Archive for February, 2007


You know, I just can’t help it, I love a Woody Allen movie. I enjoy him, his movies, his scripts, everything except his real life weirdo relationship with his ex’s daughter to whom he was like a father. What a creep.

Anyway, I do like his movies, and see them when I can, and Scoop didn’t let me down. It was bright and witty and clever and well-acted. Scarlett Johansson was great, I think she’s actually a pretty good little actress.  And Hugh Jackman is always a delight to watch, when he’s actually acting and not covered in fake fur sideburns and being a super-mutant.

Anyway, Scoop made me feel happy, enough not to tear it apart with feminist critique, so I thought I’d send it along to you with my recommendation. If you don’t like Woody Allen, don’t rent it. If you do, then do!

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Garden State

I saw Garden State last week, and it’s taken me a week to pin down why I really really hated it, and why my feminist spidey senses were tingling like crazy when I watched it. As usual, Beware of Spoilers if you haven’t seen it and want to and care about it being a relative surprise.

So, I do love Scrubs, mainly because of Zach Braff. And I had been meaning to see Garden State for a while now. But somehow I must have known I wouldn’t like it.

The whole movie is about Zach Braff. His character is screwed up, he hasn’t been home in 10 years, his father the psychiatrist has him all doped up on medication, he’s an actor who had one great role, and his mother has died. So he goes home for the funeral and falls in with old schoolmates who are pretty much losers. But he meets this girl, Natalie Portman. She’s charming and adorable and lovely, and he falls in love with her. And the movie becomes Zach Braff using people, but especially Natalie Portman, to figure out his life.

Natalie Portman is really wonderful. She’s the best thing about jsut about every movie she’s in, and I love her. Here, she was wasted against the backdrop of Zach Braff’s moping blankness as his character tried to get his shit together. And so here it is: This movie represented for me how everything is always about the guy. About his shit, about his fucked-up-ness, about how important he is, about his career, about his family, his movie, his screenplay, his favourite music, him him him. And this movie was just a big pile of masturbatory self-congratulation. Zach Braff made a movie about men using women to “find themselves.” And in the end, I felt bad for Natalie Portman. Not just the character, who was stuck with Zach Braff’s character. But for Natalie Portman. This movie was a disservice to her talent.

So, it sucked. That’s the bottom line. And I kind of think that without the soundtrack, the movie would have been truly exposed for the junk-heap that it truly is.

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pretty much

This is pretty much how I feel most days (from my favourite doodler, Paige Pooler of Eyes Wide Apart):

crowdedcrowded by Paige Pooler

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Something my wonderful prof Letitia said this week in class struck me. She asked whether something (OK, I admit, I can’t remember exactly what she was referring to) was a failure of feminism. And I wrote down in my class notes, Has Feminism Failed?

I had a flashback: A couple of months ago in another class, I was doing a presentation and we asked the class how many there would call themselves a feminist. Know how many raised their hands? 4. Including me, and including the professor. The other two students were white women. So we talked about it, why the ones who raised their hands did consider themselves feminist, why the ones who didn’t, didn’t. One girl who did said that it was how she was raised, and that she could see in the world around her that women are still oppressed. I said I was committed to raising women’s status in society and that feminism has provided me with a framework and a vocabulary to defend women’s rights and poke holes in patriarchy.

One woman who didn’t raise her hand said that she didn’t feel, as a woman of colour, that feminism represents her experience, but that she was pro-woman, and in particular, pro-black-woman. Another black woman said she felt better represented as a woman of colour by the “womanist” movement. One (white) woman said she felt that feminism was over, because women had achieved political and formal equality. (This was in a gender and women’s studies class, where we had been studying all the ways in which women all over the world were still subjected to gendered stereotypes that restricted their freedom in various ways!!!!!!!!!) One (white) woman said that she felt like “feminism” was too extreme, that it is too “radical” for her tastes, and she thought feminists spent too much time “man-bashing.” Another white woman said that she associated feminism with lesbianism, and she didn’t want to present herself as a lesbian because she’s straight. (SERIOUSLY!)  None of the men in the class even bothered to contribute to the discussion, like feminism is only for the ladies.

