Ask a Badass

An advice column answered by history's hidden women

Ask a Badass is about letting the untold stories of women throughout history speak to us in our language. No matter how extreme or complicated our problems, someone broke a path before us, however rocky and obscured. The answers are works of historical fiction. Where established facts end, stories begin.

What’s the point, answered by Li Qingzhao

Li Qingzhao

Dear Badass, I’m a designer. I have been since I was born. I don’t remember when I first started playing with clothes. I was making outfits for my dolls before I even knew what outfits were. My favorite childhood game was dress-up. I went to Parsons after teen years spent religiously watching Project Runway and…

Waiting for the Axe to Fall, answered by Katherine Lescailje


Dear Badass, I’m driving myself crazy at work. I feel like a fraud and I’m constantly waiting to be exposed. I have no idea why I feel this way. I got good grades all through school. I started at my job as an assistant and kept getting promoted. I work hard and try to do…

Bounded in a Nutshell, answered by Caterina Sforza

Caterina Sforza

Dear Badass, How do I stop selling myself short? When I was growing up, I felt like other kids didn’t like me because I was smart. I thought I learned to be more social and that’s why I had more friends in college and when I started working. Now, though, I wonder if it’s because…

Testifying in the Dark, answered by Hypatia of Alexandria


Dear Badass, How much do I have to keep fighting my family about their beliefs? I understand that white Americans like myself have a responsibility to push back on racism where we see it. I believe, I truly do, that racism thrives on being tacitly accepted and that my silence allows people who say racist…

Jealous of What My Friend Doesn’t Even Want, answered by Cornelia van der Veer


Dear Badass, All my life, all I’ve wanted to do was sing. I sing in my church choir. In high school, I got to play some cool parts in the annual musicals. I didn’t get into the schools I wanted to, but my back-up school has a good music program and no one’s going to…

Friendship Opens Old Scars, answered by Agrippina the Younger


Dear Badass, I just had a terrible fight with my best friend. She was pissed at me for not telling her when I disagreed. I didn’t tell her because she loves to fight and doesn’t know how to listen. I told her it was her fault for wanting to fight all the time and she…

Ready to Give Up, answered by the 99-day Empress


Dear Badass, What’s the point of being a good person? I see so many people doing whatever they want and taking whatever they can get and having a great life because of it. On a political level, I see people lying with impunity while they’re cheered by the very people they’re stealing from. My industry…

Belittled Shopping, answered by Shajar al-Durr


Dear Badass, What do I say when I’m out shopping and salesgirls are rude to me about my figure? Sometimes, it’s subtle, like a raised eyebrow or saying they don’t have anything in my size. Sometimes they’re just plain rude, like telling me to shop somewhere else. I was out with a friend the other…

[Name Redacted], answered by Veronica Franco


Dear Badass, My girlfriend leave me. [Real Name Omitted] Dear [Real Name], Let me go, foolish ideas and useless hopes, blind, senseless and insatiable desire I am so very sorry your girlfriend left you. There is more that I can say to you, but I suspect what you wish most to hear is this. The…

Why Don’t I Feel Lucky, answered by Murasaki Shikibu


Dear Badass, I went to a really good school for creative writing and I’m so proud of the writer I’ve become. I knew it meant that I would have to do some form of non-writing work to try to pay off my debts as I write my first book. I’m so aware that I should…

Seeking Lady Luck, answered by Yolande of Aragon


Dear Badass, I’m just finishing up my last year of theater school. One thing everyone keeps telling me is that luck is important. Like you have to be good, you have to be professional, you have to keep working at your craft. But ultimately, there’s an element of luck that is beyond your control. So…

It Could’ve Happened to Anyone, answered by Livia


Today’s column was inspired by a Carolyn Hax column. Dear Badass, What are you supposed to do when your son has an oversensitive girlfriend? For months, my son has been dating a girl who is so spoiled. Every time she comes over to my house, she grills me about every single ingredient in the meal I cooked…

Am I Just Waving a Sign?, answered by Eleanor of Woodstock


Dear Badass, How do you get attention for a worthy cause? There are so many people protesting so many things right now, it’s hard to break through the clamor. It seems like the student walkouts in America are having an effect on gun control. But why is this protest getting more attention than others? My…

Stuck Between Love and Family, answered by Gracia Mendes Nasi


Dear Badass, I’m in love. Like, shout it from the rooftops, honey in my veins, finally found my home in love. So what’s the catch? We’re both high school girls and my family is going to flip out. I’ve always been close with my family. I thought they’d be glad to see me so happy….

Big Dreams, answered by Maria van Antwerpen


Dear Badass My partner and I are thinking of dropping our comfortable lives in one of the world’s most desirable cities and moving across the ocean without jobs or enough money to get us through a whole year. Is this a good idea? Sincerely, Big Dreams Dear Big Dreams, What do you mean by a…

Agnostic But Looking to Hedge, answered by Walatta Petros


Dear Badass, I don’t believe in God, but want to make sure–in case I am wrong–that I do end up in heaven and not hell. Aside from unwillingly or half-assedly practicing religious beliefs, what do you suggest I do? Kindly, Agnostic But Looking to Hedge Dear Agnostic But Looking to Hedge, My friend, I am…