Thursday, February 16, 2012

My Vagina Amazed Me

Reflections on why we need the Vagina Monologues 
more than ever before

“I found it quite unsettling at first, my vagina…..”

When I tell people that I’m doing the Vagina Monologues and that they should come, they usually laugh nervously and look away from me. Ok, the men I tell laugh nervously or condescendingly (what a cute little show for women—but we all know that the penis is king!). The women sort of shush me because I should absolutely NOT be saying the word  “Vagina” out loud, what if our mothers heard us?

“I did not think of my vagina in practical or biological terms. I did not, for example, see it as something attached to me….”
There is a deep seeded belief that this particular production is only for the “super feminist”.  I am going to ask all of you to put that notion aside. The V-Day movement is for all people with vaginas. It’s also for anyone who has known, cared for, listened to, comforted or loved someone with a vagina. It’s for those who have had their vaginas violated, for those who have had theirs cared for, for those who have never used theirs yet and for those who take their vaginas out for a night on the town regularly.

“I had to give up the fantasy, the enormous life-consuming fantasy, that someone was coming to lead my life, to choose direction, and to give me orgasms."

The experience I’ve had with the V-Day movement is one of the most meaningful of my life. It is one of the richest forums of combined women experiences. It’s a safe place for the Vagina. Let’s face it, the Vagina is in danger. The Vagina is constantly the focus of debate. The Vagina is constantly trying to be controlled. The Vagina has no rights to what happens to it.

The Vagina is under attack.

FACT:In the aftermath of the 2010 midterm elections, women’s representation on Capitol Hill – already at a paltry 17 percent, in a nation where 51 percent are female – fell for the first time in history. In the media sphere, women continue to be seen but not heard, with less than a third of U.S. films featuring women protagonists, and only a third of that number even being directed by women.” *

FACT: “One needn’t look to policy or institutions to see how society strives to silence the voices of women. Whether it’s the way women in online spaces are swamped with violent threats when they dare to voice their opinions, or the way girls who speak openly about their sexuality are shouted down for being “dirty whores,” or the way rape survivors who go public with their narratives and “dare to take pleasure in their bodies and live their lives on their own terms deserve whatever they get,” sexism is just too stupidly obvious for any (conscious) person to ignore.”

FACT: “(Conservative) extremists’ (are) relentless (in their) assaults on contraception, affordable childcare, collective bargaining rights and healthcare reform. These are all issues that disproportionately affect women’s ability to pursue education and careers like their male counterparts – because last time I checked, men don’t have to worry about pregnancy endangering their health and employability.”

FACT: “There’s no hyperbole in classifying these attacks not as equivalent to violence against women, but as violence against women, period. When legislators endanger women’s lives by forcing fraudulent abstinence-only education on teen girls, or by stripping women of their right to life-saving contraception, they are by definition waging war on women. These legislators have carte blanche to violently pursue their goal of expelling women’s voices from the public sphere – not because women aren’t speaking up or fighting back, but because existing institutions have zero interest in representing women’s independent voices.”

"My Vagina is a shell, a round pink tender shell opening and closing, closing and opening. My vagina is a flower, an eccentric tulip, the center acute and deep, the scent delicate, the petals gentle but sturdy…”

It took me 27 years to get comfortable saying the word “vagina”. It took another three years after that to realize its beauty. I don’t want it to take you as long as it took me.

I do not want it to be taboo. I do not want you thinking that I am somehow eccentric because I can talk about vaginas and orgasms and the clitoris without turning red in the face.

I do want women’s voices to be heard. I do want violence towards women to end. I do want women to be able to decide what happens with their very own bodies. I do want them to connect with themselves in ways that they may have remained disconnected. I do want them to love, love, love every part of themselves. I do want them to have daily orgasms of their own making (as I believe that is the number one thing that will lead us to world peace). 

I want you to know you.

And I sure as fuck do not want the government to come between the very special relationship that I have with my little pussycat.

*Facts were taken from this amazing article written by Echo Zen.
You can learn more about the V-Day movement here

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why I Am Not Married

“I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.”  
Gloria Steinem

People ask me a lot why I am not married. I try not to roll my eyes or get defensive. As a woman in this world, I think we internalize that question negatively. It seems to say “Why has no one ever offered to marry you so you wouldn’t be a spinster? What’s wrong with you.” Most women equate: “Why aren’t you married?” to really saying: “Why does no MAN want you?”  It’s a stupid question people, and we should really just stop asking it. Emily Post would agree with me.

