Saturday, February 18, 2017

In the beginning, ballet: Coppélia 1982 (Sydney)

A tense moment in the wedding ceremony (Act III)
Me and the mad professor - a good fit (Act II)
Oops (fortunately there was nothing to pop out)

The moment of truth
And they all lived happily ever after
(Thank you, the Sydney City Ballet)
Butterfly lift to close the ceremony - and why not!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Black and What? American Crime Story

The good guys (mostly) in the film. The public and media
generally disliked and derided District Attorney Marcia Clark throughout
the OJ trial. 
We've just finished watching the Netflix dramatisation of the OJ case and trial The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story that won a bunch of Emmys earlier this month and deservedly so; it's seriously powerful TV.

And what a story! You could never invent it and yet it is so telling of the human experience, especially in America. But somehow we, those who write stories that try to be realistic, cannot quite bring ourselves to admit that there are no actual heroes, black or white, and so our stories lack that truth edge that makes this series so gripping, and, too, so very sad in reminding us what a deeply prejudiced world we live in - like we needed reminding. Actually, incredibly, it seems we still do.

I remember the trial well and how seeing the footage of the hordes of 'Not Guilty' protesters before the verdict, especially the women, made my blood boil, and I think pushed me down the road to writing a PhD on domestic violence and homicide, which I began the year after the trial (and which nearly killed me).

Spoiler alert: The fact that the mostly black jury came back with their not-guilty verdict in record quick time - they were expecting it to take weeks and it took four hours - was also a shattering blow for me at the time, and I expect for any woman who feels that our lives (and brutal deaths) have always mattered less than the lives of men, whatever our skin colour, though Ron Goldman's family felt the series didn't do his life and death justice. But Ron was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The case wasn't, to be fair, about him. Whereas it was about Nicole, who had been a victim of OJ's violence for many years and had run to the police on many occasions terrified for her life - which was all on record - but they never did anything to punish OJ and so he killed her, as she knew he would. So the racism of the LAPD was not in full force through all those years then, it seems. And Nicole's story is the battered woman's story the world over, black and white, rich and poor, but still we keep letting it happen, though it leaves children without mothers the world over, surely the worst outcome for everybody.

But for black women the OJ case was clearly much more about racism than sexism, or the leaving of two young (half black) children without a mother. I am not black, so I can't relate to that and the case was clearly about sexism and its devastating consequences for me. But perhaps that is my prejudice. I don't think it is but I guess it's hard to be sure. All I know for sure is that I am a woman and that I want to stand up for those women of all races who get a raw deal when it comes to male violence against them.

But the trial wasn't about sexism or gender. The trial was about race and racism, which the series shows well. The extent to which black men and women (in the general public, on the jury and on the defence's legal team) identified with OJ was clearly enough to systematically sabotage the trial to make a point about the racism of the LAPD and the USA more broadly. It was also aimed at making sure a clearly guilty black man didn't go to prison for a brutal double homicide (of a white woman and man), even though that rich black man had way more friends in the police force and rich white community than he had in the black community.

Watching this trial in 2017 and knowing what has happened since, I can't help thinking that this framing of the case did not do those in the black community in the US any favours, although maybe it helped politicise them, which in turn might have helped elect Obama, which was clearly a good thing for the black community - and many others. Maybe it even politicised Obama (along with the Rodney King trial and riots, which Netflix shows footage of at the start of the series); I don't know. I would really like to find out what he and Michelle, both lawyers, made of the trial and series.

Bottom line, I think we all need to see ourselves as clearly and honestly as possible and this series does that as well as any I've seen. We, humankind - as symbolised here by the people of all skin colours who live in the country known as the leader of the free world - are clearly profoundly racist and sexist and they/we don't have to be. I think the series shows us this too, and in this way gives us all some hope that we can be better - and we must.

Certainly, it seems very timely.

