I had a lot of fun being interviewed by Dress Code Cracker, a podcast that dissects fashion in the simplest of terms: “what they wore, why they wore it.” Having a couple drinks with Sarah and really getting into it proved to be anything but simple (in the best, most gleeful way possible). Our conversation included: meaningless tattoos, bitchy high ponytails, size privilege, the music industry, ‘Bushwick pretty’ vs ‘regular pretty,’ pencil-skirt cycling woes, ignoring the mainstream media, subverting style cues, and cute/slutty/weird lingerie.
Listen to the podcast and check out the writeup and imagine what it would be like if I were your excessively giggly and excruciatingly honest friend at the bar.
TRIGGER WARNING: violence against women, assault, etc.
The last time I was assaulted was the same week as the Isla Vista killings which also coincided with my 27th birthday. It happened again yesterday afternoon, with unwanted sexual advances on the bus. I was alone, my phone was dead, and no one offered help. All I can think to do is write about it.
But usually, whenever I write I start to feel embarrassed and ashamed about the experience. First I think about my parents reading these words, then my brother and sister-in-law, all my other relatives, ex-boyfriends, friends, enemies, acquaintances, clients, and how helpless and sad it is that I’m not immune to this horrible thing that happens all the time. After I’ve exhausted the shame-spiral, I worry that I’ll be undesirable (to potential partners) for sharing my experience. I dread that it makes me damaged, weak, and lesser-than.
Then I think about survivors of incidents exponentially more horrific than mine and I start feeling like a coward for choosing not to write about it. It’s a very unique form of self-loathing.
Generally, I embody a successful, empowered person. I have this platform, Broadist, my feminist slice of the internet, and I haven’t used it to discuss sexual assault on a personal level because I am absolutely terrified. When launching this topic into the public eye, everything inside me screams “take up less space” / “don’t be more vulnerable than you already are.”
I remember a time not so long ago when I was terrified to write about feminism, social justice, and body positivity, but once I grew past that I discovered so much strength and community afterward. I don’t have a solution for sexual assault, but, I can at least try to write about it.
The week of the Isla Vista killings, I found it really empowering to participate in #YesAllWomen on twitter. I started by retweeting friends and strangers, then added to the conversation a bit.
Shit got really real.
Amidst the Isla Vista tragedy and my assault at a concert earlier that week, #YesAllWomen was exactly what I needed. It reminded me of iHollaback and how that organization makes me feel less alone in this fucked up city where harassment is pervasive, not just on the street. So I consolidated my story and put it on twitter.
I worry that I’m going to snap. I worry the next guy who does this to me or one of my friends is going to get punched and I won’t hesitate or be able to stop. I worry about this every time I set foot outside my apartment.
I hate that guys get in my face to shout vulgar things while I’m on the phone with my mom, walking to the grocery store or a concert. I hate that yesterday a man sat directly behind me on the bus whispering in my ear so close I could feel his disgusting breath (in hindsight, I think he was masturbating). I hate that I was catcalled on my way to a funeral earlier this year. A FUCKING FUNERAL.
While marinating in contempt for these harassers, I’ve begun to move past the shame and embarrassment. I think about my younger cousins, and the thousands of teenagers who don’t know me personally but follow Broadist on tumblr. I think about how helpless they might feel in the face of this bullshit if they’re already experiencing it, and how they might feel when they inevitably face it in the future.
Then I think about how lucky I am that I’m able to write in this blog without fear of jeopardizing my employment status. Most people do not have that privilege.
Because when my freelancer friends write articles about rape and assault, they post anonymously. Because they have to.
I don’t have to. I can own it.
So, true to form, just like covering my dear friend Roxy’s death, I’m over two months late with this one. It’s been a long time coming, with so much navel-gazing, and many injustices years in the making, but here it is. My ongoing attempt to validate and empower women, even if I’m terrified.
Every time you say “You’re not fat, you’re pretty” you are implying that I can’t be both.
You are saying there is something wrong with being fat.
I’m fat, and I’m down with that and you will not ignore my body because it makes you uncomfortable.
