F-words and Cold Ankles

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

Trigger Warning: I am a feminist. And this week's essay is going to be about feminism. If you have any palpitations, I urge you, dear reader, to look up the definition of feminism. Do it. Go ahead, open a new tab and google it right now. I'll wait. Yeah, equality. Doesn't sound so bad, huh? Now for the length of this blog post, just erase any preconceived notions of man-hating, hairy armpits and ugly, shrillness. 

 21st century feminism is in a weird place right now. For example, there's a movement called #womenagainstfeminism. Many of these "women against feminism", take pictures of themselves holding a hand-written placard explaining why THEY don't need feminism. Answers range from "because they like to make their man a sandwich", to "because they like being a stay at home mom", to "because they shave their armpits," to "because they prefer egalitarianism instead." Seriously, pull up another tab and google #womenagainstfeminism pictures. Many of these women deny the existence of social and economic inequalities between sexes, and the historian and realist in me gets angry.
many other women of "women against feminism" do acknowledge what earlier feminist causes have done for the landscape of women's rights, but they simply do not want to be aligned with their perception of the movement.This also irritates me. While I don't agree with many of their cringe-worthy signs, acknowledging the past is at least, a start. None-the-less, there is much to be read in between the lines of each hand-written #womenagainstfeminism placard...these womenagainstfeminism don't want to be labeled or stereotyped

photo credit: Joshua Franzos
 I came of age in the 90's when third-wave feminism was new and amazing. It took my mother's second wave "white woman" feminism and added so much sex and race and class politics and rock and roll, riot grrls, Guerilla Girls, porn and, believe it or not, make-up back into the mix. I loved it because it embraced the individual and became so much more about ALL women and ALL people, in ALL walks of life. Everything became okay. "Free Your Mind," was our anthem. Words, that used to shame, insult and degrade (Bitch, Cunt, Slut, Queer, Gay, Lesbian, et all) were reclaimed and re-appropriated. These perjoratives were worn proudly and defiantly in the face of a land-mine laden culture of political correctness. I cut my teeth on that civil disobediance and found great power in it. I have to admit that at times, feminism today just seems like it's full of trigger warnings and micro-aggressions, but let's be honest, we had that in the nineties too. They were called disclaimers and political correctness. Eventually everything gets re-branded.

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

There is this thing called a 'euphemism treadmill.' (This word was coined in 2003, by Steven Pinker's book, The Blank State). Words become offensive and so they become replaced with another word, a euphemism. The R-word for instance. Mental retardation was the medical term in 1895, then it became what it is now, a playground and societal insult that cuts deep. The medical books are just now changing the terminology from "mental retardation" to "Intellectual Challenged"or "Intellectual Disabled."Ultimately, whatever word or word string that is chosen for this condition will eventually be deemed an insult. Not if, but when your grandchild comes home upset because someone on the playground called him or her a "challenge," this blog post will have come full circle. I'll bet you can already guess which word is up next on the euphemism treadmill. Here's a hint, it starts with an F.

But this is neither here nor there. My armpits are usually shaved, I don't hate men, large populations do not consider me to be ugly, I celebrate stay at home moms and families, my husband considers himself to be a feminist (and he's a man)...My life doesn't fit the mold of the feminist stereotype and yet, I am a feminist and will reclaim that F-Word with my dying breath, because I always want to challenge traditional gender roles and stereotypes, which don't just harm women's potential. They harm men's too. There's no such thing as "real" women or "real" men. How about, let's just be real.

photo credit: Joshua Franzos
Which is where I want to introduce my style inspiration for the week, Hollywood actor, Gene Kelly. You'll know him from movies, An American in Paris and Singin' in the Rain. Athlete, Choreographer, Heart Throb. Native Pittsburgher. Gender Role and Social Class Barrier Breaker.

photo credit: unknown
Yep. You read that right. Gene Kelly got into a lot of fights growing up in Pittsburgh because dancing for boys was viewed as a "sissy" sport. At a very young age, little Gene had to physically defend his love for his art. Can you imagine a world without Gene Kelly? (Quelle Horreur!) I'm so glad he rose above it and was secure enough in his own masculinity to pursue dance. In reading his bio, I discovered that Kelly had a couple of conscious agendas in his lifetime. One, he wanted to break down gender barrier bias in dance and, two, once he was well established in Hollywood, the social class distinctions associated with dance. Before Gene, Hollywood musicals had only been known for having men dancing in top hats and tuxedos. Kelly sought to further democratize dance in the movies by dressing like Joe Everyman. His first wife said of him, "A sailor suit or his white socks and loafers, or t-shirts on his muscular torso, gave everyone the feeling that he was a regular guy, and perhaps they too could express love and joy by dancing in the street or stomping through puddles." I adore him, his joie de vivre, and his style.


