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Fresh off the heels of Emma Watson’s phenomenal speech on women’s equality for the U.N, #HeForShe and a strong response to the backlash against feminism have taken off. But getting men to support feminism, both for their gender counterparts and themselves, isn’t the only problem. Sites like Elite Daily and Thought Catalog regularly publish questionable content “by women, for women” that perpetuates ideas of how women should act in situations as specific as texting a romantic interest and as general as ways of life and being a so-called lady.

What’s more, “celebgate”/”the fappening”/whatever crude nickname you want to give for it is still on everyone’s minds after J-Law broke her silence this week. The male gaze and subsequently offensive attitudes to this fiasco have unfortunately never been louder in response, but luckily the same is true for those who feel it is J-Law’s choice to take those pictures. “It’s my body, and it should be my choice…I didn’t tell you that you could look at my naked body,” J-Law told Vanity Fair.

Thelma contributors Sasha Bortnik and Anneta Konstantinides had some thoughts about this, so they emailed each other back and forth to talk sexism, poor journalism, and even worse judgement. Below are those thoughts:

Sasha

I’m sorry to take you down here with me, but read this Thought Catalog piece: “17 Unladylike Things 20-Something Women Have Got To Stop Doing.”

Hold up.

#12 Not removing your make-up and/or nor brushing your teeth before bed.

I don’t have to remove my makeup if I don’t want to. And in the wise of words Kristen Stewart, “I never take off my eyeliner or my mascara because it looks so good the next day.”

Do you. That’s all.

#14 Swearing like a sailor.

All I have to say to #14 is fuck you too.

#15 Loudly burping or belching, however you say that. This is just unbecoming and it’s something I think every person really should stop doing. But the amount of women that take pride in doing this because “dudes do it” is ridiculous.

As far as #15, it all depends on the company — and that goes for boys and girls and everything in between.

And #16??? Feeling the need to share every last detail of your personal thoughts/experiences on anything sexual/related to sex. Can people just not keep things to themselves anymore?

But, what? I’m not asking her to listen. My friends and I can talk about whatever we want however we want, no one’s asking her opinion. My parents left the USSR for a reason. Same feelings go out to #1, slut.

#1 Calling each other derogatory names like bitch, slut, whore, etc.

And again, why and how is any of this specific to women and how to be a lady? How about changing the title to “17 things people should stop doing if they don’t want to be annoying and stupid?” I still wouldn’t support it, but I would cringe less, and at least we wouldn’t have a woman telling women to be ladies on a blog that gets thousands and thousands of visitors a day. I would really love to know how men react when seeing something this.

And do people actually do #2? Ha…pun not intended but very pleased that it happened. Who actually takes and then shares screenshots of people trying to date them? I think #2 is a bigger issue than just women or men, and is not gender specific. It just means you suck as a person and have too much time on your hands and I’m feeling annoyed that Kovie’s pinning it all on us. Us being the ladiest ladies around.

And for all the other instructions that didn’t get a shout out — sounds like she’s describing one or maybe two girls she’s come across. But that’s not even my point, if she’s going for the goal of “bettering” women and giving us some beneficial advice to start acting more like ladies, don’t. Which side is she on? Just because she’s a woman she’s allowed to tell me what she thinks I can and can’t do? No. No one should tell you those things unless you ask them to. I don’t want to hear it and no one should unless they’re asking her, hey, Kovie, what sort of unladylike things should I stop doing?

And before I forget! #18 is missing.

#18 Always “store-test” for fresher coffee.

Anneta

I have a problem just with the very title of this article because, bam: unladylike.

What qualifies a “lady” and how do we get to that definition? Is a lady a woman who wears pearls, dresses “modestly,” and has a “good pair of pumps” in the closet? Is a “lady” the “perfect girl” who’s well-read but “loves shitty television?” Is a “lady” the Cool Girl, as brilliantly defined by Gillian Flynn in Gone Girl?

“Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”

So, what the hell right? I’ve got to wear pearls, understand college football and the Kardashians, and look hot while reading Anna Karenina?

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That’s what bothers me about these Thought Catalog and Elite Daily articles, they’re always telling me how to act — without even being able to make up their own mind. They unintentionally realize that women are complicated and unique human beings, who are just as capable of loving football as much as Faulkner and Fritos as much as Fendi.

But back to the article. I keep picking up on those words: unladylike. Ungraceful. Silly. Poor taste.

Is it almost too obvious to just ask, who doesn’t have to worry about being any of things? Men can burp, swear, yell, and pee whenever and wherever they may please, but when women, excuse me, especially women, do it, it’s all of the above. When women get attention at the bar and act on it, they’re “thirsty.” But when men give women attention they don’t want to reciprocate, women are “abusing the word creep.” Huh?

Here’s what I think: It’s silly, unladylike, and ungraceful to judge a girl for not taking her makeup off at 5 a.m.

But you know what’s in poor taste, oh Thought Catalog author? Not recognizing how so many of the “unladylike” things that bother you are really defense mechanisms developed by women to avoid harassment. Pretending to be too dumb or drunk to understand a come-on has helped me plenty when some guy at some bar refused to get the hint. Or swearing or burping loudly with the hopes it might stop that one guy who keeps looking down my shirt like it holds the golden ticket.

The author thinks “many young women really need to shake off the notion that you’re special snowflakes,” which I find to be a pretty dangerous statement. Who has the right to say you aren’t a “special snowflake?” It’s this kind of damaging dialogue that keeps women from feeling confident enough to leave abusive relationships, or report an assault, or ask for a raise or a promotion. The only way women are going to stop putting up with being told how to act/walk/talk is when they realize there’s no definite answer: they should just be whatever they want to be. Is it so hard to accept that women demand respect, whether it’s in pearls or a tube top?

And really — enough of women telling women what to do. I am all for Emma Watson’s #HeForShe campaign, but are we even really at #SheForShe yet? We’ve got Annie Lennox complaining that Beyonce is a ‘token’ feminist, whatever that means, on one hand, and a feminist website offering money for untouched photos of Lena Dunham on the other — so the answer is no.

Sasha

I’m a special snowflake.

I really agree that we definitely haven’t reached #SheForShe yet. At all. Most of the time it’s us, women, putting each other down and writing articles like Elite Daily’s “10 Ways Hook-Up Culture Fails the Awkward Girl.”

Oh-em-gee giggles. This secretly hot girl, pictured in Elite Daily’s piece, is so awkward and silly. She must SUCK at the hook-up game fsho.

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Here we have a girl describing another type of girl — you mentioned Cool Girl and now we have Awkward Girl (we could start an entirely new American Doll Collection) — and explaining why she’s at a disadvantage in the hook-up culture. This “culture” is confusing for all, and while certain people are better at it than others, it doesn’t help our cause when women categorize women.

It’s hard enough that men view us in categories such as “the girls you marry,” “the girls you date,” “the girls you fuck,” “the perfect girl” — the boxes go on and on — that we don’t also need to do it to ourselves. Men don’t have nearly as many preconceived widespread categories to break through when meeting a girl. We can jump from slut to prude by an outfit change or by the decision to keep our legs open or closed on date one. Guys? If he tries to kiss you, sleep with you, or doesn’t try to kiss or sleep with you, he’s neither a prude nor a slut, he’s just a guy being a guy. And that’s not to say that guys don’t have their own battles, but why are we making ours even more difficult?

Taylor Swift, in her response to being asked about Emma Watson’s UN speech during her appearance on the French-Canadian talk show “Tout Le Monde En Parle,” so correctly said that the Girl Fight needs to end. We are in one perpetual and infinitely expanding Girl Fight thanks to the world of free and accessible online content, and not the good kind like Thelma, but the kind that exposes women’s judgement for one another, like so many Elite Daily and Thought Catalog articles have done.

This TC piece, “50 Ways To Be A Woman,” could not be more blatantly judgmental. It contributes to the boxes, the should-be’s, the things that are considered lady-like and unlady-like, and the belief that the ideal girl grows up to be a lady.

#2 on this list even tells women to “dress modestly.” It’s all almost too painful to read, let alone quote, but it’s happening. Other instructions include practicing good grooming habits and keeping your business to yourself, which we also saw in the Elite Daily piece mentioned earlier. The all-star, and my personal favorite, is #7 which actually completely doesn’t even realize the hypocrisy of itself when telling its readers to form opinions. But as much as I hate you #7, you are the only thing that makes sense on this entire list, and I will take that advice even though I don’t need someone to tell me to form an opinion like I’m some wide-eyed pretty soft-spoken doll that needs to know it’s okay to sometimes gently put my heel down and shake my little head and say no out loud.

