Emma Watson, U.N. Ambassador & All-Around Badass

Emma Watson, who first gained global recognition as Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” movies, has gone on to champion gender equality as a Goodwill Ambassador for U.N. Women. On Saturday, she gave a passionate speech before the United Nations, introducing HeForShe, a campaign meant to engage men in actively stopping violence against women. Since then, hackers have threatened to release nude photos of Watson in a disgusting attempt to silence her. It seems this has only made her voice louder, making her an all-around badass.

Watson’s speech is a thoughtful, comprehensive invitation for both sexes to dismantle gender stereotypes. She emphasizes that dismissing feminist concerns as “aggressive, isolating, anti-men, and unattractive” has negatively affected both men and women. Watson states her case plainly. In effect, she diminishes the remarkably silly debate over the “real definition” of feminism. She puts it simply and powerfully:

I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me… I am from Britain and think it is right that as a woman I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body. I think it is right that women be involved on my behalf in the policies and decision-making of my country. I think it is right that socially I am afforded the same respect as men. But sadly I can say that there is no one country in the world where all women can expect to receive these rights.

Watson hasn’t shied away from labeling herself a feminist, unlike so many other actresses with social influence. With a broad appeal to young men and women alike, I think she has a legitimate chance at initiating change. However, she also faces the risk of not being taken seriously. She addresses this in her speech, saying:

You might be thinking who is this Harry Potter girl? And what is she doing up on stage at the UN? It’s a good question and trust me I have been asking myself the same thing. I don’t know if I am qualified to be here. All I know is that I care about this problem. And I want to make it better. And having seen what I’ve seen—and given the chance—I feel it is my duty to say something.

Her obvious passion and personal experience with sexism certainly qualify her to be an advocate for gender equality. But her message goes beyond equal rights; it’s about the way we perceive gender and perpetuate limitations for both sexes by reinforcing an unjustified dichotomy. I mean, how powerful is this:

We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are—and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.

If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong. … It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not as two opposing sets of ideals. If we stop defining each other by what we are not and start defining ourselves by what we are — we can all be freer. And this is what HeForShe is about. It’s about freedom.

If that isn’t motivation enough to start speaking up about gender equality, then I don’t know what is. And for all the haters out there, launching insults at Watson only bolsters the necessity of this movement. Threatening to post nude photos of someone campaigning for equal rights seems so stupid, so insane, so laughably pathetic to me that I have no doubt the power behind her words will eclipse any wormlike attempt to bring her down. Alternatively, you could take the more innocuous approach and pick apart the pieces of her argument that are less than perfect, but I don’t see how that would be constructive. Emma Watson is not the only advocate for gender equality, but her speech is one of many that at least deserve our respect if not wholehearted support.

My #FashionTruth

Hang on because ModCloth is currently transforming fashion as we know it. With a powerful message that goes beyond vintage pieces and retro designs, the brand embodies our cultural need for transparency in fashion. Co-founder Susan Gregg Koger emphasizes body positivity, self-expression, and diversity in a business model that puts the consumer above all else. ModCloth packages garments with meaning, transcending short-lived trends like crop tops and harem pants (which you should totally wear everyday forever if that’s your thing).

The fashion industry’s flaws wouldn’t matter if they didn’t have such a pervasive influence on the way we perceive ourselves. Stick-thin, six-foot-tall white teenagers, as beautiful as they are, represent only a tiny fraction of a very diverse market. And when you, equally beautiful and real, see images of that standard constantly, feelings of inadequacy can’t help but creep in. As consumers, we have a responsibility to demand what we want to see. I think that ultimately means a more diverse, confident reflection of ourselves.

As for me, being broke means I can’t afford to buy into the ever-changing fashion game right now (and I’m not the kind of girl to forgo lunch for an infinity scarf). I mainly dig through my mother’s closet for wide-legged pants and padded blouses from the 80s and 90s. I’m lucky the nineties now qualify as vintage because “vintage” sounds cooler than “old bike shorts.”

high waisted vintage pants

$5 H&M crop top, $7 Payless shoes, pulled together by high-waisted burlap slacks from 1980-something

There’s something timeless about falling in love with vintage. If you glance through fashion history, you’ll find clothing that reflects the social climate of the time as well as aspirations for the future. With the first inklings of the feminist movement, corsets gave way to shift and drop waist dresses. Hemlines have soared and plummeted in unison with stock prices. As much as avant-garde has its place, current fashion has always drawn from classic ideas to inspire something new.

This is where it gets exciting. What will the fashion of the future look like? I imagine all of us gliding around in sleek, metallic gowns, flower crowns of tiny succulents adorning our heads. Or maybe we’ll draw from the Dust Bowl and restyle burlap sacks into edgy moto jackets and cigarette pants. Maybe textiles as we currently imagine them will fizzle out altogether, to be replaced by sprayed-on second skins in various animal prints and colors.

high waisted vintage pants

I like the idea that you can transform yourself through fashion. You can dabble with different identities or define your personality with the clothes you wear. Fashion allows you to be a preppy, bohemian, cowgirl, princess, punk rock chick all in the same week. I also love the idea of self-imposing a personal uniform, freeing up more mind space when you just don’t have the energy to pick a different outfit everyday.

