Margs with Jeff
The Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler of newsletters is recruiting a Substack supergroup and booking Ivanka on Lauren Sánchez's girls-only moonshot.
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.
Are we a good luck charm or what? Last week we paid tribute to the early days of Jezebel. The next day, Jezebel folded. Cue a raft of eulogies and autopsies of the site’s decline, widespread panic about the existence of feminist media, and debate over whether the “women’s publication” still exists. To which we say, hey, good to see ya, we’ve been parked at this lil intersection for a while now. We, too, are sad to see Jez go. This week in particular, we would have eaten up an old-school Jezebel take on what’s happening in “legacy” magazines: As the (very slim) November/December issues drop, it has become glaringly apparent that the SAG-AFTRA strike (clearly not resolved before this batch of covers was due to the printer!) had taken its toll, and we are fresh out of movie star cover shoots. Over here, you’ve got Chalamet “promoting his fashion line” (OK, Timmy! Whatever you say!); we kid you not, Cosmo’s got a podcaster on the cover. Nicki Minaj is covering Vogue, which is all good but…in Oscars season? Inconceivable. Anyway, there’s a moment that Jezebel could have made us laugh about. Or, how about this one? Greta Gerwig (not currently promoting a film as an actor, so fair game) shot by Norman Jean Roy for Vanity Fair. And because magazines know only one way to style people with borderline-normal bodies, she is wearing coats. Five coats, to be exact. Jezebel are the ones who taught us to count like that.
At the height of its powers, Jezebel lived in a kind of beautiful symbiosis with women’s magazines—skewering the glossies’ most egregious missteps and filling in the gaps in the mainstream women’s media with their own edgy and urgent pieces. Their raison d’être was, after all, to be a corrective to the establishment. Now, sad to say, there’s so little left to correct.
Over at Puck, Lauren Sherman declares that the next-gen Jezebel can be found in the womens’ voices of Substack. Okay, Lauren, we’ll rise to that challenge. As a thought experiment, here’s our masthead: on the culture desk. , opinion. , health. , shmashion. , shopping. , politics. , beauty. , parenting. , body stuff. , woo/personal development. , relationships. And , well, life!!
And the Spread for EIC? Well, gosh, if you insist!
Rachel & Maggie
Bright young women, sick of swimmin’.
The Little Mermaid offends me almost as much as Love, Actually, which is hard to do. In both stories, our main man (Prince Eric, Colin Firth) falls in love with a woman with whom he cannot communicate. Burns me up! Prince Eric winds up head over heels for red-headed hottie Ariel, despite the fact that her voice has been stolen by the magnificent octopus-queen Ursula (the movie’s real heroine). In a season of grief, Colin Firth decides that he and his housekeeper—who speaks only Portuguese—were made for each other (also, it’s implied that she’ll be great at cooking and cleaning—it’s her vocation after all!). I can’t take it. Thankfully, neither can Spread-baiter Sophie Lewis. Over at the Drift, she treats us to a novella-length historical investigation of the politics, morality, and queerness wrapped up in the 200-year-old tale of the befinned babe who aches for legzzzz (long, shapely ones!), starting with the 1811 German work Undine and ending with Disney’s recent live-action version—and with a fun Splash stop in the middle. Sophie, please do Love Actually next!—Rachel
Read “Can the Sireniform Speak?” here.
“Does anyone think of herself as ‘a schoolgirl,’ or does the phrase itself leer?”
Junior year of high school, I switched schools and at a very full-grown 17, found myself walking (traipsing?) around New York City in a costume I’d never worn before: white socks, bare legs, kilt, button-down shirt. To answer Molly Fischer’s question in the New Yorker, no, I did not think of myself as a schoolgirl. But I was hyperaware that men did. The fact that this didn’t “skeeve” me tells you how much of a (young, dumb) schoolgirl I really was. Also, the ’90s. Anyway, in the midst of this mammoth “girl” moment (Barbie, Taylor, legions of girls sparking TikTok trends) Fischer dials into the specific schoolgirl moment within it: early Britney, and the teenage Priscilla. I didn’t love the movie, you’ll recall, but I do love writing that puts its finger on something I didn’t. Fischer points out that, while predecessors like The Diary of a Teenage Girl and An Education (another favorite) “end up ratifying their heroines’ experiences” with older men “as testaments to their specialness,” Coppola’s decision to paint Priscilla as ordinary is original. “The black bouffant and heavy eye makeup Elvis requests are like cartoon-pinup features drawn on a blank slate.” More than the beauty of youth, it is the blankness of youth that made her valuable. Only a child would be willing to wait in his gilded cage until called for.—Maggie
Read “Sympathy for the Schoolgirl” here.
Oldest Daughters Anonymous
In my family of origin, there is no hotter topic—and by “hot” I mean incendiary, not fun and exciting—than birth order. Because I have no intention of upsetting the apple cart a mere nine days before Thanksgiving, this item will be brief, but I would like to turn your attention to Sarah Sloat’s new Atlantic piece, “The Plight of the Eldest Daughter.” If you yourself are an eldest daughter, there will be no surprises here, but there will be lots of validation! And if you have an eldest daughter or an older sister, do that beast of burden a solid by taking a look.—Rachel
Read it here.
