persimmons film column
Serena Simmons Persimmons is a student and an accomplished spoken word artist living in Hawaii. Serena’s days consist of sitting in her room or the KCC library reading and writing.
Half the Sky by Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas D. Kristof
The first short film in the Half the Sky series focuses on the issue of maternal mortality rates in Somaliland, Somalia. In Somaliland, the practice of female genital cutting has been conducted for years on young girls raging from five to twelve years of age. The horrific practice involves the cutting of the vagina and the removal of the clitoris, the narrowing of the opening of the vagina, and a whole host of other harmful procedures that all lead to deathly infections, difficulty when urinating and when giving birth. Due to the vagina being sewn shut after undergoing female genital cutting, when women are going into labor the vagina literally must be cut open in order for the baby to come out. Thankfully, women like Edna Adan, the founder and owner of a hospital in Somaliland, is taking measures into her own hands by caring for these women and training other women to do the same.Edna Adan, who is the first Somalian woman to win a scholarship to go study abroad in Britain, is a mid-wife, hospital owner and manager, and an activist for women and young girls who have undergone female genital cutting in Somalia. Having undergone the process herself, Adan is fully aware of the pain and the after-effects of female genital cutting. Adan’s hospital has done wonders for the women of Somaliland by taking in women and young girls who have gone into labor, who are suffering infections or complications from female genital cutting, and training women from the districts to become mid-wives and assistants to their fellow women.The learning Diane Lane goes through when talking to people about female genital cutting and witnessing women being rushed in for urgent care due to cutting further emphasizes the distance Americans have set up between themselves and other countries. There isn’t a desire to learn about what is happening in other countries to young girls and women; we are told things are bad and we move on with the rest of our day. The urgent need to dig to the roots of these issues and find the solutions becomes ignored, which leaves us ignoring the problems we have in our own country as well. Violence against women and young girls is ceased when people like Edna Adan take a stand. When people make efforts to stop injustices, they can actually stop. The problem is when no one tries to stop them, which only allows them to worsen.I cannot articulate my emotions properly when talking about this film. I am happy that women like Adan exist and they are actively making a difference in the lives of girls and women in a place like Somaliland, where women and young girls are forced into pregnancy and female genital cutting. I am relieved there is someone working to end the archaic treatment of women. At the same time, I am saddened to know that in many other places around the world, America included, women are still being persecuted for their gender. I am angry that some of us have to wake up every day with fight in our bones so that one day others won’t have to. I’m disappointed that we have to fight for something as simple as treating each other with respect.In short, watch the film. Be happy Adan and other good people in the world are doing good things. Be angry that many bad people in the world are doing bad things. Do something to support the good people and take down the bad people. Spread the word.
Peace Unveiled by Gini Reticker
The first episode that I have seen of the PBS five part series, Women, War, & Peace, the special Peace Unveiled focuses on the daily plight of women in Afghanistan both pre and post- Taliban regime, the determination of women to gain a voice in parliament as well as in international affairs, and the unwillingness to give in to pressures and pitfalls of their nation’s government and its officials.To begin with, I cannot stress enough how necessary it is for people to watch the Women, War, & Peaceseries. The news and other media outlets rarely talk about women engaged in anything other than being the victim. Though we as women are definitely the victims of societal dangers, inequality, warped politics, sexism, the repercussions of war and a host of other problems, a lot of us are deciding that we are not going to let these horrors continue any longer. Women, War & Peace and the episode that I am focusing on in particular, Peace Unveiled, showcase women in these communities and countries severely affected by war standing up and taking matters into their own hands; in other words, the leaders and events that you DON’T hear about in the news.The women in this episode are some of the strongest women I have ever seen. These women have pushed for women’s rights in the Afghanistan constitution as members of Parliament, and as women’s rights advocates within communities that are liberated from Taliban ideals and those that still staunchly hold on to Taliban ideals. The danger they put themselves in every single day when teaching literacy and general education courses to other women, giving speeches at political rallies, appealing to parliament for seats and opportunities to speak in meetings concerning matters of state is frightening to think about. I felt uneasy when watching the videos of men beating women during the Taliban regime, the video of a women getting stoned to death for having an affair and the death threats a woman received for teaching other women how to read. The courage these women have when taking on these tasks in a place where a woman can be beaten for exposing her ankles is truly beyond words.The range of emotions that I experienced watching this segment goes from sadness to small moments of glee. The emotion that made itself present the most though would be anger; absolute, unabashed anger. While there are small triumphs within the film, there is still the ever-present reality that for every victory there is a set of conditions these women have to abide by. The viewer will understand exactly what I mean when he/she watches the film and sees the injustices that are served alongside the victories. The government in Afghanistan appears hell-bent on keeping women out of discussions concerning the country and its future, which is funny considering the women are a part of the country.While I could go on for days about this film, I will instead encourage the reader to watch this film and make your own assessments. This is something that needs to be seen. People need to be aware of the injustices taking place against women not only in Afghanistan, but around the world, and the women who are taking steps to end the injustice.
