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March 24, 2007

"dragons in manhattan"

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girl goddess #9: nine stories by francesca lia block

this is a book that i have had for some years now and i read it a while ago and i enjoyed it a lot. the author tackles issues that most don't dare to address, especially when targeted at a younger audience. as amazon.com puts it;

"the author sets about deflating the oppositions that most people either reinforce or invent in order to distance themselves from others: carefree child/knowing adult; straight/gay; black/white; male/female."
but one story has always stuck out to me and stayed with me in a sense. it was unlike anything i had read when i was younger and the storyline was not one that was applicable to my life at the time but it fascinated me. learning about gender and transsexual individuals, the story came back to me. it is entitled "dragons in manhattan" and it is about a little girl that lives with her two mothers. she loves them both very much and appreciates both of them and loves her life until she goes to school and other kids question her about her nonnormative family. this prompts the little girl to begin to question her parents as well and she starts to see them in the eyes of the other children. she wants to know about her father and who he was and where he went and where he is now. after running away, traveling from new york to california, she finds out that one of her "mothers" is actually her father, a transsexual. her father always felt like he was different and he wanted to be a girl. the story is reminiscent of that of "judy/max" from the middlesexes video, yet sort of reversed. her father falls in love with this girl, however she is a lesbian. so then after they conceive a child, he has a sex change and becomes the woman he always wanted to be and the woman that the other woman always wanted and they live happily ever after with their biological child in the situation that makes them happiest as they deal with others' perceptions.
i realize now how empowering block's work is and how important it is that there are authors like her that are willing to talk about issues that are stigmatized.
"block blossoms in this collection of short stories about love: straight, gay, familial, and otherworldly. Very few young adult authors talk as frankly as Block about sex and some of the other yearnings we feel in this world, yet she guides her readers toward the self-respect and courage necessary to make smart choices about those yearnings." (amazon)

this story makes me think about:
- transsexuals
- acceptance
- love
- familial situations, not everyone lives in suburbia with a dog, two kids, and a mom and dad

March 16, 2007

the handbra

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i just saw this picture and i was like good grief. i would die if i saw someone actually wearing this and i would really like to believe that no woman would actually wear this but then i can really easily picture some woman on the beach sporting this hideous article of "clothing".

this picture makes me think about:
- cheesiness
- sex appeal
- body image
- sexism
- man's authority, ownership over the female body

the website that feminsting links to has a section for comments and two of the three comments on the page are very sexist.
zack says

"These bras are not supposed to be worn inside a t-shirt anyway. :) Love to see one of these on the street."

and edward wolf says
"I have two hands. Where do I apply for the job?"

i'm not surprised that it's two males commenting because the bra is ultimately for them, for women to parade around in showing off their bodies. zack obviously is expecting to see the woman walking around only in that because he sees it's not for a tshirt yet he would love to see one on the street.

March 14, 2007

the word gay is not synonymous for stupid

on feministing this morning, there is a blog about the controversy that has started over schools beginning to reprimand students over the use of the phrase "that's so gay."

March 13, 2007

soulforce

i was watching the news tonight and a certain segment caught my attention about "protestors at a local lutheran college in milwaukee that want to end discrimination against gays."
the line that originally caught my attention was "protestors try to go to church but end up getting arrested." that seemed silly to me. the anchors went on to talk about a group of young activists, including a female priest, that want to end discrimination based on sexual identity. the majority of the group just stayed off the property of the school and help banners depicting their message, but several students went on to the campus to have open discussions about the issues at hand. they tried to have conversations with the college students but most didn't even want to talk to them or learn from them. one girl said that the protestors brought a lot of attention, a lot of media, and a lot of negativity that she "didn't appreciate" yet later that same girl said that she just wants everybody to love everybody and that would make our world so much better. the two statements that she offered seemed to be contradicting to me, or at least projected her ideas that seem to contradict what she said. on one hand, she didn't want to talk to the students about the discrimination and prejudice against certain individuals because of their identity, but she thought that everyone should just love everyone, but that doesn't seem to be the prinicple that she follows. one activist said that "these students are ill-prepared for the world if they require their conversations to occur only within a closed community that all thinks the same way" and i think she is referring to the little box that people are supposed to fit into.

my friend and i were just having a conversation last night about religion and openmindedness and the glbt community. for instance, how it is unfair to say that a woman can't be a priest, if a person has a passion for god and his or her faith, why should that individual be denied the opportunity to spread the word of his or her lord? it's not about gender, it's about one's love and commitment; it is a completely separate issue. also, we were talking about how the bible was written so long ago, how can all of it's teachings be applied reasonably to today? variances in sexual identity are more common in our society today than it has been in the past and we decided that if jesus was here today, he wouldn't restrict his following to straight individuals that strictly male or female, staunchly condemning in their beliefs. he would love everyone. this reminds me of a line from the movie "saved!"-- the main character says

"if god wanted us all to be exactly the same, why would he have made us all so different?"

i looked up the organization on the internet and found their website and the soulforce mission statement:
"The purpose of Soulforce is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance."

Wherever you are on your journey of faith,
Whatever your sexual orientation or gender identity,
Whatever your religion, race, age, ability, color, or creed,
You are welcome to join us in learning, teaching, and applying
the 'soul force' principles of relentless nonviolent resistance
as taught by Gandhi and King
as we work together to stop spiritual violence
against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people
that flows out of the teachings and actions
of religious leaders and their communities of faith.
-The People of Soulforce

What is Spiritual Violence?

