A few years ago, I attended a party at a nightclub in the meatpacking district of Manhattan with about 10 young women, most of them models, and two club promoters, men whose job was to bring beautiful women to exclusive parties. Beyoncé’s hit single “Run the World (Girls)” boomed, and the girls danced to the beat, singing, “Who run the world? Girls! Girls!” One promoter joined in, with his own twist on the chorus: “Who run the girls? Boys! Boys!” The men high-fived, and everyone laughed.

Many of the models who walked the Fashion Week runways this month in New York, London, Milan and, starting this week, Paris, are the same women who pass through these clubs. The fashion shows and the international circuit of V.I.P. parties — Miami in March, Cannes and St.-Tropez in May and July, August weekends in the Hamptons — serve as case studies in an old debate. Does the celebrated display of female beauty and sexuality empower or exploit women?

V.I.P. night life is an industry run by men, for men, and on women, who are ubiquitously called “girls.” The girls are brought in to attract big-spending clients from among the young global elite, willing to spend thousands of dollars on alcohol. Hence the V.I.P. party is sometimes half-jokingly described as “models and bottles.” The girls are seen as interchangeable; one club owner calls them “buffers” because rows of them frame his Instagram party pictures. They are recruited through friends of friends, scouted on the streets of SoHo, with its clusters of fashion agencies, or tracked down at model castings.

During the week I was a sociology professor. But during my weekends and summer vacations, I became one of these girls. In exchange for showing up at their parties, the promoters let me study them. I was what they call a “good civilian” — close enough in physique but not as valuable as a fashion model.

Girls rarely pay to be in V.I.P. nightclubs, but neither are they typically paid to be there, accepting instead gifts and perks like free drinks and even housing — no small thing for fashion’s underpaid work force. Clubs and promoters will pay to fly girls from New York to Miami, or from Prague to Cannes. Most girls don’t see promoters as exploitative, but as friends, something the promoters foster by treating them to lunch or games of bowling.

As anthropologists remind us, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Gifts are given with expectations of reciprocity. Friendships mask what would otherwise look ugly: the exchange of women’s bodies for money.

The promoters are handsomely paid, upward of $1,000 per night for those who regularly recruit high-fashion models. Girls also give the promoters access to powerful men, whom they often see as potential investors in their entrepreneurial dreams, which range from opening their own nightclubs to brokering business deals.

This is a system of trafficking in women. It is, of course, consensual, and a far cry from anything like sexual slavery. But, in an anthropological sense, it is not so different from the tribal kinship systems studied by Claude Lévi-Strauss, in which men exchanged women in order to forge alliances with other men, while women were cut out from the value that their own circulation generated.

Consider a contemporary example: Greek life on college campuses, where women circulate among fraternity parties. The best frat houses are those with the best-looking girls at their parties. In exchange, the girls get free beer. This system is not without risks. In a five-year study, the sociologists Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura T. Hamilton found that working-class women who joined the frat scene faced greater risks of sexual assault and academic derailment. The more popular they were at frat parties, the worse their financial and professional futures looked.

Why do women consent to their own exploitation? Flattered egos, of course, play a role. When I interviewed a 21-year-old fashion merchandising student, she explained: “I love the whole aura in New York. I love the vibes. I love like, the exclusivity.” She was keenly aware of her value to her male friends in the night-life scene: “But I always wonder, if I wasn’t, you know, skinny, if I wasn’t attractive, would they really be friends with me? Probably not.”

Beneath the glamour is an unbalanced economy in which girls generate far greater profit for men than their free drinks are worth. A successful nightclub in New York City might make $15 million to $20 million a year.

In 2013, I spent a weekend in the Hamptons at a nine-bedroom mansion shared by a few Manhattan businessmen who aimed to host at least 20 models each weekend during the summer season. They called it “model camp.” That weekend, I attended a nightclub, a pool party and a house party hosted by the chief executive of a private equity firm. One of the men explained to me that girls were “currency,” assuring him a steady stream of invitations to exclusive parties and visits from important businesspeople.

I did meet some exceptional women who joined the party in search of opportunities, such as a 24-year-old model who was looking for an internship in finance through the connections she made in nightclubs. “If you have a head on your shoulders,” she told me, “it’s a great way to meet people who work a lot and have money.” Similarly, a 28-year-old marketing professional with an Ivy League education loved having the “most interesting, amazing conversations in the world” with politicians and venture capitalists at V.I.P. dinners. But while girls can certainly meet important people at these events, they are generally in a weaker position to leverage these connections.

