With everything that is going on in the world right now, it is more important than ever to honor, recognize, and support the power of girls. The New York Times put together a powerful piece in #ThisIs18, a kaleidoscopic accounting of what 18 looks like around the world. What makes it especially powerful is that the photos and words are all from girls themselves. I was humbled and awed by the conviction of these young women, and encouraged by their savvy, grace, and intelligence. Take a look, and let’s celebrate girls and women not just on International Girls’ Day, but every day. The future is female.
Apologies for my absence this week, but I have had a terrible cold. I’m hoping to be back in action fully next week, but in the meantime, I wanted to share a resonant piece about beauty that I stumbled across this morning:
“… Here are some activities where I feel intuitively beautiful and feminine – Walking through the Minneapolis Institute of Art alone. Writing and creating in an afternoon coffee shop. Talking with my girlfriends late at night, long after the persuasion of sleep has crept in. I feel most beautiful when interacting with this life that surrounds us. So I’m trying to do more of that. Because the image I keep hoping to see in the mirror? She’s never going to show up. But still, without fail, I greet her within me every single day – she is the way I respond to art and humanity. She is the rare and precious awareness that comes only when studying something that is distinctly outside of myself. I want to learn more of her. And it’s not going to happen while looking into the empty reflection of my bathroom mirror. So why would I bother to look there at all?”
I am rather late to the party, but I have finally joined in on the jumpsuit trend. It took me ages to find anything that fit and I felt good in, but now I am the proud owner of not one, but three (!) jumpers. They make getting dressed a breeze — one and done — and they dress up or down nicely. Here are the ones I wound up with, below:
It it notoriously difficult to find well-cut clothing in larger sizes, so it feels like that much more of a victory to find clothes I am happy in. I am pleased to see more brands widening their size ranges, though, and am hopeful it will continue. Women come in far more shapes and sizes than the runway ideal, and we should all be able to feel confident — every day.
Good morning! Here are a couple great things to start off the week:
Selfishness or survival? Anne Helen Petersen gets it. Her piece simultaneously discusses four different narratives surrounding the low American birth rate while also deftly and intelligently peeling back the layers regarding the choice to not have children and the impossible financial position that many young people find themselves in. A great read.
Next up is a maker a could not be more tickled about: meet Zuri, a company striving to embody good in everything they do. Zuri offers a streamlined product lineup that includes dresses, shirts, bags and baskets that come in tons of amazing prints and colorways, all inspired by kitenge and ankara, the traditional wax print fabrics of east and west Africa.
“The history of African textiles is a global story, both ancient and modern, and a powerful symbol of the changing tides of culture, politics, and trade. While we are continuously inspired by the beauty of these textiles, we’re also motivated by the history that they represent and the opportunity they offer to create social and economic change.”
Founders Sandra and Ashleigh spent a combined 8 years in Nairobi, and saw firsthand how both corruption and aid can distort markets. It is their hope “that by paying fair wages, sourcing locally, and making a product that our customers truly love, we will be helping to support a long-term, sustainable economy in Kenya.” Zuri’s production partners SOKO and Tushone in Kenya are focused on ethical and sustainable practices, and also on building and supporting communities. Their clothing is wax-print cotton, and their totes are crafted with all-natural fiber Kenyan sisal.
Not only do they do well by their production and suppliers, but they offer a more inclusive size range than many brands out there. Many of their items are available from size XS through to 2XL, with styles that are made to flatter most body types. Sustainable, ethically produced, community-oriented, AND size-inclusive? I am sold.
I purchased the Nuclear print dress and loved it so much that I purchased the Trivial Pursuit version a few weeks later. I don’t think I have ever gotten as many compliments on a single item of clothing. And as a delightful extra touch, each was shipped in a surprise printed tote bag.
Their name is inspired by the Swahili word mzuri, which means good. And their tagline? “Look good. Feel good. Do good.” I feel great in my dresses, and I feel even better knowing what a difference you are making in so many people’s lives. Bravo, Zuri!
It has been a difficult couple weeks for a variety of reasons, perhaps most especially because we lost some amazing and luminous figures to suicide just days apart from each other. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, you will be missed. As we hold ourselves gently, gingerly, and move forward, here are some important/poignant/touching/thoughtful reads for you to ponder:
While I decided long ago that having children was not for me, I will always be awed and grateful for my mom and all she does. Not only is she one of the most selfless women I know, but it takes a special kind of bravery to reinvent oneself, to work on one’s flaws, and to examine one’s life and say, “I want something better.” I wrote this poem for my mother a while ago and wanted to share it here, in the spirit of spring and of celebrating nurturing women everywhere.