Fat positivity does not equal body dysmorphia. I’m not fishing for compliments. If I call myself fat in any context, it is not self-hating or deprecating. Please do not mess with my (or anyone’s) empowerment because you’re sorely mistaken.
“My grief taught me things. It showed me shades and hues I couldn’t have otherwise seen. It required me to suffer. It compelled me to reach.”—
So it’s 80 degrees in NYC and the sun is setting and I am not at a Memorial Day barbeque but instead I am reading the end of this book Tiny Beautiful Things because I am in a weird mood. I stumbled upon this piece about grief, which I’ve been feeling a lot of this weekend, thinking about how it has been 6 months since Roxy passed away. I came across one line I had to read over and over: “My grief is tremendous but my love is bigger.”
I don’t know what else to say at the moment but I urge you all to check Strayed’s writing out if you’ve experienced sudden and inexplicable loss at any point. You will feel stronger and be better for it.
What informs/inspires your style? That actually dates back to my childhood e.g. hours spent leafing through my dad’s film stills/original print collection of old Hollywood and 50’s pin up. From the ultimate glamour mistress Marilyn Monroe to the bombshells of Bettie Page and Jayne Mansfield- I was and still am seduced by style that’s a mix of classic sophistication and the sultry mystery.
Postmortem inspirations aside, I like lots and lots of anything red, velvet, or sparkly.
All time number one favorite thing to wear: Hands down, my power house cardigan- the glittery gold one. I discovered it at a thrift store during my high school days and it’s been riding on my shoulders ever since. On the back, I sewed a large patch of the High Priestess, my favorite tarot card. I like to think her presence goes beyond just having my literal back… She embodies the idea of a strong feminine figure- she represents relying on your intuition, trusting your instincts, singing along to the tune of your gut. Knowing you have potential to do great things.
What’s something you’ve been thinking about a lot lately?: Uh, the future. In the next few weeks, I’ll be packing my life up and out the apartment I’ve lived in for the last three years now for college. I’m heading into a new chapter of my life, including moving into a completely new house I’ve never even seen before. I’ll be staying at my mom’s for the summer and she just moved into a new place. So it’s actually kinda cool that I’ll have a new room to decorate and make completely my own, start fresh.
Also I’ve made some goals for this summer so far like making hot sauce from scratch, starting up a radio show podcast, publishing a new issue of my zine series Staircase Wit… I like having ongoing projects.
Current non-fashion obsession: Spending quality time with my new iPod. It’s a white classic and I got an engraving on the back that reads “All songs should be either fast or sad.” It’s a loosely-quoted phrase from this music memoir called Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield. I have bad iPod luck like other people have bad car luck. I’ve been through like 5 in my lifetime (mostly because of shitty situations, and others uh, my bad?). For the majority of this semester, I was iPodless and it sucked really bad. I don’t like having a long-distance relationship with music.
What helps you feel confident about your body/style/general sense of self?: Wearing my D.I.Y-ness on my sleeve, literally. I’m guilty of stitching, patching, craftifying the hell outta my wardrobe. Most days, I wear the earrings I’ve made. I think they carry good joojoo since they remind me of times I’ve been creative. One is a message in a bottle with inside it a blue crystal and broken butterfly wing that I found dead in the street. [By the way, they are super easy to make. You can find the tiny cork, miniature bottle, and earring wire at most craft stores. Try it!] And the other is a post I made with one of my actual baby teeth…. And I identify with the color red. The color of blood, stop signs. Red hair and red lipstick has become my sort of trademark simply because I chose it to be. You are the one in charge of reinventing or creating yourself, so you should do whatever you want. You’re the one in control of how you feel about your self-worth; so don’t let people mess with you. Keeping that in mind gives me confidence.
What’s it mean to be a broad?: Being a broad for me means self-reliance is the best reliance. It’s about your attitude and the way you approach life. Being true-blue to yourself and opening yourself up to the healing power of femmerody.
But I also really like and stand by a definition of a Broad from Broads + Narrows: A Thinking Wo/Man’s Dictionary by Dusty Bunker - a book a pen pal sent me years ago:
Broads: Slang for women. Broad across the hips. Also their mentality.