Spiritual violence is the misuse of religion to sanction the condemnation and rejection of any of God’s children.

Misusing religion and/or God to support society’s bias against sexual and gender minorities also inappropriately justifies psychological, legal and physical violence against them. Some zealots blatantly articulate spiritual violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people when they scream "God Hates Fags."

Mainline churches may be less blatant and more sophisticated, but they are no less guilty of spiritual violence. It is just as violent spiritually when pastors and parents—quoting scripture—condemn and reject members of their congregation and their family. When this happens, God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children also feel condemned and rejected by their Creator as well.

this makes me think about:
- discrimination
- the little box that everyone is supposed to fit inside
- religion
- unfair actions
- glbt community
- activism

March 4, 2007

la litterature, part one: henrik ibsen's a doll's house

ibsen wrote this play towards the end of the nineteenth century in 1879, and according to a teacher of mine, this work is hailed as the "first modern drama".
i read this play my junior year of high school. reading it in class, i was struck with the statement about women's roles in society. it was extremely powerful to me. then in november of this year, my friend and i went to see it at the rarig center and i was blown away. actually seeing the characters played on the stage emphasized the concepts and ideas constructed by ibsen even more. the play has powerful suggestions about women and it is even more significant coming from a man during that time period. he portrays the unjust circumstances women were leaving under and depicts the survival and perseverance and victory of women, and there are other options for women in that position.
major conflict - Nora’s struggle with Krogstad, who threatens to tell her husband about her past crime, incites Nora’s journey of self-discovery and provides much of the play’s dramatic suspense. Nora’s primary struggle, however, is against the selfish, stifling, and oppressive attitudes of her husband, Torvald, and of the society that he represents. (sparknotes.com)

what the play makes me think about:
- roles of males and females, particularly within a marriage
- sacrificial role of women
- patriarchal society, dominance, subordination
- stereotypes: mother, wife, homemaker, husband, parent
- rights of women
- appearances
- obligations, filial, parental
- sexism and anti-sexism

women are constantly making sacrifices to fit expectations of the male dominated society. mrs. linde, nora's friend from her youth, gives up true love with a poor man to marry a man with money in order to support her mother and her brothers. she sacrifices her own happiness and chance at love to make ends meet. the nanny abandons her own child to care for nora as a child and then nora's children as time passes.
nora is the play's protagonist. at first, i was disgusted with her. she gave women a bad name. she is entirely superficial, preoccupied with her appearance and others' opinions, especially that of her husband. she is the stereotypical archetype of a woman. she is there for the sole pleasure of her husband and to take care of the children. she doesn't have a life outside of that, no real thoughts of her own. torvald, her husband, is condescending and considers her his possession, a thing, a beautiful doll in his beautiful house that he can boss around and instruct as he pleases. he belittles her with patronizing pet names, and he loves nora for her beauty and obedience. but she encourages this behavior. she basks in his attention and allows him to treat her like this. but as the play progresses, nora's secret is revealed and my disgust lessened. she took out a loan without her husband knowing. at this time in history, women were not allowed by law to take out loan's without their husbands' permission. she is very proud of what she did for her husband, she believed she saved his life, but she hides what she did for him because she understands that he could never accept him from a woman, not even his wife, because he has too much pride, exemplifying the idea of male superiority. while torvald thinks that nora just spends money like sand slipping through her fingers, she is actually using it for the loan, however feeding torvald's ideas that women are only capable of using money for shopping and trivial things. there is a part when they are going to a new year's eve party, and nora needs to look beautiful, dance beautifully, be perfect for torvald and for their appearance in society. she is torvald's sex kitten, she is constantly being objectified him him through his names and his attitude toward her and idea that she is his property. however, by the end of the play, i have the utmost respect for nora. after her secret has been exposed, torvald goes crazy with anger. she was willing to sacrifice her life for his by committing suicide but he catches her before she leaves the house. he says that nora ruined his life but he won't let her leave and demands that they pretend that nothing in wrong so they don't sacrifice his reputation anymore. however, after torvald receives a letter from krostad saying that he will stop blackmailing nora, torvald adopts a completely different attitude. he is glad that the ordeal is over and life can go back to normal. he tells nora to rely on him as her guardian and teacher as they attempt to put their life back together, "because he loves her and finds her all the more attractive for her dependence upon him." his gender bias is especially apparent in this statement and his idea of a wife. nora can't go back to their life after she understands how torvald really perceives her. she was hoping for something glorious to happen, he would love her anyways and appreciate what she did for him, and sacrifice himself for her and for love. torvald tells her that no man can sacrifice his honor, his integrity for love and nora replies that “hundreds of thousands of women have.? she has a revelation and she realizes the stifling oppression of torvald that she has been living under, how she is defined solely by being a wife and a mother, she has no real identity of her own, she has always been trying to please the male figures in her life, her father and husband, she has always sacrificed her ideas and who is for her men, and they treated her as a beautiful creature with no real substance. all of her illusions about love and the men of her life shatter and understands now that they never thought of her as an individual and she decides that she must leave torvald in order to find herself, define herself in her own terms. she realizes that she is as important as torvald and she is independent of him, it is necessary to let him control her life, she wants to take control of her life, she has a responsibility to herself above all. torvald tells her she must stay and fulfill her sacred duties as a wife and a mother, but she doesn't believe in that anymore. she has just as much of a duty to herself and she finally realizes that she is a human being over any of her other prescribed roles.

what this play says to me:
an anti-sexist perspective is capable from a man, biases and stereotypes of women can be broken.