Film + Feminism: The Contender.

{ Kickboxing at UMAC, formerly on Monroe Ave in Brighton, and now on School St in Victor. Check us out Wednesdays + Saturdays! }




{ This is a #shoplocal blog + today’s Week Wrap-Up post is not about shopping local. Certainly, with Fashion Week of Rochester having been this week and the Boutique Crawl today, it could be. But, more than anything The Shop Local Campaign, is also about sustainability. And with sustainability, empowerment. Today’s post is about empowerment. }

The Contender is a 2000 film with Jeff Bridges, Joan Allen, Gary Oldman, and Sam Elliott. It’s a political film. About electing a woman to the vice-presidency. It’s also the first film that’s ever really made me understand the need–the dire need–for representation of empowered women in mainstream media.


1. Inspiring Leadership in the President – In my lifetime, I’ve not been inspired by 1 president we’ve had. Not one. It’s disappointing, if not shameful. For one – Why is Bill Clinton the hero? And Monica Lewinsky the demon mistress?? Even Barbara Walters made fun of her, and that girl-on-girl–woman-on-woman–bashing has shaped me. I want to extricate it. Additionally, I REFUSE to let my presidential inspiration be a man who allowed his secretary to go down for him … and I mean that he let her take the blame.

Jeff Bridges for president. Or at least the character he plays here. (Or maybe even The Dude. I’m not sure.) What I do want is a president who is:

  • strong
  • brilliant
  • unafraid
  • in it for 1 term (and if the 2nd follows – okay fucking great)
  • and who is the truest bluest leader I will have ever laid eyes on.

This is what I want.

2. Challenged Me to Face Sexist Assumptions – In spite of the above, I am pretty liberal. At least in respect to human rights. In fact, while watching this film, I paused twice to pen the below 2 pieces on Tumblr:

I very clearly believe in women’s rights, feminism, and human rights in general. Because I believe in human rights, I absolutely strive to uncover my own prejudices. Here are a few the film helped me to unearth:

a.) 1st Scene where we meet Laine – She’s having sex with her husband.

  • My assumption: “She’s going to be the slutty female politician of this film.”
  • What this reveals:

i. A woman having sex in a film has to be a slut … Especially a woman of power.

ii. A female politician in a film who is feminized … has to be a slut.

The film challenges this in a wholly believable way, throughout, by leaveing both the audience and characters in doubt before reaching resolution.

3. Continued to Challenge me to Face Sexist Assumptions – Laine is accused of engaging in a “gang bang” while in college.

Pause. Throughout all literature in all cultures throughout all time, that is the ultimate heroine downfall. A one-way ticket to you’re-fucking-done.

a). No credibility. No grace. No intellect. No decorum.

b). Having unmarried sex–let alone “deviant” sex–might as well equate death.

c). The woman’s expected to atone.

d). Which just means she’s permitted to live in society. Not that she’ll actually get all of “a” back.


Laine does not atone. She does not apologize. She refuses to explain. Further, she does not blame or sling-mud. And you question it! You will question it. (Or, at least I did.) And good. That is the best thing you can do. So long as you can reconcile any doubts you have or any short-comings you realize about your own insights and,

instead of projecting your discomfort and doubts onto something else, look inside, dig real deep, be a fucking strong adult, and grow from it.

This film also has good acting. Just in case you need another reason to watch.

* * *

This film actually made me feel safe. Safe to be an empowered, sexually liberated, intellectual woman.

I’ve felt it crack. That shell we wear as women that compels us to harbor shame and resentment and doubt. I feel it cracking, and after watching this film, it actually feels easier to breathe. … This is what freedom from oppression feels like.

I want more mainstream media like this. I crave it.




Shop Local: VOA Thrift Stores – Upstate New York.




Break The Cycle of Poverty


WHO: VOA Upstate New York.  Serving: 6,000+ people plus throughout Upstate New York.

WHAT: Over 100 years old! Non-profit. Serves our community and sells some wicked good duds, home wares, shoes + accessories, and more.

