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Posts Tagged ‘women’

Today Scott Roeder was convicted of first-degree murder of Dr. George Tiller, a late-term abortion provider in Wichita, KS. I am incredibly relieved that the judge did not give the jury the instruction for voluntary manslaughter. (Roeder wanted to argue that his motive for killing Dr. Tiller was to save the life of unborn babies, therefore reducing the charge to voluntary  manslaughter). However, not even a sentence to life in prison can lessen the incredible sadness and tragedy surrounding Dr. Tiller’s death. I fear that there are others in this country like Scott Roeder who feel that they are justified in taking the life of someone working to help women and promote female agency, in order to save the life of a fetus.  I fear that these people will not be deterred by Roeder’s conviction.  I fear that some judge in some state will be willing to give a jury a voluntary manslaughter instruction.

The loss of Dr. Tiller also means the loss of another doctor who is willing to perform late-term abortions (and abortions in general). This means that more women will lack access to safe abortions. More women will be forced into making certain decisions about their bodies, in which they really had no choice. More women will turn to unsafe methods to ending their pregnancies. Dr. Tiller’s death represents another loss of women’s rights in this country. It is another way in which women’s control over their own bodies is being stripped away.

I hope that Scott Roeder is sentenced to life in prison without parole, because it frightens me to think of what he would do if released on parole. It is at times like this that I wish I had gone to medical school and could lend a hand in providing women with safe, comprehensive reproductive health care. As a lawyer I will be able to contribute to legislative changes and protecting women’s legal rights, but it is hard to sit back and not be able to directly provide women with the medical services they desire.  I only hope that there are others like Dr. Tiller who will not be afraid to continue fighting for women’s access to abortion.

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The Oscar nominations come out in one week, so I think it’s time to start my Oscar blogging. I’ve been slowly trying to see all the movies that critics speculate will be nominated for major awards (Best Picture, Best Actor/Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Director), and I think I’ve done a fairly good job. Here’s my confession: I really did not like Avatar.  Yes, it was visually stunning. Yes, it represented great strides in film technology. But was it a good film? No.  The script was pathetic. Every character felt that they needed to tell the audience exactly what they were thinking and doing, even when it was obvious.  The (extremely thin) plot was cliché and tried to incorporate so much symbolism and represent so many different political causes, that it ended up seeming confused and meaningless.  I understand why people would enjoy this film for it’s entertainment value – just as people enjoyed films like Iron Man or Transformers (did anyone actually enjoy Transformers?), but to throw awards at Avatar just because it looks cool seems completely misguided.  Give it all the technical awards that you want, but I don’t think that this film even deserves to be in the Best Picture category alongside movies like Crazy Heart, The Hurt Locker, and Precious. (I’m going to hold off on commenting on Precious, but definitely check out these critiques, both positive and negative). And if we’re going to start recognizing more action/fantasy films, why isn’t District 9 getting more buzz, which in my opinion is way more interesting and original than Avatar.

I saw The Hurt Locker over the weekend. I was blown away by this film. This was the first film about Iraq, where I really felt like I was getting an inside look at what it is like to actually be there. The script was not ridden with cheesy plot devices and unnecessary love stories (a  la Stop-Loss or The Lucky Ones).  This movie was both terrifying and poignant, and by the end of the film I felt like I really knew the characters. The suspense and fear was palpable in every scene where the soldiers had to de-activate a bomb.  And, of course, I cannot discuss this film without mentioning that it was directed by a woman, Kathryn Bigelow, who happens to be James Cameron’s ex-wife. As Manohla Dargis (NY Times film critic) stated in an interview, this film is so amazing because it shows that women can direct good action films and receive both critical and popular acclaim.  If Bigelow wins the award for Best Director (and I am definitely rooting for her), she would be the FIRST woman to win this award, and I think it would teach Hollywood a lesson about hiring women to direct films other than romantic comedies. But honestly, I think she deserves this award regardless of the fact that she is a woman. This film was brilliantly directed and truly brought the audience into the nitty-gritty aspects of the war. I think she Bigelow deserves all the accolades out there.

