The double supermoon of newsletters is channeling our inner thespian and storming the gates of Montecito.
What would make the perfect women’s magazine? Juicy yarns, big ideas, deeply personal examinations of women’s lives—and none of the advertiser obligations. Welcome to the Spread, where every week two editors read, listen, and watch it all, and deliver only the best to your inbox.
Allure is onto us. Though we’ve been acting extremely casual behind our schooner-size Loewe sunglasses and tasteful Bottega headscarves, the now online-only—join us, please, in a moment of silence—publication has caught wind of how we Spreaditor types are staying, well, productive during the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Which is to say they know we’re spending our downtime getting peeled, suctioned, tucked, filled, nipped, resurfaced, lifted, and further lifted. Look, a break like this doesn’t come along every day! We’ve got to, um, strike while the face-flattening iron is hot! (Kudos to our fearless el capitaine Fran Drescher, who clearly had the foresight to hop on her doc’s dance card well in advance of her moment on the front lines—Nanny is snatched.) We’d like to thank our medical teams, and smoothie delivery service, and while we’re at it, we are just next-level grateful that we get to recuperate in such a beautiful place. Oh, did we not tell you? So, yeah, that whole commune idea—so last week. This week, we instead purchased a rustic l’il villa in the darling village of Montecito (unfortunately our cover was recently blown on this front, too, this time by Amy Larocca in the New York Times). Which reminds us that we should probably get going: Our neighbors—Ellen, Oprah, Meghan—are floating over to our place for a little housewarming party, where we’ll enjoy mounds of Strottarga Bianco, shots of unicorn-spit kombucha, and gummies made with pegasus-bone collagen.
Never forget: Being grateful for what we have makes what we have enough.
Rachel & Maggie
P.S. Welcome to our many and undoubtedly brilliant and beauteous new subscribers! Everyone else: Please demonstrate how happy you are to have them in the SpreadFam by smashing the ❤️ button on your screen.
P.P.S. Next week, your Spreaditors will not be reporting for newsletter duty; instead, we’ll be rendezvousing in the Berkshires! Role call: Two Spread Sisters, two Spread Spouses, and six Spread Children. If you too have lawn tickets at Tanglewood on the 8th, holler! Otherwise, see ya on August 15th. (Supplementary reading: “What Is ‘Vacation’ When You Have Kids?”)
P.P.P.S. Special shout-out to our steadfast and gimlet-eyed proofreader Allison Wright, who’s so devoted to the cause of keeping us from falling on our faces in your inbox, she copy-edited this issue while on vacation on the continent of Australia! Allison, we’re cracking open a tinnie in your honor.
When influencers JUST MAKE YOU SICK.
For years, Bloomberg Businessweek has been striving to make their perfect Spread story and coming pretty close with standup articles on the abortion pill, longevity hacking, and a Ponzi scheme led by a lady named Gina. This week, it was nothing but net with the oh-so-juicy saga of direct-to-consumer frozen-wellness-food unicorn Daily Harvest, an early adopter in the influencer-marketing space that attracted investors including Serena and Gwyneth (and consumers including, uh, me). The company was a wild, zeitgeist-capturing success story—until its customers started getting sick: After eating DH’s French Lentil + Leek Crumbles (which, TBH, sound delicious1), more than 130 (one hundred thirty!) people ended up in the hospital and 40 (forty!) had to have their gallbladders removed!! The company’s response as the cases started rolling in? Instagram followers could read an important announcement via a link in bio! Yeesh. This story is not just a rollercoaster crisis narrative and a profile of the company’s Emily Weiss-obsessed founder Rachel Drori, it’s also an interesting window into the world of the FDA, food safety, and food forensics, though you might want to pop a Tums before settling in.—Rachel
This well-seasoned “freshman” feels compelled to stick up for the sophomores.
