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Heroine Chic

Tami Taylor, Missy Elliot, and 30 other cultural references every woman should know

In the eight months since we finalized the text that would become the basis of our new illustrated encyclopedia, The Book of Jezebel, we’ve made some important — though unsurprising — discoveries: namely, all the people and things that didn’t end up in the book. Some, like Wendy Davis or the hit Netflix show Orange Is the New Black, came to prominence too late in our production schedule. A few, like Lilith Fair and Taylor Swift, were oversights pointed out by loyal, eagle-eyed readers. Others, like Coco Chanel and Virginia Woolf, we thought about…and then totally blanked on. (Oof.) Now, thanks to the efforts of over ten of the book’s amazing writers and illustrators, we’ve cooked up a fresh batch of these aforementioned “forgotten” entries — and about two dozen others, including “Olivia Pope,” “goth,” and “Showgirls.” (“It will be screened forever and ever at gay bars.”) Anna Holmes

BOY BAND: Record industry projection of hetero teen girl desire, as produced, written, and performed by men. The mold—cute boys singing in unison—hasn’t changed much since the Monkees first escaped from TV sitcom to arena stage, but the aesthetics shift slightly to suit the era—the Backstreet’s slickly choreographed dance numbers and immaculate frosted tips begat One Direction’s YouTubian boy-next-door antics and wind-swept hair. Whether assembled by genetics (Jackson 5, Hanson, Jonas Brothers), Floridian producer (New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC), or talent competition (New Edition, One Direction), the personality archetypes persist. The ideal construction includes the “baby-faced cutie” (Michael Jackson, Nick Carter, Harry Styles); the “bad boy” (Donnie Wahlberg, A.J. McLean, Zayn Malik); the “shy, sensitive type” (Kevin Richardson, Lance Bass, Niall Horan); the “older brother” (Jonathan Knight, Isaac Hanson, Liam Payne); and the “jokester” (Danny Wood, Joey Fatone, Louis Tomlinson). Amanda Hess

BROWNMILLER, SUSAN (1935- ): Feminist journalist and activist who wrote 1975’s Against Our Will, one of the first popular books to make the argument that rape is a tool of dominance. The Times, when the book appeared, called it “far more than a feminist polemic, despite the passion and power of its language. Carefully researched… it blends investigative and personal journalism into a demand for justice.” In the late 1970s, Brownmiller’s book was nonetheless righteously criticized by the black feminist Angela Davis for ignoring the long and tangled intersection between rape and racism in Jim Crow-era lynchings. She published a memoir of her time in the feminist movement, In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution, in 1999. Early in her career she was prepared to own all the downsides of the professional feminist reputation, once telling a journalist, “It is quite rational for me to say that I am a man-hater — intellectually I am quite committed to being a man-hater — even though I like individual men.” Has never married; tells people she simply refused to “compromise” with a man. Michelle Dean

Illustration by Domitille Collardey

CHANEL, COCO (1883-1971): The iconic fashion designer to end all fashion designers. Most famous for giving women the gift of casual wear, freeing them from the confines of corsets and introducing a baggy, sporty silhouette that included — gasp! — pants. Coco (née Gabrielle) was born in 1883 to an unwed laundress and a nomadic salesman in rural France, and spent the rest of her life hiding her humble origins with fabulously concocted stories about a glamorous past, a tactic that surrounded the designer with an exotic mystery throughout her life. As a young girl she aspired to the stage but, lacking singing talent, became the mistress of a wealthy textile heir and began designing hats, a hobby that quickly evolved into a full-scale business designing relaxed, androgynous clothes that were always on the cutting edge. Chanel’s Parisian atelier at 31 rue Cambon, which opened in 1921, became the first fashion “boutique” and attracted many discerning intellectuals and members of the European aristocracy. Chanel was also involved in some shady business involving the Nazi party, which she may or may not have supported during World War II. She was a blatant homophobe and often a catty competitor with other designers, including her arch-rival Elsa Schiaparelli. Still, Chanel’s legacy is nearly universally positive and associated with several iconic items: Chanel No. 5 perfume, the little black dress, the jersey suit, and the sporty quilted handbag that remains the coveted item of spoiled Sweet Sixteens everywhere. What Chanel gave women was freedom — from binding undergarments, from convention, from the skirt. She left us with the idea that fashion is a combination of playfulness and restraint — she famously said to take one thing off before leaving the house everyday, a bit of advice that remains the saving grace of over-accessorizers. Rachel Syme

