Friday Videos: Uncommon Women and Others: A Play By Wendy Wasserstein

Wendy Wasserstein

Playwright Wendy Wasserstein (1950-2006) was, above all, a social historian. Balancing drama and comedy to write about social class in Manhattan and about Jewish-American identity, she drew inspiration from Chekhov and the comedies of S. Behrman, Moss Hart, and Noel Coward. The ideas of Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, and Susan Faludi also informed Wasserstein’s work, which chronicles the rise and the eventual collapse of both feminism and liberalism between the late 1960s and the earliest years of the 21st century.  (From product review for Reading the Plays of Wendy Wasserstein.)

Wasserstein’s first production of note was Uncommon Women and Others (her graduate thesis at Yale), a play which reflected her experiences as a student at, and an alumna of, Mount Holyoke College. A full version of the play was produced in 1977 off-Broadway with Glenn Close, Jill Eikenberry, and Swoosie Kurtz playing the lead roles. The play was subsequently produced for PBS with Meryl Streep replacing Close.

The following videos are of the PBS production. It’s dated and overacted, but valuable nonetheless for its commentary on a society feeling the effects of the feminist movement, both before, during and after it.

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Feminist Media: Feminist Review

Artwork from Artivism

One of my favorite sites and resources is Feminist Review. In the last three and a half years it has published nearly 3,500 reviews of current books, films, music, theater performances, eco-friendly clothing, and a whole host of other products. They’ve run interviews with prominent feminists Ariel Gore, Victoria Law, Rebecca Walker, the creators of Make/Shift, Jennifer Baumgardner, and Amy Richards—as well as some artists and activists you may not have heard of before. If reading Feminist Review inspires you to read a novel or download an album, consider donating to their I ♥ FR Campaign today. There is no better month than Women’s History Month to give to feminist media.

In its own words:

Feminist Review believes that all opinions – positive and critical – are valuable and seeks to give voice to communities that remain on the margins. Our mission is to write reviews from feminist perspectives to explore the world through an anti-oppression lens. We recognize that there are many feminisms and provide a space where those differences can be represented and explored. (That means we want you to add your opinions too.)”

NY Times Questions Eve Ensler

I have rarely encountered such an antagonistic interviewer as Deborah Solomon, whose interview with Eve Ensler was published on January 21st in the New York Times Magazine. The subject of the interview was Ensler’s new project and book, which is described as follows in an email I received from vday.org:

Eve’s newest work, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, will be released in book form by Villard/Random House tomorrow, TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9! Made up of original monologues about and for girls from around the world, the book aims to inspire girls to take agency over their minds, bodies, hearts, and curiosities.

V-Day believes that girls are the future of our movement, just as women are the primary resource of our planet. It is imperative to educate and nurture future activists so we can see our vision of a world free from violence against women and girls come true. I Am an Emotional Creature is a new vehicle providing a platform for girls’ empowerment and activism.

Solomon emphasizes that the monologues were not written by the girls they aim to represent and challenges Ensler for presuming to represent them:

“Your new book, ‘I Am an Emotional Creature,’ is a collection of 30-plus fictional monologues in which you assume the confiding, often plaintive, voices of teenage girls — from a Chinese factory worker to a sex slave in Africa to a schoolgirl in suburban America bemoaning her lack of purple Ugg boots. Why do you see yourself as a spokeswoman for teenage girls?”

When Ensler answers, “I don’t feel like I’m a spokesperson at all for girls. I just feel like, O.K., in the way that ‘The Vagina Monologues’ was an attempt to communicate stories of women and their vaginas, this is an attempt to communicate the stories of girls on the planet right now,” Solomon responds, “That sounds so Girl-Scoutish.” Huh?

Solomon then asks Ensler if she sees the monologue “as an emblem of the times–everyone yakking, no one listening” and then questions whether or not the monologue is “a form of coercion or even abuse.”  Ensler answers that the monologue forces (hence the “coercion”) one to listen and allows the speaker to “take up space.”