My fashion truth is all of the above. I believe in wearing what you want when you want, stepping into character, revealing the inner you and reinventing the inner you. It’s make-believe, magic, living art, breathing in patterns, prints, textures, and lines. Operating as armor or filling in for comfort, evoking nostalgia or peeking into the future, democratized or specialized, fashion brings imagination into the everyday. That kind of power should belong to everyone.

vintage blouse

Be yourself. You know you want to.

Pontoon to Infinity

Last week, while visiting Montana, I sat on the edge of a massage pontoon reading an essay about infinity. I found it in a book I borrowed from my grandmother’s husband, who described the pontoon as a cross between a funeral barge and a traveling whorehouse. The essay was called “Next Step: Infinity,” by Anthony Aguirre; the book was called Future Science: Essays from the Cutting Edge. It was published in 2011, so I assume the cutting edge hasn’t inched too far forward since then.

future science book

As I dipped my toes in the cool water, my neck burning under the high noon sun, I couldn’t help but fear lake monsters were dwelling deep below. Maybe it was the heat, the murky water, or the smell of peppermint fuming from my boyfriend’s body as he got massaged that sent my imagination into overdrive. But why shouldn’t they be hovering down there? If you believe in infinity, anything could be possible—if not in this universe, then at least in the one next door.

Let me back up a bit. There are few things as mind-boggling as the space outside of our own planet. Within each of our minds exists an equally complex reflection of the universe, which should be enough to make your brain explode. Then I imagine the possibility of multiverses and realize the infinite space we can barely imagine is only one of an infinite number of different, infinite spaces, some varying slightly with others varying drastically. Think of our entire universe as one bubble in a bottle of champagne. Make that an infinite vat of champagne.

nasa pictures of stars

“Dark Murky Clouds in the Bright Milky Way” — thank you, NASA

I should start over. To give an idea of what I’m trying to wrap my head around, here are some of the most mind-blowing quotes I pulled from “Next Step: Infinity.”

Lesson 1: “A fundamental lesson of relativity theory is that there is no single objective definition of what events are happening ‘now’ across a large region” (43). You tell me this now? When this whole time I’ve been trying to “live in the now”?! I give up.

Lesson 2: “In relativity, then, space and time are interconvertible and should really be combined into ‘space-time.’ To ask what ‘space’ is like is really to ask what space-time looks like at a particular time” (45). Time is a social construct. Okay, I can jive with that.

Lesson 3: “The creation of an infinite space probably actually happens—in fact, an infinite number of times… The Big Bang is not the ‘beginning of the universe,’ just the end of our particular universe’s inflation” (47). We’re really small, aren’t we…

Lesson 4: “There are infinitely many identical copies of you, as well as infinitely many of every possible small or large variations of you, some more common than others… If these other people are identical to you, are they you?” (54). I have enough insecurities of my own to deal with. I don’t think I can handle the infinite other psycho me’s out there.

Lesson 5: “In comparison to the universe, we would not be just small but strictly zero. Yet here we are, contemplating—if not quite understanding—it all” (55). Going from small to zero does not help my ego.

massage pontoon

Just barely skimming the surface.

As you can see, that’s a lot of crazy shit to absorb. At the same time, the theory of infinity is so beautiful, so imaginative, it sounds like something a poet dreamed up rather than an astronomer toiling with numbers. At the same moment I sat reading Future Science on the edge of the pontoon, another, similar me could have been reading Pride and Prejudice. Or she could be diving for abalone in her universe, spared from my fear of the ocean in this universe. Or it’s possible I’m repeating a life I’ve lived a billion times before. Free will, time, space, infinity, pontoons—all things I could spend the rest of my days trying to figure out. At least some comfort exists in the possibility we’ll have more space-time than this one life to do it.

Best Pesto Ever

This recipe came together somewhat by accident. I bought a basil plant that I felt could die at any moment, and I wanted to whip up something basil-y that required a good handful of leaves. What could be better than pesto? I didn’t have pine nuts or parmesan on hand, but I did have raw cashews and nutritional yeast. This is how a delicious vegan pesto is born.

I realize now that most of the recipes I’ve posted have been vegan. While I’m not a strict vegan, I do make mostly vegan dishes in an attempt to live forever. I’m also hoping it’ll offset some of the radioactive sushi I can’t live without. I figure if you’re going to pick your poison, then at least pick one with Omega-3 fatty acids–but you do you. That’s probably the most you’ll ever hear me say about diets/lifestyles/eating plans.

pesto avocado toast

On Pinterest, you’ll find approximately 1 billion similar recipes for vegan pesto. While you can swap out some ingredients for others—a different nut or broth in place of oil—one thing you most definitely need is lemon juice. It really seals the deal on that classic pesto taste.

