Suffragettes as Public Enemy #1

19 07 2011

“Paparazzi”-style photos of those “terrorist” suffragette women

I’m glad these photos exist as historical documents, but these women went through hell and were actually labeled terrorists in their fight for the vote (which a lot of women don’t even use today).


Love Them Because They Are Smart, Not Because They Have a Pretty Dress

30 06 2011

Yesterday I read Lisa Bloom’s article on HuffPo called “How to Talk to Little Girls.” It was about the way we treat girls from a very young age and how this affects them later in life. She connects the crises of girls’ low self-esteem, poor body image, pressure to be thin and sexy at astonishingly young ages, and desire to be pretty rather than smart to the way we speak to young girls. Bloom believes that telling girls how cute and pretty they are, rather than engaging them on an intellectual level, is a root cause for many of these problems. (There is plenty of blame to go around, however.) She also presents some heartbreaking statistics from her own research:  up to half of girls ages 3-6 worry about being fat, and a quarter of young women would prefer to win America’s Next Top Model (don’t even get me started…) than to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

“Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23.”

She makes a great point. I think that as I have become more aware of myself as a woman and a feminist, I have unconsciously tried to talk to the young girls in my family differently than I might have years ago. Bloom’s article is a good reminder to me to continue putting a girl’s intellect before her appearance, and I think it will probably make many people think differently about the way they talk to girls, too.

When I re-posted Bloom’s article on Facebook, a friend of mine had a counter-point. He tells his daughters that they are pretty, but he also makes it clear that he is interested in what they are reading and learning, too.  In some ways, this makes a lot of sense. As a little girl, I loved to hear that my dad thought I was pretty, and my parents were also certainly interested in what I did at school and encouraged me in becoming a voracious reader. However, I remember that around 3rd grade, I wasn’t “pretty” anymore because I was chubby, and then I wasn’t pretty in 5th grade when I got glasses, and it continued on and on as I got older. Being told I was pretty was great when I was little, but as I matured, it felt like something that people expected of me, and I was a failure at it.

This reminds me of a song I originally heard on the film Ghost World (not featured on the soundtrack) called A Smile and a Ribbon by Patience and Prudence. It’s from the 1950s, but I think it still applies today, and it pretty much sums up why I think resisting talk about a girl’s appearance is the best approach.

A smile is something special,
a ribbon is something rare,
So I’ll be special and I’ll be rare with a smile and a ribbon in my hair.
To be a girl they notice,
takes more than a fancy dress,
so I’ll be noticed because I’ll dress with a smile and a ribbon in my tresses…
The bigger my toothy grin is, the smaller my troubles grow
The louder I say I’m happy, the more I believe it’s so
So I’ll have that extra something,
because I know what to wear.
So I’ll be special and I’ll be rare.
I’ll be something beyond compare.
I’ll be noticed because I’ll wear a smile and a ribbon in my hair

See also:
Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World by Lisa Bloom

Roseanne Still Kicks Ass

21 06 2011

I’ve been saying it for awhile now: Roseanne is the most progressive show I watched as a kid, and even 20 years later, it is still way ahead of where most shows are. Part of it is that TV is moving backwards in terms of respecting the audience’s intelligence, and part of it is that whomever casts these shows seems absolutely incapable of putting a fat woman on the screen unless the show is about her losing weight (The Biggest Loser, I Used To Be Fat). You never see an ugly woman on TV unless she is a side character or the show is about her becoming pretty by white American standards (Extreme Makeover, What Not to Wear). You usually don’t see anyone on TV who is poor unless the show makes fun of their poverty by insinuating that poverty = ignorance = hilarious antics (My Name is Earl, Jerry Springer). And then of course there is the “fat or ugly women are ok if they are a sidekick only and at least pleasant/funny” trope .

All of this changed when Roseanne debuted on prime time television and featured a family that was the opposite of everything that TV families were “supposed” to be. Roseanne and Dan Conner were overweight, average-looking people who lived paycheck to paycheck and had real problems (money, unemployment, troubled kids, family members who were pains in the ass). They used sarcasm frequently, fought and loved loudly (there were actually love scenes with these two fat/plain-looking people; can you imagine that on TV today?), kept their family together despite the many troubles they went through, and their problems were by no means solved at the end of each 30 minute episode. Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Tell Me I’m Small Because I’m Big

16 06 2011

By now you know that I work in an office that’s on Colfax ave. Yes, the unwashed masses, the business people, everyone. If you have never met me in person, here’s something you might not know: I’m fat. No, there is nothing to be ashamed of here. I am fat. It’s just part of who I am: large and in charge, overweight, big, huge. I’m six feet tall, I’m fat, I’m a big woman. Obviously I’m well aware of this since, you know… I’m ME. I live in my body every day. So why do people feel the need to point this out to me?

