Authenticity and The Modern Working Woman

Lean In was celebrated by many as the “silver-bullet” to the pressing issue of inequality in the workplace. At the same time, the book was also heavily criticized by scholars for its simplification of gender issues and inability to generate meaningful change.

Until now, those on both sides of the Lean In argument have simply agreed to disagree. However, a new study published in the Harvard Business Review gives scientific weight to the idea that changing women’s behavior does little to remedy gender discrimination.

Changing one’s behavior to please employers and foster success is a cultural norm that goes far beyond Lean In and discussions of gender equality. I argue that authenticity – a concept that is often held separate from our professional lives – is key to breaking down systemic inequality.

When our authentic selves, independent yet intertwined with our political identities, are recognized as valued, we can begin to move away from toxic myths of womanhood, success, and intelligence that limit our own potential, and prevent patriarchal systems from being dismantled, to evolve toward authenticity instead of bias.

The Study

Measuring the societal impact of women changing their behavior to better suit workplace “ideals” can be both difficult and problematic. The HBR study shows progress in this area through creative data collection methods.

Scientists performed an experiment in which women and men at a company were tracked by digital communication and sensor technology throughout their workday to measure “who talks with whom, where people communicate, and who dominates conversations.”

Before conducting the experiment, researchers hypothesized that women didn’t have the same access (whether self-imposed or not) to mentors, managers or senior leadership. But, the data proved otherwise.

After this data was collected, anonymized and analyzed, the research team was surprised to find “…almost no perceptible differences in the behavior of men and women. Women had the same number of contacts as men, they spent as much time with senior leadership, and they allocated their time similarly to men in the same role.”

And concluded that, “arguments about changing women’s behavior — to ‘lean-in,’ for example — might miss the bigger picture: Gender inequality is due to bias, not differences in behavior.”

The Modern Working Woman

When popular texts discuss women’s inclusion in the workplace, they typically refer to a very specific type of woman. The Modern Working Woman is middle to upper class and understands the practices required to succeed in the ‘boy’s club.’ Being too feminine is perceived as weakness and self-expression is bad for business. She remains the standard upon which women are judged by their peers – male and female – thanks much in part to a homogenous cultural definition of a successful woman.

The Modern Working Woman is an ideal, a myth.

Anyone interested in understanding how we create cultural myths in our society should most certainly read Roland Barthes. In his book Mythologies, Barthes writes, “myth is a system of communication…[a myth] is a message.” He continues, “myth is a type of speech chosen by history: it cannot possibly evolve from the ‘nature’ of things.”

As this particular myth was developed and maintained to perpetuate patriarchal culture, messages that at first seem “empowering” are ultimately stripped of progressive potential.

As the above study demonstrates, the idea that women need to work harder or find other access points to power only perpetuates masculine dominance, making it harder for women to advance. Lean In may help women understand how to navigate patriarchal structures – but not how to dismantle them.

Embracing Authenticity

If leaning in isn’t the solution – then what is?

To discuss true inclusion and equality in the workplace, we have to think bigger than leaning in or making the hiring processes more female-friendly. We need to understand that authenticity in the corporate setting – especially when that authenticity is expressive of female-ness, black-ness, trans-ness, or other-ness – is discouraged.

In a 2015 article titled “Authentic Workplaces Don’t Try to Make Everyone the Same,” authors Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones write: “Does your workplace reflect a relative balance of males and females in leadership positions? A healthy range of diversity regarding age, skin color, religious conviction, culture, or/and sexual orientation? Yes? Before you congratulate yourself on how diverse your workplace is, what if we told you it might not be diverse enough — or at least not in the ways that matter most?”

Goffee and Jones go on to discuss how “true diversity means that people within the workplace are allowed “to be themselves: to have a voice, exercise discretion, express disagreement, show what they really care about, feel ‘natural’ or self-fulfilled on the job.”