End Note: I have the pleasure of knowing this broad from the marvelous college radio world. <3 Laura made a really great Herstory Mixtape and is hosting a zine giveaway on her blog. CHECK ‘EM OUT!
“Women are coerced into hair removal, indoctrinated by society to see it as a necessity. They are making decisions as to what type of razor they use, whether they use cream or wax, whether they get a professional to do it, but these are secondary decisions; the initial choice is whether to remove hair at all, and this decision was made by someone else, long ago, with little thought as to our best intentions. Along with the decisions about whether body hair is attractive, or hygienic. Of course, we all have personal preference, but when every channel in society tells you that body hair is repulsive, there is only one conclusion to come to. It is near-impossible to have a true preference. And until women are no longer chastised, mocked, and insulted for their body hair, we cannot say that we have that choice.”—That Pesky Feminist
Do you go to Muhlenberg College? Or to school in the Lehigh Valley? If you’d like to come say hi I will be there Friday March 28 from 9:30-2 for Media & Communication Alumni Week. Let’s talk about post-grad vibes, the (indie) music industry, college radio, how expensive New York really is, patriarchy smashing, etc.
There's so much to say but none of it is about outfits.
Roxy passed away on November 24, 2013. Sad doesn’t really begin to cover it. Neither does heartbroken.
Roxy and I met on twitter in 2011 (thanks, Megan) and this surprised just about everyone because we always seemed like we’d known each other forever. I can’t say I have any regrets because we had a no-holds-barred kinda friendship. The last thing we talked about was a combination of cystic labia acne, group sex, and grocery shopping while intoxicated, and I’m totally okay with that.
When my cousin Paul died several years ago I didn’t tell anyone; not my roommate at the time, and not a single friend from college. Because the more people that know about something the more real that thing is, which is particularly true when it comes to loss. In a way, my taking so long to write about it on Broadist is another means of burying my grief, but some of the best advice given to me was “there’s no correct way to mourn.”
Here in Brooklyn, Roxy’s death is still not entirely tangible as most of our friendship was online. It was just a few months ago that she visited New York last.
I ultimately decided this photo was too porny for instagram. Roxy wanted to keep it though, so here it is.
Broadist has always been about feeling it out and going with our gut(s), and I’m starting that process over again, or rather, revisiting what it all means. She appreciated how much I hate logistics and even now, over two months later, I’m still haunted by the logistics of the thing we created together. She would have been the person to ask what to do in this terribly specific and tragic situation.
“What becomes of the banana skirt?” and “How should I edit our bios on Broadist?” both came to mind immediately. How will I fly to LA for her funeral? HOW WILL I HANDLE THIS ON THE INTERNET?
You may have noticed Roxy hadn’t contributed to this blog much since its summer-2011-inception. She started law school that fall and simply put, it was time consuming. Collectively we were always giant balls of anxiety but, as a law student and music industry freelancer, we handled it in different ways. I’ve always found writing to be cathartic whereas she felt it was another obligation, like reading about a case or something. I had a hard time wrapping my head around that concept because she loved Broadist with all her blood and guts and I just wanted her to do what she loved always 100% of the time forever. Whenever she wrote something it was the most magical surprise– I would get a text about it like, “Caroline, look in drafts!” and our hearts would gleam. No matter how few blog posts came from the west coast, the essence of Broadist was always both of us and still is which is fucking weird because Roxy is gone now.
An intimate thing that came up in our friendship (it surfaces in all my friendships, really), is my keen ability to drown myself in work and plummet off radars for months even years without notice. Roxy’s awareness of this was inspiring and kept me in check: “I know you always say you get busy and just disappear from peoples’ lives but you can’t do that with me, okay?” Now that she’s gone I resolve so actively to stop disappearing. If you get a weird email or phone call or postcard or something, or if you notice a blog post maybe, please understand that I’m trying so hard not to disappear. Nothing is as important as the people you love which sounds so cliché but is truer than ever now that I’ve lost yet another close friend this past month. Just trust me, ok? Losing contact is not worth it.
