Category: Learn Something New

No Excuses: News Roundup

I’ll be honest, guys: I didn’t write a post today. A lot is changing really fast over here and, while I planned out the rest of the week, Wednesday fell through the cracks. I promise to reveal all in due time, but right now the best I can do is provide a roundup of what I’m reading today.

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Brit and Co.: Why this kid will inspire you to throw like a girl

Brit and Co.: What Kerry Washington just said will change the way you talk about your body

The Everygirl: CEO/Founder of The Giving Keys Caitlin Crosby

Vice: The FDA finally approves female Viagra

Salon: The war on unlikeable women, Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian, and the brazen misogyny we choose to ignore

Refinery29: Hey, remember those Disney movies about periods and STDs?

Refinery29: Two women made it through this insanely grueling army school

Book Review: Rachel Hills + The Sex Myth

In this social media saturated age, it’s easy to think that others are having more fun than you. On Facebook and Instagram, users serve as curators of their own lives, only sharing the details they deem important. Inundated with a barrage of smiling faces and party scenes, it’s easy to misconstrue the truth.

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Image courtesy of Simon and Schuster

In her new book, The Sex Myth, journalist Rachel Hills argues that the same is true for our sex lives. Conditioned by the society that we should be having the most and best sex at all times, we curate our statements and tailor them to align with these expectations. In the resulting chasm between expectations and reality lies what Hills calls “the sex myth.” Over the course of seven years, Hills spoke to people from all walks of life across the United States, Europe, and Australia to uncover their true sex lives and dispel common false beliefs about sex.

In general, Hills discovered, people grossly overestimate the amount of sex other people are having. In a study of American male college students, subjects assumed that 80 percent of their classmates were having sex every weekend; in truth, 80 percent was the number of graduating college students who had ever had sex. While attitudes and expectations surrounding sex have changed over time, the pressure to conform to these expectations remains strong. In 2015, a woman can assert her confidence and control through sex, having more than one sexual partner is not only okay but rather expected, and “vanilla sex” is seen as basic in favor of slight infusions of kink.

When people fail to meet these expectations, the resulting value judgments can feel disappointing. As Hills points out, society conflates one’s sex life with one’s own identity. In subject Cara’s case, her lack of sexual desire leads her to believe that there is something wrong with her; she spends much of the book searching for a new identity and, for a time, believes she is asexual in an attempt to label her feelings. While she later eschews the term, Cara’s identity crisis illustrates a possible outcome of what happens when we fall short of these internalized expectations. Are you doing it enough? When you do it, is it exciting? Is sex the magical, mythic transcendently life changing experience the media leads us to believe?

Hills argues that the answer is “probably not, and that’s okay.” While sex can be important on an individual level, she explains, “…if we actually want people to engage in sex in whatever way is right for them, we need all forms of consensual sex between adults to be OK.” As individuals, we perpetuate these myths based on what details we include and what we omit when discuss our own sex lives. Hills cites a conversation with a friend in which she renamed the post-one night stand “walk of shame” as the “stride of pride”; later, she catches herself and acknowledges that while her own sexual history does not include a string of one night stands, her statement suggests otherwise. By presenting our sex lives in a more honest manner, we can transform the definition of what a “normal” sex life looks like.

While Hills’ interviews throughout the book are strong, the final chapter would benefit from some conversations with people putting this theory into practice. The lead-up clearly illustrates the gap and the underlying dissatisfaction with the current state, but Hills ultimately charges readers to start the conversation themselves.

Remembering Amy Winehouse

July 21st marks the four year anniversary of singer Amy Winehouse’s death, and I plan to spend the day watching Asif Kapadia’s new documentary, Amy: The Girl Behind the NameNormally, I’m critical of biopics; I still haven’t watched Whitney in spite of its favorable reviews. Particularly in instances of drug and alcohol abuse, it’s easy for directors to portray the subject as a train wreck instead of a person. But from what I’ve read, Kapadia goes beyond the tattoos and the beehive to highlight her wit and talent. While her family is less than pleased with the result (they argue that the film portrays them as doing little to intervene and help Amy), I’m interested in seeing this other side of her. Clearly, other people are, too: the documentary’s opening weekend in the UK broke attendance records.

Here’s a clip from the film and the original trailer from the film.

Ariane Hunter: She Went For Her Dreams

Let’s face it: the road to personal and professional success is not typically linear. Unlike previous generations, today’s workforce does not expect to hold one job for the entirety of their career. While this new-found flexibility may feel liberating for some, others may feel paralyzed by choice. With so many options, which one is the best? Especially in times of economic insecurity, the safest choice may seem optimal in the long term. But if you’re thinking about taking a bigger risk, how do you start?

