Saturday, March 14, 2009
As I promised yesterday, in my interview post with author Liz Funk, here's your chance to win a free copy of Liz's book, Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls. In the interest of full disclosure, the copy I'm offering is my review copy, sent to me by Liz's publisher. Liz has given me permission to give it away and I was very careful with it while I was reading; for all intents and purposes, it's brand new.
This is probably the easiest contest in the world. You can do one of three things to be eligible:
1. Post a comment on this blog entry.
2. Follow fourthwavefem on Twitter and send us an @reply indicating your interest in the contest.
3. Join the Fourth Wave Feminism group on Facebook and post a note on the Wall.
That's all! Do one of these three things before Sunday, March 15, 5pm EST -- at that time, I'll draw a name at random from those who've entered the contest and will alert the winner! If you leave a comment on the blog itself (option #1), please make sure you either provide a valid email address or that you have contact details listed in your blogger profile, since, if you win, I'll need to get in touch about shipping details.
Happy contesting. And look out for FWF contests in the future!
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Friday, March 13, 2009
I really enjoyed reading Liz's book--it's informative, engaging and incredibly interesting--and you'll find that some of my interview questions are tailored specifically to the book, which her website describes as follows:
In the tradition of bestsellers, such as Ophelia Speaks and Quarterlife Crisis, Liz Funk’s Supergirls Speak Out sheds a disturbingly bright light on a condition that is spreading quickly from Generation X to Y—and even to little girls. Funk calls this being a “Supergirl,” i.e., a girl who believes that in order to be happy, she must excel at her job or career, have the best grades, wear the coolest clothes, date the best-looking boy, and have the perfect body size.And now, without further ado, the author of Supergirls Speak Out, Liz Funk.
1. In your book, there seems to be a tension between the term “Supergirl” as a positive qualifier—Supergirls being high-achieving and smart and pretty and wanting to go places—and the Supergirl phenomenon as a negative thing—girls and women who are overachievers, who have a constant need to be perfect at everything, often to their own detriment, and who have an overwhelming and stressful desire to be at the top of their game at all times. And I wonder if, to start off this interview, you could talk a little bit about the connection between the positive and negative aspects of being a Supergirl and how one might negotiate those tensions?
Great question. Overachieving girls themselves aren’t a “secret crisis”—it’s the consequences that accompany overachieving, and achieving for the wrong reasons, that’s the problem. I’ll be the first to say that girls should reach for the stars and go for their dreams; after all, we need go-getter girls if we want more presidential candidates and women in business and women as public intellectuals, et cetera et cetera. The key is, we want young women to aspire for success for the right reasons. If girls are achieving because they’re looking to matter or to feel valuable because they don’t feel like they matter on their own, that’s the problem!
2. Okay, so it's not about achieving, but achieving for the wrong reasons. For your book you interviewed (almost) a hundred girls and women about their experiences, but you also rely on your own experience. And here you are: you’re only 20, you’ve just published your first book, and you’re about the graduate from college; you’ve arguably accomplished more than many people your age! How do you fit yourself into the Supergirl narrative? You’ve mentioned that you’re a “recovering” Supergirl, but what does that mean to you? Do you feel that by “recovering” you’ve overcome some of the negative aspects of being a Supergirl or do you feel it’s something you struggle with on a daily basis?
I truly believe that for any young women to get over being a Supergirl, she needs to have a mental meltdown of some degree and confront why she is working so hard and going so hard on herself. Personally, I had that mental meltdown my junior year of college and was really forced to take a second look at how I was living my life and why I was trying to find myself in my work and how others perceived me. Now I try to make more time for myself and one of my new year’s resolutions was to get more hobbies and to stop being fake—so I’m definitely still a work in progress. I try to be in a constant conversation with myself about whether I’m going too hard on myself, and I work to be mindful and live in the moment and not go into everything with really high expectations. That’s the worst part of being a Supergirl, I think: everything is disappointing. Being a “recovering Supergirl,” who can be open to exploring the wonder of life, is much more fun!
3. So, what made you decide to start researching Supergirls? Was it your own experience? The experience of your friends? A combination of things? And where did you come up with the term itself?
