Wild Cozy Truth: Millennial’s Personal Story Encouraging Others
Wild Cozy Truth is a collection of personal essays from millennial Renee M. Powers and vulnerable interviews with everyday women. Enjoy with interview with Renee.
Welcome to Plaid Radio by Plaid for Women and the #NoMeanGirls movement. Enjoy today’s show and be inspired to change the world.
Sarah Webb: 00:18
Welcome to Plaid Radio I’m your host, Sarah Webb, and I’m with today’s superstar Rene Powers. Rene is a writer, entrepreneur and scholar of gender bias. She’s a feminine life coach and passionate about women owning their own. She runs Wild Cozy Truth. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where her husband, Joe and her cat asparagus. Asparagus. Is he slightly green tinted cat?
Renee Powers: 00:43
No, Asparagus is named after the musical cats. I’m kind of a nerd, but we call him Gus.
Sarah Webb: 00:48
OK, that’s better. I’m like, does he eat asparagus? You know what’s going on there? I have never heard that cat name. So welcome to the show, we’re so excited to have you.
Renee Powers: 00:58
Thank you so much. I’m so glad to be here.
Sarah Webb: 01:00
Well, first of all, let’s talk about your name. So we were checking out your website, learning a little bit more about you on Wild Cozy Truth, and your name is Renee M. Powers and you say it’s not a coincidence that your full name embodies everything that you are. So tell us a little bit about that.
Renee Powers: 01:14
Yeah, absolutely. So I married into my name. I think that if my husband’s last name hadn’t been Powers, I may not have taken it, but my middle initial is “M” and so my full name is the sentence Renee empowers. And once I discovered that it was like a light bulb moment, everything made sense that this is what I had been studying for years. I’ve been interested in gender issues and women’s liberation for as long as I can remember honestly, and changing my name at 23 just kind of felt like, a stepping into my identity. And so what I do as a feminist life coach is I coach women, um, mostly millennial women is who I work with to recognize their authenticity and realize that within the structures and context of their lives that they can and do and be whatever they strive to do and be. So yeah, I am, Renee empowers.
Sarah Webb: 02:16
Awesome. Um, I got a pretty basic name. If you were to Google Sarah Webb, you’d get like some romance writer and that’s not me. So, um…
Renee Powers: 02:27
There are several Renee Powers is out there, but it’s also one of the reasons why I use my middle initial to differentiate myself, but
Sarah Webb: 02:27
Renee Powers: 02:33
It helps that it makes the sentence
Sarah Webb: 02:35
Exactly. I love that. So you’ve studied gender biases and you have a special interest in really, you know, this notion of what women should be and how it’s defined for us and how it’s put on us. Tell us why this is something you wanted to study and then are you always looking like when you were growing up, were you always kind of like why is it like this? Like why, you know, why does my mom cook dinner? And my dad sits there, I mean, I don’t know what your family was like. How did that even become an interest of yours?
Renee Powers: 03:05
I grew up in Indiana and I’m a pretty quintessential suburban life. My parents divorced then when I was 12 years old and I’m an only child and I lived with my mom full time after that and my mom was, you know, blue collar, worked three jobs to make sure that I had everything I needed and I ended up going to a private women’s college and that’s what I… But it, but it was something that I was always kind of interested in, you know, I saw my mom struggle and do the things that she needed to do to get by. And even as young as 16, 17 years old, I realized that I was disadvantaged in a way that my dad wasn’t, or my male friends or my boyfriend’s weren’t. And I started to look to the media for that. I was super into like tele.. I still am into television and I was online even before we called it, like blogging. I was doing that since I was, Gosh, 10, 11 years old. I’m 32 now, so I was on the Internet early on, but I remember as far back as my high school, junior year research paper, I wrote it on media’s representation of women and how it influences body image and especially eating disorders and I don’t know really where I came to this topic, but it was one of those things that just lit a fire under me. Like this is a really big issue and this does not affect men in the way it affects women and I’m fascinated by it. Right. And so I ended up at a women’s college and it’s not the path that I think I’m going to take a start as a theater major and I think I’m going to do like musical theater for the rest of my life, but I had to fulfill a humanities credit. One of the classes that I could take to fulfill this credit was Intro to Women’s Studies and it just absolutely blew my mind. My professor was, is… I mean she’s still, just an incredible woman and very realistic and like level headed and not somebody like you think of, OK, well a women’s college, you know, gender studies professor, she’s gotta be like super hippie dippy and like shaved head and tattoos and like no bra and it was not like that at all. Like she,
Sarah Webb: 05:31
And don’t forget she doesn’t shave her underarms either.
