Avatars of Healthy Masculinity & Other Vital Items

A few weeks ago, our good friend Christina said-- of his performance in A Wrinkle in Time-- “Chris Pine weeping in cardigans is the only version of masculinity I will tolerate.” And, well, it got us thinking.

And also led to us realizing that Chris Pine Weeping in Cardigans is a Slow TV Channel to which we would eagerly subscribe.

In the wake of #MeToo and the stew of toxic masculinity it revealed, that it might actually be restorative to reflect for a minute on current iterations of masculine behavior we don’t find poisonous, and what healthy masculinity might look like.

And we aren’t the only ones thus struck by this moment-- over at WNYC, they have started a series called their “Masculinity Vision Board” and their first inductee is Mister Rogers. For Dames Nationals unfamiliar with Mister Rogers, it might be hard to understand what a profound effect Fred Rogers had on his viewers. The pacing on the children’s television show that made him famous, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, was soporifically slow, and his manner was gentle in a way that is striking even now. That kind of radical softness (again, cardigan-clad!) is every bit as powerful as the brawny, stalwart goodness of someone like Captain America (embodied by Chris Evans, this newsletter’s favorite Chris, his present flirtation with a terrible moustache notwithstanding). If you know him well, or if he’s new to you, there is never a bad time to watch his landmark testimony to Congress about the value of public television, and the goals of his show.

“Mentionable and manageable.” Think about that!

A lot of what Mr. Rogers says in that video, and what he advocates, is behavior that society typically codes as “feminine.” Expressing care, speaking softly & gently, showing affection, wrestling openly, and non-violently, with sadness or anger-- these are traits which even now we associate more with women than men. As a culture, we train girls from a very young age in the skills necessary to successful naming and managing of their emotions (and the emotions of others), and all too often tell boys to smother their mid-range negative emotions.

It’s important for adults to show all children of all genders that there are ways of being that lie between societally-sanctioned rage and a pose of shrugging nonchalance. When there’s a rigid, limited list of occasions where it’s ok for boys and men to cry, everyone suffers. (Off the tops of our heads, these occasions seem to be: weddings, sporting events, the birth of their child, the death of their pet and/or best human friend, and the harrowing third act of Toy Story 3). We would love for everyone to feel ok about crying & laughing more, or to at least know in their bones that they can feel however they feel, and show it in whatever way gives them comfort, that isn’t harmful to others. When no emotions are off-limits, every emotion feels lower-stakes, and it’s easier to proceed from an understanding that not every emotion requires action. It can just...be, and pass away, as all emotions do when we process them successfully.

This conviction that we share, that feelings must be mentionable and manageable, is part of what has made us look with such relief on some recent profiles that show men, courageously, mentioning and managing their complex and varied emotions. Terry Crews has been working hard to push back against toxic masculinity since well before the #MeToo movement gained fresh prominence. He’s continued to hold his head high while endangering his career by speaking out boldly about his experiences being sexually assaulted while simultaneously feeling obligated -- as a tall, muscular, Black man -- to hold his emotions in check. This struggle is likewise detailed in this fascinating profile of Brendan Fraser, who was assaulted by Philip Berk, the former president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, and was astonished by how deeply affected he was by the experience. The work that these men are doing to document the deep impact of assaults we’ve traditionally deemed “minor,” their openness about their mental health and emotions, and the role they’ve played in refusing to let conversations about sexual assault be brushed aside-- it’s a type of masculinity of which we can eagerly approve. And we think Fred Rogers would be proud of them, too.

DAMES BUSINESS: Streaming Services Survey!

Incidentally, browsing the Google Image search results for “stream” (image filter for type: animated) is a hugely soothing & highly recommended process.

We’re planning our spring live-tweet for later this month, and though we’ve always gone with movies available on Netflix (in the US, at least), we’re happy to consider other streaming options. If you love a live-tweet (even if you haven’t been able to join us previously), please do us a solid and complete this little questionnaire. It’ll help us make the best choices we can for future live-tweets. Thank you!

Dame Sophie’s Link Buffet

Eleanor of Aquitaine: One Tough Broad

  • File under: Extremely My Shit: Longreads is running a series of essays called Queens of Infamy, about amazing women of times long gone by, and they kicked it off with an erudite & uproariously funny essay about Eleanor of Aquitaine, by Anne Thériault. Eleanor of Aquitaine -- beautiful, well-educated, witty, take-charge Eleanor -- is my first and most enduring historical hero, thanks to E.L. Konigsberg’s middle grade novel about her, A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver. Read it, read this essay, read everything about this exceedingly accomplished Bossy Dame (I mean Queen. Literal queen of two major nations, and of my heart.)

  • Speaking of reading! Do you need some comfort reads? Particularly some featuring lots of descriptions of delicious foods? DamesFav and January Guest Editor Jasmine Guillory put out a call for books that would be the literary equivalent of the Great British Bake-Off, and the ensuing thread of possibilities has made me noshy and contributed a whole slew of lovely books that will be vacations for my brain, and maybe yours, too!

  • Twelve camels were recently disqualified from participating in a beauty contest because their owners gussied them up with botox and collagen, and in some cases, plastic surgery, to accentuate their most winning features. Thanks, disqualified camel-owners, for proving once more that humans can be extremely creative in their pursuit of competitive glory in a surprisingly vast number of fields of endeavor!