To solve the ‘diversity’ problem in tech and all workplaces – we need to be more authentic, not just in our means of self-expression, but also how we discuss root causes of obstacles. Instead of asking women to lean in, we should ask company leaders to allow authentic expression and opinions, as well as be more open to what constitutes “productive” behavior however that manifests in an individual.

Most importantly, we need to encourage and allow authenticity at work not just as a business “best practice,” but as a must-have for societal progress and human happiness.

{Written by Lips CEO, Annie Brown – Originally Published in Conscious Magazine}

Art as a Tool to Fight Racism: Interview with Choreographer Shyamla Eswaran

Shyamla Eswaran is a performer, choreographer, educator, and writer. When she submitted some gorgeous bollywood-inspired photographs expressing female sexuality through dance, we knew right away we had to know more about her. Shyamla specialises in cultural dance (Hip Hop, Bollywood, Classical Indian and Brazilian Samba) having trained and performed each style in its country of origin. She was recently featured on Daily Mail for a viral racist incident, which makes the fact that she works with young people to alleviate intolerance through dance even more powerful.  

Tell us a bit about yourself…
I am a full-time Performing Artist, Choreographer, Educator and Writer with a Masters Degree in International Human Rights Law and a BA in Communications. I specialise in cultural dance (Hip Hop, Bollywood, Semi-Classical Indian and Brazilian Samba), having trained and performed each style in its country of origin. In 2017 I paraded in Rio Carnival with samba school division-winners Império Serrano. I’ve trained with Brazil’s top Choreographers and Samba Queens, practice Classical Indian dance (Kuchipudi) with Shri Raghavan Nair Ji and regularly travel to India to train and to further her cultural knowledge. My workshops and classes promote cross-cultural interactions, diversity and belonging through the arts and through working with children. I regularly tour my range of cultural dance workshops and shows around Australia.
What are some of your current projects…
In May I had the pleasure of performing my choreography along with four other dancers at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Sydney to open the runway show for @camillawithlove “The Long Way Home” Indian-inspired collection. Last month I ran my “Hip Hopping From Bollywood to Brazil” cultural dance workshop at TEDxSydney amidst a crowd of 5000 people (the biggest ever in the event’s history in Sydney). This month I was confirmed as the Bollywood choreographer for this year’s Schools Spectacular, a huge arena show that showcases the talent in NSW public schools including a 2700-strong choir, 2300 diverse dancers, an 80-piece symphony orchestra, a world-class stage band and incredible solo performers. I also recently became a regular contributor to the Arts & Culture section of Desi Australia, Australia’s most popular Indian Magazine, and am currently developing a welfare workshop to deal with racism in schools.
What is a topic you are passionate about?
I am passionate about The Arts and using it as a tool to fight racism. Growing up in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire I was bullied for my Indianness from the age of 4 onwards. I tried to fit in with the white Aussies around me. It never worked. Now, thanks to my work as a cultural educator and Indian/fusion dancer and choreographer, I spend most of my days in a kurta, rocking my ghungroos (Indian ankle bells), jhumkas (Indian earrings), maang tikka (head jewel), big red pottu. I’ve performed Bollywood gigs since I was 20 but only started training Classical Indian Dance (Kuchipudi) last year with my Guru Shri Raghavan Nair Ji. It has changed my life. Through dance I heal from the racial bullying I experienced as I child, I develop pride for my culture and I remember who I am as a person. I am also very passionate about Aboriginal and Indigenous rights, having worked as the Associate Publisher of Australia’s first Aboriginal Rights Magazine “Tracker.”
Do you think women need an online space for free expression? 