More Than A Month by Shukree Hassan Tilghman
Shukree Hassan Tilghman’s film More Than A Month is shedding light on an issue that most of us in America have probably never thought about: the accessibility of African American history as opposed to European and White American histories. Tilghman focuses on Black History Month as a partial enabler of this problem because of the highlighting of only a few select individuals within the civil rights movement, as well as the month almost segregating a certain type of history in America, when it should be considered and taught with the same reverence and stature as European and White American history is in this country.Tilghman brings up a couple of points that hit home with me, the first being that of Black History Month as becoming a commodity of some sorts to companies and advertisement agencies who wish to make money off of these 28 days in February. The ad campaigns are aimed at people who wish to “culture” themselves or “get into the spirit of” Black History Month. So by selling fried chicken and collared greens for half price and watching films about the slave trade, people think that this is what one does during Black History Month. These companies make money off of stereotypes and negative aspects of history.Another point that Tilghman makes in the film is in regards to education in our country and the role that Black History Month plays in our public school systems. Being a public school student in the United States, I can say first hand that we did not learn an enormous amount about African Americans and the significant roles they played in our country’s history. With the exception of Frederick Douglas, Rosa Parks and a few other key figures, we didn’t learn of anyone else. The history we received revolved around the slave trade and the Civil Rights movement. The topics we focused on were packed with struggle and negativity, and very few glimpses into anything positive. All of this was also taught almost exclusively within Black History Month. After February, we went right back to focusing on the founding fathers and other white “pioneers” of America. This insistence on condensing an enormous part of our history into a few main historical figures, a few events, within a months time shows how our country views non-white history; separate and not as important.The main message that I received from this film is that we as a nation should not be segregating our history. Everything that has happened in our country’s history is OUR history as Americans and we do not get to pick and choose what gets left out. Our schools should be teaching our students about ALL of our history, the good and the bad. African Americans should not have to deal with a single month being the only time that people will learn about this half of American history; it should be year long and celebrated everyday. All people of all ethnicities, colors, and backgrounds who are from here or have come here all have histories that play a significant role in this country and no one should be attempting to minimize any one of them.In conclusion, I recommend that everyone watch this film. It is a glimpse into the segregated stance that America takes on history and the strong need for reform when it comes to the education of America’s future leaders. Everyone’s history is important and our children should have the right to learn about all of them.
Deaf Jam by Judy Lieff
The film Deaf Jam focuses on a reality that many of us in the spoken word community probably don’t think about often enough; the desire of members in the deaf community to become spoken word artists. This film follows Aneta Brodski, a young woman from Israel currently living in Queens, New York who wants nothing more than for her voice to be heard in a setting where ears are used more often than eyes. Eventually meeting up with a hearing spoken word artist, Tahani, Aneta embarks on a journey with Tahani to create a new form of spoken word poetry that will attempt to bridge the gap between those who can hear and those who can hear with their hands.Having been a writer for most of my life, I understand the need to write and express what has been written down. When I found spoken word, I felt that I had finally found a medium for my words, for it was an art form that allowed me to speak aloud the poems that otherwise would have remained in my journal or in Facebook notes. The fact that I could talk about anything that I wanted to on a stage and have the reassurance that there would be people listening was mind boggling; needless to say, I was thrilled. There are many of us who fall into spoken word and remain because of the release that it allows us as writers and as human beings.When thinking about Aneta’s situation as a deaf person with a longing to be a part of the spoken word community, especially in New York, I am reminded of the well-established tradition of using one’s voice as the main instrument and the audience listening with their ears. Though we use our bodies to help illustrate our points, the main point of the slam is what comes out of one’s mouth. In Aneta’s case, her voice is her body and it is from her body that her words spring forth. This is honest, artistic expression and yet, there are some in the spoken word community who may look at this as being fit for a separate arena of performance and not well suited for the actual world of slam poetry. Unfortunately, like many other artist communities, the spoken word community does not always adapt well to change.The lesson that I got out of this film and the point that I will make with this review is that we in the spoken word community need to be more open to the idea of change. Though many of us want to hold on to the world of spoken word that we have grown so accustomed to, we must accept new people and new ideas so that we may progress as a community. This community will not continue if we do not encourage the fostering of new concepts and new types of performance. All people must be listened to and we must make an attempt to listen to them because they do have something to say. That is guaranteed.