WHERE: Flagship Store: Lave Ave (near downtown). 10+ Store Locations throughout Rochester. Shop Online.

WHEN: Founded in Rochester, 1901.

WHY:  Because why not. You should become passionate about VOA. See my list below. To really get it, watch this video:

Rise Out of Poverty, Move Toward Self-Reliance, Reach Toward Full Potential


Crop Top / Vintage / Wrap Dress / Fashion Jacket – All on my MUST list. All found at VOA.

1. Incredible Deals. 

  • Everyday Low Prices: Recently Dropped Prices on Most Popular Clothing Items! (Prices exclude better brands. … But trust me, those are inexpensive too.)
  1. $.99 Sunday’s + Monday’s
  2. $1.99 Regular Tanks + Tees


    Ask for your Rewards Card when you cash out! Earn + Redeem Points.

  3. $3.99 Regular Tops
  4. $4.99 Regular Shorts
  5. $5.99 Regular Bottoms
  • Sales: Change Daily.
  • SUPER SATURDAYS – Everything is 50%. Go THIS SATURDAY, 6/28!!
  • Rewards Card: Ongoing. VOA Rewards Card gives you points (turns into real $$) on each
    purchase you make. Can be used on sale items!

2. Excellent Selection.

  • Brand Names
  • High Quality
  • Unique Finds
  • Women’s Wear
  • Men’s Wear
  • Office Wear (not including Working Wardrobe)
  • Casual
  • Going Out
  • Lounging


    Neatly organized + some brand new ones to select from! Like those boots on the end.

  • Junior’s
  • Children’s
  • Children’s Books
  • Shoes
  • Bags
  • Accessories
  • Home Wares
  • Furniture
  • Seasonal Attire

3. Convenient.

  1. Batavia
  2. Brockport


    Spotted! 2 dresses I donated to VOA. Patterned halter from HM Toronto + black lace from Target.

  3. Canandaigua
  4. Culver Road
  5. Elmira
  6. Endwell
  7. Fairport
  8. Lake Ave Store  
  9. Lake Ave Outlet
  10. Palmyra
  11. Warsaw
  12. Webster
  • Parking is Accessible
  • Changing Rooms
  • Vending Machines at Lake Ave!

4. Arranged Like Retail Stores.  

  • Thoughtful Layout


    Formal Wear. Prom dresses + gowns. … I should really donate mine. Also seems like a great place for old Bridesmaid’s dresses.

  • Clothing Organized by Color / Size / Style
  • Clearly Marked Sections + Sizes
  • Enough Cash Registers

5. Specialty Selections. 

  • Formal Gowns
  1. Wedding
  2. Prom
  3. First Communion
  • Vintage

“We’re here to serve each other. We change lives. We restore hope and dignity. We put others first.”

~JoAnne Ryan, President + CEO (taken from Agency Video)

Thrifting will always have a special place in my heart. From suits to blouses to slacks and shoes to bags: I gave my mom the hardest time, while growing up, for never buying anything new. For never being like the other moms. But she was right. She scraped together just enough change to buy me McDonald’s fries {we have her to thank for this infatuation} and paid for my older brother’s and my grade school tuition. She, a newly graduated full-time engineering UR student, and full-time mom with a new baby boy in the crib, interviewed for jobs out of university. She taught me value. She taught me style. She taught me what it means to be proud of what I have, who I am,  and my community. She taught me to do what I do, whether it is popular or not. She taught me all of this. And she taught me it through thrift shopping.

My aunt, as well. Aunt Katy, my mama’s older sister, is an antique dealer and thrift shopping maverick. With just 1 scan of the perimeter, Aunt Katy knows exactly what’s treasure and exactly what’s … not. Aunt Katy’s taught me, not just the value of a dollar, but also, the value of a flea market, the value of a garage sale, the value of an estate sale, the value of a church sale, and the value of the people behind them. Shopping is fun. Fashion feels good. But thrift shopping, the values and the culture and the people behind thrift shopping, is immortal.

When we thrift shop, yes: we give immortal lives to the things no one wants. More, we give immortality to the spirit surrounding our communities. This is why I thrift shop.

