Monday, April 21, 2014

Book Report: Girls in White Dresses

This book tells the story of a group of friends - Lauren, Isabella and Mary - beginning the summer after their college graduation and continuing through to their early 30s.

I started out not liking this book. Each chapter is written from a different character's perspective, so it took me quite a while to figure out who everyone was and what the relationships were between the characters. A few secondary characters only got one chapter, which was really confusing. There's also not much of a plot. It's just a story about the passage of time and the everyday lives of young, single women who watch as all their friends get married and have babies while they're trying to navigate crappy jobs and crappier boyfriends. The biggest problem with the book was that I didn't relate to any of the characters, even though they're about the same age as me. They came across as whiny and immature. But the characters really grew as the book went on, and I came to like them more. It's truly a story about female friendship, and the book really took off when the author focused on the relationships between the characters instead of the characters themselves. That's where the strength in the story lies. Unfortunately, that part of the book was a lot shorter than the part I disliked.

This book is pretty fluffy and a quick read, which is perfect for the beach. I'd recommend this book to a friend who is in her twenties, single and living in a big city. B-

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Would You Do with an Extra Room?

Adam and I recently upgraded from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom apartment. Our second bedroom is an office/guest bedroom, which I suspect is how most people would choose to utilize their extra space. What if you truly had an extra room, though, with nothing you needed to put in it? How would you use it?

I'd make mine into my "lady cave." I'd decorate it with sparkly textiles, lacquered surfaces, a tufted velvet setee, a chandelier, and art I love. There'd be a whole wall of books, and I'd put a TV somewhere for lots of shame-free, uninterrupted E! viewing. And of course, I'd have to include a fully stocked bar somewhere. Kind of like this:

What would you do with an extra room?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Frames On the Horizon

It's no secret that I love gallery walls. When we moved into our new apartment a few months ago, I knew that we needed to put one somewhere. We have a long hallway with a big, blank wall that was the perfect place. When I found this photo on Pinterest, I fell in love with the idea of a horizontal mid-line.

Martha Stewart

The first step was to lay out our frames to see what layout would work best.

Next, we took our new laser level and projected the red line down the wall. A laser level is key for this job. You can do it without one, but it will make your life much easier.

Then it was time to hang the frames. We hung the top half of the frames first. We started in the middle of the wall and made sure the bottom of the frame just barely touched the top of the laser line. We worked our way out to the edges from there, taking special care to ensure that the bottoms of the frames sat right on top of that magical red line. You need perfectly precise measurements for this task. Don't get discouraged if there's a little trial and error that happens. There are quite a few nail holes underneath the frames that are a fraction of an inch higher or lower than the final nail hole.

Once we'd hung the entire top section of frames, we moved the laser level down about an inch or two and hung the bottom row using the same method. I think it turned out well!

One thing that's great about this layout is that it's super easy to expand. All you have to do is make sure the top or bottom of the frame is level with the one next to it, and it will look cohesive.

Once the weather gets consistently nice, I'd like to spray paint some of the frames. I can't decide whether I want to make everything white or mix it up with some black, some gold, and some white. What do you think? Anybody else love a gallery wall?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Report: The Divergent Series

I'd heard vague rumblings about the Divergent series over the past couple of years. I absolutely loved The Hunger Games, so this seemed right up my alley. Plus, they take place in Chicago! Once I started seeing ads for the movie, that was the kick in the pants I needed to finally order the trilogy...and read the whole thing in 5 days.

I liked this book, but didn't love it. I thought it was a little slow in the beginning. Once the action started moving a little quicker, though, I really got into it.

This was my favorite of the three books. If the first book set up a society's facade and then poked a few holes in it, the second book took a sledgehammer to it. I loved watching the characters navigate all this new-found knowledge and could barely put the book down.

This was the weakest book of the trilogy, though I still enjoyed it. It was narrated by both Tris and Tobias, which was different from the first two books, and explored a different facet of society (I don't want to give away spoilers!). My biggest problem with this book was that it was inconsistent with the first two books. I think the author tried to do too much. I also really disliked the ending. Do not read it on your lunch break like I did! On the other hand, I found it exciting and I liked exploring yet another side of Veronica Roth's futuristic Chicago.

Overall, I really enjoyed the series. Veronica Roth created a fascinating world full of interesting questions about how we live our own lives and the perils of human nature. She wrote well-rounded characters that I came to love. I'd give the series an A-. Now, I can't wait to see the movie!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Sexism in Sports

Apparently this is feminist rant week on my blog because I sure have noticed a lot of sexism in sports lately. On Tuesday, Notre Dame's women's basketball team lost in the national championship game to UConn. While I was really disappointed that we lost, I was even more disappointed by all the microaggressions I noticed surrounding the sport of women's basketball (and women's sports in general).

National Championship v. Women's National Championship
The men's national championship was played on Monday night and then the women played on Tuesday. However, while the women's game was billed as the "Women's National Championship," the men's game was just the "National Championship."

Notice a difference?

Pretty sure the winners of both games are the national champions, so why a gender qualifier for one and not the other? It's almost as if men are the default mode and women are a separate type of thing.

Luck Be a Lady
I assume they're yelling about sexism.