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Image courtesy of Ariane Hunter

Career coach Ariane Hunter feels your pain and wants to help. In her previous career, Hunter wrangled data and information systems in the healthcare industry. But as she advanced up the corporate ladder, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. 10 years ago, she mustered the courage to take a leap. Today, she helps others align their careers with their values so they can build lives that they love.

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Image courtesy of Ariane Hunter

In addition to her coaching practice, Hunter launched a side project, #SheWentForHerDreams, as a way to take into the collective energy of other creative women. She interviewed entrepreneurs, teachers, artists, and strategists to pick their brains about their careers and glean advice for women eager to follow in their footsteps. Most recently, Hunter compiled these interviews into a free e-book. Want to get your hands on it? Visit the site and sign up for her e-mail list.

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Image courtesy of Ariane Hunter

If you’re in need of a confidence boost, She Went For Her Dreams serves as a quick mentoring session you can carry in your pocket. Each nugget of advice paired with Hunter’s own photographs provides actionable steps instead of nebulous platitudes. The impetus behind the interviews is to connect readers with advice they can apply to their own lives and examples of success in a variety of sectors. With an inspiring collection of guidance and imagery, Hunter’s book can help readers power through a rough day or completely transition into a new career.

Visit the project’s site and check in with Ariane to take your career to the next level.

Pipeline Fellowship: Changing the Face of Angel Investing

Peruse the staff profiles of a typical venture capital firm and you’ll likely find a sea of white men stretching for miles in every direction. According to a 2014 report from the Center for Venture Research, 26% of U.S. angel investors are women and 8% are people of color. These numbers left Natalia Oberti Noguera, a Yale grad with degrees in Comparative Literature and Economics, grossly unsatisfied. In this real-life episode of Shark Tank, where were the women sharks?

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Image courtesy of Pipeline Fellowship

In 2011, Oberti Noguera set out to change those numbers. Through the Pipeline Fellowship, she and her team aim to “increase the diversity in the U.S. angel investing community and create capital for women social entrepreneurs.”  The organization currently operates out of 24 major cities across the country.

From now until June 15th, the Fellowship is accepting applications for their Fall 2015 cohort. There are three criteria for consideration. Applicants must:

  • meet the U.S. government’s definition of accredited investor, i.e., earning US$200K in income or US$300K joint income with spouse for the past two years, or US$1M net worth
  • possess an interest in the group learning model and
  • have a passion for social entrepreneurship

The program meets twice a week for six months and combines education speakers, professional mentoring, and practical experience with the pitch process. Since the Fellowship’s launch in 2011, 100 women have graduated the program and 15 women-led for-profit social ventures have secured funding.

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Image courtesy of Pipeline Fellowship

 

Got an idea that you believe deserves funding? If you fit the criteria, take the plunge and sign up to pitch at an upcoming summit. Want to dip a toe instead? Keep an eye on Pipeline Fellowship’s calendar and attend an event near you. Finally, make sure to follow Natalia on Twitter; she regularly shares outstanding insights that stretch well beyond the realm of finance.

Book Review: Women in Clothes

When people talk about clothes, much attention is paid to the “what.” With celebrities in particular, the items a person wears and who makes them attract considerable media coverage. These shallow questions paint a person’s interest in clothes as being superficial. Yet this narrow view of fashion ignores a much richer, more interesting question: the “why.” The rationale behind the clothes, how they make a person feel, and the sense of identity she gets from them is both more personal and engaging than merely their make and model.

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Image courtesy of Women in Clothes

Women in Clothes began as a conversation among friends exploring their own personal “whys.” Eager to learn more, Canadian writers Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton sent surveys to their friends, friends of friends, and women they admired. In total, the responses of 639 women appear in the book. The resulting collection of words and images goes far beyond “Who Wore it Best?” columns to illustrate the psychological impetus behind style.

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Image courtesy of Unwrinkling

For some, clothes serve as a way of remembering. Think of a time when you’ve hesitated cleaning out your closet, rationalizing decisions to keep ill-fitting items because of the memories they hold. Many women received lessons in fashion from their mothers, as illustrated in the series “Mothers as Others.” For this exercise, contributors were asked to share photographs of their mothers from before they had children and comment on them. While a woman’s style may be influenced by people from her past, how she interprets and presents it remains entirely her own.

