We’ve got two Friday feminist funny films today, both of which deal with Twilight. This is in honour of the release of the 3rd film, which my roommates remind me is coming out at the end of June.
To be right up front, I’m not a fan. I saw the first movie because my sister and I were on Hornby Island, it was raining, and let’s face it: there wasn’t much else to do. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen, but I’m gonna side with the makers of the following two films.
Feminist Frequency has a cute take on the right and wrong reasons for guys to dislike Twilight:
And in case you missed it, here’s a mash-up of Buffy vs. Edward:
And this has absolutely nothing to do with the FFFF theme, but I’m ridiculously over-excited about going to see The Manhattan Transfer tomorrow with my Dad – their first time in Vancouver in many many years. So for those many, many of you who aren’t 24-year-olds who like super cheezy vocal jazz, here is an example of their trademark 80s awesomeness. If they don’t do coordinated finger-snapping on Saturday, I will be highly disappointed.
Here is the list of books I’ve read this spring, along with mini-reviews of approximately 2 sentences each.
Books from my “I should really read that” list:
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’d read North and South and last year tackled Wives and Daughters but hadn’t been able to really get into Cranford, which is a series of vignettes of small-town life, originally published as a serial. But when I found a lovely 1912 edition at the thrift store I decided to give it another go and was really glad I did: the stories are lively and engaging and the characters fascinating. You could almost imagine that you, as the reader, were sojourning in Cranford just like the narrator. And for the record, the miniseries with Judi Dench is the best BBC costume drama I’ve ever seen.
Slaughterhouse Five. I picked this book up at one of my favourite places in the whole world: The Strand bookstore in Manhattan. I read it on the train to Washington, DC, and it was a quick read, but one of those books that really stays with you and demands that you contemplate it.
Five Major Plays by Oscar Wilde. This collection included two plays I’d already read: Earnest and An Ideal Husband, as well as 3 I hadn’t: A Woman of No Importance, Lady Windermere’s Fan, and Salome. The first 4 plays are funny, quick reads, but Salome is much darker and has some really interesting gender dynamics that I think will require more reflection on my part.
I’m practically an expert on Swedish mystery novels now that I’ve made it through all of Håkan Nesser’s books, most of Henning Mankell’s, and now all but one of Åke Edwardson’s Inspector Winter novels.
During my New York trip I devoured 2 of Edwardson’s novels: Death Angels and Never End. While Inspector Winter came across as slightly less of a feminist hero than in Frozen Tracks, which I read last year, they had the same balance between thoughtfulness and suspense that drew me to Edwardson’s work in the first place.
He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know. This book by Feministing founder Jessica Valenti isn’t for those looking for an in-depth discussion of feminist theory, but it’s a fun and accessible volume designed to be used as a tool for young feminists to recognize and help others recognize the sexist double standards that exist in our society. Each mini-chapter also has an action item, which is hugely useful. For example on the “He’s a politician, she’s a fashion-plate” double-standard that sees women politicians judged more on their looks than men, Valenti suggests writing letters to the editor, encouraging friends to run for office, and looking into organizations that promote women’s leadership.
This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians can Save us all by Marilyn Johnson. If you want a low-stress read and you happen to be a library nerd, check out this book. Full of stories of librarians of all kinds, including some really neat tales about librarian bloggers, Johnson’s book is a heart-warming testament to the continuing importance of libraries and public access to information, even in tough economic times and during an age of increasing computerization.
Random Other Reads
Solar by Ian McEwan. I went to McEwan’s reading of this book in Vancouver, hosted by the Vancouver International Writers Festival, and found McEwan highly entertaining, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Unfortunately, despite my love for some of his other books (notably Saturday and Amsterdam) I actually almost didn’t finish Solar. While the premise – a gluttonous and libidinous Nobel-prize-winning Physicist personifying man’s worst traits working on climate change issues – was smart and funny, the novel’s pace really slowed almost to a stand-still later on and really made reading it feel like a chore.
Swann by Carol Shields. I’m a huge Carol Shields fan and was lucky enough to get a postcard from her in response to a letter I wrote her in grade 12, only months before she died. But I hadn’t gotten around to reading Swann, the tale of a mysterious rural Ontario woman poet and how her story becomes re-defined by the people whose lives her poetry influenced. I’d definitely put this on my favourite books list – it has a similar combination of satire and sentiment to The Stone Diaries with the added element of mystery that makes it a genuine page-turner.
Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits by Linda Gordon. I mentioned this book while I was reading it, so I won’t go too much in-depth. Suffice it to say this was a fascinating biography about Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange’s life, art, and politics and it was hugely engaging from a feminist and progressive political perspective.
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon. I really enjoyed this alternative-timeline novel about a hard-boiled detective solving a murder in a Jewish community in Alaska on the eve of its dissolution. Chabon’s turn of phrase is highly unique, almost quirky, and it makes you feel like you’ve actually met Meyer Landsman and stayed the night in his dingy hotel room.
Now I’m digging into The Family by Jeff Sharlet and In Spite of Myself, memoirs by Christopher Plummer, but I’m having back surgery in June and will be off work for 1-2 weeks, so if anyone has any recommendations for that time, post them in the comments below!
P.S. If you’ve read this far you’ll probably like Bookshelf Porn (don’t worry; it’s definitely safe for work).
It could’ve been the premise to an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. On May 10, parents of students at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary in Surrey received a letter from the school principal, warning them about a Facebook contest designed by grade 11 and 12 boys to see who could sleep with the most grade 8 girls. The boys called it the Little Girl Slayers Club: a contest that sees sex with younger girls as a way of adding a notch to a boy’s belt.
While it’s unclear how many students were involved or what activities actually took place, the underlying view of young girls as objects to be used and tossed aside is unsettling enough on its own.
So the immediate problem has been responded to, but this incident should be a wakeup call for the Ministry of Education and schools across BC to take a hard look at our sex ed programs. Are kids getting comprehensive, consistent sex education at an early age that not only informs about the risks, but also empowers students to make positive decisions about sex and relationships?
Currently, sex education in BC is inconsistent, according to a 2004 report by Options for Sexual Health. Using Health Canada’s guidelines for sexual health education, Options brought together youth, public health practitioners, educators, and representatives from government and non-profits to discuss the state of sex ed in BC.
Differences in training for educators, a lack of discussion of sexual orientation, and the tendency for sex ed to be taught in one-shot sessions with no opportunity for follow-up are also issues that were brought up and still need to be addressed. One of the key themes that emerged was concern about the narrow scope of the classes: “All voices expressed concern that the focus of sexual health education is too narrow, too risk-dominated, and lacking in emphasis on relationship and decision-making skills.”
Education after a problem has occurred, as in the situation in Surrey, is definitely a positive step. But if we want to prevent future Little Girl Slayers Clubs, schools need to do sex education starting younger and in a way that tells students of all genders that girls are not notches to be added to your belt.
For many of us, what goes on within Canada’s prisons is a mystery – out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, earlier this month a report revealed some disturbing trends regarding women in prison. It indicated that the number of women starting federal prison sentences in Canada has increased by more than 50% in the past decade; this is compared to a 15% increase for men.
In Canada, it is women who represent the fastest growing segment of the inmate population.
Incarcerated women share a particular profile. Many, prior to incarceration, were poor or homeless, under-educated, and suffering from addictions & mental health problems. In addition, the Elizabeth Fry Society reports that 82% of women incarcerated in Canadian prisons have a history of sexual or physical abuse. This stat rises to an alarming 91% for Aboriginal women.
While not downplaying the criminal behaviour of female inmates, my intention here is to argue that the dichotomies often invoked within our society in reference to criminals, such as good/evil, victim/offender, right/wrong – are not clear cut. The reality is much more complex.
This report clearly illustrates that in addition to committing crimes, the majority of women behind bars are also victims. They are victims of continued cuts to health and social services which provide the resources, materials and support required to build lives, communities and futures. In addition, unacceptably high numbers of these women are also victims of sexual and physical violence – horrific crimes which can destroy lives.
Aboriginal women make up 33% of Canada’s prison population, but only 3% of the general population. Many of these women’s experiences with racism and the legacy of colonialism are inextricably related to their experiences as offenders. 28% of Aboriginal offenders were raised as wards in the community, and 15% were in residential schools.
The way I see it, Canadians pay when cuts are made to essential services and individuals cannot get the help and support they need to build their lives. Canadians also pay, to incarcerate individuals when they break the law. Finally, no matter how good the rehabilitative efforts may or may not be within prisons, Canadians pay when inmates are released back into the same dismal conditions which led to their incarceration in the first place and as a result re-offend.
I strongly believe that as a society, before we sentence women and men to spend large chunks of their lives in prison – isolated and caged like animals; we have a responsibility to do everything we can to prevent individuals from entering lives of crime.
