177 - "Tennis Shoes (for the first time ever on my blog)" OR "The Day I Built a Desk"

Shirt - vintage, Leggings - American Apparel DIY bleached, Denim Jacket - vintage, Shoes - old...from high school, Sunglasses - vintage, Jewelry - mostly from the flea market

Yup, I think this is the first time I've ever worn tennis shoes on my blog. I don't often wear tennis shoes, but on this particular day, Brit and I were working in the new Tunnel Vision studio all day, and I needed to be highly mobile...and agile...like a panther. Yeah, a tennis shoe panther...

So, on that particular day, I built a desk. To be more specific, I built this desk:

It's a little wonky, but it's the first thing I've ever built, and I'm quite proud of it. In fact, I'm rather irrationally proud of it. I finished and proclaimed that I was now qualified to build all sorts of things. "What do you want?" I asked Brit. "You want a house? I'll build you a house. A SUMMER house...on some LAND." To this, Brit replied, "It looks good! Umm...are the legs supposed to be...you know, crooked...like that?"

Yes. I designed it that way. That is a design element. It's the new avant-garde. I am a carpentry genius. 


Hey, did you guys read that awesome thing Ashley Judd said in response to women being judged by their appearances and how deeply patriarchy runs? I thought it was very good! Key quotes I liked include:

"[Women] are described and detailed, our faces and bodies analyzed and picked apart, our worth ascertained and ascribed based on the reduction of personhood to simple physical objectification. Our voices, our personhood, our potential, and our accomplishments are regularly minimized and muted."

"Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women."

"Our bodies are a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others."

I highly recommend reading the entire piece here. I do not recommend reading the comments on the article, unless you are looking for reasons to hate society.

I try to only talk about fashion-y things here, but I do think that critique of our physical appearances is deeply tied to fashion. I have always said that fashion is the only element of aesthetics that is valid. It is the act of women taking agency over their appearances, and it is, quite frankly, the only thing about our appearances that should matter. Those of you who follow me on Tumblr or Formspring have probably seen me awkwardly eschew compliments about my physical appearance. I have even been lambasted for doing so. However, becoming involved in internet culture has shown me firsthand the obscene value young women place on this strange idea of physical "beauty". I see these internet micro-celebrities lauded for their good looks, with other girls doting over them and wondering aloud, "Why can't I look like that?!" I see girls actively promoting thinspo and proudly discussing their eating disorders. I see all of this, and I think, "NO." I refuse to be a part of that system. The trouble is, I don't quite know how to effectively reject it. I have tried rejecting comments about my physical appearance altogether (the good and the bad), but I'm not sure that is effective...it just comes across as strange. Maybe we shouldn't reject compliments about our beauty -- maybe we should instead promote the idea that everyone is beautiful. Is that even possible? I simply don't know.

What I do know is this: we, as girls and women, need to learn how to judge each other beyond our physical appearances. That's the first step to establishing that women are more than how pretty our faces are. I don't know about you, but I would rather my daughter be brilliant, funny, strong, tough, insightful, artistic, inquisitive, introspective, honest, hardworking, enthusiastic, and joyful than pretty. We can't expect to overcome sexism if we are actively participating in it by perpetuating this bizarre and narrow standard of "beauty" and placing undue emphasis upon it.

What do you think? What small steps can we take in our day to day lives to break the influence patriarchy has on how we feel about our appearances?


  1. You are ridiculously inspirational. Your words are so passionate and you say everything I'm either afraid to speak on, or can't put into words. I just want to thank you for that. :)

  2. "What I do know is this: we, as girls and women, need to learn how to judge each other beyond our physical appearances." Agree, agree! I too loved the Ashley Judd article. Very empowering to read. (And I love your outfit, as usual.) Where do you get your jewelry?

  3. I agree that we shouldn't place so much emphasis on physical beauty...but we really cannot help it in the same way we are attracted to cute puppies and kittens. It literally feels good to look at attractive things. It like raises dopamine levels or some shit. Women are obsessed with women. Men are obsessed with women. Women have all the beauty. We really cannot help but think it, though we can probably refrain from blurting out compliments involving physical appearance. Don't you look at pictures of beautiful girls because they are beautiful? Don't clothes just look best on them? Why do you choose the models you do for your online store? You wouldn't choose a large model, or one with an asymetrical face, would you? Its way more pleasing to look at something physically pretty or incredibly interestingly pretty. You have a tiny body, which is appealing, with small limbs and big eyes and an oval face with good hair. Of course people look at your blog, your pictures are pretty. If some less attractive girl wore your exact clothes with great quality pictures like yours, they wouldnt get half the attention you get. Because clothes just dont look as great on them. Why do you choose flattering pictures? Youve said before you stand they way you do, on the tips of your toes because otherwise you think your legs look stumpy? Wyy does that matter? Some girls have super thick legs and no matter what they stand like their legs will always look stumpy. Does that mean they shouldnt post any pictures of their legs? You wouldnt, if your legs looked like that. There are disfigured people out there that probably look at your pictures and feel worse about themselves. And dont you compliment girls on their looks?

