Book Review: Better Than Good Hair

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Before you start reading Better Than Good Hair by founder Nikki Walton you might want to grab a higlighter or a notepad and pen. This book, published last month by HarperCollins imprint Amistad, is full of tips on cleansing, conditioning, cutting, and coiffing curly hair.

The book begins with a foreword by actress and comedian Kim Wayans and a prologue by Walton. Wayans and Walton share their own hair stories, which really resonated with me because they're similar to mine. Like me, they too didn't really have an addiction to the "creamy crack" but were obsessed with flat ironing their tresses straight for years until they finally decided to embrace their curls.

No two curly girls' hair journeys are the same and Walton recognizes this. She includes first-person stories from a number of other naturalistas throughout the book. And these stories move beyond basic hair care and also discuss how to handle negative reactions to your hair from family, friends, and significant others. One article also seeks to quell fears that sporting natural hair might hurt your career. Another gives tips on how to exercise and maintain your 'do.

Better Than Good Hair is perfect for new naturals and for those still considering the big chop, but even if you've been natural for years you'll still be jotting down notes while reading this book. I've been wearing my hair in its naturally curly state for 11 years but Better Than Good Hair inspired me to revisit and revamp my hair care regimen and routine.

Walton makes it clear that her book isn't meant to be a memoir or a political manifesto intent on shaming readers to give up their relaxers. Walton simply wants her readers to look and feel beautiful and she understands that for many women, especially women of color, that process starts at the top; it starts with our hair.

Common Has Shown Me the Light

I missed church on Sunday morning but on Monday night I left Birmingham's Bartow Arena feeling like I'd heard one of the best sermons of my life.

Yesterday hip-hop star Common gave a lecture to several hundred students, faculty and Birmingham residents at the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Bartow Arena. Common's visit was part of a UAB's Black History Month celebrations.

People who know me know that I love Common! I love him so much my husband has been joking for weeks about me trying to run off with the king of conscious hip-hop during his visit. I love him so much that I went to last night's talk despite the fact I've been fighting an illness since late Friday night. (I've coughed so much that I can't speak above a whisper right now.) But Common's talk was so worth braving last night's rainy weather.

The focus of his topic was simple: greatness. Com said that for him greatness is not only about using your gifts to take yourself to a higher level, but also about inspiring others to reach their highest potential as well. Jesus, Common said, was an ultimate symbol of greatness because one could be healed by simply being in his presence. If God sent Jesus to be an example for us, then we must aspire to be great as well. But how do we get there? How do we achieve greatness?

The Chicago-born rapper, actor and author broke it down saying you must 1) find your path 2) believe in your path and 3) live it!

First, find your path. Find your passion and pursue it wholeheartedly, even if those you love don't share your vision. Common said when he decided he wanted to be a rapper his mother wasn't a fan of the idea and wanted him to focus on education instead.  Even though he knew his mother only wanted what was best for him, he also knew he had to follow his heart. And we conscious hip-hop fans sure are glad he did.

Second, believe in your path. During his talk Common admitted that even after the success of songs like "I Used to Love H.E.R." and "The Light" he still didn't quite believe in himself. Com spoke with honesty and talked about the heartache he felt after his break up with songstress Erykah Badu. But during his healing process he learned something valuable about himself: he was always playing second fiddle to other people, be it in relationships or to other artists. "I was willing to dim my light," he confessed. But the light we have is not meant to be dimmed. After Common stopped dimming his light for others he released Be, an album considered by music journalists as an instant classic and an album that garnered five Grammy nominations.

Our light is not meant to be hidden, but meant to shine on others, he said, calling to mind Matthew 5:14-16, which reads:

You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way. let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. 

See, I told you this man took us to church. And it didn't stop there.

