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Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’

You’d be hard pressed to find me talking tariffs, but here goes…

What I know about Economy 101 is simply the guns vs butter parable – a country who spends more on guns, spends less on feeding its people. I get that, the more we spend on prisons, the less we spend on schools. But today, tariffs are going to start again for Iran according to the Twitter fingers of Mr T, and maybe I should be worried but I’m kind of stuck on an overdrive of worry.

Why are those cave boys from Thailand becoming monks?

Why is Norway separating children from their parents?

What exactly won’t I be buying from Tehran?

And just when my feminist heart was melting because Saudi Arabia finally “allowed” its women to drive cars, I just read that Canada has decided to sanction Saudi Arabia on Human Rights violations.

Saudi authorities in 2018 continued to arbitrarily arrest, try, and convict peaceful dissidents. Dozens of human rights defenders and activists are serving long prison sentences for criticizing authorities or advocating political and rights reforms. Authorities systematically discriminate against women and religious minorities. In 2017, Saudi Arabia carried out 146 executions, 59 for non-violent drug crimes. A Saudi-led coalition continued an airstrike campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen that included the use of banned cluster munitions and apparently unlawful strikes that killed civilians.  https://www.hrw.org/middle-east/n-africa/saudi-arabia

CANADA mind you! Not us, no we just love strong rulers.

Remember how much Ivanka and her dad fawned over that new young Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman? The one who held up his relatives and 200 of the richest Saudis in an airport until they paid their taxes to the crown. Well, not to be outdone, the Prince has retaliated by: evicting the Canadian ambassador; stopped all commercial airline flights to Canada; ordered 16,000 Saudi students to come home; AND placed an immediate freeze on all investments and bilateral trade agreements between Saudi Arabia and Canada!

I guess Riyadh will have to buy maple syrup from Vermont?

This has me wondering if sanctions and tariffs actually work? Or are they just symbolic slaps on the wrist of an increasingly entitled corporate global structure that can shift easily between ruling oligarchs and demagogues, and princes. According to The Washington Post, some goods and services are better than others to sanction. Usually there’s a point at which the demand for something goes up, the price will come down, except for iPhones. But consider Veblen goods, they perform in a contradictory way like diamonds – the more demand we have the higher the price.

“Veblen goods are positional goods, in which demand increases along with price because the good is seen as a display of prestige. Veblen goods can explain why some countries choose to invest in aircraft carriers or space programs when they should be allocating scarce resources elsewhere.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/08/07/why-in-the-world-is-saudi-arabia-sanctioning-canada/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.26a5b146bfb2

Since most countries don’t have the resources to even impose sanctions on one another, the author posits that Prince bin Salman is showing the West his peacock plumage. He is arresting women activists while also letting them drive cars, so they know who is in charge. And he can throw out the Canadian Ambassador because he CAN, ratcheting up his prestige on the world stage…making tariffs and sanctions into a kind of Veblen good. Criticize Saudi Arabia at your peril!

Thorstein Veblen was an economist who coined the term “conspicuous consumption” in 1899. I wonder if he ever thought a Narcissistic real estate con-man who lived in a gilded tower in Manhattan could ever become President of these United States.

Patriotism, Veblen once said, was the only obstacle to peace among nations. Let that sink in.

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Ann Patchett was sitting right in front of me last night at Parnassus Bookstore. We were listening to Meg Wolitzer read from her new book, “The Female Persuasion,” when Ann (I hope I can call her Ann since I see her so much around town) asked if the sum of a writer’s work isn’t simply an aria – one voice:

“aria, an elaborate accompanied song for solo voice from a cantata, opera, or oratorio.”

In other words, every book you write is saying something about you, about what’s really important to you. Your subjects may change, your place in time or your landscape may change, but your unique Voice, your Point of View comes through consistently, almost unwillingly.

And Wolitzer has written plenty of books, in fact this is her tenth novel. She notes that she actually started writing “The Female Persuasion” a few years before the #MeToo movement, but she has always been interested in female friendships, and the power dynamics in relationships. This book pivots around a college campus where a young female student, Greer with a streak of “electric blue hair,” is mentored by an older feminist writer, Faith Frank.