We Still Live Here – Âs Nutayuneân by Anna Makepeace
Anna Makepeace’s film We Still Live Here tells the story of the indigenous people of Massachusetts, the Wampanoag, and their collective attempt to bring the language of their ancestors into the 21st century both for the current generation and the generations to come. The film follows Jessie Little Doe and the Wampanoag people as they go through the struggles and joys of learning their language, the revitalization of cultural practices and customs, and the bright future they have set for themselves as destined speakers of the Wampanoag language.The history of the Wampanoag, like many other indigenous people, is filled with much sadness. With the coming of colonization and Christianity, missionaries taught the Wampanoag the English language, enforced this as the only language to speak and the correct language to speak, forced Christianity and the concept of sin onto these people, and ultimately succeeded in silencing the Wampanoag language for more than a century. In the film, bibles are shown containing notes written in Wampanoag expressing guilt, shame, and a pitiful existence. These parts of the film are depictions of the brutal effects of colonization and Christianity on the indigenous people of not only America, but in many regions in the Pacific as well as in numerous other countries around the world.Thankfully, people like Jessie Little Doe exist. Jessie Little Doe, a social worker and graduate of MIT with a Masters in linguistics, teaches her people their native Wampanoag language. Jessie had a series of recurring dreams that consisted of people who looked similar to her, but were speaking a language that she could not understand. Finally, Jessie realized that the language her dreams were speaking was Wampanoag, which she took as a sign. The language of her people had to be revived and she must be the first one to make that step and learn it so that she may help teach it later on. Jessie’s daughter, Mae, is the first native speaker in over one hundred years; that is progress if I’ve ever seen it.I was very moved by this film for several reasons, the first reason being that this is a resurgence of cultural customs and language that I have not seen in America before. These people are refusing to accept English as their only language; they are relearning and reclaiming their native language, and ultimately a connection with their land and cultures that their language can provide. It is beautiful to see people engaging in cultural revitalization; it gives me hope for the future generation and the heights that they will bring our cultures to.The second reason I was moved by this film would be my personal struggle with learning my culture’s language. Being of Caucasian and Maori descent, I grew up knowing more about my Scottish and German culture than I did about my Maori culture. Now that I am older, I have started learning more about my Maori side but I am still in the dark for the most part, especially when it comes to language. I understand the trial and error that accompanies learning a new language, and how much more it means to you that you become fluent in this language because it is in fact yours. Especially with indigenous languages, this generation and those to come must keep the languages alive in order to keep the cultures alive. Seeing people going through the same motions that I am in regards to learning our respective languages made me feel less alone.So yeah, everyone should seriously watch this movie. We Still Live Here is honest, it is real, and it is an example of the success that indigenous peoples can gain when determined and unwilling to give up on their roots.
Beauty Is Embarrassing by Neil Berkeley
Neil Berkeley’s film Beauty Is Embarrassing focuses on Wayne White, iconic graphic artist, cartoonist, set designer, and amazing human being, and is a raw and uncensored look into the unmerciful world of art and one artists’ undying love for his craft.The set designer for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, the mastermind behind Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight” music video, word painter, husband and father of two children who are all artists, Wayne White has managed to accomplish what most of us artists only dream of; completely surrounding himself with art. From an early age, Wayne has been obsessed with creating things and pushing past the boundaries that his restrictive Tennessee hometown had firmly in place. Whether he’s making puppets out of scrap wood or painting the words “Fuck You” onto a vintage landscape portrait, Wayne is constantly involved in something artistic and one hundred percent weird. For a poet who can barely find time to write these days, I find myself envious of Wayne and his almost fantastical lifestyle.I enjoyed this film mainly because of Wayne’s honesty and refusal to sugar coat anything. Wayne goes in depth into his failures and successes in the art world and his personal life, refusing to gloss over any minute detail. This film manages to finally expose the art world for what it really is: a critical, stuffy blob that roams from gallery to gallery and magazine to magazine deciding what is worth viewing and what should be considered garbage. Wayne is an artist who essentially said “screw you” to the galleries and critics after numerous attempts to be successful in the art world, and decided to make the art that he wanted to make. Despite recent success in galleries, Wayne still does exactly that; whatever he wants.The most important thing that this film did for me was reaffirm my outlook on life. From an early age, I have held on to the idea that doing what you love in life is more important than doing something that makes you miserable, whether it be for financial reasons or because society expects it of you. Much like Wayne did, I essentially flipped the bird to society and the chance of ever having a loaded paycheck because none of it matters; all that matters is that I am pushing myself to learn, write, and become a better person regardless of what the general populace thinks of my decisions. Living conditions will not be the best, money may not always be there, and meals may have to be bowls of rice and fish for a week straight but all of that is fine as long as I am doing what I love.So this is a thank you to Wayne, his wife Mimi who is a talented comic illustrator, and their two children. The love for art that is evident in this family is something that should be shown to young, struggling artists out there who are being pressured into giving up on their craft. Wayne and his family prove that the tough times, the slightly better times, and the exceptionally good days are all a part of a journey that is very much worth taking. For some of us, art is not an option, it’s our whole life, and Wayne proves that one can do something they love, regardless of the obstacles, and still be happy.
