Oh BOY guys. This was a fucking FRIDAY, huh?
As those of you who follow Dame Margaret on Twitter already know, she spent the day mourning the impending close of cherished #Damesbait-producing website, The Toast, which will shutter in July.
WHICH is why your newsletter is arriving.... a couple hours later than is usual.
Both Your Dames have a lot of THOUGHTS, which we will share with you in a complete and polished form sometime between now and July 1st but, in the meantime, we just wanted to say how deeply we admire Nicole and Mallory's transparency, and how eager we are to see what they and all their excellent collaborators at The Toast go on to do next. And also: #ToastieTwitter forever!
Now, if you are grieing like your Dames, or merely in need of a general pick-me-up, your mission, should you choose to accept it:
(1) Watch this incredibly charming music video for "Good as Hell" by Lizzo and meet the pump up jam that has made every gloomy day of Dame M.'s 2016 just a little brighter.
(2) Read motivational genius DJ Khaled's interview with The New York Timesand learn the difference between never giving up, never quitting, and never surrendering.
(3) Delight your eyes with this slideshow of "gloriously over-the-top outfits from the Kentucky Derby.
(4) (If you're feeling strong enough) Roll over to Twitter and check out some of the pieces and memories Toast aficionados have been sharing at the hashtag #ToastWake.
We, Your Dames, will be out-of-office next week, communing with all our beloved Tennessee Business Collaborators, but we leave you in the capable hands of America's Favorite Fightin' Feminists, Ally & Amy of #GirlGang.
Ask Two Bossy Dames!
That's right, friends! It's time for another installment of your favorite feature, where we lift one of the questions you all kindly submit at this here Google form, and provide some weaponized bossing! This week, we're tackling a parenting-through-culture question from a reader we're deeming #NotAllGirls:
I am hoping for some reading advice and maybe even pop culture referrals, but not for me, for my 7-almost-8-year-old Bossy Dame. My daughter is very independent which I am so proud of and try to encourage in her. But as one of the guys on Pop Culture Happy Hour said about his daughter, "She defines herself in opposition of things". For example, she loved Frozen when it first came out. Then she discovered all the girls in school liked it and all of a sudden it is no longer "cool" (see what I did there?). So what she is doing is defining herself in opposition to things that girls like! She loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers, but refuses to consider anything that smacks of "girl" to her. I was able to introduce her to the PowerPuff Girls. She was reluctant to give it a chance, but I pushed and she DID decide she likes them. But usually I can't even get that far. My concern is that she is rejecting things that may have a feminine feel or even a feminine character without giving it a chance. I want her to know that not all girl characters are 'princesses' and even if they are princesses, they can be strong. She loves to read and I'm hoping to introduce her to some strong female characters that she can relate to. Can you give me some recommendations?
Nothing gets Elle Woods fired up quite like knee-jerk contempt for the feminine!
This is a tricky one! We, Your Dames, know this dilemma well: Dame Margaret was a great deal like your daughter when she was little-- it did not especially matter if girls liked a thing or boys liked a thing, but if too many of either thought it was great, then she wanted NO part in it. And while Dame Sophie’s daughter Nell is not allergic to “girly” things, she too likes what she likes, likes it very decidedly, and has little interest in her mother’s opinion of what else might suit her.
So, the first thing to keep in mind as you plunge in: This behavior is a phase, as all things are. Your daughter may moderate her views in time, but all you can really do is model your enjoyment of things you truly enjoy and think she might, too. If your daughter is anything like Sophie’s, she will likely turn up her nose at your suggestions, and even dig in her heels a bit if you push, but if you just...go on about your business, reading, watching, and discussing things that you like (that she might like, too), chances are decent that she’ll come around to it on her own. It might also be worth checking in with her to make sure nothing in specific has caused this anti-girl bias-- no mean girl picking on her for being insufficiently feminine or mean boy picking on her for being too feminine. Make sure she’s defining herself in opposition to an idea, not because challenging interactions with any one individual have made her define herself in opposition to them.
If you are lucky enough to have a trusted adult influencer-- an aunt, a family friend, a cool older cousin, a babysitter she loves- - you might mention it to them and enlist their help in defeating your daughter’s burgeoning case of Not Like Other Girls-itis. Have them talk with with her about the girly things they love, and what makes them fun. Be unabashed about enjoying your own girly things in front of her. Because the problem here is not what your daughter will read or won’t read-- it’s that the world has gotten inside her head and convinced her (at least temporarily) that anything liked by too many women is inherently inferior. This is a fallacy many of us have spent YEARS trapped by-- if she can get out of it at age 8, she will be WAY ahead of the game.
In the meantime, here is a laundry list of Trojan Horse Reading and Viewing Material to help make sure your daughter is encountering female characters she can admire:
We’re in a bit of a golden age for amazing characters in comics. A lot of these are available in Trade Paperbacks, so you can get pretty deep into a story arc quickly by borrowing at the library or buying your own copies. If you prefer e-reading, many of these titles are available on Comixology & they run frequent sales. Building on PowerPuff girls, she might like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (this may skew too normatively girly, but is so good!), Princeless (a favorite of Dame S.’s 10 year-old), The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel,and Lumberjanes. Two newer titles, only out in single issues to date include Goldie Vance: Girl Detective and Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur.
