Friday, July 07, 2006

Movies and Fasting

I watched the riveting HBO movie Iron Jawed Angels last night. It begins in 1912 with Alice Paul and Lucy Burns leading the next generation of suffragettes through 8 years of activism that finally leads to the ratification of the 19th amendment on August 20th, 1920.

This is a powerful, important movie. While a fictionalized version of events, it stays true to the heart of those infamous events led by a group of dedicated activists determined to gain the right of voting for everyone. It's horrifying to actually see activists stoned for quietly, and peacefully, picketing in front of the White House. Women are egged, stoned, attacked and spat upon by spectators.

Inside those hallowed halls, politicans are plotting how to get rid of them. One telling scene has one man saying they ought to be jailed for treason because of the remarks stitched onto the women's banners. The other man in the room points out that the women are quoting President Woodrow Wilson himself.

The most inspiring, yet most terrifying, scenes are the ones set in Occoquan, a Virginia women's "workhouse." This is where the hunger strikes come in. Alice Paul refuses to eat. When taken out of solitary and returned to the general population, she still refuses to eat and inspires the rest of the suffragettes at Occoquan to join the hunger strike. Paul is force fed in the most horrifying ways and the story does not flinch from this horror.

It is not hard to draw parallels between a movement that happened not quite 100 years ago to a movement that is happening now. Especially when things like this happen.
Geoffrey Millard, 25, an Iraq War veteran who served on active combat duty for 13 months, walked into a break in the parade with a sign that read: “Support the Troops, Bring Them Home Now.” He was dressed in his military jacket with “Iraq Veterans Against the War” on the back and his many medals pinned to the front. He was stopped by the police, and when he tried again to enter the parade with his anti-war message and was subsequently arrested.
Also arrested was Chloe Jon-Paul, 71, of CODEPINK: Women for Peace. She attempted to enter the march with her sign after Millard, and was also arrested by the police.

While she was being arrested, Jon-Paul said to the police, “I’m a 71-year-old woman. I don’t want to be arrested. But if you’re preventing our veterans from speaking for peace by arresting them, well, you’ll have to arrest me too.”
GW isn't the first to have people arrested for exercising their 1st amendment rights and disagreeing with him. But he should learn from the history books, Wilson changed his position and supported the 19th amendment, called the Susan B. Anthony amendment.

The current administration needs to learn that you can't keep the discontent quiet and the energy of dedicated activists is not a power to be fooled with.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

It Bears Repeating

Women in Iraq are getting the shaft when it comes to rights. Terri Judd's article For the Women of Iraq, the War Is Just Beginning last month covered some of the many atrocities anyone not of the male gender faces. It's horrifying to think things were better for women under Saddam Hussein's regime.
Under Saddam, women played little part in political life but businesswomen and academics travelled the country unchallenged while their daughters mixed freely with male students at university.
Now women are being shaved bald for not wearing a scarf or are stoned for wearing make-up. Wearing pants is considered a killing offense.

It is clear that fundamentalist Islamic men, like their fundamentalist Christian counterparts, are not reading their holy books and remembering their religious history. They have forgotten
Muhammad became a merchant. One of his employers was Khadijah, a forty-year-old widow. She was impressed with Muhammad's character and intelligence, and proposed to him in the year 595. Muhammad consented to the marriage, which by all accounts was a happy one. [1]
Yes, you read that right. Muhammad's (peace be unto him) wife was a business woman and proposed to him. He worked for a woman, married her and had children. When he began to receive revelations from Allah, she supported his work and converted, helping to spread the word of Islam.

There is no way I can be sure, but I'll bet both Muhammad and Jesus are seriously angry at what is happening in their "name" right now.

Source: [1] Wikipedia - Mohammed

Always read Barbara Ehrenreich when you get the chance...

...especially when she takes on the those who would undermine Feminism, or undervalue its gains...

Feminism, as you've probably been reading for the last 20 years, is dead. Most women today want to smash through the glass ceiling, run for the Senate, and buy contraceptives at will (not to mention abortions, at least if the fetus they're carrying turns out to be "defective.") But feminism? It's just a bunch of hairy-legged, man-hating, harridans screaming slogans that were already obsolete in the era of Charlie's Angels.