The Powerbroker by Bonnie Boswell
Whenever I think back on what I learned during my twelve years in this nation’s public school system, I don’t remember the lectures, (mostly due to the fact that I we didn’t have much teaching going on), but more so the social structure and the designated hang out spots for specific groups. The public school system was more about the experiences we have while growing up and less about what goes on in the classroom. I cannot recall any of our textbooks being up to date or our teachers ever telling us about civil rights activists like Whitney Young, who is the center of this fantastic film, The Powerbroker. After watching this film, I am saddened that more kids don’t hear more about people like Young while they are in school, especially given the immense amount of work that he poured into the civil rights movement.Director Bonnie Boswell introduces the audience to the turmoil of the last century in the beginning of the film, with clips of activists calling for black power and segregation baring its teeth at every opportunity. Throughout the film, there is a timeline that covers the length of the civil rights movement, including the events that happened in between such as the Vietnam War and Nixon’s election to the presidency; all with Whitney Young playing a significant role the whole time in each instance. Whether he was persuading white corporate leaders into contributing to the movement or discussing new tactics with President Johnson, Young was constantly working to ensure a better future for African Americans and generations to come.Whitney Young is someone that I wish I had learned about while I was in high school. The contributions that he made to the African American community through his dealings with white corporate America and the presidency should be noted and taught in our schools. It is imperative that our children learn about the people who fought to gain equal rights for everyone living in America, and hopefully inspire them to follow in their footsteps.This film is an example of what one can gain through undying determination. Whitney Young managed to gain the trust of white business leaders with his persuasive air, leading to funding and support for his ultimate goal of advancing African Americans socially and economically. Young ignored the insults from black power extremists who insisted that Young was a 20th century “Uncle Tom” or an “oreo”, bending to the will of white supremacy advocates; all that mattered was that Young knew what he was doing was right. Young did what he needed to do to help propel African Americans into the business world and beyond. Young believed in an America where neither race ruled the other race but instead lead and made decisions together.I recommend this film to those who are interested in learning about EVERYONE who took place in the civil rights movement in America. If we are to remember and praise those who fought for our rights as human beings, then we must recognize all of them and not leave any out. Whitney Young is someone who should be remembered and talked about more, just as Diane Nash and John Lewis should be remembered and talked about as well. If we don’t know the whole story, then we will never progress.