More can be done and a crucial component is restoring and investing in social programs and health based services.
Here’s your Friday Feminist Funny Film. Ok, it’s not so much haha funny, but it’s an awesome scene from The West Wing, wherein feminist lobbyist Amy Gardner schools Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman on marriage incentives.
I have a new article up at the Vancouver Observer about 25-year-old social entrepreneur Annalea Krebs, who is connecting people with local socially responsible organizations through her website, TheChange. Read the article here.
Gender Across Borders has also put together a neat list of ways in which IDAHOT was observed around the world. For my part, I’m making a commitment to continue to work as an ally for social justice and equality for LGBTQ people and to better integrate discussion of queer issues and identities into this blog, because recognizing that sex, gender and sexual identities as socially constructed and fluid is key to the way I see feminism.
Feminists With Disabilities has a response to people who ask why they blog about pop culture and social justice. They outline and address common critiques and discuss why it’s important to keep looking at pop culture as well as addressing larger structural issues.
There’s an old guy who lives in my neighbourhood. He stops anyone who’ll listen to his racist rants about how we give immigrants too many rights and how “they” are taking “our” jobs and taking over the country. I don’t think the people he talks to ever seriously wondered what would happen if we gave him his own state to run.
But over the last few weeks we’ve found out, thanks to the craziness going on in Arizona.
Sarah Palin with Jan Brewer, supporting the "papers, please" bill
It started when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill into law that allows police to demand “proof of immigration status” if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that a person may be in the country illegally.
No one has convincingly been able to argue that this “papers, please” bill won’t lead to racial profiling. When asked what she thought an illegal immigrant looks like, Brewer stated, “I do not know. I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell you that I think there are people in Arizona that assume they know what an illegal immigrant looks like.” As the Philadelphia Daily News said: “Want to bet these “people” think illegal immigrants look like Latinos?”
Despite numerous cities, including Los Angeles and Boston, moving to boycott city business dealings and staff travel to Arizona, other states are predicted to jump on the “papers, please” bandwagon as anti-immigration activists help them write clone laws. Already a Michigan state legislator is set to introduce her version of the law in the next couple of weeks.
As if “papers, please” weren’t a big enough move in the wrong direction, now Arizona has again made history by passing legislation that attempts to ban public school classes that “are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group.”
I guess I just heard that headline in passing, because initially I thought, “Oh my God, they’re shutting down the entire school system!” But then I found out that apparently they don’t care if courses and curricula are geared to white students; they’re mostly targeting ethnic studies classes geared towards Mexican or Chicano students.
Apparently Arizona State Superintendent Tom Horne says these classes foster race resentment, hence the portion of the legislation that goes on to ban classese that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people . . . and advocate ethnic solidarity.”
Since passing these bills, Arizona has been called out by a group of 6 UN human rights experts for potentially violating international human rights standards (the “papers, please” bill) and denying individuals the right to learn about their cultural and linguistic heritage.
Talking Points Memo notes the politically expeditious timing of the legislation for Horne, who is currently locked in a heated Republican primary battle. And Michael Yaki at the San Francisco Chronicle has a great analysis of why the ethnic studies bill’s terms are so incredibly suggestive as to make it unenforceable, and why the intent behind it is so wrong.
And if you look at what’s actually happening in these classes, Horne’s case seems pretty weak. The Tucson ABC news affiliate KGUN9 looked at one of the targeted textbooks, Chicano!, which teaches the history of racial oppression targeted against Mexican-American and Hispanic populations. Apparently the book is under fire because it has pictures of protesters with fists in the air, and pictures Che Guevara without discussing that he was a Marxist revolutionary leader. Next thing you know, Horne’s going to be trying to pass a bill to ban Che T-shirts, too.
The Tuscon District’s director of Mexican-American/Raza studies maintains that the classes discuss Chicano social uprisings as historical events and are not inciting protest. Not to mention, since the programs began, graduation rates and literacy and math scores for Mexican-American students enrolled in the program have skyrocketed. But who cares about a kid’s test scores when on the weekend she might be out (insert suspenseful music here)…raising her fist at something!
Seems like Horne could stand to take a bit of a history lesson himself: when you try to tell a group of people to stop accessing information and expressing themselves through peaceful protest, it generally just serves to galvanize the people you’re trying to suppress.
I’ll leave you with a funny clip from Friday’s Rachel Maddow Show, where Kent Jones discusses how he could help Arizona re-brand after all this: