Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Unslut Project

eUnslut Logo
by Taylor Solomon
Emily Lindin was first called a slut in 1997 at the age of eleven.  Her middle school began to fill with rumors that she and her boyfriend were having sex, which soon turned into rumors that she and a number of boys were having sex.  She was labeled “the middle school slut,” and torment and bullying (both sexual and emotional) stemmed from her new reputation, which followed her through high school.  Lindin began the Unslut project in 2013, by creating a blog where she posted diary entries from when she was ages eleven to fourteen.  She is sharing her story hoping it will help people be aware of slut shaming and sexual bullying and how often they occur.  In an interview with the blog Qual Pipe, Lindin listed two goals of the Unslut Project.  First, “to serve as a resource to girls who are currently victims of sexual bullying.” And second, “to spread the word to as many people as possible that slut shaming is appallingly prevalent on an individual and societal level, and that it is up to us to change our view of female sexuality as a culture.”
Lindin’s middle school experience is relatable, whether you were bullied or not.  She writes of note passing, dances, and school trips.  The ways she and her classmates talk to and treat is other is reminiscent of how my friends and I acted at that age.  Considering I was not in middle school until five years after Emily, I’d venture to say kids still treat each other similarly.
emily lindin
Not only does Lindin talk about herself being bullied, you can see times in her entries when she is mean to a classmate or calls someone a name based on whatever their own reputation may be.  This goes to show how common of a practice this is and how easily we can be the bully without even realizing it.  Though the people in Emily’s entries are middle and high schoolers, an adult can still read them and see ways in which they may need to reevaluate their treatment of their own peers.
One thing I found interesting reading through Lindin’s blog was how much they relied on the internet as a tool to bully one another.  And this was in 1997–their main options were e-mail and instant messenger, though there is the occasional free website made in order to harass or call out a single student.  Lindin has said the hardest entry to read and share was one about a friend of hers making an instant messenger screenname, “DieEmilyLindin,” and then using it to anonymously torment her.  Social media has progressed so much since then, making a source that was already easy for adolescents to get their hands on, that much easier for them to turn to.
Lindin’s project is one that I believe is very important and I look forward to supporting.  Her website has now grown to include a section where people may share their own stories of sexual bullying and a blog where she writes posts on the topic.  She just finished production on the movie, “Slut: A Documentary Film,” in which she speaks to sexologists, psychologists, and media figures on how we can shape society so that words like slut are no longer used as insults.