Love Free or Die by Macky Alston
Macky Alston’s film Love Free or Die is a shining example of religious narrow-mindedness, the immense power that antique maxims have over both laity and the clergy, and a glimpse into the love that one man continues to have for two relationships that can’t stand to be in the same room with each other.Religion, throughout the centuries, has proved to be a complicated entity. While religion has brought happiness and salvation to many people, it has also issued in ages of suffering for many people. Christianity in particular has played a significant role in delivering these blessings and plights to the masses, touching nearly every square inch of this earth. The messages behind these leather bound gospels have spurred varying reactions to it internationally for thousands of years, with the most popular debate in recent years being around the status of homosexuals within the bible and the church. The gay community has suffered immeasurable damage at the hands of religion, with Christianity being one of the largest contributors; and yet, someone like Gene Robinson manages to love God without reservation. Gene Robinson is the first openly gay priest in the Christian religion that is currently in a same sex relationship with his husband, Mark. Gene is under quite a bit stress, as is to be expected given the circumstances; a devotion to a religion that historically does not accept his love for his husband, the trials and tribulations that accompany his being so outspoken about his sexuality, and the difficult task of having to be a member of both the church and the gay community. I am in complete awe at the ability of this brave man to be so in love with a hierarchy that does not fully return that love. As someone who is not entirely fond of Christianity and its supposed morals, I was not surprised by the type of treatment that Gene received at the hands of the church. Many religions seem to have a hard time dealing with people who in any way differ from what the religion deems normal, with Christianity being a very outspoken advocate of this intolerance. To watch someone like Gene be harassed by parishioners and lectured by clergy simply because he loves another man is a reality that we as Americans, sadly, have become accustomed to seeing. Inequality and hatred for those who differ from mainstream society’s expectations of people is rampant, especially in America. Religion is not the only one who ostracizes select groups of people; government, social clubs, and the general populace all take turns stoking the flames. This film was a painful reminder for me that all of these injustices are still taking place and that we are doing close to nothing to remedy it. Gene Robinson is a man who openly loves his God and his marriage, and is committed to helping others gain the courage to do the same. In a society where loving and accepting yourself is frowned upon, people like Gene are needed more than ever. If we deny our identities, than nothing will ever get done.
The Revolutionary Optimists by Maren Grainger-Monsen and Nicole Newnham
Maren Grainger-Monsen and Nicole Newnham’s film The Revolutionary Optimists follows the lives of several youth from the slums of Kolkata in India who are dealing with poverty, an absence of drinking water, caste systems, gender inequality, and a collective desire to see it all end. Though individual situations differ, all of these kids try to maintain a positive outlook on their lives and do things to help benefit their families and communities as a whole.Amlan Ganguly, the man who started Prayasam, a program that helps to enable children to empower themselves and their communities through art education and exposure to popular media in the hopes of teaching them problem solving, is taking a step away from the traditional approach that I usually see taken with youth programs; Ganguly lets the children make decisions regarding their well-being, their communities’ well-being, and the decisions that have to be made to ensure that set goals are accomplished. Being used to organizations where adults are the ones making most decisions regarding the organization and its outreach efforts, this was refreshing.There is legitimate concern for the well-fare of each child evident in Ganguly, which was beautiful to see and, at the same time, Maren Grainger-Monsen and Nicole Newnham’s film The Revolutionary Optimists follows the lives of several youth from the slums of Kolkata in India who are dealing with poverty, an absence of drinking water, caste systems, gender inequality, and a collective desire to see it all end. Though individual situations differ, all of these kids try to maintain a positive outlook on their lives and do things to help benefit their families and communities as a whole.Amlan Ganguly, the man who started Prayasam, a program that helps to enable children to empower themselves and their communities through art education and exposure to popular media in the hopes of teaching them problem solving, is taking a step away from the traditional approach that I usually see taken with youth programs; Ganguly lets the children make decisions regarding their well-being, their communities’ well-being, and the decisions that have to be made to ensure that set goals are accomplished. Being used to organizations where adults are the ones making most decisions regarding the organization and its outreach efforts, this was refreshing.There is legitimate concern for the well-fare of each child evident in Ganguly, which was beautiful to see and, at the same time, heartbreaking. Despite the efforts of Prayasam to help as many different situations as possible, they can only do so much. Some children have abusive parents, the responsibility of supporting an entire household, pressures to marry, and the stigma of the unjust caste system that has been prevalent in India for thousands of years. Ganguly cares so much for these kids and their lives that he goes to whatever lengths he can to help them, before being kicked back behind the set boundary. Indian society does make a lot of things difficult for programs like Prayasam, which invites young boys AND young girls to work together, completing the same tasks, and holding the same status. Ganguly’s attempts to break down these social constructions and limitations is both inspiring and painful to watch.The children give me hope though. The kids depicted in this film are so dedicated to providing fresh water to their impoverished communities that they go out to households almost every day and keep an up to date ledger of every household and their water needs. The savvy and persuasive air that these kids have about them is what has lent them the ears of their communities; it is very evident that they know what they’re talking about and exactly what they want done. I am almost embarrassed watching this and thinking that I didn’t have as much of a desire at twelve years old to fix the problems in my community as these kids do; I was content watching adults getting it done.This is a film that should be shown to kids all around the world. This film and Ganguly’s efforts on part of these children show kids they really can make a difference if they have an honest desire to do so. I think empowering youth is the most important thing; they are our future after all.. Despite the efforts of Prayasam to help as many different situations as possible, they can only do so much. Some children have abusive parents, the responsibility of supporting an entire household, pressures to marry, and the stigma of the unjust caste system that has been prevalent in India for thousands of years. Ganguly cares so much for these kids and their lives that he goes to whatever lengths he can to help them, before being kicked back behind the set boundary. Indian society does make a lot of things difficult for programs like Prayasam, which invites young boys AND young girls to work together, completing the same tasks, and holding the same status. Ganguly’s attempts to break down these social constructions and limitations is both inspiring and painful to watch.The children give me hope though. The kids depicted in this film are so dedicated to providing fresh water to their impoverished communities that they go out to households almost every day and keep an up to date ledger of every household and their water needs. The savvy and persuasive air that these kids have about them is what has lent them the ears of their communities; it is very evident that they know what they’re talking about and exactly what they want done. I am almost embarrassed watching this and thinking that I didn’t have as much of a desire at twelve years old to fix the problems in my community as these kids do; I was content watching adults getting it done.This is a film that should be shown to kids all around the world. This film and Ganguly’s efforts on part of these children show kids they really can make a difference if they have an honest desire to do so. I think empowering youth is the most important thing; they are our future after all.
