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more mettle!

You should read this article: a very smart, coherent look at feminism disguised as a book review for BookForum. It is a little thick, but if you muster through, the author points out some things that have always fundamentally troubled me about so-called third-wavers. Namely, that us young ladies are often too eager to please our baby-boom foremothers, not revolutionary enough, and more than anything too set on coming up with one single right way to be a feminist.


Bechdel Test

I wonder which movies DO pass this test? Any faves from other tigresses?



I have been uncomfortable about writing this post. You see, the tigresses recently finished and discussed a book that I suggested whose main theme goes way beyond the normal boundaries of decorous discussion. We read the book “Bear” by Marian Engel, and just to put all the chips out on the table, it’s a book in which the main character has sex with a bear. I’m not giving anything away here, just check out the cover.

A friend of mine from New York sent me the book with a note saying she thought I would like it. I’m still not quite sure what to make of the fact that I leaped to mind after she finished the last tantalizing page, but truthfully I really did like it. As much as it’s a story about a lady gettin’ it on with a bear, it’s also a story of a woman’s feminist awakening.

Lou, an archivist at a historical institute in Ontario is sent to a remote island to catalog the archive of an estate that has been bequeathed to the institute. Over the course of a summer, she goes through the papers of a family, uncovering their story and making “friends” with their pet bear, as she sheds the trappings of mousy librarianship and grows wilder and more sure of what it is she wants.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about “Bear” is that the bear in question is not an anthropomorphized stand in, but really and truly a bear. The reader never forgets that Lou is falling in love with an actual animal. For me, the inter-species love was disconcertingly not that disconcerting. I was happy that they had found each other, and they seemed like they were both into their affair. So who am I to judge?

That said, I was blinded to a much broader reading of the book by the overwhelming presence of bestiality. You know its going to happen from the first page, so its pretty difficult not to spend the whole time wondering when they are going to get down.

Overall, it’s a short book, a page turner, an artifact from the seventies, and definitely unlike anything else.



The New York Times asks, Unshaven Women: Free Spirits or Unkempt? The comments are especially interesting. A lot of thoughtful ones from women who feel uncomfortable going out in public with hairy pits and legs, but also think its silly to shave.

Also quite a few hair haters (aka anti-hirsutes, a hilarious new vocab word):
“I’m sorry. I will vote for a woman for president. I will work for a woman. Women should be priests, soldiers, equal pay, whatever. But hairy women are seriously unappealing.”

“What’s next? Women with beards? Women are women, not men, so stop trying to turn into a male. If a woman wants to look like a hairy animal, go for it, but it’s sure not for me.”

320 comments in a day — its amazing how charged the issue of leg hair still is.


runnin’ away

Three weeks ago, I went to the opening night showing of The Runaways, a biopic that tells a story about Joan Jett’s first band, touted in the film as the first all-girl rock band. As the closing credits rolled, I have to admit I felt giddy. I hate to sound too Spice Girls, but there was something so empowering about seeing an hour and a half of girls rocking out on the big screen.

I didn’t really want to hear it when my fellow movie-goers mentioned the weak plot points or the fact that Dakota Fanning is barely 16 (!) and spends a good portion of the movie wearing a pink lingerie ensemble. I wanted to revel in the fact that I had just seen a movie with a bunch of strong, queer-ish, female characters playing instruments and being bad-asses.

Alas, time has passed and I am forced to be of two minds about the movie. I’m still enamored by Kristen Stuart’s brooding take on Joan Jett, even if it does seem to be only a slight variation on her character in Adventureland, and maybe even her actual personality, if her presence at the Oscars is any indication. The opening scene, where Cherie Curie gets her first period all over the sidewalk in front of the Pup ‘n Fries where her sister works, is a graphic and awesome moment. I think it is amazing that the major relationships in the film are between women (both friendships and lover-ships), not between men and women.  I love a good hetero-romance, for sure, but it is nice to see women becoming involved with music on-screen for the love of it, and not as a way to get a guy.