Thirdly, living your path is about holding on to your dream even in the face of adversity. "Everything you believe and everything you want won't come exactly when you want it," he said.  "You will be challenged." Common has had his share such as the disappointment he felt when he didn't win any of those Grammys for which Be was nominated or the grief he endured after losing a close family member a few years ago. But the challenges we face, even those that cause us to question God, are meant to help us grow. And this time Common actually did pull out Scripture to bring home this point, quoting from James 1:2-4, which reads:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers (and Common added "my sisters," making my feminist heart swoon a bit), whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

By this point I was ready for an altar call. And I had made a decision that I believed in my heart and was ready to confess with my mouth, except for the fact that I've lost my voice and can't speak. So I'm confessing here on my blog instead:

I believe that it is my path to start a magazine because this has been my dream for nearly two decades. And I believe it is my path to grow See Jane Write into a mighty organization that can help other women make their dreams come true too. I believe I can and will do these things and I'm moving forward whether you're with me or not.

Thanks to Common I've seen the light and I know it's time to be great.

Monday Motivation: Have Childlike Faith In Yourself

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cute little girl with pigtails in blue outfit romps and jumps on the sand beach.
Run after your dreams with childlike faith!
Image by Mike Baird via Flickr/Creative Commons

We Christians are taught we must have childlike faith in God. We are told to believe everything will work out even when all hell is breaking loose. We are to follow God's lead even when it seems like the maps on his GPS are out-of-date.

I've always struggled with having childlike faith as I'm a person who questions everything and because I am the ultimate control freak. I'm so much of a control freak that I don't even like surprise parties.

Ironically, having childlike faith in God is slowly getting easier as I get older. I'm realizing that most things are out of my control anyway because God is sovereign. And it's becoming easier to accept that God's ways are not my ways and that some things I just won't understand this side of heaven, as the old folks say. But if I truly believe that God loves me then I can trust that whatever happens is in my best interest in the end, even if in the moment it completely sucks.

A few days ago, however, I started thinking about how all of us -- regardless of our religious beliefs -- need to have childlike faith in ourselves.

On Feb. 19, Redhot Writing Hood wrote a great post on kicking self-doubt to the curb. In the post she points out that self-doubt is a learned behavior because as children we believe we can be and do anything. She writes:

As a child we could imagine ourselves as becoming anything in the world, a ballerina, an astronaut, a marine biologist... We never doubted we had it in us to become these things. We saw life through the eyes of our parents and teachers who said we could do anything and be anything... Then as we grew older we start to realize maybe they were wrong.

We start to doubt ourselves because as we grow older we face failure and rejection. But what would happen if we chose to believe in ourselves anyway?

There was a time when I wanted to be the first female president of the United States. When I was a teenager I wanted to launch my own magazine. We let go of some dreams because our goals and interests change. I realized I'm not interested in politics enough to run for any office. But sometimes we let go of dreams because our rational selves, our self-doubt tells us to do so. How on earth could I start a magazine with journalism in such a tumultuous state?

But then I think of my students and how they have yet to let self-doubt discourage them. I think of the boy who believes he will one day be an Oscar-winning filmmaker, the girl who believes she'll one day be a soloist for American Ballet Theatre. And I believe in them too because their passion for their art is so strong. So why can't I believe in myself for the same reason?

Just as I believe God's love for me is strong enough to help me endure any hardship, I need to have childlike faith that my love for writing will be strong enough to make my dreams come true.

What If Carrie Bradshaw Wrote a Murder Mystery?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I’m not usually a fan of murder mystery novels. And I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a book snob. I’m certainly not one. You can find The Carrie Diaries series on my bookshelf right now.

But I like reading fluffy fiction about Carrie Bradshaw for the same reason I enjoy heavy classics like Toni Morison’s The Bluest Eye and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar: I am a sucker for well-developed and relatable characters.  And these are hard to find in most mystery novels.

Nevertheless, over the Christmas holidays I read Billie Thomas’ Murder on the First Day of Christmas and I’m sure glad I did.

Set in Birmingham, Alabama, the novel follows Chloe Carstairs and her mother Amanda, two decorators who find themselves in the middle of a homicide investigation after two of their clients are killed. Chloe and her mom soon become amateur sleuths determined to crack the case and complete hilarity ensues.

You may remember that I interviewed Thomas in December shortly after the book was made available on Kindle. I’m happy to announce that Murder on the First Day of Christmas is now available in paperback.

Whether you like murder mysteries or not, you should give this novel a try largely because of the charismatic main characters.  