People really need to stop dying because this is hard to write and I am selfish and about to go on a tangent so I’ll stop with one last intimate thing that came up in Roxy and my friendship/texts after her visit here.
Rox: Knock knock Me: ass ass ass ass ass Rox: TITTIES. Ugh I miss you bunches. Me: Miss you too. I am going to bed now because I’m exhausted. Rox: Ok I’m going to cry because I can’t find soup. Me: I want to feed you soup. Rox: Let’s get married.
I love you, lady. RIP. Broadist isn’t going anywhere.
ATTN: “You look great! Have you lost weight?” is not a compliment. I know it has been the go-to praise-route towards many women since the inception of puberty, but I’d like to put an end to it. Why do I hear this like a broken record every holiday?
You look great! How are your new jobs going?
You look great! How is your blog doing?
You look great! Things seem to be going really well for you lately.
You look great! You’ve been smiling all weekend.
You look great! I love your dress/hair/shoes/demeanor.
You look great! You seem really happy.
You look great! (Period).
I don’t know who started the rumor that “Have you lost weight?” is just about the goddamn nicest thing you can say to a (fat) woman. Let me assure you: it’s not. I haven’t done anything right or wrong or good or bad for appearing to weigh less than the last time you saw me. Don’t congratulate me.
Use your head. Or, at the very least, be more creative with your compliments.
Occupation: I am an emcee in the rap group Hand Job Academy and a professional manicurist and nail artist.
What informs/inspires your style?: When I was growing up my mother force-fed me a steady diet of Audrey Hepburn, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. I think I first rebelled, then later accepted and subverted these influences. I like wearing black; my boyfriend calls it “East Village Black” because in the 80s and 90s everyone in NYC apparently had a closet full of black clothes. I like gold. I like to wear a lot of jewelry because rap game. I think I like accessories more than clothes. This suit I’m wearing is part of the “Rich White Woman” series. I’m only 1.5 of those things. One time, a gay black man in a store in Alphabet City saw my Anne Klein shoes and exclaimed, “Look at your rich white woman shoes!” and he said it in a way that told me he knew I wasn’t that person. I could never be mistaken for an Upper East Side lady, nor would I care to be. I think it’s a good look if you’re kinda punk rock to begin with. Dismantle it from the inside or something.
All time number one favorite thing to wear: Probably my Vera Meat hand necklace. I have worn it almost every day for the last 3 years. When I bought it I think it was Christmas and I was single and kinda practicing being my own boyfriend. I joked that the hand belonged to my imaginary boyfriend and was there for me to hold when I needed it. Then it kinda became the hand of my Higher Power. After I began the journey toward my new career as a manicurist and started Hand Job Academy, it took on a different symbology. Like it guided me into the life I was supposed to have. I remember when I bought my first piece from Vera she said something like, “The piece of jewelry chooses you.”
What’s something you’ve been thinking about a lot lately?: Art. Riot Grrrl. Pussy Riot. Chihuahuas. That I could stand to read more books and do more exercise. JUICE: my new Ninja juicer Xmas present from my dude.
Current non-fashion obsession: Well, she is somewhat involved in fashion, but I have such a boner for Marina Abramović. I assisted on a shoot earlier this year and ended up doing her nails. I didn’t really realize until after the fact how much that moment impacted me, just watching her interact with people and the way she speaks and appears to give nary a fuck. (And I certainly didn’t save the orange wood stick I used on her, that would be totally creepy. Yeah.) I recently saw her opera at the Armory, “The Life and Death of Marina Abramović,” and it was incredible. Good art makes me want to make art but great art makes me want to live my life more deeply, and this was the latter. Also, at the climactic final moment of the show the person sitting behind me violently vomited, which felt like an appropriately visceral and horrifying circumstance.
What helps you feel confidence about your body, style, and general sense of self?: Entering my 30s and getting sober and finally finding an artistic and career path that I care about. I can’t feel good about myself if I have my head stuck up my own ass, so I try to help other people as much as possible. Coming back around to the style I had when I was a 15-year-old weirdo. Being around other people who are their authentic selves which allows me to be my authentic self. I think 2014 is about standing next to the smartest person in the room and dressing for the job I want, and other boardroom cliches that I plan to apply to my work and life.