The latest nail in the coffin comes from Ana Marie Cox, the famed blogger known as "wonkette," in her snarky review of Katha Pollitt's new book Virginity or Death! And Other Social and Political Issues of Our Times. (New York Times Book Review, July 2.) All right, I have a personal stake in this: I wrote a blurb for the book, I'm a friend of Pollitt's, and I'm a little on the strident side myself.

Enjoy the rest of Ehrenreich's response...

Cox's piece is also available online, and here is a telling excerpt:

Progressives have certainly seen setbacks in recent years— from the creeping war on contraception to the perception that they lack the stomach for pragmatic policy calls. One could view these as losses in a continuing debate, but Pollitt's columns evoke a siege. "The truth is, most of the good things about this country have been fought for by liberals," she warns in a 2004 pre-election column. "If conservatives had carried the day, blacks would still be in the back of the bus, women would be barefoot and pregnant, medical care would be on a cash-only basis, there'd be mouse feet in your breakfast cereal and workers would still be sleeping next to their machines." [emphasis mine]

Cox's sentence that I emphasized above is just one of those examples of a so-called progressive pundit accepting, without question, the Right's framing of an issue to their own benefit. First: that such losses are merely "part of a continuing debate," rather than an accurate reflection of the actual shift of the political center toward the Right. Second: that Pollitt would "evoke a siege" with her writing, when one of the main epithets the Right hurls at the Left (especially progressive women) is that we are angry. (In order to forego a discussion of the validity of such anger?) That she mentions that the quote which follows is from a 2004 pre-election column, perhaps instead demonstrates Pollitt's prescience. If you actually read Cox's blog in the past, and can contrast her material with Ehrenreich's, which one of them would you rather have speaking for the Left and for Progressives?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Women to be Admired: Sophia Loren

Objectification is bad, whoever's doing it.

A (now former) friend, who was in the habit of openly saying "wow!" loudly and staring whenever a handsome young (and I do mean young) man came into her field of vision, and I were having lunch one sunny afternoon. The topic of objectification came up. My unsurprising egalitarian attitude is that objectification of either gender is wrong.

She said, "Well, I figure they've been doing it to us for centuries so it's okay for us to do it." My jaw dropped and then I wondered why I had been so surprised by this comment. She stared me down from across the table, "I'm not wrong," she challenged. There's nothing that can be said to this so I closed my mouth and concentrated on lunch.

But, when Pirelli tires announced that none other than Sophia Loren will be posing nude in their 2007 calendar, my first thought was, "You go girl!"

In a world that equates youth with beauty and has forgotten the wisdom to be found in the elder population, it seems refreshing to know that somewhere there is someone who is not afraid to honour a 72 year old woman who once represented youth and beauty and now represents age, beauty and wisdom.

for a banquet-like Fast... that is, both festive & elegant...

...just check out these photos on CodePink's website ...about their fast to protest the war. Their demands are simple-- not easy for this administration, I'll grant, nor for this Congress, either, apparently-- but still they are simple:

The fasters are demanding that we bring our troops home from Iraq. They want the White House and Congress to call for:

    • The withdrawal of all U.S. from Iraq;
    • No permanent bases in Iraq;
    • A commitment to fund a massive reconstruction effort but with funds going to Iraqi, not U.S., contractors.
And be sure to read Lyssa Strada contributor Stephanie's account of her fast. The link is in the post just below this one.

And, if any Lyssa Strada readers are also inspired to follow suit, please tell us about it in comments or via email, and we'll post your story, too.

Fasting for Peace

I fasted on the 4th of July for peace.
A political fast is about making a statement. Since I was quiet about my fast until now, my political fast was inner driven. I used it to concentrate my energy on thinking about peace and independence, in all the modes I could think of. I’m extending that process into 2 days of eating MRE’s. Today is about the experience of what soldiers in the field eat, while extending my emotional energy toward peace and support for troops deployed all over the world.
My entire journal of the process is in 3 parts at Blither, Blather, Bloviate. I'm still processing the effects this has had on me. I can say I'm definitely not sorry for the experience, nor am I regretting the MRE's. I would be less than honest if I didn't say I was looking forward to regular food on Friday!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