Other questions I get are: When will you get married? Or what do you have against marriage? Or why are you so cynical about love? Or why are you so picky? Or why aren’t you dating online? Or did you really leave your religion because of the pressure to get married?

What I usually say is, “It’s none of your business” or “I hate babies” (I know that’s not even a question they asked, and I really love babies a lot), but it throws them off track.  Truthfully, I feel that people do not want to hear my real answer. My real answer doesn’t even compute in the mind of my mother. Poor lady.

But here it is: My real answer is that I just can’t get married until the definition of what “marriage” means changes a little more in my favor.

Let me explain.

I’ve seen young women and old women get married (and I’m usually their bridesmaid). I’ve seen conservative and liberal women get married. I’ve seen skinny and chubby women get married. It’s not like I’m a marriage leper. It’s not like no man has ever wanted me. It’s not like I haven’t gotten offers. I have. And I’ve thought long and hard about those offers. I’ve almost accepted two of them. I was very, very close. I almost had myself talked into the idea that this was finally the man for me.

I could be married right now you guys! Right now! And then I'd never hear the damn question again. (Never hearing the question again is almost reason enough for me to go get married!) I could have believed past lovers’ promises to split the work 50/50. I could have swooned (ok, I did swoon, a lot) when one of them told me how much he longed to be a father and that he would do more of the changing of the diapers and the late night feedings than me, he would. He promised. He would take off work to pick them up from school. He would do it all with me. 50/50. 

I desperately grasped onto the lovely phrase of the man who told me that he loved my feminism and that he would always support my career as equal to his. That if it came to the point where I had to relocate for work, he would relocate with me. It wouldn’t always be me forced to relocate or adhere to what his job was offering 

BEGINTANGENT This brings up another question women and men ask me, "Why do you like to work?" and they shudder a little when they say it. Call me crazy, but I chose to follow my passions in life and my job reflects that. I LOVE what I do. I can't imagine not ever doing it. I'm a photographer, you can see my work here ENDTANGENT

We would make the best decisions for our family and those decisions would not always land in his favor because he was the man. And also, he would cook and clean. We could do it. We were educated.  We were committed. We could make it work. And our love would see us through any of the technicalities. These men have been rare, but they have been. 

Of course, there have been more of the other kind of guy too. These are the men who wonder why I have to “ruin an afternoon” by bringing up feminism.  Or the ones who expect me to cook most of the meals. Or the ones who just assume that I would not mind "being supported" and "not having to work" if we had a kid. Or the ones who wanted me to not be as smart as they were. Or who thought we should vote the same (aka, I should vote just as he would because we should always be united on that).  And most of all, the ones who look at me blankly when I say  “My last name is way cooler than yours, why don’t you take my name on?" (I’m actually not kidding about this, though most people think I am). 

Even with the best of intentions on either side of the marriage, I have seen, again and again, how things change once the marriage happens. As a friend said to me, “it’s like gravity, you just get pulled into the gender roles, no matter how hard you try not to, they just suck you in.” Wives do just end up taking care of the kids more. Wives do end up cleaning the house more. Wives do end up sacrificing their careers more in favor of the husbands. Wives do end up not following through on their dreams for many, many reasons. For the most part, wives do more of the things that I don’t want to do.

And that is why I am nobody’s wife. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sundance: 28 Hotel Rooms

Are relationships, more often than not, starting backwards? Have sex and chemical attraction taken first place in our seeking connection? Are we in a culture that goes straight to the mattresses and then, if that goes well, we develop friendships and possibly love afterwards? Would Darwin like where we are going?

The simple reality is that our fear skyrockets on the chart when we thinking of having to define anything in regards to love. “Whatever this is…Whatever we’re doing here…” is a reoccurring phrase ping-ponged about between my single friends and myself when describing our current and various relationships. Unlike others, however, this phrase doesn’t bother me as it might bother people like my mother who grew up in a world where all things were labeled in nice, tidy, and simple ways. But, when have relationships…when has love…ever been easily defined?

28 Hotel Rooms takes place over an undetermined amount of time (the director mentioned somewhere between three and seven years). Two working professionals on individual business trips meet in a hotel restaurant. They get room #1, sleep together, and then go their separate ways. A few months later, they find themselves both on trips and both in the same city and they decide to share Room #2. What started out as a one-night stand develops into one of the most honest, real, and touching on-screen relationships that I have ever seen. I felt voyeuristic watching the film, but I accepted the feeling and then embraced it. A film lover’s gotta do what a film lover’s gotta do. This was, easily, the best thing I saw at Sundance. With a color palette to match my personality and an understated plot, this film was brilliant.

