24 February 2013

Sunday is for Horizons: Middlesex (2002)

This time the subject of suggestion for widening of the horizons is a novel of herself and not an author.
While the author - Jeffrey Eugenides - is brilliant and outstanding, Middlesex (2002) is a masterpiece not only because of its literary depth but also because of the anthropological interest for everybody passionate about questions of gender and socialization into one, customs and morality, and their malleability.

Middlesex is the perfect combination of a coming-of-age story and a family saga. Imagine all the confusion and pain growing-up being a third-generation immigrant in the stagnating US of late XX century when a conflicting sexual/gender identity is piled onto that. Eugenides is perfectly compassionate and loves his characters, therefore the depiction of sexualities are very decent and have been praised for their humanity/veracity (and no looking-for-a-shocker to be found here). People stories, you know. Family secrets. First loves. becoming yourself.

If you need any more persuasion, well, it won a Pulitzer, too.

22 February 2013

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001)


We are offering Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet) as a feel-good movie about weirdnesses. Not as a love story, or help-the-people story, or desperate-solitude story. While those are cute and legitimate ideas, what we want to celebrate is the right to indulge in small things that makes you happy and to be as different as you feel like. And to be happy embracing who you are (and being able but not forced to change it).

It's all about you. And we are all very weird. Welcome to the club!

18 February 2013

Sex on the Map (from RFSU with love)

Sex on the map from RFSU on Vimeo.

"RFSU (Swedish Association for Sexuality Education) is the biggest organization in Sweden working with sexual and reproductive health and rights. The organization was founded 1933 by Elise Ottesen-Jensen and the purpose has always been a rights based approach on sexuality. RFSU is also focusing a lot on pleasure, for people to be able and have a chance to enjoy sex. With that in mind, it's important to work with issues around contraception, the right to abortion, sex education, STI's and so on.
In 2011 RFSU made this film, Sex on the Map, after having years of experience working with sex education in schools. The target group for the film is teenagers, mainly between 13-15 years old. This movie really captures how "the RFSU way" of seeing sex and sexuality. The film is 30 min of sex education. It's about everything from anatomy and the human body to feelings and emotions regarding sex. It focuses on the many types of sex you can have, not only penetrative vaginal sex. Throughout the film, there's a perspective on lust trying to communicate that sex is something good as long as it's consensual. I hope you enjoy it! Feel free to share (: "
Tove Larsson, board member RFSU
If you have any questions, e-mail me at tove.larsson (a) rfsu.se

As an additional material on anatomies and "normalities", the best explication of those things in a correct and understandable we have ever seen: Pussypedia (pdf) and Dicktionary (pdf). 

17 February 2013

Sunday is for horizons: Eve Ensler

We have already talked about Eve Ensler. Truth be told, her Embrace Your Inner Girl, was one of the sparks that started this project of ours. Her work on female genitalia as symbols of vulnerability is widely known (Vagina Monologues, anybody?). So is her power in movement building. We just experienced the One Billion Rising campaign all over small local groups and the internets.

As reading matter we suggest you get your hand on:

I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World is exactly what the subtitle says it is. Let go of the slight uneasiness that her idea of a "girl cell" provokes in every equality-feminist. And live through the way it feels to be a teenage girl. Also, there is a movement around this work, too: the V-Girls.

The Vagina Monologues. The classic that comes from a time (1996, mind you) when gender based violence wasn't a generalized awareness thing. So go back and read it.

Insecure at Last: Losing It in Our Security Obsessed World is what she is talking about in the video above. Advocating for letting go of certainty of (normalized) oppression and embracing the emotional (and very harsh) realities of uncontrollable world full of both violence and compassion.

Ensler's writing is easy and emotional. These are (real life) stories, not academic treatises. Do not expect more or less of  them. But get to know them.

15 February 2013

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: 4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile (2007)


This is one of the harsh transformational movies. One of those that leads you through powerful emotional experiences in order to emerge being a better, more aware person.  
4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile (2007, Christian Mungiu) takes you through the drama surrounding illegal and unsafe abortion. The unbelief. The shame. The risks. The silence. The need for a social network to rely upon. And a frequent absence of it.

The movie is a masterpiece. It will make you feel very present and actually live through experiences of Gabita and Otilia. And after having watched it you will have very few questions about abortion (yes, safe and available for everybody who needs it) and several regarding friendship, sacrifice, hypocrisy, patriarchy and the (very fragile) autonomy of a female body. 