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Image courtesy of It’s Nice That

Across the boards, women mention the transformative power clothing holds. Trans women discuss the difficulties of passing in a judgmental society and how clothing serves as a comforting suit of armor. Black women converse about the concept of relaxing “good hair,” the personal choice to go natural, and the pressure women feel from both camps. Factory workers in Cambodia explain the cultural caché associated with brightly colored knockoff items purchased at the local market. Regardless of income, the impulse to express oneself through personal style remains strong. While fashion magazines tend to assume women dress for others, Women in Clothes asserts that women gain power and confidence by dressing for themselves.

Want to participate? Visit their website and fill out the survey for yourself.

100 Years of Beauty

How do you sum up 100 years? Should you analyze year by year or it best to focus on trends over a decade? Is it possible to hone in on one variable and develop a clear picture or are too many facets intertwined? Earlier this year, The Cut decided to find out. Their mission? Sum up 100 years of style trends in countries around the world.

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Image courtesy of Vintage Makeup Guide

In addition to the quick historical videos, researchers discuss the work behind the looks. Robin Park, the researcher behind the Korea series, mentions the Japanese colonialism that colored more of Korean fashion in the 1930s and 40s. After Korea split at the DMZ, Park explains, beauty in North Korea was gauged less on products and more on what a woman contributed to the community. For this reason, makeup styles in North Korea remained largely unchanged from the 1950s on. South Korea, on the other hand, embraced capitalism and the subsequent global style trends that accompanied it. Visit the project’s Pinterest board and you can view the research and the final look side by side.

While styles change, it’s clear that standards of beauty haven’t budged too much. All of their models are relatively light-skinned and have the big eyes, clear skin and features typically considered attractive. Buzzfeed branched out slightly with their take on style over the centuries, but the resulting video creates a more overarching narrative than a closeup on one place over time. But when 100 years of anything gets distilled into a one-minute video clip, some details are bound to fall through the cracks. With future episodes in the works and many other copycat projects piggybacking on the concept, there’s a lot of potential for growth, change, and further insights.

Visit The Cut’s YouTube channel to watch existing episodes and subscribe for future updates.

Book Review: N+1’s City By City

In  her seminal publication, On Death and Dying, psychologist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross explains her model of grief. In the first stage, subjects remain in denial about their situation’s reality. Once reality sets in, subjects may feel anger and resentment and express these feelings to the people around them. In order to feel they have agency over the situation, subjects may try to bargain and negotiate with a higher power for a better outcome. Depression sets in when subjects realize they have no control over the situation, resulting in sadness and grieving the loss. Finally, subjects reach a state of acceptance, in which they prepare for their inevitable future. These steps are not concrete; two people in the same situation may experience a mix of the stages in any order. While the Kübler-Ross model focuses on the death of a loved one, it may also apply to the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, or drug addiction, and more. According to Kübler-Ross, the model applies to any situation in which an individual struggles to “integrate new information that conflicts with previous beliefs.”

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Image courtesy of eClosure

City By City is a well-written, engaging, and enlightening portrait of a nation struggling to reconcile the American Dream with its many conflicting realities. The N+1 project coincided with the Great Recession with a working title of City By City: The New American Poverty. Fortunately, the book and its title evolved over time. Falling into the trap of ruined porn photos and romanticizing crumbling infrastructure is too simplistic. Too often, the resulting stories and images ignore the complexities of humanity pushed to the margins or outside the frame. Instead, the resulting vignettes dig deeper to deliver a more nuanced portrait of cities and the people who inhabit them.

Viewed as a whole, City By City reflects on the collective history that recurs throughout many urban spaces. The decline of industry created an economic vacuum. Cities with an existing middle class, like New York and San Francisco, were able to pivot and embrace the information age while Rust Belt Cities, left empty-handed and without a plan B, were condemned to rot. The era of Robert Moses ushered in waves of slum clearance which was (poorly) veiled as urban renewal. While the rich and poor used to live side by side, the development of the suburbs combined with the advent of highways made it easy for middle class white folks to create their own enclaves. Once racial groups no longer mingled, it was easier for the government to marginalize communities of color and compound existing problems whilst simultaneously creating new ones.

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Image courtesy of N+1

Now it is the year 2015 and we, as a nation, have still failed to integrate established–and alarmingly poignant–facts into our archaic schemas. In city after city, Americans remain trapped in denial or wrestle with anger and resentment at the current state of affairs. The Los Angeles police periodically sweep homeless people off the streets of Skid Row, creating a temporary illusion that they don’t exist. El Paso newspapers run boilerplate copy each time Mexicans perish while crossing the Rio Grande. Even after WaMu’s dramatic decline, Seattle continued to build luxury condos to attract “pioneers” to neighborhoods. White people in Palm Coast, Florida, defend the Stars and Bars as a representation of Southern pride while black people cannot comprehend the ease with which their white peers interact with the police. In Baltimore, Ferguson, New York, and countless American metropolises, Lawrence Jackson points out, “blackness still causes the distance to evaporate between who you are and what you have done and what the society has made you.”