The audience last night was a mix of ages, young feminists with severely short hair, mixed in with my aging variety and a few men. One shop dog named Bear strolled around the room, while the smaller variety, Mary Todd Lincoln was cradled in a baby wrap on a bookseller’s hip. Wolitzer read from her opening chapter, where Greer is groped by an entitled frat boy at a party her freshman year. I wondered how many of us could relate to that!

I thought about a friend’s son, a quiet innocent boy, who went off to college only to be expelled after an episode with a girlfriend he dared to break up with – he was an unsuspecting sheep while she turned into a wolf. I thought about the UVA Lacrosse player who was killed in her dorm room by her off/and/on boyfriend. And that girl who was raped and left outside a garbage can at Stanford.

“Novels can be a snapshot of a moment in time, or several moments in time, and as a reader that’s what I really like, and as a writer, it’s what I’m drawn to also. It can’t be a polemic. I’m always saying, What is it like? That’s one of the mantras of writing novels for me. And then, in the game of musical chairs, the book is coming out now.”  

http://www.vulture.com/2018/04/meg-wolitzer-doesnt-want-to-be-tied-to-a-moment.html

Wolitzer would call her publisher and ask her assistant first, a millennial, “Before you put me through, tell me, what was it like being a feminist at your college?” 

And that was my question. At my Boston college in 1966 we didn’t have the word “feminism” yet. We couldn’t wear pants outside our dorm, we had to wear a dress or a skirt once we left the brownstone. We didn’t have birth control pills or roofies or mind-altering drugs, yet. There was obviously no social media, if a girl dropped out, you assumed she got pregnant. We didn’t wear bobby socks, we wore knee socks. We had no recourse, no defense; we huddled together and traded tricks sneaking into the Beacon Street residence after curfew.

We had a phone booth in the downstairs lobby!

Strangely enough, Wolitzer hits her mark writing about today’s college culture, about those times in our lives when we meet someone who will change our trajectory. Her generation is just behind mine, a decade younger – the second (or is it third) wave of feminism. And she mentioned that another Nashvillian, Nicole Kidman, has optioned the rights to play her character Faith in the movie.

My first thought was, so Kidman is playing a mid-60 year old woman? And I immediately slapped that thought away as too judgmental, the opposite of feminist, after all maybe Helen Mirren is unavailable!

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Someday I’ll stand up in a not so smoky bar and sing torch songs. I’ve always loved the idea; an older, down on her luck crooner in a long gown with an amber-filled glass on the piano, singing her alto soul out. Under the spotlight, her grey hair like a halo. It’s the Blues for everywoman. Anything Ella or Billie is everything!

Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin’ All The Time)

Don’t know why there’s no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather
Since my man and I ain’t together
Keeps rainin’ all the time

Life is bare, gloom and mis’ry everywhere
Stormy weather
Just can’t get my poor self together
I’m weary all the time, the time
So weary all the time

Last night Great Grandma Ada was expecting over a foot of snow, and we told her it’s just cold here in Nashville. Cold and sunny, but robins are hopping all over the city. I swear I hear more birds around this townhouse than I ever heard on our mountain, except for those jack-hammering woodpeckers. So I was surprised when I opened the door this morning to take Ms Bean out, we actually had a dusting of snow! I had to squint in the dawn light, was it just a frost, are my eyes deceiving me?

This past year has left us all pretty much teetering on the edge of delusion and despair. We never know what Tweet will manage to screw up the economy or create new enemies in the world. Let’s raise tariffs on the EU, so TN whiskey will cost more to export. But wait, maybe we’ll exclude some countries from a tariff on metals? Foreign policy has been reduced to a frat-boy play/as/you/go/poker/game, let the chips fall. It’s no wonder we’re weary.

