Culture 28 December 2017
OK world, it's time to sit around the proverbial dinner table and talk a little about our year. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of red (or 10) and let's discuss what happened in 2017. So, yeah for the most part the news wasn't great, as we dealt new blows from mother nature, political leaders and psychotic evil doers alike.
These are perilous times indeed, and like Harry Potter in the dark fifth novel, The Order of The Phoenix, the ominous situation that surrounds us only means we must take it upon ourselves to keep the deatheathers at bay. However, before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, let's also remember all the good that has emerged this year, a lot of which comes courtesy of women.
Over the past 12 months, as we read headlines that infuriated us Michelle Obama's inimitable message “When they go low, we go high," kept repeating in our ears, reminding us to stay the course, and mobilize against injustice. This year, women have come together, powerfully enacting political and social movements that have resonated across the globe. From the goosebump-inducing Women's March and #Metoo movements to the unbelievable moment we saw Alabama go blue, keeping a known predator out of power, the fairer sex has a lot to be proud of. As we move into 2018, we must continue what we started, remembering to keep high above the fray, but also that we must press on. There's much work to do.
“We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are."
-Harry Potter, The Order of The Phoenix
The Bad News
Regardless of whether you are into the tax bill (66 percent believe it will benefit only the wealthy), it's pretty clear our President gets his jollies by making sweeping changes, some of which we just cannot understand. From his ban on certain words (i.e. fetus, transgender) in the CDC budget, to overturning restrictions on everything from dangerous car emissions to elephant trophy hunting, we are collectively holding our breaths for three more years to pass, when hopefully things will make sense again.
The infamous Fyre Fest cheese sandwich
Fyre Fest Mess
We all may have initially thought “first world problems" when the now-viral image surfaced showing a middle school cafeteria-esque styrofoam takeout container holding a slice of American cheese on a piece of wilted bread, but now we get it. This year's most epic party planner fail award officially goes to Ja Rule and his partner in crime, Billy McFarland, who set out to deliver an “immersive music festival" over “two transformative weekends" in April, but instead offered attendees more of a FEMA camp meets Lord of the Flies vibe. Promoted by top-tier influencers like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski (many of whom did not initially disclose they had been paid to do so, in violation of federal law), Fyre Fest went down in flames. The disgraced event may have had a glittering marketing video, but when attendees arrived at the Bahamian island, they found themselves without entertainment, shelter and even running water. The disgraced founders are now facing at least eight class action lawsuits, including one in the state of California for $100M from 150 plaintiffs.
This year brought with it unspeakable acts of evil that are heart wrenching and equally impossible to understand. From Manchester to Vegas to Texas, senseless violence so tragically is becoming commonplace. We beg law and policy makers to revisit gun laws, and put human life over anything else.
The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey
From Hurricane Harvey, Irma (which incidentally was the year's most Googled word) and Maria to the Earthquake in Mexico and California's raging wildfires, we witnessed nature's destructive side on a level that caused near panic in many of us. With three category 4 (and above) hurricanes in one season-which has never occured in recorded history- scientists warn that climate change means storms will continue to get stronger and more frequent. The reason? Hurricanes serve as natural coolants for global temperatures, and as temperatures go up, tropical storms rage harder.
Bitcoin, what are you?
Honestly what's the deal with bitcoin? This year's headlines were all about cryptocurrency; why it's the future of business and why we're all missing out on becoming millionaires by not embracing it. Earlier this week, however, a Morgan Stanley Analyst reported that Bitcoin's “actual value may be zero" in a Fortune article and now we're like OK…
The desire for full Kylie-esque lips is getting out of hand. It was disturbing back in 2012 when the then 15-year-old Jenner decided to implant her pout with an unknown metamorphosis agent, but thanks to millions of imitators with much smaller budgets, things are much worse today. To the throngs of social media influencers sticking their mouths into plastic containers that pull, control and contort, leaving behind a look that is red, welted and decidedly unhot, we ask you to please stop filming this process. It's quite terrible.