You will immediately love Chloe Carstairs because she’ll remind you of your best friend, or yourself, or both. Like many of us, she’s a 30-something gal struggling to navigate her personal and professional lives and having many hilarious and humbling encounters along the way.

But it’s Chloe’s relationship with her mom that really got me hooked. Their mother-daughter banter will have you laughing out loud, while the obvious love they have for each other will have you picking up the phone to call your parents just to say “hi.”

Thomas does a great job of unraveling the mystery as well and soon you will have put on your detective hat too, trying to figure out who done it along with Chloe and Amanda.

Of course, I enjoyed all the references to Birmingham and I hope non-natives will read it and realize there’s more to Birmingham than they once believed.

Overall, I just love how cleverly this story is put together. Even the funny little anecdotes told throughout narrative come to serve a purpose in the end, showing you just how talented Thomas really is.

Cross-posted at the See Jane Write blog

The Blogger's Guide to Birmingham Fashion Week 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Birmingham Fashion Week 2013 kicks off Saturday, Feb. 23, and if you’re a fashion blogger you know this is an event you shouldn’t miss.

Unfortunately, however, you did miss the Feb. 15 deadline to apply for a media pass and you simply can’t afford to buy tickets for every BFW event.

But all hope is not lost. You can still feature Birmingham Fashion Week on your blog without breaking the bank.

The Birmingham Fashion Week kick-off party is free so make plans to be at Gus Mayer on Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. BFW models will be live modeling in display windows while the community rocks out with DJ Coco.

If you only attend one other event it should be the Finale Runway show set for Saturday, March 2.

This event will feature a showing of the 2013 spring collection by Tibi, an internationally renowned brand designed by Amy Smilovic.

"This designer typically only shows on stages like the Mercedes Benz New York Fashion Week so it is an honor for Alabama to be able to host such a label," says Kimberlee Brooks, spokesperson for BFW.

Also, the winners from the Rising Design Star, Emerging Designers and Fresh Face of Fashion competitions will be announced on Saturday too. Thus this event could give you good material for a feature on the future of fashion.

For the Rising Design Star competition middle and high school students were challenged to create a garment using only non-traditional materials such as bubble wrap, trash bags, computer keyboard parts, coffee filters, bottle tops, etc. The top 30 are chosen to compete at BFW. For the Emerging Designers Competition college and post-grad students had to design and create four garments the top 16 will be chosen to showcase their items on stage. The Fresh Face of Fashion competition is a competition for the official BFW models, who are judged throughout the week by industry professionals. The winner receives a grand prize of $3500 worth of cash and prizes and the title of the Fresh Face of Fashion.

"If bloggers can go to more than one night, both Thursday and Friday's runway shows will also be thrilling to watch," Brooks says.

Jeff Garner’s sustainable, organic label Prophetik will headline Thursday’s show. This current collection "The Princess Grace Tribute Collection" was debuted in Monaco and was even on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, proving that fashion truly is an art form.

On Friday, Anthony Ryan Auld, who recently won Project Runway All-Star Season 2, will showcase his fashion-forward yet wearable women's clothing line.

Rising Design Stars and Emerging Designers will also showcase their talents both Thursday and Friday night. 

For next year’s Birmingham Fashion Week be sure to apply for your media pass in January. And don’t feel like you can’t apply for one just because you don’t work for a magazine or newspaper.

“We grant many bloggers media passes, even if they are not associated with a mainstream media outlet,” Brooks says. “The most important thing is the kind of base and following the blogger has built. We enjoy working with writers from all backgrounds and reader demographics!”

The organizers of BFW do want to know how many Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and readers you have, so get those media kits ready.

Doing a good job covering this year’s event will also increase your chances of scoring a pass next year.

“Live social media coverage and follow-up posts are key for us,” Brooks says.

For a complete schedule of events and to order tickets visit the Birmingham Fashion Week website.

Originally published on the See Jane Write blog.

Introducing Tress Talk Tuesday

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Today I'm launching a new weekly feature -- Tress Talk Tuesday!