I thrift at VOA because they support and empower our community.

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Last Thursday I shopped with Marketing & Media Director, Megan, at the 214 Lake Ave. location, centrally located between Lake Ontario and Downtown. Passersby cannot miss the neatly blocked tan building with familiar red, white, and blue sign that flags down shoppers, outside of this Upstate New York VOA Flagship store. Convenient parking flanks both sides of the Retail Center.

When I finished devouring aisle after aisle of shorts, denim, blouses, tanks, dresses {I even ran into a few of my own that I donated!}, Megan was kind enough to take me next door to the VOA Children’s Center.

My jaw never closed.  A bright jungle gym set-up donated by Top’s. The Universal Preschool that is associated with RCSD. Beautiful, jubilant children, pre-school aged and up, who attentively listened to aids and harmoniously played together, both inside and out. Brightly painted, mural-ed walls. Classrooms fully equipped with sitting spaces, learning areas, bathrooms, books. A full dental center in partnership with RGH. Even more medical services, including Telemed equipment to web conference with doctors as needed.


Dental Room in partner with RGH at the VOA Children’s Center.


My eyes squeezed in tears. Seeing these happy, healthy children and the facilities imparted to teachers and aides to keep these children happy + healthy. These are the programs that improve our world. Programs like these, with the research and altruism and partnership and innovation and heart, are what change our world.

I am so proud that the VOA Children’s Center serves 280 children, between 6 weeks old to 12 years old, 98% of whom live in the most impoverished parts of Rochester. I am so proud we have VOA to serve a number of populations and communities in this exact same manner.


IMG_7418 IMG_7420

If you didn’t want to shop before {and who doesn’t want to shop}, you want to shop now. {Or this Saturday, 6/28 at SUPER SATURDAY.} Ask for your Rewards Card when you cash-out. I promise, the reward to both you + to our community is not just worth it. It’s immortal.

Thank you to Megan + to VOA for hosting me this past Thursday! See you guys soon.







Shop Local. The Real Barbara Ellen.




Below is a personal bio I wrote about myself and emailed on April 10, 2014. It tells about who I am, where I come from, and why I love Shop Local + Rochester, NY.


Nothing about me, Barbara Ellen, has been, is, or ever will be typical. With a name like Barbara Ellen, born in the mid-80’s when everyone else had pretty-girl-names like Stephanie or Christina, how can you? Add tightly wound curls, bunions (yes…developed early on), a voice that lisps and that knows no decibel limit, add all of this to a young girl, from the hood, who attends Catholic school, and what do you have?

You have a dreamer. You have an innovator. You have a doer. You have an old soul with fresh vision. What you have what is not so typical. I am not your typical Barbara Ellen.

Where I Have Seen

I grew up in the Beachwood Neighborhood of Rochester, NY. The first decade of my life I played kickball in the street and 500 with the big boys, got bullied by the big girls, pretended to play school during the sweltering summer heat, made whirl-pools in plastic pools that collapsed, dreaded every single second of the Catholic school I walked to and from each and everyday since Kindergarten, and, when old enough, I waked, proudly, around the corner, to a tiny store on Culver then named Romano’s though there no more, and, with the rest of the city kids, I saved pennies and quarters to buy pizza by the slices. I loved living on Hazelwood Terrace in the city of Rochester. It’s my forever badge. But I hated that, until we moved into the public school system, I never knew I was smart. I never knew I was smart until, at Iroquois Middle School in West Irondequoit, in the middle of the 5th grade, I never knew I was smart until the meanest teacher told me I was smart. In 6th grade, when middle school ended, I never received the President’s Award because I didn’t take the proper state exams while attending Catholic School, and when everyone else received the Principal’s Award, I didn’t because my grades far surpassed the standards. By 7, I knew ignorance. By 12, I understood injustice. Everything I’ve done since has combatted both.