I was shocked that, in an upper year gender and women’s studies class, so many misconceptions still pervaded a discussion about feminism. I was disappointed that so few people in a class of more than 30 would consider themselves feminists. I was especially disappointed to hear that so many women of colour felt unrepresented by feminism (not just the two I mentioned, another 4 or 5 also agreed). I was surpised and saddened at the western-centric view of gender equality as formal equality – and especially at the idea that feminism’s job was done!

So, in a world where gender equality is formalized, on the books, in the statutes and in the rules, why has the situation of women on the ground not improved to the point of equality/equity?

Why are reproductive rights still in jeopardy? Why are women still the majority of the world’s poor? Why are women still making unequal pay for equal work? Why are women still largely responsible for unpaid domestic work in their own homes? Why are women still in the majority of underpaid and unskilled jobs? Why does birth control and pregnancy avoidance still rest largely on women’s shoulders? Why are women the number one growth demographic for HIV/AIDS? Why are women still being raped? Why are women still being beaten in their homes? Why is violence so gendered? Why are women still objectified as the recepticles/vehicles of male sexual pleasure? Why are lesbians discriminated against? Why are women starving themselves to be “beautiful”? Why are women so under-represented in business, in science and math careers, in politics, in high-level academic positions? Why are women’s bodies so medicalized? Why are women’s bodies considered public property?

Why are women still so oppressed, after more than 100 years of feminism, and after more than 30 years of second-wave and third-wave feminism?

Has feminism become too academic? Has misogyny become more insidious, squirmier, harder to pin down? Has feminism not changed enough to accomodate its critiques, particularly by women of colour? Is feminism too fractured, too unfocussed – do we need a new definition, a set of common claims about feminism? Has feminism been too radical? Not radical enough?

These are questions I have. I have no answers. I put it out to you, dear readers, for some brainstorming. How can we move forward and actually achieve the aims of feminism – if we can even agree what those are?

*Note: I hesitate to make this a thread only open to certain kinds of commenters, but at the same time, I don’t want this to devolve into a feminism-bashing party.  Constructive comments only, no MRAs please.

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Angel sent me a link to Alvaro Orozco’s website, where it states that he has been given a reprieve of two months to stay in Canada while his legal team mounts an appeal to the decision to deport him back to Nicaragua. It also includes this notice:

Despite the 2 month deferral, supporters should keep contacting Minister Diane Finley’s office to keep the pressure and attention up. At this point, the CIC/IRB can reopen my case, grant me H&C (Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds stay), or accept my PRRA (preremoval risk assessment) (once we file the latter two). Now it’s up to her. PLEASE keep sending in your support. It’s only the beginning! I still have a removal date 2 months away and no status yet.

So, there’s a concrete step that can be taken to help this young man. Write to Diane Finley at Finley.D@parl.gc.ca.

Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Minister Finley,

I am writing to express my extreme displeasure with the treatment of the Alvaro Orozco case. As a Canadian citizen, I am very disappointed that Alvaro is being discriminated against by my government as he seeks asylum from a country where he has been persecuted based on his membership in a social group. Alvaro’s human rights have been violated in Nicaragua, and now are not being upheld here in Canada, either. This young man has led a very trying life as a refugee, facing abuse and persecution for being homosexual from his family and from his country, where sodomy is illegal.

Asking Alvaro to somehow prove that he is gay is absolutely ludicrous. He was detained in a detention centre upon arriving to the US, where his choice of sexual partners was limited to other detainees. When he got away, he sought help from a church. His explanation of why he did not tell them he is gay is perfectly logical, considering the heavy stance most christian churches take against homosexuality. He was in a coercive situation: he needed help, and in order to get that help, he was forced to conceal the fact that he was gay. Furthermore, how exactly was Alvaro to “prove” he is gay, anyway? By how many sexual partners he had of the same sex? By how often he visited gay clubs, or participated in gay pride marches? Considering the reaction of his family, who were supposed to love and protect him, I think it’s perfectly understandable that Alvaro would be reluctant to disclose his sexuality to just anyone.