You may be thinking, "Wait, I thought this was a blog about writing, blogging, and women's empowerment." Well, you're absolutely right. And for years natural hair has been one of the most popular topics and niches of the blogosphere. Furthermore, one of the most empowering things I did in my early 20s was decide to sport my hair in its naturally curly state.

So you should be thinking, "What took you so long?"

Here are some of the things you can expect from this new feature:
  • reviews of natural hair products
  • reviews of books on natural hair 
  • Q&As with natural hair bloggers
  • previews and recaps of natural hair events 
  • marketing tips for natural hair bloggers 
  • post ideas for natural hair bloggers
  • blogging advice from successful natural hair bloggers that any writer could use, regardless of niche
  • essays on the politics of natural hair

I hope you all are as excited about this new feature as I am.

What new features are you launching on your blog?

Monday Motivation: Sunday School

Monday, February 18, 2013

Exit Sign
Image by Kristin Nador via Flickr/Creative Commons
I was late for church yesterday. So God decided to teach me a lesson, but not about tardiness.

I was late because I missed my exit. I've been driving to this church nearly every Sunday morning for over three years and I missed my freaking exit. I missed my exit because I was lost in thought. Usually on Sunday mornings I change my radio dial from my local NPR station and tune into the local contemporary Christian station so that I can prepare my heart and mind for worship. Yesterday, though my radio was tuned to God music, my mind was not tuned to God thoughts. I was busy thinking about my latest writing project, so much so that I missed my exit.

As I was yelling "Are you kidding me?!" at my dashboard as if it were going to somehow give me back those lost minutes a voice inside me calmly said, "If you aren't focused on me you're going to go the wrong way."

And with that God basically punched me in the gut. I fought back tears because I obviously would have no time to reapply my mascara in the parking lot. I yelled (to the dashboard again): "OK, God. I get it. We'll discuss this more later."

For those of you who don't know, my church is ginormous. We have four Sunday services and additional campuses all across the state to accommodate about 23,000 weekly attendees.  In other words, if you arrive late the chances you're going to find a seat up front are about as good as God speaking to you via a burning bush. But I guess I need to be on the lookout for flaming foliage because as I was searching around for a spot an usher came to me and said, "There's room for one up front." I landed a spot on the second row.

I'd never sat up front before because I never wanted to bother with the hunt such a seat requires and I never understood why some of my pals made such a big deal over it. But yesterday both worship and the message seemed better than ever! And I think I know why. The service wasn't necessarily any more awesome than it usually is; I was just paying better attention. I admit that I am very easily distracted ALL THE TIME, even at church. I'll be in the middle of singing about God's holy name when someone walks in with a gorgeous bag and I'm suddenly praising the name of Kate Spade instead of Jesus Christ.

At the end of the service that little voice that nearly ruined my makeup in the car had something else to say: "The closer you are to me, the less distracted you will be."

I thought we agreed to talk about this later.

OK. OK. I really, really get it. I've been so focused on my goals that I've been ignoring my God, even though I fooled myself into thinking I was putting God first because I was constantly praying about my dreams.

But at the end of the day, I have to love God more than I love my dream.

Life Is But a Dream

Sunday, February 17, 2013

There's often chatter on some of my favorite blogs about whether superstar Beyonce is or isn't a feminist. Her girl power anthems, all-female band and determination to be independent lead some to say that Bey is absolutely a feminist. But some look to her sexy persona and performances and say she's a pawn to the male gaze. Some folks even complain about her decision to name her upcoming tour "The Mrs. Carter Show."

Despite the fact that I've been waving the flag of feminism for years, I actually don't care whether or not Beyonce has the label of "feminist." She continues to inspire me regardless. 

I had no intentions of writing about her HBO documentary, Life Is But a Dream, that debuted Saturday night. But when I found myself scribbling down notes throughout the program, I knew a blog post was about to be born. 

Believe it or not, sometimes I do have reservations about calling myself a feminist, but not because of the negative connotations and terrible misconceptions people have about what being a feminist means. Sometimes I feel as if feminism doesn't fully describe my politics, my life mission or my love for and devotion to women. Feminism is simply a belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. But my desire to improve the lives of women and help them express themselves is about so much more than equality. It's about sisterhood.

