• Basso Cannarsa/LUZphoto/Redux


    Laurie Penny’s In-Your-Face Feminism

    Riding a new wave of feminism driven by an unlikely mix of commerce and online discourse, the British feminist doesn’t give a damn if you like her politics. She does want to make you think.

    When reigning pop queen Beyoncé Knowles stood, with the unshakeable self-assurance of a warrior, in front of a boldly lit, capital-lettered declaration of “FEMINIST” at the MTV Video Music Awards last month, the media responded with something approximating rapture. “The zeitgeist is irrefutably feminist: its name literally in bright lights,” wrote Jessica Valenti at The Guardian, while Amanda Marcotte at Slate argued that the singer had put paid to the idea that feminists are just “ugly wannabes” who “hate men” and children. The New Republic’s Rebecca Traister called the performance “one of the most powerful pop-culture messages of [her] lifetime.”

    The moment marked a crest in the current wave of popularity and recognition feminism has been enjoying in popular culture recently. Young celebrities from Lorde to Miley Cyrus to Taylor Swift have been eagerly claiming the label, while old school media like Cosmopolitan and Playboy have given themselves feminist makeovers. Beyoncé’s performance just made it official. Feminism is cool now: no longer the refuge of, as conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh once put it, women who had been excluded by “the mainstream of society,” but front and center of the mainstream itself—celebrated by queen bees, and Queen Beys.


    (Miss) American Values

    After being crowned Miss America, the extremely accomplished Kira Kazantsev was heavily criticized by some on social media for her volunteer work with Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood points out that public supports her efforts — and their mission.

    Hours after being crowned Miss America, Kira Kazantsev was called a “slut,” “bitch,” “bimbo,” “crazy,” “dumb” and “retarded” on social media.  

    What had this mind-bogglingly accomplished woman — Kazantsev, 23, speaks three languages, was a triple major in college, was accepted to one of the nation’s top law schools, and still finds time for public service — done to provoke this vitriol?  

  • Painful Legacy

    James Brown’s Daughter Speaks On Abuse

    After growing up witnessing her father, James Brown, violently abuse her mother, Yamma left her abusive husband just days after her father died in 2006—and was arrested for defending herself.

    The day I knew my marriage was over was Thursday, March 7, 2007, two days before Dad was to be buried on my sister’s property in Beech Island. I know the exact date because it’s on the arrest report. The legal wrangling over the estate was in full tilt, and I had just returned from a meeting with our lawyers. Darren had an office in our guesthouse, and I joined him there for a drink. He was sitting with my nephew, my half brother Terry’s son, Forlando, and had already had his share of scotch. I could tell from his cocky stance and the drained Chivas bottle on his desk. Forlando’s visits with Darren had become frequent after Dad died. I often told my nephew not to count on getting rich off of Dad, but Darren filled his head with other ideas. Ideas about how Darren could turn Dad’s considerable wealth into so much more that everyone in the family would benefit from, if only we would turn over the reins to him. That’s all he’d talked about since Dad died. The estate. He wanted to manage it for the family. He could turn Dad’s millions into billions with the right investments. That was his expertise. Would I please get my damn family to agree?

    I poured myself a glass of red wine, sat down on the couch, and kicked off my heels. My feet hurt and I was bone tired, the kind of unpleasant tired that comes from stress.

  • Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty, AFP

    Hubba Hubba

    Clooney to Do ‘Downton Abbey’

    Clooney’s appearance comes after he became friends with Hugh Bonneville, who plays Lord Robert Grantham, during the filming of the movie ‘The Monuments Men.’

    You might think that Downton Abbey has jumped the shark.

    George Clooney is not so sure.

  • Wikimedia Commons

    In The Flesh

    Women, It’s Time to Reclaim Our Breasts

    Women, so long the focus of male sexual objectification, are keen to recast the standards, significance, and sexist humor about their chests.

    Women have long been told to cover up their sexy parts, as the world ogles them, sometimes to aggressive extremes. When there is a personal violation as egregious and disturbing as the recent one against Jennifer Lawrence and several other female celebrities, it can be nearly impossible to find levity.

    But there is a growing trend of women reclaiming control of their bodies from society’s double-edged sword of shunning and sexualizing, especially when it comes to their breasts.

  • John Stillwell/PA, via Landov

    New Harry Bio

    Diana’s ‘Hit Man’ Threat To Camilla

    Penny Junor lays into Diana in new Harry bio

    Penny Junor’s revelations in the Daily Mail’s serialization of her new Prince Harry book keep on coming.

    After a divorce, friends often have to decide which one of the divorced couple they are going to be friends with, and journalists frequently face the same dilemma. Junor has long since fallen into the Prince Charles camp.

