PODCAST GEEKDOM, PREGNANCY HAIR, BEYONCE FEMINISM.

Oh, blog! Blog, blog, blog – how I have missed thee.

As I write this, it’s a rainy Sunday, and exactly one day before my 32nd birthday. But lo, it’s the first year I haven’t felt compelled to make a big deal about it, or subtly entreat my friends and family for gifts* (*please refer to the end of this post for a mailing address to send birthday checks).

“Perhaps,” I think, “this is the beginning of parental selflessness. When for once, I think about other people more than I think about me, people like my baby, and all the things I need to do for her instead of me.”

That’s a nice thought. But in truth, I’m just too lazy to plan a birthday party.

I haven’t been too lazy, however, to enjoy the hell out of the podcast I was telling you guys about, “Statesman Shots.” The experience has given me a tremendous amount of respect for all of my favorite existing podcasts – Slate Culture Gabfest, NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour, the Dinner Party Download – and the amount of work that goes into each one. The topic planning, the guest scheduling, etc. – Shots is this tiny, mewling baby of a podcast that stands on the shoulders of giants, giants with way more involved shows than ours, and yet we still bust our bootays getting it all ready each week. We want to talk about stuff that is fun, but also thoughtful; we want GUESTS who are fun, but also thoughtful, and that regular challenge has yielded one of the most singularly fulfilling creative assignments I’ve ever had.

Besides the opportunity to talk with smart people each week like Omar, my co-host, the other lovely thing about the show is that it gives me an excuse to mouth off about whatever cultural topic I feel like. It’s exactly what I wanted grad school (in a very practical field – English Literature – shut up) to be! Here are a few stories I’ve written for the Statesman that were hatched out of Shots conversations:

Locating the heart of Wes Anderson films

How LBJ’s ghost haunts House of Cards

There’s so much insightful pop cultural criticism on the Internet these days, but I’m grateful to have this one little corner of it. In fact, writing here has made me think about the recent shuttering of Television Without Pity, the early aughts-founded site where Omar, and a ton of other glittering culture writers (like Linda Holmes, host of Pop Culture Happy Hour and NPR’s Monkey See blog) got their start; a site that pioneered the TV recap form.

Now, I’m not sure how many people read the Statesman Shots blog yet (Mom? Dad?), but hear ye, hear ye, Internet writers: claim those nascent website homes! When you see a promising new site, one that doesn’t yet claim a huge following but does glint with quality and smarts – pitch it. Pitch it now, before it becomes huge. Writers for TWOP didn’t just go on to contribute to NPR, some became novelists and program show runners. That means fancy TV show writers, y’all! 

Anyway. Aside from podcasting, I’m just doing all my writing work before le bebe gets here in six and a half weeks (whoa), winding down my yoga classes, and enjoying the last halcyon days of pregnancy hair. Here it is in action:

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Ok, well, you can’t really see said hair here, because it’s all tucked up under a hat. (Note: there’s also a handwritten message on the rock in the background that I believe says “BE HAPPY,” but could also have said “BE HARPY,” which is solid advice for new mothers.)

I did a maternity photo shoot last weekend A) because I want to document this time in my life, and B) because I am very vain. Someday, I’ll haul out these photos for my teenage daughter and be like, “look!!! You were just a sweet little baby in my belly back then!!!!!” -To which she will probably roll her eyes and stomp off angstily to text her friends via her contact lenses, or whatever teens of the future do.

The other guiding force though in my maternity shoot was – ahem – Beyonce.

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In the world of feminism, Beyonce is a polarizing figure. Me? Totally in her pocket.

Here’s a reader comment from the Bitch magazine article linked to above:

“She conforms to the beauty ideals and does nothing to fight them. she may not be an anti-feminist, but she doesn’t seem like a feminist to me. Maybe she’s a sex-positive “feminist”.”

That comment immediately got jumped on by others in the Bitch community and rightly so, because who says you can’t be sex positive and a feminist?

Here’s what Beyonce says about her own sexuality, shortly after releasing her latest album, and shortly after becoming a mother:

“I’m still finding my sensuality, getting back into my body, being proud of growing up. It was important that I expressed that in this music because I know there are so many women that feel the same thing after they give birth…I don’t at all have any shame about being sexual and I’m not embarrassed about it and I don’t feel like I have to protect that side of me because I do believe that sexuality is a power that we all have.”

This is a dated quote to point out by now, since it accompanied her album release back in December. But it’s a sentiment I’ve been thinking about so much lately being pregnant, and on the verge of becoming a mom.

When Beyonce uttered those words, I was immediately like THANK GOD. Then I wondered, wait. Why do I feel such relief hearing that? It’s not like tabloids don’t play up the sexy celeb mom thing all the freakin’ time.

But isn’t there also a very real, deep-rooted value in our culture that sorta asks moms to tuck away their sexuality? That associates sexuality with greed? That says you can’t simultaneously be greedy and also nurturing…right?

Usually I think no – we’re past that. But then, there was a slew of posts a few months back from Christian blogs on yoga pants that totally fascinated me. Here’s one. In sum: yoga pants provoke lust and cause men to sin, so don’t wear them, ladies.

Now, if sexuality –> lust –> sin is in your rubric of religious beliefs, then that’s that and we don’t have to argue about it. Also, not all Christians think this way. But! I am weirdly fond of thinking through the issues surrounding sexuality and motherhood, and Internet discussions like these reveal something even more profound: we’re still sorting out sexuality and womanhood.

I don’t have a concrete answer to any of this, by the way. Except to say that there’s a difference between being an object of sexuality, and an agent of your own sexuality, and this is the novel thing I think Beyonce is doing here. By voicing desire, and by democratizing it (“sexuality is a power that we all have”). She’s certainly not the first pop star to have done so, but to assert both that side of herself as well as her joy in being a mom, on the same album!, is incredibly cool in all sorts of ways.

(And if it wasn’t clear before, this is all a brief way of saying that my maternity shoot was made up entirely of Beyonce dance move gif’s. Werk!)