April 7, 2010

Woman in Film:Tobie Loomis

As young girls and women,we’re bombarded with images of women that have little else but beauty and boys on the brain (the former required to win the latter). I’ve said it time and time again, I firmly believe that we need a new set of female role models that are manifesting social and political change in the world, girls and women that are intelligent, inspiring and bad-ass as hell.

Tobie Loomis fits the bill. Tobie boasts an impressive resume. She’s an independent writer, director and producer, an activist and an advocate for equal rights for all. She is an active member of Women in Film (WIF), advisory chair of the WIF International Committee and co-chair of the award winning PSA Production Program, a program that mentors young filmmakers in developing their craft as writers, directors and producers.

Both programs do incredible work in supporting and empowering young woman to develop their creative voices, something that is absolutely essential in a media landscape dominated by corporate conglomerates that limit information diversity and a culture that still relegates women to the margins of cultural discourse. To encourage young women to develop their voice, to celebrate their voice, and create a forum for expression is an incredible gift to all girls and women that are seriously starving for new images of girls and women that relay stories that are timely, relevant and authentic. Haven’t we had enough of the one-dimensional images promoted by reality television and most of the pop culture landscape? I know I have.

In addition to the work Tobie does in the area of film and creative expression, she is Co-Executive Director of the ERA Today campaign with Kamala Lopez, director of A Single Woman that was recently screened at W.A.M Los Angeles. Their campaign was recently presented to the Veteran Feminists of America in Dallas last month.

Tobie is an excellent example of the types of women we need to know exist and are working on creating creative content that inspires and ignites while simultaneously advocating and working for social and political change.

March 19, 2010

We all count

Recently, Kamala Lopez and Tobie Loomis, partners on the ERA Today campaign and the film A Single Woman, visited my classes to discuss the ERA Today campaign and the many large and small ways we can make our voices heard and create change.

The class discussion was electric and we all left feeling empowered and inspired. Kamala and Tobie have continued to dialogue with the class and myself through blogging and email (I’ll blog more on the incredible collaborative outcome in the future). This post is simply to share the following email from Kamala, received yesterday.

I just landed in Dallas where I am presenting the revised version of the ERA short to the Veteran Feminists of America! Tell your class that I used their input from the survey and now Gloria Steinem, who is the keynote speaker is going to be seeing it! I’m going to be blogging the conference for Ms online!
Kamala’s revised presentation of the ERA short to the Veteran Feminists of America in Dallas is a small but powerful reminder that all of our voices count.

November 7, 2008

Katha Pollitt on Sarah's gift to feminism

Filed under: Gender,Media,Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 12:29 pm

I enjoyed this article at The Nation. I’ve been thinking along similar lines lately. Hillary Clinton brought feminism to the round table discussion and Sarah Palin kept it there and allowed feminists to take the conversation in new directions. The articles, interviews and commentary that were produced in response to her presence on the political stage was like a dam burst open. I don’t remember the last time we’ve had that much mainstream feminist commentary. Sarah Palin stirred the pot and enriched our conversations about what feminism is and what feminism isn’t.

Excerpts from Pollitt below:

And so we bid farewell to Sarah Palin. How I’ll miss her daily presence in my life! The mooseburgers, the wolf hunts, the kids named after bays and sports and trees and airplanes and who did not seem to go to school at all, the winks and blinks, the cute Alaska accent, the witch-hunting pastor and those great little flared jackets, especially the gray stripey one. People say she was a dingbat, but that is just sexist: the woman read everything, she said so herself; her knowledge of geography was unreal–she knew just where to find the pro-America part of the country; and don’t forget her keen interest in ancient history! Thanks largely to her, Bill Ayers is now the most famous sixtysomething professor in the country–eat your heart out, Ward Churchill! You can snipe all you want, but she was truly God’s gift: to Barack Obama, Katie Couric–notice no one’s making fun of America’s sweetheart now–Tina Fey and columnists all over America.