Renee Powers: 05:34
Right. So yeah, you have all these ideas of what this Women’s Studies professors going to be like. No, she was like beautiful and blonde and like, listen, I remember the moment she said, Oh man, I love Justin Timberlake’s new album. It’s when Sexy Back came out and I was like, wait, I’m allowed to like Sexy Back? Like that’s something that we can like and enjoy. So this class was just all about, it was about a little bit of everything in terms of gender studies and so we talked about sexuality, we talked about language, we talked about the media and politics and law and linguistics and all of these things finally clicked for me. Like, oh, there is a body of scholarship out there that talks all about these things that I’m already interested in and have been interested in for a long time. And I can make a career out of that. I had no idea that it would turn into this, but it began. I began working in politics and. Well that’s hard. I worked in government so I worked for a member of Congress and that’s a very difficult position to have. Congressional terms are two years. You never know what your life is going to be like in two years. So I left that and went back to school and continued to study gender studies and I’m currently in my sixth year of my PhD and writing my dissertation on women’s authenticity in online spaces. It’s just kind of come full circle. I started in online spaces learning about gender and technology and here I am, you know, 20 years later doing the same thing.
Sarah Webb: 07:12
Yeah. We’ve met a few times with the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media. Sorry, I’ll put it in the show notes the right way and talking about (http://seejane.org/), you know, how they’re working with Google to really analyze film and TV and even, they have all these studies which are great. But like the one that kind of caught my eye was, even when it’s a female star and she has a co-star or supporting actor who’s a male, the male sometimes ends up with more screen time and more words and it’s like, oh my gosh, like she’s supposed to. She’s the heroine or you know, she is the pivotal person movies named after her. I really liked, um, an article that came out about Grey’s Anatomy. I stopped watching it several years ago. I guess I could pick back up, but how she was negotiating her contract and that she wanted to make the most, the show was named after her. And she had all these reasons, like she’s the only one that hasn’t been killed off or left for a movie, like she had like all these things and kept getting pushed back and she just held out like she just like hammered it home was like, my character’s name is in the… you cannot do the show without me. And so it was interesting how she negotiated her contract and kind of came into her own on that. And that she shared it because I think a lot of that isn’t…
Renee Powers: 08:29
And that’s so important. It’s important to see ourselves represented in media, but it’s also important to see the behind the scenes, too, and how the sausage gets made in terms of contract negotiation. I think Tracee Ellis Ross just recently talked about her contract negotiations for Black-ish and I think it’s really important to shed light on those kinds of things.
Sarah Webb: 08:48
Well, it also gives me like a little like omph, you know, when I’m asking for a raise or negotiating, I’m like, you know, she did it. I can do it in a different scale, but it does. It’s nice to see that. So…
Renee Powers: 09:02
If Meredith Grey could do it, so can I.
Sarah Webb: 09:04
Yeah, if Meredith Grey can do it. She like barely keeps her life together. So you know, I kinda like see you with like this pickax underneath the glass ceiling, like just hammering away and kind of breaking down those barriers and you really respect and admire women who break molds and do different things. Who was the woman you look up to most when it kind of like influences what you’re doing today? You talked about your professors, so you can’t use her you’ve got to use somebody else.