From Seattle to Cincinnati, these stories repeat time and time again. Blinded by the mythology of the American dream, those who have the privilege to do so choose to turn their heads and ignore the realities of others when it is too inconvenient to care.  The spectrum of have and have-nots expands like Stretch Armstrong in both directions. But at what point will it snap back? Has any society been able to not only exist, but prosper, whilst ignoring the well-being of its worst-off?

By viewing these stories as a cohesive collection, City By City serves as tangible evidence that these problems are not unique and that no one wrestling with them is, in fact, alone. In places like rural Kentucky, where not having a car eliminates access to job prospects and health care, or Reading, Pennsylvania,where the double whammy of poverty and racism compounded by drugs and gangs make a way out seem impossible, it is critical to cultivate a broader sense of community.

Amidst these reminders of our nation’s mortality, there are fortunate pockets of hope. Most often, these game changers understand that progress cannot be made in the current system under the existing rules. Instead, they step outside the status quo by putting people and their needs first.

When the Detroit police force failed to serve and protect its citizens, Dale Brown stepped in and created his own security company, VIPER. In Cleveland, cooperatively owned businesses like Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, Ohio Cooperative Solar, Green City Growers provide a fresh new model with the potential to revitalize communities. Charged with a commitment to their workers and community investors, these businesses have an economic and political stake in the surrounding community. City Life/Vida Urbana, a Boston-based non-profit, also harnesses the power of community in their unique approach to championing tenants’ rights. Using collective bargaining tactics, the group galvanizes tenants and provides them with the tools they need to negotiate a fair rent. It’s increasingly the case that our nation’s average citizenry–people like you, and like me–are attempting to breathe new (and sustainable) life into our democracy by repeating behaviors once common at the turn of the 20th century.

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Photo by John Hulsey, courtesy of City Life/Vida Urbana

While we may continue to bargain or mourn the current state of things, City By City’s narratives help us, as Americans, take a step closer to accepting these realities. But if the repeating themes are any indication, N+1 would do well to send its writers back to the field and report back on signs of progress. In a January op-ed, Daniel Bornstein expounded on the merits of highlighting solutions to problems in addition to discussing their causes. As he explains, problems scream while solutions whisper, making it easy to favor sensational headlines over tiny victories. What organizations in New York or San Francisco could adopt City Life/Vida Urbana’s tactics to empower tenants? Can Milwaukee and Detroit, once the home of social progress, renew their status as agents of change and creators of wealth and success–even happiness–for their citizenry? What will be our generation’s equivalent of the St. Louis General Strike?

It’s easy to grow myopic about a problem after staring for too long, but an old approach in new clothing can breathe fresh life into old efforts. The investigative process may require more digging, but journalists hold a profound position of power when they choose what is shared or omitted. If the history of all hitherto existing human society is the history of class struggles, let us hope that the journalist is struggling to give voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless,  to reveal naked and objective truths.

Lady Boss: Get the Guts to Negotiate

April 14th marked the 19th observance of Equal Pay Day, an event spearheaded by the National Committee on Pay Equity to draw attention to the wage gap between men and women. Breaking the gap down to cents may make it seem negligible, but the effects add up over time. By the age of 65, the average woman loses out on $435, 000 in potential earnings. While we’ve made progress since 1963 (when the gap was 59 cents for every dollar), we still have miles to go. Under the hashtag #Ask4More, organizations around the country encouraged women who have the opportunity to negotiate to take of the privilege.

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But where do you start? Fortunately, Lady Boss hosted a “Get the Guts to Negotiate” event and invited Ji Eun (Jamie) Lee to show us the ropes. During the day, Lee serves as Director of Operations for a tech startup. But at night, she nurtures her side hustle: teaching women how to negotiate the compensation they deserve. Lee knows from experience that compensation and talent don’t always align. When she made a career change from retail and wholesale into finance, she admits that she didn’t do her homework before she accepted an offer. Instead, she added a small amount to her existing start up salary. By the time she found out what hedge fund employees made, it was too late to backpedal.