    I dont know, I just think as a whole we cannot help but love beauty. And women are beautiful if they are beautiful. There is a general body type and symetrical face type that appeals to us because it physically feels good to look at it. We cant help but be drawn to it, no matter how much we shouldnt.

    1. Wow, I completely COMPLETELY disagree with that last comment by anonymous. First of all: since when do models have symmetrical faces? Take any major model-- they all have some quirk that sets them apart from the others. Their idiosyncrasies are marketable-- far apart eyes, gaps in teeth, bright pink hair, etc. Not that I support the modeling industry, which is nonetheless co-opted by the patriarchy-- but just that it isn't like there's a certain kind of "perfect symmetrical" girl that everyone loves.

      And I completely don't understand that comment about "stumpy" legs. Have you, "anonymous," ever thought that maybe your perceptions of beauty are completely shaped by a sexist hetero-normative society? I hardly think that we think certain women are beautiful in the same way that we're psychologically compelled to like puppies and kittens. Especially since we are psychologically compelled to like baby animals because they remind us of human INFANTS, not women.

      I think there are many things women could do to break out of this system. One is to discuss things like this more often; just earlier this day I was stopped on the street and harassed by a man because he "liked my eyes." It was extremely scary and uncomfortable. If more women spoke up about this, especially in the presence of men, it would make people realize how often objectification occurs, and how traumatic it is.

      I have a lot to say about this topic! But don't want to take up all the room on this comments board and write an essay. So I'll leave my blog name here instead: 2-or-3-things.blogspot.com

    2. I'm with Julia here. I am sorry but I think anonymous needs to go read a freaking history book, the idea of thin being the only kind of beauty is a very new concept. Throughout history what we now consider plus size or curvy was the most desirable beauty. Just look at the most famous paintings of the female figure they are almost all full figured. That does not mean that skinny girls are not beautiful they are, but it is very narrow minded to think that there is only one kind of beauty.

      Any-who I love your outfit Madeline and I want you to know what an inspiration you are! I read your blog because I love your style and your personality. I don't look at your pictures to judge your body or appearance I look at your pictures for inspiration and am always positively uplifted from your blog. Thank you for having the courage to try to discus these topics on your blog.



  4. This post came at such a perfect time. I had just been in an uncomfortable situation where an adult I thought I could trust made a questionable comment about what I was wearing. It got me thinking about how guys sometimes think that if women dress a certain way, that they want to be looked at/get a certain type of attention. I want to do a post about this on my blog and I'm trying to write a poem about it for my poetry class, but it's a challenging issue to cover, because so much of it is an opinion. If you have any advice, I would greatly appreciate it, but I understand if you don't have time to reply to all comments.

  5. i could not agree more with you on your views on appearances and fashion's agent role involved. such an inspiring blog post- from dressing amazing, to building a table (looks great), and exploring such a political issue- i loved it all! found you through lb & my friend jackie is loved you! now i understand why! you rock!! xxxx


  6. Same here; a day full of work and a pair of heels aren't a really cool team. So sneakers are the real friends ;-) Btw, the desk is great.

  7. I agree with everything yourself and Ashley Judd have stated above...the only thing I can really contribute is that if you (or anyone reading this reall) have not seen Jean Kilbourne's "Killing Us Softly" documentaries GO WATCH NOW. I really wish it were required viewing (especially for people like "anonymous" above) because as a society we do not recognize how poison our environment is for women these days and how greatly it is effecting us. If you have 45 minutes to spare why not spend it usefully? You can watch all of the most recent edition on youtube ----> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ujySz-_NFQ&feature=related

  8. That's a splendid bit of desk. Agree with your thoughts on beauty and appearance. What a restrictive and miserable way to live if you subscribe to contemporary standards of female beauty. Restrictive not just for women, but for men too.

  9. love the denim jacket, your pants and your new table!!!