COOPER, ANNA JULIA (1858-1964): Educator, scholar, and feminist born into slavery in Raleigh, North Carolina whose mother, Hannah Stanley Haywood, was both enslaved by George Washington Haywood and the mother of several of his children, including Cooper. At the age of nine, after emancipation and the end of the Civil War, Cooper won a scholarship to the St. Augustine’s Normal and Collegiate Institute in Raleigh, which had been founded in 1867 by the Episcopal Church to help train former slaves as teachers. She fought the school administration’s efforts to restrict her studies to the “Ladies” program and eventually won the right to study Greek with the boys. In 1881, the widowed twenty-three-year-old Cooper instead enrolled at Oberlin College (after St. Augustine’s officials refused to give her a raise) and graduated with two other African-American women, Mary Church Terrell and Ida Gibbs Hunt, who became prominent leaders and activists in their lifetimes as well. Cooper went on to earn a Master’s degree in mathematics from Oberlin in 1887 and moved to Washington, D.C. to accept a teaching position at the Washington Colored High School (a.k.a. the M Street School); while building her career in education, Cooper somehow found time to help found the Colored Women’s League of Washington, the first all-black chapter of the YWCA; to speak at the Women’s Congress in Chicago in 1893 (one of only three African-American women to do so) and at the Pan African Conference in London (in 1900); to be the lone woman invited to join the American Negro Academy (an intellectual salon for — until her invitation — African-American male intelligentsia); and to publish her book of essays, A Voice from the South: By a Black Woman of the South, in which she became one of the first scholars to argue in favor of an intersectional analysis and the importance of black women’s voices talking about their own lives. Cooper’s work did not go unnoticed, especially by the white colleagues and superiors at the M Street School. Her invitation by W.E.B. Du Bois to speak at the school and her insistence that its students be schooled to the same standards as their white peers (as opposed to in vocational studies) gave her enemies an opening, which they expanded by trafficking in rumors about a supposed affair the widowed Cooper was said to be having with a younger male colleague, and secured her dismissal in 1906. In 1924, she earned her doctoral degree from the Sorbonne in Paris — becoming the fourth black woman in the United States to receive such a degree (and the first African-American woman born a slave to successfully defend a dissertation at the university). Megan Carpentier

Illustration by Sarah Glidden

DAVIS, WENDY (1963- ): Texas legislator, feminist, rabble-rouser. Davis’ mother, Virginia — who only had a sixth-grade education — worked at an ice cream store to support her four kids, and Davis herself started working at fourteen to contribute to the household finances, first by selling newspaper subscriptions, then at an Orange Julius, and finally as a waitress. She married Frank Underwood at eighteen, gave birth to her daughter, Amber, and divorced at nineteen. She supported herself and her daughter by working two jobs — as a waitress and a receptionist — while attending a junior college for paralegal training and then Texas Christian University on a scholarship, after which she went on to get a law degree from Harvard (in 1993). She married another lawyer, Jeff Davis, and had another daughter, Dru. (She and Davis divorced in 2003, but she kept the name.) Though she’s continued to practice law, Davis ran for and won a City Council seat in Fort Worth in 1999, eventually serving five terms, and then won a state Senate seat in 2008 (and again in 2012). She achieved national prominence in 2013 after holding an eleven-hour filibuster on the Texas Senate floor against Senate Bill 5, which would have criminalized all abortions after twenty weeks, forced abortion clinics to implement surgery center standards and mandate all practitioners have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Senate Republicans shouted her down and out-maneuvered her in the final hours, passing the legislation, but Davis secured her role in her-story anyway. She’s currently running for Governor of Texas. —MC

ELLIOT, MISSY “MISDEMEANOR” (1971- ): Grammy-winning rapper, music producer, songwriter. Born Melissa Arnette Elliott to Ronnie (a Marine staff sergeant) and Patricia (a power company coordinator) in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1971, Elliott’s childhood was marred by watching her father physically abuse her mother (and physically menace her). At the age of eight, Elliott was repeatedly raped by a teenage cousin until her aunt put an end to it after a year (Elliott says the cousin later died of a drug overdose). It wasn’t until the age of fourteen that Elliot’s mother left her abusive husband. After high school, Elliot formed an R&B group called Fayze with friends La’Shawn Shellman, Chonita Coleman, and Radiah Scott and asked her friend (and local DJ) Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley to be their producer. In 1991, Fayze auditioned for Jodeci frontman DeVante Swing during a visit to Portsmouth and he signed them to his label Swing Mob — and changed their name to Sista. Elliott, Timbaland and the rest of “Sista” moved to New York City, but plans for an album never materialized and record executives reported told Elliot that her looks weren’t enough to garner her a solo contract. Instead, Timbaland and Elliott found work writing and producing for other artists, and their work writing and producing nine of the songs on Aaliyah’s second album “One In A Million,” propelled them both to stardom. In 1996, Elliott used her newfound power in the business to demand her own record label — The Goldmind, Inc.—from the executives who’d initially denied her a solo contract. She told the Guardian in 2001, “They said I could sing, I could write, but that I looked wrong. That was the lowest thing you could say. I didn’t forget.” —MC