Fracking Side Effects
Oklahoma clocked in nearly 300 earthquakes this year, sometimes multiple a day. Although the number is lower than last year's figure of 624, the quakes are said to be caused by an underground injection of wastewater too close to bedrock because of hydraulic fracking. Things in Oklahoma are so bad, in fact, that residents have reported setting fire to the water, simply by lighting a match near it.
Hundreds of millions were left feeling digitally molested thanks to"one of the biggest data breaches in history." Beginning in May (although it was not reported until over a month later), hackers began accessing personal information Social Security numbers, birth dates, and driver's license numbers from the credit reporting agency. Although the culprits have yet to be identified (there's chatter that they may be state-sponsored pros), experts warn the hackers can use this information to open fraudulent accounts using the victims' personal information, with the goal of moving money from your accounts to their hands. In the days after the attack was announced, Equifax shares dropped 13 percent, the disgraced company may face the largest class action lawsuit on record.
The Fidget Spinner craze ran deep
The universally obnoxious trend which started in April spun us all into a tizzy. Said to relieve stress and even help counteract neurological disorders like ADHD and autism (despite the fact that there is no proof for either), these gadgets were 100 percent proven to be annoying. In fact, one month after their splash on the market, 32 percent of the country's largest high schools had banned spinners on campus.
Korea & Russia
Two countries that have taken center stage in American politics, and not in a good way. Crazy leader? Check. Nuclear capabilities? Check. Media censorship? Check. Anti-American? Check. Heads of state with tyrannical egos? Check. Check. Although we kid, it's no laughing matter, as both countries- and their frightening leaders- threaten our democracy, not to mention world peace.
It may be time to stop “disrupting" and instead bring back good old fashioned inventing. 2017 was the unofficial year of purposely misspelled one-word startups claiming to “revolutionize" industries that don't necessarily need reinvention. Among 2017's top flops was Juicero, “a hilarious ray of sunshine in the middle of a gloomy year." As it turns out, the $400 juicer didn't actually juice anything, but instead utilized pricey bags of pre-squeezed vegetable and fruit matter to create "healthy cold-pressed" drinks. Once a Bloomberg investigator uncovered that human hands could squeeze out the mixture without the use of a machine, the jig was up. According to Gizmodo, “five months and $118.5 million of investment later, Juicero was dead."
The jury is still out on whether or not Kylie is in the procreation process, but we are now confirmed to welcome at least three new Kardashians in 2018, and we are feeling… ambivalent. Sure, they're going to be gorgeous, perfectly formed little humans, but aren't we tiring of feeding this family our attention and hard earned money? Let's focus a little less on the Kardashians and a little more on building our own damn empires.
Paris Climate Accord
Aight, so Trump clearly doesn't get it, but what we've realized in 2017 is that we can take matters in our own hands. Despite pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord this summer, thousands of cities, states and businesses across the nation have pledged to adhere to its guidelines, proving again that doing what is right supersedes following orders. In the words of Al Gore: “Everything is at stake. Trust me, 10 to 20 years from now, you're going to look back at 2017 and you're going to say 'boy it was a whole lot more serious than I realized it was and the opportunities were so much greater. That's the moment we're in. We need your help. We need your passionate involvement. We have all the tools we need to solve this crisis."
Burger lovers may no longer have to choose between their cravings and their love for animals. The San Francisco-based food technology company, which aims to grow “sustainable cultured meat," has been awarded $17 million in funding by the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson. Promising to produce various meat products using biotechnology to farm animal cells, without having to slaughter any animals, Memphis Meats has already reportedly created a cultured meatball, chicken and duck dishes. Definitely interested in where this goes.
Miss America Takedown
Finding out that executives at the Miss America organization degrade, shame and disrespect their female contestants casually as they chat about the weather, may disgust us, but seeing the immediate unification of beauty queens, past and present inspired us. The unanimous condemnation by 49 former Miss Americas, including 1948's winner BeBe Shopp Waring, and SWAAY investor, Gretchen Carlson, who won the contest in 1989, signed an open letter demanding that Haskell step down, and made it happen-fast. Just more proof that speaking up can change everything.
Not sure about Sophia.