Growing up, I was always observing the girls around me trying to look like perfect 10’s—pretty, talented, smart, charming, desirable—who made this all look easy. However, occasionally the token “perfect girl” in high school or college would have a breakdown, and it would get people talking, saying things like, "Wow, I thought she was perfect." I wanted to look into these girls’ secret lives. And although I didn’t become a full Supergirl until my later years of high school and college, I definitely spent my whole life investing my identity in superficial things, like my weight, and my relationships with guys, and my career. Also, in 2006, Girls’ Inc. released a study called "The Supergirl Dilemma" that found that overwhelming numbers of tween and teen girls felt pressure to be perfect, and Duke University had done a similar study on college women not far before that, so I really wanted to do a broad study of the lives of overachieving young women between the ages of 13 and 30 and see what their lives were like.
4. And once you decided to write about Supergirls, how did you actually take those next steps to negotiate a book contract and set out to do your research? You talk a bit in the book about doing a lot of networking, but can you be a little more specific about what that networking looked like and how you came to meet the right people at the right times?
I moved to Manhattan in September of 2006 and was really determined to meet other women writers, magazine editors, and young authors so I could learn more about how to make a writing career a reality. I was always really proactive about writing to authors who I like and asking them to have coffee or lunch with me, or reaching out to writers whose articles I read regularly in publications I liked. Gloria Feldt, the former president of Planned Parenthood, has a really good saying that has sort of been a guiding light in my career, which is that it never hurts to ask!
5. Great advice! I have a quick question about one your Supergirls, Yolanda, who, at 27, is one of the older women you interview. In reading the book, I didn’t feel that she quite fit the high-anxiety mold occupied by most of your other high school and college-aged subjects. She seemed pretty put-together and had pursuits and hobbies outside of work. Do you think there might be a generational factor for Supergirl-ism—i.e. is it something more prevalent among girls and women who grew up in the 1990s and early 2000s? If so, why do you think that might be?
Yolanda was definitely on the chill side of the Supergirl scale, but I do think that she’s a great example of how overachieving young women can confront the pressure to be extra-sensitive and please everyone, and excel in the professional world. There definitely may be a generational factor—that the younger girls in Generation Y, like my age and younger, are a bit more high-strung than our big sisters—but I also think that it might be a geographic thing. Yolanda went to high school in Austria and college in Canada, so I think that she missed the U.S. hothouse effect, in that we raise our girls to be a bit hyper-active and hyper-sensitive as they pursue their goals. You’re right, though: although Yolanda was really successful and beautiful and charming, I do think that she expressed less aggressive Supergirl traits, because she was older and was comfortable in her skin and had already done a lot of the negotiating and learning about herself and her femininity that younger Supergirls in the office struggle with. And I think she had a lot more confidence than your average Supergirl… but she was still a total wunderkind banker.
6. In your chapter on feminism, you make a comparison to Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, arguing that the desire of contemporary women to do and be everything mirrors Friedan’s 1950s housewife who supposedly had everything she could ever want but was still discontent. What other aspects of earlier waves and generations of feminism do you feel warrant a second look vis-à-vis contemporary society? How do you, personally, negotiate the past while embracing the future of feminism?
I think feminism is cyclical, and when we don’t fully resolve issues, they come back again in different forms. Personally, I’m rather worried that we haven’t resolved the “raunch culture” issue and the “faux empowerment” issue that a lot of people were talking about a few years ago, especially in 2005, when Ariel Levy’s book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture debuted. I feel like a lot of women dismissed Levy’s argument as condescending and chose to ignore this issue—that young women see their sexuality as currency to be traded for power and validation—and I predict that this problem is only going to boomerang back and get much worse if it’s not confronted. After all, if feminists—who care the most about women!—don’t take this on and have a calm-cool-collected conversation about how women see empowerment, who will? Outside of psychotherapy and Jamba Juice, feminism is the only proven method to help women live happier, healthier lives. Naturally, I’m kidding. A little.
7. As you mention in your book, a lot of young women today resist the feminist label. Do you have any thoughts about why this might be? And did you encounter any resistance around feminism from the girls and women you interviewed?
What’s funny about Generation Y and the Supergirls is that they seem to have no problem with the idea of feminism—most young people who I’ve met are totally open to women having equal rights and equal power, and many girls are eager to talk about the ways that they feel discriminated against and in a disadvantaged position. It’s the word “feminism” that people don’t like. And I really don’t have a solution, other than to encourage the girls who don’t want to use the word “feminism” to keep living feminism. For example, my freshman year of college, one of my friends took down all of the posters that the fraternities and sororities were putting in the dorms and wrote “GREEK LIFE HURTS WOMEN” on them in a big marker and hung them back up—which is a totally radical thing to do—and she didn’t consider herself a feminist. And I think with people like that, rather than arguing with them about the semantics, it’s better to just appreciate the shared sentiment and find commonalities. I mean, it’s sad that girls don’t want to shout “Yay feminism!” from the rooftops, but I’m glad that they are invested in protecting feminism’s legacy, even if they wouldn’t explicitly say that they are.