FAN FICTION: The non-professional re-imagining of beloved pop culture characters, shared among other enthusiasts through DIY zines and internet forums. Often written to correct for the narrow heterosexual male perspective that marks television, film, and fantasy writing, fan fic authors inject female desire into male-dominated storylines, infuse queer fantasy into heterosexual romances, and read BDSM dynamics into vanilla texts. In fan fic, Kirk and Spock can boldly go where Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t; Justin Timberlake and Brian Littrell bridge the *NSYNC/BSB fan divide with some homoambiguous upper-thigh touching; and former White House Communications Director Olivia Pope and first lady Mellie Grant cut out the presidential middleman (and the masculine perspective) by tearing into each other’s skirt suits instead. Sometimes, the fan fic fantasy world gains enough traction in the fandom to overpower the official plotline, as when One Direction slash writers compelled Louis Tomlinson (a frequent target of gay fantasy as scripted by hetero teen girls) to angrily tweet that he isn’t gay. Occasionally, it’s elevated from internet enclave to spawn its own pop culture phenomenon: Fifty Shades of Grey started as forum-dweller E.L. James’ BDSM reimagining of the unflaggingly Mormon Twilight series, then became a best-selling series when James defanged the plot of its vampiric elements. —AH

FIRESTONE, SHULAMITH (1945-2012): A founder of New York Radical Women, one of the first feminist-consciousness-raising groups, i.e., a precursor to the better nature of the Jezebel comments section, Firestone was one of its more doctrinaire members. A totalizing type, in her 1970 treatise The Dialectic of Sex she tried to synthesize Freud, Marx, and feminism, bound to give anyone a more or less permanent migraine. She was one of these people who hoped it would one day not matter if you had a p or a v: “The end goal of feminist revolution must be… not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally.” Her work, however, resulted both in some brilliant writing and also in her sudden and almost total retreat from public life at all. Feminism had, in some sense, eaten her alive. Other women, perhaps jealous of her brilliance or just acting out of misplaced rage, said she was too domineering, too male, and this conspired with some natural direction towards mental illness to send her into isolation for the rest of her life. She died alone in an East Village tenement in 2012. —MD

GIBSON, ALTHEA (1927-2003): Tennis player extraordinaire who rocketed across what was called the “color line of international tennis” with her superior playing skills. Won Wimbledon. Got her own ticker tape parade in New York for it and everything. Grew up tall in Harlem, became a paddleball champion in a city program, but didn’t like high school and eventually dropped out. She picked up tennis soon after, and, with the help of benefactors who saw her play in New York, eventually got her high school diploma and a college tennis scholarship. The rest is tennis history. Not content to own just one field — and not faring well under the stronger racial strictures of professional tennis — Gibson became a singer, a television host, and even a pretty successful golfer (except again: racism). Not nearly celebrated enough in popular culture. Someone oughta make a movie…. —MD

GOOD WIFE, THE: CBS drama starring Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, the eponymous “good wife” of not-so-good husband Peter Florrick (played by Chris Noth, in his second foray into the world of handsome louts we love to hate to love). Alicia is a lawyer-turned-stay-at-home mom and politician’s wife who is forced back into the wily world of corporate law after her husband is caught cavorting with sex workers, doing drugs, and possibly taking bribes. Executive producer Michelle King has said the show was inspired by the spectacle of the stone-faced political wives seen standing alongside their disgraced husbands at apologetic press conferences after revelations of infidelity, from Eliot Spitzer’s accomplished wife Silda Wall Spitzer to Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Edwards. (Though not mentioned, that group now includes former Sen. Larry Craig’s wife, Suzanne, former Governor Jim McGreevey’s now-former wife Dina and former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin.) —MC

GOTH: A subculture and aesthetic style that nods to the tattered clothing of the industrial revolution, nineteenth-century Gothic literature, horror films, vampires, and the romantic elegance of Victorian mourning wear. Goth as we know it today began appearing in the late 1970s and early 1980s as a rebellious response to the glitzy excess of disco and the powdery pastels of preppy style. The original Goth movement bubbled up through the music scene, with bands like the Cure, Joy Division, and Siouxsie and the Banshees defining the look. In the 1990s, Goth style blossomed among teen street culture — the golden age of ripped fishnets, combat boots, black hair dye, and shopping at Hot Topic while your parents weren’t looking. Ur-examples of nineties goth include the women of The Craft, Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams, The Crow, and Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel The Sandman. Goth style has made a recent resurgence with the return of grunge and alternative fashion — the look was retro when it began, but now even beat-up nineties-era Doc Martens are coveted vintage items for wannabe Gothic teens. In other news, you are old. —RS

HIGH ART: Film director Lisa Cholodenko’s first movie and a landmark of lesbian storytelling on screen. The film, released in 1998, stars Ally Sheedy as Lucy Berliner, a brooding but genius photographer (whose work resembles that of Nan Goldin). At forty, Lucy has retired from the business and now lives with her heroin-addled German girlfriend, played by Patricia Clarkson in all her laconic, detached, Marlene Dietrich-tinted glory (or as Janet Maslin wrote, “a walking, keeling over, reminder of the Fassbinder demimonde”). Radha Mitchell plays Syd, a straight junior editor at a photography magazine who happens to live downstairs from Lucy and meets her when her ceiling conveniently springs a leak. The two embark on a psychosexual affair that entwines sexuality and ambition, drugs and desire. It becomes murky as to who is seducing who, and bigger themes about the evils that women can inflict on one another emerge. While High Art remains a cult hit, Cholodenko went on to make bigger films, including The Kids Are Alright and the upcoming adaptation of Olive Kitteridge for HBO.

