Sunday, August 24, 2008

These Heels are made for Working

By: Erika Kelley

A few months ago, I found myself in the mall again. This time, however, I was actually accompanying my husband. He was shopping for a pair of shoes. While he was perusing, I decided to do a little perusing, too. And guess what? I stumbled upon a pair of fierce Nine West high heel shoes. The first feature I noticed was the price: $9.99. The second element I noticed was the color: gold (gold matches with most of my earth-tone-colored clothes). The third detail I noticed was the heel: quite a bit higher than the heels I normally purchase (typically 3-4 inches). I glanced at the price again and then ran my fingers over the heels. $9.99 for a pair of gold Nine West shoes, who’s measuring the height of heels?

After purchasing our new shoes, we ventured home. I commenced my new-purchase-routine: matching new shoes with existing attire. I decided to try on a few outfits and parade around in my new shoes. Because the heels were so high, I decided I would match them with my extra-long Ann Taylor slacks -- pants I never bothered taking to the cleaners for hemming because most of my heels were high enough that the pants never brushed up against the floor.

The next day I headed off to work with my new fierce, gold, Nine West shoes. First stop, a quick visit to see my friend and co-worker. I strutted into her office and sang: Gooood Morrrnninnng. She smiled and gave me that, you-are-so-crazy-look. Crazy for my new shoes, I thought. She spotted them instantly and we took a few moments to admire them for the star-quality-appearance and for its I-have-a-family-and-lots-of-bills-affordable-price.

By lunch time, I realized I needed to take these shoes to the shoe repairman to get the heels shortened because my toes hurt! I ascertained something else: not everyone appreciated the shoes as much as my friend and me. While assembling folders for our training the following day, a few of my co-workers (four females and one male) decided to share their opinions about my shoes. There were no ooohhhs and ahhhs and no talks of fierceness. Instead, a female co-worker jokingly asked where was my pole. It took me a second to realize that she was insinuating that I was a stripper because I had on high heels (and extra-long Ann Taylor slacks). A few of my other co-workers agreed that my shoes were extremely high and questioned me about the height. I admitted I wasn’t too sure and stated I felt I was dressed appropriately. To that riposte, the co-worker that made the stripper comment, asked her friend to get a ruler. Her friend obeyed and they fittingly measured the height of my heels. In unison, they revealed the height to the group: 4 ¾ inches.

After that revealing conversation with my co-workers, I found myself pondering over the appropriateness of shoes in the workplace.

I did some research and learned that heels that are between 2 ¾ and 4 inches are most appropriate for the workplace (2-3 inches for work environments with strict dress codes). In an article by Desiree Stimpert, “Work Shoes with High Heels,” she provided a list of appropriate and stylish shoes, acceptable for the workplace. Interestingly enough, in addition to Steve Madden, Calvin Kline, and Ralph Lauren, Nine West made the cut.

What’s also astonishing is that experts have found that high heels tone women’s legs and strengthen pelvic muscles. In tests, Dr. Maria Cerruto, of the University of Verona, Italy, discovered, ‘‘Wearing heels during daily activity may reduce the need for the pelvic floor exercises necessary to keep that part of a woman’s anatomy toned and elastic.’’ Enough said.

I eventually had my gold Nine West shoes shortened to about 4 ¼ inches (much better for my toes!). But, like the women polled in the article “Heel Thyself,” by Jennifer Memolo, I continue to wear my heels daily (and change into flip flops or sneakers when walking to the parking lot and driving) and advocate: here’s to maintaining “professional chicness” in the workplace, toned legs, and strengthened pelvic muslces!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Jane Sexes It Up: Real Live Nude Feminists

Younger Women’s Task Force-NYC Metro Chapter hosts monthly book club meetings. See the end of this post for more information.

Many people see a contradiction between feminism and sexual desire. Even feminists sometime have trouble harmonizing their personal sexuality with their political values. The authors of Jane Sexes It Up are smack in the middle of this contradiction, trying to sort out what it means to be a woman, a feminist, an academic, and a sexual being. However, the debate about feminism, sex work, and public sexuality has changed drastically in the past few years.

We are now living in what Ariel Levy calls “raunch culture,” in which feminist sexual desire is rarely represented. Women of all ages are trying to express themselves sexually in a split culture where you are either making out with your girlfriend for the Girls Gone Wild camera or pledging your virginity to daddy. Feminist debates have raged for decades about the possibility of feminist sex work, but today, “reality” sex workers are paid in t-shirts and “(over)exposure,” not hard cash. They have no say in the image they present, and are edited to fit into misogynist roles. There might be young women who are positively exploring their sexuality on Girls Gone Wild, but (to state the obvious) it is not a safe space where women can assert themselves or ask for a share of the profits.

You may not always agree with the authors of Jane Sexes It Up, but there are no whores (even when there are sex workers) and no virgins. The authors are much more nuanced in their analysis of women’s—and men’s—sexuality and the possibilities of a feminist sexuality for both genders.

