Rebecca Solnit is my new BFF

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Mansplaining is genius.  I love her writing – her focus.  Since my blog is Mindfulness at 70, I find her commitment to mindfulness exemplary.  She is always looking and listening and monitoring how she really feels about what she sees and hears.  She is a watchdog for feminists and environmentalists; she is a very interesting person.

She is, of course, not my real BFF.  I just wish I could spend some time with her.  I read her current posts and have read some of her books.  I don’t agree with everything, but her opinions are always thoughtful and grounded in fact and observation.  She seems to have lived an interesting life full of unique and common experiences.  She’s an intellectual with a lot of street cred.

I really got into Ms Solnit when I stumbled across “mansplaining”.  I’ve been railing against it since I was 10 years old and now I had a great name for it.  Men always taking the floor and explaining (in many wrong ways) to women in all aspects of life.  Hogging all the comments in a meeting, forcing Elizabeth Warren to shut-up in the US Senate, interrupting women.  The list goes on and on.

This “mansplaining” is, of course another embodiment of aggression against women.  It is not physical and it does not involve sexual violation — yet it is part of the culture’s categorization of women.  We are second.  The man needs the job more than you.  She would not shut up and listen.  She was asking for it.  All part of the on-going war to keep women in their place.

Can “mansplaining” be that much of a problem when we have so many incidents of sexually inappropriate behavior and sexual violence?  Yes, it all comes from the same place.  Men are entitled to behave this way.  To speak this way, to touch this way.  To demand they remain in charge. To hang onto power.

Solnit states,  Are people finally making the connection between sexual misconduct and men’s perpetual domination of most professional spaces. I do hope that sometime someone who’s having a high-profile creep masturbate at her takes out her camera-phone and makes the career-killing humiliating video or even livestreams it. The perps do this to prove that they’re powerful and she’s powerless, powerless too often even to get people to listen and believe. That they are invulnerable and beyond accountability, and too often they have been right.

I hope we are making the connection and that we concentrate on overall equality rather than punishing individual “famous” men who transgress.  We need , we must, do better.

 

 

 

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YOU NEVER RETIRE FROM YOUR JOB AS A MOTHER — and that’s good

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Yes, yes, I know. Everyone says that, but what does it really mean? And notice that I used Mother not parent. Obviously I’m female and in most cases would be a “mother”. That’s what I know. But I suspect it is different for men – fathers. Although some changes have been taking place in sexual role identification, and some men are definitely more nurturing, I believe always showing up and being there has traditionally fallen to the Mother.

I just returned from a six week trip to visit my daughter in Florence, Italy. Nice, huh? Well it would have been nicer if it had been a more leisurely trip. My 32 year old daughter just moved to Florence to work for UNICEF, leaving her husband of one year in Bangkok to finish an assignment there before joining her. She had been having digestion issues, and before she took the new job, they had been trying to start a family.

All of a sudden, I get an IM with a picture of a pregnancy test that is positive. (To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure what it was a picture of, I thought it was some kind of funny paint brush. In my day, “the rabbit died.”) This is good news, right? Well yes except the digestion issues have continued and been diagnosed as gall bladder problems – she has attacks. Pregnancy is not a good time to have surgery, especially in your lower abdomen. So they start her on a stringent diet to prevent another episode. It doesn’t work.

She is taken by ambulance late at night to the hospital. Knowing very little Italian they tell her that the gall bladder is about to errupt and they must perform surgery. She explains that she is pregnant – gravadanza is one word she knows in Italian. They take every precaution and remove a gall stone nearly the size of an egg and her gall bladder using an ectopotapic technique that works through her belly button.

I was planning to visit her the next month, but someone has to be there to assist her after she leaves the hospital. Her husband is traveling in Southeast Asia, and she wants her mommy. I quickly change my flights and throw things in bags and fly from Albuquerque to Dallas – Dallas to Rome – train to Florence. Thank god, I’m met at the train station by an executive from her job who takes me to her in the hospital. (Thank you, Noboko).

I arrive just in time to help her check out and we take a cab to her apartment – the one where she has lived for less than one week. I begin my crash course in getting around central Florence and buying groceries and medicine. Talk about on the job training. My Italian is non existant; fortunately I speak fluent mime and the Italians will meet you half way. I found myself making clucking sounds in the grocery store when I wanted chicken.)

She is now well into her 2nd trimester. Ultra sounds indicate that the fetus is fine. She has recovered from the surgery and is back at work. I stayed on through my original departure and to go to the Rolling Stones Concert in Lucca, Italy – a long-planned event for my daughter, her mother-in-law and me. It was a bit much for all of us but we made it and Mick is still strutting.

