Lady Legends: Erica Wiebe


Erica Wiebe, wrestler, Canadian, and joyously strong Olympic champion.

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Film Fridays: Haute Cuisine

Haute Cuisine (based on the true story of Danièle Delpeuch) tells the story of Hortense Laborie, appointed to be personal chef to the President of France. Before we get to the nitty-gritty of the film, can I just say that the food in the movie was so beautiful? I wanted to cook the whole time I was watching it. And eat. I really wanted to eat.

Role of Women: I loved the main female character. She is gracious, competent, passionate, staunch. She’s unafraid of adventures, travelling from the President’s private kitchen to a remote Antarctic base. She’s an artist. She’s a little bit unruly, running the kitchen her own way despite the strict rules that surround her. She’s wise.
Sexualisation of Women: There are some coarse moments in the film, a few jokes from male characters about the only woman around. Broadly, though, Hortense is valued for her character, personality, and talent, not her body. And even when she is confronted with sexism, she is not intimidated by it– troubled by it, disdainful of it, but not intimidated.
Bechdel Test Pass/Fail: Pass. Hortense has conversations with the President’s secretary (not sure she was named; it was all subtitles so I might just have missed it), and with the journalist in Antarctica.
Male:Female Ratio: There’s only four or five female characters. This is part of the plot, of course, as Hortense forges her own path through the male-dominated world of the palais kitchens. I think they did a good job of not overemphasizing it; that is, the plot was more about the rules and restrictions of the palais versus Hortense’s passionate, artistic cooking style, but still.

 

Women’s Wednesdays: A Response to TGC’s ‘Will Women Be Forced to Register for the Military Draft?

Opening Note: This post is not intended to explore the morality on any level of the draft itself. It is intended to engage with the question of whether the draft should, if employed, be restricted to men only, or include both men and women equally.
I read the Gospel Coalition’s blog, and am often very encouraged and edified by it. Equally, I also often disagree with their posts. Unsurprisingly, many of these posts tend to be on the subject of gender. Usually I just sort of move on, but a recent post by Joe Carter called ‘Will Women Be Forced to Register for the Military Draft?‘ moved me to do more. Not only do I disagree with this particular post, I find it rather insulting, both as a thinker and as a woman. As such, I wanted to post a response to it.

Carter’s argument, if it can be so called, boils down to this:
A poll taken in 2013 found that nearly sixty percent of Americans believe women should be eligible for the draft. Women favor the draft at a much higher rate than men (61 percent to 35 percent), and Democrats favor the draft much more than Republicans (80 percent to 50 percent). Overall, 59 percent of those polled said women should be drafted.
A likely reason for the increased support is a foolish and historically ignorant belief that the military draft is an outdated institution and will never be used in the future. While the draft has indeed been dormant for forty-two years, it is likely to return during America’s next large-scale conflict. The reason the draft will be needed is obvious: relative to some other nations, the U.S. is woefully lacking in manpower… That is why many people have no qualms about supporting “gender equality” by allowing women to be drafted: It doesn’t affect them directly. They seem to have no concerns about forcing their granddaughters or great-granddaughter to be subjected to the horrors of war. As long as it doesn’t directly affect them, they are allowed to be seen as embracing ‘equality.'”

To summarize, Carter argues that the more likely reason women (and men) support the draft is because we don’t think it will ever be used. Carter can think of no other, perhaps more intellectually honest, reasons for supporting the draft for women than a desire “to be seen as embracing ‘equality'” without consequence (in an anonymous survey, no less?)

For me, two reasons come immediately to mind, although there may certainly be others. The first is that women have thought through the implications of being registered in the draft, and concluded that they find laughable the idea that their sex somehow disqualifies them from wanting to defend– to the death if necessary– what they believe to be valuable and worthwhile. Certainly this is where my own feelings lie. Certainly I imagine I would struggle with many qualms and fears if faced with the harsh reality of defending my values in a contest of the magnitude of war– but I don’t doubt that many of the young men who have in the past been drafted to defend their country felt the exact same qualms and fears I would. Though the women-and-children-first, ‘men at the front lines’ mentality that has been the currency of the patriarchy for centuries upon centuries is deeply ingrained (it’s a huge movie trope, for example), I categorically deny that there is something intrinsic in me that would rather be defended and sacrificed for than to defend and sacrifice. I feel a  jealous ferocity rise in me at the idea of my husband or children being attacked, for example, that I defy any man to exceed, and I am confident that my fellow women experience the same feelings.