If you made it this far on my feminist rant, thank you. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Tell me why or why not in the comments below now, so we can get "non-polite-thanksgiving-dinner-table-conversations" out of our system and prepare ourselves for things like, "So, how about this weather we've been having? Glorious fall isn't it? I'm quite amazed that I've been able to wear my beloved cropped pants well into November. My ankles are a little chilly in the morning, but by noon it's perfectly clement..."

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

What I wore: 
pullover: Anthropologie, here!
button-down: Banana Republic, on sale HERE!
capris: past season, Ann Taylor Loft.
smoking slippers: Bespoke Stubbs & Wootton

Your bosom friend in Pittsburgh,

Lust For Life

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

photo credit: Joshua Franzos
It's a good thing I wasn't born a guy. I'm pretty sure I would've been that shirtless, drug-addicted, lead singer that only wore leather pants and rolled around on stage in broken glass and vomit. Think Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop. Kidding.

 Sort of. 

I've always been able to visualize my life going down some pretty grim paths in connection with my creativity because that's how creatives are depicted in film and literature. thought it was inevitable. Having had bouts with depression, I've always felt a connection with historically tortured artists, writers and musicians. I saw myself in their stories, could see my potential future down their uncomfortable life paths. This is called empathy. Sure, empathy is great for telling stories and writing fiction (and being a decent human being), but sometimes the depths of my empathy makes me squirm in my seat. I mean, I can't even watch people be awful at Karaoke, I feel their embarrassment, plus my own and I just can't. After watching any rock n' roll biopic, I think, Yeah, I totally could've fallen down the heroin abyss and ruined everything for myself. Totally could've happened to me. Mr. Franzos and pretty much any close friend I voice my dark empathy concerns to, rolls their eyes at me. "Nuh uh," they say,"..you're too much of a survivor." 
Okay. So they definitely have a better opinion of me than I have of myself, but they're probably right. I've had some dark moments in my life, but they've only made me appreciate this finite resource even more...far too much to ever waste it at this point.

 The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

I think we're all born with the feeling that we have some greater purpose, or have the feeling that something unknown is bubbling up inside of us to share with the world. At least, I hope everyone has that feeling. I often follow Mr. Franzos around for his photography and film-making work. My chest swells with happiness and pride that he's one of the lucky few that have made a life out of hard work and creativity. I'm glazing over the trials and tribulations of being self-employed, of course, but the grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it? I, myself, have an administrative day job (for a very fair and understanding employer). So after I punch the day job clock, I punch the creative clock as much as I can physically muster. As I mentioned in my last post, I feel the pressure of time constantly. My parents died young, you see, and if that's any predictor on when I punch out of this world, that would mean I only have 15 years or so. It seems unfair, since I just found the love of my life and my gift that I want to give away as my life's purpose.

photo credit: Joshua Franzos

But there I go, talking about death again when I really wanted to talk about the creative and rock and roll lifestyle. Minus the downward drug spirals, it's a good life and never boring. So I thought I 'd give some guide lines I've developed for myself on how to look and act the part without asphyxiating on your own vomit

1. Push your art to the limits, not your vices.
2. Party hard, but work harder.
3. It's not about you, it's about getting to do your art.
4. People seldom remember what you say, but they do remember how you made them feel.
5. Exercise your demons into submission.

6. Have friends that celebrate your triumphs and point out when you're being a twat.
7. Good-natured mischief, because it keeps you and those around you, young.
9. Road trip to connect you with the beautiful land and its people.
10. Wear tight, shiny pants.

photo credit: Joshua Franzos
photo credit: Joshua Franzos

What I wore: 
Top: Freeli. Purchased locally at Issue.
Waxed moto jeans: Habitual
Boots: Sam Edelman
Bag: Shades of Silence, here. 
Cuff: Chanel, gift.

Tell me, what are your guidelines for being a rock star in your own life?

Your bosom friend in Pittsburgh,

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