“I’ll Be Gone in the Dark” No More

book-jacket 2Michelle McNamara spent years working on a book about The Golden State Killer. She died in her sleep before she was able to finish the book–in part because of the substances she used to cope with the horror of investigating these crimes. Her husband, Patton Oswalt, and a couple of collaborators made sure the book was finished and published. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was published a few weeks ago to huge acclaim. Today, police announced THEY’VE TAKEN A SUSPECT INTO CUSTODY!

You couldn’t write this stuff if you tried.  Continue reading

A Rock Climbing Fable for the Ages

Last weekend, my boyfriend and I headed to the rock climbing gym as per usual. We donned our gear, chalked up our hands, and hit the wall. There were a dozen or so new routes in the back corner of the gym, and after a warm up, we headed over to check them out.

If you aren’t familiar with climbing gyms, here’s a little primer on how it works. The easiest routes are rated 5.5. If you’re an adult, these get old quick. The holds are easy and close together. Ratings go up to about 5.14 or so (it gets more complicated than that but it’s all you need to know for now). At my gym, when a new route is set a scorecard is put out and climbers can rate it however they think fit. Eventually, someone takes all the ratings and narrows it down to one rating.

600_434194106A year or so into climbing, I can climb a 5.9 pretty reliably. Once in awhile I meet one that vexes me. I have climbed the occasional 5.10. But this weekend I found myself faced with something interesting. Instead of a bunch of scorecards on the new routes, they were simply marked with colored tape. There were absolutely no ratings to be seen.

We stood before the wall, assessing the new routes. You usually have some idea of whether or not something is within your wheelhouse. But I found myself looking at one route on a sharp corner with lots of tiny little holds thinking, “I can do that.” My boyfriend guessed it might be a 5.11. I decided to throw myself at it anyway.  Continue reading

No, YOU Smile!

I have a new hobby. I like refinishing furniture. I don’t mean that I take beautiful old antiques and bring them back to life. I find junk at Goodwill or the dump, slap some paint on it, and unload it on Craigslist. This is how I found myself standing in front of a wall of spray paint in my local hardware store. I had a can in my hand and was examining the label when a man in a headset and vest stopped and said, “And how are you doing young lady?”

“I’m good, thanks,” I said and went back to my label.

“You’re not smiling so you can’t be doing that well.”

I looked at him as if to say, “Not smiling while reading the label on a can of spray paint? Dude, if you see someone grinning while reading the label on a can of toxic chemicals, you can be pretty sure she is going to huff it behind your store. Do not sell it to her!”  Continue reading

In Praise of School Dress Codes

I have a very vivid memory of sitting in American history class as a senior in high school and looking over at my friend Ali. She was covertly gesturing at the guy next to her who was wearing a tank top. We were in suburban Connecticut, not Florida–which is to say that tank tops were not exactly fashionable attire for males, even in the late-1990s. I didn’t know what all her gesticulating meant until she whipped out the Ani DiFranco lyrics she knew I would recognize. “PALE PURPLE!” I grimaced. She could see this dude’s nipple.

I’ve been thinking about this story a lot lately. There seems to have been a rash of outraged blog posts and news segments about girls getting sent home from school–or being otherwise punished–for failing to meet their school’s dress codes. Some of the stories seem outrageous. Othertimes, some of the shorts actually do seem pretty short and if you knew what the dress code was, why didn’t you abide by it? Parents cry foul when their daughters are reprimanded for wearing short-shorts/skirts, spaghetti strap tank tops, and beyond. They gripe that boys aren’t “shamed” for their wardrobes–and that girls should not have to care whether boys are “distracted” by their bare skin. It would be easy enough to throw up my feminist hands and say, “Right on! Wear whatever you want, grrrrl!” But I feel like something important is being ignored in these discussions. Continue reading

Why Bustle Isn’t Going to Win the Hearts and Minds of Women

A while back Bleacher Report founder Bryan Goldberg found himself in a bit of a PR nightmare when he announced he would be revolutionizing women’s media by creating a site that *gasp* put politics and hard news alongside beauty tips and fashion advice. Mostly people just laughed at him because clearly he hadn’t done any homework before launching Bustle.com, which would have shown the many thriving websites aimed at women. Among his competition is Jezebel. I’d forgotten all about Bustle because, well, I read Jezebel, Rookie, XOJane, Slate’s XX blog, and any number of other lady-focused sites. Today I confirmed that I was right to stay away. Continue reading