I think this has been a pretty disappointing film season. There really haven’t been many films that I have walked out of the theater feeling truly impressed.  Crazy Heart, however, truly impressed me. This is a beautiful film that tells a very simple story but with incredible taste and emotion. Jeff Bridges, as an aging country music star, gives an amazingly nuanced performance, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as the woman he falls in love with, is also outstanding.  This film has everything – the love story is completely unexpected, the performances are memorable, and the original music is fantastic.  I loved this movie because it did not have to resort to any of the usual tricks. It works because it is so simple, and it is not trying to be some incredibly intellectual film. I don’t see why this type of filmmaking should not be recognized, especially when it is combined with an original script and an original score – this is not just another by-the-book musical biopic.  Unfortunately Crazy Heart will not win Best Picture (it’s just not crowd pleasing enough, and (gasp!) there are no special effects!), and it may not even be nominated. I do hope that Jeff Bridges wins Best Actor though, so that this film gets a fraction of the recognition it deserves.

I know that the Academy Awards are, in the end, a popularity contest and rife with Hollywood politics, but I do think that these awards mean something not only to the public, who may see a movie because it won an award, but also to producers and studio execs who are choosing which types of movies to make and who should make them. I hope the Academy gets it right this year – I’ll be watching.

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Yesterday was the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  Despite Obama’s election, in the past year events have occurred that have made me question how long women will continue to enjoy the right to choose.  The murder of Dr. Tiller continues to disturb me – knowing that there are people in this country who have so much disrespect for women and those who seek to protect their bodily integrity and freedom.  Yet I also remember that even with Roe v. Wade (mostly) in tact, there are many women in this country who, because of the color of their skin or the amount of money in their bank accounts, do not currently enjoy the same choices as women who have the “right” skin color or enough money to pay for their choices.  As we continue to fight to protect our right to choose, we must remember that there are many of us who have had choices taken away already.  We must not only fight to prevent losing rights but to restore the rights that no longer exist.

The election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts has also reminded me that we must not be single-minded. Advocating for women does not only mean advocating for abortion rights. It means paying attention to the candidates who will be making policies, not just health policies, but education and financial policies, that affect women.  I truly hope that the left-leaning community can find more coherence and start helping Obama create the change he promised, and I hope that on this day next year I will be more optimistic about Roe v. Wade’s legacy.

Read more about the anniversary of Roe v. Wade on feministing and feministe.

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I want to take a minute (or two) to talk about plastic surgery. I know I’m probably a little late in the game to discuss this, but this weekend a copy of People landed in my mailbox (thanks to the previous tenant’s subscription), with Heidi Montag’s newly shaped face staring at me from the cover. I have never watched The Hills, and I do not follow all the Heidi/Spencer drama, and normally I wouldn’t even open up People magazine, but I just had to when I saw the headline: 10 Procedures in 1 day. I was SHOCKED when I began to read the article describing how unsatisfied this 23-year-old girl was with her body, that she felt that she needed to have it all re-done. I was even more shocked when I saw the picture of her before all the surgeries only to realize that she was already a beautiful girl – and her when she smiled, her chin definitely did not look elongated (her complaint) to me.  And even with a size DDD chest, she still wants more surgery to further augment her breasts. How is she going to stay balanced after that surgery?

To me, all this plastic surgery is just a cry for help. It is clear to me that there is clearly something mentally wrong with this girl if she feels that at 23 she needs procedures like liposuction and a brow lift. What’s troubling is that People does not seem to give credence to this argument – they just photograph her in sexy poses, seemingly reaffirming her decisions and suggesting that all women should be as bold as to alter their bodies in this way.

What angers me the most, however, is the fact that there are cosmetic surgeons out there who are actually willing to perform these procedures on a 23-year-old. I am not familiar with the AMA Code of Ethics, but I feel like there should be something in there that prevents this from happening. How could a doctor ever look at Heidi Montag, or any other similar girl, and think, oh yes, I definitely see why she would want to have these procedures done? It disgusts me to think that there are doctors out there that are so motivated by money and possible celebrity shout-outs that they would disregard the fact that this poor girl needs serious psychological help. Someone needs to call these doctors out and force them to change their practices, because in my opinion performing all these procedures should have been criminal.