Renee Powers: 09:25
Yeah. Yeah. So I love popular culture. I am a millennial through and through. So like instantly three women come to mind. I’m going to preface this with. I know that these three women are white cisgendered, able-bodied, straight women. I know that. And the’re, they’re pop stars. So I love Sarah Bareilles. I think her music is groundbreaking in the way that it’s incredibly vulnerable and, but still strong and I mean her first song Love Song that hit the radio was the chorus that I’m not gonna write you a love song and it was about a recording studio that would only sign her if she wrote love songs and she didn’t want to do that. And so her first big song was about how she wasn’t going to conform to these standards that the music industry wants her to conform to you. And I thought that was. And everything that she’s done since then has been incredible. She has broken molds on Broadway by being a part of an all women’s creative groups to develop the musical Waitress. She is. I’m so excited. She’s going to be starting as Mary Magdalene and the NBC Live version of Jesus Christ Superstar, which is one of my favorite shows and she wrote this book that is so juicy and all about her life and where the songs came from and she really goes there in and really strong raw ways and I’m just incredibly impressed by everything that she continues to do. So Sarah Bareilles is the top of my list. And then similarly Lady Gaga and Kesha are two women that I just admire so, so much, especially Kesha. I think that she really was the catalyst for the #MeToo movement. I think that her contract negotiations with Sony and her sexual assaults, perpetrated by one of her producers, is doing the hard work of breaking the molds and telling this world that we’re not going to stand for assault and Gaga has done the same things. She’s been a huge supporter of survivors of all genders and yeah, so I mean it’s kind of a. I’m going to own it, but those are kind of silly women to admire. But I also think that there’s, there’s power in the frivolous and there’s power in pop culture and those are the three women that I’m really into right now.
Sarah Webb: 11:52
No, think that’s, that’s OK, that’s, I mean, and it’s also a different point in your life and pop culture does influence a lot of what we’re listening to you and what we’re hearing and what we’re talking about. And so to have role models like that that are different, that they’re their own person, that they’re trying to buck the system I think just makes other people think that it’s OK. And like you said, I mean it, it kind of starts a conversation of like, well why do you like that person that tells a little bit about you, but think about like the music you listen to when you were a teenager. And so what, like what are teenagers now being influenced by Lady Gaga? Like how are they being shaped by her messaging and her stance on social issues?
Renee Powers: 12:34
Right? And it not just for stance on social issues, but also just who she is. Just the persona that she has crafted and is marketing the fact that she is all three of these women just do whatever the heck they want and I think it’s so important for young women especially to see these incredibly talented women who are presenting themselves in creative ways, doing what they want to do, what they’re passionate about, and being incredibly successful I think is really important for young women to see.
Sarah Webb: 13:05
Yeah, absolutely. So tell us a little bit about Wild Cozy Truth, like what’s the community like? What are you trying to do? I love that you call your blogs or content, essays. I feel like that’s very like PhD of you, but what is the vibe you’re going for and who’s on your community?
Renee Powers: 13:25
Yeah, so Wild Cozy Truth is a multimedia project, so it’s a series of essays, personal essays that are often taken directly from my journals. I think that sharing our stories and listening to other women’s stories is incredibly powerful. So I lead by vulnerable example by sharing my vulnerable stories. So the blog is part of it. With these essays, I read these. Each of these essays allowed on my podcast by the same name Wild Cozy Truth, and in addition to those essays I interview everyday women about their extraordinary stories because I think that every woman has a story and when we come together to listen to them, we can change the world. So I don’t necessarily want Lady Gaga and Kesha and Sarah Bareilles on my podcast. I want, you know, your next door neighbor and your piano teacher, friends and family. I think my very first interview was with my mother-in-law and her sister and I’ve learned so much. It’s been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done for myself and I could only hope that the inspiration and joy that I get out of it is half of what my audience gets out of it. So my audience is primarily millennial women. I have several men that I know listened to it and uh, my husband is my number one fan. He’s wonderful.