Absolutely. One of the most powerful things I have experienced in the last year is connecting with strong, passionate women through Instagram from around the world who are interested in the the same intersecting areas as myself (Indian dance, human rights, working with children, education etc.) On the flip side, as a female performer I struggle to deal with and filter unwanted interactions with men trying to flirt and connect on a non-artistic basis. I make it clear that I am engaged and use social media as a self-employed artist to promote my work but it doesn’t stop the requests, “waves,” random “hi’s” and subsequent abuse when some men don’t get the response or attention they want. I think it’s a massive problem so have taken it upon myself to repost these interactions in the hopes it will make them think twice about doing it again. I also try to explain to them why what they are doing and expecting is not appropriate in as logical and kind a manner as I can. Every interaction is an opportunity to educate.
What is art to you? What is the philosophy behind your art?
For me art is about expression and connection, both with myself and others. I aim to promote cross-cultural interactions, diversity and cross-cultural appreciation to try and open eyes and hearts. Changing someone’s mind can take a very, very long time (if at all) – but through the arts we can reach people’s hearts and that’s where true, lasting, positive change begins. After years of working in human rights, I realised one of the best ways to effect social change is through the arts and working with children and kids learn best when they are having fun and given the freedom to create.
When did you start dancing? 
My dancing life began when I was 4 years old. My mum thought it would help with my coordination and focus as I was a clumsy and hyperactive child. Dance classes were the only place I felt appreciated amongst my peers for being myself. Because of the racial bullying (being the only Indian in my school at the time) I never felt like I belonged. Through dance classes, I grew more confident and developed a skill that, to this day, allows me to feel good about myself. But I still run into door frames (often!)
Could you discuss the incident of racism we mentioned above and the work you are doing to fight racism through hip hop classes for youths?
I was told “go back to where you came from” by three teenagers as I sat in my parked car curating a playlist for my Hip Hop Flashmob workshop in Bathurst, NSW. It’s classic Aussie racism. On the plus side, their suggestion to “F@#$ off and go eat a curry” helped me decide what to have for dinner! People were shocked and appalled but it’s nothing new to me. Last year a 3 year old boy said it during my show! By the end he was dancing the hardest and smiling the most and it was a perfect opportunity to educate those with no exposure to Indian culture, encouraging them to embrace and appreciate difference before they start school, but so much more needs to be done when they receive toxic messages like that at home. My dance workshops encourage participants to express/explore their own cultural and personal stories through movement and dance while allowing them to learn about and appreciate other cultures. I teach that behind the joyful appearance of cultural dance (Brazilian Samba, Hip Hop and Bollywood) are stories about day-to-day life, struggle, resistance and triumph. They are: “Hip Hopping from Bollywood to Brazil”, “Dance Through India” and “Hip Hop Flashmob”. Beyond introducing children to Indian culture, my preschool shows “Bollykids” and “The Bollydance Express!” are about promoting multiculturalism, diversity and belonging. They are fully immersive shows that bring the sights, smells and sounds of India to preschool students and promote cultural diversity as something to be appreciated and celebrated, as opposed to merely tolerated.
Is dance therapeutic for you? How so? 
Absofuckinglutely! Dance is life. It is my release, my place for self-exploration and expression, my way to give thanks for the gift of my body and the only place where I can truly lose myself for hours and hours on end. If I don’t dance I get depressed. I know because I stopped at one point to focus on my studies and it was the most down I had ever been. It is where I turn to release AND replenish physically, emotionally and spiritually.
What are some under-the-radar female artists you admire?

So, so many…where to begin?! See my “Queens” Insta story highlight for longer list but as far as the lesser-known ones go: @amritha.shakti (Singer/Songwriter), @poojakannan90 (Dancer), @probablyjustart (Painter), @hibakhanart (Visual Artist), @reena.paints (Painter) @sudarsnak (Tamil-American ballet dancer), @poornima_23 (Dancer, Creative Director & Stylist).

You can follow Shyamla on Instagram @shyamladance

However you express yourself, we want you to share it with the world. You can submit images or text posts directly to our site via this link or email us at

You CAN Skate in a Dress: Interview with Myriah Marquez of GrlSwirl

We at Lips are big fans of Myriah Marquez (@myriahrose_). She is a core member of GrlSwirl. This gnarly skate girl is also a stellar human  being, and we are so excited to have her featured on the Lips blog! In the following interview, she’ll talk a bit about bringing femininity to skate culture, sexism in Venice’s concrete playgrounds, and emerging artists in the subculture.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you got involved in skateboarding.

I am originally from the Border of Texas/Louisiana, and have recently moved from Seattle,Wa to beautiful Venice, CA. I started skating at the age of 11, at the time I was always sick and put on medications that made my weight fluctuate and gave me “blowfish” checks as the bullies would say. I had to move schools and picked up Skateboarding so that I would appear tougher and not get picked on. Little did I realize how truly strong and empowered it would help me to feel. I’ve skated ever since. I’m now 26.

What is the mission of Grlswirl? Why did it start?

We are an all-female identifying stoke-chasing community focused on bringing femininity and lifestyle to the male dominated skate scene. Grlswirl started in February when Lucy started recruiting other women in hopes of finding more comfort in numbers. We now have 120+ members and amazingly grow daily. It’s all about showing that you don’t have to shred to skate, you can be a mom, or you can work a 9-5 and skate, you can come from any background and if you find a true joy in skating then you CAN skate.

Could you discuss a personal experience of sexism you have faced in skate culture or elsewhere?

Oh completely, all my life there has been a definite smell of sexism in the air, from friends/family/skate culture. It’s not their fault, unfortunately it’s how it’s always been and that just causes ignorance. Besides your obvious “be a lady” “what do you think it looks like you hanging with the guys” “you can’t skate in a dress” “hey sexy” It’s more disappointing when you’re constantly snaked or stood right in front of at the park by a guy because being a girl you can just act like I’m invisible? No way bud.  And the lack of options in the skate shoes, maybe I want half cabs too, maybe I don’t want to wear sequined low tops!

What are some things about skate culture that you love?  How does art and music tie into this culture? 

I love the people, they are some of the most raw folks you’ll ever meet. Skating for a lot is a form of meditation, an outlet for their good and bad times. Id say it ties in so heavily, with skating being an art form what’s better than mixing the arts? I come from a dancers background so when I’m riding with my tunes i can just groove and swirl to the music. It’s like a bird riding the wind, there truly is no better feeling… pure bliss.

via @myriahrose_ @brielakin @grlswirl💋

A post shared by Lips // Female*Sexuality (@lips_zine) on

Has skating helped to boost your self-esteem?

Oh most certainly, I had an undetermined illness from age 11-17 and at 17 had my Colon, Appendix and Most of my Rectum removed. I now have a J-Pouch and honestly for the most part feel weak and frail, but when I’m on my board I feel strong and empowered. My illness can’t hold me back when I’m on my board. Also in matters of safety and being a female, it’s a safety blanket. I don’t have to walk as fast as I possibly can when cat called or followed (which unfortunately happens. I know God forbid that A) I have a means for defense and B) that I can get away much quicker.

Why do you think it’s important for young women to have access to “male-dominated” interests?

It’s been a fight since the beginning of time for woman’s rights. There shouldn’t be a such thing as male dominated anything. Equality is the simplest way of putting things, it’s important for women of all ages to have equal access in all revenues. It sets the foundation for the future of our youth to grow without being blinded by gender roles.

The Lips platform is about a lot more than just sex. We are all about the female experience and expression in totality. Whether it’s skating, fashion, makeup, rock climbing, art, music – anything!!