With help from fellow book smarties, Dame S compiled this GoodReads list of Great Girl-Power Middle Grade Fantasy & Adventure - head to your library armed! From this list, Dame M. would like to especially shout out Patricia C. Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons books, which are specifically about a princess who defines herself in opposition to femininity (1) following her own path and then (2) learning the value of some of her typically feminine skills (like cooking) as a dragon’s princess. The books feature a wide and delicious array of different types of women, with differing skills and differing investments in feminine presentation, and it’s very similar in tone to Frozen.
Books with sisters can be a nice option, too, because--if done well-- they frequently show an array of feminine types interacting with one another, displaying different strengths and weaknesses. Three great examples of this are Stephanie Burgis’s Kat, Incorrigible books (mentioned in the GoodReads link above), The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall, and Half Magic and its sequels by Edward Eager.
Astrid Lindgren is also a great ally! She’s famous for her Pippi Longstockingsbooks, but Dame M.’s personal favorite is Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter. Both feature girls who are unabashedly iconoclastic, and both are terrifically fun.
If you guys are still doing read-a-loud at bedtime, or if she’s a pretty advanced reader, you might try Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small quartet, about a female knight in training-- the first in her kingdom to ever pursue the knighthood while being open about her gender-- who stands up against jerks & despots to do what’s right. This is a later series set in Pierce’s Tortall world(which features heavily in the previously linked GoodReads list), and though it’s marketed YA, it skews a little bit younger than her famous Alanna series.
And finally, outside of books, you might try out the Star Wars: Clone Wars TV show (which stars Padme, a former queen & a total badass, and Ahsoka Tano, a fantastic lady jedi) and Avatar: The Last Airbender and its companion series, The Legend of Korra.
Hopefully one or more of these titles will strike your daughter’s interest! Feel free to follow up with us on Twitter and let us know what works, and what doesn’t!
XOXO/ Your Dames.
Dame Margaret's Dilatory and Depleted Links
Our Appetite for Daveed and His Onesie: It Will Never Be Satisfied
The very week after we announce the end of our This Week in Hamiltonsection of goddamn course there were a boatload of great Hamilton links. As we, as editors, have always prided ourselves on doing exactly what we want exactly when we want to, ERGO I am highlighting my four favorites as part of my Top Five. You’re welcome/I’m not sorry.
First, and most important for me personally: Daveed Diggs has joined Snapchat, and his account caters to the Male Body Appreciating Gaze in a really beautiful way. It’s as good a reason to join the app as I can think up. [Ed. note: Indeed, the combination of Daveed joining & Leslie Odom, Jr. taking over for the Tony Awards one day this week was too much for me to continue to miss out on & so I am now following such essential accounts as DJ Khaled, Rafael Casal (the true genius behind Daveed’s snaps), and NPR Politics -- Dame S., Young Old]
Chris Jackson, my best friend’s #1 Hamilton boyfriend, gave a really thoughtful interview to Vanity Fair where he discusses his complicated feelings about playing a slave-owner as a black man, and made an adorable video where he gets quizzed on Hamilton lyrics, capably proving Kerry’s great taste.
Leslie Odom Jr., my #1 Hamilton boyfriend, was profiled in the New York Times, capably proving my excellent taste. “You have to walk toward the things that make you alive,” he says, tacitly inviting me to walk towards him as quickly as my powerful little legs will carry me.
And finally, Wired Magazine did a profile on the man who is both our ally and our nemesis: Mike Karn, the social media manager for Hamilton, who has kept us equal parts enthralled and addicted for months now.
Speaking of things I both love and resent, season 12 of The Bachelorette begins in just TEN DAYS, which means my favorite national holiday arrived this week: Bachelor/ette Contestant Profiles Day! This spring’s batch of “contesticles” (TM Ali Barthwell of Vulture) is rife with winners, like this male model who likens his body to “a lambo,” this guy whose listed occupation is “hipster,” and Aaron Rodger’s little brother!? But, best of all, Kaitlyn Tiffany of The Verge has done God’s Own Work and collated all 26 contesticles’ answer to the question “What is your favorite movie?”, thereby demonstrating that they are a pack of men weirdly obsessed with Gladiator/emotionally ready for the bloody journey of senseless attrition that awaits them on The Bachelorette! (h/t Dame M.'s awesome screenwriter pal Chris, whose great blog analyzing Up is both most assuredly #Damesbait!)
While I did not spend any of my 20s in San Francisco, Bess Kalb’s “Obituaries My Mother Wrote for Me While I Was Living in San Francisco in My Twenties” nonetheless rang deeply true to me. Our mothers’ specific anxieties may be different, but the TENOR of them is verrrrry familiar.
Speaking of mothers, our dear #Damespal Barrie Hardymon wrote a wonderful essay about reading aloud to her son and the intoxicating power of being the one to reveal a plot twist that…. maybe made me want to kidnap her son? Just a tiny bit? Just to hug him REAL good and tight for 6 solid hours? Nothing nefarious! Just a long, thorough cuddle.