I am not complaining; it is nice to be needed. As one gets older one is less crucial to the important things in life. It was nice to be her mommy again.

Now I just need to try to remember anything about the births of my children and their very early months. Nature has a way of turning it all into a blur. I would like to be helpful with my new grandchild.

THE PUSSY HATS OF THE WOMEN’S MARCH What the hell is wrong here?

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Aren’t we Cute?

We recently witnessed a movement that is just plain pathetic. Millions of women and a few men have protested Donald Trump’s election with demonstrations whose trademark was the Pink Pussy Hat. HUH?

This failure to take women’s minds seriously, by large numbers of women who seem happy to confirm the most demeaning feminine stereotypes, is truly mind-boggling. The “inventors” nee promoters of this lame piece of apparell call it a “strong visual statement”. You bet. But what is it saying?

Although I realize  that these hats are meant to be ironic, their use as a symbol is reinforcing the same crap about women that has been spouted for millennia — women are other and are defined by their biology and hormones is misguided.  It is another acceptance of the old mansplaining admonition — “Don’t you worry your pretty little head about this, honey. It is just too difficult for you.”

If we want equality, shouldn’t we jetison this kind of thinking? If we want equality why must we turn every real, honest protest into something cute and tied to crafts? So many women who couldn’t make it to any march felt connected because they knited pink pussy hats for the marchers. Really? How about getting these women involved in truly meaningful ways, like voting and putting pressure on legislatures. Feel connected with your brain and your voice, not your knitting.

Of course, I am anti-crafts. Mostly because I have very little skill with my hands, but also because these activities scream “women’s work”. Yes, I know some men knit, but women’s reliance on busy work with their hands has been the hallmark of misplaced power. Women’s work is never done because so much of it is make work and silly stuff.

I like buying decorative items for my home and by body as much as the next woman, but dear god, it doesn’t define me. My intellect and my beliefs are what define me. My voice should be heard as much as any other person.

Then too, the Pussy Hats look like little cats with ears, but also are pink and suggestive of a woman’s labia. Perhaps it is time to drop the vagina as a protest symbol. Women aren’t supposed to be speaking to themselves in these protests. We are Way past raising awareness — or should be. Women are demanding power equal to men not because we have vaginas but because it does not matter that we have vaginas.

This anatomical focus erases women’s experience. Women are a caste within society, not because they are the owners of a particular body part. The vast majority of women do indeed have vaginas, but they aren’t preoccupied by that fact day to day. Vagina possession doesn’t explain why Mary voices an idea in a meeting but the boss listens only when Jim repeats it. When Kate does the dishes again, it isn’t because Bob’s genitalia prevented him from loading the dishwasher. It certainly is not a reason to pay women 80% of what men earn.

Yes, reproduction and child-care-related issues, not to mention sexual assault and domestic abuse, disproportionately affect women, and often involve women’s genitals. But even the women’s issues with some relationship to female anatomy aren’t really about vaginas.

We want to be seen as more than possessing vaginas. Our personhood is equal to all others. Don’t see me as a pussy — Donald don’t grab us by the pussy! It is degrading at the very least.
And yet – across the National Mall a sea of pink pussy hats takes the guts out of a massive and important demonstration.

The tyrany of madison avenue and the obscession with branding and logos no doubt is part of what brought this on. And sorry to say that women after years of prom planning and sorority rush and wedding decor don’t seem to get going on a project unless they know what the decor is. I recall my days in non-profit fundraising where the volunteers would spend countless womanhours working on the centerpieces and neglect the necessary task of the fundraising banquet — selling tickets. No butts in seats = no funds raised. The decor/centerpieces are not the important element of a successful fundraiser.

Please remember the medium is a big part of the message. I don’t think those of us demanding female rights in the 70’s would have thought the Pussy Hats were cute. But then, of course, we had to burn our bras and treat all the guys to a little skin. All this gets attention – but what kind of attention?

Women’s equality is a deadly serious business. Many men today want to reverse the strides made by the women’s movement and take us back to the days of asking our husbands for everything from money to control of our own bodies. They want to own our bodies and aren’t even willing to give us appropriate health care.

Time to get really angry — not time to get cute!

I was delighted to see that the Pussy Hats are marked down at the Nordstrom Half Yearly Sale – yes these symbols are mass produced. Maybe a few others figured out how frivolous a statement a knitted Pussy Hat makes about one-half the population denied equality.

I Certainly Hope So!