  • I just love this piece, in which DamesFav & future guest editor Zan Romanoff (coming to you next week!) teases out the shifting meanings of “cult favorite” beauty products. Thanks to the internet, products that were once available in very limited ways can now wing their ways to our mailboxes overnight, so “cult” has become a stand-in for concepts like “100% reliable standby beloved by all who use it” as well as “impossibly luxurious status object accessible only to the jet-set”. By highlighting the influential intimacy of product recommendations, so often shared now in conversational threads on Twitter and in secret groups on Facebook, Romanoff also goes a long way towards explaining why, although I rely heavily on the thorough, convincing methodology of Consumer Reports and The Wirecutter, I also deeply relish the singular, first-person endorsements of The Strategist. Everyone knows my top cult skincare product is COSRX Pimple Master Patches, but just in case you haven’t heard me yelling about them, listen up: they are a miracle that will cut down your acne recovery time dramatically. I buy them in bulk.    

  • Do reports about scientific studies seem too buzzy to be true? Sometimes there’s a good reason for that, as this New Yorker piece about how Brian Wansink, the head of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab published a paper comparing recipes published in the 1936 edition of The Joy of Cooking with the same recipes published in the 2006 edition and concluded that they were all overflowing with a 44% increase in calorie totals. A standby of American kitchens was partly to blame for the obesity epidemic! Or was it? Turns out, Wansink’s sample consisted of 18 recipes, or 0.004% of the total number of recipes in Joy. John Becker, the great-grandson of original author Irma Rombauer, is now the lead author of Joy (a new edition will be out in 2019), and he undertook a comparison of his own, eventually developing a massive spreadsheet of recipe comparisons that seemed to poke a bunch of holes in Wansink’s research. You’ll never believe what happened next.

Or maybe you will!

Dame Margaret’s Extra Large Link Bounty

This GIF is both an indelible scene from the classic Working Girl and a vital reminder of our societal responsibility to Cast Joan Cusack More.

  • Recently, the excellent film criticism website RogerEbert.com did a smart and cool thing-- for one week, every piece of writing they published was by a woman. The result was a lot of terrific pieces, from run-of-the-mill reviews (such as Odie Henderson’s of Wes Anderson’s ISLE OF DOGS, which calls out the film’s racism rather than giving it a pass thanks to Anderson’s charm and credentials) to longer essays. One of my favorites was this roundtable discussion of WORKING GIRL, a romantic comedy I’ve always loved, that approaches the film with the kind of serious critical lens that romantic comedies (especially of the last 30-40 years) rarely receive. It left me longing to see the movie again, and with three new female film critics whose work to track.

  • Despite using sheet masks frequently, I have to admit that I really had no idea why they came to replace the apply-by-hand-and-rinse-off masks that were popular in my last face mask phase (sleepover parties between the ages of 12-15). So I really enjoyed this article about what, exactly, is IN a sheet mask, and why there’s a sheet, and what the various ingredients do. It made me feel like an Informed and Savvy Customer when I bought four TonyMoly sheet masks on my way home from work rather than a Mindless Trend-Following Consumer.

  • Not that I am trend-resistant by any stretch of the imagination. One New York Times article about Alice Waters’ love of cooking individual eggs in a wrought-iron spoon over an open fire (and the culinary spats over it that ensued), and I must own myself extremely curious about what such an egg would taste like. Not buy-myself-a-$250-egg-spoon curious, but fully intrigued.

  • And! Speaking of tiny, beautifully made things, I clicked this Atlas Obscura piece on tiny staircase models primarily for the pictures, but I came away absolutely fascinated by Frances’s “compagnons,” a mix between craft men’s unions and secret societies that have existed since the middle ages, and through the requirements of which these tiny staircases came to exist.

  • When I read this Atlas Obscura piece on a team of investigative reporters in Chicago who purchased and staffed a bar, undercover, as a way of exposing grift in the city government in the 1970s, I was immediately furious that no one has yet adapted it into a miniseries or feature film. A male and female reporter had to pretend to be married! Full-time journalists had to pass themselves off as professional bartenders with hilarious results! THE STORY WRITES ITSELF. COME ON.

  • On the subject of movies that write themselves, it’s kind of astonishing that this story of a woman writing her romance novel in the waiting room of her local tire shop is not in fact the plot of a Hallmark Channel movie, so perfectly would it suit that format. HOPEFULLY, when it inevitably becomes one, the writer in question will get a producer credit. In the meantime, even absent the additional gloss of an opposites attract love story between a gruff mechanic and the romance writer who can only write in his shop (one of both of whom is likely possessed of either a dead spouse or an adorable plot moppet), the story is almost fatally charming.

  • There are a few things in this fallen world that are a pure and unmitigated delight. Glen Weldon’s recent review of PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING, written as an imaginary press conference between him and an assortment of critics from other types of publications, is one of them. I would quote a favorite line, but it would result in pasting in… 80% of the review. So I am going to have to insist that you read it for yourselves.

  • Despite truly and desperately hating Netflix’s new show about bad bakers, Nailed It, I find Madeleine Aggler’s new column “Over Easy,” where she tries (and usually-- but not always!-- fails) to cook recipes she finds through social media, extremely funny and charming-- it’s as if someone took the Blue Soup vignette from Bridget Jones’s Diary and stretched it into a series of mishaps. This is an important reminder that I contain multitudes. Whether you’re one of the few who agrees with me about NAILED IT or one of the many who appears to love it, I imagine you’ll enjoy this column, too.

  • And finally, if you don’t want to know Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s favorite cities in which to buy scrunchies well, frankly, we may no longer wish to know you.

Do you think she got this scrunchie in Berlin or Zurich?

Two Bossy Dames is brought to you by:

The second anniversary of our Freaky Friday newsletter-podcast swap with our favorite Overdudes! We read & discussed Flowers In The Attic, a terrible yet iconic book that lends itself to excellent conversation!

Isaac Mizrahi’s love of bridge & crisp sheets, and his in-car slobbery, all of which reveal him to be Dame Sophie’s long-lost secret twin brother!

The NY Times’ reliably informative & unexpectedly sparkle gif-laden FAQ about the Royal Wedding!

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