Illustration by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

HILL, LAURYN (1975- ): Embattled chanteuse of nineties soul. After escaping from soap opera (As the World Turns) and Hollywood sequel (Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit), Hill emerged as the iconic songstress of the Fugees (alongside Pras and on-and-off boyfriend Wyclef Jean) and cemented her legacy with her untouchable solo debut, 1998’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Then things got weird. “I’m crazy and deranged,” she announced on MTV Unplugged. “I’m a mess,” she told Carnegie Hall. At the Nice Jazz Festival, her set was unrecognizable and ninety minutes late. In venues around the world, fans waited for hours to catch a glimpse, then streamed out early in her unhinged sets. Eventually, Hill receded entirely from her critical darling image, exiled “Lauryn” from her public identity (she prefers “Empress” and “Ms. Hill”), moved in with her mom and kids in New Jersey, and, in 2013, disappeared into prison for three months on tax evasion charges. Maybe she’s deranged, or maybe she got tired of years of serving up digestable love songs to the record industry, radicalized (her latest album is 2012’s Black Rage), and refused to shut up. One thing she didn’t say was, “I would rather die than have a white person buy one of my albums”; in response to the rumor, she said, “I like to think my music is really universal.” —AH

HOLOFCENER, NICOLE (1960- ): Subtle, generous filmmaker who has quietly been building one of the strongest independent film careers in Hollywood. Holofcener, who grew up in a show business family (her stepfather Charles H. Joffe was the main producer of Woody Allen’s films), is obsessed with the emotional issues that haunt the upper-middle class: The evolution of female friendships (Walking and Talking), beauty and appearances (Lovely & Amazing), class discrepancies and money anxiety (Friends with Money), altruism (Please Give), and the perils of dating in middle age (Enough Said). Holofcener’s films are funny, smart, neurotic, and filled with precise “way we live now” details — some might compare her to a female Woody Allen, but she has her own vision, one that is softer and more suffused with humanity. Plus, she cast Tavi Gevinson in her first film role, so her casting choices are impeccable. —RS

KHOURI, CALLIE (1957- ): Filmmaker, screenwriter, director, and longtime chronicler of the intricacies of female friendship, Callie Khouri gave the world Thelma and Louise. The screenplay, which won her an Oscar, was written longhand at Khouri’s day job, giving struggling desk-bound women hope that they too could become successful by writing kooky adventure stories starring two broads. After writing the iconic cliff-dive ending, Khouri continued to mine female relationships in her work, writing Something to Talk About and adapting The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood for her directorial debut. Her career has been hit or miss (we waive the right to forget that Mad Money ever existed), but we have to give credit to any woman who can carve out a triple-decade career in Hollywood and continue to try new things. In 2012, Khouri turned to television, creating (with her musician husband T. Bone Burnett) Nashville, a soapy, country-fried vehicle for Friday Night Lights’s Connie Britton and Hayden Panetierre to go at it as dueling twangy divas. The show may be a busy train wreck at times, but anyone who recognizes that Tami Taylor and her radiance should always be on television, somewhere, is a hero to us. —RS

KIM, LIL (1974- ): Rapper, songwriter, beef-haver. Kimberly Denise Jones is a native Brooklynite who grew up in Bed-Stuy before it housed hipsters. Her parents, Linwood and Ruby Jones, divorced when Kim was nine and she went to live with her father. But the relationship between the rebellious younger Jones and her father deteriorated as she got older (she once reportedly stabbed him with a pair of scissors), and he kicked her out of the house around the age of sixteen. She spent the rest of what would have been her high school years couch-surfing and living on the streets — and socializing and practicing with rappers and lyricists, which brought her to the professional, and reportedly more intimate, attention of Biggie Smalls (a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G.). As part of Smalls’ Junior M.A.F.I.A., Kim made her debut on the group’s 1995 album Conspiracy, the notoriety from which she parlayed into a solo release, Hard Core, in 1996. The album went platinum, but Kim’s success was marred by Smalls’s murder in 1997. She spent the following couple of years modeling and being a featured artist on other people’s albums and mixtapes, and, in 1999, Kim launched her own label, Queen Bee Entertainment. It was under that label that she released The Notorious K.I.M. in 2000, which also went platinum — and escalated an existent fight between Kim and rapper Foxy Brown. In February 2001, Kim and her crew were involved in a shooting outside the New York City studios of Hot 97 — reportedly because of her ongoing feud with Foxy Brown. In 2003, Kim released her third platinum album, La Bella Mafia, which earned her two Grammy nominations. In 2005, Kim was convicted of perjury as a result of her grand jury testimony in the 2001 shooting, during which she said she had no relationship to those involved (though security footage proved otherwise). —MC

