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Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

have just finished reading half the sky by nicholas kristof and sheryl wudunn and i cannot cannot recommend it enough. i first heard about the book while reading this fantastic article in the ny times magazine last summer, and while the article definitely gets the point across successfully the book is still absolutely worth a read.

 

the book discusses sex slavery in southeast asia, rape and murder in the name of honor in africa, unimaginably high rates of maternal mortality all across the world, fistulas, female genital cutting, and the benefits of education and microloans; since studies have shown people respond with more compassion to stories of individuals than to mind-numbing statistics, each chapter is punctuated by photos and narratives of women’s lives. best of all, the authors don’t just present the sad state of affairs in the world today and then leave you to feel shitty all day — they repeatedly describe organizations and philanthropic efforts that WORK and also introduce opportunities for the reader to GET INVOLVED and SUPPORT SUCCESSFUL EFFORTS TO CHANGE THINGS. thank goodness, because it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed when faced with an overwhelmingly shitty situation.

( at one point while i was reading the book i was telling a friend about it when he scoffed a little and asked if endlessly talking about inequalities makes them worse rather than better — the whole ‘post-race’ argument that was continuously brought up during the 2008 election, that if we would just stop talking about black or white or male or female then slowly differences would fade from our collective consciousness. i think mostly he was trying to be a dick on purpose, but just in case, i definitely do not think that not talking about it is the solution. when women are honor-raped every day, when girls are systematically prevented from educating themselves, when female sex workers are kidnapped from their families and kept prisoner by beatings and drug dependencies, the absolute worst thing we could possibly do would be to not talk about it. i think a lot of us don’t quite know the extent of how difficult and dangerous it is to be a woman outside of america/europe/developed nations in general, and learning about the scary reality is the only way to motivate oneself to take action. )

while the authors respect legislators’ efforts to solve inequities through laws, policies, and UN bodies, they repeatedly point to overwhelming evidence that the far more effective route is one that emphasizes grassroots, localized organizations founded or run by local people who understand local culture and customs. microfinance, for one example, has been shown to be hugely successful, changing entire communities through $65 loans to individual women. so, here is a very short list of some websites and organizations mentioned in the book that are worth checking out and contributing to:

kiva.org

globalgiving.org

camfed

engenderhealth

novo foundation

global fund for women

of course there are tons more avenues to examine if you, too, are impassioned and eager to help. very worth the research. now go buy the book, now.

[ stefanie ]

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to continue in my recent tradition of unfinished thoughts digsuised as blog posts (sorry babies but you were just too cute for me to intelligently and clearly explain why a yurt birth in namibia is so much more appealing to me than the drugged up hospital scenes of san francisco) i give to you, dear readers, some unfinished complaints.

who the f are you, elena kagan, and why is the only thing i know about you the fact that you are unmarried and childless?

i’ve been following news less than i used to, partly because i’ve been out of town and without computers pretty frequently recently and also because, what with my parents’ tv and cable options staring me in the face every time i walk downstairs, the newspaper isn’t as tempting as it used to be. my own fault. but but but even in the midst of this separation from current events and actual facts i still know that there is a woman out there named elena who omg has no children and wtf decided to embrace a career instead of a husband?!? choices that may have been compelling and new in i dunno the 70s are no longer the salacious news stories the media wants them to be — why are we still supposed to drop everything and discuss them when all i want to discuss is what kagan actually thinks about the law. some pseudo feminist has been quoted as saying that she wishes kagan was a mother, because her current marital status sends the wrong message. well, ms feminist, what message is her childless status sending and also seriously why does it matter so much to you? wouldn’t you rather know where she stands on reproductive rights and gay marriage and other important social issues currently facing the nation that will affect you, as a woman, so much more than whether or not she has kids and a husband?

and i know that if i took the time i would be able to find out exactly where elena kagan stands on all the important issues, and why obama sees her as a good choice for the supreme court, and why i should or should not be excited that this new individual is going to have an effect on my life. what bugs me i guess is that with no effort whatsoever i already know things about this woman that i don’t give a shit about. yeah yeah it’s fuckin fantastic that another woman has been nominated, and of course i know very well that there is a long way to go before women are truly equal to men in the us (not to mention other countries but this is obviously a complaint for another day) but the more we talk about how fabulous it is that there’ll be another woman on the bench the more we undermine the equality this nomination stands for.

so let’s suck it up friends and like or hate her views but please please stop running headlines on her marital choices because holy crap i don’t care.

thank you, for listening.

[ stefanie ]

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marina abramovic has an exhibition at moma in which two naked people flank a doorway and museum goers have to squeeze past the naked in order to continue on their way.

marina abramovic, although prolific and strong and innovative, makes my stomach churn. a huge part of her oeuvre deals with self harm and mutilation and nudity, and reminds me of feminist art where artists like carolee schneemann and orlan and others whose names don’t come to mind as quickly treated their bodies like objects to make it known that, omg, women’s bodies tend to be treated like objects.

Carolee Schneemann, Interior scroll

(thank you, artnet)

so then marina abramovic not only wants us to know that women’s bodies have been objectified but also that they’ve been abused. she sets up a gallery piece where the only way for her to travel from one platform up to another is by way of a ladder, whose rungs are actually knives with their blades up. or she carves shapes into her belly or cuts the skin in between her fingers or sets up a table with knives and blades and thorny roses and a gun and allows the viewer to use these items on her, any way they’d like. so now her body is, completely, an object upon which others can place their own motivations and instincts.

i like the parts of her art that force the viewer to come to terms with their own issues–the fact that it feels weird to walk by a naked person in a museum, for example–but the violence and extreme objectification are so hard to stomach. which is a good thing, i guess, because if anything should be hard to stomach it should be exploitation and violence and misogyny. and if art is a reflection of the world that produced the artist, then art like this is important and appropriate.

but then again, why are female artists allowed to objectify and maim when male artists who do the same thing are vehemently criticized as exploitative males? alexander mcqueen’s collections come to mind, because he was always getting shit for being misogynistic and angry towards women. it’s a fuzzy line between self-expression and exploitation. and what if abramivic and schneemann and the rest are just keeping the cycle of subjugation going? in trying to rebel and break free, are we just entrenching ourselves further?

this is a post with no point, you see, but i’m an armchair feminist and i never know what to do with artists like abramovic. i wonder if we’re too inundated with porn and pretty ladies for anything naked to not register as erotic, no matter how avant-garde the imagery may be. and maybe they’re all just trying to own their sexuality and womanhood and use it for their own means rather than those of society and culture at large–but then there’s no difference between schneemann and bettie page and ladies who make porn that doesn’t exploit. which is fine, but isn’t there supposed to be a line between kitsch and the avant garde, that is to say, between porn and art?

bikini.html.jpg

(go get em, bets)

i would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

[ stefanie ]

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