Jennifer Reitman's a fellow Scorpio, which means that when we met several years ago while walking our dogs (of course), we immediately became friends. She's one of those people who's instantly kind of awesome - opinionated, smart, wonderfully caustic, tirelessly driven, and a fighter on behalf of the rights of others, both two-legged and four. She founded her incredible magazine, DAME, in 2008, but "put it on ice" until 2012. The voice of DAME is fearless, loud, brilliant, discerning, sardonic, and, oh, did I mention fearless? What was originally launched as a "women's version of Esquire" is now being retweeted by the likes of Joy Reid, Molly Ringwald, Missy Elliot, Yoko Ono, Martha Plimpton, and was included in the teaching syllabus of the late great David Carr. Not too shabby for a tiny operation run out of Los Angeles, with massively talented writers all over the country penning pieces on religion, race issues, sexual assault, the current administration, and the long, winding, often ugly road of politics.
We're beyond thrilled that Jennifer took some time out of her bonkers busy schedule to answer our SHAPERS queries and talk about the Women's March, wolf dogs, HRC, and wisdom for all women everywhere.
xx - Rebecca
Can you tell us a bit about DAME Magazine's irreverent and extremely insightful tone? It's razor-sharp smart, so I reckon it rankles a few readers while gaining a hugely devoted following. It also feels incredibly crucial and necessary these days...
DAME was built for the current political and policy climate. There has never been another time in recent history where covering the litany of issues affecting women, people of color, the LGBTQ, the environment, children, civil rights and the like have been more important. While we’ve always had a critical lens on these issues, today we’ve got a klieg light shining behind that lens.
The flow of headlines and news is un-relenting; we’re just as exhausted by the news as everyone else. But with that, we know we have incredible responsibility to help women (and men) parse the onslaught of information so they can be better informed about what is happening.
And so, when it comes to our readers, our tone, take, and coverage are particularly resonant and paramount in this moment. We’ve always been a bit provocative, and this doesn't rankle them, it reflects them. Our readers are incredibly insightful and erudite. And so when it comes to our voice, we want our features to feel like a conversation you’d have with your friends: sharp, informed, clever. And this only happens because of the incredible wealth of journalistic acumen and instinct of our writers. They are just so terrifically talented, it’s awe-inspiring – and I know DAME would be nothing without them.
The Women's March - we gotta talk about the march, right? This was a massive, monumental, indelible, impassioned movement unlike anything we've ever seen before. What are your thoughts on it? How do you perceive the current climate for women, globally and domestically, and what is the ultimate glass ceiling?
When I was a young girl, my mother took me to the March on DC for the Equal Rights Amendment. I remember the women spilling from busses, dressed in Suffragette white, all of us with our sashes and signs.
Some 40 years later, there I was marching with my mother in Los Angeles – but this time wearing pink pussy hats. I was overwhelmed by the crush of people - of humanity really – standing up for our beloved country and all of its denizens. I can’t think of anything that’s ever been as impactful and inspiring.
But I worry every day that we are normalizing, as there doesn’t seem to be the same fervor. I worry our outrage is giving way to resistance fatigue. I’m concerned by low turn outs in special elections and what it may forebode for 2018 midterms – and frankly, apathy around civics and government is what got us here in the first place.
It probably comes as no surprise that I’m not particularly bullish on what I see as the current climate for women and women’s rights. I think little by little our rights are being eroded, and whatever strides we’ve made, whether that be in reproductive rights or equal pay or health care, are being dragged back into the dark ages. And when we can’t claim a moral high ground or set the example on the world stage – what does this say to countries that need to be held accountable for atrocities against women?
That said –I’ve also seen an incredible dialogue around feminism and women’s rights emerge as a result of the election. And this is what it takes to equalize women’s rights – bringing all issues to bear – from domestic violence, to equal pay, to reproductive rights and everything in between. Surfacing the challenges means we can identify the solutions. That’s part of the conversation that DAME wants to propel forward.