In the documentary Beyonce describes how much her love for women influences her work. She says, "I'm always thinking about women and what we need to hear." And with those words she describes exactly why I blog and why I started See Jane Write

Beyonce goes on to talk about how important it is for women to have conversations with other women and how much she grows from those heartfelt discussions. I feel the same way, which is why I want to build community here on this blog and offline through See Jane Write networking events. 

Life Is But a Dream is a compelling documentary because it reminds viewers that Beyonce is human. Yes, her life is acutely different from ours, but she still has insecurities and heartache, hopes and dreams. She's a woman of faith. And when she's talking about her husband you see she's still a girl in love with a boy, and suddenly the fact that she's calling her new tour the Mrs. Carter Show makes you smile.

But obviously it's when Beyonce talks about her concern for women that she makes my feminist heart flutter. In the documentary during a segment on her Billboard Music Awards performance of "Run the World (Girls)"  she says: 

It really pisses me off that women don't get the same opportunities as men do or money for that matter because let's face it: money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define our values and to define what's sexy and what's feminine. And that's bullshit. At the end of the day it's not about equal rights it's about how we think. We have to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. We have to step up as women and take the lead and reach as high as humanly possible. That's what I'm going to do, that's my philosophy and that's what "Girls" is all about. 

Yes. This. 

I love that she puts the ball in our court. It's time out for whining about men or "the Man" holding us down. It's time that we take control of our careers and our creativity. 

It's time to take control of your life so it can finally look just like the one you live in your dreams. 

Originally published on the See Jane Write blog.

22 Reasons Women Writers Should Love Birmingham

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Birmingham's skyline from it's highest point
Image by Andre Natta via Flickr/Creative Commons

Monday morning I received an email that made my day. Actually, it made my week.

The message was from a young woman who is a senior at Harvard University interested in journalism. She contacted me because after she graduates she wants to move to... wait for it... Birmingham!

She came across my name and contact information via the See Jane Write blog and said that she's eager to get involved in See Jane Write once she moves to the Magic City.

The fact that a student at Harvard (who's originally from the D.C. area) wants to move to Birmingham may come to a shock to some, but not to me. This young woman has figured out something that, unfortunately, took me three decades to learn -- Birmingham is a good place for writers.

This month's issue of Birmingham Magazine features a list of 22 reasons to love the city. This list, along with the aforementioned email, inspired me to create a list of my own -- 22 reason women writers should love Birmingham.

Read on to see if your favorite things about Birmingham made this list.

32 Before 33

Monday, February 11, 2013


I tried. I really did. 

I really did try to go through this year without making a list of goals, but I just couldn't do it. What can I say? I'm a dreamer and I'm a listophile. 

This weekend I celebrated my 32nd birthday and I just couldn't help but draft a list of 32 things I want to accomplish before my next birthday. 

Here goes...

Reset and Rejoice

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Acknowledged Reset
Image by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr/Creative Commons
Reset. I entered February with plans of blogging each weekday about regional and national feminist issues. Just one week into the month I've already realized that goal was a bit too lofty. So today I reset and revamp my plans. Beginning Feb. 11 I will post new content each Monday, Wednesday and Friday and my focus will be writing, wellness, and women's empowerment.

Rejoice. At first I felt a bit discouraged when I forced myself to accept that I can't blog as often as I had hoped. But when I began to think about why I can't blog daily, I wanted to do a little happy dance. OK, maybe I did do a little happy dance. I don't have time to blog daily because so many wonderful things are happening right now -- I'm the new race and diversity blogger for my city's NPR station, I'm freelancing for USA Today and several other publications, and See Jane Write is growing like crazy. Furthermore, I want to start guest blogging more to help get the word out about this little site of mine. Thus, my decision to blog less is not one that saddens me because the fact that I need to scale back is just proof that my prayers are being answered and my cup runneth over.

Do you need to change your plans for your blog? What should you be celebrating today?

How WBHM Saved My Relationship with Radio

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ghetto Blaster
Image by Stephen Barnett via Flickr/Creative Commons

"I think I'm in love with my radio
Cause it never lets me down
And I fall in love with my stereo
Whenever I hear that sound"
- "Radio" by Beyonce

When I was a teenager I believed no one could love me like my radio.

It was always there for me. I listened to the radio while getting ready for and riding to school each morning. My radio made evening homework sessions go by faster and every night my radio sang me to sleep.

I still have fond memories of calling my favorite DJ to request my favorite song and then waiting by the radio with a blank cassette in the tape deck so I could record the highly anticipated track.

R&B ballads by the likes of Mariah Carey gave me fuel for all the sad, angst-filled love poems I wrote  back then. And the anthems sang by girl groups like TLC stirred within me a sense of self-pride that would eventually blossom into my feminism.

Then one day everything changed. Radio and I grew apart.

I could try to blame it all on mainstream music.  I could say rap music became too sexist and senseless and that pop and R&B became too trite. But, truthfully, I'm the one who changed. My favorite artists became folks like Ani DiFranco, musicians who don't get mainstream radio airplay.  And club bangers started to give me a headache.

So I turned off my radio.

Enter WBHM, Birmingham's NPR station.

I admit that in the past I was never a huge NPR fan because I felt the radio was supposed to be a source of escape and entertainment. As I grew older I started tuning in to NPR for updates on major news events, but was still far from a loyal listener.

But when I moved back to my hometown of Birmingham I decided to give WBHM a chance. I quickly got hooked on station's programming and was impressed by events like Issues & Ales.

Radio and I began to rekindle the flame.

I am a fan of good music for the same reason that I am a writer -- I love stories. And WBHM is always telling me an intriguing tale whether it's about life for children in Palestine or the story of a gay man being reunited with his siblings after being cast out the family by his ultra conservative father. Just yesterday I learned about the evolution of hand dryers and last week I began my day listening to an inspiring interview with Sonia Sotomayor.

I've become one of those people who are almost late for work because they're sitting in the parking lot in their cars enraptured by an NPR feature report. Every weekend I look forward to listening to the word game Says You.

But what about music? Well, if it weren't for WBHM I would have never learned about the artist Kendra Morris, whose album Banshee was one of my favorite releases of 2012.

Now WBHM and I are taking our relationship to a new level. We're really making things official. I've signed on to be a Race & Diversity blogger for the station's website. You can check out my debut post here.

And I leave you with this...

Forgive me, sir, but I was wrong when I said feminism has nothing to do with you.

Monday, February 4, 2013

image via

When I came out as a feminist I felt I had an entire city celebrating with me. 

I use the phrase "came out" in an attempt to reflect the gravity of a Christian gal from Birmingham, Alabama identifying as a feminist. Many of the churches I've attended in the Deep South consider feminists to be women whose hobbies include witchcraft, killing babies, and emasculating men. Thus, calling myself a feminist is pretty big deal. 

I kind of cheated. I came out as a feminist in a column I wrote for a paper not in Birmingham, but in Louisville -- a Kentucky city that isn't quite sure if it's Midwestern or Southern. The paper was also mostly read by residents in their 20s and 30s. When the column was published my email inbox was flooded with messages from other women who shared my beliefs. The owner of a local boutique cut out the article, taped it to one of the walls of her store and wrote above it: "We love Javacia." 

The purpose of the article was not only to announce that I was a feminist, but also to dispel the myth that feminism is about emasculating men. But looking back, I wish I could change the headline. It read: "Excuse me, sir, but feminism has nothing to do with you."

And now I know that simply isn't true. 

I was young when I wrote that -- only 25 or 26 years old -- and I had only identified as feminist for a couple of years. So I hadn't read much contemporary feminist writing and thus I hadn't realized how much men are hurt by sexism too.

Gender stereotypes tell men they shouldn't show emotions. Gender stereotypes tell dads they're dumb and that if they decide to stay home with their children they aren't real men. 

And recently a man in Florida was told that he couldn't take his wife's last name, essentially, because men don't do that. 

According to a Reuters news report, Lazaro Sopena opted to change his name after his 2011 marriage to Hanh Dinh to help keep her family's name alive. He obtained a new passport and Social Security card and changed his bank account and credit cards before applying to update his drivers license. Following the same steps required of a woman who take her husband's last name, Dinh presented his marriage certificate to his local DMV and paid a small fee to get a new driver's license. 