You’ll Need:

½ cup raw cashews

½ cup fresh basil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

juice from ½ lemon

¼ cup olive oil

½ cup water

pinch of salt

a few grinds of lemon pepper

vegan cashew basil pesto

To Make:

Dump it all in a blender and grind. Taste and adjust the ingredients to your liking. Most recipes suggest you let the raw cashews soak in water for a few hours or overnight, but ain’t nobody got time for that. The pesto will taste amazing when you first blend it, and it’ll just get better after sitting a few hours in the fridge. It will also thicken up a bit.

avocado pesto toast

Drizzle it on the most incredible avocado toast you’ll ever have, drench penne with it, dress a salad with it, or eat it with a spoon. You really can’t go wrong with this pesto.

Don’t Fear the Feminist

feminism definition

In high school, my brilliant history teacher asked everyone in my class to raise his/her hand if he/she considered him/herself a feminist. A couple hands shot up and some stayed glued firmly to their desks, while others, like mine, hesitantly rose halfway like a limp petunia. My teacher, patient and understanding as ever, explained that being a feminist simply means you support gender equality—that men and women should be treated as equals. That’s it. After considering this tidbit of information, we were all given a second opportunity to form a decision. Guess how many of us raised our hands the second time around.

sexist vintage ad

Just a heartwarming, vintage advertisement.

That class stands out in my memory because it forever etched in my mind the incredible power of both education and ignorance. By remaining ignorant, I was unknowingly perpetuating sexist attitudes and discriminatory behavior. By taking the time to learn a single definition, I felt confident in knowing and describing what it was I stood for.

I’m thankful I had this learning experience in high school and not in college or—even more embarrassing—as a movie star with a wide range of influence. Still, a lot of well-meaning men and women skirt around what should be a straightforward question. Look it up in the dictionary and you will find that the definition for feminism is “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” When someone asks if you’re a feminist, they are asking if you believe men and women should be granted equal rights. A simple yes or no will do.

sexist vintage ad

1920s

Unfortunately, it usually ends up being more complicated than that. The word has been twisted and manipulated into having an overwhelmingly negative connotation. To shy away from the word is to dismiss the work of women who have fought for centuries to reverse oppression. While some of us may be quick to discredit the work of feminists, I doubt any modern woman would prefer living in a pre-feminist world. And by the way, fear is commonly used by the ruling power structure as a means to gain control.

sexist vintage ad

1950s

If you understand what the word means and don’t wish to identify yourself in that way, that is one hundred percent okay. But if you do enjoy the primary features of feminism (equality), please don’t go down the “I’m not a feminist, but…” route. On this point, Mary Elizabeth Williams from Salon writes, “Nobody enjoys it more when a woman says she’s not a feminist than a misogynist. Nobody gets more gloatingly self-congratulatory about it, or happier about what ‘real’ women don’t need than someone who doesn’t like women very much, especially not the uppity, outspoken, wanting pay equity and reproductive freedom types.” Distancing yourself from the label because you don’t like labels perpetuates the ignorance fogging the true definition of feminism.

vintage sexist ad

1960s

Let’s make something else very clear. Sexism is real. From blatant misogyny to the subtler effects of everyday sexism, there are countless ways in which women do not share the same rights and privileges as men. In America, women still earn less than men for the same work. Women are still struggling for the right to make decisions about their own bodies. Women have had the right to vote for a measly 94 years. In an attempt to change this oppressive system via compelling arguments and personal stories, women are all too frequently dismissed as “oversharing.” In her article, “The Feminist Writer’s Dilemma”, Laurie Penny writes that, “when men write about their experiences in a political context, it’s never called ‘confessional’—it’s just ‘literature’, or a ‘memoir’. The second is that male political experience is never coded as male—it’s just universal truth.” Uh, yeah, in that case, I’m pretty sure males of European descent have been “oversharing” since the dawn of civilization.

1970s sexist ad

1970s

It would still take me all of college to recognize what level of bullshit I could withstand before exploding with rage. I’ve tended to far too many fragile egos and allowed myself to be disrespected numerous times for the sake of avoiding confrontation. I’ve shied away from calling out misogynistic comments for fear of being called “pushy”, “bossy”, or my personal favorite, “dramatic”. This, I have since realized, was not just passive on my part, but harmful. There have been so many moments when I should have said something but didn’t, and hardly ever a time I wish I’d kept my mouth shut.

sexist vintage ad

I write these things while keeping an eye on the eggs I’m soft-boiling for my boyfriend and I. This does not make me less of a feminist. Here are a few other things that will never make me less of a feminist: wearing pink, eating and/or baking cupcakes, watching Clueless for the hundredth time, listening to Lana del Ray, talking to my puppy in a baby voice, having a boyfriend, getting married, etc. I know, it’s mind-blowing. I can do all of these fun things while believing women should be treated as human beings. That’s not something to be afraid of, is it?

feminism tshirt

Buy the shirt here.