Safe Abortions are a Necessity

In response to the signing of the global gag rule, I am reposting this in case you would like to print out information to be distributed or re-post and share so that it can reach as many women as possible.

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My previous post was about movies directed by women and it reminded me that I wanted to share some info from the movie, “Vessel.”

maxresdefaultVessel is a story about Women on Waves, a group devoted to providing safe abortions to women who don’t have access to them by sailing into international waters to perform them. They also provide women with information in multiple languages on how to obtain safe abortions on their own.

If you follow the link, you can find printable information that you can post in bathrooms, libraries, telephone poles, wherever women and girls will see it! Spread knowledge–knowledge is power!

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The Women’s March: A Cynical Perspective

For better or worse, I felt a bit cynical today. I wasn’t planning on going to The Women’s March, perhaps because the last march I went to was so disappointing. I went to the Take Back the Night march a few months back and just couldn’t get into it. I felt the presence of men at both to be hampering. At TBTN, they acted as guards and blared chants through megaphones; while supportive, I didn’t think it was inappropriate. The number of men wearing “pink pussy hats” or leading chants at today’s march was similarly aggravating.

While I realize the march was in large part a response to our newly-elected president, I thought the focus on him detracted from the women. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of clever and well-made posters in the crowd, but I couldn’t tell what the main focus was. Were people there because they were passionate about women’s rights or because they really hated Trump?

Lastly–my pink pussy hat. Yes, I wore one. No, I didn’t make it. The friend who invited me was so excited that she had them made for us and I took it as a gesture of friendship. Nevertheless, I felt ambivalent about wearing mine and about the cat/pussy theme. The word “pussy” is still one of the most demeaning terms in the English language and because of its pervasive use in porn, I do not feel it has been successfully reclaimed. Likening angry women to cats (e.g. “cat fight”) still has a decidedly dismissive tone and that use of imagery does not deliver as empowering a message as was needed today.

The whole point is: we’re not angry kitty cats and we’re not walking vaginas. We’re struggling for full citizenship and to be recognized as fully human. We’ve been reduced to our body parts or being likened to various “lesser” beings such as cats for centuries.

Despite all of this, I’m glad I went, if for nothing more than to share the day with a friend. I did have a favorite moment: when I decided to get some music going on my phone and my friend and I danced down the street to “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves.”

*I don’t actually think cats are lesser beings. Most of the cats I’ve known in my life have been of a much higher quality than most of the people I’ve known. 

 

Women in Film: Divines

houda-benyamina-dechire-le-festival-de-cannesHouda Benyamina makes her feature film debut with Divines, the story of a young girl struggling to make a name for herself in the drug game. Dounia (Oulaya Amamra) is fed up with her life in the slums of France. She and her best friend, Maimouna (Déborah Lukumuena) go to school only to learn how to do menial jobs with menial wages. Dounia looks on with envy as the local drug dealer, Rebecca, seems to have it all. The girls decide to work for Rebecca, thinking it will give them a chance at the life they desire. But the stakes are higher for Dounia, who bears a legacy of shame having lived with the name “bastard” since birth. 

divines_1_copy-h_2016We soon find out that Dounia will stop at nothing to get what she wants. All the while, she struggles to find balance in her relationships with the people she cares for. The film is a sensitive, though at times disturbing, look at the lives of young women struggling to find themselves. The main characters’ spirit, love, and drive carry viewers through the ups and downs of the story. With Shakespearian plot twists and irony, Divines is a powerful achievement in cinema and definitely worth your time. The movie is now streaming on Netflix.

 

Women in Film: Dukhtar

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In the 2014 film Dukhtar, Afia Nathaniel tells the story of Allah Rakhi, a woman who kidnaps her ten-year-old daughter, Zainab, in a desperate attempt to save her from an arranged marriage to a violent tribal leader. Rakhi remembers her own marriage to a much older man when she was a teenager. Subsequently, her husband prevented her from communicating with her mother ever again. While this loss was made explicit in the film, others are only implied. In a scene between Rakhi and Zainab, mother hovers over a blood stain on her wedding dress as she realizes how little her daughter knows about her future.

The two escape through the mountains of Pakistan aided only by a passing truck driver. The truck driver’s motives for helping them are not made clear until later in the story and offer a compelling look at the complexities of the society. I believe films like these offer viewers an opportunity to make connections between seemingly disparate cultures and their own. Patriarchy has many faces all over the world, misogyny being the common thread. This film is streaming on YouTube and Netflix.