What’s it mean to be a broad?: I like to replace “bitch” with “broad” sometimes. Like the phrase “bad bitch” sounds better to me as “bad broad.” Anytime there’s a photo of four of my friends together it’s like “Bad Broad Mount Rushmore.” Not sure where that came from but it’s a thing now. My dad claims that one of my great aunts was a chorus girl with Barbara Stanwyck back in the day. Now THAT was a broad.
End note: In the spirit of New Years Eve (the one night glitter is a neutral), Claire’s dishing out manicures with nail art for $20.14! Upon seeing her work, you’ll realize this sale is kinda insane. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for availability, appointments, and questions. Check out instagram.com/Fngrblstr for more pics and info! On a flashback-y note, I met Claire through Sue, a broad y’all met almost 2 years ago. <3
In early 2011, we thought Wouldn’t it be funny to make a Tumblr about yogurt? Like, yogurt news, maybe reviews, definitely pics and other musings about yogurt? Actually yes. Maybe only funny to us, but worth doing. She came up with the name and I set it up. She reblogged the first of many photos of large-breasted women up alongside the yogurt pics. In her mind, this made complete sense. I thought it was hilarious.
Over time, I’d say I did a lion’s share of the work on creamtop. She was a little busy with law school and a younger, more active social life. A wonderful fashion blog called broadist that she created with another friend was really taking off and we thought, for very obvious reasons, if she had any free time at all, it was more important for her to contribute there than to this one. Do your thing, girl. I got this.
Now and then she’d surprise me by putting something up here. Something that amazed me. That I would have never seen on my own feeds. Funny or beautiful or both. That’s so her.
I’m feeling so many things this evening. Mostly gutted, but thankful for the short time I was able to share with this amazing person. I prefer to keep it at that—some things are too personal for a yogurt blog. Yogurt blogs are funny. Life is funny. You never think that a stranger that you chat with in a will call line at a music festival will become one of your best friends. You never think this person will be taken away from you so suddenly. And you hear this all the time, but I promise, you will regret all the things you never say to a person.
“Too many young girls don’t know how to act when someone’s being inappropriate with them. They giggle or they try to brush it off. Don’t do that. Tell them to go fuck themselves - be a bitch. If someone’s being disrespectful to you, be disrespectful right back. Show them the same amount of respect that they show you.”—
Below is an email I received from Roxy’s boyfriend, Alex Hanawalt. We both hope it helps to bring some clarity to everyone.
"I thought I would try to describe Roxy’s last few days in a way that might help everybody cope a bit.
I drove up to Palo Alto a week ago to spend time with Roxy through Thanksgiving and got to be with her almost every minute of every day for her last week. She had been having trouble with school and was suffering through depression. After a few days with her I learned more than I had ever known what true depression is. She was incapable of leaving the house or accomplishing any task without breaking down in tears. She was embarrassed about her predicament and didn’t want to reach out to many people for help. She also couldn’t understand that anybody else would care or want to help. She had ceased going to classes and studying. She had a comfort zone on the couch of my parents living room, curled up in a blanket with our recently acquired cat Lucy sleeping on top of her. She would play Animal Crossing on her pink (of course) Nintendo 3DS all day and tell me about things she was doing in the game that made no sense to me but delighted me.
She had switched to a new antidepressant drug called Effexor a few weeks ago and was on a regimen where they gradually increase the dosage up to the necessary level to combat the ailment. She was optimistic that this was going to make her better. It was perhaps, other than my presence, the only thing in her life giving her hope for the future. The drug is known to have serious side effects so she was being monitored. Her blood pressure was consistently measuring to be too high and her doctor was concerned. The discussion was had that if they couldn’t bring her blood pressure down, they would have to take her off the drug. That conversation happened at the beginning of the week when I arrived, and brought about Roxy’s devastating fear that the only thing that might help her might be taken away. She went to another doctor for examination, they said they didn’t see any underlying conditions and prescribed her a blood pressure medication to take in conjunction with the Effexor.
