Monday, November 30, 2009
Lately, Mr. Savant and I have also been watching Lie to Me and Castle, because we both adore Tim Roth (who plays Dr. Cal Lightman in Lie to Me) and Nathan Fillion (who plays Richard Castle in, duh, Castle).
These two shows share a plot point in that both main characters are divorced, single dads with what seems to be full custody of their teenaged daughters. In both shows, the daughters and the dads share an idyllic, adoring relationship. The ex-wives do make the occasional appearance, but they're pretty one-dimensional -- Roth's character's wife is a Ball Busting Career Woman, while Fillion's character's wife is a flighty, wacky, eccentric actress. Both daughters, however are smart, popular, well-adjusted and they seem to count their dads among their best friends. They share confidences, ask for and take advice and also are completely supportive and accepting of their dads' careers and the time these men must commit to maintaining a successful career (Roth plays a psychologist who is the world's leading deception expert, while Fillion is a best-selling author of detective/mystery novels).
So far, I'm cool with this. Yeah, I'm aware of all the stereotypes there, as well as the blatant ignorance of class and socioeconomic issues -- both families in these shows are upper class with money to burn, they're white, yadda yadda. I'm sort of willing to cut some slack here, because there really should be more positive portraits of fathers on TV, in magazines, in the news, online ... so, taken on their own, these shows don't really piss me off too much. At least not yet.
We're also big sci-fi (ScyFy?) geeks, and we've seen the first couple episodes of V. It was during the pilot episode that I noticed something was a little off. One of the plot points involves actress Elizabeth Mitchell as FBI Agent Erica Evans uncovering evidence of a conspiracy by the alien visitors, while her teenaged son simultaneously becomes enamored with the culture and message of the aliens. In the first episode, the two have a fight during which she tries to ground him for some kind of inappropriate behavior, he lands a few verbal blows about how she's always working, too busy to be a good Mom, and storms out. At which point, her cell phone rings and she heads back to work.
So, this is what's stuck in my craw. Single fatherhood is, apparently, an awesome situation for all involved. The Dads are happy, the daughters are happy, everybody wins, especially since the ex-wives were clearly not good mothers! Single motherhood, however, that's a completely different story. Obviously the Mom has made The Wrong Choice by not only having a career, but being successful and involved in a job that requires extreme intelligence, skill and strength, and is now paying the price -- with an unruly, obviously disturbed, rebellious son.
Maybe the lesson here is that I shouldn't watch quite so much television ...
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Case in point: today. Everywhere I looked I saw yet another example of how far we are from being truly liberated.
First, my husband says, "Honey, please change your name on all your grocery store club cards. I'm so tired of them calling me Mr. MaidenName." My response was, "How do you think I feel?! I've got to deal with people calling me by a name I was not born with all day long!"
Later on, we went to the mall to shop for a Father's Day gift for my father-in-law. As we're walking through Harry & David, I saw this:
Really? For fuck's sake. It's 2009, and yet relationships between women are still portrayed as frivolous, shallow, tenuous connections based solely on an assumed gender-wide obsession with shoes, purses and a squawking cell phone.
And then, to top it off, I saw this gem while skimming Google News:
Men-only Train Cars Sought in Groping Fears.
If you don't feel like reading, the gist of the article is that to avoid the (incredibly common) phenomenon of women and girls being groped on crowded Japanese commuter trains, the Seiku railway has established Female-only train cars during rush hour. The article goes on to say that men need similar protections against false charges of groping.
In a statement, the railway's shareholders say, "While measures against groping, such as setting women-only carriages, have been effective to a certain extent, no measures have been taken against false charges of groping... In the spirit of gender-equality, a male-only carriage must be introduced."
How about, "In the spirit of gender equality, let's work to eradicate the societal norms that make it okay to grope women in the first place." How about that? Or maybe something like, "In the spirit of gender-equality, let's stop the objectification of women completely so that the thought of any inappropriate touching would be so appalling that men who did so would commit hari-kari."
My absolute favorite part of this statement is when the shareholders say the measures against groping "have been effective to a certain extent." So, instead of taking steps to educate, to promote equality and to ensure that the measures are one hundred percent successful, they turn their attention to the issue of ... men falsely accused of groping.
Sick, sad world.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
I can barely stand to listen anymore: far-right conservatives and news correspondents alike embracing arguments steeped in identity politics when they’ve spent their lives (and mine) denying that such arguments carry weight. Between biracial and female presidential primary candidates; the first nonwhite president of the U.S.; the desperate nomination of RNC Chairman Michael Steele; and the debate over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, questions about identity (with absolutely no theory to back them up) have become the centerpiece of T.V. news debates, asked by everyone from Anderson Cooper to Glenn Beck.
I’m not going to delve into the abundant amount of frustrating--and occasionally amusing--criticisms of Sotomayor. They, like many arguments not steeped in actual knowledge or experience, lack texture and rely on black and white statements with no regard for logic. There is no way to counter silly speculations of Obama as a terrorist, the RNC trying to appear more “urban” with the appointment of Michael Steele, or the question—recently posed on Fox News--of whether or not Sotomayor “understands America” when she was born and raised here, except to laugh.
And laugh we should. These kinds of questions reveal the amount of power detractors have to lose when nonwhite minorities begin to gain power. Their quick embrace of the identity-based arguments they formerly despised reveals how much power is at stake.
For example, anyone who longs for the “good old days” of the 1950s is either rich, white or both. Most likely, they’re also male. I don’t know that anyone who is nonwhite, female, immigrant or gay who would wish to return to a decade where firehoses and lynchings, segregation, back-alley abortions, lack of career choices, discrimination for jobs or blind arrests for simply patronizing a bar were the norm. The “good old days” were only a reality for people who enjoyed power before it was wrested from them in the rights movements of the 1960s. I’d venture to say that most of the rest of us would run from it, screaming.
Today, the “good old days” refer to the days when the experience of anyone who isn’t white, wealthy and male didn’t enter into play because white men were the only ones up for the job. And the power they stand to lose now becomes even more transparent when pinned against their embrace of the very same questions once asked by minority groups about white, mostly male Supreme Court candidates and presidents. Considering that power impacts the oppressed more than anyone else, and taking into account the astounding incarceration rate of minorities and the poor in this country, questions of identity, when it came to wealthy white men, were asked with damn good reason: Will they uphold the law fairly? What’s their record on decisions around discrimination? Do they hate women, gays and/or brown people? Do they seem a fair judge? What’s their stand on non-Christian religions? How do they feel about poverty?