However you express yourself, we want you to share it with the world. You can submit images or text posts directly to our site via this link or email us at




Be Real, Be Raw & Love Plants: Interview with Visual Artist Alexandra Caprice

Alex Caprice aka @theyounglass is an illustrator/printmaker with a passion for 90s nostalgia, plants and the desert. When she’s not drawing, you can probably find Alex talking to her cats and sippin’ on some coffee. In this interview Alex opened up to us about her artistic philosophy,  her views on the free expression of female sexuality, and shares her fav need-to-follow female artists.
What are some of your current projects?
Currently I’m working on a new body of work *just for fun* that’s kind of nostalgic and 90’s based, with a whole lotta cannabis references. Aside from that I’m working on a collab with a friend, I’m not sure how secret it is right now, so I probably shouldn’t say more. But it’s going to be really rad! I’m also working on a coloring book and of course I’m always designing stickers and clothing items for my shop, The Young Lass.
Blab about something you are passionate about…
I’m really passionate about plants! This year I kinda realized how 100% obsessed I am with plants, whether it’s cannabis or my cactus garden, I’m just floored by how amazing plants are. My cacti have been growing like MAD! Two of them have sprouted all these offshoots and arms and I’m just really excited because I’ve never had such happy plants before! See?! I’m obsessed. I even had a whole highlight section on my Insta, dedicated to my cacti :’)
What is art to you?
Ooo, this is such a good question! To me art is life, creative expression, the thing you do no matter what or no matter who is watching or not watching. I’ve always either danced, played an instrument, or drawn things. To me, all of that is an art and that’s why I love art so much, because it’s really so subjective and has room for everyone to be involved. My philosphy behind my work is to be real, be raw, have fun, and spread good vibes.
When did you start making art?
Oh wow, I’ve been creating ever since I can remember! When I was a little kid I would actually hand draw my own fashion zines and even bind them and put fancy covers on them! I was also busy painting rocks and making jewelry to sell on the weekends, instead of a lemonade-stand. I create because that’s all I know and makes me feel better about things.
Is art therapeutic for you?
Art is so theraputic for me. It takes me out of my head and into a whole different world, where I have no limitations physically or mentally. Drawing helped me heal through my back injury in 2016, and it’s helped me get through my anxiety of living in a new part of the country, away from all of my family and friends. I really feel like finding my voice through my art has helped save me from my own inner demons and self worth issues. I guess it just gives me purpose every single day and makes me view life with a different lens. Art has honestly helped me to see the beauty in everyday things.
What are some under-the-radar female artists you admire?
Okay, I’m seriously in love with @honkytonkwomann’s work! I love the colors she uses and just her illustration style in general! Of course I totally adore @lynsweetart, her style is just so uniqe and dare I say, whimsical? And last but not least is @lust.cult! Oh, her line work gives me the chills. I LOVE how she draws women. They are so stunningly elegant and ahhh, she’s just so talented!
Do you think women need an online space for the free expression of female sexuality?
Yes! I absolutely do! Just today I read one of my friend’s statuses on Facebook talking about being censored about drawing a nipple – a woman’s nipple. And that just kind of blew me away that women still just can’t be women without someone causing a stink. I do think some platforms can be limiting! I see amazing people getting censored all the time (on FB or IG) for sharing a nude or a nipple and it’s just kinda lame that we are still so afraid of human anatomy!
Do you have a personal story you can share with us about your own sexuality?
Growing up in organized religion kind of instilled in me this fear of sexuality, my OWN sexuality. And I think it’s still something I’m overcoming, maybe a little. You know, just being comfortable with sex and sexuality in general has been something I’ve worked on for myself for years. Having these open discussions really helps, so thanks for creating a safe place!
Want to be featured in Lips? Submit art, essays, poetry, musings (anything!) here or email us at

How Cryptography Can Improve Young Women’s Mental Health

Cryptography has recently exploded in popularity due to it’s potential as a means to decentralize the Internet. Most applications have focused on cryptocurrencies, health records, and precise tracking. However, I argue that perhaps one of the most impactful applications of blockchain could be its role in reducing the negative impact of social media on young women’s mental health.

Lips combines art and information to create an intelligent, entertaining, creative and honest discourse about sex from the perspective of groups typically underrepresented in the media, such as women, transgender persons and people of color.

