolyn and Anthony at her wedding.
In her book, "What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship, and Love", Carole recalls her childhood with her Italian-American family, pot-growing grandmother, and classic 1970's teen angst. When Carolyn comes into the picture, the shy Carole was already dealing with what it means to be a "Kennedy", not only to the general public but as an outsider within the actual family. On top of that, her husband was dying. They are in and out of hospitals and their marriage wasn't a magical fairy tale. Carolyn breathes a familiarity into her life with Anthony she hadn't experienced before. She offers her a life boat in the sea of death. She stays with her in the hotel while her husband is in surgery, visits with Anthony when Carole simply needs a break, and mediates a sometimes tricky relationship with her mother-in-law, Lee. She quickly became a best friend, sister, and confidant. They shared a bond very unique due to their marriages but also because of who they were as individual women. Carolyn was Carole's light at the end of Anthony's life. 

The year of Anthony's death, the four friends summered in Martha's Vineyard to ensure they would get to be together as much as possible. Due to their busy lives, John and Carolyn were back and forth in their private plane piloted by John himself. Carole craved their visits because they ignited her weekends with laughter and normalcy. One night, when they were due back, life was still and quiet. First, they were simply late. Then, they never arrived. Their plane crashed just off the coast; they were killed along with Carolyn's sister, Lauren Bessette.

Lee Radziwill and Carole at Anthony's Funeral
After the three of them had died, Carole was lost. She was a new widow, her best friend whom she had counted on to guide her through this time was taken from her so suddenly, it made her upset her husband hadn't died first. She says she spent a lot of time alone, in her apartment, mourning; shut off from life. 

Act Two. 

If you're a follower of this blog, even a casual reader, you've noticed my propensity to reference "The Real Housewives". From Beth Phoenix and Katherine Dexter McCormick, to Maxine Hong Kingston, I've managed to mention my guilty pleasure. Now, I'm the first to admit this show is not to the benefit of women. It's really the soap opera of the 21st century; over the top and ridiculous. It shouldn't be taken seriously. Producers manipulate the actual lives of fame hungry, overly privileged "wives", to create money making reality fiction. The show is a major disservice for women in pop culture because it rewards shallow behavior and propagates the myth that women only care about shopping, gossiping, and Botox. Sometimes, it even takes on a faux-feminist angle of "independent women", doing it for themselves, all the while perpetuating stereotypical gender roles. But I can't stop watching. I really love it. 

Many of the "wives" turn their TV time into opportunities to cash in on their "star" status. They "write" cookbooks, "develop" wines, and become fashion "designers".  (So many quotation marks!) Or they just auto tune their way to pop stardom. Take "Countess" LuAnn DeLesseps' attempt at singing in her MUSIC VIDEO for "Money Can't Buy You Class": 

Two words: No words. Or, as Carole called it, "Bizarre."

While certain plot lines and twists are crafted by producers to make their show make some kind of sense, the deep levels of delusion are very, very real. I don't know whether or not money can buy you class, but I'd say it can buy you a fair amount of unhappiness and disappointment. Most of the women are in their 40's with grown children, crumbling or crumbled marriages, and massive debt; like, super massive debt. But they are truly gifted at denying everything from their own misused privilege to menopause. You'd think menopause was some kind of death sentence if you'd never heard of it outside of this show. So, for the most part, I view the cast members as a template for how not to be a woman/mother, how not to age,  and believe we can all learn how harmful blindly accepting "the female role" can be. 

Enter Carole. 

Carole was one of the new cast members of this season's "The Real Housewives of New York City". Now, you're probably wondering, why are you writing about a woman who actively participated in a show you're telling us devalues women and makes us look silly and vapid? Well, because Carole is the antidote. 

After she recovered from the first stages of grief, Carole spent 6 years writing and "It-Girling" herself around the world. Basically, she lived my dream. After leaving ABC News, her memoir became a best-seller, she was on "Oprah", she bought a loft in lower Manhattan, and became a contributor to Glamour Magazine. She dated George Clooney and I think broke up with him. She is best friends with designers Naeem and Ranjana Khan and dog sits for Susan Sarandon. She's cool and fabulous and I'm always jealous of her outfits and relaxed demeanor. Along the way, she met Andy Cohen and he eventually begged her to be on RHONY. She accepted which is how she ended up on reality TV.

Carole in her apt.
The couch was her mother in law's
and one of Carole's favorite possessions.
Now to get to how she ended up in CalistaJones (her crowning achievement ;). 