Do Your Homework

Fortunately, Lee learned from her mistake and became exceptionally good at helping other women avoid similar pitfalls. Lee explained that 80% of negotiation lies in doing your homework. Before you approach your boss for a promotion or raise, you must first make your case. Take a look at your job description and quantify everything you’ve done. How have you increased revenue? How have you cut costs? What are your tangible contributions to the company? What is your future potential at your company? Your request must be bolstered by evidence of the value you bring to the organization.

Once you’ve assembled the evidence, look up the market value of your position at other companies to help guide your anchor point, or your “ask” number. Don’t be afraid to stretch and set an anchor that seems a little too high; hiring managers admit that, if left to their own devices, their go-to behavior is to lowball. And remember: you always have the right to say no, so be sure to brainstorm potential alternatives to a negotiated agreement. Maybe you have another job offer in your back pocket or a potential freelance opportunity to give you leverage. By having a plan B, you give yourself an extra card to play. Print out your list of accomplishments along with the market value figures and make an appointment with your hiring manager or boss.

Take The Plunge

When you sit down for that meeting, fake it ‘til you make it. You’re going to be nervous, but it’s important, as Lee says, to “ask with guts and all.” Project your request with conviction and confidence. Make eye contact as you state your case and draw attention to the facts you bring in writing. Most importantly, speak warmly and openly from the heart but remember that you can always exercise your right to say “no.” Negotiation can be emotional, but your goal is to communicate your needs while making the other side feel respected and heard.

Even after all this leg work, you may not get what you want. But, as Lee points out, it’s important to diagnose the “no.” If your offer is not accepted, follow up with a diagnostic question: “When is a better time to revisit this conversation?” “Who else can we involve in the conversation?” “What kind of experience would you like to see in a candidate for that role?” By asking questions, you learn more information about the situation and are in a better position to make adjustments. If you receive a counter offer, be ready to revisit your best alternatives to assess if it’s a good option. Remember, negotiation is less about compromise and more focused on mutual benefit. Never forget that you, too, have the right to say “no.”

Required Reading

Want to get started? Check out Lee’s scripts and worksheets designed to help you take the plunge. Fill them out and practice with a friend to help you get the routine down pat. Once you’re ready, put on your boss boots and go get what you want! Huge thanks to Ji Eun and Tracy Candido of Lady Boss for another stellar event.

Blogshop: Taking the Sting Out of Web Design

If you haven’t heard, I’m head over heels for Creative Mornings. There’s nothing better than kicking off the day with a cup of coffee and interesting insights from people who love to make and do things. What’s even better is that I can watch them anywhere. Thanks to their video series and web interface, you don’t need to live in any of the 112 cities that host the series. This past Monday, I listened to designlovefest and Blogshop founder Bri Emery discuss her career trajectory.

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After graduating with a degree in Graphic Design, Emery dreamed of joining the magazine world at Nylon. Instead, she took a position with headphone company V-MODA and spent 2.5 post-grad years designing their packaging and marketing materials. In her free time, she threw herself into her blog, designlovefest. Eventually, she left her full-time job to freelance at Rue Magazine, the Game Show Network, and countless other clients. Although she constantly worried she would run out of jobs, Emery’s schedule was packed with projects.

Eventually, Emery found the sweet spot between work and play that culminated in Blogshop. As a freelancer, Emery’s inbox was inundated with emails asking her to design blogs. While she didn’t have the time to fulfill all the requests, she spoke to her friend and partner, Angela Kohler, about teaching a basic Photoshop class that answered frequently asked questions. Together, the pair developed a boot-camp for Photoshop with a critical eye for how these skills about to creating blog content. Over a two day period, students are thrown in the deep end and assigned a series of tasks designed to get them up to speed in a flash. Since founding Blogshop in 2011, Emery and Kohler have taught workshops in Paris, Berlin, Sydney, London, NYC, LA, Chicago, and San Francisco. Judging from the testimonials, graduates come away with the tools they need to transform ephemeral ideas into tangible projects.

I appreciate Blogshop because Angela and Bri take the sting out of web design and teach students the tools to do it themselves. Too often, it’s assumed that building a website or designing something digitally should be left to the professionals. But with a two day crash course in the basics, Blogshop inspires students to give it a shot and sets the groundwork for further learning.

Want to see if your boss will spot your Blogshop tuition? Print out their handy one sheet extolling the virtues of blogging skills. By investing in you, Bri and Angela argue, your company saves out outside design expenses, increases web traffic, and may result in increased emotional connections to your brand. And don’t worry if you’re not near an upcoming workshop location. If you have an Internet connection, you can also participate in their online module.

Finally, pour a mug of coffee and start your Wednesday off right with Bri’s Creative Mornings lecture. She may be a young entrepreneur, but she shares some excellent insights.