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So obviously I’m way young to be making this decision for myself, but cosmetic surgery is  one of those feminist dilemmas that gets me thinking. Can I, as a feminist, support cosmetic surgery? On the one hand, I feel like the pressures that suggest that women even need to get botox injections or other types of cosmetic surgery are really awful. They suggest that there is no such thing as “aging gracefully” for women. And of course it just reinforces the idea that women are valued for their looks, and not for their intelligence or personalities. I fully support the idea that a person should be comfortable with the body that she has and not the one that she should or could have. On the other hand, I don’t think this is a problem unique to women. I feel like our society as a whole has an obssession with yoouth – that growing old is just not option. Think about all the lengths men go to to prevent balding. Even some men get facelifts and botox injections. While it’s true that men are definitely subject to less pressures about age, and it is much more acceptable for an older man to be with a younger woman than an older woman to be with a younger man, I think that we should maybe step back and look at how the obsession with youth affects everyone and not just women.

This whole discussion has been very prevalent in the media recently because of the proposed tax on people who opt to have cosmetic surgery. While I agree with the message, that perhaps we should not be encouraging people to be making these changes to their bodies. But, I just don’t think that adding a tax for cosmetic surgery is the most effective way to do this. People are still going to have cosmetic surgery despite the extra cost. And really, why shouldn’t they, if that’s what they really want to do? What we should be doing is having a national discussion about aging. It’s going to happen to all of us, after all. Judith Warner has an interesting op-ed in the Times about this issue.  I think she makes some really good points about the current state of the feminist movement and our looks-obssessed culture.

Also a great post about this issue on salon.com here.

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I saw “New Moon” last night, and I was surprised to discover that the movie was even worse than my expectations.  Bella seems to have no convictions and just falls for the guy who pays her the most attention. Meanwhile Edward seems to be using her for his own edification.  Sure, the movie centers around a female protagonist, but she is far from a good role model for teenage girls. Kate Harding at Salon explains why much better than I can, so I’ll leave you with a few quotes:

The marketing campaign for the movie pits “Team Edward” (the vampire) against “Team Jacob” (the werewolf), but as Carmen D. Siering wrote in Ms., “few young readers ask, ‘Why not Team Bella?'” That’s because the whole point of Bella’s existence is earning the suffocating love of supernatural hotties; even if you think her obsessive devotion to Edward might waver in the face of were-love, you know you’re never going to see her throw them both over to stand on her own two feet. (In fact, given that her only noteworthy quirk is clumsiness, she can’t even be trusted to do that literally without male supervision.)

 I can appreciate the desire for an alternative to vicious social power games. But then, that reminds me of another favorite from twenty years ago, “Heathers,” which skewered mean girl culture (and certainly hit on the extremes of adolescent emotion) with brains, black humor, and a heroine who’s not sorry to see her manipulative, homicidal boyfriend blow up at the end. Maybe after worried parents have finished going through Simmons’ suggestions for discussing “Twilight,” they should try arranging a screening of that. The female protagonist swears, drinks, has sex and kills people, sure, but I’d still pick her as a better role model for teenaged girls than Bella Swan any day.

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I recently saw the movie “Precious,” and I am currently reading (almost finished!) “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Steig Larsson. You might be asking, how can there possibly be a connection between the two? “Precious” is about a pregant Harlem teenager who experiences severe abuse and who eventually finds a place for herself in a supportive educational environment. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a Swedish murder mystery involving rape and domestic abuse (I can’t really say more, or I’ll ruin the mystery). The similarity between the two is that both of the works were created by men. (Although the book Push, on which Precious was based, is written by a woman, the director of the film is a man). Both works are also trying to provide some sort of critique/insight into the violence and sexual assault that many women have to deal with on a regular basis.  Although I appreciate the work that both of these works are doing to educate people about domestic violence and sexual assault, I wonder about the ways in which male critiques of this nature differ from female critiques.

In both “Precious” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” the scenes of violence and sexual abuse hit the viewer/reader hard over the head. The descriptions and images are shocking, raw, and exceptionally brutal. Of course, this type of violence is shocking, raw, and exceptionally brutal. But, I wonder if sometimes directors and authors purposely play up the violence and play-down the emotional effects of the abuse in order to get more viewers or readers. I wonder if this focus on the physical, visceral violence is more of a male trait, whereas sometimes I feel that in works created by female authors more time is given to the victim’s emotions and psychological responses. Unfortunately, in both “Precious” and “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” I feel like I ended up paying more attention to the abuser rather than the abusee. This troubles me, because I don’t think it does much to actually empower the exact women the creators are trying to call attention to. Instead, in some ways I feel like both Precious and the female characters in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” seem even more like victims, and less like the strong, brave women they really are.

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