Solar Mamas by Mona Eldaief and Jahane Noujaim
Mona Eldaief and Jahane Noujaim’s film Solar Mamas is a story about strong women; simple as that. Most films that tell the stories of women in the Middle East and other developing countries tend to focus on the negative impacts throughout the entire film, and barely allow any positive light to shine through. Of course, not all stories have happy endings or even a glimpse of bliss present in them. With that said, the constant depiction of women as helpless and dependent in these films does not help to strengthen the image of these women, who are in fact strong. Films like Solar Mamas show audiences what women in these equally horrible situations do to make the best of their situations and/or overcome them entirely. Solar Mamasshows audiences, and other women, what resilience truly is. Rafea is dealing with the struggles of being a subject of polygamy, with her husband having a second wife and family as well as desiring a third one. Rafea’s husband does not like the idea of Rafea being educated and potentially becoming more successful than her. This is not surprising when one understands that this culture is male-dominated, as are most cultures in developing and developed countries, including the United States. Rafea’s husband continues to pester Rafea while she is in India undergoing training to become a solar engineer (a skill set that would greatly benefit not only her family but the entire community) because of his unwillingness to accept the fact that his wife has a brain and is not afraid to use it. Rafea returns home after threats of divorce and custody claims. The best part about this film; Rafea goes back to India to continue her training. It is a beautiful thing to see the oppressed rise. Rafea, with the help of the Ministry of Environment in Jordan, is able to quell her husband’s complaints and eventually return to India to gain her certification. Rafea has done what her community and people who share the mindset never thought she could do; Rafea learned. Rafea gained an education and, along with her knowledge, a desire to cast off societal pressures and the constant barking that thunders out of her husband’s big mouth. That is nothing but inspiring. Rafea had felt happiness, something that she was not familiar with, and was now determined to find that once again. Watching Rafea’s defiance towards her husband and other loudmouthed males in her community was empowering. Rafea’s determination refused to wither throughout the entire film and that is what gives me hope for these women. These types of films are the ones that should be more widely shown to audiences, especially women. Women like Rafea and the women that she underwent training with are prime examples of what it means to be strong and take advantage of opportunities; they show other women in their situation that there is more to life than raising children and being obedient. Empowerment and the ability to have control over ones’ destiny is what Solar Mamas is all about.
