Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 97: The One on Misbehaving Women.

My Latest Snag: The Pregnancy Pillow.

I had this exact model when I was pregnant with mini but gave it away when we moved from Chicago. I just ordered a new one and it can’t come soon enough. P.S. — More of my maternity must-haves.

You’re Sooooo Popular: Le Pearl Sandal.

The most popular items on le blog this week:

+A very chic, very Chanel sandal.

+A stunning evening dress.

+One of my favorite swimsuits of all time, on sale!

+RLY good mules at a RLY good price.

+I now wear this sunscreen daily. One of the silver linings of running into a wall and getting nine stitches in my face: I’ve been backed into a skincare routine I should have been doing for decades.

+One of my favorite beauty products right now.

+A chic, goes-with-almost-any-style petite armchair.

+More Chanel vibes at a fraction of the price.

#Turbothot: Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History.

If you’ve been a reader for some time, I’m guessing you can intuit my reaction to the aphorism above. I agree with the underlying ethos, as I consider myself a feminist in a narrow sense of the word and believe that a lot needs to change in order to accomplish a greater measure of equity between the sexes — much of which requires the mindful disabuse of conventions and norms of generations past, and much of which could therefore be perceived as “misbehaving” within the context of prevalent social and economic “rules.” But there is something charged, freighted in the phrasing that makes me cringe. I imagine a willful child pounding his fists on the ground in tantrum, or an unwieldy woman being carried out of a bar, arms swinging. And while I presume the author of the phrase chose the word “well-behaved” carefully, archly aping the sentiments of a domineering male figure in its coinage (“behave yourself!” this phantom male might tsk at his book-reading wife — ugh), I sometimes wonder whether its subtext is lost, and whether there is now a presumption that to be heard, one must be loud and garish about it.

The movie Colette stirred this internal debate in me. (Have you seen it? It is exquisite in aesthetic — the clothing, the set design, the hair, the music, even the sound mixing! — and the screenplay is gorgeous. There were several times Mr. Magpie and I turned to each other, repeating what we’d just heard in delighted bemusement.) The protagonist Gabrielle (or Claudine, or Colette, come to that) is a fascinating study in gender herself but I was principally interested in the deft sketch of her mother, a quiet but strong-minded woman who speaks her own mind — but civilly, politely. Within the opening few moments, a loud and personable Willy barrels through a conversation on a play by insisting that it’s not worth a viewing. Gabrielle’s mother smiles gently and says: “I’d like to see it and make up my own mind nonetheless.” Later, her daughter comes to her complaining of marital strife, concluding that “I must learn to get used to marriage.” And her mother replies: “Or marriage must get used to you.”

I love this character and her discreet but pointed way of creating space for herself and her daughter. She was a reminder of a lesson I learned while still in the professional world: that sometimes a well-timed question or a thoughtful observation, delivered calmly and humbly, can be more powerful than a booming declaration. It can stop traffic, quell conversation. It can change the trajectory of a decision or an afternoon or an entire season of work.

I suppose what I mean to say is that I am by nature a reserved, rule-abiding, and conflict-adverse person, but I also feel passionately about certain things — equity between the genders being one of them. I will never forget when a colleague at my same level told me to take notes for him, or when countless investors turned to my husband for questions about our shared business that I could just have easily (and occasionally more competently) answered myself. I take grave issue with the presumptions that underlie these experiences, but I would never have responded in kind, in person. It’s simply not in my genetic makeup to stop and take someone to task on the spot. Instead, I redirected: “I can answer that question best” or “Let me jump in here” or “No, why don’t we both take notes?”

Does this make me a non-feminist? Does this mean I’m part of the problem?

Maybe it takes all kinds of kinds to affect change of the magnitude many of us imagine, but I’d like to be counted, whether I perceive myself as loudly misbehaving or quietly creating space for myself and the women around me.

#Shopaholic: White Sandals for an Outdoor Wedding.

+I’ve received so many similar questions from either brides-to-be or guests at weddings asking for comfortable heels to wear for an outdoor or beach ceremony. These are your ticket.

+Speaking of sandals — OMG.

+This dress is chic in the cream/white color in particular. I can imagine wearing it to a wedding-related event as a bride-to-be OR pairing with sharp flats for work.

+These look like those Nicholas Kirkwood flats but cost less than half the price.

+These ceramic vases are gorgeous. Also, the styling in that snap makes me want a navy wall very badly.

+A stunning sweater, heavily discounted. OR — try this $35 steal. I wear a similar navy sweater ALL THE TIME with my white jeans. Year-round.

+This denim jacket is SO cool.

+For mini: this is currently in my Amazon cart. No idea on quality but I love the collar!

+Doesn’t matter how many highlighters I have in my cosmetic kit — I’ll always make space for more. This is at the top of my beauty lust list.

P.S. Motherhood to me and — something you might need to hear today.

12 Comments

  1. i would say that while “misbehaving” is rarely necessary, one must reach out of one’s comfort zone and speak up – even at the risk of an awkward and perhaps detrimental interaction. To move the meter closer to gender and racial equality we have to “take [someone] to task.” Just my two thoughts…from someone who finds this VERY thing uncomfortable and often physically painful.

    1. Thanks, Betsy. I applaud your bravery in speaking up even when you feel disinclined to do so. I would imagine this is helpful modeling for other women around you, and also (ideally) impacting those on the receiving end of your commentary. xoxo

  2. I was recently at a dinner party and a guest commented that we Americans are generally ill-prepared for conversational disagreements because we are out of practice. We retreat to our own corners- the news, our phones, our homogeneous neighborhoods- and feed ourselves with our opinions. Thank you for providing this for insightful little corner of the internet to exchange thoughts.