Additionally, since Alvaro was a young teenager at the time, I think it is highly inappropriate to suggest that he should have been engaged in sexual relationships at all – certainly not in order to “prove” his sexuality. Isn’t it reasonable that he didn’t meet anyone with whom he would have wanted to engage in a sexual relationship, in prison and in the custody of a christian family? Isn’t it reasonable that he, like many other young people, wanted to wait until he was ready to engage in a sexual relationship? Who is the Canadian government to demand evidence of anyone’s sexuality, much less a gay teenager? This is unreasonable, and morally repugnant. Assuming that since Alvaro is gay that he would be engaging in sexual activity, to a level that you deem to be sufficient evidence of his homosexuality, rests on the false sterotype that all gay men are sexually active and promiscuous. Whether Alvaro was promiscuous or celibate, does not “prove” that he is gay, and to suggest so is simply false. Many straight people, gay people, and bisexual people are celibate. Demanding that this young man display to you evidence of his homosexuality is a deeply problematic intersection of racism and heterosexism.

There’s more to being gay or lesbian, or even straight for that matter, than simply having sex with certain kinds of people. Your overly narrow view of the nature of sexuality, construed as something concrete that can be proven, is harming this young man, who will certainly face persecution and undue hardship if returned to Nicaragua. I ask that you reconsider his case, and permit Alvaro Orozco to stay in Canada, legally, as a refugee.

(Thinking Girl)


Let’s do what we can to protest this unfair treatment.

[thanks again, Angel!]

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This weekend, Drew Gilpin Faust was elected the first female president of Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. I’d give you a link, but there doesn’t seem to be one available – I just heard this on the 11:00 news out of Boston, which I happen to get here in my hometown.

So, hooray, and congrats to Dr. Faust.

Perhaps this is a bit of foreshadowing, for another first female president in the coming period? 🙂

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Angel pointed me in the direction of this story, about a Nicaraguan refugee in Canada who is about to be deported back home because authorities don’t believe him when he says that he is gay.

Alvaro Orozco says his family beat him because he was gay. He says, “My father told me, ‘If one of my sons became gay one day, I will kill him with my hands,'” said Orozco. “I was so scared. And that is why I escaped.” He fled Nicaragua (where sodomy is illegal) at the age of 12 to escape what he felt was a real threat to his life. He made his way across Central America and Mexico, swam across the Rio Grande to get to the US, and was arrested and held for a year. When he was released, he fled again, took sanctuary in a church, and made his way to Canada, where he has lived in Toronto for the past 2 years.

The official who heard his case, Deborah Lamont, questions whether Orozco is actually gay or not because – get this – he wasn’t sexually active while he was in the US. Let’s see… while he was in prison, and while he was taking sanctuary in a church. Oh, and since he came to Canada when he was 19, also while he was a teenaged boy.

Because apparently gay males are wildly promiscuous sexual animals who can’t possibly make a choice not to have sex, even when they have run away from a situation where being gay is cause for violent beatings and they are taking sanctuary in a church where being gay is Frowned Upon, or otherwise their options are limited to prisoners at a detention centre, and even when they are still immature teenagers.

I am so beyond appalled at this story. Making this refugee somehow prove that he is gay – as if such a thing could actually be ultimately “proven” in the first place – is just a disgusting combination of homophobia and racism. We don’t ask straight people to “prove” that they’re straight, even when they’re not in any kind of sexual relationship – even when they’re virgins! It’s just presumed that straight people are telling the truth about their sexuality, because, after all, heterosexuality is the NORM by which all others are measured. But now, apparently, people who “deviate” from the NORM of heterosexuality have to prove that they have had same-sex sexual relationships in order to be considered gay? Or maybe it’s just refugees that need to prove this. The kid ran away at the age of 12 from a family that beat him and threatened to kill him for being gay, and some fucking bureaucrat gets to decide whether he is ACTUALLY gay or not?!?!

As if we can ever prove our sexuality. Like sexuality is something so deep, so true, about us that it makes us who we are. Like people can’t have sexual feelings that they never act on. Like all that matters is what we do in bed with other people. Like any government official gets to decide any of this about any of us. Fuck that.

I am so completely ashamed of my government for this decision. This poor kid is going to be sent home on Tuesday to a place where he will have nothing – no support from his government, no support from his family. He’s been away for almost 10 years – he won’t have much of a support system if he has one at all, and now his sexuality is making headlines both here and in Nicaragua, which will make him a perfect target for homophobic violence. Canada has let this young man down, and it’s shameful.

[gracias, Angel!]

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