BOOK REVIEW The Shadow Sister (The Seven Sisters) by Lucinda Riley

Why Do I Keep Reading These Books?
I guess Lucinda Riley is a guilty pleasure. This is the third in her Seven Sister Series that I have read. I guess I’m a sucker for the greek astrological names and the ongoing mystery of these seven adopted girls named after the Seven Sisters of the Pleiads who grew up on the banks of Lake Geneva with adoptive parents Ma and Pa – he the ultra rich eccentric and she the unmarried earth mother.

Each Romance explores the back story of one girl — this one is about Star (Alcyone).
These are cozy mysteries with overtones of glam and exotic locales, stately homes, inheritances lost and found. Each girl is finding her origins and in so doing finding her future. Love of course plays a part, but you won’t find any soft core bodice ripping here. Love is chaste until – well it becomes perfect!
Lucinda gives us a few quirky supporting characters to keep us entertained and goes back in time for each girl so Historical Fiction buffs will be happy. (Shadow Sister is Edwardian with King Edward-Bertie and Beatrix Potter making appearances.)
At almost 500 pages, Lucinda gives you your money’s worth. There is a lot going on and a lot of detail in these books.
The next one promises to be about my least favorite sister, so maybe I will skip it. There is an overriding mystery about Pa that keeps you somewhat hooked — enough said. I gave it three stars.

NOT MY REVOLUTION Theatre Review Fusion Theatre, Albuquerque, NM

Written and performed by Elizabeth Huffman, Not My Revolution is a one-woman play/performance piece receiving its national debut at Fusion. The performance was substituted for the originally announced The Moors. I believe Fusion had problems with the rights for that play.

Ms Huffman is an international professional actress/director of Syrian heritage whose credits range from General Hospital to Sam Shepherd to West Side Story to the Circus. She now resides and works in Portland, Oregon and is active nationally and internationally as a guest artist, director and costumer designer. She is a mesmerizing mature actress at the top of her game who has worked with Fusion on several occasions.

Originally developed in Oregon as The Re-Imagining of French Gray by the Displaced Woman, the play melds the experiences of an upper class woman in Syria caught in the chaos of revolution with the imagined musings of Marie Antoinette in the French Revolution. A heady mix, to be sure, but Ms. Huffman navigates the myriad time slips with aplomb. Is the play the disjointed memory of a woman on the edge? A memory or a dream?
Laurie Thomas, co-founder and co-artistic chair of Fusion has taken on the task of directing Ms. Huffman and brings the considerable artistic resources of Fusion to staging the play. Of particular note is the sound design and the set/video design by Brent Stevens and Richard K. Hogue respectively. All enhance the performance and guide the audience through the swiftly shifting landscape of the play. Most one-person plays need a strong director and I suspect Ms. Thomas is responsible for much of the clarity of this performance.

This is a play worthy of Fusion’s commitment to professional standards and thought-provoking work. This theatre company is Albuquerque’s only fully professional theatre; Fusion is a great New Mexico cultural resource.

I Keep Waiting for Carrie Fisher to Comment on Her Own Death

It is still early days, and I’m sure lots more information will surface about what went on in that airplane, but I keep imagining the whole scene from Carrie’s point of view.  All that CPR and EMT stuff.  I kind of hope she could see (hear, feel, smell, taste) the whole mess.  And I know she would say “Crap!” to finally getting some movie and writing work going again and then THIS!

But then, as it has been for so many, Death is a terrific career move for her and even for her mother – the naive, ultra cutesy Debbie Reynolds.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked and enjoyed these two but really–talk about the blind leading the lame.

Both women were un-parented  and both needed so much attention and love that the neon sign they should have had in their shared yard was LOVE ME!  The great thing about Carrie is that she realized all of this and her pithy and wry comments on her lonely situation are what pass for honesty in Hollywood — or anywhere for that matter.

I too was un-parented with a Mother who, if she only could sing and dance was very like Debbie Reynolds.  She  was, thankfully not a total, naive fool and was never taken advantage of financially by any men.  All three of Debbie’s “Husbands” were baby boys with lots of bad habits.  Debbie just hid in her work and expended a great deal of energy not even thinking about being self aware.

Bless her heart, Carrie the un-parented became the parent to her mother and even near his end to her very flawed father, Eddie Fisher.  She did all of this while trying to have relationships and a family of her own and fighting her drug and mental health demons.  But then, she didn’t have to; she could have worked quietly to find some internal peace.  She was a rampant exhibitionist and over sharer.  Many creative people are.

I’ve read some comments on the internet and question her sobriety because “Wasn’t she taking drugs for her bi-polar disorder?”  Well duh, of course she was.  Bi-polar people need to take their meds.  All drugs are not equal.  We would not question someone with a heart ailment for taking heart meds.  Many bi-polar people self medicate with street and other opiates as a way of self-medicating.  Alcoholics too.

