Women’s History Month WATCHLIST

Whereas there’s no question that there’s a COMPARATIVE shortage of great movies for, by and/or about women, there’s ENOUGH for our given month!
Here’s a starter list for you:

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In celebration of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
This is what a leader looks like!
“There’s a counterintuitiveness. We have a particular vision of
someone who’s a badass — a 350-pound rapper.
And she’s this tiny Jewish grandmother.
She doesn’t look like our vision of power,
but she’s so formidable, so unapologetic,
and a survivor in every sense of the word.”

“The kind of raw excitement that surrounds her is palpable.”

It’s the combination of Ginsburg’s woman-hear-me-roar history, her frail-little-old-lady appearance and her role as the leader of the Supreme Court’s dissident liberals that have rallied her new fan base, particularly young women.

The second woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, she’s part of the generation who came of age after World War II and led a revolution that transformed women’s legal rights, as well as their role in the public world.

Ruth Ginsberg hails from that generation of New Woman — “whose gift for overachievement and overcoming adversity” was … “so immense, you can see how even a nation of men bent on maintaining the old patriarchal order were simply run over by the force of their determination.”

Rumor has it, you can get your Ruth Bader Ginsberg T-shirt, coffee mug
or tattoo if you like. We think it’s the PERFECT gift idea for any occasion
and justabout everyone on your gift list. No, make that EVERYONE!

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The PROBLEMATIC Bodies of Girls and Women.

Regarding the female body….
Our so-called forefathers, the shakers, makers, movers and designated Alpha-Males (or occasionally Alpha-pairs) of Western Culture bequeathed to us some properly tyrannizing thoughts and some potent formulae for
getting them into and keeping them in play.
A girl-body or woman-body as property, as an exchange-able commodity,
as a thing–a plaything, a lure, a given source of catharsis for sex-driven takers, parts to ogle&fondle&discuss like meat, fodder for jokes,
prompts for jerking off, prizes to parade.
Western society has felt it needful to revise a good many of its attitudes
and values, but, its regard for the female body is nowhere on its
“up-for-consideration” list. Time has merely worn unfortunate traditions’ deep grooves deeper. The effects are troubling but so familiar and so “excused” (an excused absence, one could say, of conscience, empathy or plain good reason to give a da#!n), one is inclined to feel no trouble at all.
Or else …
an alarming trouble.

Hairless Female Body

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Marilyn Monroe: An American Parable

MARILYN MONROE haunts America as much as any of our ghosts.
She has the power to haunt … because we saw and knew too little &
because she saw and knew too much —
about how the American mass psyche runs, feeding on its own.
Marilyn – A woman’s body in context

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Identity and Race

I touched on names and identity last week, and this week I read a couple insightful articles about the development of racial identity.  One excerpt I read discusses the outside “triggers” that make one aware of one’s race as a unique characteristic.  This concept made it easier to understand why minorities recognize their racial identities more keenly and from younger ages.  Often times the outside triggers are negative, like media portrayals that depict black youths as gang-bangers or neglect to feature Native Americans at all.  The article explains that these outside influences are pitted against “deep conscious immersion into cultural traditions and values” coming from closer to home, like one’s family or church.  And because literature suggests that racial identity is a socially rooted concept based on others’ perceptions, the negative message from the majority can be difficult to overcome or to reconcile with one’s minority culture and upbringing.

I’m part of the racial and cultural majority as a white person, so I am often unaware of my race in situations where minorities would be conscious of theirs.  I don’t have to worry about being racially profiled by police, service personnel, educators, politicians, etc.  My race isn’t underrepresented on network television or in best-selling literature.  People don’t point me out as, “that white girl.”  The authors explain, “For [white Americans] ethnicity is usually invisible and unconscious because societal norms have been constructed around their racial, ethnic, and cultural frameworks, values, and priorities and then referred to as ‘standard American culture’…there is little conscious instilling of specific ethnic identity through white communities.”  This rings pretty true to my experience.  The only time I’m conscious of my race is on the rare occasions that I’m the minority, and even then I’m not self-conscious due to any supposed inferiority of white people.  I do recognize that I’m fortunate in my experience; I’m lucky to be white and I’m lucky to have many other privileges in my life.

Here’s a link to the chapter I have been referencing: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic551690.files/Chavez%20and%20Guido%20Debrito.pdf

This piece also pointed out that the term “melting pot” for the United States has fallen by the wayside.  Instead of this image of homogenization, researchers are working to define the diverse population and all the unique personalities encapsulated therein. Another article I read also discussed the changing face of race in America and described how youths are defining and embracing their multiculturalism. At the University of Maryland, students have formed a Multiracial and Biracial Student Association, exhibiting pride in their mixed heritages and taking the question of their race into their own hands. I was surprised to learn that up until the 2000 census, citizens were forced to select just one racial category. Most people with some African-American ancestry identified as “black” because they were perceived that way. These college students “are asserting their freedom to identify as they choose,” and they’re not the only ones. The 2010 census reflected a 32% increase in the population identifying as “mixed race,” for a total of nine million mixed race Americans, around 3% of the total population.

If you’d like to read the article about young Americans and their blended races it can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/us/30mixed.html

This site shows some interesting statistics on the changing racial demographics of America per the 2010 U.S. Census:


This page is an exploration of the stages of racial identity development:


How do you conceptualize YOUR personal identity? If you were asked to describe yourself, how would you begin? Are you first and foremost your gender, your profession, your race, your ethnicity, your nationality, your religion? Do you identify as multiple races or just one? Has your race conferred privilege, challenges, or a bit of each? Has anyone ever asked, “What are you?” referring to your race? Have you ever wished you were a different race? Have you considered how your life would be different if you were born black, white, Asian, Native American, Latino, Pacific Islander, or some mixture of multiple races?

