Monday, August 12, 2013

Welcome to Women's Week

Who am I kidding? Every week is Women's Week here at S&W. But in all seriousness, there is some crazy malarkey happening in the world of vaginae, and it's time to rub it out (zing). This is gonna be so much fun, you guys!

For MM this week, I have decided to put together a little primer, if you will, on some of the most incredible feminist media out there. Some are documentaries, some are fiction, but all are spot-on brilliant.

First up, the PBS special MAKERS: Women Who Make America. MAKERS aired in February, but you can watch the whole thing at the link above. This three-part doc interviews many women who were involved in feminism, from the early Mystique days to Women's Lib to some of Fortune 500's featured CEOs. Also, Ms. Streep narrates, so that's a huge bonus.

MAKERS is one of my favorite pieces of television, not only on this loose topic, but in general. I think it's because the film doesn't preach (well, anymore than it should). Merely, it presents the ideas of women from varying backgrounds and viewpoints, the stone-cold facts of the women's movement, and allows you to draw your own conclusions about feminism and the places women find themselves in today.

From the fictional - well, historical fiction - aspect of things, I bring to you the HBO miniseries/docudrama Iron Jawed Angels. I first saw this movie in an honors class I took in high school, and it was the most incredible, heart-wrenching, vomit-inducing, pride-filling spectacle I'd ever encountered. Iron Jawed Angels takes a look at the story of Women's Suffrage, through the lens of Alice Paul (played by Hilary Swank) and Lucy Burns. These courageous women, and their devoted compatriots, face innumerable obstacles and unbelievable hardship. From idiotic catcallers to unsympathetic husbands to the President himself, Paul perseveres. She does not falter in her beliefs, nor does she waver in her stance on injustice. 

Iron Jawed Angels may be flawed from a factual perspective (Carrie Chapman Catt, though portrayed quite evilly by Anjelica Huston in the film, was in real life quite influential in suffrage). However, it doesn't take away the impact that watching these events has. One scene that had quite an effect on me is Alice Paul's hunger strike during her imprisonment at the Occoquan Workhouse (my brother's high school crew team raced at Occoquan, so that alone hit close to home). Based on the real-life event, we see tubes forced down Paul's throat, and raw egg poured down them. It's brutal, and scary, and no one should discredit the amount of bravery necessary to continue on after that. Obviously, there is a good outcome, but that doesn't mean the fight was easy.

The last movie is a modern-day exposé; an account of exploitation, defamation, and objectification of women and girls in the media. It's called Miss Representation, and it's quite awesome. The director is Jennifer Siebel-Newsom, wife of California's Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, and former actress/current activist. She came up with the idea for the film when she had her second child, and he was a boy. When her daughter was born, they received many congratulations and gifts, she says. But when her son was born, he received a t-shirt that said "FUTURE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES". And she was mystified, and miffed, but accuses herself of similar actions. For example, she was picking out Halloween costumes for her children. And instead of going for the princess/Power Ranger section, she figured animals were safe. Only, she picked a lamb costume for Montana, and got Hunter a lion.

Miss Representation is not, I don't think, trying to say that girls should be tough and boys should be gentle (though there are tough girls and sweet boys and that's okay). It is, though, saying that in the 2nd grade, roughly equal numbers of boys and girls want to be President. By middle school, the number of girls has decreased by over two-thirds. It is saying that commercials and ads in magazines and billboards and reality TV saying over and over and over that girls are there to look pretty. That girls only matter if they're hot. That girls aren't/shouldn't be/can't be smart and pretty, kind and tough...and it's hurting us. It's causing eating disorders and mental illness and our obsession with makeup is not born, it's raised. 

I hope you stay tuned this week, because this stuff is important. I'll be back tomorrow with a special edition of Painted Constellations. As always, peace and love.


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