Saturday, October 06, 2007

Saturday's Best of Blogs

Roop Cafe questions why Vogue India placed Australian Caucasian model Gemma Ward on their inaugural cover. Great post by a new blogger (and FGB reader!).

Dahlia Lithwick, legal correspondent for Slate asks why feminist bloggers and writers have been silent on the controversy surrounding the medical student who was given extra time on her state boards in order to pump breast milk.

Think that women in the public eye are judged just as harshly as men on the basis of their looks? New York Magazine breaks down the history of media analysis of Hilary Clinton's appearance.

Beauty Addict
finds that Prescriptives' 24-Hour Longwear Mascara lives up to its name.

Finally, The New York Times reports on the disturbing trend that more women than ever are getting multiple plastic surgery procedures after having childbirth, as a way to regain their pre-baby figure.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Finds: Fall Skirts

My favorite way to wear heavier, more traditionally masculine fabrics like tweed, denim, herringbone and wool is in feminine, form-fitting skirts. There's nothing that feels more "fall" to me than wearing a tweed or wool mini with opaque tights and flats or flat boots, while pencil skirts in heavy fabrics are great for dressing up or down, going out or going to work.

Since these fabrics make a strong statement on their own, I think it's best to avoid pairing them with tops or accessories of the same fabric (don't wear a wool sweater over a wool skirt, for instance) but mixing and matching is never a bad idea. And to ensure that you'll get the most bang for your buck, invest in a pair of thick tights (these are my favorite) so that you can get through all but the coldest days. Here are a few of my picks for fall skirts:

Lux Highwaisted Tweed Pencil Skirt, from Urban Outfitters, $58

Banana Republic Oxford Mini-Skirt, $68

Gap Dark Indigo Denim Mini Skirt, $44.50

J. Crew Felted-Wool Patch-Pocket Mini, $88

Tweed Mini Skirt, from Forever 21, $22

Style & Co. Denim Pencil Skirt, from Macy's, $30

Victoria's Secret Pleated Skirt, $49.50

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Reader Question: Linen after Labor Day?

I recently received a question from a reader asking whether it's acceptable to wear linen after Labor Day. She's attending a wedding in the deep South and is considering wearing a linen dress in fall colors. My initial thought is that, at least in New England, a summer fabric like linen would be unacceptable in any color now that summer is officially over.

But then I thought back to the great responses I got to my post on wearing white after Labor Day, where many of you from warmer climates said that the traditional seasonal rules don't apply when it's warm year-round.

On a related note, there was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal not too long ago that talked about how global warming is affecting the fashion industry, as people are not dressing seasonally the same way they once were. If consumers stop shopping for new items every season, and designers only show once a year, the implications for designers and retailers are gigantic. We're already seeing a boom in styles that can be adapted for multiple seasons, such as lightweight wools, cashmere and knits, and we can expect companies to invest less in season-specific pieces like heavy coats in the future.

But back to the subject at hand. I thought I'd throw this question out to you guys: is it acceptable to wear light fabrics like linen during fall and winter months?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Who's Got "Green Fatigue?"

Last week The Independent published an interesting article on "Green Fatigue," the idea that many of us are losing interest in supporting the environmental movement because we're starting to think that our individual actions are irrelevant in reversing the effects of global warming. We're also growing cynical as corporations keep telling us that we can "go green" through more consumption, a trend that was captured in this fascinating and depressing New York Times article.

The wealthy are buying 8,000 sq. ft. eco-mansions and hybrid cars that only get 22 mpg, while celebrities host mega-concerts around the world to raise awareness of environmental issues, oblivious to the fact of what hosting events of this size actually harm the environment. Corporations offset their "carbon imprint" by planting trees, a "magic bullet" solution that impresses few. Studies show that most of the products labeled "organic" are actually not. Is it any wonder we're growing a little jaded?

Many environmental scientists are skeptical that the small changes individuals make will actually slow global warming, since most of the damage has already been done. Still, there's no shortage of products on the market that promise an eco-friendly alternative to the traditional packaged goods we use, and the market for these types of products grows larger every year. While we all know that the best solution is just to "buy less," it's going to be very difficult to sell the idea of decreasing consumption to a culture that's based on just the opposite.

One point that the Independent article made was that environmentalists fear that "green fatigue" will only get worse as people get frustrated with the lack of visible change despite their efforts to help the environment. We're a very results-oriented society when it comes to charitable giving, and unlike many charitable causes, it's impossible to see any short-term change that comes from living a greener lifestyle. Many people need the satisfaction of facts and figures that show that poverty levels have lowered or more people have access to AIDS drugs or fewer women die in childbirth to continue to support their chosen charitable cause with their time and money. The environmental movement can't provide that, and it's hard to say whether our interest in environmental issues will turn out to be another short-lived trend.