 

Women In Film: A Light Beneath Their Feet

weiss_valerieIn A Light Beneath Their Feet, director Valerie Weiss (Losing Control and Transgressionsbrings to life the story of high-schooler, Beth, and her young mother, Gloria. The roles of mother and child are reversed as Beth attempts to care for her mother who struggles with bipolar disorder. Taryn Manning gives a wonderful performance as the vulnerable Gloria and Madison Davenport  is excellent as the parentified child, struggling to find her own way in the world. The story is sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever dealt with mental illness or the parenting of their own parents. Moira McMahon, who’s previous work includes episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practicewas both the writer and an executive producer for the film. The movie is streaming on Netflix.

Women in Film: Deprogrammed

mia-thumbnailWriter and director, Mia Donovan invites viewers to examine the complex phenomenon of cults in her documentary film Deprogrammed.  She follows the story of revolutionary and controversial deprogrammer Ted Patrick who began “rescuing” young cult members in the 70s at the behest of their families. While the good and bad of cults and brainwashing may seem straight forward, Donovan offers multiple perspectives in her film. Current and former cult members and leaders were interviewed, sharing their experiences with the cults and with Ted Patrick. Even former cult members who were thankful for Patrick’s interventions had mixed feelings about his methods which included kidnapping.

Donovan’s personal interest in the subject matter seemed to stem from her brother’s encounter with Mr. Patrick when he was a teenager. Donovan’s brother was not truly in need of deprogramming but was struggling immensely and expressed that struggle through identification with Satanism. Donovan offers a sensitive and engrossing look at a very complex issue and leaves viewers with much to think about after the film has ended. Deprogrammed can be viewed on Netflix.

What makes a word a slur?

Finally, a critical analysis of “TERF” and its use as a derogatory term for radical feminists.

language: a feminist guide

Content note: this post contains examples of offensive slur-terms. 

Last week, the British edition of Glamour magazine published a column in which Juno Dawson used the term ‘TERF’ to describe feminists (the example she named was Germaine Greer) who ‘steadfastly believe that me—and other trans women—are not women’.  When some readers complained about the use of derogatory language, a spokeswoman for the magazine replied on Twitter that TERF is not derogatory:

Trans-exclusionary radical feminist is a description, and not a misogynistic slur.

Arguments about whether TERF is a neutral descriptive term or a derogatory slur have been rumbling on ever since. They raise a question which linguists and philosophers have found quite tricky to answer (and which they haven’t reached a consensus on): what makes a word a slur?

Before I consider that general question, let’s take a closer look at the meaning and history of TERF. As the Glamour

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Land of the Free

“Some of the soldiers found themselves in situations where they had to kill a child.”

What situation was that? Was the child running at them with a machine gun, firing wildly?

“They might have had to blow up buildings with women and children in them.”

They “had to” or what–they might die? Are soldiers’ lives more important than anybody else’s? Who makes that call–the government, the soldiers? The soldiers are still babies themselves. Vietnam vets were called “baby killers” but perhaps the epithet should have been reserved for the government that sanctioned the sacrifice of thousands of its recent high school graduates. 

Eighteen is the age the US government decided was old enough to die but not old enough to vote, so they lowered the age of majority. At least 21 is closer to the age at which our brains stop developing. But now you’re considered an adult at the age of eighteen. Old enough to vote, old enough to die, old enough to be killed by our government. 

Don’t try to build pride in our country. History should not be about patriotism–it should be about truth. What happened, who did it affect, and what can we do to keep from repeating past mistakes? We’re living in an age when history is repeating itself before our very eyes and we refuse to acknowledge it. Blacklisting, censorship, witch hunts–all of them blights on our history, yet we soldier on toward “progress” no matter the cost.inclusa02

 

History After Awakening

It’s a painful thing sitting through high school history lessons after waking up to the reality of patriarchy. I feel the angst of being left out of every written document, every invention, every pivotal moment. Today, the US History teacher showed her class a video entitled The Men Who Built America. Every minute of the presentation was filled with dramatic tension surrounding the thoughts and actions of these “great” men of The Gilded Age. The World Civilizations teacher taught a lesson about Henry VIII with zeal, describing the tyrant’s wives as if they were nothing more than sitting ducks being picked off one by one.

Again, women were an afterthought. a footnote, punctuation if they were even remembered. What is the message? “Men are strong and powerful–men make things happen. Women are only present when they’re needed for sex and childbirth. We are only important when we’re sexually desirable and if we’re not…we don’t matter.”