8. And what made you personally decide to identify as a feminist? Is it something that happened organically or was it a label you took on after some thought and/or trepidation? Do you have a feminist “coming-out” story you’d like to share?
It came about really organically. I first became interested in gender equality in middle school, and in the eighth grade, I did a project on Betty Friedan for social studies class and was like, “Oh, I guess I’m a feminist.” It wasn’t a huge deal or anything, it felt very natural to me. I was twelve, and I actually thought it was kind of cool! At that point in my life, I wanted to be the American ambassador to France, and I knew that I was going to need feminism if I wanted to make that happen. Since then, I’ve changed career goals, but I’m still a feminist.
9. Obviously, over-achieving and perfectionism can become all-consuming, obsessive and difficult-to-abandon pursuits. How do you recommend girls wean themselves away from the need to be a Supergirl? What’s a good place to start?
Young women need to realize their intrinsic worth. They need to figure out why they matter outside what they look like, how others perceive them, and what they’ve accomplished. They need to have a relationship with themselves, where they like listening to their thoughts and spending time alone with themselves, where they don’t berate themselves. Naturally, that’s a huge task to take on, but it starts with giving yourself some free time, spending solitary time by yourself to think and meditate, and treating yourself! A big part of this is cutting down on our use of technology; iPods and PDAs and text messaging are really distracting, and they keep young people from being able to listen to their internal monologues and have downtime during the day. But having that relationship with yourself is how you have a sense of self-worth!
10. Excellent, I always love an excuse to treat myself! So, downtime is essential, and you say that a symptom of being a Supergirl is a constant need for occupation, the unwillingness or inability to relax and just enjoy life. So, as someone who’s “recovered” and advocates taking time off, what do you like to do for fun? What do you find helps you unwind after a busy day of classes or writing? And, last but not least, what are you going to do once you graduate in May?
I watch so much television! I love 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, and Arrested Development—I am nearing memorization of the latter. I also love to paint and to read novels and to play the oboe; it took me about two months of daily practicing, but I can play the musical “Spring Awakening” from start-to-finish on the oboe. I’m not sure whether that’s cool or embarrassing. Ha!
I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to do after graduation in May; I know that I’m going to have a pretty chill summer (assuming I pass all my classes; in a truly un-Supergirl move, I have a MAJOR case of senioritis right now)—I want to finish writing the novel I’ve been working on for a year and read lots of books. Then, I think I’m going to move to Los Angeles; “move somewhere warm” is very high on my priority list, and I’m trying to take my own advice from “Supergirls”—taking risks, being unafraid to make mistakes and face trials, and being open to exploring the wonder of my life!
Thanks, Liz, for the great interview. I'm sure we all wish you luck in your future endeavors!
P.S. to FWF readers: Don't forget to check back tomorrow for details on how to win a free copy of Liz's new book!
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Thursday, March 12, 2009
Add to that my interview with Renee from last month and the newest installment in FWF's Feminist Blogger Fridays interview series coming up tomorrow...Three cheers for the diversity of women's voices!
...with Monica of Transgriot
...with Amanda of Pandagon
...with Loryn of Black Girl Blogging
...with Melissa of Shakesville
...with Hexy of Hexpletive
...with Cara of The Curvature
...with Faith of Acts of Faith in Love and Life
...with Holly of Menstrual Poetry
...with Brownfemipower of flip flopping joy
...and, last but not least, with Octagalore of Astarte's Circus
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Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Admittedly, I don't know that much about her, but I liked what she had to say about Ann Coulter over on The Daily Beast on Monday (which I have generously from quoted below, though you should of course go read the whole article on their site):
To make matters worse, certain individuals continue to perpetuate negative stereotypes about Republicans. Especially Republican women. Who do I feel is the biggest culprit? Ann Coulter. I straight up don’t understand this woman or her popularity. I find her offensive, radical, insulting, and confusing all at the same time.
