Tag Archives: feminine

Does this gun make me look fat? Firearms spur fashion niche  

Does this gun make me look fat?

For decades, women have had few discrete clothing choices for pistol-packing mamas. They could wear baggy T-shirts or coats, or put it their guns in a purse and hope it didn’t get swiped or that they didn’t have trouble getting it out in an emergency.

Enter holsters, corsets, camisoles and other clothing designed to be flattering, feminine — and functional — for women packing heat.

“I don’t want to dress in tactical gear and camo all the time. I love tactical clothing for the range. It’s comfortable. I don’t want to ruin my everyday clothing,” said Marilyn Smolenski, who in 2012 created Nickel and Lace, a company that caters to women who want to carry a firearm concealed but don’t want to trade in their femininity. “But I don’t want to wear it to the grocery store.”

Smolenski started her company right around the time when Chicago city laws changed and she could again legally carry a firearm. When that happened, she struggled to find something that didn’t make her look frumpy and didn’t broadcast that she was armed. Most of the clothing was geared to men — coats with hidden pockets, or holsters that tuck neatly inside a waistband. But until the last few years, those weren’t always great options for women who don’t wear belts as frequently and are more likely than men to wear form-fitting clothing, making it difficult to hide the fact they’re carrying a firearm.

“When you put a man’s holster on a woman’s body it sticks out. It doesn’t hug the body,” said Carrie Lightfoot, founder and owner of The Well Armed Woman — “where the feminine and firearms meet,” according to its tagline — in Scottsdale, Arizona. The store does everything from providing firearms instruction to women to selling a variety of concealed carry clothing. One of the company’s first missions was to design and produce a holster that recognized the differences in body types and clothing styles between men and women.

Women’s waists tend to be shorter, providing less room to withdraw a gun from a holster. Hips and chests can get in the way too, she said.

Lightfoot and Smolenski said that some manufacturers tended to “shrink it and pink it” — thinking that taking gear produced for men and making it smaller and brightly colored would satisfy female customers. They and their counterparts emphasize they are driven first by function and safety before aesthetics come into the equation.

“Women need to know they can carry effectively,” Lightfoot said. “I think the key is finding a way to carry it so you can be comfortable and move through your day without being poked and having a big hunk of metal in your pants and not be able to sit at work.”

Both also are advocates for providing women with information and guidance on ways to feel secure and be safe. For Smolenski, that goal has led to the creation of the annual Firearms and Fashion Show which includes seminars on personal safety. Her company actually got its start with a line of jewelry — from necklaces that can be pulled away easily and then used as a weapon to “chopsticks” that can both be used to hold up hair and then be wielded against an attacker.

For Anna Taylor, the founder and CEO of Dene Adams LLC — named after her grandfather, who first taught her to respect firearms and handle them safely — the road to creating a line of concealed-carry clothing began at around the time she became a single mom and the safety of the family rested on her shoulders. When she got her first concealed carry permit in 2013, she went through seven different holsters.

“Some were hard and uncomfortable. Some of them I’d have to take off and set down when I went to the bathroom and I was afraid I would go off and leave it just like I’ve left my phone behind before. Others, belly- band types with a print so bad you could see the grip or outline of the gun through my clothes,” Adams said. “So when I went out in public, I felt like I had these awkward arms always trying to hide this thing.”

Her first design involved a mousepad and a post-partem corset to create a soft holster. She was able to carry the kids around, nurse, give the kids baths — even jump on the trampoline — “and I could forget that it was there.” With her last $200, she found a manufacturer willing to do a small run. Flash forward three years and she now has products on shelves at nearly 100 dealers around the country. She has expanded into safety and training and is now an NRA pistol and rifle instructor. She even has a few men who buy her products — including, she said, air marshals, who gravitate to the snug, comfortable designs.

“We have options that don’t have lace. We have solid black,” she said.

