Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lois Alter Mark talks about StyleSubstanceSoul.com, empowering girls and women, and the dangers of Rick Perry and sexist t-shirts



Lois Alter Mark (she's the one in the middle, flanked by Amy Krause and Susan Jensen) is the co-founder of this terrific new website I want to promote, StyleSubstanceSoul.com. It's an online gathering of women who want to look, feel, and do good, and in an age when women's rights are slowly being eroded, I think it's an really important place. I really wanted to interview Lois, and I'm thrilled she agreed. Thanks, thanks, Lois!


You and the two other women involved in the website are mothers of teenaged daughters, which jumpstarted the website. Can you talk about that? Are your girls involved with the site at all?

Amy Krause, Susan Jensen and I have been best friends practically from the minute my family moved from New York to San Diego when the girls were all in first grade – they’re now college sophomores! (I also have a son who’s graduating college this year and Amy has another daughter who’s in high school.)

We started StyleSubstanceSoul.com after Amy came home from a podcast conference and said, “We have to start a website.” We both said, “okay,” and that was it! We all have full-time jobs – I’m the Flicks for Kids editor at NickJr.com, Amy is a producer and Susan works in Benefits at the Solana Beach School District – but we were disgusted with what was going on in the world and we felt that we had to try to make a difference. We had to show our kids that you have to take action or stop complaining – and we were doing a lot of complaining! – so we decided to go for it.

We knew we wanted to talk about issues that were meaningful to us without being preachy, and we wanted to still be fun and to start a really great community. As we always say, we believe female energy has the power to change the world and we wanted to attract women like us – those “seeking world peace, food for thought and a really great pair of shoes.”

Our daughters have all written for us and they do talk to us about subjects we address on the site, but it wasn’t until Oprah chose us as Ultimate Viewers and took us to Australia with her that they realized we really were making our voices heard. That trip was so surreal, so life-changing. We will always be grateful for the life lessons we learned from Oprah, and will never stop dreaming big and paying it forward.

I was as appalled as you were about the horrific t-shirts for girls which said something like if you were pretty, you didn't need to study. How odious is that? And why do you think there is this throwback attitude towards girls now?

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s a throwback attitude – I think it’s just a continuation. J.C. Penney pulled the “pretty” t-shirt but they’re still selling the one that says, “My best subjects: boys, shopping, music, dancing,” and Forever 21 just introduced a shirt that they’re marketing to girls that says, “Allergic to algebra.” Really? Did they think there was a void now that the J.C. Penney shirt is gone?

I wrote a post about “Why Sexist T-Shirts Aren’t Cute,” and we shared a powerful and sobering video by the inspiring Elin Stebbins Waldal (who wrote Tornado Warning: A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect on a Woman’s Life) about how the media portrays females. Some of the images are truly horrifying. There are a couple of ads that feature women with black eyes like that’s a look to aspire to. It’s really shocking that this is acceptable in the 21st century, and it’s apparently up to us, as women and mothers, to change it. We have strong voices and, probably more importantly, we have purchasing power. It’s why we created a Shop With a Conscience section on the website. It’s vital to support companies that do the right thing. So many readers wrote in to tell us they cut up their old J.C. Penney credit cards after reading our post – and sent them back to J.C. Penney. That is truly the only language corporate America understands.

I love the idea of calling out to a group of women to get things done, and indeed your website has such a terrific feel about it. It's smart, it's important, and it really has substance. What's next for you?

Thanks so much! We’ve just partnered with Girl Scouts San Diego on a really exciting long-term initiative to help stop domestic and teen dating violence. It’s called “M-Power U with StyleSubstanceSoul,” and it was inspired by an amazing 11-year-old girl named Miriam Mendoza (she’s the “M” in the title) whose 19-year-old cousin was killed last year by her estranged husband. We are putting together an Advisory Board of experts who will blow your mind. This will be a group of women who can really get things done. We’re hoping to launch the project in October, which is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we’ll be devoting an entire section of the website to it.

How can other people get involved?

Easily! We welcome everyone to visit the site, subscribe to our free newsletter, comment on posts, search the archives for issues that interest them. We have the most amazing, active, passionate community of women (and a few men!) who email us with suggestions, comments and questions. Writer Amy Wise, who is in an interracial marriage, recently posted a piece about why her husband won’t see “The Help.” It led to a fantastic, articulate and thought-provoking conversation among our readers – and the best thing about it was how respectful everyone was of everyone else’s opinions, even if they didn’t agree with them.

Carol Reedy Rogero, a teacher in Florida, went out and got a grant to develop a project based on our Formerly Flip Flops campaign. Donna Agins became a mentor for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project after we sponsored a reading by Masha Hamilton for her book, “31 Hours.” We could go on and on …

I have to ask, what's obsessing you now?

I am obsessing about the divisiveness of our country, the rise of the Tea Party and the fact that dangerous people like Michele Bachman and Rick Perry are actually being taken seriously as candidates for president. The hate, negativity and intolerance that they spew makes me so devastatingly sad. I don’t know how we’re ever going to come together as a country, and sometimes it just feels so hopeless.

On a much sweeter note, I have become totally obsessed with Sprinkles cupcakes. I carry their flavor schedule in my purse. I live for Fridays when they feature Chai Latte cupcakes. I think I have more pictures of Sprinkles cupcakes on my Facebook page than I do of my kids.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

You didn’t ask when we can get together for coffee! You are one of my favorite writers, and I can’t tell you how exciting it is for me to be interviewed by you! You have an open invitation to visit us in San Diego any time. Did I mention I know a place that has great cupcakes?

2 comments:

Media Guru said...

Sounds like a great website! Good luck!

Media Guru said...

Best of luck in this new venture!