Duane Byre of the Hollywood Reporter said, “The technical crew's on-the-spot aesthetics are akin to prolonged foreplay:  cinematographer Doug Emmett's compositions and framings strip away any role-play facades.”

That was the magic. I’ll sum it up in one line:

It felt so far removed from acting and so close to living.

I had such a visceral reaction to so many moments. The film is made up of one Man and one Woman. We don’t even know their names. Their names aren’t important—. Their connection is--this deep connection that you want to believe is possible, but you find yourself settling for far less for most of your life.

Why do you settle?

Because you fear it’s not reality?
Because people are incapable of connecting with you on the level you desire? Because people aren’t poetic?
Because it takes work to connect like that?
Because 88% of people don’t know what I’m even talking about?

When was the last time you stayed up all night long laughing, talking, and being real—really, really real—with your lover? Why do relationships maneuver around the simple things—like honest talking—and embrace the more complicated things like jealousy and petulance?

The film covers 28 meetings in 28 hotel rooms. In order. Over a period of time. It’s the most concise summary of the relationship maze I have ever seen. Ups. Downs. Laughs. Cries. And the silences that most of us pretend aren’t there.

28 Hotel Rooms pulls you out of the traditional definitions of love and marriage and connection that you so easily cast about. It breaks away from relationship labels and society’s need to define everything to the last fucking detail (as proven by the Facebook relationship option of “it’s complicated”). These people define nothing. Not really.  Maybe they do it after the camera stops rolling. I don’t care. Because they are two people and they just do not fit a generic definition. I admired this movie. So much. Because, frankly, I’m tired of the definitions and labels I’m offered in this day-to-day world about love and friendship and connection. I don’t want the regular sort of defining. I don’t. And neither did they. We are tired of it. We want to be undefined.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sundance: Corpo Celeste

This Italian film was the only showing at Sundance this year that made me want to stick a fork in my eyeball, pull it out, and examine it with the eye that I had left in my head. I’m sorry to be so harsh on a medium I love so well (Italian Cinema ftw!), but I gots to tell it how it is.

Marta, a young Swiss girl who has just moved to Italy with her mother and sister, has been enrolled in the local church to prepare for her Catholic confirmation. She’s faced with a faith she doesn’t understand and lots of expectations heaped upon her shoulders of how and what she should be. It’s a good premise for any disaffected Christian like myself and I was looking forward to it. Sweet Marta is very, very moody and very, very dissatisfied with life. At 13.  Why? That’s the question you’re going to be asking yourself throughout the whole movie. And not the good kind of “why”…like “Why is the sky blue?” and “Why are puppies so cute?”  But the kind of “why” where you can't really reflect on the answer because it doesn't make sense, like “Why is Nicole Kidman injecting her lips again?”  and “Why is Winona Ryder shoplifting?”  These whys aren't fun. Sure, Marta has a mom who works late and sure and her older sister gets mad at her for borrowing her bra and being so selfish (I sort of agree with the older sister).  But ultimately, this is a character that has no motivation (I don't think she knows what's happening to her ever) and gives you no reason to like her and doesn’t really express why she’s so unhappy. There is no WHY.

This film was full of one drawn out scene to the next. There is the scene where her Sunday School teacher yells at her so she goes and cuts all her hair off (beautiful hair) with dull scissors. I was too bored to search for a metaphor here. There is the scene where she finds a liter of newly born kittens and the Sunday School teacher shoves them all in a plastic bag and sends them off to be drowned (not before hitting the bag on the concrete a few times out of lack of humanity…you’ll want to punch someone in this scene because it’s so awful, so sit alone if you see it…note to yourself: don’t see it.) There is the scene where she starts her period (do girls in this modern age get to the age of 13 and REALLY not know what a period is still? Really internet? Really television?) and the only person there to help her is her priest.  What is this, I asked myself? A messed up Italian version of the Thornbirds…no, sadly, no because the Thornbirds, while it disturbed me, still held my interest.

Soon the priest and the PMS-suffering-teen go on a journey to the top of a mountain to steal a large, life size crucifix from an old chapel and bring it down the mountain for their congregation to enjoy (because Jesus suffering on the cross is always an enjoyable thing to look at). She’s left alone with it and rubs her hands all over Jesus’s body as the screen gets dark and the lighting gets sexual. This made me get all protective of Jesus. Damn girl! Step away from Jesus! You’re being inappropriate.