When along comes a porn star to brighten things up, Stormy Daniels, aka Stephanie Clifford, saves the day! Granted she had agreed not to talk after receiving $130,000 but she now says Mr President never signed the contract. So she’s free as a bird to tell us what kind of sex Mr T was into right after his son was born – missionary mostly – and that he wanted to see her again, and again.

It’s rather amusing that the GOP is more concerned with Mr T’s tariff musings than his adulterous affair with a porn star. We must work hard amid this storm to suspend our disbelief. After all, Nashville’s Mayor was caught in an affair of the heart, and five weeks later she resigned. One wonders where Mr T found that money to pay off Stormy, and other women, and just how indebted is he to Russia?

Happy International Women’s Day everyone! Thundersnow has hit the East Coast and the president and the porn star threaten to capture our news cycle for the time being; no talk about guns, or tariffs today thank you. If you’re feeling like you “…can’t go on,” the BBC has compiled 100 stories of women you’ve probably never heard of, and I think it’s worth a listen. http://www.bbc.com/news/topics/c779dqxlxv2t/100-women

Before that old rockin’ chair gets y’all.    IMG_2340

 

 

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Gone are the days when a Hollywood studio could basically “own” its talent. But we’ve all heard of actors having to sign away their lives for a certain number of pictures over a period of years. Now with the #metoo movement, more than a few casting couches have been exposed. Once you achieved “star” status, the pressure might ease up a little; but did you know that over one hundred years ago at Universal Studios women were writing and directing many of the early silent films?

As director Ida May Park, another of the Universal Women, remarked in 1920, “Films are made for women, [who] compose the large majority of our fans.” That’s true today, when females make up 52% of the moviegoing audience. Yet filmmaking is top-heavy with male-driven stories, written, directed and produced primarily by men. Surely the mismatch has a role in the drop in box office receipts at movie theaters.  http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-sharp-universal-studios-women-20171112-story.html

Last night, I understand Frances McDormand made an impassioned plea at the Oscars. Still haven’t seen “Three Billboards” but it’s on my list! Calling attention to an “inclusion rider” was her way of telling her peers that they can take back their power in numbers if everyone adds this rider to their contract. Simply put, you are calling for diversity of your cast and crew – you’d like the movie you are about to shoot represent all of the varied shades of the American people. All ages and sexes would be nice as well. And, I would add, maybe even women screenwriters?

With the exception of Star Wars, I’ve often felt that studios are so worried about box office numbers, they have lately been putting out any and all iterations of comic/book/super/action/heroes. Adolescent boy material can be good for awhile, but as a culture we’ve come close to overdosing. Women like a movie with a good storyline, that’s all. We don’t want gratuitous scenes of random violence and torture, we don’t need loud car chases and crashes.

Although, I must admit “Wonder Woman” was a long time coming.

Let’s take a look at that fish story. That’s what I call “The Shape of Water.” Bob loved it and I came away with a mawah feeling. I’m not sure why, maybe I’m just too practical to think a woman might fall for a fish. It had periods of light for sure, but best movie Oscar?  I told Bob I can’t wait to see one of my favorite actors, Jennifer Lawrence, in Red Sparrow. It’s only topping out at about 45M in the US, hmmm, then I read a Jezebel review and thought, WHY? Rape, sexual humiliation and torture, when Lawrence’s character is not walking aimlessly around a street…I feel like Nancy Kerrigan all the darn time.

When the Bride and I were driving home from our family forum on healthy sex, she happened to mention that unlike her peers, she remembers that as a teen we would allow her to see films with sex scenes in them, but not violent films filled with guns. I of course remember taking her to see an “Alien” movie because I’d read that Sigourney Weaver was the first female action star – and ended up covering her eyes for most of it! Sometimes you wonder what sticks during those parenting years.