Advocacy and empowerment. I analyzed English Literature in undergrad at the University of Pittsburgh and Irish Literature while studying abroad at University College Cork in Ireland. I studied pedagogy, multicultural, and special education while obtaining my Master’s at Teachers College, Columbia and finally Nazareth College of Rochester, from whence I graduated in 2010 (sic). [Clarification: Master’s Coursework studied at TC: 1 semester completed. Graduated from Naz.] Am I a professional writer? Not yet… Am I a classroom teacher? Absolutely not. Even when they should, advocacy and empowerment don’t always follow professions. Advocacy and empowerment do follow vision. Advocacy and empowerment follow action. When I found teaching unjust, I left. When I found banking lucrative though corrupt, I left (as quick as I could). As an educator who is also a writer with a keen business sense, I now work for the NYS Department of Labor in conjunction with the non-profit RochesterWorks. Truly, I help Rochester—all of Rochester–get back to work. As a writer for my blog Barbara Ellen Shops Local, I turn consumerism into activism.

What I Foresee

The Shop Local Campaign in Rochester, NY is sustainability. Shop Local is sustainable for entrepreneurs. Shop Local is sustainable for community development. Shop Local is sustainable for cultural identity. Shop Local is sustainable for individual budgets. Shop Local is sustainable because it preservers local talent and nurtures sustained growth. As initiator of the Shop Local Campaign in Rochester, NY, I will make sustainable our cultural identity and economy by turning consumerism into activism.

According to Go Buy Rochester, an equaTEK Interactive initiative and online Shop Local oasis for Rochester, The Multiplier Effect reveals that, “every dollar spent with a locally owned merchant has three times the impact of a dollar spent at a big box store.” With The Shop Local Campaign, I help Rochester make shopping local a daily lifestyle. By promoting, marketing, interviewing, and providing links to local Rochester business owners, artisans, publications, and bloggers, I connect our community of Rochester to the everyday ways we can realize our city. Shopping is a highly personal construct. The Shop Local Campaign shifts engrained ideas and practices to empower Rochesterians to make convenient, affordable, unique choices they otherwise would have ignored due to habit. Not due to money or choice or critical consciousness. Due to habit. Habit is changeable. Critical consciousness is essential. Empowering Rochester means advocating for Rochester. Through the Shop Local Campaign, this is what I do for the city that has given me and continues to give so much.

This is what I’ve always done. I just do it in a Not So Typical Way.

Where I Will Be

On January 1, 2006, New Years Day, I left America to start a new life—a study abroad life—in Ireland. Cork, Ireland. Alone. I left by myself, boarded a plane, traveled to Europe, rode a bus with several other American students, many of who already knew each other from college or from home, and I—luggage lost—embarked upon this new journey. Alone. Eight years later, I’m still best friends with three of the most amazing women I’ll ever meet. While we bonded almost immediately, traveling to live and study abroad in Ireland, by myself, is one of the bravest moves I will make.

And still, it compares nothing to the culture shock I experienced upon moving from the city of Rochester to the suburbs of West Irondequoit before I started the 5th grade. Nothing.

Suburban life has never been much for me. Dodging the social circles of soccer moms and dads and relishing their trailer that sits in a trailer park along the shores of Lake Ontario with a bunch of other trailers: I don’t think suburban life is much for my parents either. Unconventional. This is the fiber of my genes. I have grown up in a unconventional family. I will always live an unconventional life. Not to be different. Not to be separate. But because—understanding, analyzing, questioning–I am in constant conversation with society. While I relish and almost worship a routine, I cannot stand to be stationary within society.

I mentioned my parent’s trailer. Modest doesn’t begin to describe this small hunk of metal, which rests not even on wheels. A wooden deck built around the front that looks upon Lake Ontario is the grandest thing about it, and even these roots are humble. This trailer is minimal. If unconventional drives me, minimal sustains me.

No matter the success I reach, I will always live minimally and consciously. Sustainably.  A micro-home on a flatbed that travels the US. Well-made, locally crafted and/or sourced clothing and food and household items: only those I need. These are my material dreams. From Pittsburgh to Cork, Ireland to Manhattan to Rochester, of the myriad of apartments and spaces I’ve lived in, the studios have always suited me best. A 5th floor walk-up on the Upper West Side of New York with 1 open room for kitchen, bedroom, living room, and office or its equivalent in Rochester, where I live off of Park Ave. For me, meaning and consciousness in smallness is true luxury.