Illustration by Susie Cagle

LEWINSKY, MONICA (1973- ): Boy meets girl. Girl gives boy a little bit of oral. Boy is impeached, then acquitted. Girl ends up a footnote in boy’s record-breaking $15 million autobiography. Unfortunate aim of boy’s ejaculate overshadows girl’s career for the rest of her life. Monica Lewinsky turned forty in 2013, but is still defined by the sex she had with Bill Clinton—depending on what your definition of “is” is—at twenty-two. Lewinsky set out to make her name in Washington as an unpaid intern to White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta and later as a staffer in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs and in the Pentagon. When her Oval Office affair broke wide open in 1998, her professional ambitions wilted under a mountain of cigar puns and fat jokes, and “Lewinsky” became a popular neologism for fellatio. She’s since jettisoned her political dreams, gotten into knitting, hawked handbags, lost weight for Jenny Craig, appeared on The Tom Green Show, hosted a reality TV dating series (to pay off legal bills that persisted from the Clinton scandal, she said), and finally moved to London to escape the American obsession with the woman behind the stained blue Gap dress. —AH

LILITH FAIR: Musical festival now stereotyped as the fairy Celt wannabes of the 1990s, the women who may have liked Bikini Kill at a party but at home dreamt of draping themselves in brocade and muslin, and of going to play with butterflies in a swamp. Not a total Renaissance Faire affair, though: Sarah McLachlan’s idea was to simply have a festival which celebrated women in music, because she was horrified to find most concert promoters didn’t want women to appear together. Her choices included everyone from Meshell Ndegeocello to Lisa Loeb. A few boyfriends were always in evidence in the audience but it was largely a diva-cup-and-latte kind of scene. McLachlan et al. tried to revive the tradition in 2010, but people weren’t into it anymore, which made us a little sad. The girls are too busy playing Bling Ring and Taylor Swift these days. —MD

MACLACHLAN, SARAH (1968- ): Canadian singer-songwriter who was the obsession of many a Canadian fourteen-year-old in the mid-1990s. Folk-popist, with light and airy sound, though she seems a bit anguished, personally. (Every song is about “holding you down” and “building a mystery” and “don’t let your life pass you by.”) Now sort of classed as unhip adult-contemporary, few will admit to owning all of her albums and idolizing the woman and having a secret shrine that is not at all like the shrine the creepy stalker she sang about in “Possession.” Authoress of that “Angel” song you listen to right after “Everybody Hurts” on your I’m-feeling-despair mixtape. Fond of leather necklaces and vaguely earth-mother-Gaia outfits. Hosts gut-wrenching ads for the ASPCA in which she guilts us all for allowing cute puppies and kittens to suffer. —MD

MINAJ, NICKI (1982- ): Rapper, fashion icon, self-proclaimed “bitch.” Born Onika Tanya Maraj in Trinidad in 1982 to Carol and Robert, she lived with her grandmother until the age of five, when her parents sent for her to join them in Queens. She got there only to become a daily witness in her parents’ abusive relationship — her father, who reportedly abuses drugs and alcohol, burned down the family’s home after an argument with her mother. Minaj traces the origins of her “alter egos” to her childhood, when she says she used them to escape from the reality of her situation. A graduate of the famed LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City — where she focused on drama, having blown her music audition because of a sore throat — she started rapping and recording her own music, eventually coming to the attention of Dirty Money Entertainment’s CEO Fendi via tracks on her MySpace page. Released her first solo single, “Massive Attack,” in April 2010 and then her first album, Pink Friday, that November. It went platinum (like her hair does, sometimes). Not one to shy away from (well-paid) business opportunities, she also voiced a woolly mammoth named Steffie in Ice Age: Continental Drift and joined American Idol as a judge for one season. Minaj has openly discussed the sexist double standards at play when people described powerful women as “bitches” and men as “bosses.” —MC