Carole met her husband while working as a journalist and producer for ABC News. She traveled the world, was embedded with troops in war torn countries, intricately pieced together stories, and won several Emmy's for her work. She and Anthony were equals who fell in love and enjoyed each others company. It didn't matter to him that she came from a lower income family, just as it didn't matter to her that he came from Polish royalty. 

On Assignment in Khandahar 
She writes about how she landed her job in journalism and the determination she had in working toward her goal is so inspiring to me. Since her family didn't have any money, she couldn't go to a top school, but took advantage of her time at Hunter College. This is one of her traits that I feel is so admirable. She doesn't complain about her situation or wish it was different, she simply works with it no matter the obstacles. I often think if I had different circumstances, I would have made different (read "better") choices. Carole just goes for it and understands success takes work and effort. She marched her way into the office of a top producer and recalls now if she had known how important this woman was at the time of her meeting, she probably wouldn't have done it. But she did, and was given an unpaid internship which eventually landed her her dream job. She had to work throughout her internship and pay for her own apartment and finish her degree. She is a self-made woman. 

Her relationship with Anthony was undefined for quite some time due to the nature of their careers. It was long distance and their status was "It's complicated" before they decided to commit. If other "Wives" were given the opportunity to marry Anthony Radziwill or thought they could become an actual princess, there would be no hesitation. For Carole, her job mattered a lot and entering the Kennedy world was quite overwhelming for her. Anthony gained her trust by making her feel comfortable within a family structure that has every reason to be wary of outsiders. I can't imagine how surreal it must have been for her initially when she was introduced to his mom Lee and "Aunt Jackie". When they finally decided to get married, they were already committed partners and she was in love with Anthony, not the pomp and circumstance of his life. They giggled about the grandiose wedding his mother planned for them and John Jr. teased Carole about her new title.  
Carole and Anthony

Her flippant attitude toward her new wealthy life doesn't mean she denies the privilege this period created for her. She knows she is very fortunate and has advantages now most people will never experience. A lot of people criticize her memoir for capitalizing on a Kennedy tragedy. She acknowledges this is why at first people were interested, but after reading her book, her writing is what makes it shine. It is her story after all, her heartbreak. Her sadness can be related to while at the same time is very unique. One of her greatest regrets is only having one photo of Carolyn and herself. Carolyn was hounded by the press, so naturally, she didn't take a lot of photos in her personal life. Privacy was very important and granted to her by her family and friends. While most of us have lots of pictures with our loved ones, there are never enough when we lose someone. The end of "What Remains" is so emotional because the way Carole recalls her loss forces you to think about those you love. You can feel her pain and share in it with her. She becomes very real.

When I first heard she was going to be on RHONY, I was a little worried. How does a woman with so much class and revered talent end up in reality TV?

As Carole says, after much contemplation, the decision was easy as she viewed it as just another job offer and way to sell more books. Luckily, she was right. She was back on the NYT Best Sellers list and just landed a 6 figure deal for two new books, her novel and a collection of essays. Her appearance epitomizes her "unplanned plans" mantra. She never knows where life will take her but she is open to all experiences, and purposely uses them to her advantage.

"What a perfectly stupid time we would have" sums up the attitude Carole has on RHONY. She never takes herself or the show too seriously as she recognizes it is a guilty pleasure. She maintains her cool throughout the season and doesn't allow herself to get wrapped up in the pettiness some of the other ladies like to promote on the series. She butts heads with "The Countess" throughout, mostly because she doesn't like the facade of "society" she promotes. Carole doesn't deny her privilege but she also doesn't promote it either. She walks a fine line the other ladies could learn from. As she points out in her blog about Sonja Morgan's ex (Morgan as in Chase Bank): 

"The Morgans are American royalty. Yes, royalty who charge us $3 to use their ATMs. There’s an Aristocrat for you. (Cheap!)"

When the other women struggle, like Sonja in her divorce, they are only able to focus on their own pain. This is what separates Carole from the rest of her cast and makes her POV refreshing. She maintains an open perspective even when she could easily shut out others.

In the ultra silly reunion show, the other women give her a bit of heat about her teasing quips at their expense and her intro line "I may be a princess, but I'm definitely not a drama queen." She defends that she doesn't take herself too seriously and wants to have fun with the show. She also reiterates her title is not how she defines herself. Her marriage, while special and important to her, did not give her life meaning. She is more proud of her writing and her journalistic achievements. My kind of princess!