A second explanation is the notion that women don’t want to be conscripted and do hope that the draft is never employed in their lifetime or that of their daughters, but they nonetheless feel that it is just and necessary that the draft legally include both genders. Even if no noble fire of courage and self-sacrifice kindles in them at the notion of defending their home and country, they acknowledge that their feelings aren’t a good gauge for what is legally just or morally ethical. Thus, while hoping that the draft need not be employed, they still conscientiously believe on an intellectual level that the draft should include both men and women.

However, even if we grant Carter his ill-defended premise that women self-evidently should not be included in the first line of a nation’s defense, that all the men of a country should sacrifice themselves to defend their women, he provides in his own post a defeat of his conclusion that women should thus be excluded from the draft. This defeat lies in the numbers he provides.

Carter writes,
“Currently, the armed forces is comprised of about 2 million men and women, both on active duty and in the reserves. The potential pool of draft eligible young men (ages 18-25) on file with the Selective Service is approximately 16 million.
In contrast, China has an available manpower of 750 million—more than twice the entire population of the United States. They also have over 100 million draft eligible men, with nearly 20 million men in China reaching military age every year. Although it has less manpower than China, Russia also has about 45 million men of draft age.
If we were to face either or both of those countries in violent conflict, the draft would need to be implemented in the U.S. on a broad scale. Having already shown that drafting women has popular support and having no legal basis to exclude anyone based on gender, young women would be drafted in numbers equal to young men.”

What Carter is saying here is that the United States currently has an eligible pool of 18 million people, tops, in the event of a war. If that war were with China or Russia, they would be colossally outnumbered. This ‘first line of defense’ of American manpower a jest, then! Refusing to double your available forces is a foolish way of defending your women even if defending your women is acknowledged to be the goal. It strikes me not as noble and self-sacrificing to tell women to stay at home hoping that a military of 18 million will stand up against a military of 850 million, but as blind and self-aggrandizing. If you truly want us to be defended, let us stand beside you. Not all of us will live, but at least we won’t have sat at home watching you be slaughtered in a foolish and misguided attempt at chivalry that ultimately does us no practical good at all.