NASH, DIANE (1938- ): Civil rights activist. A Chicago native, Nash attended both D.C.’s Howard University and Nashville’s Fisk University where she experienced systematic, systemic racism, including segregation, and quickly became involved with Rev. James Lawson’s non-violence seminars. By February 1960, Nash was leading department store lunch counter sit-ins as part of the Student Central Committee and in April of that year, she became one of the founding members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In 1961, she was arrested as she attempted to desegregate a lunch counter in Rock Hill, South Carolina and spent thirty days in jail, where she received her first correspondence with Martin Luther King, Jr. After dropping out of school to help organize the Nashville Student Movement Ride — part of the storied Freedom Riders movement in 1961—she married fellow Freedom Rider James Bevel and the two moved to Jackson, Mississippi to teach non-violent protest tactics and later joined the Southern Christian Leadership conference as field organizers, working on the Birmingham desegregation campaign (1963), the March on Washington (1963) and the Selma Voting Rights Campaign (1965), which culminated in horrible physical aggressions against nonviolent protestors and shocked the nation. (The protests eventually propelled the Voting Rights Act to passage.) After the end of her marriage to Bevel, Nash became a lecturer on women’s and human rights in the 1970s. She has received numerous awards for her civil rights work and, in 2009, received an honorary degree from Fisk University. —MC

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK: Good, arguably great, show by Jenji Kohan that focuses on life in a minimum-security Connecticut women’s corrections facility. Has one of the first, and certainly the best, trans characters so far on television, played by the wonderful Laverne Cox. The frame of the story, around the experience of a kind of boring white girl named Piper, is sometimes criticized for its inherent racism. The thing is, Kohan kind of knows that already — calling Piper her “Trojan horse” in an interview with NPR. “You’re not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories.” Must watch. —MD

PEIRCE, KIMBERLY (1967- ): Movie director of immense talent. Openly gay. Her first (and best, so far) film was Boys Don’t Cry (1999), a harrowing drama about Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was raped and murdered in small town Nebraska. Peirce first filmed the story as a short after interviewing several people in Teena’s hometown and attending the trial of Teena’s suspected murderers. Working as a paralegal and a film projectionist to bootstrap the film into a feature, Peirce found a mentor and true believer in Christine Vachon, independent film producer and one of the fiercest feminists working in Hollywood. Boys Don’t Cry changed the landscape — it won Hilary Swank an Oscar, and began an important larger dialogue about transgender acceptance. —RS

POPE, OLIVIA: The power-walking, bomb-defusing, capelet-wearing, wine-guzzling political “fixer” of Shonda Rhimes’s Scandal, played by Kerry Washington and loosely modeled after former George H. W. Bush press aide turned crisis management doyenne Judy Smith, she is the woman behind seemingly every great man in American politics (like the compassionate conservative U.S. president Fitzgerald Grant), but also every pathetic one (like her drunk, adulterous, whiny, jealous lover Fitzgerald Grant). Though steadfastly committed to “wearing the white hat” in her firm’s political schemings, Pope exhibits an almost sociopathic capacity for solving her clients’ problems (and her own), but conveniently possesses the power to resolve moral inconsistencies by narrowing her Bambi eyes and repeating her mantras “we’re taking the case” and “it’s handled. It’s. Handled.” Populates her firm, Pope & Associates, with a crew of disgraced professionals she’s rescued from personal danger and/or insider trading charges, ensuring they’ll never turn against her, but keeps her own secrets closely guarded beneath her fabulously structured winter coats. Both an untouchable fantasy woman and an icon to high-powered single ladies everywhere: When she’s not calling in favors to Supreme Court justices to rig death penalty cases, she cries into generous pours of red wine, pops butterless popcorn by the pound, and is perpetually fending off/making out with a coterie of unworthy ex-boyfriends (hers include a sexy president, a sexy U.S. senator, and a sexy paramilitary assassin). —AH

RHIMES, SHONDA (1970- ): After making her name writing 1999 HBO movie Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, the 2001 Britney Spears camp vehicle Crossroads, and the 2004 Hollywood sequel The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, Rhimes hit her stride in TV—and became primetime’s first black female showrunner—when she created the ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy, its spin-off Private Practice, and the current political drama Scandal. Rhimes has quietly exploded the diversity quotient on primetime television since she populated Grey’s Seattle Grace Hospital with a diverse cast of surgeons and a prominent lesbian storyline. In 2012, Scandal’s Olivia Pope became the first female lead of a network drama in nearly four decades. (Also on Scandal: Television’s first homicidal gay Republican chief of staff.) “I believe everyone should get to see themselves reflected on TV,” she wrote in 2012. “EVERYONE.” Rhimes’s track record easily dispenses with the idea that if a show is “geared for women, it’s somehow not as serious as if it’s geared for men,” as she’s said. If her Twitter bio is any indication, some people take her shows a little bit too seriously: “I make stuff up for a living. Remember, it’s not real, okay? Don’t tweet me your craziness.” (See also: Pope, Olivia.) —AH