There was a lot of support in the Notre Dame community for our team going into the championship game, which was great to see. What wasn't great to see was people referring to the team as the "Lady Irish." Just like the national championship distinction, calling a team the Lady Irish/Huskies/whatevers distinguishes them as women when that distinction is unnecessary. Furthermore, it subtly implies that a "Lady [insert mascot here]" is distinguishable from a "normal" mascot, which is male. Which brings me to my next point...

No Female Mascots

"Hey, ladies."

I have never seen a female mascot at a co-ed school. Sure, sometimes the person dressing up as the mascot is a female or there will be an alternate mascot that's female, but I have never seen a co-ed school adopt a mascot that is solely female. The Fighting Irish isn't an inherently gendered title, but our mascot is a male leprechaun. There's nothing inherently gendered about Eagles or Tigers or Huskies either, but Boston College, LSU, and UConn all have male mascots. Then you have schools whose mascots are inherently male, like the Knights or the Bulls. A handful of schools have separate, gendered mascots for their men's and women's teams (the Kenyon Lords and Ladies, for example), but not a single school has a solely female mascot. We have the Knights; why not the Dames? Why not Queens, Hens, or Mares? This perpetuates the stereotype that women are weak, docile, and unintimidating (as if a gopher or badger or duck is particularly intimidating...).
There are tons of instances of sexism in women's sports that I haven't explored here (why are there no female coaches for men's sports but plenty male coaches for women's sports?), but I hope this highlighted how microaggressions can seem harmless while actually serving to perpetuate harmful stereotypes about women athletes.

What's your college mascot? We're the Belles (which is a female mascot, but doesn't count because it's a women's college). Go Belles!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Wrestling with Sexism

This may be surprising, but I am a professional wrestling fan. I've gotten into it over the last few months, including attending Monday Night Raw a few weeks ago. It's exciting to watch, but one area that I've found severely lacking is the Divas division.

It's a common "joke" among wrestling fans that it's time to go to the bathroom/get more beer when the Divas wrestle. Women wrestlers have never been given the same amount of respect as their male counterparts, and most wrestling fans blindly accept the status quo. They say that women just aren't as athletic as the male wrestlers, that they just aren't as interesting. The only reason the Divas aren't as successful as the male wrestlers are because the WWE doesn't give them the proper amount of support, and that's a foolish decision. The WWE stands to greatly benefit by building the Divas division and by extension, its female fan base. I - and I'm sure the WWE - would love to see parents with their daughters in the audience and girlfriends cheering alongside their boyfriends. So, what do they need to change? Two major things: time and perception.

A lack of time allotted to the Divas is the #1 reason that people don't take women's wrestling seriously, and it's the easiest thing to change. The most important thing in wrestling isn't the actual wrestling; it's the building of interesting storylines. You have to invest time to do that properly. I watched Wrestlemania XXX on Sunday night, and out of 4 hours of non-stop wrestling, the Divas were allotted approximately 10 minutes. Unlike many of the men's matches, no one got to talk to the crowd before the match. Unlike many of the men's matches, there were no pre-shot backstage videos created to further rivalries. It's no wonder people are bored by the Divas! Their storylines are not developed at the same rate as the men's storylines because they get an infinitisimal amount of airtime in comparison!
I think the WWE is attempting to rectify this problem with the debut of Total Divas on E!, a reality show about the wrestlers in the Divas division. This is a great starting point, but they need to develop the storylines in the ring, too. I don't have to do my homework to follow the storylines in the men's division; they play themselves out every week on Raw and Smackdown and on the monthly pay-per-views. Why not do the same for the women? Instead of one 10-minute Divas match, why not two? Why not add a Divas tag team division? Talent won't get you very far without practice, and the Divas wrestlers need the practice to sell the storylines.

Increased exposure will help solve one of the other major problems: perception of the wrestlers.

"My eyeballs are having a pleasure overload." This is what Jerry Lawler, WWE announcer, said at Wrestlemania during the Divas' title match. 14 women were competing for the world title, and the announcer - a paid employee of WWE - could only focus on how attractive they all were. But that's almost preferable to focusing on the women's athleticism, which fans deride. They're just not as strong as the men, they say. They're boring to watch.

What the WWE should do is emphasize the speed, agility, acrobatics of women wrestlers. They don't have the brute strength of the men, but they are interesting and fun to watch in their own right. They swing each other around in ways I've never seen male wrestlers attempt. They fly off the ropes and contort their opponents into painful-looking positions that actually look like you would want to tap out of. Instead of relegating them to weak imitations of the guys, the WWE management should emphasize the things that make women's wrestling unique.

Last night on Raw, a newcomer named Paige beat long-time title holder AJ Lee. I hope this means the WWE is looking to build the Divas division into something other than a side show for the men.

Any wrestling fans out there?

Friday, April 4, 2014

April Showers Bring May Flowers

We've had a rainy week in Chicago, but I keep telling myself that we'll reap the rewards when all the beautiful spring flowers start to bloom in a few weeks. I love seeing the city come alive with color every spring, and I love bringing home blooms from the grocery store to bring a bit of color to our home. Here are some of my favorite spring flowers:

Tulips in the grocery store are the first indicator of spring. Peonies are the state flower of Indiana (my home state), and they smell divine. Hydrangeas are so fluffy, and they remind me of my wedding bouquet.

What are your favorite flowers?