These questions were once asked by those under the thumb of power because it directly impacted their quality of life--with centuries of historical precedents to back them up. Now, they are being asked by those who, because of their privilege, traditionally treated such concerns as insignificant because it didn’t directly affect them. While identity-based criticisms of Obama and Sotomayor are foolish and such fear is irrational and xenophobic, it is the fright of the loss of power that poses them. While we might not want to listen to sweeping accusations on identity anymore, we should gleefully watch critics squirm as centuries-old power slips from their fingers.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
However, the last time I was at the store, I read a cover article that made me drop all my feigned indifference and start muttering under my breath in genuine disbelief and dismay. Our good friend Bristol Palin is on this week's cover of People magazine with her (admittedly adorable) baby Frig, or Frack or whatever the fuck she named him/her. Underneath the bold headline "Bristol and Her Baby" I read this juicy quote by Bristol: "If teenage girls knew the consequences of having sex, no one would be doing it. Trust me, no one."
I take issue with this statement on so many levels, the first being that it is patently untrue that teenage girls as a whole are ignorant to the "consequences" of sex. Despite the Bush Administration's efforts, the majority of public schools teach sex education as part of health class as early as junior high. Girls and boys alike are instructed in the anatomy, physiology and mechanics of sex as well as the possible consequences of unprotected sex and how to avoid them through the judicious use of condoms, birth control and abstinence. This is in addition to the schoolyard gossip that starts, oh, around the second grade and very clearly informs anyone interested about where, exactly babies come from and how they are made. So, in my opinion, anyone who makes it through their teen years without the slightest inkling of what might happen if you have unprotected sex is either homeschooled by the Duggars or managed to skip class a large number of times, to their great detriment.
Since I didn't read the entire interview, I have to insert a caveat here: the cover may have paraphrased her statement, but somehow knowing her and her family I doubt it.
Which leads me to the second thing about her statement that chafes my ass. She implies that sex always has negative "consequences". This sort of thinking is clearly from the mind of someone who was subjected to abstinence-only brainwashing and doesn't realize that condoms prevent pregnancy 99.96% of the time. Further, she was clearly taught that sex is strictly "open legs, insert penis" and is perhaps not aware of all the other fun sex acts that will most definitely not get you pregnant (although you may have to wash out your mouth and/or ass afterwards). Or, alternately, she was aware of all this but was told that using a condom and sucking a dick makes you a dirty, dirty whore and God will not love you anymore should you do these awful things.
So, girls, I think we need to combat the insidious belief that sex is evil and good girls don't do it. We need to stand up for our orgasms and speak out against ignorant statements like the ones that fall willy-nilly from Bristol Palin's lips. Buy a box of condoms and go find a teenage girl to instruct. Make sure that the next generation of women is taught not to fear sex but to take control of her sexuality for her own health and ultimate well being.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
But, from a feminist perspective I must say I was not surprised. The whole movie was based from the original series, which, although groundbreaking in it's portrayal of interracial sexual scenarios (another thing the new movie ruined!) it was nonetheless sadly lacking in strong female characters. Nichelle Nichols was not there for her brains, she was there for her gorgeous legs.
Of course, later Start Trek series corrected this flaw, and admirably. I have no complaints on the strength of characters like Dr. Beverley Crusher (a single working mom with a doctorate and a overacheiving son? Awesome!) who in the Next Generation finale is shown as the captain of her own medical ship, after marrying and apparently divorcing Jean-Luc Picard because, despite his sexy accent, he's just another womanizing cad.
Nor can I find much fault in Captain Kathryn Janeway of Voyager, a character who spends seven seasons showing us how she balances compassion with authority (a necessary skill for any woman contemplating motherhood) yet manages to hold to her own moral standards despite the pressure she is under to acheive her ultimate goal of getting her ship and it's crew back to Earth safely.
However, none of these themes exploring femininity were apparent in the original series, nor in the new movie. The original reviewer was absolutely correct in her statement that all women in the movie are two dimensional hoes, mamas or bitches. They tried to round out Uhura's character but only made her seem like a caracature of a strong black woman, like the person everyone wants to reduce Michelle Obama to being (why are we all drawing parallels between the first lady and Ms. Uhura?). In the end they seem to want to make sure we understand that although she is intelligent, dedicated and ambitious, more importantly she's pretty, can make polite conversation and Spock has the hots for her.
So, although entertaining enough in it's own right, I must say the movie only gets a B from me.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
What's Not OK
I heard about this story on Sam Ronson’s Twitter page:
"I'm A Lesbian. Would You Like to Punch Me?"
To say I was aghast, fearful, and angry would be an understatement, but sadly, I was also not surprised.
Since coming out almost exactly one year ago, everything that I once knew is no longer the same; something as routine as walking my dog in my own neighborhood now invites comments like “Guy or girl?” or “Are you fucking kidding me?” to be hurled at me by passersby. Drive-by bigotry. Awesome.
I’m no stranger to ignorance. Having grown up in a town that was about as diverse as a pint of vanilla ice cream, I can still almost tear up if I think just a little too long about the comments that were sneered at me in my classrooms, on the bus and in hallways. Add to the fact that I’m adopted by white parents pre-Angelina, and I may as well have been wearing a “Kick Me” sign.
But I grew up and left my hometown, met people who weren’t dumbasses, and learned to joke about the ignorance. Even to this day, though, I will encounter the random racial epithet. One guy I had held a CVS door open for looked at me and said, “Aaahhh! Eggroll!” It’s amazing how 3 seconds of your life can bring you back twelve years. My upstairs neighbor likes to alternate between calling me a chink and a dyke, depending on how many gas fumes he’s inhaled in any particular week. And I’ve even had a grown (albeit, stupid) woman tell me to “go back to where I came from.” Well, bitch, here I am.
I’d like to say I’m probably stronger as a result of this, but each comment still chips away — if only slightly — at my ego nonetheless. I’ve wearing the proverbial armor, but by now you can imagine the chinks it has.
I do realize my hair plays a HUUUUGE role in the comments I seem to attract. [Lacey has one killer fauxhawk and she's had it for YEARS. -Ed.] Even my own mother seems to think I resemble a woodpecker, and chooses to remind me of this on a regular basis. The difference is, though, that her comments stem from love, whereas people who ask me what’s up with my hair in an unfriendly manner (holla to Doschbag for asking what’s up with their face in response) do not.
The truth is I can deal with the hair comments. My hair is my choice, and, hey, I know it’s not everyone’s favorite flavor, but that’s OK. Opinions are like assholes and everybody’s got one.
What’s not OK, however, is being made to feel afraid or hurt or humiliated for being who you really are, whether your identity is based in your race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or whatever makes you, you.