Illustration by Vanessa Davis

SCRUNCHIE: Elastic hair tie wrapped in an undulating fabric sheath. Invented by former singer-songwriter Rommy Revson in 1986, the scrunchie maintained a stranglehold over the American ponytail for the better part of the next decade, gracing the teased crowns of Sarah Jessica Parker, Monica Geller, the female residents of Full House, and every member of the 1992 American women’s gymnastics team. In 2000, the New York Times Book Review panned Ted Heller’s Slab Rat, a thinly-veiled satire of Condé Nast magazine culture, because Heller wrote a scrunchie into a chic magazine editor’s hair. “No ambitious woman at Condé Nast has worn a scrunchy—or ever will wear a scrunchy,” the New York Times Book Review decreed. “It renders the book unbelievable.” By the time Heller’s misfire was fictionalized in a 2003 episode of Sex and the City—despite Parker’s own history with the accessory, Carrie Bradshaw squealed in horror when her boyfriend’s novel featured a protagonist flitting about Manhattan wearing one—the scrunchie was seemingly banishing to the bathroom bottom drawer forever. Then Hillary Clinton—another underestimated relic of the nineties—got cool again, and started stepping out as Secretary of State with her hair tied back in the scrunchie’s billowing folds of white satin and black velvet. In 2012, champion gymnast McKayla Maroney further elevated the look when her “unimpressed face” went viral (under a scrunchied high ponytail). Today, American Apparel mass-produces scrunchies in eleven patterns, and Missoni markets a $95 scrunchie made from mint satin with a cherry red crochet-knit overlay. —AH

SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT: Spike Lee’s first movie, about an African-American woman named Nola Darling torn between three different suitors. The film, released in 1986, was a sensation when it came out, not just because it did well at the box office but also because it inspired a public discussion about the representation of race in film. Arguably, the movie was an attempt to depict a black woman being sexually free to choose her partner. Nonetheless: bell hooks was not a fan. “Nola has no personality. She is shallow, vacuous, empty. Her one claim to fame is that she likes to fuck. In the male pornographic imagination she could be described as ‘pure pussy,’ that is to say that her ability to perform sexually is the defining, central aspect of her identity.” Most black feminist critics agreed with her, and Lee’s been fighting his way out from under accusations of sexism ever since. —MD

SHOWALTER, ELAINE (1941- ): Literary critic who wrote long histories of lady writers in America and Great Britain, indispensable to those who enjoy rediscovering nineteenth-century menstruation memoirs and all the great black poetesses that never seem to make it on the nation’s syllabi. Showalter refers to herself as a “gynocritic,” a word which indicates that the critic it describes doesn’t give a shit What Men Think — the prototypical Jezebel reader, you might say. A big My So-Called Life fan, to boot. —MD

SHOWGIRLS: The camp classic to end all camp classics. A critical flop when it hit theaters in 1995, but quickly became a huge hit, especially with drag queens — it will be screened forever and ever at gay bars. The plot is your basic power struggle between women in spangly leotards: Nomi Malone is a scheming drifter who weasels her way into a job as a showgirl in Vegas, then rises through the seedy ranks at the Stardust Casino by sleeping with everyone, including the casino’s power-mad bisexual star, Cristal Connors — Gina Gershon in iconic glitz. Nomi pushes Cristal down the stairs and becomes a star. But at what price? AT WHAT PRICE?

The screenplay is unrivaled when it comes to campy quotes. A few to commit to memory:

  • “This isn’t champagne. This… is HOLY WATER.”
  • “The Farmer in the Dell, The Farmer in the Dell, I had a cherry once, and now it’s gone to hell.”
  • “There’s always someone younger and hungrier coming down the stairs after you.” —RS

STEUBENVILLE: An Ohio city of approximately 18,500 people situated west of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where 79 percent of the population is white and 27.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The city’s high school football team is one of the nation’s best, but residents’ obsession with their team of young men came under national scrutiny after two members of the squad, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, raped an incapacitated, intoxicated sixteen-year-old girl on August 11 and 12, 2012. The sexual assault was documented by the perpetrators, their friends, and other teammates on social media, but Mays and Richmond weren’t arrested until the 22nd of that month. (A local blogger, Alexandria Goddard, published the social media evidence related to the assault and accused the police department and prosecutors of corruption in the case — something not outside the realm of possibility in a town long known for its corruption.) Many of the football team’s boosters openly blamed the victim (and Goddard) when the whole case made the New York Times, after which the hacker collective Anonymous published detailed information about other students involved in documenting and mocking the assault on social media. After a trial that showcased the brutality of the assault and its aftermath, Mays and Richmond were convicted and, as juveniles, sentenced to two years and one year, respectively. The only adults charged in the case were William Rhinaman, the Steubenville schools’ IT director, who was charged with obstruction of justice and could face up to four years in prison, and hacker Deric Lostutter, who released more information on the perpetrators through Anonymous, and who could face ten years in prison. —MC