You can read Emily’s diary entries at

Terry Richardson: A Modeling Nightmare

by Taylor Solomon
If you are familiar with the fashion world, then you have more than likely seen the photography of Terry Richardson.  Richardson has photographed countless celebrities including Chloe Sevigny, James Franco, Gwen Stefani, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and even President Barack Obama.  He’s worked for publications like VogueGQ, and Rolling Stone and brands including Marc Jacobs and Tom Ford.  He even directed Miley Cyrus’s now infamous “Wrecking Ball” music video.  His style of photography is simple and recognizable with high commercial success, but there is a reason these big name brands should stop fueling his fame.
Starting in 2010, several models have come forward saying that Terry Richardson sexually assaulted them during a photo-shoot.  The models who participate in these shoots are often “unknowns,” and are therefore less familiar with the work and more willing to do whatever they can to make a name for themselves.  The acts themselves are vile and demeaning, and just when you think you’ve heard them all, another model speaks out about an uncomfortable experience she’s had with Richardson.  The allegations include everything from Richardson asking a model to be nude and simulate oral sex on a man present at the shoot to Richardson asking models to perform sexual acts on himself.
Liskula Cohen (pictured above) stated that in twenty-four years of modeling, the only time she walked out on a shoot was with Terry Richardson.
“He made me feel as if I was a prostitute…I want other girls who read this to know that if you do something like this, you will survive, but it will haunt you.  I have scoured the internet for these images and thankfully they are nowhere to be found.  But it haunts me in my own mind…That shoot was nearly twelve years ago and it still outrages me…I am a forty-one year old mother and this is how my work experience with Terry has left me.”
Terry’s work has often sexualized women, even when working with celebrities.  Take his 2010 GQ photoshoot of Glee stars Cory Montieth, Dianna Agron, and Lea Michele.  Montieth is photographed completely clothed and playing drums while Agron and Michele are shown in skimpy outfits and provocative poses.   Similarly, GQ used Richardson for a 2012 spread of Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston where Rudd is seen wearing a suit, while Aniston poses in a bra and mini skirt.  This is a pattern in Richardson’s photography: men are fashionably clothed while women are scantily clad.  In the same way Montieth was photographed with a drum set, his photos of men often include sets or props that play off of what that particular celebrity is known for.  In a 2011 issue of GQ, Derek Jeter is pictured standing with a baseball bat, and in a 2010 issue, Jeff Bridges is photographed in a sweater reminiscent of his iconic role in The Big Lebowski.
Gossip Girl
Recently, Terry Richardson spoke out regarding these claims for the first time, calling the whole thing an “emotionally charged witch hunt.”  He explains that sexual imagery has for a long time been a part of his work, and he has chosen to only work with consenting adults, all of whom signed release forms. The latter here is particularly interesting considering model Sarah Hilker described the girls at one of his shoots as being “so drunk they could barely stand, never mind be of sound mind to sign a model release form.”  It is also important to make the point that, though he takes a stance against these allegations, he never denies anything.
notbuying it
People have already started to stand up against Terry Richardson.  H&M, who in the past have used him to shoot advertisements, say they have no plans to use him in the future.  In hopes to shame big companies, Jezebel has published a list of all of the magazines who have chosen to use him since the first claims in 2010.  Lena Dunham, who in the past has been socially linked to Richardson, recently said in an interview “I’m not big on regrets, but I regret posing for Terry Richardson.  As for being friends with him, he’s not and never was my friend… I’m also not in the business of being BFFs with alleged sexual predators.”  There is currently an online petition reaching out to these big name brands and asking that they choose not to use Richardson’s photography in the future.  It is important that in a world that can look past claims and assaults when they pertain to so-called artists, we have the strength to stand up for what is right.

Originally written for:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Happy International Women's Day!

Hope everyone's International Women's Day is off to a great start!  Be sure to check out my 10 Ways to Celebrate

Friday, March 7, 2014

10 Things to do for International Women's Day

Tomorrow, March 8th, is International Women’s Day, a holiday for celebrating the women in your life and the many political and social achievements of women.  As this holiday is so important to me, I wanted to share some ways to celebrate.

1. Enjoy women in all forms of media.  Watch “Persepolis” or “Iron Jawed Angels.”  (Both available on iTunes)  Read Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich or, one of my personal favorites, We Killed: The Rise of Women in American History, and oral history collected by Yael Kohen.  Listen to Carly Simon, Carole King, and Joni Mitchell.

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago
2. Educate yourself on women’s history.  There are many museums devoted to women’s history like the Women’s Museum of California and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.  If you can not make the trip to one of these places, you can always visit the International Museum for Women online and enjoy the knowledge their website has to offer.

3. Host a dinner for your friends.  Cooking a meal is a great way to make yourself feel appreciated, while doing the same for others.  Plus nothing goes better with friendship than food.

4. Let the women in your life know they are appreciated.  Call your mom.  Send your best friend flowers.  Write a thank you note to the professor who mentored you through college.  These are ways to acknowledge others which are simple, but still incredibly effective.

5. Pamper yourself.  If you are a follower of my writing you know I am all about the Treat Yo Self and I can’t think of a better day to show you some love!  Whether it be taking a warm bubble bath, going for a sunny walk, or curling up with a mug of tea to watch your favorite series of Netflix for the millionth time, care for yourself by doing what you want.

6. Wear a purple ribbon.  Purple is often a color used to represent women’s rights or empowerment.  Wear a ribbon to publicly show your support.  If others ask you about it this is a great opportunity to share this cause with them.

7. Donate.  There are many organizations working to educate the population on women’s health and social issues.  Giving your time or money to these groups can be a huge help to them as well as make you feel accomplished.