Personally, I'll admit that I've experienced some of this "green fatigue" myself. When shopping, I tend to choose eco-friendly products over the traditional kind (though I won't go out of my way to shop at different stores to find these products, and price is still usually my first concern). I'm a big believer in eating locally (thank you Omnivore's Dilemma). I do my best to recycle, have cut down on using water bottles and hope to purchase a Hybrid when my current car dies.

I make an effort, but I'm certainly no role model for green living, and I do these things more because I feel it's the responsible thing to do, but also because I know other people will judge me if I didn't. When it comes to corporations or government policy, I do believe that efforts should be made to reduce our negative impact on the environment. But while I feel bad about not doing more, I don't really believe that my actions make much of a difference either way.

From reading comments on this blog (particularly in response to this post), I've noticed that many of you seem to be motivated by concern for the environment. I'm curious to hear what you think about the issue of "green fatigue." How much of your actions and purchasing decisions are based on environmental motivations? Do you think people will begin to lose interest in the environment if they don't see positive changes, or alternatively, see global warming get much worse?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

New Dove Commercial - Onslaught

In their follow-up to the outrageously popular "Evolution" viral advertising campaign, Dove has released a new ad called "Onslaught," which I found to be far more effective and thought provoking than the "Evolution" spot.

"Evolution" had a good point- the images we see in magazines, on television and on billboards are highly manipulated, and have distorted our image of beauty. As true as that is, I think that is a fact that we're all aware of, and in some part, find acceptable. While we want to believe that the images we are viewing are real, we still gain enjoyment from looking at beautiful people in beautiful pictures. Although highly distorted images are bothersome, I wasn't fully convinced that only looking at real women in their underwear, with no makeup or hair styling, was the best alternative. I wouldn't leave my house looking like that, so why should I aspire to look like it? A little bit of beautifying is still a positive thing.

I was also miffed that Dove was simultaneously telling me that I'm beautiful as I am, while trying to hawk cellulite cream. Everyone needs moisturizer, but does cellulite cream really count as a product that allows me to love my body as it is? I don't think so.

The message behind the "Onslaught" spot is that mainstream advertising towards women often focuses on telling women that they're flawed in some way (not thin, young, sexy, beautiful enough) and then offers a product to fix the flaw. Dove is offering an alternative in (essentially) promising not to use these marketing tactics, and I think that's a very clear, concise, and constructive message.

As much as I love beauty products, I hate most beauty advertising for the same reasons listed by "Onslaught." Unfortunately, these harmful and offensive marketing tactics are extremely effective at moving product, so I have my doubts that Dove's challenge to the industry will result in any positive changes. The beauty industry is extremely competitive, and unless Dove proves that their strategies are selling products, all the buzz in the world won't change an industry set in its ways.

What do you think about the new Dove campaign?

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Happiness Gap

Last week I talked about the emergence of an income gap between women and men, and how rising paychecks often cause guilt, stress and conflict in romantic relationships. Now, studies have emerged showing that despite the fact that women are making more money and gaining power in the workplace, men are more satisfied and happier than women are.

It's a fascinating study, especially when you compare the data to earlier studies. I was surprised to see that since the 1960's, women's happiness rates have gone down. You'd think the feminist movement and all the opportunities that opened up to women as a result would lead to an increase in happiness, now that women can pursue their educational and professional goals. But instead of replacing housework with paid work, women are still expected to do both, and are disappointed with themselves when they can't succeed in every area.

A woman in the 1960's might have been judged harshly for her ability to keep a beautiful home and raise well-adjusted children, but today's women have the added burden of being judged on their professional successes as well, with one's ability to juggle responsibilities as key to gaining the approval of others. It's hard to stay happy while working under that much pressure.

The authors of the study raise the point that three decades ago, women had smaller ambitions. They compared themselves to other women, not to men. Today's working women compare themselves to stay at home moms who have far more time to devote to childrearing and homemaking activities, and full-time working dads, who spend most of their time working. There simply aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish it all.

On top of all this, women are regularly judged on the basis of their looks, so dressing well and looking attractive at all times is an added burden that men don't experience. Researchers found that the happiness gap extended to high school students, where overachieving girls spent a lot of time worrying that they weren't pretty or sexy enough, despite their successes in academics and extracurricular activities.

Another issue that isn't raised in the article is the importance women place on relationships. It's not that men don't care about relationships, but women spend far more time than men worrying about what others think of them, avoiding conflict in relationships, and trying to be there for everyone in their lives. I'm referring to all relationships inside and outside the home, and for working women, that's a lot of people to please.

I don't think anyone would argue that women were better off pre-women's lib, but it's interesting to analyze how an increase in equal rights, opportunities, power and respect has led to increasing pressures on women. Our society still has a lot of catching up to do to balance out the expectations placed on men and women. When the day comes that men are judged on their looks, their ability to cook, clean and keep a beautiful home, their children's successes AND their paycheck, I guarantee that the happiness gap will have evened out.