A long-running critique of the OG Sex and the City was the injustice of SJP (a “shy” little petal who locked the no-nudity clause into her contract before the original pilot was even shot) getting to keep her bits covered while Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis, and Kim Cattrall tackled the show’s more humiliating bodily/sexual storylines. I never questioned it back then, but now that I’m all caught up on season two of And Just Like That… I’m finding the disparity strikingly unfair? Now that the gals are in what Sarita Choudhury's Seema Patel describes as a woman's “sophomore years,” Carrie is so thoroughly shrouded in designer merch she rarely flashes so much as a shoulder. Meanwhile, Miranda’s in L.A. sprawling out of a giant sensory deprivation egg in all her glory, and Charlotte’s visibly bleeding in some menopausal living nightmare called a “flash period,” and all I want to do is throw an elegantly striped serape over them both. I’ll cop to the possibility that it’s my own internalized ageism that makes me find these humiliations more, well, humiliating than I ever found, say, Miranda, wearing only a bathmat, having to be peeled off the floor by Aidan when her back went out. Or Miranda’s overgrown bikini line in Mexico. Or Charlotte having an all-consuming affair with a battery-operated Rabbit. But I think what really bothers me is the lack of equity. I applaud Miranda and Charlotte for taking these hits for the team, but it seems unfair—unsisterly—that Carrie refuses to join them. (And it’s making me consider the whole Kim Cattrall enmity from a whole new angle.) Rachel, imagine I was star and exec producer of HBO’s award-winning, critically acclaimed Spread Show (what? It could happen!) and I left your sweet cheeks hangin’ out of a sensory deprivation egg while I swanned around in vintage Vivienne Westwood? Inconceivable!—Maggie
My new favorite beauty magazine is…
New York magazine’s new cover story by Danielle Carr is a tricky-to-execute treatise on trauma as the prevailing diagnosis of our time, told through a profile of psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, author of 2014’s watershed The Body Keeps the Score. So interesting; totally worth your time. But who is this Carr, a first-time writer for New York and a name I didn’t know? As soon as I finished the article I started Googling (she’s an assistant professor at UCLA who mostly writes around the cultural history of brain science) and methodically reading the clips she listed on her website. Um, how have I been sleeping on this woman?? Why didn’t y’all tell me about her?? How was her n+1 piece from early 2020 about plastic surgery and the social/political/medical marketplace of female beauty costarring her own gynecologist-turned-plastic surgeon father and featuring her own personal under-the-knife adventure not already part of the Spread Canon???! The answer may be Covid (spring 2020, yowch), or maybe the rest of you’ve been quoting it day and night for years behind my back (“The first rule of feminine labor is that you don’t talk about your feminine labor.” “Your daddy did my lips.”) But if you like this newsletter and haven’t read “The Bad Feature,” which manages to be a hilarious and devastating meditation on self-image, trans rights, consumer rights, and the entire American medical apparatus, this is a print-it-out-and-read-it-tonight moment. Go forth!—Rachel
Read “Tell Me Why It Hurts” here.
Read “The Bad Feature” here.
Once upon a time in Hollywood, the Olsens, Li-Lo, and Evan Rachel Wood were sorta peers.
Thank you, Vanity Fair, for the delicious shock that only a heavily photoshopped “group shot” like this one from 2003 can deliver. Among the torrent of texts this flashback released on the ole Spread Thread last week: “OMG: 20 years ago!?” and “ooof, poor Amanda Bynes, they couldn’t bring themselves to run an ‘after’ photo” and “proof that we as a society must never return to low-rise jeans.” I was a Vogue editor in 2003, already a teeny tiny part of the machine that made stuff like this happen, and W-O-W. Beyond marveling at the cavalcade of divorces, #MeToo accusations, arrests, CFDA awards, Saudi boyfriends, and rehab stints that we now know will befall these pastel-clad innocents, the thing that jumps out today: out of nine, only one is a person of color and she’s tucked away on the farthest-back segment of the gatefold. Did we even notice back then? Sadly, I doubt it.—Maggie
Read it here.
“Turning the male gaze inside out.”