Throughout "What Remains", Carole references Fortuna, the goddess of fortune. She can provide good luck or bad luck, neither being owed nor predictable; simply an erratic force in life. She writes about the good luck of landing her job and the bad luck of losing her husband. In the way Carole has responded to the fortune she has been dealt, she offers an original take on dealing with death. She certainly has given new life to the widow label and is unafraid to question the rules we are told to abide by when death leaves us alone. Her expression of the raw emotions she experienced is refreshing in the overly cliched world of loss. She doesn't find solace in empty comfort, but allows herself to sink into depression and then chooses her own path out. 

While I am thoroughly jealous of Carole's success and elegance, I am more taken by her self assurance. The best role models aren't the ones who make us want to be more like them, but those who encourage us to be more like ourselves. Maybe that is a contradiction, "I want to be more true to myself, just like Carole!", but the way she has lived her life, according to her own rules, makes me want to find my own way based on my own strengths and talents. Yes, I love her pretty dresses and imagining what my life would be like in her loft, but as I sit here on my couch, writing on my 3 yr old NetBook, I really like my life and the choices I've made. If pride in myself is a result from watching "The Real Housewives", that has to be a good enough justification, right? 

Carole is already Carole. So I guess I'll just happily be me. :)

Cover photo

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Frances E. Willard


Four. Four posts in the past 8 months of 2012. Only 4. Ugh. 

In November and December of 2009 alone I completed 8 posts. In 2010 and 2011, I averaged 1.5 posts a month. As I sat down to force myself to finally complete a new post last night, I noticed the numbers to the right of my homepage and couldn't help but panic and think, "What has happened to 2012!?"

"Is someone just too distracted by her domesticated bliss?" - Lane Pieschel

In January, I started dating Lane. A super cute comedian whom I love so much. While I hate to admit having a boyfriend has shifted my focus from my beloved CalistaJones, it has. But before you become disappointed with me for having seemingly abandoned my feminist principles for a cute, cuddly man, 2012 has been a year of exciting firsts reaching far beyond my relationship status.

Big guy super stud mega hottie. My bf Lane. :)

I finally told a story at The Moth StorySLAM!! Well, 2 actually. They both went well but I'm excited to become a better storyteller. Two of my submissions have appeared on and one was posted on It's definitely encouraging to have your writing validated by national websites. I attended the Northwestern Summer Writer's Conference and actually felt like a real writer! I'm also thinking about starting a podcast and am working on developing the concept and figuring out all of the logistics. It's been a productive 8 months! 

So, writing has been happening, just unfortunately not on CalistaJones. I fell into a writer's block of sorts where I couldn't finish new entries for some reason. Today is my first step toward getting back in the habit of completing posts starting with Frances Willard!


As a modern woman, I have a lot of modern debt. I'm modernly indebted to Sallie Mae, Visa, and ACS for school and shoe purchases I modernly bought then and am modernly paying for now. So mod. All of this moderness necessitates a day job. So, even though I'd love to sleep til noon, write til 7, then party til dawn, I spend my 8-5's at Northwestern University. Specifically, I work in the Registrar's Office with the Registration and Scheduling team. This is my third position working in higher education and I really do love it, although I am often under-appreciative of my secure, stress free career. Is it my dream job? No. Does it provide more than enough for me to modernly pay down my debt while having a life full of weekend mimosa brunches? Yes. I get to Facebook professionally, take vacation time whenever I want, and most importantly and beneficially, work with a team of incredibly self assured and highly capable women. All in all, I'm making it on my own with guidance from independent women which is this modern working girl's dream come true. 

Mod nails for a modern profesh woman. 
Traditionally, even though most jobs in my field are held by women, the men have been the registrars. In the past decade however, women have been making strides to fill this gender gap and in my office, hold all leadership positions. My boss Leigh Ann has (incredibly ;) hired me twice now; first at North Park and then at NU. In our combined 4 years of working together, I have learned how to not only do my job well but have also become forward thinking and career minded. She's one of the hardest working people I've ever met and she balances her office time with being a wife and mother. LA not only puts up with my shenanigans on a daily basis, but always manages to be encouraging even when it comes to the search for my next position. And, she's been a fan of my blog since the very beginning! Dream boss! 