And lastly, the photo that TC chose to go along with this article. I mean, come on women, I know TC is run by a lot of women, did you really look at this piece say and yea this works and I even know just the right photo to go along with it — a “lady” in very, very high red pumps wearing a polka-dot dress, a simple watch, and a single ring that is very suggestive of an engagement ring.

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There is no one way to be and I’m tired of hearing how I should be functioning as a lady, what I need to do in order for him to call, and how I can become the girl he wants to make his girlfriend. I don’t need to figure out which girl or character I am — I don’t need to be able to describe myself, even if it’s just to myself, as the Cool Girl, the Awkward Girl, the Hot Girl, the Fun Girl, the Guy’s Girl, it’s all BS.

Do you. Do what you want. Wear what you want. Sleep with whomever you want. Dance how you want. Leave your makeup on or take it off. Wear pearls or don’t. Shave your armpits and legs or don’t. As long as it’s coming from you it’s all good, and that goes for anybody.

Anneta

A new American Doll Collection, genius! We can also throw in “Raver Girl,” “Curvy Girl,” “Party Girl” etc etc (but more on those later…).

I found “10 Ways the Hook-Up Culture Fails the Awkward Girl” so confusing. Who is this elusive “awkward girl” you speak of Elite Daily? According to the article, it’s the kind of girl “who snorts while laughing at his joke” and “never gets a text back.” It’s the kind of girl who “thought the first date was going well” until she “started talking politics,” and these “awkward quirks” are “the death sentence of any budding relationship.”

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Come on, the “awkward girl” is just as tired a trope as the Manic Pixie Dream Girl quickly became. How many 90s rom-coms revolved around “awkward” girls whose confidence came with a makeover, contact lenses, and the boyfriend in the letterman jacket? The reason so many writers have come out against the MPDG, including the very one who coined the term, is because the label was being used to further the very kind of male-oriented “fantasy woman” it was coined to critique. Putting women in boxes like literal American Girl dolls is just another glass ceiling, with walls to boot. It wipes women of having the kind of depth and dimension that men get to have on prestigious cable television dramas every day. For every Nancy Botwin and Samantha Jones, there are ten Don Drapers.

Before I move on from this article, I just need to bring to attention this quote:

“Anyway, if you forget to text him back after a few days, you’re automatically labeled a prude or uninterested.”

Not texting someone back after a number of days doesn’t make you a prude. It just means you’re really rude.

This whole “categories of women” brings me to “The Women You Should Marry,” an Elite Daily article that was written in defense of the author’s previous post: “The Women You Should Never Marry.” The article has, ironically, since been taken down, but from reading it ages ago I remember that various “not-marriage-material” women included “The Raver Girl, The Club Whore, and The Coke-Skinny Model.”

The author, who describes herself as a “housewife in training,” said she wrote that article because “I’m disgusted with the girls of my generation who use their sexuality to get ahead in life and disrespect themselves on a daily basis.”

Is this still 2014? When are we going to stop separating sexuality from respect, as if they can’t co-exist? Ah, but wait…“The best of both worlds is truly what it means. It’s the girl that will pig out with you on burgers and hotdogs, but still be so hot about it.”

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So, let me get this straight. I need to stop “using my sexuality” and “disrespecting myself,” but I need to look hot while eating hamburgers and hotdogs. It’s the Cool Girl all over again. You know how Carls Jr. sell their hamburgers? With commercials of Paris Hilton eating one, in a bikini. While washing a car. Yet something tells me there’s a very different list this author would put Hilton on.

Another dream girl, according to the author? The “30-year-old with a graduate degree,” because her diploma proves “she knew that it would mean more work and less partying.”

The author should really hang out with my law school friends.

But the line that most concerns me about this piece is the one that follows right after the glowing description of Ms. Masters: “She is the furthest thing away from that club whore you usually hang out with that is most likely blown out down there by now”

This author needs to listen to that T-swift video ASAP. It amazes me that one woman could talk about another so disgustingly. There is no #HeForShe without #SheForShe. Who’s going to respect us as a gender if we can’t even respect each other? As I’ve gotten older I’ve only noticed more the things that make me and my girlfriends so different — and I love it. We are special snowflakes, damnit! And just like no snowflake is identical to another, the same goes for women. So how about instead of being Awkward Girls or Cool Girls, we all just agree to be a Girl’s Girl. Respecting our fellow ladies-in-arms, whether they like to spend Friday night at the library or the Library Bar.