Game of Thrones: The Most Feminist Show on TV

I’ve been meaning to write this post for quite a while, but I’ve been a bad, bad blogger. Please thank my busy life and a desire to get away from computers at 5 o’clock sharp! So here it goes…

I got into the Game of Thrones craze a little late. There had already been a couple of seasons by the time I got around to learning about The Starks and the Dyer Wolves, and the Khaleesi. Like most people, I was immediately hooked. Then the Wendy Davis memes started…

It wasn’t the first time I’d thought about just how feminist a show/book Game of Thrones is, but I did start to consider it more seriously. There are a lot of boobs in Game of Thrones, but there are also a lot of bad ass women. Some of them are evil, most of them are awesome… all of them are worth talking about.  Continue reading

Oscar Pistorious and the Consequences of Paranoia

My new security system.

For the record, I don’t believe for a minute that he accidentally killed his girlfriend. I think this is yet another case where what could have been another case of domestic abuse turned into murder because of the availability of guns. But let’s, just for a moment, pretend we buy his defense. Basically, he’s yet another person who has become so terrified of the outside world that even inside a high-security gated community, he slept with a gun under his bed and has repeatedly…repeatedly…mistakenly thought his house was being invaded by intruders. Here’s what Slate has to say about that:

There’s no record of any burglary-like incident at Pistorius’ home. The two incidents he has acknowledged were false alarms. A year ago, the New York Times reported that according to Pistorius, “a security alarm in the house had gone off the previous night, and he had grabbed his gun and tiptoed downstairs. (It turned out to be nothing.)” Three months ago, Pistoriustweeted: “Nothing like getting home to hear the washing machine on and thinking its an intruder to go into full combat recon mode into the pantry!” These episodes gave Pistorius plenty of warning that his hair-trigger reactions were rash.

That’s right, the man damn near shot his washing machine! Continue reading

Happy Sunday: Just a Simple “Thank You”

When this song first came out, I remember having a conversation with a friend’s moronic boyfriend, about how it was repetitive. He hated it. (As far as I can tell the only music he actually liked was Metallica and, like…SlipKnot or something awful like that.) I tried to point out that simplicity was the point of the song… a straight-forward, heartfelt “thank you.” He didn’t get it. But I think it’s a nice way to end the year.

I love that she’s still doing the old dance.  Continue reading

Feminism: The Other F-Word

John Oxton, Flickr Creative Commons

As is the case with so many of my posts lately, this one started with a xoJane article. This one happens to be about how Taylor Swift and the author don’t identify as Feminist (capital F). I don’t think any of us find that shocking. Here’s a girl who makes her living singing syrupy songs about break-ups with the kinds of guys who I get great joy out of giving the heave-ho. I also think of her as being eternally 16 because she continues to write songs that have the emotional maturity of a 16-year-old. (Maybe ya’ll have guessed, but I’m not a big Taylor Swift fan.) How can you be mad at a 16-year-old for not being a feminist?

More to the point, I do identify as a feminist and have ever since I took my first Women’s Studies class in college. Back then I tended to wear army green pants and gray shirts and spent too much money on Ani DiFranco tickets. These days I only go to see Ani when it’s free (which, oddly, happens more than you would think) and I try to incorporate more colors into my wardrobe. I no longer care to resemble camouflage. But I’m still a feminist.

Continue reading

Put Your Fight Face On

Rory puts on her Fight Face.

As I’ve written many times lately, I absolutely love XOJane. In fact, I’m a little obsessed. Today, the story that caught my attention was “The Time I Almost Broke a Bottle Over a Groper’s Head on the Train.” The title should be pretty self-explanatory. But there was one part in particular that got me thinking:

Reading all of these stories about women going dead-possum in the face of harassment, and of women waiting for their attackers to just go away, makes me nearly as angry as when I witness these things in person. They will never just go away if you sit there. Scream. Flail. Act like a fucking lunatic until someone sees you. Go for the eyes, for the balls, for the throat. If you won’t, I will, and one day I will probably get hurt doing it.

I started thinking about this, and wondering which end of the spectrum I fall on. At first I thought I’d never really had an experience that would test my fight or flight response… but the more I “thunk on it” the more I realized I was  wrong. I often find myself reading about the creepy/scary/terrifying experiences women have and how they react, and I find myself saying, “This stuff doesn’t happen to me.” And I’m only kind of right about that… Continue reading