This is just some of what was missing from today’s lectures:

1869–For the first time, women sit on a grand jury in Cheyenne,Wyoming

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Belva Lockwood

1879–Belva Lockwood is the first woman to try a case before the supreme court

1890–women get the vote in Wyoming

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Margaret Sanger

1916–“Margaret Sanger tests the validity of New York’s anti-contraception law by establishing a clinic in Brooklyn. The most well-known of birth control advocates, she is one of hundreds arrested over a 40-year period for working to establish women’s right to control their own bodies.”

1920–The nineteenth amendment is ratified in the US

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Katherine of Aragon

Katherine of Aragon was born in 1485 in Spain. As a child, she was educated in Latin, French and philosophy. She was married off twice and her refusal to annul the second marriage (to Henry) resulted in the creation of the Church of England.

Anne Boleyn was born around 1501 in England. She lived for a time in France before returning to England to become one of Katherine of Aragon’s ladies in waiting. Despite being an object of ridicule and suspicion, Anne focused on improvements for the poor during her time as queen. She was a spirited woman and endured much harsh treatment until her murder in 1536.

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Jane Seymour

Jane Seymour was born in 1509 in England. Although descended from wealthy parents, Jane was denied a proper education. After acting as lady in waiting to both Katherine and Anne before her, she married Henry 11 days after Anne’s murder. She died after childbirth at the age of 26.

Anne Cleeves was born in 1515 in Dusseldorf, Germany. Like so many other women of the time, she was a mere pawn, married off for purely political reasons. Henry blamed his inability to consummate the marriage on her, saying she was too ugly but more likely it was due to his own impotence and poor health. Luckily, she escaped the marriage after only six months and reportedly remained on good terms with Henry afterward.

Catherine Howard was born in 1522 (notice a pattern here?) into poverty. However, she had some powerful male family members and was married to the lecherous king around the age of 18. He accused her of sleeping around and had her murdered in 1542.

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Katerynn Parr

Katerynn Parr was born in 1512 in London England. Her father died when she was very young but she maintained a close relationship with her mother. She had a passion for learning and became fluent in multiple languages. During her marriage to Henry, she helped him reconcile with his daughters and maintained a good relationship with his son. As circumstances would have it, Katerynn was endowed with many rights and responsibilities to act on behalf of her husband. It is believed that her strength of character greatly influenced her stepdaughter, the future Queen Elizabeth. Luckily, Katerynn outlived Henry.

It’s hard to find information about women that’s unrelated to men. In historical texts, men seem to exist without women whereas women only exist in relation to men. Today, many women are still known only by their relationships to men: “So-and-so’s wife, mother, sister, daughter.” I long for the day when this will not be so.

Real Horror

I just finished watching a horror movie on Netflix and it got me thinking. I love the horror genre–partially, because my older brother loved it and, growing up, I wanted to be close to him and partially, because I like a good scare. During my last round of therapy, my counselor and I discussed how horror in the movies is at least somewhat more palatable and even fun compared to the horrors of real life.

I  began thinking of the horrors of my family: specifically, those that manifested while I lived with my mom. Before I was pushed out of my home by various factors, we lived in squalor. I never wanted to have people over because of the state of things: the smell, the piles, the holes and cracks in the walls, the mice, cockroaches, fleas and spiders that lurked in every corner. But the most horrifying manifestation of the sickness of my family, of my mother’s impenetrable denial, lived in her shower.

I knew it was living because it grew. It was some sort of fungus that looked like hair coming out of the drain, just longer and blood red. I was deathly afraid of it. In the night, when I needed to use the bathroom and the hall bathroom was occupied, I would wrestle with myself, deciding whether or not I could work up the courage to go into my mom’s bathroom knowing what was in there. More than once, I resorted to relieving myself in the back yard in order to avoid the thing in the shower.

Years later, when facing homelessness, an ex I was living with asked me “Why don’t you just go live with your mom?!” I couldn’t even begin to imagine how to make him understand. I could never go back. Because the fungus slowly creeping out of her shower drain, the mice, the cockroaches crawling across my face at night were just visible symptoms of the real horror of my family, the sickness of abuse and denial. The truly sick people working to make you believe it’s all in your head and you’re the one who’s sick. My mom let me and my older brother be hospitalized multiple times in order to cover up her abuse. She’d let us die before she’d ever admit to anything.

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen true horror captured in a movie. Maybe glimpses of it. But I far prefer horror movies to real-life horror. With a horror movie, you pretty much know what’s coming; sometimes you can even laugh it off and the scare feels exhilarating instead of draining and awful. I also love a villain you can kill. Real life horror is harder to pin down–sometimes, it’s invisible to everyone except the sufferer. I was just thinking that people with mental illness, especially depression and PTSD are haunted people–they’re haunted by the horror of their lives. One of the best things you can do is listen and believe them.