We’d like to take a moment to salute Kate Beckinsale, who is never letting go, Jack. For thirty years, girl’s been huh-suh-ling to stay spotlight-adjacent between projects (FWIW: our favorite movie of hers will always be Laurel Canyon), and—second perhaps only to dating Pete Davidson in 2021—her most recent stab at the public eye was next-level: The 50-year-old showed up at Leonardo DiCaprio’s 49th birthday party dressed as the Heart of the Ocean necklace from Titanic. Keep sparklin’, Kate!
Is Work-From-Home a Trap?
Spreadinistas, how many of your friends regularly go into an actual office? I can count mine on one hand. For 30 years, “practical reasons that work needed to be done in the office dwindled,” writes DealBook reporter Sarah Kessler in the New York Times—and during the pandemic, as all know, they plummeted. Flexibility is great news for parents, particularly mothers, who don’t have to drop out of the workforce in order to (cough, do more work) care for families: “Some economists have suggested remote work factored into the all-time high in labor force participation rate among women of prime working age. The jump for mothers of young children has been particularly high, and among those who have a bachelor’s degree, it’s even higher.”1 Kessler wonders, though, whether the same conditions that keep women working might make it harder for us to advance. “If old attitudes about more flexible work resurge — outspoken executives have recently described it as “‘lazy,’ not for leaders and a perk for those who don’t ‘work as hard’— then it may not matter if hybrid options are widespread.” They may “just be strengthening the invisible escalator for white men.”—Maggie
Read “Is Remote Work the Answer to Women’s Prayers, or a New ‘Mommy Track’?” here.
Appearing in the fourth frame of Kim Kardashian’s 43rd birthday post [sure, go ahead, we’ll be waiting right here when you get back…] is, according to Naomi Fry, a carefully engineered stop on the Official Ivanka Comeback Tour. Of course the most perfect commodity Donald Trump ever produced has chosen this moment—right in the middle of that pesky and not-at-all-incriminating trial at which she played “the picture of gentle, pulled-together professionalism and good will”—to rejoin the land of the living: I’m not going to jail, silly, I’m going to the Met Gala! That’s where Kim “most powerful woman in America” Kardashian (Fry’s words!) comes in. Reading New Yorker-style analysis of a campaign of this nature is fun, kids. When Fry links to the Daily Mail report on Ivanka’s alleged plastic surgery [go for it, we’ll wait…] and writes things like, “it’s still not exactly clear to me what Kardashian’s angle is here—but it seemed undeniable that a P.R. campaign was under way,” it felt like someone forgot to invite me to a Spreaditorial meeting.—Maggie
Read “Ivanka Trump’s Tricky Comeback Tour” here.
Kim’s alleged friend group is having quite the newscycle…
Christmas came early this week with Steven Tyler—no, wait—Lauren Sánchez’s Big Vogue Moment. Are we being jerks? Well, yes and no. Because while the dermatological choices of Mrs. Jeff Bezos-to-be may not be our cup of tea (there’s no way plebes like us could float that level of upkeep), we are genuinely grateful for the BezChez bonanza. Replete with a full-on Annie Leibovitz shoot2 on Bezos’s gargantuan Texas property, blinding metallic clothes meant to evoke “space-age,” helicopters galore (both Lauren and Jeff have their pilot’s licenses), and a profile by the just-slightly smirking Chloe Malle (who gamely lets Sánchez fly her around the ranch), it’s a windfall for anyone starved for pure magazine entertainment. A few takeaways: “Swole monarch” Bezos knows how to make a margarita, but is very slow in doing so. Sánchez is traditional in some ways (“Will she be taking his name?” asks Malle. “She looks at me like I am insane. ‘Uh, yes, one hundred percent. I am looking forward to being Mrs. Bezos.’”) and modern in others (she’s organizing a ladies-only trip to space3). Her personal style inspirations are Salma Hayek (checks out) and Amal Clooney (less so). In addition to a Kim K cameo (common ground: each paid $200,000 for Balenciaga dresses at auction), we also hear from Kris Jenner and Barry Diller, who calls Sánchez “a great stimulant.”4 Fun for the whole family!
Marvel at it here.
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Huh! Job satisfaction is at the highest it’s been in the 36 years the Conference Board has tracked the metric, and highest among workers who do some work remotely.
The way Leibovitz flaunts circa-2023 standards of retouching is just *chef's kiss*
And now we know Kim K’s angle in including the soon-to-be Mrs. Bezos in the birthday shoot of “my girlfriends”!
Also important, and maybe helpful as you embark on your holiday shopping! “Bezos takes his [coffee] black or with Laird Hamilton’s superfood nondairy creamer, in a self-warming Ember mug. Sánchez uses a mug Bezos got her from Amazon, with the words ‘Woke up sexy as hell again’ splashed across the side.”