  10. We live in an image-obsessed culture, and this often saddens me because, as you yourself have hinted, I'm not sure what the solution is.
    I also very much appreciated the Judd article.

    If you haven't seen it yet, I would highly recommend watching Miss Representation. It touches on a lot of the issues you often hint at here on Jean Griege.


    I think there's something seriously skewed in the way the world works at the moment. Maybe we need to boycott the kinds of media that contribute to creating this culture where women are brought up to feel fundamentally insecure. But when our world is saturated with these messages and we're engaging with them in the wrong ways, even CONSOLIDATING them... I don't know, I'm not sure I have answers and maybe these tensions are inescapable, but the first step is being aware of them.

  11. Really enjoy reading your opinions since this is something relevant to most bloggers and that few ever touch upon. I have recoiled and been slightly disgusted reading tons of 'you are so pretty/beautiful/stunning' on blog posts and then REPLIES along the lines of 'thankyou - you are so sweet.' The kind of desperately aspirational comments of young girls and grown women are cringe worthy, because of what they are a product of and the cultural hegemony they represent, but the replies are far worse: superficially boosting your ego whilst deflating other females'. I really, really respect you for asking people not to comment on your physical appearance.

    I believe beauty is about a person's essence. I know plenty of traditionally (western) 'hot' or 'beautiful' women who say such horrible shit about other females all I feel is sick when I look at them. My appearance is me, it's part of my essence and so I wouldn't change any of it - to look like anyone on earth because I wouldn't be me. (Another thing which makes me really sad for our lack of self love is plastic surgery). If you believe in the wonder of God or the amazingly complex scientific system which allowed you to come into being as you - you are individual, that's magical, embrace that shit!

    And to the people commenting on 'standardised' features like symmetry which we are 'all' attracted to - there have been countless anthropological studies about what we are attracted to and there is definitely no 'universal' 'standardised' beauty that we all appreciate - IT IS CULTURALLY PRODUCED. You only see things as looking ‘best’ on someone because your viewpoint is framed. I grew up around African aunties who would joke (and make no less offensive comments) about someone like Madeline looking funny in little shorts because she has (according to their closed cultural viewpoint) no butt or thighs and she’s not ‘thick’ enough. If you’ve travelled at all you’ll know it ideas of beauty differ wherever you go. As far as both face and figure go it is related to your culture - many tribes which have little/no contact with the cultural products/ideology of the western world have their own vastly different cultural ideas of beauty - however these run usually run deeper than the 'western' ideas as they are related to practical life tasks/strengths and the local environment ie; survival. Whereas the west’s propagated idea has become subconsciously related to success/happiness/money etc ie; the 'goals' in our world.

    I like dirty, hippy, scar faced men - I am aware this is a cultural product - but for me personally the important thing is to make it more personal than subconsciously absorbing a mass ideology. For me it is related to something a little deeper: my world outlook and the things I reject in society (I am not attracted to clean cut business men because of what they represent semantically to me). As far as women are concerned I love androgyny - precisely because I think I subconsciously rejected this 'pretty' shit I was being fed a long time ago. Make it about you, make it about what it represents - which is why fashion/style is fine to applaud someone for whereas applauding them for their face is - just weird.

    I guess what I’m saying is you can’t escape the fact that attraction and beauty and culturally moulded – but it’s VERY important to be aware of that. And if you do have half a brain and live as part of a now globalised society you really should be past imposing your narrow viewpoint on others. SO SORRY!! I wrote a bloody essay! was thinking as I typed xx

  12. I love the pants and the all outfit

    Great post


  13. Your outfits always look amazing!
    And I agree with what you said about beauty and fashion. It's almost compulsive for us to categorize people into "beautiful/hot" or just not. The funny thing is, that categorization is heavily influenced by external factors, like the media. The saddest part is, I don't think anyone really knows how to get out of this cycle. Because everywhere we go, we are, whether it is consciously or subconsciously, influenced by something or someone.

    Your blog is absolutely amazing for trying to refrain from judgements based on physical appearances. You're a true inspiration.