The unequal ability of one person to capitalize on another is a classic case of exploitation. Imagine that the Hamptons businessmen hold meetings with the private equity C.E.O., in part because I softened their introduction. In two years, perhaps their investment fund will be cranking out profits, while I’ll be turning 36, and no longer welcome at the party. What may seem like an agreeable quid pro quo looks different in the long run, when women age out of the system without any returns on the time they invested. What’s really troubling is that no one even sees it as a lost investment, in part because it feels so good.

When it comes to women, popular culture confuses pleasure and power. Sure, girls may run the world, but men run the girls. And the girls don’t seem to mind all that much.



"I want to be an actress when i grow up"

Marrying The Game || Cali Wants To Be The Next Kerry Washington (X)

Representation MATTERS

(via angrywocunited)


Made some more stickers to put around campus and Santa Fe

(via upworthy)



I honestly can’t believe this right now. I was complaining to my bf about some Kotex tampons I had used, going on a bit of a rant about how bad they were, and on a whim I decided to go to the website and leave a review so other people who might get them would know better.
I’ve never written a tampon review in my life (it’s not something I ever anticipated doing) so I had a little fun getting very passionate about my thoughts, and then went to submit…. Only to receive the words: ‘Your review text contains inappropriate language.’ I was confused at first, I mean I was pretty emphatic, but I didn’t cuss at all… and then I realized: I had typed the word ‘vagina.’ 

You can’t type the word ‘vagina’ on a TAMPON review because it’s considered inappropriate.

KOTEX, a company that makes OVER A BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR primarily selling products to people with vaginas, thinks that someone typing the word “VAGINA” in a review of a product that goes IN THEIR VAGINA is being inappropriate and needs to be censored.

I retyped “v*gina” with an asterisk like it was a swear word, submitted and it went to preview mode with no problem. But I’m still kind of in shock… Honestly, what is wrong with Kotex that they think they need to protect tampon users from the word ‘vagina’?

If you didn’t think our society’s fear of the vagina was absurd, here you go. It’s cartoonish.

(via femininefreak)






this is what is going on in scotland right now.

dont ignore this.

there is NO coverage of the rioting on the news which is why its so important that you dont ignore this. 

please stay safe if you live in scotland. 

my partner actually went to the yes rally in george square a couple days ago and said the no guys were indeed doing nazi salutes

The unionists have set fire to the building housing The Herald. 

A 15 year old boy is dead. 

The riots continue. 

My friends have been trying to get out of Glasgow and have been attacked. 

Your voter status doesn’t matter to these people, they will attack for no reason. 

Gay SNP councillor Austin Sheridan has been subjected to an unprovoked attack simply because he is a gay man who voted yes.

Homes have been broken into.

There are riots on the streets even outside of Glasgow.

The BNP, UKIP, Britain First and The Orange Lodge are attacking peaceful protestors with flares.

LGBT people are being singled out by the above groups. 





I am just trying to stay safe, for now.

I had no idea about this, nothing on the news.

(via vegawesome)






nine photographs portraying quotes said to sexual assault survivors by police officers, attorneys, and other authority figures

more info about project unbreakable here

original tumblr here

previously: nine photographs portraying quotes said to sexual assault survivors by their friends/family

This is heartbreaking

this infuriates me.

fucking disgusting 

what the fuck is wrong with them!?

(via vegawesome)


Nærøyfjord - Norway by Tomasz Furmanek

Please don’t delete the link to the photographers/artists, thanks!

(via vegawesome)

Men who want to be feminists do not need to be given a space in feminism. They need to take the space they have in society & make it feminist.
Kelley Temple, National Union of Students UK Women’s Officer  (via feministkitsch)

(via vegawesome)

I do not desire mediocre love. I want to drown in someone.


All it takes is one event to set a precedent. If Darren Wilson is arrested for, charged with, and convicted of the murder of Michael Brown, then that means ALL cops can be held accountable for their actions. It means the people can ALWAYS rise up and fight back against police brutality. 

That’s what the cops and National Guard in Ferguson is fighting against. They don’t want this standard to be set.

(via fairynobasho)



I’m not saying that this is a prime example of the hypersexualization of darker skinned ‘exotic’ women but

Wait a minute that’s exactly what I’m saying

(via angrywocunited)