Marta hates life. And hates everyone. And does stupid stuff. As a person who likes life. And likes everyone. And tries not to do stupid stuff. I wouldn’t recommend this film.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sundance: Celeste and Jesse Forever

I like to credit photos I use, but I don't know where this one is from. Sorry! 

The very title Celeste and Jesse Forever sends a scent of Nic and Nora’s Infinite Playlist to your nose...and then you realize that this is no Michael Cera flick. This is a movie for adults—adults who are still getting their hearts broken in the exact same way they did when they were 16. While the title sounds whimsical and lofty, this is anything but a lighthearted comedy. Yes, you will laugh until you pee a little bit. And yes, you will be privy to more witty banter than you’d expect during an evening with Tina Fey..but be forewarned, people…this movie is not for the faint of heart, especially the already-broken-not-quite-healed-ones.

Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg) have known each other forever. They are your friendly neighbors who beat all the odds placed against us in this cold, gray “Jersey Shore” world. Their lives are perfection. They have the perfect house, marriage, and well-behaved dog that you can imagine without getting into Stepford territory. They know everything about one another.  The chemistry between Jones and Samberg is so real that you want this to be reality television and for them to feel this way in real life. When kismet like this happens in a movie you begin to wonder if your lover could ever know you as these two know each other. The answer to that is a resounding No! Nope. No one does. It’s not reality. But it is cinematic.

Celeste and Jess meet in 8th grade and marry young. After several years, Celeste realizes Jesse, as much as he listens to her and makes her laugh, is never going to get his shit together and get a real job. They amicably divorce. The divorce is so amicable, that they remain living in the same house, going out with their same friends, and being each other’s BFFs. It’s sort of weird. Who does that? Who divorces and still goes out for pizza? I’ll tell you who—two people who realize the value of the other, two people who still love each other and two people who aren't sure when to let go. I’ve been there. It doesn’t end well.  Jesse would take Celeste back in a heartbeat (and helping her build her IKEA dresser at 2 in the morning shows his dedication). And, she sort of enjoys the power she has over him…not in a diabolical way, but in a way that we all really understand. It’s the way all we humans hope our exes still feel about us. It’s always easier being the one who is loved more in a relationship, isn’t it? Then you hold the power. And while Celeste is adorable and kind and funny and charming, she’s also a powerhouse at her job, ambitious, and on the fast track of life. Jesse, she thinks, drags her down. Where is her ambition equal?

During the midst of separation, Jesse has a one-night stand with a beautiful Belgian woman because this is what men naturally do when they divorce. They also don’t use protection and Ms. Belgian becomes pregnant. Then they get remarried to the Belgian beauty. Jesse suddenly realizes he has a child on the way. He starts to grow up. He starts to work. He starts to be responsible. He starts to become everything that Celeste always wanted him to be, except now he’s being that person with someone else.

There are many heart-wrenching scenes throughout the film, and they get more painful as the film goes on. Moments when you are laughing, crying, cringing and then suddenly hitting the person next to you and telling them to turn off the screen because your heart can’t take it any more.

Ultimately, this film is about knowing when to let someone out of your life and when to keep them. We’ve all been there. It’s a little sad. Shit, it’s really sad. It’s the color blue. It makes you want to go and sit on your ex-boyfriend’s porch until he realizes you really were supposed to be together and the music swells and everything feels right again as you French kiss. It makes you question every break up you’ve ever had. It makes you realize you probably did have to let them go and move on and that yeah, everything turns out the way it should (what other choice is there?)

Rashida Jones is simply the leading lady. Having been deemed by Hollywood as supporting lady material, Jones went out, wrote a script and cast herself as the star. This made my like of her turn into all out girl-love. She’s my kind of woman. Just like Kirsten Wig’s big breakout in Bridesmaids, Jones shows us she’s more than just second fiddle to Pam from The Office.  She’s truly the heart and soul of this film.

So go! See it! I met the director and he was really hot and smart and a bit dark and sort of edgy and pulled off a gray beanie, gray peacoat, and gray pants while looking like a ray of hot sunshine. Et voila.

p.s. If you’re going through a divorce  or you are not over your divorce, do not go see this unless you like being that guy huddled in a corner…sobbing.

It's been awhile

It's been a few years since I used this blog, since this blog was public, and since I actually had readers. I'm hoping to change that.