HOT BLOOD, COLD SOUP
Nothing is more refreshing than cold soup when its 95 degrees inside and your blood is about to boil. Take a sit, grab a snack, and digest over some conversation.
BEFORE WE BEGIN.... A BRIEF MESSAGE FROM HELEN AMERICA:
I get chills every time I hear this one. I am a MASSIVE Grace Jones fan - I’ve seen her 4 times in concert and counting! - and the very first time, this was her opening number. “This is my voice / My weapon of choice” is an iconic opening lyric.
Women in the Media
Gathered around a dining room table feeling sweat dripping down our backs, the KLEAN editors put forth an important question: can you even tell us apart?
three similar looking Jewish broads contemplate their level of boredom when it comes to mainstream magazines.
On a scale of 1 to 10 — how bored are you?
Starring into the camera, this brunette beauty wonders if you can rank an 11 on the scale of boredom.
Gasping for breathe and fresh ideas, this unidentifiable brunette desperately needs variety to revive herself.
The third one in the lineup gives a side-eye glance in hope you might be able to recognize her.
A Brief Memorandum
Part of the reason I wanted to start the Klean was to change up the kind of media I was consuming and to redirect people’s attention to all of the women not being seen or heard in major magazines. At the moment, only the three of us are the main contributors but let us be clear — we are looking to add more people and voices to our project. Seriously hit us up! Three cis white Jewish broads aren’t exactly outside of the norm for media representation but this issue is an introduction and even more so an invitation to other women who feel similarly to how we do. We all plan on taking less visible role in the publication. My focus will be to usher in new voices and to help support talented women whose perspectives are far more instrumental and necessary than mine.
A Roundtable Conversation
MM: Every time I walk past a magazine stand, I see the same faces over and over again: Gigi, Bella, and Kendall...three women who have absolutely no connection to my life or my interests. They are marketed as the “IT” girls of the moment, the social media stars, and the girls next door.
HA: Not to mention that I grew up around one of them, and she has had a ton of plastic surgery, and yet is hailed as an aspirational, natural beauty… what message does that send?
MM: I think there's absolutely nothing wrong with plastic surgery. Everyone's body should be a site of autonomy. No one should be shamed for it but when you are being marketed as a role model to other women it is harmful to not be open about it. Especially because this concept of beauty i.e. perfection is becoming increasingly more specific and difficult to attain. It also becomes an issue of class because of how expensive these surgeries can be and begs the question: has beauty become more and more about access and wealth? This all gets more complicated when it is your job to look perfect and you are labeled as a “natural” beauty.
HA: I also agree that there’s nothing wrong with plastic surgery… to me, the feminist debate over plastic surgery is kind of like the “free the nipple” movement in that it’s really a hallmark of White Feminism; it only concerns a smaller group of women that tend to be of one color and of a higher socioeconomic class.
MM: Yes, I completely agree. We all need to keep pushing further and challenging ourselves on a personal level. What I am interested in creating is a digital space for different women to come together, to celebrate one another, to support one another, and to get outside of themselves and realize the beauty in the diversity of women not the sameness.
HA: That said, I bring it up because specifically, the instagirls are feats of surgical engineering, and they are shaping the beauty ideal that is fed to us right now.
HA: Cosmetic surgery also concerns me because I have a Big Jewish Nose, and grew up in Beverly Hills, the epicenter of the Bat Mitzvah nose job. From the time I hit about 13 years old I was questioned by both other Jewish women and non-Jews about whether or not I would keep it, and it was always done with this understanding that I MUST want to straighten it, because of course nobody wants a Big Jewish Nose (for the record, it’s not actually that big). It came to a head last year when I had surgery to correct my septum and people assumed it was a nose job. One person actually asked if I was “correcting my ethnicity,” in an enthusiastic tone. If I, a very pale white woman, still got that line of questioning, I could only imagine what’s thought about and said to women of color both consciously and unconsciously.
The standard of beauty is very much what we see in magazines, on billboards, and in film, and so much of the time it’s been altered to cover ethnicity and project white supremacy.
MM: Nothing has changed! Where are the women of color? Queer women? Trans women? Gender nonconforming people? That story about gender fluidity featuring Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik was just embarrassing. They are two cis people swapping clothes-gender fluidity is not a trend. That was a nail in the coffin moment for me-Vogue was out. I feel like we are living in a time where more and more women want to expand their perspectives-here I’m speaking for myself as a white women- and a large part of that is changing the media that is being consumed. But in order for that consumption to have any value the types of voices we get to listen to and the faces we see need to change. Not just a nudge but a complete radicalization.
HA: When we do see women who are not cis, thin, and white, they’re tokenized, too, and they’re used for their ‘otherness,’ instead of being acknowledged simply as human beings. The stories always come with a self-congratulatory pat on the back, like, see, we featured Ashley Graham in one story where she was photographed with other curve models, we don’t need to do it again with any other curve models until the next time we have a special issue dedicated to “Shape.” I see a lot of editorials that reference diversity but only feature one color of woman - for example, shoots with only east Asian models - and are run sporadically.