If It Makes Sense, Just Ignore It

The roomful of clerks solves the ills of the world on a regular basis. Of course, they know no one will listen to them because the solutions make so much sense. Who knew that someone as wise as Molly Ivins was listening? In her article, Politics or Insanity?, she suggests some of the very things the clerks have been discussing.
You want to shut down illegal immigration? You want to use the military as police? Make it illegal hire undocumented workers and put the National Guard into enforcing that. Then rewrite NAFTA and invest in Mexico.
Hello? The reasoning behind this is similar to what the clerks have been saying.
Mexican immigrants keep crossing the border because they can get jobs here -- and most of those jobs are provided by companies whose CEOs support George W. Bush. That's where he can have an impact on the problem, should he choose to do so.
Help Mexico have a viable economy and everyone wins. This is so common sense, the clerks don't understand what those in power don't understand about this. Evidently, as Ms. Ivins points out, they are all living in fantasy land.


Most Americans can remember the first stanza or so of America's other national anthem, AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL. The spacious skies, the amber waves of grain, the fruited plain, and so on from sea to shining sea. Unlike the STAR-SPANGLED BANNER, its tune is easy enough that most people can actually sing it and hit all the notes. AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL was written by a woman named Katherine Lee Bates, inspired by the view from the top of Pike's Peak, a 14,000 odd ft. peak that overshadows Colorado Springs, Colorado. She was the daughter of a Congregationalist Minister; she herself was deeply religious but as an adult could find no home for her faith in any church. She was a prolific poet, and a professor of English at Wellesley, but other than this unofficial national anthem, her work and her name are forgotten.

Katharine Lee Bates lived for twenty-five years with Katharine Coman in a committed partnership that has sometimes been described as a "romantic friendship." Bates wrote, after Coman died, "So much of me died with Katharine Coman that I'm sometimes not quite sure whether I'm alive or not."

Many Americans who mouth the remembered words of her love song to her country would condemn this woman today, three ways from Sunday, as my Grandmother would put it. Today, many good Christians in these United States would deny her faith as false, see her hope as evil, judge her love as sinful.

But there are other words in Katherine Bates' song that are not sung or remembered by Americans on days like today, the 230th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (which also has a lot of words to it that most American citizens don't bother to read or remember).

Words like:

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!


O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!


America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!


O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!


America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!

Goddess Archetypes in Everywoman

I came across this link while perusing this blog's stats. (You just never know what you will find.) However, since the link is to an interview with author Jean Shinoda Bolen, and discusses her very interesting book, Goddesses in Everywoman: a new psychology of women, I thought it merited its own post.

The interview is short, but worthwhile. Here's an excerpt:

MISHLOVE: You know, Freud once wrote towards the end of his career that in spite of all his investigation into the psychology of men and women he was never able to answer the basic question, what does Woman want? It seems as if in your psychology of the goddesses, you really are addressing that question. These goddess archetypes represent the different things that women want.

BOLEN: Yes. And it varies from woman to woman, that's the other thing.

MISHLOVE: And varies from time to time for a single woman, also.

BOLEN: Yes, because at different times in your life a goddess pattern will be much stronger. For example, if you're a teenage girl, it could be that you are a horse-crazy Artemis, who just wants to go ride horses, be a backpacking Girl Scout in the wilderness. Or you could be an Aphrodite that is really boy crazy. Or you could be a scientific-minded, chess-playing Athena, or a meditative Hestia, or something like that. And it's pretty clear at that time that there's one or two goddesses that really run the show for a while. And then, come your adult years, it may be that you will get married, and Hera will get a vote, or may not. It may be that you'll have a baby, and Demeter, the mother, will be evoked; or it might not. You know, when Demeter is not evoked, it can be very sad. I had a number of people say to me, "Go see Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People. Then you'll realize what my mother was like." Basically what they were saying is: "I had a mother who was my biological mother, but at some deep level she didn't bond with me, and I knew it." And what is said is that often the woman knows it too. She may know that she felt it for another child, and isn't bonded at this deeper level with this particular one.