There are few simple answers in this book. There is a general agreement that a feminist’s sexuality must be reflected upon and examined (by the feminist herself, not by others). But what constitutes feminist desire or what doesn’t is a bit of a false question. It isn’t about what is or isn’t feminism, but rather, what feminists will make of their current realities. What does it mean that we are turned on by sexual power differences but fight power inequity as feminists? How do issues like abuse, anorexia, and cutting affect our decisions in sexual relationships and sex work? And that old question, what does it mean to be a feminist wife?

The authors vividly (sometimes pornographically) describe their sex acts, sex partners, and the mundane details of their sex work. In this way, they aren’t so different from more recent phenomena like the anonymous blogging celebrity Belle de Jour or the memoir The Sexual Life of Catherine M. But honestly, in our current culture, I don’t care much to read about the details of other people’s sex lives. The most liberating moment for me was when Lisa Z. Sigel, a pornography scholar, answers the question of whether or not she is turned on by porn: “I am not the object of study, so it’s none of your business.” (257)

Yes, my sexuality is none of your business. I will not be examined by you. I am not hiding anything; I am not in the closet. You are simply not allowed to take ownership of me, or my sexuality. Although normally I advocate for a sexually-open culture, after reading Jane Sexes It Up, the right to privacy is my biggest turn-on.

YWTF-NYC’s next book club meeting will be on August 20 at 7:00 PM at Tea Spot (127 Macdougal Street, NYC). Check out our Meetup site for more info on upcoming meetings.

Rebecca Andruszka is Director of Communications and co-chair of the Book Club Committee at YWTF-NYC. All opinions express are those of the individual, not of Younger Women’s Task Force.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Female Bullies…as Children and Adults

By: Erika Kelley

Lets face it, we’ve all had our encounter with the female bully, whether your role was that of the victim, aggressor, or bystander. I experienced female bullying for the first time in elementary school…

I walked into the lavatory (I haven’t used that word since elementary school!) and witnessed four girls applying make-up on another girl: different color eye shadows, blush, and lipstick…the makings of a hideous clown. The girls kept eyeing one another, giggling, and saying, “You look really beautiful. The boys will love you.” The clown-faced girl was beaming from ear to ear. I didn’t understand how she didn’t know that these girls were ridiculing her. I also didn’t understand why the so-called aggressors would want to do such a thing.

So, whatever happens to the mean school girls? Well…they typically grow up to be mean women.

Dawn Olsen, writer for an online magazine, Blogcritics, has some vivid (and disturbing) depictions of female bullies...

Women are territorial with teeth, passionately protective, fiercely jealous and deeply mistrustful due to strong instinctual drives.

Women like wolves, attack in packs, rarely ever confronting without some back up from their peers. Knowing the full value in the power of numbers they encircle their victim and take little chunks from all sides, whittling away at the self-esteem of the victim, and their desire to be included, a drive most women so feverishly have.

Some women are extremely adept at "silent aggression" and derive the most perverse pleasure watching their object of ridicule squirm, cry, and otherwise become unhinged. The more signs of weakness from the victim, the more vicious the attack, making the alternatives for the "odd girl out" less and less apparent.

What I have found is that these individuals…bullies…are easier to deal with when you understand them.

According to Professional Life Coach Heidi Costas, despite the façade that such people put up, bullies have low self-confidence and low self-esteem, and thus feel insecure. Low self-esteem is a factor highlighted by all studies of bullying. Bullies are seething with resentment, bitterness, hatred and anger, and often have wide-ranging prejudices as a vehicle for dumping their anger onto others. Bullies are driven by jealousy and envy.

As a child, I wasn’t equipped to deal with the toxic behaviors of female bullies. As an adult, however, things have changed. With guidance from wise female friends, family, and professionals (and as a result of past experiences!), when dealing with female bullies, my approach has been to…

1. Maintain my confidence. I refuse to let anyone intimidate me.

2. Ignore the gossip or confront the individual(s) responsible for starting the rumor in the first place, depending on the situation. (If the rumor affects my family or career, I can’t afford to ignore it!)

3. Do not pledge allegiance to backstabbing cliques or groups.

4. Aim to embrace a spirit of cooperation in my interactions with others.

And I must say, in most instances, I have been successful…yet the fight to end relational aggression continues!

Interested in hearing other strategies for dealing with relational aggression (female bullying)? Check out Cheryl Dellasega’s book, Mean Girls Growing Up: Adult Women Who Are Still Queen Bees, Middle Bees, and Afraid-to-Bees. She explores why women are often their own worst enemies, offering practical advice for a variety of situations. Drawing upon extensive research and interviews, she shares real-life stories from women as well as the knowledge of experts who have helped women overcome the negative effects of aggression. Readers will hear how adult women can be just as vicious as their younger counterparts, learn strategies for dealing with adult bullies, how to avoid being involved in relational aggression, and more.

And since research has shown that girls between the ages of 8 and 17 need a little extra protection against the emotional and social hazards of growing up…Rachel Simmons, in her books, Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Girls and Odd Girl Speaks Out: Girls Write about Bullies, Cliques, Popularity, and Jealousy, prescribes clear-cut strategies for parents, teachers, and girls to resist bullies and their acts of aggression. She also has great resources on her website.