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My dissertation was about women’s authorship and sitcoms. Authorship is a key word here. It wasn’t about “writers,” but about those who left their marks on the text, their control over character, storylines through aspects of performance and utilizing their star power — for most of my case studies (30 Rock, Girls, and United States of Tara) the examination did focus on writing, but what I found while returning to the archives was the thread of women’s narratives that dealt with writing without words. Lucille Ball never wrote for I Love Lucy nor was she the head of Desilu, but as Madelyn Pugh Davis, one of the show’s writers, notes in her memoir Laughing with Lucy, Ball exerted authorship through performance and her refusal/approval to perform certain scenes. Amy Poehler wrote a handful of Parks and Recreation episodes, but her iconic status in improvisation as a founding member of Upright Citizen’s Brigade and successful sketch career at SNL brought her a certain level of authority to the series, a sentiment continually asserted in interviews with the cast and crew. Mary Tyler Moore is also part of this legacy of women’s negotiation and “writing.” She wasn’t a writer but owned her performances. She owned her brand and in doing so provided opportunities for writers to develop their own. Mary Tyler Moore owned Mary Richards, who helped women figure out their place in feminism’s upheaval of roles and norms. More… “Left Wanting Moore”

Melinda Lewis has a PhD in American Culture Studies. She knows more celebrity gossip than basic math and watches too much television.
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. . . Come on! Here is work! Here is opportunity! Here is equality of reward . . . when ‘the world is made safe for democracy,’ Democracy will be made safe for women.

— Dr. Frances Van Gasken, Professor of Clinical Medicine, Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, 1917

Nearly 70 years after women officially entered the medical profession, they still did not have the right to vote in the United States of America. Though the role and prominence of female physicians progressed parallel to and was sometimes intertwined with the struggle for equality, for many women — those working inside and outside the home — the right to vote was not necessarily a priority. But as women entered professions and the industrial workforce in increasing numbers and the United States engaged in war, American women were undertaking more than ever the responsibilities of citizenship without the accompanying rights. More… “The Hippocratic Vote”

Melissa M. Mandell is a Drexel University alum (Film & Video ‘97) and public historian who lives and writes in Philadelphia. She was most recently project manager for Doctor or Doctress: Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians, a digital history initiative of the Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center Archives and Special Collections. Contact her at melissa.mandell@gmail.com or on Twitter @PennyPuttanesca
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Although it’s the men of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn we associate with the magical order, specifically the great poet and mystic W.B. Yeats and the sociopath and con man Aleister Crowley, women were fundamental to its running from the very beginning. Unlike the Christian churches they mostly came from, either Catholic or Protestant, women were allowed to be priestesses, allowed to write doctrine, allowed to design ceremonies. Not only allowed, but simply did. For these independent-minded late-19th-century and early-20th-century women, moving from the dominant religion to a religion of the occult and mystical moved them from subordination into power.

The rise of the Golden Dawn, and Spiritualism in the United States, came at a troubled time. There was widespread poverty, a rigid patriarchal system, disease, and high mortality rates in children. With so much instability, it was difficult for many to simply live their lives with dignity. Alcohol consumption was high, domestic violence was treated casually, and many died young. In such times, it can be difficult to imagine how to get through tomorrow, let alone how to envision a better future. More… “The Feminine Mystic”

Jessa Crispin is editor and founder of Bookslut.com. She currently resides in Chicago.
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Writing this in late October, it seems clear to me that no matter what happens on Election Day there will be no feeling of victory. I will drink to forget, not to celebrate, whether the next president is declared to be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

If Donald Trump becomes president, this will be an obvious disaster for Muslims, for women, for African-Americans and Hispanics, for those living below the poverty line . . . basically for everyone in this country who is not a billionaire. And it will be a disaster for the world, as Trump’s administration is sure to worsen, if not set off, humanitarian crises around the globe.

But as a feminist, I am offended by the idea that I am supposed to be excited about the possibility that Hillary Clinton will be our next president, and I am tired of people confusing “women” with “feminists.” Because with her neoliberal agenda, her history of dismissing the needs of women and children, and her internationally hawkish nature, Clinton’s election is a victory for one woman, not all women. More… “False Feminism”

Jessa Crispin is editor and founder of Bookslut.com. She currently resides in Chicago.
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…might be hard to find, even in the 21st century. At art auctions in 2014 and 2015, 92% of lots were by male artists. But at least women don’t need permission to paint fish — anymore. (Art News, The Smart Set)

Art takes many forms, and there is one arena of art that likely will never reach gender equality: beardistry. Throughout the beard’s hairy history, it has been a symbol of religious belief, masculinity, and power. For the women out there wishing they could dabble in this medium — my apologies. Blame evolution. (The Smart Set, New Republic)

The modern resurgence in tattoo art has ancient roots, and they lie with one 5000-year-old tatted-up Tyrolean Iceman. Modern art continues to throw this old form into new relief using a different breed of subject. (Smithsonian Science News, The Smart Set) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.
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It is commonly agreed that, since the debut of The Sopranos in 1999, television has gotten really good. There is now a lot of well-written, absorbing, idiosyncratic stuff to watch, and I have, helped by my insomnia, watched a lot of it.