What’s not OK is beating the shit out of someone because you don’t like how they look, dress, act, or who they go home with.
I’m not gonna lie. You wanna know why I work the speed bag so hard these days or why I’m weightlifting like it’s my second job? Read the story above. Look at the pictures on Shirley's Twitpic's page. For me and so many others, being able to be ourselves requires as much physical effort as it does mental and emotional fortitude. This is not OK.
You can’t live your life in fear of what might happen, however, if I can make myself a little stronger, a little faster then if, God forbid, something were to happen, maybe I’d have a shot in hell of defending myself. How fucked up is it that I have to think about this? But that doesn’t mean I’m crawling back into the closet. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop dressing as I do, walking as I do, loving whom I do. I can no more change the slant of my eyes than the fact that I am gay. It took me 30 years to get here, and I’ll be damned if I’m packing it in now. In fact, I’m just getting started.
So to the supremely ignorant dumbasses of the world, to the asshole who thought it was OK to blacken both of Shirley Spears’ eyes and fatten her lip, you don’t get my anger. Anger in these types of situations comes from fear, and I. am. not. afraid. You won’t get my tears. You’re not worth them. No, the worst thing I can do is pity you, live my life and refuse to let you dictate anything about me. Karma will handle the rest.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Needless to say, I. Am. So. Freakin'. Psyched. to see the new Star Trek movie. In IMAX. With Mr. Sharon, who's also a huge Trekkie.
Then, this morning I read this review of the movie by Jennifer Weiner, and my enthusiasm waned just a bit. Anyone see it yet and care to comment on its portrayal of women?
After reading her commentary, I just feel frustrated. How long have women been taking 'baby steps?' How much longer are we going to settle for tiny advances forward only to be forced back into darkness? It's quite infuriating to me.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I have no comment.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I went to see the show in the middle of the work day. I once had a job where this was perfectly normal, and I miss it terribly. It was a job where the music nerd half of me was satisfied on a weekly basis, even if my career brought me absolutely no fulfillment. 9 to 5 was a drag, but I saw about 4 free shows a week, and a typical work lunch meant arguing the musical impact of, say, Green Day, over whatever band was the indie upstart of the week. Atypical parts of the job included getting drunk with Tony Wilson, the founder of Factory Records, and seeing acts like Devendra Banhart or Ted Leo play sets in the conference room. Those aspects of my job rocked and I missed them terribly.
And so, because of the only part of my job that kept me there for eight years, I stood in the midst of a thrilling mix of people who were actually there to see Carson Daly (maybe three in all, bedecked in fanny packs?), industry folks who had snuck in through work (like me) and an assortment of aging Green Day fans and the teens the band now attracts. As the band did their thing for television, I heard a young and incessant voice behind me. American Idiot had just been released, and this little high voice knew every word, every pause, every inflection—and every criticism of America the band leveled at their audience.
I’m ashamed to say I assumed the rabid fan behind me was a young boy. It wasn’t. It was an 11ish-year-old girl. No makeup, glasses. Pink backpack. Your typical Hannah Montana fan, but she was jumping around to punk rock like a firecracker lit twice, screaming anti-Bush lyrics as if she were the band’s lead singer or, to use a cliché, as if her life depended on it. Maybe it did. She was almost crying, and so was I.
I’m listening to “Holiday” right now, and she burns like a vigil in my memory. She was clearly much shorter than I was, and though she couldn’t see above my swelled industry, punk-rock-author head, she was having more fun than I had had at a show in years. As Green Day continued to play after their timed three minutes for fans like the girl screaming their lyrics behind me—and they played about five songs more, if I remember correctly—I asked her if she’d like to stand in front of me so she could see. She thanked me profusely and continued to do so throughout the rest of the set.
She was a sight to behold: a girl with no self-consciousness. A girl with no need to dress like the band and no need to seduce the band. A girl who raged to Green Day as I once did to the Go-Gos and Cyndi Lauper, Joan Jett and Pat Benatar. And maybe that anti-Bush sentiment settled in her like sediment. Maybe it’s a foundation on which she can build her own radical political empire, her own stories, blog, band, joy. It was gorgeous. Compelling. In the midst of a war we didn’t need to fight and the stupidity of a sycophantic media and a public swallowing lies as smoothly as a Slurpee in July, it was transcendent.
I have no brilliant or clever way to end this, except that I hope she’s playing an instrument right now. I hope she found the other, older, more obscure bands to which bands like Green Day can lead. I hope she’s living the life I didn’t until I was 18 or 20, and I hope she remembers that bright day as clearly as I do.
Friday, May 1, 2009
So I was thrilled when I found out that Fox was developing a TV show based on Reich's own life and work and incorporating elements of her series' main character, Dr. Brennan.
Though on the show, the character shares the same name as the protagonist of Reichs' books, this television version of Brennan is based not on the fictional character, but on the author herself.
On the show, Brennan (nicknamed "Bones," natch) works for The Jeffersonian, a fictional research organization based in Washington, D.C. Her team is often called in to consult on murder cases, to identify bodies and assorted other forensic anthropologic tasks for the FBI, and Brennan's law enforcement counterpart is a "man's man," the gunslinging, chauvinist-with-a-heart-of-gold Agent Seeley Booth.
Now, the show airs on Fox. On American television. So you can make your own assumptions about how women are portrayed, if you don't watch the show yourself. But you know, hope springs eternal and all that shit. I don't know what I was thinking (obviously, I wasn't), but I wrongly assumed that the writers, the producers and the network itself might just TRY to address some contemporary gender issues, societal constructs and the role of women in science in a new, fresh way.
WRONG. Dead wrong. (Ha, see what I did there?)
This is arguably one of the most sexist shows on television. I won't bore you with minute details of plots and characters and such, but just off the top of my head I can tell you that the show has used the following stereotypes in an attempt to advance plot lines, create "drama," and draw belly laughs:
-Women are terrible drivers and also cannot handle a manual transmission. Hilarity ensues.
-'Incredibly intelligent woman' is mutually exclusive of 'funny, hip, warm, caring, friendly, sensitive and compassionate woman.' All sorts of awkward moments involving Dr. Brennan carelessly dismissing others' religious beliefs, morals, values and self-esteem ensue. There's one episode during which she must temporarily care for an infant and is depicted as completely clueless and insensitive to the kid's needs.
-Women that do not believe in monogamy and/or who are bisexual are sluts. Seriously, there was a whole episode where one character decided that instead of randomly fucking everyone she saw -- which viewers were to understand was her typical M.O--she would practice celibacy. All kinds of terrible, derogatory sex jokes followed as we watched this poor character fight with an all-consuming lust that threatened her job and her friendships.