SF: There’s a lot at stake with the very proposition of a “women’s” magazine; any publication that labels itself that way expresses their definition of that demographic, and I think, as is clear from the dialogue we’ve been having, that definition is often exclusionary and marginalizing. Kimberle Crenshaw, who is often cited as the first to coin the term intersectionality, wrote that in movements focused on gender, specifically feminism, “race and gender converge so that the concerns of minority women fall into the void between concerns about women’s issues and concerns about racism”. It’s on us to prevent concerns about racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and other insidious societal forces from “falling into the void.” Instead, we have to counteract these forces by doing real due diligence to keep our content honest, meaning we recognize our privilege (3 college-educated white Jewish girls in big cities) but also amplify the voices of other experiences that are not our own but equally as valid and real.
MM: As Lucinda Chambers, the now legendary former fashion director at British Vogue said after she was fired: “Truth be told, I haven’t read Vogue in years[...] Maybe I was too close to it after working there for so long, but I never felt I led a Vogue-y kind of life. The clothes are just irrelevant for most people — so ridiculously expensive.” If one of the highest ranking directors at Vogue doesn’t feel connected to the content, how the hell will the rest of us? .
HA: It’s funny, because back in 2014 when this maelstrom that is the Klean started, the “millennial pink” craze was starting to form but hadn’t hit yet. It was pretty kismet when Margot later proposed organizing each issue by color, because I think the first words out of my mouth were “NO FUCKING MILLENNIAL PINK.”
It’s symptomatic of this larger trend that I’ve noticed about the way that we and others treat the millennial generation. I say it in my “How I Live Now” questionnaire - but it’s really evident to me that millennials are treated like children until we have children (on the whole, obviously that’s another discussion when you bring gender, race, and other factors into it). But we really are treated like we’re kids. And we’re not. I’m 23. Until now this age was considered perfectly grown up and adult, and the standards of adulthood were the standards 20 somethings were held to.
So when I see millennial pink — which, let’s call it what it, is a slightly darkened BABY PINK — become the de facto color of choice for corporations, advertisers, clothing companies, cosmetic companies, publishing houses, even restaurants to use to appeal to us, I think it’s incredibly infantilizing. It’s fucking insulting, to be honest. Because it also, I think, allows a lot of us to become complacent in that childish treatment.
Look at the way our government treats us. I supported and voted for Hillary - happily - but if you look at the way the massive millennial support that Bernie Sanders received was treated, it was ignored, not taken seriously, or passed over until it was far too late.
SF: I spend a lot of time on Instagram -- even more now that I’m running the Klean’s account-- and I feel that the general consensus around social media is that we’re all supposed to be looking to someone or something else as #goals. Whether it’s #bodygoals, #brunchgoals, #bestfriendgoals… it seems we’re expected to look to others in order to establish our own sets of personal expectations. What kind of message does that send? It’s really easy to start thinking that I’m not enough if I don’t look/eat/dress/vacation like the people filling my screens, and, c’mon, I’m a privileged cis white girl! I don’t even have to struggle (as so many other women do) to find public figures who share physical, socio-economic, and political aspects of my identity, and I’m still not satisfied with the state of social media representation.
MM: YES! Please I am so bored with seeing the same faces over and over.
HA: Moving off of Sasha and Margot’s points, too, there’s this… ugliness to women’s media that I see. I grew up loving magazines, and had a subscription to Vogue Parisfrom 2008 until Carine Roitfeld left. My grandfather was a very well known art collector - he actually donated his collection to France towards the end of his life, and they built a museum for it - and he worked with the Gucci family for something like 30 years. I grew up in a world of aesthetic beauty, and was encouraged to find beauty in everyday life - but because of the fashion connection, I found myself drawn to that world, too. I have friends that have worked at major publications, who work for major stylists, and major brands, and I feel like I’m always asking them where the beauty went. It’s aesthetic and in attitude, I think. James Scully did an incredible talk where he spoke about the terrible way that models are treated, simply because people love to reinforce hierarchies. But, back to aesthetics… I look at Vogue, and beyond the points that Margot made about it, I don’t see anything beautiful in their editorials, in their glorification of white women with outdated titles (I know that British Vogue is more guilty of this), in their blatant yet lazy commodification of social media figures who are celebrated because they happen to come from well known gene pools.
MM: Side note: But I find it funny that we are still referring to Vogue as the standard for women’s magazines.
HA: The irony being that, when we say “women’s media,” we automatically think, “fashion magazine.”
SF: TRUE! And with that comes the suggestion that the more serious content to come out of fashion-centric publications are “women’s issues.” Just now as sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood are getting spotlight, I think they are still considered - and dismissed! - as “women’s issues” by a broader public. Even though systemic harassment and assault, like issues of reproductive health, affect ALL people and should be EVERYONE’S burden, their inextricability from publications that have so long been fashion-driven somehow allows them to be continually pushed to the side as ‘just for the ladies.’
MM: I can name so many other publications that are doing great work and none of them is Vogue. On my list are The Gentlewoman, TANK, Riposte, apartmento, etc. Reading these publications was essential in my discovery that there is so much else out there aside from the media we are spoon fed.
HA: I know that the world is becoming an uglier place, but I feel optimistic that in its realism, the KLEAN will also be able to highlight the beauty in everyday life, in ways that I’m not seeing right now.
MM: Amen to that!
This content has been edited and condensed for your attention span.
Join the Conversation!
We want to hear from you! Tell us the magazines that are doing it for you. Send us links! Let us know what you aren’t seeing in the media that you would want to see. Vent your frustrations with us and join the conversation. And, if you feel moved to, please reach out to us to get involved!