Ariel Levy’s New Yorker profile of artist Lisa Yuskavage is the stuff of which magazine-nerd dreams are made. Especially female magazine-nerd dreams. (Free idea: I would totally buy a collection of Levy’s recent profiles of women—Amy Schumer, Glennon Doyle, Lionel Shriver, Janet Lansbury, Julia Louis-Dreyfus—for all of my nearest and dearest for Christmas.) At 61 and an icon of her field, Yuskavage, whose paintings portray naked women with an off-kilter, often uncomfortable twist (exposed, panicked, holding a machete) and in vibrant out-of-this-world colors, is bawdy (if you can’t handle the p-word, you’ll have to skip), wise, and disarmingly tender. Yuskavage is also a great quote; on breasts, for instance: “Everybody is obsessed with them. Go ask a baby.”—Rachel
Read it here.
Still chewing on Barbie’s proverbial foot…or whatever.
We hesitated on this one: Does it violate the Spread Code of Ethics to bombard you with more B-word content? We know some of you can’t stomach one more inch of Barbie copy. Yet others still find themselves stuck in a cultural vortex, mulling and digesting how a movie about a pneumatic plastic doll specifically spoke to us2, and to you, we say: Yes, we’re still here too! This week in Barbie mania, friend-of-Spread Allison P. Davis joins almost every woman we know plus Susan Faludi in the search of the true meaning—some “radical or subversive feminist manifesto” perhaps—of this movie. Davis approaches the task by thoroughly processing the backstory (Barnard; muse-dom) and filmography (Frances Ha, Lady Bird, Little Women) of Greta Gerwig herself, who she points out is “the real feminist icon of the film: the plucky mumblecore ingénue who broke into a boys’ club and now commands big budgets and total freedom over huge IP.” Davis finds that in each of Gerwig’s movies, the end of the film comes at what is really the heroine’s beginning: Barbie the movie ends when Barbie the doll decides to become a real human woman—but the real hard work (and maybe the big disappointments) comes after that awakening moment. Gerwig’s “movies enact a fantasy in which the biggest hurdle is deciding you want to become something. The rest, they seem to imply, will work itself out.” Meanwhile in the New Yorker, it is such a pleasure to luxuriate in Leslie Jamison’s gorgeous prose as she examines her (our) complicated relationship with the doll herself: “I wanted to become Barbie, and I wanted to destroy her. I wanted her perfection, but I also wanted to punish her for being more perfect than I’d ever be.” To Jamison, Barbie is the ultimate “snake-oil saleswoman hawking the existential and plasticine wares of her impossible femininity, one Pepto-Bismol-pink pet shop at a time.” Even if you’re all Barbie’d out, sentences like that will have you fist-pumping yesssss.—Maggie
Read “What is Greta Gerwig Trying to Tell Us?” here.
Read “Why Barbie Must be Punished” here.
This week, our Spreaditor in Training ponders a verboten question: Where did your parents go to college?
At my (prestigious, Brooklyn) high school, it was taboo to utter this question. But we all knew the answer mattered—a lot. Just as it always had mattered. But for kids graduating just two years behind me, that may have finally changed. In “Why You Have to Care About These 12 Colleges,” the Atlantic’s Annie Lowrey explains exactly how the movement to cut admissions preferences (legacy status, niche sports) at Ivy and “Ivy Plus” schools in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to end Affirmative Action “might transform elite America in a way that might transform elite America’s priorities.” Lowrey points to research that upholds what most of us already assume: A disproportionate number of society’s real influencers—the people who populate top law firms, the Supreme Court, Fortune 500 companies, you name it—hail from Ivies and their equivalents (Stanford, MIT, Duke, the University of Chicago). Indeed, kids who attend super-elite schools rather than state flagships are 60 percent more likely to be in the top 1 percent of the income distribution. But Lowrey proposes a more expansive solution than simply rewriting the rules of admission: What if these schools put their massive endowments toward education and scholarships instead of toward a new space-age cafeteria, and simply expanded their student bodies? Why not make room for more at the top? —Tess Abraham-Macht
Read it here.
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For the record this is NOT a unanimous Spreaditor opinion.
Of course, of course I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Lisa Yuskavage’s work and Greta Gerwig’s blockbuster. Take this Yuskavage comment: “From looking at advertising and being in the world and listening to men comment about women, listening to my dad comment about women, I know a lot about how to degrade a woman.”—Rachel