There are some problems, though. These ladies are sexy. Really, really sexy, and really, really young. That is uncomfortable for everyone. Also, the film falls hard into familiar tropes about girls in bands. It really does feel like an episode of Behind the Music, a show I have been known to enjoy but don’t want to pay $12 to see reenacted on the big screen.

That said, the best things about The Runaways are better than the worst. It is fun to watch and it makes you want to be in a band. There are fun musical moments and awesome feminist moments (ie when Joan Jett/Kristen Stuart pees on a jerky guy’s guitar). And maybe you will end up having a spice girls moment at the end. Girl Power!


you know, a total chick flick

How much do I love Manhola Dargis? Oh, so very much. She is a kick-ass film reviewer with a strong feminist bent and a bit of a potty mouth.

She wrote a great piece this weekend about Kathryn Bigelow’s new-found glory. A real gem comes at the end (read the whole thing though, its great!):

It’s impossible to tell what Ms. Bigelow’s Oscars will mean for her, much less whether it will help other women working in the American movie industry. Perhaps Amy Pascal, the Sony studio co-chairwoman who once suggested to me in an interview that men were better suited to direct action movies, will pay Ms. Bigelow a lot of money to make another war film. Or she can sign up Kelly Reichardt, the director of “Wendy and Lucy,” for a buddy movie, but, you know, with women. Maybe Sandra Bullock will take all the good will and power she has rightly accrued and, with Oprah Winfrey, produce that Hattie McDaniel biography that Mo’Nique wants to make. Kristen Stewart can play Vivien Leigh, who appeared alongside McDaniel in “Gone With the Wind,” the biggest movie that Hollywood ever made and, you know, a total chick flick.

Hattie McDaniel and Vivien Leigh in Gone With The Wind


chicken crisis

Today on the female-oriented internet, people are talking about chickens. On Sunday, Peggy Orenstein wrote a short piece for the NYT magazine about what she calls “The Femivore’s Diemna”. She describes a new breed of housewives and homemakers who are not only gardening, but also raising chickens, canning, root cellaring, and  home schooling. These ladies have found a way to have meaning in their domestic lives through the politicized local foods movement and the manual labor of homesteading without succumbing to the urban family pitfalls of having to spend tons of time at work behind a desk. They have chickens, they have babies, they have time, and they seem to have meaningful lives.

And yet… they don’t really have any money. Not just in a “I don’t get my monthly mani-pedi” way, but in a “my husband brings home the bacon” way. Orenstein’s article talks about urban housewives who seem to be dependent on their partner’s income to help pay for the chickens in the first place. I’m sure this isn’t true for everyone, but I am curious to read the upcoming book “Radical Homemakers” to get a sense of just how these families can afford their swatches of land, and if they have a plan for what will happen if they start to annoy each other in their solar-powered cabins and decide to  part ways.

Not to say that I’m not totally in love with the idea of going back to the land and pickling my own chicken’s eggs. I’d say I fantasize about that very thing about 30% of my time. But the NYT article, and the response to it, point to a conflict in contemporary feminism: women need/can/should work in the world vs. lets rethink and ask the world to value domesticity. Both ways of looking at it are valid, but from what I read in my internet perusing, they are oppositional.

The conflict seems to be a case of revolution vs. reform. Either we need to work within the current system of “having a career” (get a job that brings personal fulfillment, climb the ladder, feel frazzled while having a family) or we need to revolt against that system and reclaim domesticity (have a farm, make jam, raise some babes, hope the roof doesn’t leak).

In an ideal world we could have both. We could honor and reclaim domesticity and still be able to have satisfying careers with enough time to have families and friends and communities. Oh, and chickens too. But feminists have learned over the years that one of the worst mistakes we make as women (or just as people), is to fall into the trap of thinking we can do it all: the chickens, the power suit, the kids, the partner, the whole nine yards.

And so here we are again, looking for meaningful lives and not sure where to find them. Not sure what to give up. Maybe “radical homemakers” have got a good thing going, but maybe those ladies in the city who love their jobs have something figured out too. Its a shame that there isn’t more middle ground in the media coverage about the two, because good answers might be found there for women of all stripes.