I cannot wait to see “A Wrinkle in Time,” written, directed and starring women of all possible shapes, sizes and colors and ages. I wonder if Oprah, Reese and Mindy had inclusion riders in their contracts? Here is my favorite local historic home, hey Hollywood scouts, let’s see what goes on behind that door!    IMG_2373 2

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The other day I took my first Barre class at the local YMCA. There was no actual ballet bar in this oasis of a yoga-type studio, surrounded by intense gym dudes lifting weights to blaring music. But we did have mats and discs and tiny yoga balls, plus an amazing teacher who told us it was her 47th birthday, although I could have sworn she was 27! It was the hardest exercise class I’ve ever done, hands (and knees) down, and that’s saying alot; still, I persisted!

And today I can almost walk without pain.

What is it about approaching a big birthday number that makes us want to turn back time just a little? Before my 60th birthday I started dyeing my hair red. Thankfully, I gave up on that one. Now as the big seven OH is approaching, I thought I might address my wrinkles. I didn’t mind those pesky lines when they were only horizontal, but the vertical intersections make me look mad all the time.

No, no knife work thank you, still I’d heard about this thing called Retin A cream, the kind you need a prescription for, so in the Fall I made an appointment with a dermatologist. I needed to find a new doc anyway, after moving, to check my skin/barnacles for cancer every year and deal with the Guttate Psoriasis that appeared ten years ago. Cut to a few weeks ago. I mentioned this wonder cream to my attractive young derm doc, aren’t they all, and she said without skipping a beat –

“We don’t do fillers.”

Fillers? Do I need fillers? What are fillers? Am I too late to the self-care party? The doctor explained that she doesn’t actually do cosmetic work at this facility, but she will do restorative work. I started to feel like an old car, or maybe an antique piece of furniture; the kind you don’t want to scrape the paint off because it would effect the value on the Antiques Roadshow. Just get it professionally cleaned.

I walked out with an Rx for the miracle cream I was to put on my face at night (Tretinoin Cream 0.025%) and some kind of moisturizer for my whole body which Medicare would pay for? (Ammonium Lact 12%) to use every morning. My face started to burn, I began to look like Strawberry Shortcake who was crumbling and peeling away. Every time I saw the Bride she’d say, “Mom what’s wrong with you? Your skin is scabby.” Luckily, my smart young ER doc told me to only use it three times a week. I forgot I still have red-headed skin.

Why are we women so hard on ourselves and aging? Who the heck ages gracefully? I aspire to age like Helen Mirren, not Jane Fonda. I’d like my face to register surprise when I see something surprising. That doesn’t mean Megan Kelly can throw shade at Fonda for not wanting to discuss her facelifts. There’s something just a little bit “mean girl” about Kelly. Besides, I bet she gets Botox shots.

I read an article that says little girls become accustomed to being addressed or defined by their looks by the age of 7. It suggested we use different adjectives to describe young girls, like: “Inventive,” “Confident,” “Curious.” When I noticed the Love Bug was totally in charge on the basketball court, telling her team mates where to stand, I thought to myself she is a little BOSS, just like her Mama. Little Miss Bossy Pants. Then I thought nah, she’s a Leader!

Women are standing up, we are stepping up. And maybe some award shows aren’t keeping up, but my generation will define aging any darn way we want to. We marched to get control over our own bodies, and we don’t plan on giving it up anytime soon. https://thinkprogress.org/gop-abortion-shutdown-dfd173817d47/

We need to stop judging others who might choose a different course, we have inalienable rights to take a pill, use a cream or get an eyebrow lift. First, I would have to find my eyebrows of course.

And if I still want to pretend I’m a ballerina without a bar, so be it. I’ve been teaching the Bug to string beads, and Bob’s been teaching her how to drill holes in shells. Barre or no bar, the force is strong in us!

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Resolved: That I will march with women and like-minded men until:

  • Women everywhere receive equal pay for equal work
  • Our reproductive rights are no longer threatened
  • Women make up 50% of the House AND the Senate
  • Women are appointed to the Supreme Court and Federal Judgeships in equal number
  • The ERA is passed; Women’s Rights are Human Rights
  • Rape, sexual harassment and physical and/or emotional abuse are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – and YES, we know the difference between a “bad date” “consent,” “enthusiastic consent” and sexual misconduct.
  • Women of every color, indigenous Native American and LGBT women are no longer marginalized
  • We stop sexualizing young girls in the entertainment industry and end sex trafficking

Yes, I’ve been at this a long time. Writing about it, donating to progressive candidates, arguing with others and begging people to go out and vote for our democracy to survive.