Here’s one last excerpt from the New York Times article “Black? White? Asian? More Young Americans Choose All of the Above.”

“What are you?” they asked, and “Where are you from?” They were fascinated by her father, a Latino with Asian roots, and her mother with the long blond hair, who was mostly European in ancestry, although mixed with some Cherokee and Shawnee.

“I was always having to explain where my parents are from because just saying ‘I’m from Takoma Park, Maryland,’ was not enough,” she said. “Saying ‘I’m an American’ wasn’t enough.”

“Now when people ask what I am, I say, ‘How much time do you have?’ ” she said. “Race will not automatically tell you my story.”

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to share your insight and your story in the comments.

-Kerry Roberts

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Burka Avenger

I just stumbled upon an article in Entertainment Weekly about this award-winning new TV show.  It’s a Pakistani cartoon about a female superhero whose primary goal is education for girls and women.  Her non-super personality is Jiya, a teacher (and does not wear a burka or scarf in that role), but when she’s in super mode she’s a burka-disguised pen- and book-wielding bad-ass who fights forces of evil and oppression like the Taliban. 

The creator explained why the burka:  “We wanted a local relatable flavor…And so she chooses to wear the burqa only as a disguise, she’s not oppressed … and on the other end of the spectrum, a lot of female superheroes in the West are objectified, and sort of sexualized in their costumes, like Catwoman and Wonder Woman, and that certainly would not work here.” 

The Washington Post says of the ground-breaking series, “Pakistan’s new superhero makes the hoop-skirted, Prince Charming-obsessed Disney princesses look downright antiquated. She was not born into royalty. She does not obsess about her beauty. And she definitely does not want or need to be whisked off on some white horse or magic carpet. No, Jiya, or the Burka Avenger, is too busy defending women’s rights and education for all. Now that’s what I call a role model for girls.”

This is a great inspiration for young Middle Eastern kids and a win for feminists worldwide!



-Kerry Roberts


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Identity and Names

What comprises our identities? There are categories we’re born into, like race, name, nationality, gender, class, and sexuality; and there are those we choose, like religion, career, and club membership. Of course we may have degrees of flexibility when it comes to those former categories, too. One may move and change citizenship, reject the gender he or she was assigned growing up, change any or all of one’s name, and we would certainly like to think we have a great degree of class mobility in the United States. The very first marker of identity is one’s name, and here I discuss how names reflect our identities.


I read a few brief articles on the topic to see what the popular consensus was on names and identity. The best was by H. Edward Deluzain, who touched on naming ceremonies across different cultures; the symbolic power of banning a name; uniqueness of identity and names; offensive mispronunciation of names; and historical and psychosocial recognition of names as integral to identities. I highly recommend this piece: http://www.behindthename.com/articles/3.php


Deluzain points out that Black Muslims such as Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little) and Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Clay) rejected their given “white” names and adopted their own identities. The author also brings up the practice of denying a person’s name as a symbolic punishment. The most common instance of this is prisoners being assigned numbers and their names revoked. This instantly made me think of the beginning of Les Miserables, when Jean Valjean asserts his identity as his given name and Javert insists on calling him 24601.


One article I read described a woman’s internal struggle with determining whether or not to change her name when she gets married. Both she and her husband feel strongly that their names are a part of who they are, and she is hesitant to change her name while her husband is insulted that she doesn’t want to adopt his. (Ultimately she takes her husband’s last name.) http://spldbch.blogspot.com/2012/01/name-and-identity.html Another author points out how we choose many of the labels that comprise our identity and they change over time. A woman named Susan may go by Susie when she’s young, Sue for short, and Susan if she’s being formal. http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/identity-power-of-name-0625135


I also read a brief piece written by a woman named Sandeep who described her difficulties with people misspelling and mispronouncing her name. She’s pretty understanding about the confusion, admitting she often concedes to let her name be Anglicized or misspelled. However, she does feel that her name is part of who she is, reflects her heritage, and is important to her. http://www.financialpost.com/careers/Your+name+part+your+identity/4677512/story.html

This is why Deluzain says,

Most people take great care to make sure they pronounce another person’s name correctly, especially in introductions. The reason for this concern is that people generally resent the mispronunciation of their name because mispronunciation amounts to a distortion of their identity. Accidental distortions are annoying, but mispronunciations and distortions of a name on purpose are sizable insults…”


Another article discussed studies that explore behavioral differences based on names. For instance, boys with names we associate more with females had far more disciplinary problems than other boys when they reached adolescence—particularly if they shared the name with a girl in their class. This seems to reflect a psychological conflict between the boys identifying as male yet having a name that does not best fit that expectation. http://theweek.com/article/index/249589/how-our-names-shape-our-identity


Again my pop culture brain kicks in and gravitates toward Johnny Cash’s song “A Boy Named Sue.” If you’re not familiar with the tune, the premise is that a bastard son’s father named him Sue before skipping town. The boy always resented this and finally confronts the father, who assures him he did this so that the boy would toughen up quickly. The research now seems to support that theory! The article says, “People who particularly dislike their name and also if other people think it’s an odd and unlikeable name…tend not to be as well-adjusted.” If you haven’t heard this humorous classic song, take a listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1BJfDvSITY


-Kerry Roberts

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