Granted, this doesn’t happen very often to me, but occasionally there is some really insecure little, usually a guy with another guy. This happened to me recently. Two teenage guys walked past me and they said “that’s a huge bitch”. They started laughing at me, like because of my weight I’m someone who shouldn’t be respected or treated with a modicum of dignity. And the insult is ridiculous. Pointing out what you see and saying it isn’t exactly high humor. Oh look, you have acne!  HA HA HA! No similes or metaphors or allegories there.

It just makes me angry. Like being a certain weight is its own insult. I know I’m fat. I admit it. So for you to call me that doesn’t mean anything except that you’re an idiot. Fat phobia is one of those last frontiers that is just now being addressed. Civil rights and women’s rights have already made big strides (and, as they should, will continue to do so until things are right). But there are still quite a few things that haven’t been addressed on a larger scale, including being fat, gay, trans, gender queer, having physical or mental disabilities,  etc. Why is it still ok to point and laugh? It isn’t funny. Read the rest of this entry »

Action, Not Fear

9 06 2011

I work on Colfax Avenue. No, not the way you might think if you’re from Denver and understand the seedy nature of what I’m talking about. My office is right off of Colfax, and I have to say, it’s just a treat. (If you didn’t catch that, it was my voice dripping with sarcasm.)

Every morning and evening, I encounter people from all walks of life. Lots of people. And usually it’s just good people-watching and nothing more. There is the homeless guy who has been holding up the same obnoxious sign every day for years (one side says “savin’ for a hooker;” the other side says “will kill mother-in-law for money”). There are the people who work at the Colorado State Capitol, bustling around in their conservative suits and looking for all the world like they couldn’t possibly be more important. And of course there are the people who live in the retirement apartments, many of whom sit in their motorized wheelchairs all day and people watch, too. (Side note: I want a Jazzie!)

All in all, these people are harmless, and my neighborhood is usually a pleasant place to live. But there are some people out and about who worry me. Capitol Hill, where I live and work, is a higher crime neighborhood (well above the national average). There is a large homeless population, tons of halfway houses, a disturbingly large number of registered sex offenders, and I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve seen back-alley drug deals, police arresting prostitutes and pimps, raving drunks getting violent, and other lovely things involving bodily fluids. Read the rest of this entry »

My Real Face

6 06 2011

Maybe it was the fact that I was sleep deprived and listening to “I’ve Just Seen a Face” by The Beatles, but as I was putting on my makeup this morning, I started thinking about the phrase “putting on my face.” It’s probably a fairly common saying among women; my mother, grandmother, and aunt all say they are going to “go put on their face” when they put on their makeup. As an almost-30-something, I’m beginning to say it too.

This phrase implies that for many women, our natural faces – the faces that men walk around showing all the time – are not really the faces we choose to show the world. Our face is what happens after the application of lipstick, mascara, blush, and all of those other things that are supposed to enhance our natural beauty. Only after these things are applied can we show our face to the world and say, “This is me!”

As I made my cheeks pinker and “corrected” the “blemishes” on my skin, I thought about how this false face is really just a defense. Many women think of makeup as armor, as something they don to face the world. But what do we need a defense for anyway? Read the rest of this entry »

Here We Go!

6 06 2011

This is the first entry of my brand spankin’ new feminist blog, Soldiers in Petticoats. Here is some background info on the blog name and concept, and of course a little something about me.

About Soldiers in Petticoats

The name Soldiers in Petticoats comes from the song “Sister Suffragette” in the film version of Mary Poppins. Even as a young girl I identified with the women’s rights theme of the song, and have always found the “soldiers in petticoats” phrase (as well as Mary Poppins herself) inspiring for its seemingly contrary image of stereotypical male toughness combined with female demureness.

This blog will explore feminism within pop culture, especially themes that I see within music, movies, books, TV, the web, and other places, as well as things that I struggle with in my personal life. I hope to address many different types of feminist issues by writing about the mundane, pervasive things we see every day online, on our TVs, on billboards, and pretty much everywhere else we look.

About the Author

My name is Michelle, and yes, this is what a feminist looks like. I’m an outspoken yet bookish, compassionate yet snarky, and opinionated but always honest conundrum of a woman living under the astrological sign Leo. My passions include feminism, social media, writing, activism, and pop culture in its many forms. I hope to form a career that allows me to explore these passions, and to that end am working on my individualized bachelor’s degree in “Women, Writing, and Society” while paying the bills with a fun but challenging job in the library field.

Feel free to email me at if you have any questions.

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