-Androgyny is totally weird an unattractive. In last week's episode, an androgynous Japanese forensic anthropologist comes to the Jeffersonian to help out with a case. The character is much like Brennan, cold, stoic, and completely devoid of any social skills. Because, you know, scientists are like that. A huge subplot of the episode involved the team attempting to guess whether the Japanese doctor was male or female, and placing bets on the outcome. At the end of the episode, the aforementioned Slut character finds out once and for all by hugging the doctor, and then reporting back to the team that "It moved. He's totally a guy."
Believe me, I could go on and on and on (and on.) It's like a bloody, gory, gruesome train or automobile or airplane wreck, though. You know it's going to be fucking awful, possibly even permanently scarring, but you can't look away. So I faithfully DVR the stupid thing every week, and then I sit down with my husband to watch it and brace myself for the hell.
During one such viewing, in the midst of my hurling expletives at the television screen, Mr. Sharon says, "Honey, why do you let this get you so upset? It's just entertainment. There's no, like, subliminal messages here trying to brainwash the population!"
I wholeheartedly disagree. I do not believe there's such a thing as entertainment purely for entertainment's sake (unless my dog is involved), especially not on the Fox television network. Every piece of writing, every play, every song, every television and/or radio show has to draw from the tenets of the society in which it exists, and it uses the underlying assumptions of the general population, the current zeitgeist, recent events, politics and sweeping generalizations about human relationships to illustrate morals, to prove a point, to influence its audience.
I like to compare it to the 'urban legend' phenomenon. These stories are scary, or funny, or illustrate a supposed "real life" scenario in an attempt to elucidate to listeners how they should or should not act; what they should or should not do.
It's the same with television, radio; even literature and the performing arts do this. So for me, watching Bones (and everything else I ingest in my television diet) is somewhat of a lesson in how the general population continues to think about society generally and women specifically.
And boy, is it scary sometimes.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
The basic question is, "Why are there so few women in software development/programming?" I sent my husband the link, and we came to some very different conclusions.
Mr. Sharon: DHH is stupid
he misses the point
They ALL miss the point.
Mr. Sharon: the only sense in which gender is meaningful is that women tend to be more sensitive
alpha geeks are really hard to be around
It's still a society where women are subliminally discouraged from being interested in "male" pursuits like math and science.
ergo, they irritate the fuck out of [other people.]
Girls are discouraged from playing with trucks and calculators and pushed toward traditional gender roles. It all comes back to the same root cause: Change the patriarchy, change the world
it's the same reason most social people aren't into programming. the people there are fucking retarded.
Okay, there's that, too. It's very isolating work.
But then, so is writing. So are many 'creative' and 'womanly' pursuits.
It's too bad, I think this article does a disservice to the subject
As you can see, there are two different conversations going on here. Since Mr. Sharon is himself an alpha programming geek, he has somewhat of an insider perspective. He has and does work with a number of women programmers, and he doesn't differentiate them from other 'alpha geeks.' Gender isn't important to him, Mad Coding Skillz are the benchmark against which all geeks are judged.
Yes, alpha geeks are totally annoying and can irritate the fuck out of others -- but both sexes are equally irritated by these infuriating alpha geeks. Women aren't going to avoid a career simply because of annoying people; I mean, if that were the case ... I wouldn't have ever held down a job. I don't even want to think about the annoying, vile, sick and downright illegal things I've put up with at various points in my working life.
Mr. Sharon says that programming is a field that attracts many loners and introverts, and that many women don't feel it's for them because women tend to be more social and sensitive. But fields like writing, dance, painting and other creative professions also have pretty high isolation factors. Speaking only for myself, as a professional freelance writer with a home office, I'm alone 90% of my day. Perhaps I wave at neighbors while walking my dog. Or maybe I chat with the teller at the bank or make conversation with the guy behind the counter at Starbucks. But the person I hang out with most isn't a person at all, she's my dog.
And I am a very social (and sensitive) person. Given his logic, I shouldn't want to be in this profession at all. Yet, I am. Take that for what it's worth.
I truly feel it comes down to how many women are raised and how they're still railroaded into traditional societal and gender roles. It can apply to the fields of science, mathematics, medicine, insert industry here. Just recently Harvard's president was crucified for making the statement that womens' brains simply weren't developed to do complex mathematics. C'mon! This is still a widely held belief in society! Sexism is alive and well.
You can't have a discussion about the lack of women in specific fields without discussing women's oppression by and exclusion from society in general! Any discussion (like the eWEEK article) that does so is omitting crucial background facts that solidly explain the issue.
It's very, very easy to say that discrimination against women doesn't happen, that women don't enter these fields because they simply don't like them. It's much more difficult (and threatening) to understand that there's an entire underlying patriarchal system that's been in place for thousands of years actively resisting any advances women have made into the workforce as a whole and these fields in particular. Duh! Shouldn't we all know this by now??
Saturday, April 25, 2009
sylvia & virginia
they missed the point,
those professors who would have
wed & bedded you
dead & silent;
who dream of it still,
and mold you into models
for young girls gliding past their desks
from september to june.
seduced by the graceful sting
of your words
lay claim to your deaths,
careening past explanation
to simple loneliness
forcing heads into ovens,
the wild smack of writerly doom
did not lead you down
those chilled paths alone.
it was not just the unfinished writing.
dashed promise and mad poets,
forgetting it was no good
to be a 21st century woman
in the 1900s.
no good to explain it, either—
they still smother you as
the old ones did,
& build you a room of your own,
shut away from the world
nipping at petite heels.
impossible, to choose
between love & art.
yet all our profound words
are short & clipped,
with no room for overlap.
we have no easy words
for complicated women
born too soon—
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
While training for an upcoming film, I've come to this conclusion: chin ups are near impossible and lunges suck. There is no magic wand to wave over oneself to look good in a latex catsuit. Eating healthy and getting fit is about commitment, determination, consistency and the dedication to self-preservation. While I've never been considered a gym rat, I have, in fact, worked up a sweat in the name of cardio before, and although I enjoy a grilled cheese as much as the next person, I combine the not-so-good foods I crave with an all-around balanced diet.
People come in all shapes and sizes and everyone has the capability to meet their maximum potential. Once filming is completed, I'll no longer need to rehash the 50 ways to lift a dumbbell, but I'll commit to working out at least 30 minutes a day and eating a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables and lean proteins. Pull ups, crunches, lunges, squats, jumping jacks, planks, walking, jogging and push ups are all exercises that can be performed without fancy trainers or gym memberships. I've realized through this process that no matter how busy my life may be, I feel better when I take a little time to focus on staying active. We can all pledge to have healthy bodies no matter how diverse our lifestyles may be.
