Sunday, October 5, 2014

Patriarchy on the Windowsill

I awoke today from a dream saga that set me sitting on the side of the bed, wondering what the heck just happened. This was a trip through decades. There were pieces of my life story, but it felt like an everywoman journey of struggle and pushing back. Against hostile bosses, thwarting spouses, patronizing colleagues, indifferent others – and I was awakened forlorn. Sitting on the edge of my bed in despair and confusion. That's not my normal setting. I can hit the reset mood button just as all women have to regularly in a world with entitled masculine energy paramount. The long dream felt like a trip down memory lane through the centuries, the way female humans have experienced it. I had to shake it off, and it was lucky to talk with a friend who called. I use humor as a survival mechanism and it works most of the time, but the conversation was necessary today to rise out of the melancholy. There's just some shit that's not funny. Humor comes from that pile. Humor is the other face of tragedy (which explains those theatrical masks, although separate isn't entirely accurate.) I made a commitment for next Sunday to go to a standup comedy coaching thing in Ypsilanti at The Mix. Caregiving is a rich environment for comedy. At the core of my caring comedy/tragedy is a golfball with 10-27-96 on it. It's the day my father got a hole in one. It's the day I was diagnosed with cancer. For 10 years I've lived with this golfball on the windowsill. You can see that when I'm struck with the date, I use my soapy hands to try to obscure the day. It took me 7 years to work around that pain of understanding that his pleasure trumps my pain: the crux of patriarchy. I switched the date to the back – he switched it to the front. Yesterday I noticed that he 1) managed to find the permanent marker without asking where it was, and 2) used it to write the date anew on the reverse. Rotating the ball won't help now. Doing some standup comedy, overcoming that fear, definitely will. And maybe it will help some other women, too.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Three Story Life 2014

Another Caregiver Ninja week featuring ambulance, hospital stay, care coordination and a diminishing sense of who and where I am. Seems that each crisis is easier in the coordination of, and harder in the emotional aspect. That isn't what I mean: it feels like I'm untethered from Self and drifting farther away from help and safety. Think Gravity with better underwear. We had that talk about DNR with my father and maybe we're closer to discovering what he really thinks. Specifics were discussed. Yes, 911; no vasopressor and intubation. Disturbing to find out that regardless of what is on file at the destination hospital, staff will go through the steps one by one. My own end of life preferences get in the way. Dad takes a myriad of meds, has had surgeries and procedures and dozens of machine tests. My journey is different. Three stories of end of life emotions, tactics and the overwhelming experience of it all. I told Dad his job for the future is to appreciate. Each day, the color changes, good meals, a fine night's sleep, calming memories, warm socks, hot coffee, a returned phone call. I'm trying to take my own advice.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Reality of Women and Movies in Dollars and Sense

Hollywood had a tank summer at the box office. We predicted this would happen because we watch and we hope: not for industry failure, but for the money/power brokers to get that leaving women out is a bad investment. Best example this year - Hercules vs. Lucy. Dwayne Johnson is a box office winner in action films, but Scarlett Johannson ate his lunch. Industry brokers credit the dismal women numbers in leadership creative roles in a dizzyingly wrong array. Women can't carry the overseas market where pre-sales (and investment $) are paramount. Wrong. Women films don't make money. Wrong. Even Amy Pascal, a studio co-head can't come up with a good answer - because they're wrong. All wrong. Statistics prove the lies (a recent 538 article covers the data well). Frozen, with Bechdel test-passing women in the lead roles, and Jennifer Lee as co-director, and screenwriter, may make the top 10 grossing movies of all time. What we need now is a better look at the money the big studios are missing. Grandmas take kids to movies. The older crowd in this country has more loot than it's had in decades. And they're staying home in droves, and keeping the younger potential audience at home with them. Playing with their apps. Movie money is being siphoned off by women gamers. Did we hear that? Women gamers will soon be half the market. The potential movie going audience of women outnumbers male moviegoers. There are more women than men in this country and within this decade, in the world. Women writers, directors, game coders, media professionals are not just underrepresented - they're missing on purpose. What's different this year; what's exciting and encouraging, is the numbers continue to prove the lie. Women can and do direct, write, code, put out a money maker, carry a film in a leading role. And we know how to call out the falsehoods that keep us out of any industry we are qualified to be in. Will it make a difference? Maybe. A Women in Media study (pg. 38) shows that where there are women in the film industry, those women are producers, and unfortunately, the more prestigious the producer, the fewer women creatives are on board. Check The Hurt Locker. Directed/produced by Kathryn Bigelow. Everyone else in a creative role is a man. Heaping praise on the people who are showing us reality, start with Barbara O'Leary's compiled lists of women directors, cinematographers which bury the lie that women don't want to direct or photograph. People who are publicly claiming what women don't want as an excuse for excluding females won't have much cover going forward. We know the truth, and now we've got numbers to prove it.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Woman on the Edge of Time

