“Crazy” Cassandra


A 2014 article by Rebecca Solnit recently sparked my interest in the myth of Cassandra, a woman blessed by Apollo with the gift of prophecy then cursed to never be believed, all because she would not sleep with him. In the article, Solnit uses the myth to illustrate the curse of all women to be questioned, gaslighted, and otherwise discredited when trying to speak the truth.


As is typical for me, I wanted to read more about Cassandra and see if anyone else had come to the same conclusion as Solnit. What I came across was a 1984 article by Mary Lefkowitz discrediting the work of Christina Wolf, Cassandra: A Novel and Four Essays. It seems Wolf came to a similar conclusion as Solnit: the myth of Cassandra reflects the reality of all women living under patriarchy.

Lefkowitz describes Wolf’s conclusion as “ambitious” and containing a “series of imaginative leaps.” I don’t know about you, but my imagination did not have to stretch far at all to see the metaphor in the myth of Cassandra. Lefkowitz goes on to say that

 If Mrs. Wolf had looked more closely at Aeschylus instead of relying on a 19th-century handbook’s recasting of the myth, she would have seen that in the original story Cassandra chose her own fate. Apollo offered her, the most beautiful of Priam’s daughters, whatever she wanted if she would have intercourse with him. She asked for the gift of prophecy but then refused to keep her part of the bargain, so the god punished her by keeping her from being believed. If she had slept with him, she would have been able to prophesy and to bear a son who would have become a famous hero – not a bad deal considering what the gods were capable of doing to men and women if they felt like it. The ancient Greeks, whatever their limitations, believed in freedom of choice; their women were no more victimized by the world around them than their men;

they recorded not only the oppression of individuals and groups but of humanity. (bold emphasis mine)

I just about fell over when I read this. I’d like to think that this type of opinion is outdated, but it’s not. Women and men still believe that a woman’s decision to submit is as free and fair a choice as any that a man would make. In fact, this is the view popularized by the “sex-positive” movement. Women who “choose” to acquiesce, relent, and give in to the desires of men are somehow empowered. But the real myth here is that women are just as free to choose not to submit.


Women who choose to say “no” still face the threat of violence, loss of financial security, and social or physical death. Confronted with this reality, many women feel they have no choice. Or, like Lefkowitz seems to suggest, they decide that unlimited access to their bodies is a small price to pay for safety and security.

It is the devaluation of women in patriarchal society that makes constant violation seem like a viable choice. Indeed, in regards to unwanted sex, women and girls are often told “it’s not so bad” or “it’s supposed to hurt.” They’re made to believe that rape is a fantasy desired by some women and are subjected to a relentless onslaught of media sexualizing violence and dominance/submission.

It’s with this amount of denial, gaslighting, and outright lying that the myth of Cassandra retains its poignancy. Women have and do exist in a world where they are routinely discredited and slandered for speaking the truth. It angers and saddens me to no end that one of the best weapons the patriarchy has found to use against us is other women. It is for this reason that I believe, as is stated in the book description for Cassandra,  that stories like this are “an urgent call to examine the past in order to ensure a future.”


No, “The Beguiled” Is NOT a Feminist Movie

IndieWire author Jude Dry just posted a review of the movie The Beguiled that was so off-base, I needed to address it. If you aren’t familiar with the story, it’s about an injured Union soldier who is taken into an all-girls’ school in Virginia during the Civil War. It’s supposed to be a different take on the 1970’s version starring Client Eastwood. I haven’t seen the 1970’s version but supposedly, Coppola’s version centers the women in the story. Hardly.

Dry goes as far as to call the movie (or at least elements of the movie) feminist:

“A house full of women thrown into a tizzy by the presence of a man isn’t the most radically feminist story; that Coppola tells it by objectifying, emasculating, and symbolically castrating her central male character certainly is.”

Objectifying (if that’s even possible), emasculating, and castrating men are not feminist actions. One cannot use the tools of the patriarchy to bring it down. Objectification and violence are tools of the patriarchy used to dehumanize, silence, and exterminate women. Feminists propose to liberate all women, not become violent oppressors themselves. When women do commit violence against men, it is usually in self-defense and to imagine that it is somehow empowering is frankly, insulting.

Dry goes on to talk about the “female gaze,” describing a supposedly titillating scene in which Kidman’s character bathes Farrell as he lies unconscious. Kidman is annoyingly flustered as she inches closer and closer to Farrell’s penis. In this way, Coppola succeeds in making the scene all about Farrell. That Farrell is somehow “objectified” in the film is absolutely absurd. The male gaze is all about a dominant group (heterosexual men) objectifying a non-dominant group (women) in film. With this understanding, the female gaze is impossible to discern because we have never had power over or even been equal to men. Even if the female gaze were possible to discern, I put forth that it would have little to do with men or their penises.


“He is completely at the mercy of his female caretakers, who can turn him in as a deserter at any time, which would mean imprisonment or possibly death. They are his keepers, and the mistresses of his fate. As he heals, the women use his body for labor. “

They can’t turn him in at any time–they must wait for Confederate soldiers to pass by. And even though the wounded soldier is supposedly helpless, he remains a threat to everyone in the home. Furthermore, he insists on working despite his injury. Dry makes it sound as though they’re standing over him with a whip or something. Even AFTER they saw off his leg, he somehow musters the courage (despite his helplessness) to threaten them all with a gun.



Dry attempts to frame the amputation of his leg as some sort of revenge for leading on Dunst’s character (he tells her he loves her and offers to run away with her) before creeping into the bed of Fanning:

“Such behavior won’t fly in a woman’s world. Their plaything has broken the rules of the game, and he must be punished.”