Five to 10 years from now? Home ownership—convention—is not the goal. Five to 10 years from now? My goal is to influence my community and my city that have given me so much. Five to 10 years from now? Shop Local is already a way of life for most of Rochester and the Greater Area. Five to 10 years from now? I’m a published writer. Local and national and, once the memoir comes out, internationally.

Beyond 10 years from now? This is almost easier for me. Beyond 10 years from now, my life’s work, will be advocating. For mental health. For mental health rights. For a voice in the mental health world. Beyond 10 years from now, I will be purveying sustainability and shop local, and I will be changing the face of how society perceives mental health in this country. Probably other countries. The only thing that’s not changed about me? Unconventionality.

There is no other way I want to be or dream.

Now, Rochester, you know even more about me. Barbara Ellen. The Real Barbara Ellen.

And if there’s 1 thing you need to know about me for sure, it is this:


I am an advocate. I work hard to create spaces where everyone has voice. I work hard to empower everyone to exercise this voice.

I do not have a boyfriend. I do not have a husband. I do not have children. I do not have pets. I do not have a best friend.

I have my writing. I have Rochester, NY. I have Shop Local. And that is all.






Sustainability + Activism: Why Shop Local?

(Above: Danielle Ponder of Danielle Ponder and The Tomorrow People live at The Bug Jar, 4/5.)





Magix is why we Shop Local. Magix, a unique clothing boutique that sold an affordable and eclectic array of designer, boutique, and vintage items, was located on South Avenue, directly across from Thread, in the heart of the South Wedge shopping district. I discovered Magix during my 2nd Southwedgeucation. Southwedgeucation–you know–City Newspaper’s  late summer evening that buzzes with shoppers, strollers, businesses, food trucks, bars, music shops, boutiques, and more to celebrate the South Wedge . A September evening that bustles with the volume and energy every single other weekday night, certainly weekend, should generate. I found Magix. I found glass beads straight from Ghana. I found vintage and thrifted items. And shamefully, even I–the Shop Local Campaigner–even I seldom returned. Magix, which closed this past July, might have closed for any number of reasons. But it’s safe to surmise it was due to a lack of awareness. A lack of Shop Local know-how. Every single person I revealed the magic to about Magix? None had been before. Not necessarily because we don’t know. Because it’s not familiar.


Don’t let habit dictate your Shop Local. Habit. What is habit? Most habits are bad, no? Habit is the unthinking actions we ascribe tendencies and routines because we either have to (brushing teeth), we don’t think about it (tapping fingers), or we need to cope (smoking).

Why let shopping–why let life–be just another habit.

Make shopping and living a conscious action. Think about it. Shop Local is still convenient. It’s just that Shop Local is also conscious. Shop Local is affordable. Shop Local is unique. Shop Local is activism.


The Shop Local Campaign in Rochester, NY is sustainability. Shop Local is sustainable for entrepreneurs. Shop Local is sustainable for community development. Shop Local is sustainable for cultural identity. Shop Local is sustainable for individual budgets. Shop Local is sustainable because it preservers local talent and nurtures sustained growth. (See Go Buy Rochester’s explanation of the Multiplier Effect.)

Why not turn your consumerism into activism?

Shop Local in Rochester, NY for your every single day needs, every single day. This is why we Shop Local. So that good things–quality businesses with character, that enhance our cultural identity and work with our daily budgets–so that good things stay alive. So that they thrive. So that we thrive.

And don’t just #shoplocal…




Danielle Ponder and The Tomorrow People Saturday, April 5 at Bug Jar. Incredible Local Music venue. Watch for review on Liana Gabel’s “Rest and Heal” album. Saw her too. Loved it!


(watch me to watch some seriously good music)


Know a good spot? Have a cool routine? Please share!