The same year Saudi Arabian women were given the right to drive (with permission from men), KSA granted a robot named Sophia citizenship. Despite the fact that Sophia has shared her belief that robots will eliminate the human race, we are happy (?) she has found a homeland to call her own. And speaking of Saudi Arabia, this past summer Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman also announced his plans to create a technological utopia on the banks of the Red Sea. His goal for the $500B mega-city is to have a population made up of more robots than humans, working alongside each other to solve some of the world's biggest problems. Sounds too good to be true? Yea, maybe.
Benjamin and Tina Gibson with daughter Emma
This year, a fertilized embryo from 1992 was implanted in a Tennessee woman, who bore a healthy baby girl. Scientists says the event marks a new record, as it is the oldest frozen embryo to result in a successful birth. "Do you realize I'm only 25?," said the mother, Tina Gibson, who gave birth to Emma on November 25. “This embryo and I could have been best friends." While we love the heart-warming tale, it's definitely a little Brave New World.
As the news gets worse, the show just gets better. From Alec Baldwin's uncanny Trump portrayal to Melissa McCarthy's over-the-top Spicer impersonation (we're still not over that motorized podium rolling down Fifth Avenue), we laughed through our pain and were reminded that sometimes truth is stranger, and funnier, than fiction.
Womankind started out the year with a bang, as more than five million of us gathered in cities around the world to show our disdain for the new administration's controversial policies. From New York to Sydney to Washington DC, ladies came out in droves holding some of the most creative and entertaining signs we've ever seen. For anyone in search of evidence that women are powerful history makers, take a look back and the photos and feel the tingle in your spine.
Maybe it's partly the desire to play pretend that has us reaching for all things fantasy (GoT, Stranger Things, Avengers and Star Wars fans, I'm looking at you), but this year had us seeking escape in every which way. And escape we did. The resurgence of epic adventures with mind-bending details, twisty plots and supernatural characters took us on journeys in our own minds and beyond. And for you Harry Potter fans, 2017 gave us more dimensions to the magical universe including two new books, Butterbeer ice cream and even a Hogwarts-themed hotel room that you enter through a bookcase.
Let's hear it for the girls. This year was a good one for female vocalists. Rihanna, for one, shattered record books with the September 8 release of her Fenty Beauty line, which offered foundations in more than 40 skin tones and generated $72 million in earned media value for that month. Meanwhile, our beloved Beyonce, who was 5 months pregnant during her 2017 Grammy performance, slayed with an epic and emotional medley of songs from her Lemonade album. Another pop princess who killed it this year was Lady Gaga whose Super Bowl Halftime Show on February 5th offered us an emotional performance that delivered powerful political messages.
Women are OVER it. We are over feeling uncomfortable by men's blatant sexually-charged references, glances and suggestions. While, yes, it is not the easiest thing to watch a once revered male powerhouse fall from hero status into the pits of shame, remember one thing: it's been much harder to be a woman in the same room with them.
When speaking about politics, it may seem we are in a toxic wasteland, but there have been a few moments this year that have made us feel somewhat better. Take the fact a Hispanic woman won the mayor's race in Topeka, Kansas, while a Sikh man was elected mayor in Hoboken, N.J. There were also victories for a Latina, Liberian refuge and two transgender female candidates. And, let's not forget that we can all thank black women saving Alabama from pedophile.
Hooray for the high waist.
High Waisted Jeans
We aren't sure who to thank for this year's fashion trend that let us breath a collective sigh of relief for all the low rise/thong issues that once afflicted our 2004-era selves, but we are glad pants now cover what they should.
In a world where what we interact with most frequently is a screen, there is rich opportunity to find hilarity. One of our year's favorite onscreen mishap came from the professor who was in the midst of explaining the North Korean crisis when his pigtailed daughter comes sauntering in ready to play. Soon followed by her baby brother and a frazzled mom trying to control the situation, it was a relatable moment that warmed us all.
For all of us who were unprepared with our little glasses and instead stole a glance at this year's total solar eclipse- the first to pass directly over North America in nearly a century- there was plenty of worry to go around. Regardless of the blindness paranoia, it was cool to see everyone put down the phones, go outside and look up, even if just for a few moments.
Can we say relationship goals?
A Royal Love Story
International sweetheart, Meghan Markle is all of us. Proving that today's modern woman is multifaceted, self-sufficient and grounded, Markle-who got engaged at 36- has single handedly given young women of today a new kind of female icon to aspire to, one who saves herself before finding a man.