When Ensler explains that the “V” in V-Day stands for ” vagina and victory-over-violence and Valentine’s Day,” Solomon interjects, “What about vulture?” (To which Ensler responds, “Vultures serve a positive function. They clean up the dead.” Good answer.)

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Conversation With Muslim Women About “Covering” (Hijab, Niqab, or Nothing)

I put this video on Facebook, but then decided that I wanted to comment on it more than I could in that venue. Watch it first and see what you think.

Before I watched this video, I was uncomfortable with the idea of the face veil (the niqab). But the woman who wears the niqab in this video is extremely articulate and persuaded me that there can be good reasons for covering the face, even if that is not a choice I would make.

I was also persuaded by the uncovered woman’s explanation for why she doesn’t cover. And that sums up my dilemma. I am a Muslim woman who has not made up her mind about covering. I have worn the headscarf  (the hijab) on many occasions, but haven’t made a total commitment to it. I’ve worn it to run errands, to visit my Muslim friends and go to Muslim celebrations, when I pray and to go to the masjid (mosque). But I don’t wear it to work or whenever I answer the door. And I don’t know if I would have enough courage to wear it on an airplane!

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Abortion Doctor’s Killer’s Trial

Notice I didn’t write “alleged” killer in the title. That’s because Scott Roeder has confessed in court and in fact is eager to defend his actions. “Those children were in immediate danger if someone did not stop George Tiller,” Roeder told jurors. That a man can be proud that he killed another man is beyond me, no matter what the provocation.

AP Photo

Fortunately, the judge has thrown out the possible verdict of voluntary manslaughter which would have required the defense to show that Roeder had an unreasonable but honest belief that deadly force was justified. The judge also noted that abortion is legal in Kansas. Judge Wilbert also refused to allow a second-degree murder defense, which does not involve premeditation, because the evidence — and Roeder’s own testimony — clearly showed Roeder planned the shooting. Instead, Roeder is being charged with premeditated, first degree murder.

Roeder testified that he considered several different ways of stopping Dr. George Tiller from performing abortions, but finally decided that walking into his church and shooting him in the head was the simplest and most effective. He also testified that he had gone to the church on three other occasions, but that Dr. Tiller wasn’t present then. I guess he finally got “lucky” on May 31st, 2009.

At least one person who was watching the trial protested that Roeder wasn’t being given a fair one. “The very thing (the judge) is attempting to suppress, vigilantism … he is actually promoting it by not allowing Scott to have a fair trial,” Andrew Beacham said. Excuse me?

Kathy Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said that the trial shows that Roeder believes that the killing was justifiable homicide and that a guilty verdict might open the door  to a federal investigation and prosecution of any others who might be involved in similar acts. One can only hope. It’s about time that such a precedent is set.

Source: Associated Press story

Post Script: The jury returned a verdict of guilty in just 37 minutes!

Does Coloring My Hair Make Me A Bad Feminist?

ClairolI started coloring my hair when I was 15 by using Summer Blonde. It gave my hair that “sun-kissed” look which was de rigueur among teens in the ’60s. But the main reason I used it was because the blonde hair I was born with was darkening and I just didn’t feel like myself with brown hair.

However, at the same time that I was lending nature a helping hand, feminists were proclaiming that women should stop altering their looks just so they would be considered desirable by men. As I grew into the feminist mindset in my late teens, I became conflicted about coloring my hair and I let it grow out to its natural color for a while. I couldn’t stand it. I went back to lightening my hair.

Was I coloring my hair for myself or for men? And is there a difference?

What I mean by that last question is that women may find it so important for men to think of them as beautiful that it actually becomes a psychological need. Their self-image is not based solely on what they personally like but what they think men will like.

I’ve seen this need push women into changing their hair color with unfortunate results. Brittany Murphy (God rest her soul) is a case in point. She apparently believed the old advertising slogan that “Gentlemen prefer blondes” and set out to make herself over as one. But she was much more attractive as a brunette, which was her natural coloring.

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