Thmerican Crime Story

Sunday, February 12, 2017

While whales beach

1 day ago
While more than 400 pilot whales beached themselves in a remote part of the South Island of Aotearoa - named, ironically, Farewell Spit - and as many human volunteers rushed from all over to try and save them, only for another pod of more than 200 to beach nearby two days later, with more than 300 whales lost in total so far, I have been busy beaching myself on the dry shores of my own self pity about problems that seem bigger than whales to me, but to others are no doubt not even the size of a slug washed up, after a long life well lived, on the back porch in the shade. Just as well those whales weren't counting on me.

Some problems are whale sized, others are slug sized or smaller, and it doesn't hurt to put your slug-size problems into perspective now and then. And when whales beach themselves in your neighbourhood, that's not a bad time to set aside your personal slugs and do what you can to help, even if it's only writing a blog about it instead of the woe-is-me blog you had in mind to write instead (I'll save that for later; I'm sure the woe will keep).

So for now I want to wish all power to those women and men who are still fighting to save the whales up north and thank you for the long hours of time given to making our world a kinder, bigger-hearted place.

PS: No slugs were harmed in the making of this blog or suggestion made that slugs are in any way less valuable than whales, just that they are rather smaller - and slimier.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Pussy power

It's my birthday and I can celebrate pussy power if I want to.

Last week's TIME cover delivered Trump air fisting - that eternal symbol of peace and love - so I am glad that the cover in my birthday week is one more fitting and less fisting.

The whole reclaiming of 'pussy' as a term of women's empowerment and unity rather than denigration by sleaze balls like the pussy grabber and fister in chief, and as neatly symbolised by a pink 'pussy hat' - because it is pink after all - fills me with a sense of sisterhood that I can honestly say as a feminist I have not felt in my rather long lifetime before.

So happy birthday me, thank you TIME, and pussy power to one and all!

And if you're wondering what to get me for my birthday, even if it is summer here, please feel free to take the hint. Purr, purr... (I can't knit).


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Facebook "feminism"

So a woman who calls herself The Kitsch Bitsch posted this newspaper article from 1963 on Facebook two days ago and since then it's had over 800 shares, a friend of mine among them, which is where I came across it.

Cultural causes of/responses to domestic violence was one of the subjects of my PhD thesis but only up to 2007, so not quite capturing the phenomenon of 'Facebook "feminism"' which has taken off in the last decade. I could have found this article though, pity I didn't. It's fairly telling.

I qualify "feminism" here because most of what gets posted and discussed on Facebook tends towards making light of the problem raised and at worst, openly mocking it, which perpetuates anti-feminist thoughts and deeds, however innocently intended, and cannot really be called feminism - that which works towards reducing male privilege by strengthening women's voices, rights and freedoms - unlike this article.

The KB herself states in response to some of the angrier male comments to her post that her Facebook page 'is a place for fun and escape from politics' and this was merely intended as a retro look back for purposes of amusement. Many of the ensuing comments, by women, said how amusing they found the clipping.

The few responses to my friend's share of the clipping were in this light-hearted vain, so I posted this comment: 'In the English common law practised in all English-speaking countries until relatively recently, husbands had the right to 'discipline' their wives with a stick provided the stick was no thicker than a man's thumb (pretty effing thick).'

My friend and another female friend of hers responded with disbelief (in brief) then a male friend of hers (Adam) responded thus: 'I soo want to comment on this thread... but I'm a scaredy pants so I won't'. Suspecting he wanted to make fun of my comment I replied: 'You just did', because that sort of comment says a lot - as he well knew - which then got my friend and her female friends goading him coquettishly - 'come on, we won't bite' - to make his comment and him replying again 'I am so tempted...', then more goading, until he finally mentioned BDSM.

Then followed a fun little exchange between them about spanking and BDSM, which ended with our original man Adam exclaiming 'Nurse!!!!' I'm sure he's a natural born comedian.

I didn't respond again but thought hard about telling my friend that taking the male point of view to be cool in the eyes of men at the expense of making light of violence against women is a very powerful anti-feminist force that has been feeding misogynistic sentiment and violence for centuries, but didn't. I went to bed instead.