Wonder Women: the Untold Story of American Superheroines by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Kelcey Edwards
Kristy Guevara Flanagan’s film Wonder Woman: the Untold Story of American Superheroines has easily become one of my favorite movies. The film focuses on Wonder Woman’s impact on young girls and women from her creation in the 1940s by William Marston to present day. An investigation into the world of comic books and the blatant division between heroes and heroines concerning their roles, costumes, powers, and the overall air of patriarchy that seeps from most major comic book issues and companies today. Flanagan introduces the audience to the feminist movement. The implementation of Wonder Woman in the feminist movement’s campaigns and publications, both in the 1960s and 1970s, and especially in the 1990s with Riot Grrrl, provided a archetype that most young women and girls had not encountered up until then; a superheroine. Young women today who watch this film for the first time gain the opportunity to witness the powerful female leaders who came before them in action and in print in comic books. These images, both past and present, serve as examples of how far we have come as women, and the outline of how much farther we have to go. Wonder Woman, the Amazon warrior princess, even in this age, continues to urge us on. This film hits home with me in the same way that it will with many women when they watch it. Growing up, I had no female role models or heroines. I never read comic books and was a child during Riot Grrrl and Bikini Kill’s heyday. I wanted to be Tony Hawk when I grew up. Being a tomboy for most of younger years, I was told by boys that I was not a girl or that I wasn’t like the other girls simply because I refused to wear dresses and pick flowers; only girls do that. Women from my generation had Polly Pocket to teach us how to keep house and plastic babies to encourage our nurturing instinct rather than our curiosity.When I reached my early teens, I finally read about Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug in a public school history book of all things. Though it was only a sliver of information, it piqued my interest enough to make me investigate further into what they stood for, eventually leading me to more female authors and activists, Riot Grrrl and the punk rock scene in my mid-teens, to finally joining my first and Hawaii’s first SlutWalk this year at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Feminism has had a direct influence on all of our lives; without it, we would not have many of the opportunities that we have to take advantage of today. Flanagan manages to capture this tremendous fight for equal rights in a one hour film and it is the movement’s main defining trait; strong. Wonder Woman’s resurgence in today’s world is encouraging more young girls to put down the fake baby bottles and pick up a zine. Young women today are becoming more and more involved in social media and the transformations of female depictions in popular media. This film is most likely an influence on these young girls’ decisions to take up positions in social media; and I couldn’t think of better heroines for young women to look up than the ones featured in this film, fiction and non-fiction combined.
Strong! by Julie Wyman
Julie Wyman’s Strong! is a unique view into the world of a female weightlifter who struggles with her passion for weightlifting, the desire to pursue other interests, and the pressures that she feels from society to become the mainstream definition of a woman.Cheryl Haworth, having been to the Olympics twice and placing third in the world for female weightlifting during her career, is a shining example of a strong woman; Cheryl trains herself mentally and physically daily to lift weights that would crush the average human being. The best part is that Cheryl does not do this simply for gold medals or international placement; Cheryl does this because it is what she loves. This is a message that I saw necessary for young women around the world to be exposed to. Cheryl was achieving feats that she wanted to because she pushed herself to her absolute limit, and then pushed further. This type of perseverance is what young women need to observe and then incorporate into their goal reaching and dream chasing.The acceptance that Cheryl had in regards to her weight was astounding as well. Both of us being raised in a culture where thin and small women are praised above big and tall women, I was surprised to see a woman in her early 20’s who was accepting of the fact that her weight is not accepted by greater society; she understood that her weight is what led her to her international weightlifting rankings and various medals in a extremely physically demanding sport. The weight was not negative when she lifted those weights; it was what aided her along with her determination.When the director decided to touch on the subject of romance is when the tone of the film changed for me. Previous to romance being brought up, I was looking at Cheryl as someone who thought of things like intimacy and romantic relationships as trivial things, and to some extent Cheryl did view these things as insignificant in her overall growth as an athlete and individual. Cheryl did express something that did hit me on a personal level: “I have achievement, I have a personality, I’m a good person to talk to… but people like you if you’re smaller.”This is a reality that many of us choose to ignore in this society. There are clothes racks in stores and ads in magazines that cater to plus size women, memes on the Internet and quotes from celebrities like Kim Kardashian that reassure curvy women of their beauty, when in reality, as soon as we step outside, society has all eyes on us as being the best friend, the little/big sister, the girl who is rather pretty for being big; there is no view from society as a whole that women with a little extra weight around our waists and thighs are attractive. For women like Cheryl, myself, and others who are naturally endowed with curves and/or a wider girth, society sees us as the women who could be prettier and market potential if we just lost a little weight.All in all, the film was a whirlwind of emotions that I simply cannot fit into a single review. The different layers of Cheryl Haworth that are continuously peeled away during the film make the viewer want to know more after the film has ended. Cheryl Haworth really is an extraordinary woman who has fought many battles to continue competing in the sport that she loves so much, while at the same time wondering when the time to pursue other interests will finally arise, and ultimately wondering whether she will lose the weight that she has accumulated to fit society’s requirements for the ideal woman. I commend Cheryl for her accomplishments and her constant struggles. No matter what obstacles she encounters, she continues to push forward and that, to me, is strength.