Film Fridays: Mad Max: Fury Road

When I first saw the Mad Max trailer, I almost shuddered. I honestly thought it looked like one of the stupidest movies I’d ever seen. Inexplicable babes and dystopian car chases and apparently nothing else. Then it opened, and Steven started hinting that we might want to go see it; the internet buzz was that it was fabulous. I started softening, and agreed to watch it. We watched two of the originals first, and I’d recommend it. Anyhow, we were way behind everyone else in seeing it because parents, but if you haven’t seen it yet, rent the originals off iTunes (they’re like $4) and then for heaven’s sake hie yourself to the movie theatre and go see this movie because it is awesome. And probably wait to read this post, because spoilers.
Visually the movie is stunning. The scenery is incredible, especially for a barren wasteland, and the prop department must’ve had so much fun designing the vehicles– everything, the polecats, the hot-rod tank, the costuming, the engine-based religion, all harks back to and expands on the offbeat motorcycle-gang world introduced in the original, but taken to an epic scale.
Actually it felt like that progression in a lot of ways. The original was a (kind of awful yet oddly beautiful yet weird) very intimate story in the midst of apocalypse. No cities levelled, no epic battles, just open road and a few motorcycles and cars, really; a story about a family. The second one expanded the scale to a settlement big enough to need a bus to get around. From the looks of the trailer the third is a slightly larger world still. And then this, a handful of cities. Really, it’s still quite small, Joe’s territory not more than a day’s journey around. But the environment got harsher, the cultures stranger, the violence broader, and Max himself more laconic and withdrawn.
It’s no secret this is being hailed as a feminist film, but really what I really loved about it was it was just a great story. The women didn’t feel like tokens, like cardboard cutouts, like embodied concepts about feminism, but like real humans beings with passion and resonance and variety. You know, like women actually are.
So, here I go with the breakdown:
Role of Women: In the world of the film, the women of the Citadel are breeders. The most telling line to me was just a casual comment between two of the warboys after the Five Wives are discovered to be escaped along with Furiosa: “She took a lot of his [Immortan Joe’s] stuff.” “What stuff?” “His breeders.” Although Furiosa is entrusted with driving a war rig, most of the women we see in the Citadel are caged and controlled: the nursing mothers hooked up to constant breast pumps, the wives in their warren. In the commentary of the film, though, the women are, to quote, “not things.” The moment when you first see the Wives, slender, sparsely clad and luscious, (described in the previous link as “what would happen if someone decided to heavily arm a Burberry ad”), the knee-jerk reaction is to assume they’re what they look like, what they would be in almost any other action movie: eye-candy. My gut reaction was to object, as I would in any other action movie. But, of course, in the story eye candy was what they were, the role they had been forced into by nature of their lives. But the story took you beyond that. Into their loyalty, dignity, and ferocious passion to be free. Early in the movie, during the first chase into the dust storm I think it was, a war boy drops into the vehicle. The five young women, out in the rough, dark world for the first time in their lives, with no knowledge of weapons, with soft hands and long flowing hair and smooth skin, pounce on him, grabbing and biting, their drive to be free crackling across the screen. I swear, in any other movie ever those women would’ve been screaming and cringing. It was a beautiful moment to see onscreen. Another equally beautiful one was when the heavily-pregnant Angharad places herself and her child between the man who had owned and abused her, and the woman who was helping her escape. Her dignity in that moment was palpable. Great article that outlines a little more of this aspect here.
Sexualisation of Women: Coming out of the theatre, I was reminded of the movie Sucker Punch, the one and only movie I walked out of midway through at the theatre. It purports to be a story about young women fighting back against sexual abuse, but the moviemakers sexualised the actresses so heavily that it felt like it was spitting in its own face. Fury Road was the opposite. A story about women sexualised and abused and objectified completely by their world, who are not at all sexualised in the film. No panning shots up their legs. No suggestion that the hero is entitled to sexual access to them by virtue of helping them (see Skyfall). Even the way they were dressed, which could easily have been presented very sexually, was instead a piece of storytelling, an imposition on them from outside that didn’t detract from their dignity and strength.
Bechdel Test Pass/Fail: Pass, of course.
Male:Female Ratio: The pursuers are exclusively male, and there are a lot of them, so in that sense they outnumber the females, but of the characters you get to know and connect with, females outnumber. Outnumber, yes.
Are you buying your movie tickets yet? Need more convincing? Everything here.
Still not convinced? Look at this picture of Road Warrior Mad Max and COME ON.

Oh, and one final good moment. At the end of the film, the lactating mothers you saw at the beginning, they ones who just felt like props establishing the place of women in this society as, like, human cows? They’re the ones who step out and open the water gates. They are not things, either.

Women’s Wednesdays: Conductors

via A Mighty Girl

Holy gorgeous! It’s awesome seeing images of women with this kind of real intensity. Also lady-tuxedos. I really wish I ever had an excuse to wear one. From left to right, top to bottom. Anu Tali, co-founder of the Nordic Symphony Orchestra; Joana Carniero, principal conductor of the Orquestra Sinfonica Portuguesa; JoAnn Falleta; Hann-na Chang; Sarah Ioannides, the first female music director for the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra; Barbara Hannigar, operatic singer and conductor; Shi-Yeon Sung, associate conductor of the Seoul Philharmonic; Susanna Malkki, who recently debuted with the New York Philharmonic; and Marin Alsop, the first female conductor to direct the BBC’s Last Night of the Proms concert.