Here at Lily Spindle, we lovingly call you "the mother of wolves," as you have two wolf-content dogs - Goliath and Laska. Both rescues. Both gorgeous. How are these types of dogs different from your average wonderfully mixed mutt? What's life like as the mother of two wolf dogs?
Well, first I have very very low content wolfdogs – meaning, the percentage of “wolf” in my animals is very little. For all intents and purposes, they are dogs. I call them "Dog Plus." I thinkthis is important to call out because one of the issues in the wolfdog world is misrepresentation – animals like malamutes or huskies being called wolfdogs, this has caused many animals to lose their lives. But even with them being low content, the differences are distinct, can be significant and represent some unique challenges. One of the things that is striking is their independence. Wolfdogs don’t have the same need to please their human as a pure domestic dog. This has to do with the way dogs have been domesticated and how they mature. Dogs are in a perpetual “puppy state”, they never fully mature mentally over a certain age (which is actually the mental state of a 30 day old pure wolf, if you can imagine). So when it comes to wolfdogs, as well as my two animals, even with their diluted bit of wolf content, they are fiercely independent. They just aren’t driven by getting my approval. I refer to them as my 100 lb cats. It’s very much the same “on their own terms” that you see in the way cats co-exist with humans
The second thing that is striking is the intensity. Everything is at 11 on the dial with them. Whether that be meeting a new person, or smelling things – it’s exaggerated when compared to a doggie dog.
Finally, intelligence – they work things out in a way that keeps you on your toes constantly. From thieving things you don’t want them to destroy, or figuring out a way to get out of the yard – they have an incredible ability to problem solve. To the extent that I installed 12 ft chain link fencing on my property to make sure my pups can’t escape.
Let’s just say – they aren’t for everyone, particularly ones with a lot of wolf content. And if someone thinks they want one – they must do their research and be willing to give up a lot. I’d caution anyone who is considering one to go spend time at a wolfdog rescue and learn as much as they can before hand. It would save a lot of animals from ending up in rescue, as most people aren’t prepared at all for what it takes.
You're involved with animal rescue, particularly shepherd and wolf-hybrid rescue, not just in Southern California, but all over the country. What are some of your most respected rescues in the U.S.?
Well, I’m not involved right now. I had to take a step back to focus on business. But hopefully someday soon, I’ll jump back in. There are so many wonderful wolfdog rescues across the country, and the ones I’ve worked with have my utmost respect. Out here in California I really love Apex Protection Project and Wolf Connection. In North Carolina, Full Moon Farm. In Florida, In Harmony With Nature and in Texas, Texas Wolfdog Rescue. They all do amazing work, with literally no money. The biggest challenge with wolfdog rescue is that there are so few of them, but the need to place animals is huge. A wolfdog is not a Labrador – you can’t just pull from the shelter and plop into a foster. There are so many animals, yet so little space. Couple that with a shortage of qualified homes, and you can imagine the challenges.
If you could have lunch with one famous person, living or dead, who would it be? And where would you dine?
Is there any other answer than Hillary Rodham Clinton? I’d actually want to host her in my home for a caterered lunch so I could sob uncontrollably into her shoulders for the first 15 minutes without embarrassing myself. And then I’d ask her every question under the sun, she’d try to answer, I’d start crying again, we’d hug goodbye and she’d wonder how she got wrangled into such craziness with me.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Morning. To a fault. Like a 4am fault. I wake up before my dogs do. In fact, I'm pretty sure I keep toddler's hours.
What's currently on your bedside table?
Water, my glasses, spare leashes in case of an earthquake, my phone and a stack of magazines I never have a chance to read.
As a progressive, independent, powerful 21st century woman, what's your key piece of advice to other women?
Believe in yourself. Because if you don’t, no one else will. You’re going to get knocked down. A lot. Take the bruise, and get back up and do it all again. It will never not be hard, but it always be worth it