SWIFT, TAYLOR (1989- ): Much-beloved pop chronicler of the many romantic disappointments of Taylor Swift, and also of her different chronological ages, which have included numbers such as “Fifteen” and “22.” Seems to mean well enough — the Mayer-shaming “Dear John” is a fine effort — but tends to mix public statements about how no one should judge her for her sex life with songs in which she ferociously judges other women for their sex lives. (Don’t listen to “Better Than Revenge” right before bed; it will dredge up your worst girl-bullying memories, and haunt you in nightmares.) Still, despite the “Is Taylor Feminist” battles that have frequently left the Internet a charred wasteland, it could be a lot worse: Swift’s work has given many young women a lens through which to examine their own feelings, and possibly even to believe that they, too, deserve a public hearing. Not all of those feelings will be admirable, but, you know, sometimes you’re just happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical, oh, yeah. —Sady Doyle

TAYLOR, TAMI: The mother everyone always wanted. The best hair on television. The fiery mama bear of Friday Night Lights and the glue that held Coach Taylor and his team of Dillion Panthers in fictional small-town Texas. A guidance counselor at Dillon High when the show begins, Tami goes through several career and family struggles, becoming a school principle and, eventually, a dean of admissions at a college, all while raising a teen daughter, comforting her husband, and generally trying to have it all. While that might be a tall order for women in real life, Tami makes it look easy on screen. Clear eyes, great hair, can’t lose. —RS

TWERKING: Twerking is to the early twenty-first century what grinding was to the late twentieth: a dance move with ostensibly sexual connotations that gained peak media saturation (and parental hand-wringing) once suburban white girls hit the floor and raised their asses to the sky. (See also: Dirty Dancing.) Has roots in the southeast Côte d’Ivoire’s Mapouka dance and was filtered into the American pop culture consciousness through the New Orleans bounce music scene, when DJ Jubilee’s 1993 track, “Do the Jubilee All” included the directive “Twerk baby, twerk baby, twerk twerk twerk.” But twerking only hit the Oxford English Dictionary when it became a white-girl thing, culminating in a tongue-wagging Miley Cyrus appropriating the move (and slapping the ass of a black female backup dancer) in a summer 2013 MTV Video Music Awards shitshow. As Cyrus joked on Saturday Night Live in October, “I used to think twerking was cool, but now that white people are doing it, it seems kind of lame.” —AH

WILSON, REBEL (1986- ): Australian actress. (And yes, that is her real name.) Her blaze through Hollywood has been solidified by the holy trinity of comedy: appearing in a Judd Apatow production (Bridesmaids), carrying a teen flick (Pitch Perfect), and landing her own sitcom deal (Super Fun Night). Wilson has become well-known for mocking her own body type, as in her role as “Fat Amy” in Pitch Perfect. She projects a comfort in her body that many find admirable, though she admits to having struggled with weight and has served as an on-and-off spokeswoman for Jenny Craig in her home country. She also does a killer Honey Boo Boo impersonation and can rock a track suit like no one else. —RS

WOLLSTONECRAFT, MARY (1759-1797): Philosopher, novelist, historian, and author of Vindication of the Rights of Women, published in 1792, making her a Grand Foremother of Books About Lady Things. Approximately 8,000 times more interesting than that brief synopsis would lead you to believe. Wollstonecraft’s first feminist act was routinely guarding her mother’s bedroom door to prevent her abusive father from getting in. From this, she acquired profound insecurities, bouts of severe depression, and many sound criticisms of the male-female arrangement, including such mind-blowing ideas as “women should have jobs” and “women should be represented in government” and “men can’t complain about how stupid women are if they don’t let us learn things.” Still, she was long defined by someone else’s words: Her husband William Godwin’s biography of her covered, amongst other things, Wollstonecraft’s depression, her attempt to shack up with a married man and his wife, and the fact that she’d not only had a tormented live-in relationship with American land speculator Gilbert Imlay, she’d had a child with him, and attempted suicide when he moved in with another woman. Early feminists decided that Wollstonecraft’s kick-starting an entire political movement outweighed personal faults such as having sex sometimes and being sad. “I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists—I wish to persuade women to endeavour to acquire strength, both of mind and body,” she wrote in Vindication. Wollstonecraft had to endeavor more than most of us. It means more that she did. —SD

Illustration by Ping Zhu

WOOLF, VIRGINIA (1882-1941): English author whose sex life and mental health struggles sometimes steal focus from her work. Most cited in feminist circles for A Room of One’s Own, in which she suggested that women require independent incomes and space in order write good fiction. (Women who’ve created art without Woolf’s upper-crust background to lean on might beg to differ on some points, but, still a decent thesis: Get out of our room, Patriarchy! We’re reading!) There’s also Mrs. Dalloway and To The Lighthouse, her brilliant literary criticism, her supremely weird “my girlfriend is an immortal shapeshifter not bound by gender” love letter to Vita Sackville-West, Orlando, and her diaries, which are often delightfully snotty and gossipy, and which frequently devote long sections to complaining about her critics, which, in a surprising twist, suggests that Virginia Woolf would have been an avid and proficient self-Googler. —SD

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