She was also a gift to feminism. Seriously. I don’t mean she was a feminist–she told Couric she considered herself one, but in a later interview, perhaps after looking up the meaning of the word, coyly wondered why she needed to “label” herself. And I don’t mean she had a claim on the votes of feminists or women–why should women who care about equality vote for a woman who wants to take their rights away? Elaine Lafferty, a former editor of Ms., made a splash by revealing in The Daily Beast (Tina Brown’s new website, for those of you still following the news on paper) that she has been working as a consultant to Palin. In a short but painful piece of public relations called “Sarah Palin’s a Brainiac,” Lafferty claimed to find in Palin “a mind that is thoughtful, curious, with a discernible pattern of associative thinking and insight,” with a “photographic memory,” as smart as legendary Senator Sam Ervin, “a woman who knows exactly who she is.” According to Lafferty, all that stuff about library censorship and rape kits was just “nonsense”–and feminists who held Palin’s wish to criminalize abortion against her were Beltway feminist-establishment elitists who shop at Whole Foods when they should be voting against Barack Obama to make the Dems stop taking women for granted.

So the first way Palin was good for feminism is that she helped us clarify what it isn’t: feminism doesn’t mean voting for “the woman” just because she’s female, and it doesn’t mean confusing self-injury with empowerment, like the Ellen Jamesians in The World According to Garp (I’ll vote for the forced-childbirth candidate, that’ll show Howard Dean!). It isn’t just feel-good “you go, girl” appreciation of female moxie, which I cheerfully acknowledge Palin has by the gallon. As I wrote when she was selected, if she were my neighbor I would probably like her–at least until she organized with her fellow Christians to ban abortion at the local hospital, as Palin did in the 1990s. Yes, feminism is about women getting their fair share of power, and that includes the top jobs–but that can’t take a back seat to policies that benefit all women: equality on the job and the legal framework that undergirds it, antiviolence, reproductive self-determination, healthcare, education, childcare and so on. Fortunately, women who care about equality get this–dead-enders like the comically clueless Lynn Forester de Rothschild got lots of press, but in the end Obama won the support of the vast majority of women who had supported Hillary Clinton.

November 5, 2008

We are the ones we have been waiting for: an open letter to Obama from Alice Walker

Filed under: Media,Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Melanie @ 10:22 am

I ended last night’s monumental evening celebrating with friends and family, managing phone calls and reading email after email from friends, family and students sharing their feelings about this collective victory. Carla sent me an email forwarding this open letter to Barack Obama from Alice Walker.

Dear Brother Obama,

You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.

I would advise you to remember that you did not create the disaster that the world is experiencing, and you alone are not responsible for bringing the world back to balance. A primary responsibility that you do have, however, is to cultivate happiness in your own life. To make a schedule that permits sufficient time of rest and play with your gorgeous wife and lovely daughters. And so on. One gathers that your family is large. We are used to seeing men in the White House soon become juiceless and as white-haired as the building; we notice their wives and children looking strained and stressed. They soon have smiles so lacking in joy that they remind us of scissors. This is no way to lead. Nor does your family deserve this fate. One way of thinking about all this is: It is so bad now that there is no excuse not to relax. From your happy, relaxed state, you can model real success, which is all that so many people in the world really want. They may buy endless cars and houses and furs and gobble up all the attention and space they can manage, or barely manage, but this is because it is not yet clear to them that success is truly an inside job. That it is within the reach of almost everyone.

I would further advise you not to take on other people’s enemies. Most damage that others do to us is out of fear, humiliation and pain. Those feelings occur in all of us, not just in those of us who profess a certain religious or racial devotion. We must learn actually not to have enemies, but only confused adversaries who are ourselves in disguise. It is understood by all that you are commander in chief of the United States and are sworn to protect our beloved country; this we understand, completely. However, as my mother used to say, quoting a Bible with which I often fought, “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” There must be no more crushing of whole communities, no more torture, no more dehumanizing as a means of ruling a people’s spirit. This has already happened to people of color, poor people, women, children. We see where this leads, where it has led.