13 February 2013

The "Sexy Lie" about objectification of Women

#Objectification #Empowerment

Back to the body-talk. Here we have Caroline Heldman talking about the false friendship between sexual objectification and empowerment. This comes from the very innocent (and true!) idea that embracing previously imposed norms can be empowering, that, if done for authentic and personal reasons, sparkles, sprinkles and monogamy can be radical lifestyles choices (the last one, as suggested by Tristan Taormino).

Nevertheless, it has become very twisted in order to sell us back both submission and a gazillion of consumer goods we don't need. Caroline is talking about the crudest form of all: treating the female body as a marketing tool and/or a merchandise. And she offers how to get all those things out of your head: stop consuming brain-washers! stop being your own and other women's body police! and invest that freed energy in something cool!

An additional reading: The Myth of Empowerment very clearly answering if every choice women make is to be treated like an empowering (therefore inherently feminist) choice by Clementine Ford.

10 February 2013

Sunday is for horizons: Elizabeth Pisani

This Sunday piece is for everybody interested in HIV/AIDS epidemics. Our heroine is Elizabeth Pisani who will break all your (wrong) stereotypes about it and will call things by their name. The title of her book The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS gives you a taste of her no-shit writing style.

She'll explain you the difference between the epidemics in Sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world. Also, why exactly because of these differences and generalized social (and therefore decision-maker) squeamishness around the men having sex with men, commercial sex-work and substance use so little success has been achieved. It is as good as it can get: no-nonsense fun writing and well researched.

A special treat: If you feel like deepening your knowledge on the Sub-Saharan epidemics and the Miracle of Uganda, get also Helen Epstein's The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West and the Fight Against AIDS. With those two you are perfectly set to understand HIV/AIDS. And make sure that the prevention work you can do, is worth it and based in sound evidence. 

08 February 2013

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Como agua para chocolate (1992)


While Como agua para chocolate (1992, Alfonso Arau) might seem just another period piece about love and customs, it is not so. Based on a  novel of Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate: A novel in monthly installments with recipes, romances and home remedies (1992), it mixes the traditional Western love story with a healthy dose of magical realism.

It analyzes - as good period pieces should - the pressures that social customs place(d) on people. And seeing in detail how women were coping with the fact that submission and passivity were expected from them and the very reality of being a person. With feelings, emotions, desires, and dreams.

As legions of women have done throughout the history, the heroine here finds solace in cooking and breaking free time-by-time (baby steps, you know). Her cooking, though, goes beyond that of your and our grandmothers... because Tita's cooking is magic: the food she prepares transmits her feelings, therefore she can make the whole wedding-crowd cry and people twirl of pleasure at the dinner table.

03 February 2013

Sunday is for horizons: Caitlin Moran

This week we suggest you get your hands on How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. And you might want to read exactly because of what it's not.

This book is not a "how to become a [perfect] woman [like I am]" type of shit that will drown you in tips how to wash red wine stains and get along with your mother-in-law. No. No-no-no.

This is not one of those glossy and fake "auto biographies" that's not much more than celebrity gossip and "gosh, I've been lucky and hard-working". No-no.

How to Be a Women is very honest. And touching. And funny. And smart. And very normal. That kind of normal that resonates. The dramas of growing up and becoming a woman person. Dealing with the everyday bullshit, including the everyday sexist bullshit.

Take this book for a trip. Pick it up in those wacky (normally) airport bookstores. It may turn an 8 hour flight into a life-changing experience. Or at least make it a fun and bearable experience.

Below you can find a taste of Caitlin in a 5-part interview. We warn it that this is not as profound as the book. Same as her Times columns, that's the work of a nonchalant broadcaster, TV critic and columnist and Twitter fan (@caitlinmoran). You get a much more thoughtful and closer Caitlin in the How to Be a Woman. Just sayin'.

01 February 2013

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: the Deepa Mehta elements trilogy


Director Deepa Mehta is one of our hero(ine)s. And her elements trilogy covers many of the themes we are deeply interested in. The XX century and how modernization has changed the ways we look at love, marriage, and tradition. The emancipation of women, and clashes with people who didn't think it was a good idea. The pain and exclusion, and also deep satisfaction that following your heart may bring...

Water (2005) takes us to the India of 1930's and deep into the restrictions that patriarchy imposes on women, widows in this case. The conundrum of arranged (child) marriage, women becoming possessions of their husbands, and then completely marginalized in case of the death of the husband... changed by the innocence of a child that hasn't assumed the tradition yet.

Earth (1998) takes us to the partition of India (1940's), a moment of religious and political violence where love finds it hard to survive in it's clashes with political and traditional loyalties.

Fire (1996), set later on in the XX century, reminds that marriage can still be arranged and that forms of acceptable love are still dictated by the tradition and the law, including some of them and excluding other ones.