As a Senior Assistant Registrar, LA serves on a team of managers, who are all female. Over the last year I have grown so much under their leadership. There are challenges here and there, as with any job, but I feel more confident now in my abilities and I credit all of them for building that within me. Seeing capable, intelligent women in charge of many important day to day and big picture decisions, has been extremely beneficial. It is a significant change for women in the workforce to have more and more female leaders advising them and opening up new career paths. This is truly so mod. Mary (as in Tyler Moore) would be excited. We should all be excited!
If my blog represents my feminist philosophy, then my job is my feminism in action. The women I work with encourage me to not only have new ideas but to implement my projects and accumulate more experience. Most of my coworkers are also mothers. While I appreciate the work stay at home moms (SAHMs) accomplish, declaring their job to be the "hardest in the world" is simply empty appeasement. Leaving the home to work is a feat in and of itself. Child care, time off for sickness, managing your work life with your home life, etc., add to the responsibilities of mothers. In addition, staying at home in this economic climate is a luxury that is not affordable for most families. Whether you work and raise children, or spend your days with your kids, none of us benefit from being coddled. Why aren't mothers supported the most if SAHMs have the "hardest job in the world"? 

A monthly ritual in my workplace are office meetings complete with free breakfast! So fun! The room we meet in is extremely distracting because it's a space straight out of Harry Potter. The whole hall is reminiscent of Umbridge's puke pink office, but replace the meowing kitten plates with giant portraits of presidents from Northwestern's past. The walls are dusty rose, with each regal painting hanging high above, staring down upon us. Overtime, I have become discouraged by the indistinguishable white male faces; all stereotypical leaders, sparking no curiosity or inspiration. Imagine sitting in a room mostly filled by women, surrounded by portraits of men, listening to HR tell us we won't receive paid maternity leave until it is legally required. Stirs up just a bit of rage.  So not mod. 

One morning, as if appearing out of nowhere, like a particularly difficult "Where's Waldo" puzzle, I finally spotted Frances.

Compare and Contrast:
Umbridge's Office

Hamlin Hall.
See what I mean.

Can you spot Frances? It might take a bit. She is up on the top row, 4th from the left. 

Zoomed in, supes blurry portrait pic.
Frances E. Willard was the president of the Evanston College for Ladies. Eventually this school was incorporated with Northwestern and Willard served as the first Dean of Women. She never served as the president of NU but it is still nice to know she is remembered in this hall. 

Frances lived a vastly different life from other women of her time. She didn't serve as the dean at NU for long since she had a falling out with her former fiance who was also the president of the university. She went onto become a leading lecturer in the temperance movement. She was a devoted suffragist and her work is directly responsible for the passage of the 19th amendment, a milestone she never lived to see. She worked tirelessly to bring the plight of women to the forefront of American minds in the 1800's. 

Willard lived in an age when women were the property of the male head of house. You were your father's daughter, your husband's wife, and your children's mother. Your autonomy was non existent. You could not vote. You could not own property. You could not inherit wealth directly. If you were lucky enough to be educated, it was in the arts and you were not expected to advance onto college or work outside of the home. If your husband, son, or father hit and abused you, you had no legal recourse. If your husband drank his weekly earnings away at the local pub, you were still required to put food on the table before he arrived home. In a very real way, you were a second class citizen. So not mod. 

Prohibition Ladies

Willard's Statue in
the Capitol Building
Educated and privileged women like Frances began to envision a better life for American women overall. Their main enemy was alcohol because it consumed their men so perversely. Early feminists believed outlawing liquor would save women from domestic abuse and help men rise above the effects of alcoholism. While we now know the era of Prohibition in our country lead to organized crime, widespread corruption, and violence, it was born of out of desperation with the best intentions. "Home Protection", as Willard called her platform, combined the suffrage movement with outlawing alcohol to appeal to the everyday woman. Most women had been warned to ignore feminists by the patriarchy who controlled religious outlets, the media, and government. Freedom from alcohol was a nice cover for many women to use to demand political equality. The failure of the 18th amendment came only after the law had been put into place. Many like to blame feminists for their misguided efforts, but in truth, without Prohibition, the 19th amendment would have taken much longer to secure. It was a means to an end that mobilized an entire generation of women in a way never before seen in human history. By that standard, Willard and her counterparts' efforts were incredibly successful.