8. Write a letter to a company that uses sexism in their advertisements.  You were given a beautiful empowered voice, use it!  You never know when it could be your words that really make an effect on these companies whose image can be so powerful in media today.

9. Write a letter to a company who shows a commitment to gender equality.  As important it is to voice an opinion when you believe something is wrong, it is just as necessary to show an appreciation of those who you believe are doing the right thing.  Often times if people are acknowledged for something they did in the past, they’ll continue to act that way in the future.

10. Teach a younger girl in your life how it feels to be empowered.  Younger generations are so important for our future.  Take the time to teach someone younger than you about women’s history and what we can still do to make an impact.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Go For the Gold

The 2014 Winter Olympics ended this past Sunday.  While watching the events I found the reactions of my friends, family, and the media, as well as myself, very telling of how our society looks at women.  It is not enough that these women are some of the best athletes in the world, they must be pretty too.  Without realizing it we judge female athletes more on their looks than on their outstanding ability in their respected sport.  Not only does this affect how we look at them, but it affects how they act.  These women feel they must live up to a higher standard of skill and good looks.  In a recent interview figure skater, Ashley Wagner, said “I feel like the media and society in general--because it is easy--put female athletes into two boxes.  You’re either a very pretty athlete or you go to the opposite end of the spectrum and you’re very sexy.”  There is no room to be an unattractive female athlete.

NBC marketed eighteen year old figure skater, Gracie Gold, as the “face of the Olympics.”  As an Olympic athlete she should become a household name for her talent, not because she’s being billed as “America’s Sweetheart.”  This is the first year women’s ski jumping has been included in the Olympic games.  How cool would it be if they were the “face of the Olympics?”  These women have worked so hard to get to go to Sochi and will forever be a huge part of Olympic and Women’s history.  I can’t think of anything wrong with using strength and willpower to promote the games, not just a pretty face.

Before traveling to Sochi, Alpine skier Julia Mancuso provocatively posed for GQ magazine wearing nothing but what she calls her “lucky underwear.”  She has since won the bronze medal in her event but will continue to be known more for this photoshoot.  The Russian team posted photos on their website of their female athletes scantily clad in lacy lingerie and see through garments saying “Our Russian team defies stereotypes that women in sports are just a heap of muscles and masculine shapes.”

These sort of photo shoots are often defended saying athletes in winter sports wear so much gear and equipment, its humanizing to see them without their pads and goggles.  I applaud New York Times for successfully achieving this without having the athletes strip down.  Their article on the US women’s ski jumping team shows them training and in full uniform but also having fun and interacting with each other.  While this is a huge problem in the world of women’s athletics, itis not as much in men’s.  A google search of “Female athletes 2014 winter Olympics” will provide pages of results like “15 Hottest Female Athletes,” “Hottest Olympic Athletes,” and “The 50 Hottest Female Athletes of the 2014 Winter Olympics.”  A search for “Male Athletes 2014 Winter Olympics” gives you more skill-based headlines, “List of Olympic medalists” and “Meet the 2014 US Olympic Team in Sochi.”  We must work to make ability the priority for all genders of athletes.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Can Beyonce have her cake and eat it too?

Since the release of her self-titled album Beyoncé has been placed on a feminist pedestal, so to speak.  The video for the song “Pretty Hurts,” the moral of which is “perfection is the disease of our nation,” depicts Beyoncé as a vulnerable pageant contestant.  Her song “Flawless” samples Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk, “We Should All Be Feminists.”  Despite these powerful messages, there is one lyric on the album that does not sit well with me.

In the song, “Drunk in Love,” Beyoncé collaborates with her husband Jay-Z.  It is without a doubt one of her most sexually fueled songs to date.  The couple explicitly describes their sex life, but it is Jay-Z’s verse where you can find the troubling lyric: “I’m like Ike Turner, turn up/Baby no I don’t play/Now eat the cake Anna Mae.”

The line references the 1993 biopic based on Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship, “What’s Love Got to do With It?”  In one scene, after experiencing the satisfaction of hearing her own song on the radio Tina, born Anna Mae Bullock, meets Ike in a diner where he has purchased her a cake to celebrate the newfound success.  After she says she does not want any, Ike forces the cake into her face yelling “Eat the cake, Anna Mae.”