Ela es El Matador by Gemma Curbero
In Ella Es El Matador (She Is the Matador), directors Gemma Cubero and Celeste Carrasco bring viewers into the world of female matadors and the fray that exists in and out of the arena. The documentary focuses on Eva Florencia, an apprentice bullfighter originally from Italy who ran away to Spain to pursue her dream of becoming a matador, and Maripaz Vega, a matador hailing from Spain who is considered the best female in the sport. The film follows these women as they wade through a choppy kill of patriarchy, sexism, and the social and financial challenges women in this field are faced with on a regular basis.These women are choice examples of female empowerment; Vega and Florencia both uphold a mighty resistance to absurd primal constructs and their headstrong opposition towards gender roles is quite beautiful. The social guillotine is being revived as we speak, with more women like Vega and Florencia realizing that they do not have to adhere to bygone principles; that they can make decisions for themselves, financially, vocationally, and socially. The advancement of women in social rank is a positive action that should be celebrated; yet, you will not find me throwing confetti with the rest of the party goers in this particular instance.While the recognition of women as equal to men in all areas of life is imperative and that we must not stop until this becomes a reality, I have my reservations when it comes to the occupations and customs that we observe in society as a whole. Bullfighting, though a tradition is Spain, is animal cruelty. Being a feminist, I support women gaining the same rights and opportunities that are afforded to men; but I absolutely refuse to support the killing of thousands of bulls every year for afternoon entertainment. When Florencia gave up on fulfilling her dreams of becoming a matador, I was of course saddened; I could not imagine putting down my pen. There is still a resounding difference between our two passions, regardless of the fact that we are women; one can be done within the confines of a room with the goal being to provoke thought, while the other is conducted in an arena with the intent of killing a defenseless, tortured animal for the sake of entertainment and glory.Animal cruelty is not something that deserves praise. Male, female, transgender, or hybrid does not mean a single thing; when the killing of another living, breathing being is done for entertainment purposes and/or the preservation of a tradition, the gender of the one committing the act should be the last concern on everyone’s mind. Women should not be fighting to gain equal status in the arena; instead, all genders should be fighting to end bullfighting. Traditions are all too often used as excuses to commit heinous actions against land, other humans, and animals. The solution is not to demand equal participation in these operations, but to join together to stop them. Equality is vital for the progression of our species, but unnecessary violence and blood sport is not.
Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority by Kimberlee Bassford
As an academic, I have a constant hankering for knowledge. My desire to learn is never limited to one medium, thankfully, which allows for a myriad of formats to take turns with my brain boosting. Though I tend to lean towards books most of the time, I have found that film is an excellent source of learning as well, and Kimberlee Bassford’s film Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority is no exception.Bassford’s film goes in depth into the life of Maui born politician Patsy Mink, the first woman of color to serve in congress and a staunch advocate for women and minorities’ rights. Congresswoman Mink’s fierce determination to break down social and economic boundaries was felt by all who encountered her, whether it was politicians on Capitol Hill or residents in her home state of Hawai’i. Mink’s efforts led to Title IX, later renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, which made women’s goals of higher education and athletics that much more accessible. Mink’s efforts have aided in efforts to make America an equal opportunity society.The fact that I had known so little about her life and her accomplishments to begin with was startling; how could I not know about such a strong leader in this movement? As a feminist, I considered Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug the main leaders in the women rights movement; little did I know, there were many more women who were just as productive. Patsy Mink’s quarrelsome nature was what made her a prominent figure in politics and in the women’s rights movement; she refused to make compromises when it came to accomplishing her goals. Women like this inspire me to push myself farther in life and not to settle for anything.I was very moved by the struggles that Mink overcame during her lifetime. Dealing with racism and sexism while trying to succeed in the male dominated world of politics is not a venture for the weak. Mink did have a significant amount of stress that came with her job. Yet, through all of the headaches and discrimination, she managed to come out on top with her head held high. Having the drive to get out of bed every morning and face every issue head on is easier said than done. I was inspired to see someone actually put that into practice and accomplish what they set out to do. Mink’s willingness to right the wrongs and face every problem with a solution in mind gave me the extra boost that I needed to reexamine the issues I’m facing in my life.Strong women have always been at the forefront in my list of idols; they present me with evidence that women can and have made a difference. Though I do grow weary of the demands laid out by school and work, women like Patsy Mink help me to continue trudging on. Looking up to these women and the examples they provide always encourages me to never give up on my future. I and the rest of my fellow women owe it to the movement to try.