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No-Makeup Selfies Can’t Cure Cancer, and Detroit Just Discovered a Ton of Rapists

Sarah Ratchford's latest round-up of the previous week's highlights and lowlights in the world of gender politics.

This week, women rallied to raise breast cancer awareness…by posting makeup-free selfies? While it’s commendable of them to defy societal expectations of female beauty…is the action really accomplishing anything?

On the other side of the spectrum (something for everyone!), it’s been reported that 100 serial rapists have been identified in Detroit, after their DNA sat in untested rape kits for

. The latest in lady business:


Law and Order: SVU's Mariska Hartigay, at Detroit press conference discussing the untested rape kits. Image via YouTube.

100 Serial Rapists Identified in Detroit

If you care about the prevalence and eradication of sex crimes, read this piece by Stephanie Hallett at Ms. Magazine. A horrifying little excerpt for you: “Five years ago, 11,000 untested rape kits were discovered in a police storage facility in Detroit. So far, just 1,600 kits have been tested, but that small number has yielded startling results: 100 serial rapists have been identified, and the DNA of ten since-convicted rapists has been found.”

Why were these fucking rape kits sitting around untested? Women go through a lot of trauma, immediately after being raped, to participate in the production of a rape kit. They have to have public hairs plucked, vaginas swabbed, cold, mechanical poking and prodding. This just confirms what many of us already knew: it looks like the effort is often for naught.

Screenshot via the Belle Jar.

Teaching Is A Feminized Profession

The Belle Jar creator Anne Theriault wrote a piece that made me sigh with such relief this past week. She came out and said she’s sick of explaining feminism to men who don’t bother to listen anyway, and are just looking to get into a smug brawl. She writes: “I’m tired of explaining to men that the feminist movement will, in fact, benefit them as well as women. I’m tired of trying to hawk gender equality like I’m some kind of car salesman showing off a shiny new sedan, explaining all of its bells and whistles. I’m tired of smiling through a thousand thoughtless microaggressions, tired of providing countless pieces of evidence, tired of being questioned on every. single. damn. thing.”


I’m tired of it, too. It’s so fiercely aggravating to dig for the correct, careful words to explain something to someone with the opposite perspective of yours—without offending or blaming them. But it’s so much worse when that person clamors to open their mouth to refute you before you’re even done sharing your idea. Or when you can see in their eyes that they weren’t listening at all, only waiting to speak again. This kind of shit drives me insane and deserves the silent treatment every now and then. If you ask, listen, and if you don’t intend to listen, STFU.

Theriault is one of my personal heroes right now. She really doesn’t give a eff and is a truly inspiring bad bitch.  

Screenshot via Instagram.

The Roses On Your Face Light Up The Sky

Lots of women have been posting makeup-free selfies lately in a quest to raise breast cancer awareness.

I’d like to say that’s an admirable, logical action, but that would be disingenuous. It’s actually wholly preposterous, as half of the products we so liberally apply to our skins are full of carcinogens. Putting your one-time naked face on the internet does not equal activism, in any way, unless you’re protesting our widespread adoption of cosmetics as a cultural norm that women will adhere to, lest we be ousted as slovenly, negligent, unattractive humans.

As I was procrastinating writing this very article, this pointless turd of an article surfaced on Thought Catalog (I know, I know): “Seventeen Basic Sephora Products Every Girl Needs.” The list includes “eyeshadow primer” and “a lipstick that makes you feel like a woman.” Case. In. Point.


Many women do feelmore beautiful with makeup on. And they have the right to wear whatever they want; I’m not criticizing them, and I celebrate that cosmetics can be a beautiful art, alongside the right of a woman to govern what happens on her own face. But I simultaneously reject the ideology behind the fact that people are being paid to tell us we need this goop to be beautiful, and many women, in turn, adhere to that messaging in order to feel worthy.

Further, I think such a close equation of makeup and breast cancer actually tends to trivialize the illness. Curing cancer and supporting those who have it is not as simple as putting down the eyeliner.

Australian TV journalist Tracey Spicer did a TED Talk in which she dismantled the notion of what female beauty should mean: “Today, I’d like us to assess the amount of time we spend on our grooming, and the effect it has on our productivity,” she said. “Imagine what we could achieve if we weren’t beholden to society’s unreasonable expectations of how we should look? It’s an absurdity that we get caught up in all this. We do this to physically protect ourselves.”

She committed to taking steps to correct some of this bullshit, including quitting self-tanner, wearing less makeup, and having a lower-maintenance haircut. Tracey also challenged other women to re-examine their routines, and calculate the amount of time they waste on maintaining a largely unrealistic appearance. Spicer stressed that she doesn’t mean to be prescriptive, and neither do I. But I do think we could benefit from asking ourselves why we spend so many grueling hours trying to shape ourselves into symbols of contrived femininity.


And if you want to make a difference when it comes to breast cancer: go on a walk or run and raise some money for research, or raise money in some other way. Write something educational, or organize an awareness event or site. There are so many ways to help, but using our appearances to get there isn’t the answer.

Screenshot via Buzzfeed.

Dudes: You Think It’s Easy Being This Sexy?

I’ve squandered as many hours diving through glassy-eyed Buzzfeed rampages as the next blog-obsessed millennial, and most of these online gorge-fests are wholly regrettable. (I got Marni in the Girls quiz?). But this post really stuck with me. It replaces ads where women are coyly and sexily peddling everyday objects, with men attempting to accomplish the same feat—with significantly more awkward results.

Unlike all of the “20 traits you have if you’re a self-absorbed 20-something” type posts, this one really illustrates how much we manage to idolize women, while at the same time reducing them and whittling down their characters to one-dimensional labels. So I don’t hate it…. High praise, I know.