My Nana couldn’t vote when we women won that right because she was married to an “illegal alien” aka an Irishman fresh off the boat. I felt the sting of patriarchy as a college student, unable to purchase that new birth control pill, because I wasn’t married. I marched in 1978 for the ERA, and I marched with Planned Parenthood when the Bride was 12. I marched last year in DC and I marched this year in Nashville. And to be honest, I’m getting pretty damn tired of all this marching.

But the pendulum will swing back, way back. Because we women are a great force, we are life-giving and life-affirming. And we cannot be stopped. Notice our little basketball player in pearls.

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History is always written by the victors. Except in the South…

where Confederate memorials sprouted during the Jim Crow era, and the narrative changed to more “states’ rights” and less “slavery.” I remember being surprised when we first moved to Cville at all the plaques on the side of roads commemorating some minor insurrection or another during the Civil War. That, and the graphic “No guns allowed” outside some stores – which I correctly assumed to mean all other stores were fair game.

Still, I had never heard of a white woman named, Viola Liuzzo. She was a lapsed Catholic who grew up dirt poor in Chattanooga, Tennessee and noticed that her young black neighbors, also living in one room shacks, were treated much worse than her family. Later, she would ask her daughter in a department store how she would feel if all the Santas she ever saw were black? Married, and living a middle-class life in Detroit, she defied her husband to heed MLK Jr’s call to come to Alabama after “Bloody Sunday.”

Last month Viola “…was awarded the Fred L. Shuttlesworth award from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on its 25th anniversary – the only white woman killed in the Civil Rights movement.” She believed Civil Rights was everybody’s fight.

She was only 39, the mother of five, when in March of 1965 she was gunned down by the Klan; ambushed driving black voters to register to vote because she was sitting beside a 19 year old African American in her car; a “Negro man” named Leroy Moton who survived the ambush by playing dead. He later sent three of the killers to prison.

Where are her statues? Why have we heard about so many other martyrs to the cause, but not Viola? In the 1960s, there were no women’s studies, and a housewife who left her husband and children on such a dangerous quest was deemed suspect. In fact, Herbert Hoover tried to discredit her reputation by suggesting there was some “necking” going on in that car!

The fate of women authors is worse, at least film and music have left us some evidence. But publishers would discontinue certain works in the pre-internet age, and so second-hand bookstores are your last best hope of survival. For instance, before John Grisham, there was Mary Elizabeth Braddon! Nope, I never heard of her either, but she was trending in Victorian times. Obscure pioneers in literature can now be found in “The Book of Forgotten Authors,” by Christopher Fowler:

Fowler devotes an entire chapter to the women who introduced readers to psychological suspense long before it conquered the bestseller lists. These “forgotten queens of suspense”, he writes, were “ignored, underrated, overlooked or taken for granted, the women who wrote popular fiction for a living were often simply grateful to be published at all.”

One of Aunt Kiki and the Rocker’s friends will soon be teaching a course on song writing. She is a musician and a feminist and I would love to take her course at UCLA. One of the songs her students will investigate is Shania Twain’s, “Who’s Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” Now Shania has her very own room in the Country Music Hall of Fame here in Nashville, and since Bob and I gave the Love Bug a small CD player for her room, along with Shania’s latest album, I’d love to hear her take on the evolution of country music to include more of the female voice, including women of color who were rarely recognized.

Because the #MeToo movement has started something that all my marches on Washington, all my work for Planned Parenthood, could never have imagined. Women’s stories are valued, but if we are not sitting up in the board rooms and back rooms of power, if we are not equally represented in the legislature, our work can still be marginalized, forgotten in the ebb and flow of history.

Her tee shirt says, “I will write my own story.”

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