    And so, when I read this I opined that you’re able to quietly provide your observations because, and I’m making a large assumption on your upbringing here, you were raised by men that listened to (and valued!) your opinions? That is a place of privilege. Would you have this same preference for a more strategic communication, say, if you regularly saw your mother fall to the hand of an abusive boyfriend? If your father instructed you to get an abortion to prevent shame on the family? Or if a college professor asked to show him the hospital’s rape report after you were accosted on campus and you are now requesting a “incomplete” on your transcript so you could deliver the child now growing inside you? While none of these have happened to me, they’ve happened to people I know. And I’m guessing the furor inside of them seethes out inlouder voices, rancorous tones, or general hysteria. Rightly so.

    Second thought, and I am including myself in the “rule follower” category: it’s easier to follow the rules when we stand in close proximity to those making the rules. Or, more likely, benefit from the rules.

    Thank you for the thoughtful posts. As someone who is easily incensed and can abruptly share my opinion before selecting my word choice, this post has provided more me a renewed challenge in word (and tone and body language) selection.

    1. Thanks, Christina, for your well-put and thought-provoking comments. You’ve really made me think. You’re right that I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to maneuver/strategize around these interactions in contexts and ways that many other women might not. I was so sad to hear of the various horrible situations loved ones of yours have had to endure and completely agree that they have the absolute right to react and comment as loudly and rancorously as they would like. I think perhaps my message came out a little sideways, but my point was not that being “loud” (perhaps “garish” was a bad choice of word) is inherently bad, but that it feels sometimes to me that the only way to get your point across is through vehemence and noise. And I don’t think that is true, nor need it become the cultural standard.

      Anyway, thank you so much for writing in on this front. Will be thinking on this for a long while. xoxo

  3. Love all the thoughtfulness in your posts! Maybe it’s because I grew up in the South where manners are everything, but, I wholeheartedly agree that you can be a feminist without “misbehaving.” In fact, I sometimes think subtlety as you described is more effective in creating change. Right or wrong, sometimes being bold and loud in protest results in eyerolls and becomes just white noise. A well placed, civil comment can get someone thinking more and is less likely to result in a knee jerk or heated reaction. So cheers to the quiet, “well-behaved” feminists!

    1. Hi Alexandra! Thank you so much for sharing your perspective — I think we are very much on the same page here, and I agree especially with your point that a well-placed, civil comment is less likely to result in a knee-jerk/heated reaction. (I think also you’re less likely to be written off or dismissed.) But, I do think it takes all kinds of kinds and my hat is off to those women who have bravely stood up and expressed themselves in more public and occasionally sensationalist ways. xoxo

  4. Do you consider yourself pregnant in a narrow sense of the word? Being a feminist is to believe in equality for women. Pure and simple. If you feel that is the narrow sense of the word, consider whether you might be projecting fears or insecurities when it comes to your definition of feminist/feminism. From everything I read in this post (and that I’ve read from you before), you are a feminist in every sense of the word. Embrace that. Own it.

    I find it interesting that my generation (I am somewhat older than you, in my early 50s) and yours thinks so differently about issues like this. That’s something to chew on.

    And by the way, the eyeroll-worthy quote regarding well-behaved women feels like something you might see on a mug. In these times, when there seems to be a rather glaring lack of civility, that quote can be perceived as thoughtless and callous. But it’s probably not intended that way. Its cloudy message that courageous women achieve — is certainly something we can all agree on. It could definitely be phrased a lot better. Which would make for a nicer mug.

    1. Hi JB! Thanks for writing in. I’m so intrigued by your comment that your generation thinks differently about issues like this — what do you mean? Please tell me more! I’m so curious.

      I specified feminist in “a narrow sense of the word” because I’ve seen the word feminist used so widely and variedly that I think it’s lost its original definition, which, to me, is someone who believes in absolute equality of the sexes, economically, politically, intellectually, and socially. There is a really good book by Professor Roxane Gay titled “Bad Feminist” that challenged my understanding of the term and made me think more critically about what I mean when I use it. And so I feel I need to clarify occasionally how I mean “feminist.” But — this is more or less semantics because I agree with you: I am a feminist, and I own it!

      xo

  5. So much food for thought here, and I love Hitha’s comment as well — there are many ways to “misbehave”, and I agree that even just opening the conversation, allowing us space for debate, is an excellent way to “misbehave”, in some people’s eyes. Anyway, lots to chew on, as per usual!

    Those Tom Ford glow drops reminded me that my sister gave me a package of Drunk Elephant sunshine drops for Christmas and I need to bust it out! Hoping it’s just the ticket to give my fair winter skin some color. xo

  6. I loved your thoughts here. It reminds me a lot about Ruth Badger Ginsberg and the two key pieces of advice from her mother “always be a lady” and “be independent.” No one would doubt RBG’s feminism, but she impressively let her work be her calling card. You’re very similar, in how you broach these topics in your writing and allow us to join the conversation. You are a feminist. But on the “well-behaved” part – it’s open to a wide interpretation, and I think it ranges from the hysterical toddler to the woman who gracefully stood in front of the Harvard Law dean as he bemoaned the women students taking spots away from men. In his view, her mere prescence at Harvard Law was poor behavior, and she let her actions (becoming a top student and joining law review) rebuke his view.
    I’ll be mulling over this post for a while. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    1. Thanks, Hitha — RBG is such an interesting example to consider in this conversation. Will be musing over your comments (and the other empassioned ones below) for some time. xoxo

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