Sasha

“Not texting someone back after a number of days doesn’t make you a prude. It just means you’re really rude.” Word.

So, “The Women You Should Marry.” Without reading this article I see two blondes wearing big black sunglasses rockin’ the same long blonde waves dressed in delicate whites.

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They’re wearing cute, but feminine tops from…I’m going with H&M or Forever 21. Either way, they look the same: they’re sweet looking, very put together….and I thought this article was called “The WOMEN you should marry,” not “The One Type of Woman You Should Marry Looks and Acts Like This.” I’m indifferent to these girls in the photo, nothing against them, but this writer is asking for it by writing an article about the “types” of women you should marry and placing practically two identical twins at the head of her piece.

BTW, there definitely needs to be a “The Girl You Should Marry” doll added to the collection. Box. Box. Box. Let me out of this box! And these plastic boxes are always so annoying to open, I always have to get scissors involved and it just never goes as planned. They seal them way too tightly. But it’s chill, I can let myself out, I’m just tired of planning an escape route over and over again.

So today I was sitting at a softball game and I noticed something that while intended to be friendly, I’m sure, couldn’t help but trigger my sensitive #HeForShe #SheForShe brain right now. It’s a bit of long winded story so bear with me, but I was sitting in the dugout and listening to the boys cheer and chant and scream and yell, get happy, get angry, get sad, and openly run through their emotions. A few of their girlfriends and wives were sitting in the bleachers and one of the girls decided to throw out the boys’ team chant to encourage them. Immediately, as she started, one of the guys yelled, “hey take that beer out of her hand!”

Of course it was said with a smile and smirk, but then I was jokingly told that I was too quiet during the game. Because we’re on a baseball field, the men are allowed to throw their emotions, good and bad, loud and silent, all over the place and it’s all part of the game, while women need to maintain some sort of happy medium while watching (circle back to this in a minute).

A few minutes later, I moved myself out of the dugout and up to the bleachers with the rest of the women. During the game one of the players turned to us, the women, and made a joke about needing two (soft) balls and we continued the joke — one of us yelled out “not unless you left them at home in your sock drawer.” Right after this happened a photographer approached us who worked at the stadium and said he needed some pictures of the “babes.”

One of the women said “maybe we’ll let you if you call us ladies,” and he said “not after that comment I won’t,” which immediately caused my 50-something bleacher gal pal to throw me an eye roll and shake her head. We then asked where we could find the pictures and he directed us to his website under the category Babes, Umpires, and some other miscellaneous category I don’t remember.

All the women around me, who were all 50+ except for me, immediately became annoyed, one of them even said “babes? That sounds sexist I don’t like that.” While I’m not sure if sexist is the right word, the point is they were feeling boxed in by this male photographer. My 24-year-old self and these 50-something women were feeling the same things. It’s a very vulnerable thing to be a woman at a ball game, rooting for your man and his friends. You feel suddenly categorized as the babes on the sidelines, the cheerleaders, which isn’t all a bad thing, but it’s definitely confining. This babe knows…

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Now, this was all friendly sportly banter, but the different terms we use when it comes to describing women, from babe, to lady, to woman, to girl, all imply a very specific type of female. We are not ladies if we make crude ball jokes. And I’m not saying women should let it all go and become rude and crude and nasty, because we don’t want that behavior from anyone. But my observation here is that women are constantly battling with the categories and the language that helps separate us into different boxes. We are guilty of it too, why would it have been better for the photographer to say “ladies” instead “babes”? So let’s say we prefer being called ladies, but being ladies means no ball jokes. We’re a little stuck.

Watching the dynamics of a sports game that involves men on the field and women in the sidelines was like watching an exaggerated version of male and female gender roles and the boxes we both face. What I found really interesting was that being on the field suddenly changes the rules and allows men to be the emotional ones and requires women to keep their cool and stay supportive and appropriately excited along the way.

It’s another example of the boxes. It also brings up a box for men and makes you realize that there’s almost no other place, except for a baseball field, or basketball court, or any sports arena, that deems it manly for men to put their emotions out in public, even if it means moping in the corner after a lost game.