  • Photo Credit: ©1937, 2014 Rondal Partridge Archives


    When Lightning Strikes

    Best known for her photograph “Migrant Mother,” Dorothea Lange is the subject of the new documentary “Grab A Hunk of Lightning.”

    It took no small amount of hubris to try to capture the life of legendary photographer Dorothea Lange on film. Her audience would not, I imagine, look kindly on any visual imperfection. Fortunately, this challenge was met by Dyanna Taylor, Lange’s granddaughter—an award-winning cinematographer in her own right—who brings her grandmother’s gift of seeing to "Dorothea Lange: Grab A Hunk of Lighting,” premiering at 9 p.m. tonight on PBS’s American Masters.

    The film’s opening sequences—the camera lingering on the beach, sun glinting off rocks—are so compelling that I longed to possess the images as still photos. Even as I was marveling at that accomplishment, Taylor narrated a childhood experience of walking on the beach with her grandma. She had picked up a handful of shells and stones and asked Dorothea to look at them. Dorothea said, “’I see them, but do you see them? I said, ‘Yes, I see them.’ ‘But do you see them?’ And she snapped the photo. I looked back at my palm and from then on, apprehended the world differently.” 

  • Anne Ryan/zrImages, via Corbis

    Looking Back

    Gail Sheehy Books Passage to the Past

    The legendary journalist and ‘Passages’ author talks about her new memoir, the glory days of the new journalism, and the denizens of Grey Gardens.

    In the summer of 1971, reporter Gail Sheehy fled Manhattan every weekend for East Hampton, seeking an escape from what had become a six-month investigation into prostitution in New York City. But instead of tending to her verdant tomato garden, Sheehy found herself drawn down the road to Grey Gardens, a decaying mansion overrun by howling cats and home to Big Edie and Little Edie Beale, dotty and reclusive relatives of former first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

    Just a few miles away and 43 summers later, Sheehy sits in a Sag Harbor rental cottage and reflects on “The Secrets of Grey Gardens,” her now-infamous New York magazine cover story about the Beales, outcasts from the wealthy WASP culture that was their birthright. “WASPs are like the Alawites of America, a rare breed,” says the now 70-year-old Sheehy. Looking youthful in jeans and a turquoise linen T-shirt, a helmet of red hair framing her animated face, she is diminutive, quick-witted, and disarmingly warm. (She addresses me in various terms of endearment, as one would an old friend, and invites me to swim in her pool after lunch). It’s a quality that surely worked to her advantage while interviewing the Beales.

  • The Daily Beast


    Beyoncé Is Our Indigo Girl

    The R&B diva’s ‘feminist’ proclamation at the VMAs recalls feminism’s all-important ’90s—a decade filled with strong, outspoken female musicians.

    In a heart-stopping moment during her 16-minute performance at Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards, Beyoncé made a bold political statement: Projecting a quote from Nigerian feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie onto a gigantic, glowing screen while standing triumphantly in front of the word “feminist.” Bold, but it also felt right after a night of watching female performers dominate the telecast, often with anthems about power and liberation. Feminism is definitely having a moment in pop music.

    Of course, this isn’t really the first time that it’s happened. Twenty years ago, in fact, feminism was also having a big moment in pop music. Granted, no one was flashing the word “feminist” at the VMAs—leave it to Queen B to take it to the next level—but the ’90s, particularly the early to mid-’90s, was a banner time for women in music who wanted to be more than just objects for men to ogle, and to sing about something more than just wanting the pretty boys to like you. Back then, fans could be forgiven for thinking women’s power in the music world was just going to keep growing, but by the late ’90s and early 2000s, the moment had passed and music was deep into a backlash phase.

  • Serena Williams of the U.S. walks on the court during her women's singles match against Ana Ivanovic of Serbia at the Australian Open 2014 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 19, 2014. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

    Last Stand

    Serena & the Decline of American Tennis

    With no obvious successor in place, 32-year-old Serena Williams, the oldest woman to ever hold the No. 1 world ranking, is one of the lone links to America's past dominance.

    The parking lots are full, but there’s only a sparse crowd this afternoon in Center Court of the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio, when the chair umpire of this Cincinnati Open semifinal calls time. Serena Williams, wearing a violet sleeveless top and black miniskirt, with a bright yellow headband over her flowing, highlighted hair, moseys to the right baseline, settles atop it, and begins to sway back and forth awaiting the first serve of the match.

    The tournament is one of the last hard-court warm-ups for the upcoming U.S. Open, the latter of which Williams is the back-to-back defending champ. Like many of her compatriots, she’s in the Cincinnati suburb prepping for the final Grand Slam of the season. In what has increasingly become the norm through the years no matter the event, however, Williams is the only American singles player, male or female, to advance beyond the round of 16.