Frances on a bike.
Frances aggressively toured the country, speaking to women directly about their right to education, their need to assert their right to vote, and of course, Home Protection. As the president of The Women's Temperance Union she not only campaigned against liquor but also set up homes for women who had developed addictions to alcoholic medications. She lobbied for homeless women and children, female wardens in women's prisons, and other initiatives to expand rights for women. She wrote numerous books including "A Wheel Within a Wheel" which was her account of learning to ride a bicycle. Many feminists, including Susan B. Anthony, believed cycling was a key tool for women's emancipation in that it provided solid transportation for them not dependent upon men. It is widely speculated that Frances was one of the first openly gay women, living with Anna Adams Gordon, her personal secretary. Many historians believe them to have been lesbians even though it is difficult to define their relationship with modern day terms. Regardless, this is further proof that Willard was committed to living her life in her own way and in opposition to what was expected of women. 
Frances (standing), her mother (sitting)and Anna (kneeling)
Abuse of Power Comes As No Surprise

While much of Frances' work is inspiring due to her vision and ability to imagine a better future for women, she, like many early feminists, found herself at odds with the progressive black movement. Because temperance workers were using their platform to appeal to more conservative women, they oftentimes sited African Americans as incapable of responsibility and equated them to children in regards to alcohol. This is most definitely racist and inexcusable. It is an unfortunate piece of women's rights history that plagues the feminist movement even today. Without the appreciation of white privilege and the understanding of the unique challenges non-white women experience, we cannot begin to achieve overall equality for women. 

One of Jenny Holzer's most iconic photographs is of female graffiti artist Ladypink wearing a tank top printed with Holzer's truism "Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise". Willard's racist platform was challenged most aggressively by Ida B. Wells who wanted to make it known that Frances maintained regressive beliefs about black people. She wanted to out her by publishing some of Frances' disparaging remarks in England but was prevented by one of Willard's rumored lovers and benefactors, Lady Henry Somerset. I have Holzer's image framed in my living room and it is the tiled backdrop on my computer at work. As we go forward, and as I live my life with the inherent privilege residing in the color of my skin, it is important to learn from Willard's shortcomings and abuse of her own power. We cannot keep making these same mistakes if we want to advance women as a whole which is why we need to acknowledge the abuses our own movement has committed in the past.


In this modern day, we sometimes like to believe we are too far removed from the struggles Willard faced in gaining the rights we so often take for granted. We are coming up on another election, and while it is easy to become complacent about casting votes in November, we should remember that many of the women who fought to earn us this right never lived to see it become a reality.  This is why I vote. Not because of the "War on Women" narrative fabricated by a sensationalist media, but because I respect the great effort that went into securing my equality. 

I vote because even though many are trying to limit our hard earned rights, there is an aspect to being a woman now that is so exciting. We don't need dooms day headlines to get us to the ballot box if we just take a second to appreciate the liberation we have while understanding there is more work to be done. 

It can be overwhelming to fight for rights like maternity leave, reproductive choice, accessible/affordable health care, effective education, equal and fair compensation, financial safeguards against massive banks, and a laundry list of other limitations to our freedoms as females. It's true we are still chipping away at that elusive glass ceiling, but to say we have made no strides or have worsened our situation or to see no hope for our future is completely incorrect. 

Before I saw Frances' portrait on the wall of NU Presidents, I was allowing myself to get discouraged. What a waste of my energy! I am happy to know my employer has dedicated her former home as a museum in her honor. We should all be encouraged and feel privileged to be alive as women today because we can work and learn together due to the sacrifices Frances and her contemporaries made for us. 

For the first time, we are graduating from college at a higher rate than men. We are entering the work force more prepared and innovative than ever before which means we are finally receiving promotions and leadership positions. We have the right to choose motherhood and marriage, a nonexistent choice for previous generations. We are making it and the harder we work the weaker we render our oppressors. We don't need to declare war against our adversaries because we can declare victory. We need to maintain our success through continued work and effort but we can find the strength to stay steadfast by upholding the accomplishments of Frances E. Willard, Anna Adams Gordon, Ida B. Wells, Jenny Holzer, Ladypink, Calista Jones and all of the women we work, study, and socialize with daily. As we sit at our desks, or care for our children, or watch the nightly news, let's think about all we have to celebrate as women and get excited for what is to come. Voting is an act of celebration. Our votes matter and keep us moving forward. 

Partisan plug warning, not sorry:  

Obama 2012!!!!!!!!!

I read Frances Willard's Wikipedia page and listened to this highly recommended video for most of my research for this post. Photo sources are all hyper-linked unless they are my own pics. 

Are you registered to vote yet!? Click on this link to do so!!!