Ike and Tina Turner’s relationship was infamously tumultuous.  She has said her 1968 suicide attempt was because it was the only way she believed she’d feel free.  She ultimately had corrective surgery on her nasal septum due to the number of times he had beaten her.  He is quoted in a 1985 Spin interview saying “Yeah I hit her, but I didn’t hit her more than the average guy beats his wife...If she says I’ve abused her, maybe I did.”

A London-based radio station had the lyric removed saying it displayed the “promotion of domestic violence against women.”  I was surprised to hear the lyric during Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s Grammy performance (which aired during the eight o’clock hour) and even more surprised to see Beyoncé sing along with it.

In a world where two women a week are killed by a current or former partner and eighty-five percent of survivors know their attacker prior to rape or assault, we must do whatever we can to keep this topic serious and make a conscious effort not to trivialize the act.  Often times, we expect an artists’ work to reflect their own lives.  I’d love for this to open the floor for more conversation and eventually a statement from Beyoncé on the matter.  I can’t imagine giving my partner the okay to reference a man who seems completely unfazed by abusing his wife on something that has my name attached to it.  As this choice has me dumbfounded, I am begging to ask Beyoncé “Why?”

Source List:

Response to TFM's "Stop Crying Rape"

Recently Catie Warren, a correspondent for the website Total Frat Move, wrote an article titled “Stop Crying Rape.”  In this article, Warren describes college-aged girls who go out, drink excessively, and subsequently sleep with their male peers, only to claim they have been raped when they wake up the next day regretting their actions.  Warren believes that this practice creates a mockery of actual sexual assault victims.  While I agree with her that a remorseful sexual encounter is not rape, I do believe there are a few points which should be discussed regarding this article.

In Catie Warren’s article, there is an overgeneralization of exactly what rape is.  She writes as though the only victims of rape are college-aged women who have had too much to drink and fall into bed with someone.  Sexual assault is very prominent on college campuses, but it happens in many different situations as well.  Women can be victims; men can be victims.  The attacker and the victim may be of the same sex.  It can occur drunk or sober.  The attacker may be a stranger, or it may be someone you have known your entire life.  Even when it occurs on college campuses, only 5% of students who have been sexually assaulted will report the case.  So why should we try to discourage others from doing so?

There is a lack of knowledge about consent, making it more difficult to know exactly what is and is not considered rape.  Consent is an agreement between two people who voluntarily and willingly want to have sex with each other.  Consent is discussed before sexual activity has commenced and is consistently revisited regarding different sexual acts.  Consent is not implied or assumed, even if you are in a long-term relationship or have had sex with that person before.

Catie Warren’s article gives several examples of victim shaming (making a victim feel responsible or ashamed of his or her own victimization), a huge problem which attributes to today’s rape culture.  Rape culture is an environment where sexual violence is excused in reality as well as in media and pop culture.  Some examples of rape culture include blaming the victim, sexually explicit jokes, gender violence in movies and television, sexually fueled song lyrics, and refusing to take rape accusations seriously.  Some ways we can avoid rape culture are to avoid using language that is degrading to women, to speak out when someone makes an offensive joke, define your own manhood or womanhood without letting stereotypes shape it, and communicating with sexual partners about consent.

Yes, Catie Warren was right to stress the fact that sex which you agreed to, though you may regret, is in not considered rape.  But this article is missing several key points which I felt should be emphasized.  Rape is not just something that happens to girls at parties.  It can happen to anyone in almost any situation.  Consensual sex occurs when two people have previously discussed that they want to have sex with each other.  Therein lies an issue that needs to be discussed. How do we empower young women and men to have that clarifying conversation?  Talking about and defining consent is the beginning and needs to be the norm.  As a society we have to stop tolerating “rape” as a casual term.  For example, “our football team raped in intramurals” or “I raped that calculus exam.”  It is a powerful word with an emotional connotation and should not be used so innocuously it seems like an attempt to make an action of the word.  We must band together to abolish a culture where it is okay to excuse or joke about rape.

Originally written for the Georgia College Women's Center.