From Wonder Woman (the highest grossing superhero movie of the summer) to Ladybird, the year in entertainment celebrated the power and wit of women, in front and behind the camera. On the small screen Handmaid's Tale, Big Little Lies, and Orange is The New Black gave us pause while Broad City, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Insecure made us laugh. Spoiler alert: Season 4 of Black Mirror, which will be released on December 28, 2017 is definitely one for the girls, as it features the highly-praised directing styles of Jodie Foster.
Taking a Stand
When women stand up for what's right, amazing things happen. Three cheers for our friend Catt Sadler for leaving E! News after discovering that her male co-host Jason Kennedy was reportedly earning double her salary. We also love that after being unfairly dismissed for her vocal opposition against the pay gap in sports, our sports idol Hope Solo is in the running to become President of the US Soccer Federation. She has our vote!
3 min read
"More grapes, please," my daughter asked, as she continued to color her Peppa Pig drawing at the kitchen table.
"What do you say?" I asked her, as I was about to hand her the bowl.
I shook my head.
I stood there.
"I want green grapes instead of red grapes?"
I shook my head again. I handed her the bowl of green grapes. "Thank you. Please don't forget to say thank you."
"Thank you, Momma!"
Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children?
Many of us are busy training our young children on manners on the other side of the Zoom camera during this pandemic. Reminding them to say please, excuse me, I tried it and it's not my favorite, I am sorry, and thank you. And yet somehow simple manners continue to be undervalued and underappreciated in our workplaces. Because who has time to say thank you?
"Call me. This needs to be completed in the next hour."
"They didn't like the deck. Needs to be redone."
"When are you planning on sending the proposal?"
"Did you see the questions he asked? Where are the responses?"
"Needs to be done by Monday."
Let me take a look. I didn't see a please. No please. Let me re-read it again. Nope, no thank you either. Sure, I'll get to that right away. Oh yes, you're welcome.
Organizations are under enormous pressure in this pandemic. Therefore, leaders are under enormous pressure. Business models collapsing, budget cuts, layoffs, or scrapping plans… Companies are trying to pivot as quickly as possible—afraid of extinction. With employees and leaders everywhere teaching and parenting at home, taking care of elderly parents, or maybe even living alone with little social interaction, more and more of us are dealing with all forms of grief, including losing loved ones to COVID-19.
So we could argue we just don't have time to say thank you; we don't have time to express gratitude. There's too much happening in the world to be grateful for anything. We are all living day to day, the pendulum for us swinging between surviving and thriving. But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?
If you don't think you have to say thank you; if you don't think they deserve a thank you (it's their job, it's what they get paid to do); or if you think, "Why should I say thank you, no one ever thanks me for anything?" It's time to remember that while we might be living through one of the worst recessions of our lifetimes, the market will turn again. Jobs will open up, and those who don't feel recognized or valued will be the first to go. Those who don't feel appreciated and respected will make the easy decision to work for leaders who show gratitude.
But if we don't have the time to be grateful now, to show gratitude and thanks as we live through one of the most cataclysmic events in recent human history, when will we ever be thankful?
Here's the question at hand: Do we have to retrain our leaders to say thank you like I am training my children? Remind them with flashcards? Bribe them with a cookie? Tell them how I proud I am of them when they say those two magical words?
Showing gratitude isn't that difficult. You can send a thoughtful email or a text, send a handwritten card, send something small as a gesture of thank you, or just tell them. Call them and tell them how thankful you are for them and for their contributions. Just say thank you.
A coworker recently mailed me a thank you card, saying how much she appreciated me. It was one of the nicest things anyone from work has sent me during this pandemic. It was another reminder for me of how much we underestimate the power of a thank you card.
Apparently, quarantine gratitude journals are all the rage right now. So it's great if you have a beautiful, leather-bound gratitude journal. You can write down all of the people and the things that you are thankful for in your life. Apparently, it helps you sleep better, helps you stay grounded, and makes you in general happier. Just don't forget to take a moment to stop writing in that journal, and to show thanks and gratitude to those you are working with every single day.