Quote: Kindness, Generosity, and Women Who Were Not Afraid To Grow Old

“”You’ll do one thing before you take her into the spare room,” said Old Grandmother fiercely. “Moorhouse and Stackley have given up the case. They’ve only half a brain between them anyhow. Send for that woman-doctor.”
Young Grandmother looked thunderstruck. She turned to Uncle Klon, who was sitting by the baby’s cradle, his haggard face buried in his hands.
“Do you suppose–I’ve heard she was very clever–they say she was offered a splendid post in a children’s hospital in Montreal but preferred general practice–“
“Oh, get her, get her,” said Klondike–savage from the bitter business of hoping against hope. “Any port in a storm. She can’t do any harm now.”
“Will you go for her, Horace,” said Young Grandmother quite humbly.
Klondike Lesley uncoiled himself and went. He had never seen Dr. Richards before–save at a distance, or spinning past him in her smart little runabout. She was in her office and came forward to meet him gravely sweet.
She had a little, square, wide-lipped, straight-browed face like a boy’s. Not pretty but haunting. Wavy brown hair with one teasing, unruly little curl that would fall down on her forehead, giving her a youthful look in spite of her thirty-five years. What a dear face! So wide at the cheekbones–so deep grey-eyed. With such a lovely, smiling, generous mouth. Some old text of Sunday-school days suddenly flitted through Klondike Lesley’s dazed brain:
“She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.”
For just a second their eyes met and locked. Only a second. But it did the work of years. The irresistible woman had met the immovable man and the inevitable had happened. She might have had thick ankles–only she hadn’t; her mother might have meowed all over the church. Nothing would have mattered to Klondike Lesley. She made him think of all sorts of lovely things, such as sympathy, kindness, generosity, and women who were not afraid to grow old. He had the most extraordinary feeling that he would like to lay his head on her breast and cry, like a little boy who had got hurt, and have her stroke his head and say,
“Never mind–be brave–you’ll soon feel better, dear.”
“Will you come to see my little niece?” he heard himself pleading. “Dr. Moorhouse has given her up. We are all very fond of her. Her mother will die if she cannot be saved. Won’t you come?”
“Of course I will,” said Dr. Richards.”
 
Magic for Marigold, L.M. Montgomery

Women’s Wednesdays: Female Authors

Today just a quick list of 10 great female authors.

  1. The Bronte Sisters. I love them for the extraordinariness of ordinary women in books like Jane Eyre or Agnes Grey.
  2. Agatha Christie. I love that I can never guess the murderer, no matter how many I read. After all, it might be the narrator, or one of the victims, or who even knows! (Roger Ackroyd, And Then There Were None, etc.)
  3. L.M. Montgomery. I first fell in love with the Emily Trilogy, and my current favourite is The Blue Castle. I love that she believes in romance and beauty, but writes them with humour and darkness, so they’re never saccharine or cloying.
  4. Harper Lee. She only wrote the one book but it is perfect.
  5. Ursula Le Guin. The Earthsea Series is a good place to start but I’ve recently been enjoying her science fiction like The Word for World is Forest and Changing Planes. Such beautiful writing.
  6. Jane Austen. No introduction necessary, correct? I think I like Mansfield Park best.
  7. Rumer Godden. Start with An Episode of Sparrows. Characterization and insight into human nature always on point.
  8. Laura Ingalls. Start at the beginning of the Little House series and read all the way through. Her memory is so sharp; not only does she capture all the details of pioneer life (it’s practically a manual), but whatever age she’s writing about, she inhabits that little girl or young woman so well, it’s hard to believe it’s not a diary.
  9. Astrid Lindgren. Well-known for the firecracker humour and imagination of Pippi Longstocking, which is, of course, fabulous, but for something a little less on the beaten track, try Ronia the Robber’s Daughter.
  10. Madeline L’Engle. A beautiful marriage of theology, science, and humanity in every book, but never pontificating or out-of-place in the fiction. A Swiftly Tilting Planet is probably my favourite.

Always A Member of a Class

“…not that every woman is, in virtue of her sex, as strong, clever, artistic, level-headed, industrious and so forth as any man that can be mentioned; but, that a woman is just as much an ordinary human being as a man, with the same individual preferences, and with just as much right to the tastes and preferences of an individual. What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person.”

Dorothy Sayers hitting it out of the park.