I like that the project crosses earnest sociology with creative monkeying around. How would you redefine the female role model—especially if you didn't have to follow any rules of the real world in figuring it out? In the Better Bombshell, "words and images work together to push both further into the void than either could reach alone."
Below is a kickass example from the book. It's called "Dear Destiny." Seattle painter Deborah Scott created the imagery, then Alaska author Heather Lende wrote the story.
Courtesy of the artist
Deborah Scott, Facing Life and Destiny, 2012, oil and mixed media on canvas, 40 by 24 inches
When I was a child I wished I were a boy. I fished, climbed trees, and played baseball as well, or better than my best friend Kevin did. After he got an air rifle, I asked for one for my birthday. My mother, who taught in a Quaker school said no, and furthermore, I should be grateful to be a female, because I’d never have to serve in the Army. Even my father, who had shown me how to break in my Wilson fielder’s glove by rubbing it with oil and putting it under my pillow overnight, said no.
This made me want a gun even more. I saved my allowance. I nagged. Finally, my father said we could make one, and so we fashioned a pistol from a piece of driftwood, which even after I sanded and varnished it remained a fat stick shaped, sort of, like a gun. [continued]
One night we were invited over to Kevin’s house to see an Army public relations film fea- turing his brother running through a Vietnamese swamp, leaping over trenches, and shooting at an unseen enemy. Later, over a game of catch, I asked Kevin if his brother had ever killed anyone. Kevin said sure, that’s what soldiers do.
For my birthday Kevin didn’t give me a cap gun or an air rifle. He and his mother picked out a peach sleeveless blouse with darts on the chest.
When I was fifty, I finally got a real gun. My husband gave me a bolt-action .22 caliber Ruger rifle with a scope. I had already joined him on hunts for mountain goat, bear, and moose near our Alaskan home. But I hadn’t carried a weapon, and he thought it was time I pulled the trigger.
My mini-rifle works just like his larger ones do. Loading, aiming, and firing are all the same on the little .22 as they are on his .270 and larger .338. My husband suggested that before I take down big game, I practice on rabbits and grouse near our cabin in the woods.
I imagined I’d be like Meryl Streep in “Out of Africa,” you know, walk around in tweeds, shoot birds all day and then sip Scotch, neat, while I charmed my male companions with clever stories around the fire. A modern huntress with brains. Instead of writing for Woman’s Day, I could have a column in Sports Afield. Me, and Tom McGuane.
I’d never had Scotch before and the Laphroaig I bought because I heard it was the best tasted like rubbing alcohol. Also, the bird hunting around here is not the stuff of nostalgic magazine spreads. There are no crisp leaves underfoot. There is mud and snow. The best grouse hunting is in the spring, when it is cold and wet.
When we hear the mating call of the male grouse, an amplified version of the “hoo-hoo” Kevin and I used to make by blowing over Coke bottles, my husband and I dress in rain gear, strap on plastic snow-shoes, and hike up to tree-line. We chase after a calling grouse for almost an hour, post-holing across a steep mountainside until we spot him in a clump of spruce trees.
“You shoot it. I’ll get the next one,” my husband whispers.
I want to see the look of admiration in his eyes when I pop that bird off the branch, and later, when he tells his friends about it over my equally impressive wild grouse Coq au Vin.
I load and sight my weapon on the gray-blue bird about the size of my pet hens. “Where do I shoot him?”
“Knock his head off. Then you won’t ruin the breast meat,” my husband says.
The bird doesn’t move, but calls again, exposing a rich yellow throat. I look at my husband. “The neck then. You decide.”
I line up my cross-hairs.
“You can do it,” my husband says.
I know I can.
But I’m not going to.
Which is a long way of saying, drop the rifle, dear.
Recycle it into a pruning hook. Then button up your shirt, un-tuck that lovely maple leaf from your hair and hold it gently in your capable young hands. Don’t wait forty years to realize you are better than this. You can change the world and you must. Did you know that there are more women than men in America, and that more of us vote? When you grow up don’t become the sexiest sniper in the platoon. Instead, make this country of yours stop spending billions on bombs and exploiting women and children in a pornographic film industry that’s larger than major league sports and Hollywood. Listen to your old hippie grandma. I am not a crone. I love you, and I know a few things, especially that blooms, birds, and blessings are better than bombshells.