    Keep up the good work.


    much love,

  14. Really inspiration post, thank you so much. The photos are lovely as well.

    Emma x

  15. your outfits and photos are sooo cool, love your denim jacket and the rings! xx


  16. You look absolutely fabulous! Love.

  17. First off: congratulations on the desk! isn't building satisfying? Because of my major/profession, I'm building things pretty often, and something that pisses me off to no end, is going to buy materials (wood, metal, etc) and getting the "do you know what you're doing, sweetheart?" comment from dudes working there. Or the classic, "want me to carry that to your car?" No, please. As irritated as words like these make me, its really our society's fault, rather than the individual themselves. We place such an emphasis on "pretty" that other, more important attributes like 'strong' and 'intelligent' are considered a detriment if you lack the physical characteristics to go along.
    I really don't know how to effectively reject patriarchy. I think the first step is to accept one another as women, and celebrate the real beauty inherent in all of us. We've been trained to be so competitive with each other, and to strive to look better than every other woman in the room. If we can give up this mentality, and just be ourselves, without the desire to look 'better' than another, then perhaps we'll be a step closer to ending the objectification of women, by women.

  18. I am obsessed with your rings! And That jacket is ageless.

  19. You look amazing in tennis shoes ha! I think I may bleach a pair of black leggings like this too. You also ARE amazing, please continue posting feminist/other issue-related stuff on here because I love reading your opinions, I am definitely going to read the Ashley Judd article (and avoid the comments).

  20. Many times when I see people watching photos of their friends and their husbands/wives I hear comments such as 'Oh my, what does she/he sees in him/her? She/he is so pretty/handsome and he/she is not.' This isn't really fair. Maybe they are perfect for each other, maybe they complement each other, probably they are madly in love and beautiful for each other! I cannot fall in love with a look... I fall in love with a person...

  21. Ohh and good job with the desk you made :D

  22. I think there's always going to be that little voice in your head(well my head at least) saying "I wish I had legs like that girl". It's like a like a malfunctioning chip in our brains. I know I have always had a love hate relationship with my body personally. Everyday is different..like damnit why are my thighs so big, then one day I'm in love with them because they are strong & I've put in good work at the gym to get them like this.

    When we're younger we are force fed these ideas of what beauty "really" is. It's something that I don't think will ever change. You're always going to have thin models on covers of magazines(Teen Voguge..Seventeen magazine), and these young girls are always going to go towards those magazines.

    I also feel like teen girls & older women are more obsessed with celebrity culture that it warps their mind into thinking they must look tiny in order to have everything. Oh this celebrity dates models, so that must be what all guys want. Oh, every woman in a movie out right now is thin...And then they turn against themselves, forgetting how truly unique and beautiful they are.

    I honestly don't think there's too much that can be done..you can only reassure someone that they are perfect the way they are so many times. There's always that doubt.

    Sorry for the ramble!

  23. Wow, you should be very proud of yourself, that desk looks great!!


  24. all the rings <3

  25. To make our own aesthetic standards independent of a seeminly innate facet of society is not facile and, debatably, impervious to the utmost valiance due to its intrinsic nature. However, to say any corporeal or facial correction or aspiration for difference is solely in part to a patriarchy is beautifully naive and a pathetic fallacy.

    1. Your first sentence implies that establishing standards of beauty that exist beyond patriarchy seems impossible because patriarchy is so deeply-rooted in our society. However, your second sentence indicates that the idea of "beauty" isn't tied to patriarchy. That's a major contradiction. Obviously, our standards of beauty are shaped by male expectation, and the obscene emphasis placed on physical beauty is the result of a male-dominated social structure; it is the still-clinging remnant of a recent era where all a woman had was her physical appearance, which she used in the hopes of finding a rich husband who could take care of her.

      Were it not for the emphasis placed on a woman's physical beauty (the obvious result of patriarchy -- otherwise, the exact same amount of emphasis would be placed on a man's appearance, which it clearly is not), women would not feel the overwhelming desire to change elements of their appearance. To think otherwise is, in my opinion, naive.

    2. I was stating, or intended to, it will be arduous movement, but fundamental to separate ourselves from potent heterosexist gender normative ideals. My latter statement was contradicting a recent point I had heard recently that believed a mere concern in physical aesthetic was conforming to patriarchy to an extreme extent. I concur to your second point (paragraph), however I deliberately inserted conditional phrases such as (eg. any, solely) to recognize other factors.

  26. bravo!

    personally the best way for me not to "participate" is to really delve into what i am good at... or my interests. to paint, to draw, read, etc on a daily basis no matter if it's just a few minutes. to explore the things about me that are not about how i look :) it is more difficult than it seems, especially if you are into fashion haha

    love these posts!

  27. The women's room at Toi on Sunset: There isn't a mirror, but graffiti that says "you don't need a mirror you are already beautiful"... I don't know why, but crap like that makes me happy. And Ashley Judd's article!

  28. this is one of my favorite outfit ensembles, its effortless but very well put together!