Milwaukee, Madison companies embrace Cinderella’s feminine journey this season

Filmmaker Walt Disney was fond of rewriting literary history, making it more palatable for a post-World War II, white-bread America. The 1950 animated film version of Cinderella may have been his most questionable revision.

The popular folk tale can trace its roots back to the first century B.C. A young girl, fallen on hard times and pressed into demeaning servitude, perseveres against unspeakable odds. Through determination and virtue, she rises to a spectacular level of happiness. It’s a heroine’s journey that resonates in the hearts and minds of many cultures.

Then there’s Disney’s version, where all it takes is a little magic, a beautiful gown, a stylish coiffure and the requisite handsome prince to whisk Cinderella from a life of drudgery to a stunning palace that clearly never requires cleaning.

The magical scenario of salvation through a knight in shining armor enjoys enduring popularity. But isn’t there something inherently wrong with a myth that rewards a young woman’s obedience and beauty rather than her fortitude, strength and human right to happiness?

Milwaukee and Madison theatergoers will have a chance to untangle the taffeta of the Cinderella myth during a season that explores three distinct interpretations of the character.

Milwaukee’s Skylight Music Theatre takes the lead on Sept. 19 with its season-opening production of Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola, the most popular of several operatic versions of the Cinderella story. On March 28, Madison Ballet mounts the first of three performances of Cinderella. And on May 14, Milwaukee Ballet offers its version of the tale danced to Sergei Prokofiev’s famous score.

What’s behind the eternal appeal of this simple tale? That depends on the version being told, says Viswa Subbaraman, Skylight’s artistic director and music director for the Rossini opera.

“What I like about Rossini’s version is that Cinderella is a much stronger person than she is often portrayed,” says Subbaraman, who has scheduled an entire season of fairy tales and fantasies at the Skylight. “She’s a strong woman who knows herself, and it’s always driven me nuts that she wasn’t portrayed that way in the Disney version.”

Subbaraman has updated the 1817 opera to the present day and employed the talents of New York costume designer and personal friend Cesar Galindo to create a striking contrast between Angelina (the Cinderella character), her wicked stepsisters and, in this version, a wicked stepfather. In this production, clothes make the heroine — and the hero. Virtue and honor, in the guise of clean lines and a “preppie” look, triumph over evil, represented largely by gross consumption and loud, ill-fitting clothes.

Rossini’s Cinderella is diplomatic, honorable and, despite her servitude, the most self-realized of the opera’s characters. In the end she wins out largely because of her virtuous nature, Subbaraman says.

“The performance closes with a strong woman character singing a huge solo,” he says. “It was a pretty revolutionary opera for its day.”

Rossini’s interpretation of the Cinderella character is more in keeping with the traditional story than Disney’s, according to Robin Mello, professor of theater at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts. 

“It’s a story of a hard worker who endures an oppressive system and gets rewarded in the end,” says Mello, who examined the Cinderella myth as part of her doctoral dissertation. “That doesn’t often happen in real life, which makes Cinderella the perfect story of hope and essential for surviving the human condition.”

The Cinderella myth can also be seen as the female counterpart to the hero’s journey, which was explored in-depth by the late Joseph Campbell and is a prevalent theme in literature, theater and film. Heroes have to find the right path and maybe slay a dragon along the path to becoming fully realized. As a feminine equivalent to what is ultimately a masculine story, Cinderella must operate differently, Mello says.

“The masculine hero must undertake his journey to discover his identity,” Mello says. “Cinderella arrives with an identity and has to figure out what to do with what she’s got in order to succeed.”

The Cinderella myth’s strength lies in the incorporation of archetypes identified by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. The animus and anima — the male and female equivalent of the self — and the shadow, which represents the nature of evil, play critical roles in the tale, Mello says.

“The characters of the fairy godmother and wicked stepmother divide the divine into benevolence and evil,” she explains. “The only problem with leaning too heavily on Freud, Jung and Campbell is that they created this masculine way of looking at a story, but never accounted for the feminine experience.”