The way the author words this makes it sound like an attempt at sadomasochistic erotica. It’s clear in the movie that after a hilarious topple down the stairs, the soldier’s leg is amputated because it’s shattered beyond repair. The goal was to save his life. Farrell’s character is convinced that the women have hacked his leg off because they’re jealous he chose Fanning out of the three eldest females in the home. Farrell is old enough to be Fanning’s father by the way.


After he threatens all of them with a gun and Dunst’s character throws herself at him sexually (I have no idea why), they decide to poison him. This is not a punishment but an act of desperation. Kidman’s character and the younger girls have all decided it’s their only option and when they don’t look sad as he chokes to death at the table, it’s probably because he threatened to kill them all!


There’s nothing feminist about this movie and I find the suggestion that it has some feminist elements or even gets close to what might be termed a “female gaze” to be a gross over exaggeration.

Don’t waste your money on this movie. If you want to see a Civil War-era movie that centers women, watch The Keeping Room. It actually has a somewhat similar premise in that it’s about southern women defending their home against Union soldiers but it’s far more interesting. One caveat is that it’s fairly violent so skip it if you prefer not to see that sort of thing.




‘Men, shut up for your rights!’

This post is from one of my favorite blogs, “language: a feminist guide.” It highlights the pervasive and insidious nature of sexism today. The fact that men can still be so clueless about the impact of their speech and the manner in which they use it speaks to the invisibility of their truly massive privilege.

Women encounter this type of sexism on a daily basis and it can be truly soul-crushing. To be talked over, ignored, and belittled in private and public conversation drives home the point that we are less-than; not even worthy of acknowledgment. I believe it should also prompt us to look at the ways that we elevate the voices of other women. Whether it be through reblogging another woman’s post, repeating what another woman says in a group situation, or asking silent women their opinions, working to elevate the voices of women is a worthwhile endeavor.

An example of this type of elevation in action:

language: a feminist guide

If you haven’t spent the last decade living on another planet, I’m sure you will recognise the following sequence of events:

  1. A powerful man says something egregiously sexist, either in a public forum or in a private conversation which is subsequently leaked.
  2. There is an outpouring of indignation on social media.
  3. The mainstream media take up the story and the criticism gets amplified.
  4. The powerful man announces that he is stepping down.
  5. His critics claim this as a victory and the media move on—until another powerful man says another egregiously sexist thing, at which point the cycle begins again.

The most recent high-profile target for this ritual shaming was David Bonderman, a billionaire venture capitalist and member of Uber’s board of directors. It’s no secret that Uber has a serious sexism problem. Following a number of discrimination and harassment claims from former employees, the company commissioned what turned out to…

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The Porn Industry Needs You!

It’s easy for porn’s proponents to dismiss those who speak out against it as prudish, parental or even free speech-hating fascists. There might even be those who wouldn’t consider themselves pro-porn but they figure if they’re not part of the conservative, Christian camp, they need to speak out against them. I, like so many other thinking feminists, do not belong to either camp. I see porn and puritanical beliefs about sex and women as two sides of the same coin and reject both forms of female oppression.


How does porn oppress women? 

Like puritanical religious beliefs, porn dictates a desirable image of woman based on her status as a sex-object. In porn, she must always be sexually willing and spread-eagle while the puritanical woman must always keep her knees together and remain chaste. The pornified woman increases her value with the amount of skin she shows while the virginal woman increases her value with the amount of skin she covers. The porn star is sexually adventurous and fun while the conservative woman is demure, modest and even withholding. Both women are objects to be conquered and possessed and both dictate how they’re treated with their behavior and dress (or lack thereof).


But if women are objectified by porn, so are men. 

Hardly. To buy into this belief is to disregard centuries of female oppression at the hands of misogynists and complicit men as well as the current pressure upon females to look and act a certain way. Women are disproportionately affected by pornographic images and non-pornographic yet highly sexualized pictures of women. It takes nothing more than a glance at a group of men and women or a stroll through the local drugstore magazine or beauty aisle to realize that women have harsher beauty standards than men. Misogynists and complicitous others try to dismiss this fact by saying that:

Women choose to be this way/they like being this way. GLCVCVN07Y60

This is yet another fallacy that requires dismissal of the multibillion-dollar marketing industry. Both the porn and beauty industries must create demand in order to sell their products. They bombard consumers with highly sexualized, unrealistic images of women which the average man desires and average woman must aspire to be. These industries bank on convincing women that they are not good enough as they are. The insidious message being communicated is that women will never be good enough thus, they must keep chasing this unrealistic ideal. When we are girls–we must be princesses, when we are teenagers–we must be sexually mature women, when we are mature women–we must be youthful and on and on. Women who fail to do so suffer ostracism, invisibility, and social death.


If you still don’t believe me, ask yourself “Who stands to profit from my beliefs?” Women who reject porn and its offshoots as degrading and oppressive are reviled in our society. They are bad consumers and even threaten these industries by criticizing them. Pornographer, Larry Flint has even featured various feminists he finds threatening in his magazine in order to defame and discredit them. Why would pornographers need to portray these women as prudes and fascists unless they were a real threat to sales and the patriarchy? On the other side of things, anti-porn activists gain nothing from convincing people that porn is degrading and oppressive. If anything, they suffer greatly, receiving harassment, death threats, and becoming social pariahs for their beliefs.

“Gloria Steinem is an ancient, worn-out old relic whose only claim to fame is urging some ugly women to march,” drawls the man in the 14-karat-gold-plated wheelchair (Flynt).

In closing, the next time you or someone you know decides to defend porn by discrediting its opponents as puritanical fascists, remember that the madonna and the whore are the same woman.

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.

a rain and a gale

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


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.