I am a particular fan of sustained narrative series like Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, The Wire, and House of Cards, and am looking forward to Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. It’s nice to know that shows whose run is well underway or even long over are still available for us insomniacs on-demand or on Netflix.

But of all the long-form narrative series out there, I am most taken by the CBS series, The Good Wife (about to begin its seventh season on October 4th), though it is, by all counts, seemingly the most conventional. As a network show, it lacks the taboo-breaking characteristics of cable; if you squint, it could be a standardized legal drama. But The Good Wife is fascinating because of its female characters — not so much in their predicaments as in their appearance.
More… “Painting an Inch Thick”

Paula Marantz Cohen is Dean of the Pennoni Honors College and a Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel University. She is the host of  The Drexel InterView, a unit of the Pennoni Honors College. The Drexel InterView features a half-hour conversation with a nationally known or emerging talent in the arts, culture, science, or business. She is author of five nonfiction books and six bestselling novels, including Jane Austen in Boca and Jane Austen in Scarsdale or Love, Death, and the SATs. Her essays and stories have appeared in The Yale ReviewThe American Scholar, The Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. Her latest novels are Suzanne Davis Gets a Life and her YA novel, Beatrice Bunson’s Guide to Romeo and Juliet.
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Amina sits idle in the shade of her makeshift restaurant. A pot of boiling kidney beans near her toes and a cardboard case of fifteen brown eggs remind her of the work to be done, the work she can’t do yet. She counts the eggs again, tapping her henna-orange fingernail on the shit-and-feather encrusted shells, one by one. She arrived in the upper-class Hara Mus neighborhood of Djibouti City in the gray dawn haze before the construction workers appeared, before the first call to prayer, before the sun slinked through low clouds over the Gulf of Tadjourah.

Rachel Pieh Jones is a writer raised in the Christian west who now lives in the Muslim east. Her work has been published in the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Times, and the Huffington Post among others. Find out more at her… More…

When I read Marguerite Duras’s semi-autobiographical novel, The Lover, I was twenty-four years old, just finishing my MFA in writing and wondering what I would do next with my life. I stared at her cover photo on the book jacket. She was seventy, wrinkled, yes, yet more so than any human being I had up until that point laid eyes on: wrinkles marking her face in every direction, while tough like elephant hide. I was horrified; panicking I consulted my mirror for telltale signs of aging. There were bags under my eyes from staying up late or drinking or a combination of both. I checked my driver’s license photo where I’m smiling. Were they laugh lines or crow’s feet? Like all women just ending a marriage, I was suddenly single, yet I was on the clock. I couldn’t believe that I had wasted all that time — four years dating, getting… More…

The following is an excerpt from the newly released Getting Dressed: Confession, Criticism, Cultural History, by Paula Marantz Cohen. Read on below and buy Getting Dressed today from Smart Set Press.

 

As a teenager, I had acne. Not the acute kind that could be cured by Acutaine, but the milder variety that didn’t go away even with copious use of Stridex pads and Phisohex. My spotty face eroded my self-esteem and made it hard for me to look people in the eye. But something positive did come out of those painful, pimple-ridden years: I discovered makeup and my life became richer for it.

When you start to ponder it, you realize that makeup is a… More…

Allow me to click the flashlight on, shine it under my face, and tell you a tale from a book that is innocuously, simply titled “Sweets.” Steel your courage, friends.

Imagine that it’s oh, say, 1920. You’re a young woman living in Pennsylvania, who has been suffering from poor health. One night, you take five bottles of an herb-and-booze tonic called Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, which bears the image of a wise, grandmotherly Pinkham on the package. Blotto, you shove a who-knows-what’s-in-it “sanitative wash” from the same company up your lady pocket “as a vaginal injection.” And then… then you PASS A POLYP “THE SIZE OF A HEN’S EGG” OUT OF YOUR VAGINA.

You guys. A HEN’S EGG. Like you EAT FOR BREAKFAST. Breaking off of your vaginal wall and COMING OUT OF YOUR HOO-HAH. If you don’t feel properly scared or grossed out right now, Google “cervical polyp.”… More…