Since dedicating myself to getting into "superhero shape," several articles regarding my weight have been brought to my attention. Claims have been made that I've been on a strict workout routine regulated by co-stars, whipped into shape by trainers I've never met, eating sprouted grains I can't pronounce and ultimately losing 14 pounds off my 5'3" frame. Losing 14 pounds out of necessity in order to live a healthier life is a huge victory. I'm a petite person to begin with, so the idea of my losing this amount of weight is utter lunacy. If I were to lose 14 pounds, I'd have to part with both arms. And a foot. I'm frustrated with the irresponsibility of tabloid media who sell the public ideas about what we should look like and how we should get there.
Every time I pass a newsstand, the bold yellow font of tabloid and lifestyle magazines scream out at me: "Look Who's Lost It!" "They Were Fabby and Now They're Flabby!" "They Were Flabby and Now They're Flat!" We're all aware of the sagas these glossies create: "Look Who's Still A Sea Cow After Giving Birth to Twins!" Or the equally perverse: "Slammin' Post Baby Beach Bodies Just Four Days After Crowning!"
According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), as many as 10 million females and 1 million males living in the US are fighting a life and death battle with anorexia or bulimia. I'm someone who has always publicly advocated for a healthy body image and the idea that the media would maintain that I have lost an impossible amount of weight by some sort of "crash diet" or miracle workout is ludicrous. I believe it's reckless and dangerous for these publications to sell the story that these are acceptable ways to looking like a "movie star." It's great to get tips on how to lead a healthier lifestyle, but I don't want some imaginary account of "How She Did It!" I get into and stay in shape by eating a proper diet and maintaining a healthy amount of exercise. The press should be held accountable for the false ideals they sell to their readers regarding body image — that's the real weight of the issue. The NEDA goes on to say, "the media is one of our most important allies in the effort to raise awareness about the dangers of eating disorders...we strive to work with the media to produce accurate, insightful and informative pieces that will resonate with the public, while maintaining hope and avoiding glamorizing or promoting copycats." But how are we, the reader, to decipher friend from foe? How are we supposed to view articles highlighting celebrity cellulite and not sulk in the mirror, imagining a big red arrow pointing to various parts of our bodies? The media has packaged for us an unhealthy idea that one must suffer loss, be in the middle of a nervous breakdown, feel pressure from friends or coworkers, battle divorce or have a bitter dispute with an ex in order to get into acceptable bikini shape.
So why do these publications do so well? After appearing on the cover of US Weekly's "Did They or Didn't They? A Plastic Surgery Guide for Dimwits" issue and battling for a retraction, I learned that the magazine profited $1.4 million from the issue alone (money I felt should be donated to Operation Smile or an equally well-managed charity helping those in need of reconstructive surgery). The concept of 'Stars Are Just Like Us!" makes us feel connected to lifestyles that can sometime seem out of this world. Yes, celebrities are just like us. They struggle with demons and overcome obstacles and have annoying habits and battle vices. That said, I would be absolutely mortified to discover that some 15-year-old girl in Kansas City read one of these "articles" and decided she wasn't going to eat for a couple of weeks so she too could "crash diet" and look like Scarlett Johansson.
I'm not normally the type to dignify toilet paper rags with a response, but in this case I feel it's my responsibility to comment. In a way, I'm glad some dummy journalist (and I use the term "journalist" loosely) is banking on my "deflating" so that I can address the issue straight from my healthy heart.
For more information on eating disorders and/or treatment options, please visit: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/
Article found on:
Monday, April 13, 2009
But then, at 18, I got pregnant, and everything changed. I wasn't a bad pregnant woman, I didn't run out and do drugs or anything, but I was pretty indifferent to the whole process. I was depressed and isolated from my family 3,000 miles away, and I didn't have anyone around me to council or confuse me about my impending parenthood. I guess I kind of figured things would go the way they would go, and left it at that. In retrospect, that's a pretty good attitude to take, actually. I know far too many first time moms who agonized over blood pressure readings or created elaborate "birth plans" only to realize that babies, unlike adults, don't care about plans and are going to do what they want.
So, after 34 hours of labor, a vacuum extractor application and an ill-advised mirror so I could see what was going on down there, Tatiana emerged. "Sunday's child is full of grace," declared the doctor, after sewing up the tears and trauma of her birth. He left us to our devices, two bewildered people on the brink of new life, both exhausted and unsure of one another. But she and I grew to an understanding rather quickly. She cried, I nursed her, and after several years we both caught up on our sleep.
Along the way we moved back east in fits and spurts, and our relationship waxed and waned as all parent-child relationships will. The first time she cried, "I hate you, Mama!" I burst into tears and explained to her how hurtful such declarations were, and she didn't really mean it, did she? After the 100th such outburst I had become immune and merely said, "Yeah, well, you aren't one of my favorite people right now, either." I had become a Parent.
Being a parent means, among other things, understanding your own parents better. I now realize that my mother was not just prone to histrionics, that your children really do break your heart again and again in a thousand little ways, from the inconsolable cries of colic to the unbreachable walls of emotional distance already being erected by my nearly 10-year-old Tatiana. I also understand, truly, the meaning of love. I love my children so ferociously it brings tears to my eyes. All the romantic love in the world, the love Paris had for Helen, the love Napoleon felt for Josephine, does not compare to the depth of emotion that rises in me when I bury my face in my baby's hair and inhale her sweet scent. Becoming a mother has changed me on such a fundamental level, made me feel my femininity for the first time, encouraged a compassion for suffering that I never had before. I can look at those glassy-eyed women in the grocery store and feel a connection borne of shared experience, even though I don't know them and we probably have little else in common. I can see pictures of mothers in Africa with their babies held to their breasts and I know the tenderness they are feeling, the protective instinct they have to ensure their child is safe in one of the most dangerous and sadly forgotten regions of the world. This mothering instinct I share with women all over the world is what drives me to social responsibility in the face of my recurring nihlism. This is what it means to me to have children, that I have an emotional investment in the future that will reach far beyond my own lifetime, into the lives of my grandchildren.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Check it out -- it's absolutely inspiring in a world where most of the media can't mention Michelle Obama without referring to her fashion sense, slobbers over crotch-shots of Britney, still can't recognize Hillary Clinton as anything but a shrewd harpy and publicly shames Jessica Simpson for daring to add a few pounds.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Feminist Rant #286
Every time I read an article about Michelle Obama, (such as this recent tidbit I found on the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/19/michelle-obama-discusses-_0_n_177116.html) it focuses mainly on what she's wearing.