I went to an appointment with Roxy and her therapist and saw the process they go through. Roxy was checking her blood pressure daily and once she was on the blood pressure medication it had dropped to a relatively safe level. Roxy was becoming happy about this.
On Friday, I was able to convince Roxy to come out and head up to Oakland to meet with some friends to see a movie. She was nervous about having to be social for an entire evening but she agreed with me that perhaps facing that fear a bit might start to make her better. She had a good time, though afterward told me that she had to excuse herself to be alone for a period of time. We saw Dallas Buyers Club, a movie she thought was excellent but made her cry afterwards. She said she related strongly to the characters plight to try to find medication for a mysterious disease and once finding medication that worked, having that taken away from them.
Saturday was her last day on earth. It also happened to be a day that I saw a happier Roxy than I had seen in months. We woke up and I made her favorite breakfast - what we jokingly liked to call by its obvious moniker, “eggs in a toast.” We decided to head out on one of our new favorite hobbies, going to estate sales. We went to several. She bought a little purse at a garage sale. Then we went to a fancy house in Millbrae where she found a huge gorgeous mink coat that fit her really well. It was $400. She gave me a look like she really wanted it, and I gave her a teasing nod back like “no way.” She made a lap through the house then came back to the coat at which point a woman had claimed it as her own. Roxy was surprisingly upset about it but I assured her there would always be another mink coat to find. We went to one more estate sale and lo and behold, there was another mink coat, this one much cheaper, and actually a little more - if I can say this - reasonable. She bought it and was absolutely thrilled to get to wear something so over-the-top glamorous on our upcoming trip to New York for the holidays.
After that we went and got a sandwich to share, then we went to the Hillsdale mall to check out the new Uniqlo because Roxy needed to buy new underwear. We had the kind of silly fun we always had a malls. As I write this I’m wearing the purple plaid flannel Roxy picked out for me. she bought underwear with the word “Epic” written across the butt.
We got back to the car and both felt a bit tired. We had dinner plans with some friends Roxy had made recently who she really wanted me to meet, but that was a few hours away. Roxy was comfortable staying out until we were ready to go up to the city and that really surprised both of us. I napped in the car a bit and she played Animal Crossing. We just stayed in the car for an hour and a half. Mirroring the sort of query I was used to hearing from her, I asked “is it okay if we just stay here in the car for a bit?” and she said yes, and said that that was why we were meant to be together - that we could just do nothing together and be happy.
We drove up to meet her friends and they were wonderful people to meet. We joined them at their home and then drove in to San Francisco to have dinner at a modern barbecue restaurant called Wexler. Roxy and I had seen the restaurant featured on a local PBS show called Check Please Bay Area - a show she would watch in college and laugh at. We had a wonderful meal. Roxy had the crab because she’d been really excited about crab lately. We went back to her friend’s place and chatted for a few hours, finally departing around midnight.
On the drive home Roxy was delighted with our day. She said it was the best she’d felt in a really long time. She was glad that I liked her new friends and said that they were the kind of people she wanted to have in her life and looked forward to moving to LA with me to make more of those kinds of friends. We got home and stared up at the stars in the cold night air for a moment.
We got in to bed and Roxy complained that she had a bit of a stomach ache. She wasn’t particularly bothered by it, just presumed it was a bit of indigestion. I asked where and placed my hand on her bare belly as she lay on her back. She said up higher, and it was a spot just below her ribs I rubbed the area and asked if that made it feel better. She said yes. I caressed the rest of her belly and her last words to me where “I love it when you touch my belly. I really love my belly. Even though society tells me I shouldn’t, I love it.”
At some point, perhaps an hour later, she got up to go to the bathroom while I was mostly asleep. I found her there a few hours later and she had passed away. We’re awaiting the coroner’s report but at this point generally presume it was heart failure brought on by her medications.
Roxy was fighting hard to get through a rough patch to get to have the life she wanted to have and in her last day on earth, she was winning the fight.”