Sarah Webb: 14:54
My husband’s my number one fan, too. Someone asked me, they were like, we have this creeper on our Facebook page… I was like, that’s my husband. I’m sorry.
Renee Powers: 15:03
I’m not sorry. So, the community is growing. I’m proud to say it’s growing, so every couple of months I host what I call online retreats and their free Facebook groups where we talk about issues for 10 days, three weeks, two months, and it’s cool because it’s a really safe private space. My… a lot of my PhD work is in online privacy and so it’s something that I take really seriously and I know that Facebook has its faults, but there are ways to share and maintain a sense of power and privacy on Facebook and so that’s what I try to create. That’s the space that I try to hold for a lot of women and the connections that have been forged in these retreats are really cool to see. And so February is actually going to be a new one that I’m running. It’s called Feminine February and we’re doing a book club where I share a list of fiction and nonfiction books revolving around the themes of sexuality, sensuality, femininity and womanhood. And so we’re having really deep conversations about those themes. And again, it’s a super safe space where women from all walks of life can talk about their experiences with it and share passages from the books they’re reading and we can talk about just whatever is on our mind in a really comfortable, really supportive space.
Sarah Webb: 15:03
Is The Handmaid’s Tale on this list?
Renee Powers: 16:37
No, but I’m going to add it right now. It needs to be. That’s a great suggestion. I’ve been asking everybody I know for suggestions.
Sarah Webb: 16:44
I’ll send you a full list and link with our audience because I know that they would definitely be interested in it as well.
Renee Powers: 16:50
Yeah, that’d be wonderful.
Sarah Webb: 16:51
When you talk about being vulnerable and sharing your essays, how does your husband feel about you like sharing your journal like that? I mean that’s like when I’m writing in my journal, my husband’s always like walking by or like getting me a cup of coffee. He’s like, make sure you write something good about me. Like OK, you know,
Renee Powers: 17:12
I follow Brené Brown’s… her path to sharing and she says she doesn’t share unless she has moved through it. So like she’s not sharing something that she’s actively working on. The journal entries that I share are, I’ve healed from them, let’s put it that way. There have been a few essays that I have published that my husband has said he doesn’t read because he knows that there some, for example, I have been living with anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder and panic attacks, well for most of my life, but I got my official diagnosis in 2012 and that was a really, really difficult year for me, especially, but for my husband as well and I go into detail about my panic attacks and what they look like and what they felt like and the catalyst for them and it’s still a really difficult thing to look back on. Knowing that that was our marriage at the time was engulfed by panic and anxiety and so when that essay was published. My husband said, yeah, so I saw that in my inbox and I couldn’t even open it. I just deleted it. I don’t want to experience that again.
Sarah Webb: 18:30
And that’s ok. I mean he’s been through it live, like he doesn’t have to relive it again. I hope. It sounds like he understands, like sharing these stories can be an encouragement to others to seek to reach out to their community and I can’t imagine how many people you know, reach back out to you and was like, Hey, I’m experiencing something similar or how do I help a friend who’s going through this? I mean, it’s definitely coming from the heart. So.
Renee Powers: 18:52
Exactly. And that’s the thing is if I don’t share those kinds of hard things, that means that other women don’t feel comfortable sharing those hard things. So I hope that in my sharing, I inspire others to tell one person and that can be enough for a lot of women. It’s just to tell somebody. So we don’t hear these stories then how do we know that it’s OK and safe to tell them.
Sarah Webb: 19:13
Yeah, absolutely. Well, we run a campaign, #NoMeanGirls. So we’re all about women supporting each other and lifting each other up as well as respecting and loving themselves. What kind of experience have you had either personally or professionally with other mean girls? Not that you’re a mean girls with mean girls.
Renee Powers: 19:32
Wow. I love that Plaid for Women does that. I think that’s an incredible hashtag campaign. I wish I had come up with it, it’s that good. When you see somebody or like, Ooh, that’s really good. I wish I had done that. So great work. I can’t wait to share that with my audience, but in terms of mean girls, I mean my high school experience was very similar to the movie. I remember I was a cheerleader from fourth grade to ninth grade and I remember starting a new school in seventh grade getting on the cheerleading squad and with my best friends and seventh grade. You’re what? Like 12 years old?