But then a year later Dinh received a letter from Florida's DMV last December accusing him of "obtaining a driving license by fraud," and informing him that his license would be suspended at the end of the month. 

Dinh is fighting the DMV on the decision but was told that to change his name legally he has to go to court first and go through a process that takes several months and has a $400 filing fee. 

When he explained he was changing his name due to marriage, he was told "that only works for women." 

Only nine states enable a man to change his name upon marriage: California, New York, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Iowa, Georgia and North Dakota.
Apparently, it's OK for women to change their names after marriage because they're considered an extension of their husbands. 

And the fact that there may be men (and women) reading about this story and thinking that it's absurd for a man to take his wife's name is just more proof that the feminist movement is still needed for both women and men alike.   

This Is What a Ladyblog Looks Like

Friday, February 1, 2013

Jane Morris Blogging, after Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Image by Mike Licht via Flickr/Creative Commons

Exactly a year ago today Salon published an article by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano that made me want to leap from the sofa and start clapping. The article is titled "In Defense of Ladyblogs" and is in response to a piece by Molly Fischer that was quite critical of such sites.

A ladyblog is a website that is, obviously, written for women, by women. These sites not only discuss traditional women's issues but give them signature treatment . They're often considered an alternative to (and sometimes even a watchdog of) women's glossy publications as they tackle serious and controversial topics that many mainstream magazines tend to avoid and cover these topics with a distinct voice.

Fischer, in her article, argues that as these ladyblogs become more popular they also become more trite as they make room for too much fluff and lose the focus on the serious content found in other alternative women's media, such as explicitly feminist spaces. She believes many of these sites have gone sort or even absurd over time. Fischer says that essentially ladyblogs have become an adult online slumber party. “The Internet, it turned out, was a place to make people like you: the world’s biggest slumber party, and the best place to trade tokens of slumber party intimacy—makeup tips, girl crushes, endless inside jokes,” Fischer writes. 

But Whitefield-Madrano argues that these virtual sleepovers are a good thing and I completely agree.

Whitefield-Madrano believes that ladyblogs can and often do foster sisterhood and reminds us that oftentimes friendships are forged in the fluff.

Think about your best friend. Sure, you've cried together while talking about your dysfunctional family, your failed relationships, and your broken dreams. Perhaps you've even gone through a serious health crisis together. But you've also shared clothes and makeup tips, confessed crushes to each other, and sat side-by-side while watching ridiculous movies.

Furthermore, some of the explicitly feminist blogs, even those that I love, can feel alienating. As a feminist who is also a woman of faith, I sometimes wonder if my religious beliefs would be ridiculed.  Also, as Whitefield-Madrano says, "if explicitly feminist blogs are the only acceptable online outlet for feminists to inhabit, we’d get exhausted mighty quickly." 

This is partly why I've struggled with the idea of really working to establish myself as a feminist blogger in the first place. The idea of constantly writing about gender equality made feel like I needed a nap. 

I'm not implying that ladyblogs are perfect or above reproach. I've read plenty of articles on the ladyblogs mentioned in Fischer's piece that have caused me to strain my eye-rolling muscles. And in a follow-up piece Fischer brings up a great point about the notion of sisterhood stating that "second-wave sisterhood was always suspect, especially to the many women it ignored: women who weren't white, women who weren't straight, women who weren't comfortably bourgeois."

But this is exactly why I believe (and have even been told by my feminist friends) that I need to continue work on my blog. My goal is to create a blog that is feminist and fun, insightful and inclusive.

So today, on the anniversary of the publication of Whitefield-Madrano's piece, I am here to declare that The Writeous Babe Project is a ladyblog.

This means you can expect plenty of discussions about feminism and gender equality issues. You can also expect posts about writing, not only because I'm a writer, but because I see writing as a feminist act. But sometimes I may also post a picture of what I wore to a party, my workout regimen for the week, or my latest girl crush. And I want you to share the same in the comments, on my Facebook page, and with me via Twitter.

I'm throwing an online slumber party here and you are all invited.