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The boxes are everywhere, for both men and women. As a woman, and maybe it’s just the way it is, I do feel that women have more boxes to break down than men. So ladies, babes, girls, vixens, sluts, and prudes: let’s stop building our own boxes, let’s be on the same side, and let’s start breaking them down.

I totally feel you Anneta on the fact that we could all take a little woman lesson from T-Swifts “Shake It Off.” We all have to do what we want and what makes us feel good. It’s the only way, and we can’t judge each other for doing whatever that is.

You’re right, there is no #HeForShe without #SheforShe, and aside from just women, we, men and women, people, could all take a little step back from hating on one another. Even if it’s difficult to resist scoffing and judging the drunk biddie at the club, we need to at least try. But hey, if you saw that drunk biddie at the club, you were at the club. Bite your mind’s tongue before you judge.

Anneta

“What I found really interesting was that being on the field suddenly changes the rules and allows men to be the emotional ones and requires women to keep their cool and stay supportive and appropriately excited along the way.”

I wish I could like this is a thousand times, it’s so so so spot on, and yet I never realized it before. Ding, on turns the lightbulb. You’re absolutely right Sasha, sports — and their arenas — are the only emotional, cathartic outlet I can really think of that men are allowed. Just after reading that paragraph I could recall so many instances.

My friend who refused to go out for his 22nd birthday until he finished watching the Lakers game, in peace, in his chair five feet away from the television screen, as we all poured drinks and laughed in the kitchen. Another friend, whose spirit was totally crushed during a night out in D.C., when he got a news alert that one of the players who was the only hope to save the Bears’ season had been severely injured. The glee of 30+ frat boys in one very small space when UCLA won the USC rivalry game for the first time in six years, at the Rose Bowl, in the pouring rain.

Stress, despair, overjoy — these are all extreme emotions that men rarely get to display. For all the boxes that we’ve talked about for women, you’re totally right, men experience them as well. They are to be as calm, cool, and collected in the real world as the ladies are expected to be in the stadium.

And your story is almost a perfect example of what we’ve been talking about all week with each other: the contradictions of what women are expected to be. If we’re to base it off those articles we’ve been sharing, we’re supposed to be the hot-dog downing ladies who can tell a dirty joke while looking good in pearls. But you yourself proved that it doesn’t exist. You’re never going to satisfy every or anyone’s expectations. One man’s babe is another man’s lady is another…? And therein lies the very problem with these articles — in the end it describes us in terms of the kind of women we should be to get a man.

What about the kind of woman I wanna be for me? I’m definitely guilty of holding up two outfits for a friend before a night out and asking “Which one’s hotter?” knowing she knows that I mean the question in terms of what would a guy find hotter. But it took too long for me to stop caring about whether guys dig my ridiculous gold glitter eyeshadow and just accept that I dig it and it makes me feel like Beyonce and if I wanna rock it on a Wednesday, I’m gonna rock it on a Wednesday.

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All of this got me thinking: if sports arenas, and sports in general, and men’s “safe space” for release, where is the women’s safe space? A space where they get to be as emotional, dirty, stressed, angry, or happy as they want — without fear of rebuttal or judgement?

One only needs to look at one of the best comedies of all time, Sex and the City, to find the answer to this: it’s brunch. I have never felt more like myself then when I’m sitting at a table with my closest friends, stuffing my face with hashbrowns and having mimosa-chugging races. Dirty jokes fly, even from the gal pal who knows how to work those bestowed-with-mythic-powers-of-womanhood pearls, and last night’s stories are shared without fear of judgement. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in some sort of iteration of this: in dorm cafeterias, sushi and sake restaurants, or in my bed with a box of shared Oreos.

At the end of the day, I think this is why we we keep going back to #SheForShe. It’s with our girlfriends that we most often let our freak flag fly. And the more girls we feel comfortable doing that with, the more we’ll just start doing it every day. Who’s stopping us from making the street, board room, cocktail party, or the first date be our sports stadium? Who’s stopping us from wearing kicks to the club or glitter eyeshadow to the pub? Let’s not let the answer be he, or she.

Sasha

“If I wanna rock it on a Wednesday, I’m gonna rock it on a Wednesday,” applies to all things, always.

Amen to you and all of your words, Anneta, the really cute smart writer girl that all dudes should totally try to marry one day.

Also, in the spirit of the upcoming election, watch this.

With love from Sasha the Blonde and Anneta the Brunette.

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