Coulter could be the poster woman for the most extreme side of the Republican Party. And in some ways I could be the poster woman for the opposite. I consider myself a progressive Republican, but here is what I don’t get about Coulter: Is she for real or not? Are some of her statements just gimmicks to gain publicity for her books or does she actually believe the things she says? Does she really believe all Jewish people should be “perfected” and become Christians?
I’m often criticized for not being a “real” Republican, and I have been called a RINO—Republican In Name Only—in the past. Many say I am not “conservative enough,” which is something that I am proud of. It is no secret that I disagree with many of the old-school Republican ways of thinking. One of the biggest issues from which I seem to drift from the party base is in my support of gay marriage. I am often criticized for previously voting for John Kerry and my support of stem-cell research. For the record, I am also extremely pro-military and a big supporter of the surge and the Iraq war.
More so than my ideological differences with Ann Coulter, I don’t like her demeanor. I have never been a person who was attracted to hate or negativity. I don’t believe in scare tactics and would never condone or encourage anyone calling President Obama a Muslim. But controversy sells and Coulter is nothing if not controversial.
I am sure most extreme conservatives and extreme liberals would find me a confusing, walking contradiction. But I assure you, there are many people out there just like me who represent a new, younger generation of Republicans. [...]Where has our extreme thinking gotten us?
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009
It’s a new website, www.daughters.com/, created by a group of folks who know girls just about as well as anyone, New Moon Girl Media.
Daughters.com features advice from experts and parents, an interactive community, and has its information and resources organized a variety of topics, from body image and building friendships to dating and communicating successfully. The site also includes:
- "Ask the Experts” Forum: Submit questions on parenting girls to New Moon Girl Media’s Expert Advisory Board
- "Parent to Parent” Discussion Board where parents, grandparents and caregivers of girls meet up, connect with and support one another on a vast array of issues
- Fully-searchable collection of more than 250 articles written by the top experts on raising girls—and real-life parents & stepparents of girls.
- Parenting Daughters Expert blogs by me and New Moon Girl Media Founder Nancy Gruver.
Here’s what renowned girls’ development specialist and author JoAnn Deak, Ph.D. says about daughters.com: “Parents of girls are in desperate need of a genuine, trusted ally available to help with the challenges of raising daughters. At daughters.com, parents can focus in and get the information they need with a few clicks of their mouse, instead of digging through online resources or reading entire books on a wide range of topics. As a result, parents will have more tools at their fingertips for raising their daughters, and more time to spend with their girls instead of searching endlessly for answers.”So check it out, add daughters.com to your favorites & spread the word to other adults who care about girls.
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Monday, March 9, 2009
I've got a hard workin' man
The way he treats me I can't understand
He works hard every day
And on Sat'day throws away his pay
Now I don't want want that man
because he's done gone cold in hand
--Bessie Smith, "Cold In Hand"
(Full lyrics here)
It seems like everyone has heard of Bessie Smith, but few besides jazz/blues musicians actually seem listen to her. And many of those are actually listening for Louie! (It's even worse when you consider that Smith was the most popular blues singer of her time!)
It's really a shame. Bessie Smith was an amazing woman. To be sure, she was rough, rude (and what's wrong with that?), and often violent, but she was strong, independent, hard-working, and had some amazingly insightful things to say about the world.
Her songs range from blues about love and abuse and the relationship between the two (too many to count!) to alcoholism (Gin House Blues) to objectification of men(!) (Do Your Duty, I'm Wild About That Thing) to capital punishment (of sorts, in Send Me To The 'lectric Chair) to sexuality (see here)
The wonderful thing about blues, is that it simply tells it like it is. The lyrics are simple, the first line is repeated twice so we're certain to hear it. And Bessie Smith tells it like nobody else ever has.
Send me to the 'lectric chair:
Sobbin' Hearted Blues:
I'm wild about that thing:
(By the way - this post was so late because I was looking for a blues, possibly by Smith, which started with the line "I got a husband/ He beats me every day". Scared me half to death the first time I heard it, but now I can't find it. If anyone knows what I'm talking about, I'd be eternally grateful!)
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Sunday, March 8, 2009
Inspired by AfterEllen's retro review, this week's Feminist Flashback is the fabulous 1995 movie Boys on the Side, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Mary Louise-Parker and Drew Barrymore.
I love this movie! Somehow, I'd totally forgotten about it...
Watch Boys on the Side (1995) in B | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com
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