This morning, when I took another look, someone (a woman) had mentioned Russia decriminalising wife beating so I looked it up and sure enough! So I posted this article on that subject, which is sadly all too true, on my friend's page and then on the original woman's page with the comment: 'Not history, not fun'. On my friend's page I posted 'If he beats you it means he loves you', a quote from the article.

So much for always wanting to be Russian. So much for Facebook changing the world - for the better.  

Monday, January 30, 2017

Modern man

Ghandi once said the test of a society's humanity is how it treats its animals. As much as I can see the simple truth of this sentiment, as a feminist who has long studied men and women in various cultures, it is all too clear to me that the much more profound and ultimate test of our humanity is in how women are treated - by men; a test that all societies fail in some degree and most fail almost completely.

Men in all societies in some degree fail to treat women with the respect and dignity we deserve for all that we have done and continue to do for humankind. There are exceptions of course, and Obama is perhaps the best of these exceptions. In the genuine respect, affection and admiration he has for his wife, he has shown the world what a man should and could be in this first duty of treating women with respect. Trump is showing the world, in the most brazen and base way possible, the very opposite; the sadly much more common way that men mistreat and disrespect women, beginning with their girlfriends and wives.

If you want to know a violent man before he commits any actual physical violence, the research on domestic violence says look and listen to the way he speaks about women. Most male violence in the world is based first and foremost in misogyny.

This video of these two men arriving with their wives to be sworn in as president of the US, with one waiting for his wife to exit the car and following her up the steps, the other charging up first leaving his wife - his third wife - to trail behind, says it all, really.

In this respect, Obama shows us the way forward to a fundamentally less violent world, Trump shows us the way back to the violent world from which we are just beginning to emerge. As I've said here before, it is possible that we needed to go back in this way to expose the reality that only marginalised and hated feminists have long recognised, to SEE what we cannot seem to believe otherwise, just how much hatred so many men have for women and womankind and how much damage this hatred inflicts on all of our lives.

Obama is the best of men, Trump the worst, it's as simple as that. And how poignant it is that one should follow the other into the most powerful political position in the world to accentuate the contrast and highlight the truth that our very humanity rests on exposing and eradicating misogynistic men like Trump and celebrating and encouraging men like Obama.  

Monday, January 23, 2017

This is what feminism looks like (Jan 21, 2017)

The nearly two million people who protested Trump's inauguration worldwide yesterday were mostly women, 500, 000 of them in the US capital here, the pink 'pussy hats' denoting pussy power and protest. That's quite some protest power alright, but sadly, it's not real power and it's too little, or even too much, too late.

I marched too, here in Auckland, with more than two thousand others, and like all the other protest marches they were organised by women and mostly attended by women to protest Trump's misogyny and the corrupt way in which the first female president of the US was denied her rightful place in history, a place that was well overdue and promised all sorts of flow-on improvements in the lives of girls and women around the world. Sexism, and racism, but mostly sexism, screwed that chance and so we feminists, tired but not defeated, protest. The battle continues.

Unfortunately, all those women (and men) - and I know a fair few personally - who did not realise in time that this was the election to fight against sexism first and for an idealistic (unrealistic) equal and free world second - because gender inequality is the oldest and most damaging inequality in the book - and supported Clinton's opponent instead, were substantially responsible for this disaster. By the time it was Clinton v. Trump, much of the anti-Clinton hate on the left of the political spectrum had already done devastating damage to her reputation and left many who wouldn't vote for Trump deciding not to vote at all, which was effectively voting for Trump. Trump was elected by less than a quarter of the US population; over 40% of Americans didn't vote.

So here we are, wearing pussy-protest caps, marching and shouting into the freezing cold or blazing heat - in all weathers across the globe - while a blatant billionaire misogynist 'predator-in-chief' rides in his warm, bullet-proof car, on his way to take the reigns of power and undo so many of the hard-won gains that feminists before us have worked for and eventually won for women.

It's depressing, deeply. But perhaps a lesson was learned in the only way that it could be learned. Let's not make the same mistake again.