At its heart, Cinderella is a heroine’s story. The prince plays a critical role that goes beyond merely saving a damsel in distress, Mello says. The Greek concept of hiero gamos — “holy marriage” — is part of the myth. The concept refers to a critical union that’s created for the greater good. In many versions of the Cinderella myth, hiero gamos is attained through the union of Cinderella and her prince.

Using Cinderella’s virtue and triumph for the greater good of the community plays a role in many cultural retellings of the tale, Mello says. In the German version, she’s given land and makes it very prosperous. In the Chinese version, she dies but comes back as a benevolent being who helps her village and her people regain their harmony. 

“There are lots of different endings, but they all embrace the concept that all the upset and hatred and oppression has been made right,” Mello says. 

Milwaukee Ballet’s version of Cinderella next spring takes a more fanciful approach while still following earlier versions of the tale. Prokofiev’s score largely dictates the action, but the story has an intellectuality that appeals to the ballet’s artistic director Michael Pink, who created an original ballet around the narrative.

The ballet opens with Cinderella at the gravesite of her mother. A dove that appears in a tree over the grave, then reappears and drops autumn leaves on Cinderella when she most needs assistance, represents the mother’s spirit. 

While the dove adds a spiritual dimension to the story, the wicked stepsisters, danced by men in drag, add a raucous comic dimension to the performance.

“‘A cock in a frock’ is great English musical tradition,” says Pink, a himself a Brit who once played just such a role.

Even though there will be an ample supply of taffeta, Pink’s Cinderella also is about a young woman who comes into her own. Being saved by Prince Charming is not the lesson that audiences are meant to learn. Instead, Pink wants to present the message that kindness and virtue are the most effective ways to resolve conflict.

“Cinderella is a powerful creature because she has the skill to forgive, which triumphs over everyone else and gives her strength,” Pink says.

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Court restores verdict in case involving harassed ironworker

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has restored a jury’s verdict that a construction company illegally subjected an ironworker to severe and pervasive harassment based on gender stereotypes.

The ruling came in regards to a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity complaint filed against Boh Bros. construction company on behalf of ironworker Kerry Woods.

The EEOC’s complaint said BB superintendent Chuck Wolfe verbally harassed Woods, exposed himself to the employee and made taunting gestures of a sexual nature.

The harassment, according to the complaint, took place during work on the I-10 Twin Span project over Lake Pontchartrain between Slidell and New Orleans in Louisiana.

At the trial, the EEOC presented evidence that Wolfe harassed Woods because he thought he was feminine and did not conform to the supervisor’s gender stereotypes of a typical “rough ironworker.”

A jury ruled in favor of Woods and the EEOC, but a three-judge panel of the circuit court of appeals reversed the verdict, finding that Woods was not harassed because of sex.

The EEOC asked for a review by the full appeals court, which vacated the panel’s decision and reinstated the jury’s verdict.

“We are gratified that the Fifth Circuit recognized ‘the good common sense of the American people,’ as the court put it, and reinstated the jury verdict,” said EEOC general counsel David Lopez in a news release. “We agree with the Fifth Circuit that ‘few institutions are as venerable as that of trial by jury.’”

The majority on the court held, in a first for the circuit, that harassment is “because of sex” if it is based on lack of conformity with gender stereotypes.

The Fifth Circuit also held that the issue is whether the harasser considered the victim to deviate from gender stereotypes, and not whether the victim fails in fact to conform to those stereotypes.

So, the court ruled, what mattered was how Wolfe saw Woods.

“This is a very significant outcome to employees who work in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, which is the region covered by the Fifth Circuit,” said Jim Sacher, EEOC’s regional attorney for the Houston District, which oversaw the case. “It makes unquestionably clear to all employers that if they harass an employee because of gender stereotypes, they are breaking the law.”

The case now goes back to the district court level, where damage amounts must be set. 

The construction company is based in New Orleans and employs more than 1,500 people. After Hurricane Katrina struck the area in 2005, the company worked on many publicly funded rebuilding and expansion projects, according to the EEOC. 

Study tracks rise of feminine pronouns

In the opening pages of “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan consciously captured the despair of so many housewives – and unknowingly anticipated a shift in language that would mirror the revolution to come in women’s lives.

“As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night,” Friedan wrote in her 1963 book, “she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question – ‘Is this all?’”

The average reader might catch such “Mad Men” details as “matched slipcover material.” But a linguist or psychologist will be keeping score: “She” and “her” each are used twice; “herself” once. Not a single “he,” his” or “himself” appears.

The golden age of the male pronoun was ending.

According to a study released this week, the “he-she” gap in books – one that has always favored the masculine – has dramatically narrowed since the release of Friedan’s feminist classic.

Drawing upon nearly 1.2 million texts in the Google Books archive, three university researchers tracked gender pronouns from 1900 to 2008. The ratio of male to female pronouns was roughly 3.5:1 until 1950, when the gap began to widen as more women stayed home after World War II, and peaked at around 4.5:1 in the mid-1960s. The ratio had shrunk to 3:1 by 1975, and less than 2:1 by 2005.

“These trends in language quantify one of the largest, and most rapid, cultural changes ever observed: The incredible increase in women’s status since the late 1960s in the U.S.,” Jean M. Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of “Generation Me,” said in a statement.

“Those numbers are quite staggering,” says James W. Pennebaker, author of “The Secret Life of Pronouns” and chair of the psychology department at the University of Texas in Austin. “Pronouns are a sign of people paying attention and as women become more present in the workforce, in the media and life in general, people are referring to them more.”

During a recent interview, Twenge said that she and her fellow scholars – W. Keith Campbell, who heads the psychology department at the University of Georgia; and one of his students, Brittany Gentile – had been talking about the Google database as a resource for studying gender. They liked the idea of starting at 1900, because pronouns have not changed since “thee” and “thou” fell out of style in the 1800s.

Google offers much more information than what was immediately available just a few years ago, Twenge notes, although the material is far from complete; the search engine’s archive contains just 4 percent of all books published in the U.S. since 1800. But Twenge and her colleagues concluded that gender was not a factor in which books Google included.

“You have this huge sample, with no biases,” Twenge says. “And you have an agreed upon set of words.”

“It seems very comprehensive and well done,” Pennebaker says. “There are two types of data, imperfect data and no data. If you’re going to wait around for perfect data, you are going to wait around forever.”

From scholarly releases to popular fiction, books by and about women have proliferated in the past half century. Nine of the top 10 books on USA Today’s current best-seller list were written by women and publishers have long believed that more women than men buy books. According to the market researchers Simba Information, around 60 percent of those purchasing books are women.

The new study confirms women’s great advances in education and in their success in getting published, says Erin Belieu, an award-winning poet and co-director of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, a nonprofit organization founded in 2009.

“Women have certainly increased their ‘literary output’ in the last two decades particularly,” she wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “And women fiction writers specifically have been able to achieve a large economic impact within the publishing industry.”

But as VIDA has demonstrated, more books by women does not mean more books are getting reviewed or more women getting to write for literary publications. For the past two years, VIDA has released studies showing that such magazines as The New Yorker and The Atlantic devoted far more space to male writers than to women, a ratio that led New Yorker editor David Remnick to acknowledge “We’ve got to do better.”

“Women as writers are much more likely to be ghettoized into marketing that wants to define who women are as writers and what it is women supposedly want to read,” wrote Belieu, an associate professor in the English department of Florida State University. “This is true in literature as well as in contemporary journalism. Women authors being stuffed into YA and ‘Chick Lit’ publishing. Women journalists being assigned more ‘personal’ stories.”

The continued prevalence of male writers/male reviewers is “very much the old guard hanging on, as they always do,” Belieu adds. “But the progressive mind wins in the long ball game.”