Dame Sophie’s Sublime & Earthy Smorgasbord
(This is the best of a field of largely appalling Britney GIFs that turned up in my search results. I think many members of Dames Nation will find this one useful.)
Dame S is traveling for work stuff but couldn’t resist throwing together some links for you lovelies before she blew town.
NOT A DRILL: Meet the family joint #DamesessionThe Americans is based on, through the initially exciting & deeply affecting experiences of their sons.The details really make this story sing, from the parents’ arrest & unmasking as undercover operatives, to the way quality spycraft is a long, looooooong & highly technical con, to the bureaucratic nightmare of trying to get one’s Canadian citizenship reinstated.
I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow my affection & protective feelings for girl culture, even though I have next to no idea who the teens of today are obsessing about. This short film, Fangirl, captures so much of the enthusiastic, shy, braggadocious, giddy expertise of celebrity crushes. It’s a perfect little gem, via The Rec Center, which is indispensable weekly reading for anyone invested in fandom as a concept & practice. Bonus recommendation: if you love YA and fandom, there are two recent books about girls and women deeply involved in their TV fandoms you should be aware of: Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson, and Scarlett Epstein Hates it Here, by Anna Breslaw. Both share strong characterizations, intense relationships, hideous mistakes, and tremendous heart. I found Breslaw’s book more satisfying and polished, but your mileage may vary! Overall, I’m really glad to see this topic addressed seriously and sensitively in YA, especially as a person who really just nibbles around the edges of fandom.
The mysteries of ear wax, REVEALED! (The first in an ongoing series I’m calling Ugh, BODIES.) Ok, this sounds gross, but it’s also quite fascinating. Why does earwax even exist? What kind of variations are there in its consistency? How did our ancient forebears deal with it? Why have we not developed something better to handle it than the (noble, but apparently quite dangerous) Q-Tip? Lucky for us, scientists wonder about these things, too!
This piece by British poet Bridget Minamore on Beyoncé, Warsan Shire, and the Love Affair Between Music and Poetry contexualizes Beyoncé’s masterful use of Warsan Shire’s work in Lemonade as being part of a long tradition of poets & musicians collaborating in pop, rock, punk, and rap.
I have a real soft spot for Britney Jean Spears, and this New York Times article on the history and current state of her conservatorship -- a legal situation in which she does not make any of her own financial decisions independently -- and how it both limits and benefits her, is fascinating and also unsettling. Conservatorships are usually implemented for people who are very elderly or who have intellectual disabilities. The fact that this conservatorship continues even as Britney, Inc. is earning vast sums and Britney herself seems healthy and stable is troubling. In addition to the article in the paper, there’s also a solid discussion of The State of Spears in the Popcast, and I’d be very remiss not to re-link to Taffy Akner’s now-classic piece on Britney’s live show in Vegas.
Sidebar: what is it about Britney that makes her so lovable/vulnerable? My off-the-cuff hypothesis/armchair self-analysis is that she’s a former oversexualized teenager who grew up to be a deeply normcore, rather guileless adult (she frequently refers to herself as “boring” and her facial expressions are, shall we say...ungoverned?), whose children are about the same age as my daughter, and she is thus a perfectly sympathetic figure upon whom my free-floating motherliness often alights. To the extent that you have Britney sympathy triggers, I long to know what they are! (h/t to #Damesbro Craig for sending us the initial NY Times story!)
(I was looking for something else entirely, but sometimes the Internet gives you exactly what you didn’t know you needed.)
Our Tunes, Ourselves
Oh, hey, The Walker Brothers managed to forecast the weather up & down the Eastern Seaboard of the US for this year 50 years ago with a super-emotional hit song! (If you want to make yourself both thirst & dab a tear from the old eye, watch this preview of a documentary about Scott Walker, noting particularly the handsome, cheeky gentleman at 0:14. Double your tears by considering that the film was released by the late, great Adam Yauch’s film company, Oscilloscope.)
Dame Sophie is a weirdo who sometimes enjoys making herself cry by listening to sad songs. For those who are similarly disposed, we present Weepies, a playlist specifically designed to flush out those tear ducts.
Case/Lang/Veirs’ slow tease of exquisite sonic torture continues with the release of the fourth song from their supergroup album, “Delirium”. Haunting vocals + searching lyrics = DAMESBAIT. Dame M.’s heart is still being warmed by the second track, “Best Kept Secret”, a rare song that talks about a friendship with the kind of reverence usually reserved for romance.
Lucius, another perpetual obsession of Dame M.'s: released a new video this week for "Gone Insane," one of the strongest tracks on their most record, and it's stunning. The song's take on the way people try to undermine women's legitimate anger by causing them crazy, predictably, reminds Dame M. of Lemonade-- ("What's worse, being jealous or crazy? I'd rather be crazy") because like, what DOESN'T these days?
An obsession M. is not experiencing in isolation. Both your Dames have been enjoying a real glut of podcasts on Beyoncé's opus from favorites such as: The Unfriendly Black Hotties, Another Round, New York Times' Popcast, NPR's All Songs Considered +1, The Read, and Switched on Pop.