In it’s print form, this zine provided an alternative to the limited definitions of womanhood and sexuality expressed in popular women’s magazines such as Cosmo or Seventeen.

However, today’s young women are bombarded with more images and media than I ever encountered in high school or college. When I entered college in 2006 Facebook was just launching – only those with a college email address could make an account. Since then, social media has proliferated into the primary way we communicate with friends and strangers online.

Lips was popular during my four years at The College of William and Mary, because young women like me were beginning to explore our sexuality and encountering feminist philosophy for the first time. Not many know this, but Lips began as a therapeutic exercise for myself. In high school, I was obsessed with my weight and appearance. I compulsively ran long distances everyday and ate the minimum amount of calories to avoid stomach pains.

In my first women’s studies seminar, we were asked to write what our favorite part of our bodies were. I wrote my stomach, because it was the one part of my body men were most attracted to. Most of the women in the class had similar reasoning for the parts they chose. The instructor chose her legs – her reasoning? “My legs hold me up, and help me get from place to place.”  We then began to discuss the concept of the “male gaze.”

It was in this moment I realized that the positive impact that feminist philosophy can have on the lives of women, including myself. However, I was often frustrated by the difficulty in translating theory into practice – how can we prevent eating disorders and depression among women without forcing them to take and enjoy a women’s studies class?

As a young woman, magazines like Cosmo fueled my eating disorder and body-centric anxiety. They did not cause them by any means, as there were several contributing factors including abuse, but they did not help. In fact, they encouraged my coping behaviors.

Lips was created as an artistic outlet for myself and transformed into a therapeutic community art project. It’s popularity stemmed from the idea that it is a fun alternative to popular magazines that objectify bodies and fail to speak honestly about sex. Lips focuses on “female* sexuality” because  most of the media provided to young people focus on the male experience and we would like to counter this with discussions from the female perspective.

The pages of Lips are filled with artwork, doodles, poems, stories and essays about gender identity and sex submitted by women and sexual minorities from the community. I was consistently amazed by the brave, funny and moving contributions of the women around me. Women would often come up to me and let me know how much creating entries for the magazine had helped them.

So what does this have to do with cryptography? 

Up until now, Lips has only been able to accept semi-anonymous submissions. We publish anonymously if asked and never disclose author information. This being said, the anonymity of the author is somewhat compromised by the submission process. Users would anonymously submit via a P.O. Box on campus, which they could drop into – this solution only works on a local basis. For a global solution, we decided to turn to cryptography.

Anonymity is important because  it allows for women to express themselves freely regarding sensitive topics. In my experience, contributors are more likely to speak truthfully about uncomfortable experiences if given the opportunity to submit anonymously. Once the submission is well-received and celebrated by readers, contributors typically feel more comfortable submitting again with names attached to their work.

The cryptography presents us with the opportunity to have honest discussions on the Internet, rather than carefully crafted/photoshopped distortions of reality. Also, it allows women to claim authorship of their work, as well as be compensated without having to name themselves.

For young women, this could mean online expressive outlets that are not only healthier than current social media options, but also more participatory, fun and perhaps most importantly – cool.

I’ll discuss for the artistic, therapeutic and communal applications of hashing and cryptography more in future blog posts. For now, enjoy Lips – which officially launches today! We are currently working on phase two which will incorporate encrypted posting into the platform.

Lips is always accepting art, poetry, magazine clippings, essays (anything!) for the site and we publish (almost!) all submissions.

Click here to submit to Lips! 

*We understand that there are people who do not identify as female who could contribute to our mission of empowerment through expression. For that reason, we accept/encourage submissions from the gay and transgender communities, people who do not wish to identify with a specific gender, as well as men who understand the importance of female expression and wish to contribute ideas that diverge from mainstream (white, heterosexual, male dominated, middle-class) representations of sexuality.