Mental health advocate was another label Carrie Fisher carried around.  We desperately need people to stand up for mental health care.  Our mental health infrastructure is almost nonexistent in the United States.  We have so much to learn about the workings of the mind and can only do so with our own minds.

So farewell Carrie and Debbie.  Thanks for Singing in the Rain and Defending the Force for being “unsinkable” and  hilariously insightful.  You will live on in celluloid and print and your estates will profit from sales through the roof.  (Disney they say gets $50-million from a life insurance policy they had on Carrie even though they can probably CGI her into the next two Star Wars movies.)

Rest in Peace seems particularly apt.

Train Wrecks for Attention

Recently I have been fascinated and repelled by on-going stories in the media revolving around two Hollywood stars – Mia Farrow and Gwyneth Paltrow. Both women really pushed my buttons, and aside from the overall general coveting of their wealth and fame, I was determined to think this reaction through.
As a former actress, I very much understand that people who need attention are drawn to this line of work. Not all performers are exhibitionists, but often they are people who need validation and adulation.

Mia Farrow is my generation – her gamine 60’s face of Rosemary’s Baby is an icon of the era. She is Hollywood royalty – the daughter of actress Maureen O’Sullivan, best known for playing Jane in the early Tarzan films, and John Farrow, a film director and professional Irishman. She grew up surrounded by famous people and their children, and entered show business, the family business, by default.

Ms. Paltrow is at least 25 years younger and the daughter of stage and film actress Blythe Danner and Producer Bruce Paltrow. Her earliest work was alongside her mother. She too
grew up knowing everyone in Hollywood and joining the family business. Blonde and fair, like Farrow, she has the distinction of having a Best Actress Oscar from nearly her first leading role in Shakespeare in Love in 1998.

Farrow has had the more flamboyant life; she’s been around longer and has had more opportunity. She famously married Frank Sinatra when he was in his 50s and she was 20. That marriage ended quickly when Farrow asserted that she intended to keep working. She then married British composer/conductor Andre Previn with whom she began her life-long acquisition of children. They had two (twins) and adopted others. She went on to her well-known, long- term semi-relationship with actor/director/writer Woody Allen. Alone and with Allen she gave birth to two more children and adopted more. The grand total of children is 15 with two already deceased. She is in the news in the last few years because of allegations of sexual abuse against Allen with one of their daughters and his famously marrying another of her adopted daughters.

Gwyneth’s life has been somewhat less scandalous. Although she had a number of high-profile suitors and fiancees such as Brad Pitt early in her career, she settled down with Cold Play frontman Chris Martin in 2002. They had two children, Apple and Moses, and recently announced their separation, nee Compassionate Un-Coupling.

Both actresses are outspoken and politically/socially involved. Mia Farrow’s adoptions have centered on children from developing countries with disabilities and she is passionate about raising awareness of neglected children throughout the world. Ms. Paltrow is more involved personally in her website Goop where she gives advice about being the perfect wife and mother.
So what is the thread that runs so through with these two women? Both are “hot messes” when it comes to seeking attention and engaging with the media to maintain high profiles – for their causes, their children, their friends and their lifestyles. I guess Paltrow is the new age version of Farrow – she attempts to white wash all her linen for the press. Farrow seems to be focused on airing all her dirty linen in public. Changing times?

VANITY FAIR magazine, that harbinger of the current pop culture zeitgeist, has profiled both women. Most recently, they attempted to write a piece that may or may not have been critical of Ms. Paltrow; she contacted all her powerful entertainment friends who lobbied the editor to cease and desist. He did.
What fascinates me and what is so polarizing about these women, I believe, is their need for more and more and more. More causes, more children, more books, more lovers, more friends, more influence and affluence, more mentions, trending, column inches, more notoriety. More awards, more advice, more money. More respect – more love.

There is a new psychological syndrome called Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD). A newish personality disorder that is characterized by attention seeking, impulsive, unstable and manipulative behavior. Well, of course, some of us are guilty some of the time. But people whose life seems to be governed by this behavior may need to step back and learn to be more genuine and cooperative.

As you grow and learn, hopefully, you realize that you can’t ALWAYS be the star of your own or anyone else’s show. Indeed, older women are often marginalized because the bloom is off the rose. Both Mia Farrow and Gwyneth Paltrow are beautiful women at whatever age, whose life achievements and blessings are to be envied. Enough! Sit down and shut up already. You damn near have had it all. Stop rubbing it in and asking for more. Learn to listen to yourself, to love yourself and calm yourself and just Be Yourself.

Be grateful please.