Sarah Webb: 19:32
Yeah, 12, 13. I hated middle school.
Renee Powers: 20:20
Yeah I did too. And we’re being fitted for uniforms, I think, and my best friend at the time said, well, I think you need to go over in that line because you’re 72 pounds that I’m 71. I’m like, 72 pounds! Just a little thing, but I still remember like, Oh my worth is determined by my size. Thank you for teaching me that lesson. And it’s been something I struggled with ever since. Just those little. Those little asides can stick with you for decades and I could remember just different variations of that. Again, cheerleading uniforms, like that was always such a traumatic experience I have, I have other memories of us being lined up by size so we can be distributed our uniforms and it was just like humiliating and traumatic.
Sarah Webb: 21:18
Well, and it’s like, that first impression when you realize that someone’s being mean to you just to build themselves up is far more damaging to your soul than just someone being mean to you for no reason. Like I can get over like someone calling me a name, you know, and then just like moving a lot, but it’s like it’s that tit for tat. Right? It’s like that I’m going to put you down to build myself up.
Renee Powers: 21:42
Right, because I’m one pound less than you and like that was probably my hair, to be honest.
Sarah Webb: 21:52
You do look like you have thick hair. By size, I was always the tallest person so I just went straight to the back of the line, like I didn’t even like think about it. That it is… Those are a very, very difficult years and sometimes I think men don’t get it. I think they when they have daughters, they understand it a little bit more because they can see it, they see the cattiness, but sometimes I think that, you know, like it still happens as adults, like, no we’re not in line order but it’s still competition. There’s still competition and I think there’s room for everyone and kind of when I changed that mindset, I just, I became a happier person. Like I didn’t feel like it was like this dog eat dog. I was able to like celebrate what you have and that’s great and I can still celebrate what I have and because you have that doesn’t take away from what I have
Renee Powers: 22:34
Right and I can help you achieve whatever you want to achieve without diminishing my achievements. And that’s, that’s been a lesson that I have learned in the last 10 years through my research honestly because the feminist scholarship or gender studies scholarship has been very, very supportive. Whereas, you know, when I do work that diminishes that a little bit more or you know, who doesn’t put my gender work at the forefront, so more of my communication work or my technology work, I feel like I am being very competitive and I don’t like that feeling. I don’t like feeling not supported. I don’t like feeling like I have to show somebody up in order to succeed. That’s not comfortable to me and it’s one of the reasons why I am not as active and academia as I was before because I just don’t like that culture of competition.
Sarah Webb: 23:27
Absolutely. Well thank you so much for sharing your story and how can our listeners connect with you? I know everybody’s going to go Google “Wild Cozy Truth” and they’ll… that’ll be good. Where can they find you on the Web and all your social media handles?
Renee Powers: 23:40
Yeah, so the best way to learn more about me and what I do in my coaching practice is at wildcozytruth.com and you can read all of the essays there and listen to the podcast there. The podcast is also hosted on iTunes, Google Play, all of the above, right? iHeart Radio, Spotify, YouTube, and wherever you get your podcasts and then you want to connect with me personally, you can find me on Instagram. That’s my favorite social media platform. Instagram is at Wild Cozy Truth as well, but I’m on Twitter and Facebook, too.
Sarah Webb: 24:14
Excellent and I’ll put all those links in our show notes so our listeners can connect with you. So.
Renee Powers: 24:18
Perfect. Thank you!
Sarah Webb: 24:19
Thank you so much. This has been so much fun.
Renee Powers: 24:21
Yeah, this was great. I really appreciate. I appreciate you. I appreciate Plaid and keep up the incredible work. We need more outlets like this.
Sarah Webb: 24:29
Yes, absolutely. Well that’s a wrap for Plaid Radio.