Marge Piercy wrote this extraordinary book. The lead actor is Consuelo Ramos. We meet her in her mid-30s, as her niece knocks on the door, bloody from a beating her boyfriend pimp Geraldo gave her. Geraldo, who is several steps behind to beat on the same door and the women who are never safe behind it. Which continues a 30 year reign of beating on Connie. The family, the men, the system, the drugs, the circumstances. When you're done being beaten, when you swing back, you're incarcerated because you got no power. I'm just learning about women's science fiction - the fictional striving for a world without broken ribs and death via womanhood. Piercy beams a striking light on woman+culture, hard to look at with both eyes, but true, oh we so know it's true. Powerlessness runs like ditch water. We readers, shoeless and teeth grinding, follow Connie. Raging, hurt, battered, triumphant over the tiniest success, we are with her. Connie has a gift. She's a catcher, and someone in the future finds her. Finds her in the midst of an upswing in her treacherously brutal life, finds her in the institution her brother confines her to, finds her in the scared resentful heart of the mess of her life. She is the mutton in a psychomedical game of hasenpfeffer. When we feel most powerless, we must understand that there are millions like us. There is a choice: to die as others see our worth and our death, or to fight to realize our worth. My mother gave me a book for my 17th birthday. Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn. She wrote on the flyleaf "To Linda on her 17th birthday. May you read it in all good conscience." That was so close to 50 years ago. And here is Marge Piercy. Woman on The Edge of Time. May you read it in all good conscience. And then weep, wipe your eyes and move forward. The struggle for a good life goes on, for everyone.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Science Fiction and Women

Two months gone on my pledge to read science fiction by women for a year, I'm already struggling. Part of this is my challenge at internet searching. Part is the inclusion of fantasy with SF. Science fiction has subsets. Speculative, utopian, dystopian, and other -ian(s). SF written by women does not always have women protagonists, and some men have written good SF featuring women. I picked up a couple of books by new SF women writers, and if the thing starts out with a rape or a beating, I'm done. Aren't there other ways to launch a woman on an adventure?  I read Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, and she raised the bar to the stratosphere. I'm going to have to forget Breq in order to appreciate another SF story fully. Today I'm trying to find a critical anthology like Marleen Barr's Future Females, written and collected in this century. What I learned so far: utopian SF is the way women have to imagine a future that is not what we think we will live to see. There are no adventure stories featuring women because a women stepping out her door ala Bilbo Baggins will not regret she forgot her handkerchief. She will regret stepping out. No road trips, starship launches, stranger in a strange land for women. Nope. No unescorted trips to a border town on a mission of mysterious, possibly nefarious, assignment. Nope. An excellent example of this is James Tiptree Jr (Alice Sheldon) "Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled with Light!" Sheldon channels the exquisite joy of freedom, and then flips the illusion on its bloody head. Powerful storytelling. Utopian dystopian. We need a new genre. Freed from the criteria and criticism of male-dominated labeling. Oh hell, we need a new culture. Where's the hope in this one?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

That's What Women Do

My father and I had a heated discussion recently about why he needn't shave my brother. I take Scott to the barber shop. Dad said that I think of the outing to the barber shop like I think of a trip to the beauty parlor.  No woman he has experience of ever frequented such a place. What's that reference doing in our conversation? Because it's a cultural automatic. Women = beauty maintenance. During a later conversation he mentioned the neighbor women were gossiping–while he was gossiping about the neighbor women. Women gossip, go to beauty salons, are the weaker sex. James Muir, the sculptor of this amazing artwork, writes Truth and Justice is not what our legal system is dominated by: the rights of the individual and equality are not preeminent. Sociologically women are not equal, and are portrayed as not suitable for equality, based on perceptions cemented over centuries. Throughout our lives we women coordinate activities, orchestrate workplaces, maintain calendars and events within, elevate and accentuate positive environments, keep the peace, find and share the truth, mete out justice at work and home (based on experience and research). Men do this, too. But men are credited with these skills. Women need to expect credit as well. In the roles assigned to women culturally we hone the prowess to manage large projects and the people assigned. Traits we are labeled with are precisely the traits that allow for excellent leaders. Many of the roles we are excluded from would be the exact endeavor for us to excel. Director, CEO, priest, symphony conductor, hospital administrator. Because those roles are what women do throughout a lifetime. Add to the experience, the desire to excel and succeed and there are ideal candidates left out. We're working to open the way for advancement, for ourselves, our peers, our progeny. That's what women do.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Baby Brother Buddha

My brother and I were out today for breakfast and errands. We stopped at the farm plot to cut some flowers. Scott was hugging the blooms on the way home - unknown if it was because he was appreciating, or because he was saving them from my scary (to him) driving. The world's too big for him now. Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" came on the radio. At the line "forget about everything" Scott repeated it. My heart chilled. But he was hugging flowers, and when I smiled at him he smiled back.