However, you may also want to check out Bolen's own site: for information about the Millionth Circle initiative, and her other books, especially this one:

Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World "Gather the women, save the world" is a message from Mother Earth, Mother Goddess, Mother archetype. The words evoke an intuitive recognition, a wisdom whose time has come. Women as a gender, not every woman but women generally, have a wisdom that is needed. This is a call from the Sacred Feminine to bring the feminine principle which most women and some men embody into consciousness and culture. When there is a critical mass and the tipping point is reached, gender balance ends patriarchy,and peace becomes possible.

[Image: Hestia]

Monday, July 03, 2006

Victoria's Secret Breasts

This post is a follow-on to Karen M's post about breastfeeding.
It's kind of ironic that Victoria's Secret, which plasters breasts everywhere, is offended at seeing breasts used for their intended purpose.
And here we are again, with another mother being asked to use the bathroom to nurse her baby because breastfeeding makes someone uncomfortable. This incident happened in Racine, WI.

The nursing mom's solution? One so radical and subversive, it deserves attention and applause. About 20 women and children staged a "nurse-in" in front of the store as part of a national "nurse-in."

40 US states have some form of legislation regarding breastfeeding. Wisconsin exempts breastfeeding from criminal statutes.

This is not the first time Victoria's Secret has had complaints from nursing mothers. Massachusetts and Ohio stores have also had issues. According to a spokesman who must be frustrated at having to spend so much of his time apologizing and explaining company policy, Victoria's Secret allows nursing mothers in their stores. Apparently the staff isn't getting the message, and are actually telling nursing mothers that it's against company policy.

Good for the moms for standing up for the health of their children and good for Victoria's Secret's official company policy. Bad for the employees who don't get it and keep insisting that moms feed their children in the bathroom.

Educate, educate, educate!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The first woman bishop of the Catholic Church?

NPR's Krista Tippett introduces this week's edition of "Speaking of Faith:" "In over 50 years as a Benedictine nun, Sister Joan Chittister has emerged as a powerful and uncomfortable voice in Roman Catholicism and in global politics. If women were ordained in the Catholic Church in our lifetime, some say, Joan Chittister would be the first female bishop."

Quote: "How many snowflakes does it take to break a branch. I don't know, but I want to be there to do my part... if I'm a snowflake." --Sr. Joan Chittister, on the process of women creating change within the Catholic Church.

From Tippett's online journal:

Always on the go, she had squeezed me into her schedule during a three-hour layover at Chicago Midway airport. She was, I wrote in my notes, "a whirlwind in purple." Several times she whisked out a miniature dictaphone and recorded questions and reminders for herself and her assistant. She'd published four books already that year alone. And she was as fun as she was formidable. "I've never missed a party," she told me, "and I don't like to be left out of one." If I possessed any lingering stereotypes about nuns, I left them forever behind in that airport lounge.

For some, the words that describe Joan Chittister might seem to be a contradiction in terms: Roman Catholic monastic, interfaith social activist, feminist. But I understand Joan Chittister to be at one and the same time engaged with worldly reality and with the sense of paradox often found at the heart of religion. She is a modern woman who draws her sustenance and vision from immersion in a 1500-year-old monastic tradition.

Listen to the interview. No matter what your faith, or lack thereof, Joan Chittister is fascinating, perhaps because of what she gained as the product of a "mixed" marriage-- a Catholic mother and a Protestant father. In one anecdote she describes becoming fascinated with monastic women at her biological father's funeral when she was about three years old. In another she describes the day she learned in school that her beloved step-father and his Protestant relatives were not eligible for entry into Heaven.

It is astonishing that this author of more than 30 books thought as a young nun that she must give up her greatest passion-- writing-- and did, for some decades.

I hold no brief for Catholicism, or for that matter, for most branches of organized religion. Still, I can only admire this woman's dedication to her own paradox of being both a Catholic nun and a feminist, and her efforts to change the degree to which women are included in the Church. If we must have a Catholic Church, then it should be one that does not, to paraphrase Sr. Joan, use only one half of its population, its heart, and its mind. (I'm going to re-listen and correct that.)
I was only half-awake while listening to this show, my usual routine, since it airs Sunday mornings at 7:00 a.m., but I missed the end of it when I finally went outside to try and get our neighbor's attention-- to ask him if he knew what time it was-- it took a few minutes, because he couldn't hear me over the roar of his gas-powered hedge shears. Another potential bullet item for our agenda: Noise Pollution.