Despite the fact that I am a fashion whore and she happens to have a pretty snazzy sense of fashion, this annoys me, for obvious reasons. It is not 1960 anymore, and the measure of a prominent woman should not be her dress label. Nor should the idea of a successful woman be limited to actresses and entertainers, as has become the norm.
Now, I know the article was featured in the website's Style section, but that just goes further to prove my point. ALL the articles I've read aboout Mrs. Obama to date have been Style pieces. Nary a mention of the fact that the woman graduated cum laude from Princeton, is a Harvard Law grad, worked for the mayor of Chicago and was an assistant dean as well as a vice president at the University of Chicago. No, all we are supposed to celebrate about her is that she can pick out a great Narcisco Rodriguez dress to wear to some shindig her husband is throwing. And, when she throws her own shindig that purportedly introduces teenage girls to "talented, accomplished women" that are supposed to be "example(s) of the types of success they, too can achieve" they meet Alicia Keys and Phylicia Rashad.
Really? If I'm super smart and do well in school I can fuck P. Diddy and be on Broadway (ed.--and appear in Weight Watchers commercials like Ms. Rashad)? I really don't think a great singing voice is something you learn at Harvard Law, Mrs. First Lady. Can we please see some real examples of what intellegence and dedication can get for a young woman? And please don't tell me it's a nice pair of Christian Louboutins.
We'd planned on a slightly more traditional wedding in July, on our anniversary, but my lack of health insurance and my sporadic freelance work worried my husband, so we married, and I became his spouse.
The panic attacks started again on January 4, 2009. I hadn't experienced this in more than 4 years. I'd been discussing my sudden marital status change with a friend and suddenly I could not breathe. I felt as though the constriction in my chest would crack my ribs. I was terrified and sweating, my body flopping like a fish as I fought to take a breath. My tortured brain screamed an alarm: "Sharon, you're going to die. You are dying. Dying. You're going to die, right here."
In the hospital (paid in full now by Aetna), the doctors and nurses quickly ascertained that physically, I was in excellent shape. My heart, my lungs, my brain and my circulatory system weren't to blame. I was sent home, exhausted and confused, my hair and clothes still plastered to my body with sweat, rank with sickening terror.
The next attack woke me at 2 a.m. I choked out screams, dragged myself out of the bedroom and curled naked on the bathroom floor, pouring heat and sweat and fear. I covered myself with icy bags of frozen vegetables in a vain attempt to stop the pain. (I'm sure I looked both hilarious and mortifying when my husband found me that way.)
My doctor prescribed Zoloft and Ativan, diagnosing me with an anxiety disorder. I was grateful for the sweet, numbing relief, but I didn't tell her was that my anxiety was laser-focused on anything related to the party we were planning to celebrate our marriage. The party during which I'd wear an ivory dress and carry a bouquet, flanked by my best friends and my sister. During which I'd walk down a makeshift aisle at my in-laws' gorgeous home to meet my husband and repeat our vows.
I went last week to the bridal salon to have my dress (bought for $68 on eBay) fitted. I carried my shoes and a small hat. I looked in the mirror and saw A Bride. It felt as though I was looking at a Photoshopped picture of myself, my body layered over with heavy cream silk. I saw a terrifed girl peering out at me, at 7 years old, 12, 17, 23, shreiking in alarm that we'd ever give ourselves up so willingly.
I saw my mother shelving her dreams, trapped and morose, staying at home to raise two daughters in a tiny two-star town, only to be abandoned 35 years later for a woman who was everything my father had insisted she herself give up.
I smiled the smile of the condemned, and dutifully took pictures to send to my mother, my sister and my mother-in-law. Halfway to my car in the parking lot, the sweat poured out of me, my throat closed, and I doubled over as my chest collapsed in on itself. I burned and boiled, I tore off my sweater, my t-shirt and my shoes. I huddled in the car, gasping, choked down two Ativan.
I've already done it. I've already pledged to love this man for eternity, exchanged the rings, cut the cake. And truly, he is my soul mate. He knows me better than I know myself and he loves me in spite of it. He's just fucking incredible. I'm so grateful and blessed and full of joy every fucking moment.
Why, then, am I so afraid? Why does the fear take control? Why does going through these motions paralyze me? I don't have to repeat these patterns. I can create the marriage that I want, where two independent, self-sufficient equals share responsibilities and contribute to a whole, satisfying life together.
Yes, I do know the answer, believe me. I just fervently hope I can convince myself before I slide into that dress and walk down the aisle.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
The girl perched on the foamy hotel-room comforter (which was by no means comfortable) and thought about Tijuana. She had been there a few days prior and wanted to love it. She had hoped to be kidnapped by Mexico, swallowed up, stuffed into a piñata, dropped off at the birthday party of a girl her age. She wanted to burst out like a blizzard of alien candy, and be invited to live in the dust with a new best friend. She would learn Spanish. She would paint. She would never to return to New York, never even to Brooklyn, which she cherished and romanticized. Mexico differed from the gray mist hanging over cold New York City. It burned bright red and orange behind her eyelids.
She found that Tijuana was not a piñata waiting to engulf her. Instead, everything was covered in a thin layer of beige dust. Children her age and younger starved and looked longingly at her Coca Cola. She couldn’t stand to look at them. She couldn’t stand that she loved Brooklyn more than Mexico. She wanted out. The city’s poverty broke her heart in more pieces than the sleeping souls sprinkled throughout the F train.
When she returned to the border with her family, a wilted sombrero in her sweaty grip and her zeal for Mexican citizenship left on the rusted bumper of a taxicab, the border guard asked her to recite the pledge of allegiance. It was the last thing she wanted to do. She couldn’t understand why he couldn’t recognize her discomfort when it rose from the sand in waves and bled everywhere. When she got older, in fact, she would be repeatedly reprimanded for not placing her hand over her heart and reciting the same saccharine words. Maybe that didn’t have to do with Mexico and the border guard. Maybe it did.
That morning, in the hotel room, she shrugged off the reality of Mexico and thought about Los Angeles. She thought she would see movie stars; it didn’t matter who. She sat in the chocolate hotel room, waiting for her sisters to finish dressing and her mother to finish touching up her eyebrows. Dully, she watched TV, as if L.A. was routine and she belonged. But her veins beat with blood and bounced with impatience. She waited. She sucked on the end of a hotel pen. She didn’t yet wear a bra, but already she yearned to smoke. Already, she thought the definition of living was coffee, a cigarette, a newspaper. Solitude, with simple pleasures.
Finally, the hot tar mixed with sun and temporarily blinded her. She walked ahead of her family, as she always did on vacation, hoping something extraordinary, or maybe a kindred spirit, would find her. Her sisters’ questions about where they were going whipped around her posture of apathy. She couldn’t let them see her care—a habit that would grow bad and rampant as she aged. Back then, when her mother took her to the movies, hot tears would burn her throat. The repression was so severe she thought she would have to scream. Like the terror of nuclear war that kept her awake and paralyzed in her bed for nights on end, she was desperate to hide her weaknesses, both good and bad. She didn’t know why.
As she crossed the parking lot, she looked at the locked-up hotel pool. She liked the abandonment otherwise lively places were heavy with in early morning. The water breathed on its own, shifting in the hazy sun like something viscous. Something sleeping. There was a smear at the pool’s bottom, fluorescent orange. Brown. The water masked its form, daring her to identify it. She asked her father if the orange smear was pool equipment and became instantly frustrated by her desire to have her existence affirmed again after such luxuriating detachment.
Her father started pacing back and forth in front of the pool gates. Racing, really. He didn’t answer her. The water teased him, too. Her mother started gasping. The sun started caving in on the girl like a woolen veil.
Her father yelled at her. She ran to the hotel lobby and felt young. Maybe she felt her age. Through her tears, she noticed that the hotel clerk couldn’t have been much older than her. She thought she commanded him to call 911. He stared at her blankly as she repeated it over again. Perhaps she didn’t say anything at all.
She heard her mother behind her, pleading with the boy and crying. She had only seen her mother cry once—actually, she had only heard her mother cry once, a few years before, when the girl’s grandfather had died days after being moved from their home to a nursing home. She had woken up in the night and heard wailing. She lay very still, knowing full well what kind of phone call in the middle of the night would produce such sobs, even without ever having woken to a ringing phone searing sleep. In the hotel lobby, though, her mother’s cries were louder, more urgent, without drifting off to softened mourning as they had when her grandfather died.
The clerk, acne spilled over his young and frightened face, stood gaping at both of them. The girl ran back outside, willing the orange smear to lift itself from the bottom of the pool and begin a joyful backstroke from one end of the pool to the other. Her father jumped in the water. Other guests had emerged from their own brown caves and decorated the curled, cement edge of the pool. They climbed the fence to watch the girl’s panicked father try to drag a body full of water from the bottom of the pool into the open morning air. But the climbing alone seemed to edify them. No one helped him.
Someone eventually produced a large hook. Wooden, it would have dragged a beefy burlesque dancer from a makeshift stage. There, one man used it to stab the water repeatedly, fighting the mocking, leaden waves as her father peeled the dead weight from the bottom of the pool. He appeared at the surface of the water, half on the hook, half off, struggling with the body. The man with the hook dragged the body poolside. Her father performed CPR. Water spilled from the mouth and nose, but only because her body was flooded.
A chasm of time ensued where there should have been police and an ambulance and maybe the girl explaining that she noticed the body between daydreams. But there was no logical connection for her between the shiny rivulets streaming over the dead girl’s face and how her family had managed to get to the car.
They were supposed to go to Disneyland that day, but her father decided to take them to the Mojave Desert instead. They all piled into the rental car, which had the foreign luxury of air conditioning, FM radio and cloth-covered seats, and her father told her to roll the windows up as tightly as possible. Even with the car sealed shut, the smog mingled with exhaustion in her mouth. Fright swathed her tongue.
The ride was infinite. They finally stopped for breakfast. More brown. She wondered if L.A. had collectively agreed that visitors should be greeted with brown carpets, imitation wood and brown vinyl. She wondered if brown was the city’s official color. The hair-sprayed, made-up waitress brightly smiled at her as she sullenly ordered sausages and hot chocolate. As if no one the girl’s own age had plummeted to the bottom of a pool, alone. As if the girl whose order was taken had not changed. As if life would go on, just as before.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
This week, we both re-read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. And then we IMed about it, so you could be included in the conversation. Here's what we think.
8:03 PM Maria: overall, what did you think reading it again?
8:04 PM Sharon: I was completely prepared to think it was very immature and dated. I thought I'd be rolling my eyes a lot and going, "Thank GAWD I don't have those issues anymore."
And it wasn't! I really felt like it was still relevant.
8:05 PM Maria: Now that you say that, I felt that way, too. It didn't feel dated at all.
Sharon: Except for the whole maxi pad belt thing.
8:06 PM Maria: Well, I had a newer version of the book in which that part had been rewritten to just be maxipads. And it worked.
Sharon: I remember that scared the shit out of me before I got my period. I was like, NO. WAY. I am NOT strapping myself into something like that. Huh. I didn't realize they'd rewritten that.
8:07 PM My copy is from ... 1970. Ha.
Maria: I was always afraid that if I went swimming, my period would follow my suit like a bright red line.
Sharon: I'm still wigged out when I go swimming that my tampon string will float out behind me.
8:08 PM too much information?
Maria: No, not at all.
8:09 PM I cannot believe how prominent the period stuff became in my memory, and how minimal religion became.
Sharon: Me too! I completely forgot about the religious part.
Maria: I didn't remember that she didn't get her period until the VERY end of the book. I thought it was all periods and bras. AND I thought I remembered that she kissed Moose.
8:10 PM Sharon: I vividly remembered that Nancy Wheeler lied about getting her period. But I did NOT remember the part where her maternal grandparents disowned her mother for marrying a Jewish man. That is the part that really struck me this time.
Maria: Yes. There was a lot more going on than I remember. How much do you think Blume influenced your view of women?
8:12 PM Sharon: Thinking back, a lot more than I gave her credit for. I really sympathized with Margaret's character, but I also really liked her mom, who was this artistic, free spirit who married for love and went her own way.
8:13 PM Plus, she was one of the first female authors I read, so it was awesome to think, "hey, I could write, too."
8:14 PM Maria: I definitely read her enough to feel legitimized as a girl. I think she greatly contributed to me thinking feminism was the normal viewpoint, since so many of my ideas were formulated by reading her books repeatedly. But I never thought about how she impacted me as a writer.
8:15 PM She probably did, but I think she did more to normalize sexuality for me than anything else.
Sharon: I'd never thought about how she impacted me as a feminist, so we're even. :)
Maria: Perfect! I wish she had written something about homosexuality.
8:16 PM I'm actually surprised she hasn't (as far as I know).
Sharon: Yeah, right? We should look into that.
Maria: If she hadn't, that would be a good series of books for young girls. And we'd probably be just as banned as she was.
8:18 PM Sharon: Sidenote: when I worked at Simon and Schuster, they published a kids book about a gay duckling, and how he was different from all his other siblings and his mallard father was so mean to him for it. At the end, everyone realized that it was okay to be gay, but ... It was simultaneously empowering and refreshing and the most horrible children's book ever. The things they had the dad do to this duckling were so mean! (end sidenote)
Sharon: I am trying to remember the name of it. We all got free copies of it. I gave it to my niece for Xmas one year and she was bawling.
Maria: Oh no. :)
Sharon: My sister was like, "uhhhh ... tolerance, yay, this is awesome. But maybe not when she's 5."
8:20 PM Maria: Hahaha. You know what I also thought about while I was reading "Margaret"?
The book was banned because Margaret didn't accept a religion, NOT because of the sexuality I assumed the banning was about.
8:21 PM Maria: I think so.
Maria: I mean, religion was so rampant, and really, the periods, the bras, the boys were the backdrop for her finding her religion. And she didn't. I'm sure the religious right went crazy with that--especially because Blume is Jewish.
8:22 PM Sharon: Well, and the backlash to the feminist movement probably had some influence too. "Look!! Feminism turns regular girls into godless heathens who aren't ashamed of their bodies!!!"
8:25 PM Sharon: I have one more comment on the religion front -- I guess this is really the central tenet of the book. Why did she even NEED a religion? She has a personal relationship with God that works for her.
Maria: True! That's how the book should have ended!
Monday, March 23, 2009
“No! What happened?” I asked. A shooting in our small cluster of towns north of Philadelphia, rated one of the top 100 places to live nationwide, was pretty shocking.
J.D. (not his real name) is my hubby’s work buddy and carpool partner, and he lives a few miles from us in a middle-class neighborhood much like ours – hilly, tree-lined streets with post-war split-level homes occupied by young families and older retired couples.
“There was a domestic dispute between this guy and his wife, and he was beating the shit out of her, according to the neighbors. Then he pulled a gun on her,” my husband explained. “Someone called the cops and when they got there, the guy fired on them, and then they shot him,” he said.
“That sucks,” I said, “But what’s really fucking awful is that he’ll get more jail time and harsher punishment for shooting at the cops than he ever would for beating his wife. And I don’t think that’s right.”
“Wait … so you’re telling me you think this guy’s abusing his wife is a worse crime than shooting at the cops,” hubby said, and shook his head. Well, yeah, I replied, For many reasons, I do.
Now, before you go all medieval on my husband, understand that, even with the high-profile passage of the 2004 Violence Against Women act, even with increased awareness about the severity and prevalence of domestic violence, it often isn’t taken seriously as an offense in and of itself. It’s still viewed by much of the mainstream population as something that happens to “The Others,” a kind of a “Not in my backyard” mentality that can extend even to highly educated, progressive people who are otherwise well-informed (like him).
And before you go all medieval on me, let me explain my position. You know what you’re signing up for when you enroll in the police academy. You are aware that there’s real danger involved; that you may end up facing down violent criminals and that you could lose your life. You understand the risks and the consequences.
Not so victims of domestic abuse, many of whom have been raised by abusive parents or for various other reasons lack confidence and self-worth and are often singled out by abusers for those exact characteristics. Many don't know any other way of life. Victims are systematically isolated from their friends, family and other support systems, making it more and more difficult to reach out for help. And even those who may be strong enough to try to leave their abusers face the very real possibility that they'll be stalked and killed.
And because of the stigma and shame abusers heap on their victims and the tendency for many abusers to ensure that any bruises, scratches and other physical signs of abuse are in places easily covered or explained away, many of these crimes go unreported, leading the general population to believe that the problem isn’t serious or widespread.
The truth is, according to the American Institute on Domestic Violence, (www.aidv-usa.com/statistics) 5.3 million women are abused each year. Let that sink in for a second. Five point three million. And the leading cause of injury to women is domestic violence. Chances are, someone you know is being abused by her husband, boyfriend, partner, or someone she’s dating.
Compounded by the usually dismissive way the justice system treats victims of abuse, assault, harassment, stalking and other crimes of this nature (of which the majority of the victims are women), the measures that are put in place to protect victims are so ineffective as to be pretty much useless – unless the offender commits another crime in the process.
Restraining orders? Difficult to enforce with light penalties. Legal avenues? If a victim does press charges, most court appearances turn into a case of “he said, she said,” since there are often few witnesses to domestic violence.
I’m clearly making assumptions about the situation that took place near my home. But really – you don’t just pick up a gun, point it at your wife and then take a couple shots at the police for shits and giggles. This guy was a ticking time bomb – why does it take an incident like this for his violent potential to be recognized?
Perhaps more importantly, why is the fact that a violent man being gunned down by police more shocking and noteworthy than the fact that this man was abusing his wife?
Saturday, March 21, 2009
It may seem irrelevant to blog about a French movie that was released in 2000. But, last week, in a furor to beef up my Netflix queue, I added Baise-moi to the top of the list. In fact, watching it led to the creation of Everyday Rebellion.
The description of the film warned of a brutal rape scene—the film’s title means Fuck Me and was released in some markets as Rape Me—but promised a two-girl revenge spree to follow. I thought the violence might be essential to the spree. And I like another French director, Catherine Breillat, for her brutal, frankly sexual portrayals of contemporary womanhood. I thought, perhaps, that Baise-moi would have a point.
Don’t let the revenge fantasy fool you. Following the promised brutal rape scene (which includes a close-up shot of penetration), two girls, one prostitute so overcome by rage and denial that she strangles her roommate after her roommate suggests that the prostitute’s best junkie friend uses her, and the other woman, involved in the gang rape, meet in the Metro and plan to escape to Paris. But revenge never seems to be on the menu. Instead, they embark on a senseless, gleeful, killing spree sporadically interrupted by drawn-out sex scenes.
I’m not one for censorship and I’ve seen more graphically violent and sexual films than I can count. Baise-moi , however, took the cake. Maybe that was the point—to show what happens to women when they are used up and spit out. It was the repeated blurred lines between erotica and death that repeatedly turned my stomach—not to mention the nauseating possibility of two women who hungrily stalk men, have sex with them and kill them being a potential turn-on for other viewers. The brutal rape, rather than being a shocking and sickening scene to watch, fades in signifiance as the women’s avenging violence grossly outweighs the crime while maddeningly gratuitous sex scenes turn both victims into porn stars.
Perhaps Baise-moi was meant to display rape and sex as two grossly different experiences, i.e., rape as a crime of power rather than one of sex. Maybe the film is a cautionary tale, not unlike Thelma & Louise, that displays what kind of rage misogyny can cause. The problem is that viewers will likely feel more violated than vindicated. And for women, how is that "fantasy" any different from our reality?