Claire Cain Miller’s article on our failure to find value in work performed by women has been on my mind lately, even two years after it was originally published. Why is it that we fail to find women — and by extension, the work that they do — valuable? Just think about the rhetoric involved: in discussing breast cancer, we’re encouraged to “save the tatas.” That’s cute and all, but what about the women attached to those breasts? And consider discussions around sexual assault: we hear appeals from men who try to frame their perspective as uniquely feminist, because they are “fathers of daughters.” Men are asked to think of how they’d feel “if it was their sister.” What about thinking of women simply as people? As human beings? As individuals who have the right to safety and respect in and of themselves, regardless of if or how they are related to men? In the same way that a woman seems to only be valuable in the ways she is related to or benefits a man, work done by women is similarly undervalued.
The “pay gap” women experience is well-documented. As of 2017, women earn a median 81.8% of what men do. And we should be careful to acknowledge that many women experience that pay gap much more deeply than others: median earnings for black women was only 67.7%, and Hispanic women a mere 62.2% of what white men earn. And even though there has been increased awareness of this issue, progress towards equality has made only small strides at best.
Research has shown that there is a great deal more to the pay gap between women and men than women being paid less for equal roles and work. In fact, it has been shown that work and professions considered “feminine” are, in fact, valued less in our society.
“…there was substantial evidence that employers placed a lower value on work done by women. It’s not that women are always picking lesser things in terms of skill and importance… [it’s] just that the employers are deciding to pay it less.”
“Computer programming, for instance, used to be a relatively menial role done by women. But when male programmers began to outnumber female ones, the job began paying more and gained prestige.”
Similarly, doctors in the U.S. are among the highest paid professions, but in Russia, where it is considered “women’s work,” doctors and other medical professionals are among the lowest paid professions. While there is an overabundance of doctors in the workforce, I think it is clear that does not entirely account for the dismally low wages. The majority of doctors are women, so therefore the work must not be valuable.
“…even though they require about the same amount of training as the American doctor… medical practice is stereotyped as a caring vocation ‘naturally suited‘ to women, [which puts it at] a second-class level in the Soviet psyche.”
As far as personal experience, I work at a heritage institution. I often do similar coding work as other information technology professionals. But you’d better believe that coding work done under the more “feminine” title of librarian gets a lot less pay — and regard — than a programmer or data engineer.
The patriarchal structure of our society has brought us to a staggering place: women’s work is not valued because women are seen to have little value. When laid bare this way, it is hard not to be shocked. So how can we change? It is a complex and multilayered issue, one that clearly cannot be solved in a day. Perceptions need to change. Privileges need to be recognized and acknowledged. And perhaps the more we are aware, the more we can push back against what has become the status quo.
“For all the fears that the #MeToo moment will be marked by overreach, the fact remains that a single instance of justice feels more surprising than several decades of serial rape.”
If you haven’t read this article by Jia Tolentino yet, I highly recommend doing so. I, too, was surprised by the Cosby verdict last week — and with that surprise came the renewed realization that we still have much more work to do towards gender equality. A man’s job should not be worth more than dozens of women’s safety. A single moment of justice should not be more surprising than rape. The thing men fear about being in prison should not the the thing women fear walking down the street every day. Enough is enough. If nothing else, this guilty verdict signals that our culture is changing for the better, even just in the past year. Time’s up.
Somewhere on your reading list, make room for Lesley Nneka Arimah’s dazzling and thoughtful debut collection of short stories: What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky. These stories stayed with me for quite some time, getting up under my skin and lingering there, mildly disturbing, mildly haunting, and entirely memorable. Arimah examines humanity and relationships in striking snippets, slices of lives extracted and told with precision by way of magical realism, flavors of dystopia, Nigerian cultural milieu, and creative mythology by turns. Each has its own carefully crafted sense of place, and the aches and cares of each character all but pop off the page.
“Windfalls” stuck with me, the narrator’s flat acceptance of her life starkly contrasting with the shocking intentional injuries she suffers at the hands of her manipulative mother for payouts. “Who Will Greet You at Home” likewise left an indelible impression on me, lingering long after I finished the book. It is the story of a young woman who creates infants out of yarn, of paper, of human hair, hoping that Mama will bless them so she will have a child of her own, and she trades measures of her empathy and then even her joy in payment. It begs the question, much are we willing to give to get what we want? What society says we should want? And how high is too high a cost? What if the price becomes our humanity?
Arimah draws you in over and over, each story engaging in its own way. She is particularly good at teasing out the unique trials of being a girl in a world intent on extinguishing those who shine a little too brightly. Grab this book, savor each story, and ponder the imprints they leave on you.