A good model of how to “work with the enemy” internally is presented by the Dalai Lama, in his endless caretaking of his soul as he confronts the Chinese government that invaded Tibet. Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.

We are the ones we have been waiting for.

In Peace and Joy,
Alice Walker

November 3, 2008

The revolution will not be televised.

Filed under: Media,Politics — Tags: , , , , — Melanie @ 3:16 pm

Just in case you needed a reminder: WAKE UP and VOTE!

November 2, 2008

Once again, hysterical.

Filed under: Media,Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — Melanie @ 12:54 pm

November 1, 2008

Brains versus brawn: who's got the political muscle?

Arnold Schwarznegger stumped with John McCain in Ohio yesterday, the state that hosts the Arnold Classic, a televised bodybuilding competition.

In true Arnold fashion, Schwarznegger decided to mock Obama’s physique as a sign of weakness.

“I want to invite Senator Obama because he needs to do something about those skinny legs,” he said to loud and amused roars. “I’m going to make him do some squats. And then we’re going to make him do some biceps curls to beef up those scrawny little arms.”

This is not the first time the Governator of California has utilized gendered tactics in politics that reinforces traditional notions of masculinity that emphasize muscularity and toughness as signs of true (male) leadership.

Who can forget his appearance at the 2004 Republican National Convention when he called “pessimists” of the economy  economic “girly men?” This is also not the first time that Obama’s masculinity has been called into question during the course of this campaign.

Naomi Klein comments on the continued gender war in politics from her op-ed piece in the New York Times in June:

Hillary Clinton may be out of the race, but a Barack Obama versus John McCain match-up still has the makings of an epic American gender showdown.

The reason is a gender ethic that has guided American politics since the age of Andrew Jackson. The sentiment was succinctly expressed in a massive marble statue that stood on the steps of the United States Capitol from 1853 to 1958. Named “The Rescue,” but more commonly known as “Daniel Boone Protects His Family,” the monument featured a gigantic white pioneer in a buckskin coat holding a nearly naked Indian in a death’s grip, while off to the side a frail white woman crouched over her infant.

The question asked by this American Sphinx to all who dared enter the halls of leadership was, “Are you man enough?” This year, Senator Obama has notably refused to give the traditional answer.

The particulars of that masculine myth were established early in American politics. While the war hero-turned-statesman is a trope common to many countries in many eras, it has a particular quality and urgency here, based on our earliest history, when two centuries of Indian wars brought repeated raids on frontier settlements and humiliating failures on the part of the young nation’s “protectors” to fend off those attacks or rescue captives. The architects of American culture papered over this shaming history by concocting what would become our prevailing national security fantasy — personified by the ever-vigilant white frontiersman who, by triumphing over the rapacious “savage” and rescuing the American maiden from his clutches, redeemed American manhood.

Funny, considering the state of the California budget (which is 10 billion out of balance with a deficit much higher than the one Davis left him with), his continued budget cuts in education and the national economy, in general, Schwarznegger’s biceps have not served him, or any of us, well.

George Monbiot wrote a great article that was posted on Alternet yesterday about The Triumph of Ignorance: How Morons Succeed in U.S. Politics that helps explain why someone like Schwarznegger is even able to stand at the podium and make such ludicrous statements and have audiences applaud.

How was it allowed to happen? How did politics in the United States come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of ignorance? Was it charity that has permitted mankind’s closest living relative to spend two terms as president? How did Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle and other such gibbering numbskulls get to where they are? How could Republican rallies in 2008 be drowned out by screaming ignoramuses insisting that Barack Obama is a Muslim and a terrorist?

As Monbiot points out, there are numerous variables that intersect and education is one of the most important.  Oh, yeah, right, the system that Schwarznegger himself has continued to gut during his time in office. For a nation that celebrates education as a value, there’s no support.  This is a classic example of ideal culture versus real culture or talking the talk and walking the walk.

In fact, politicians not only rip apart the educational budget to shreds but they mock at intellectual politicians.  How many times have we heard John McCain and his supporters question Obama based on his vocabulary and ability to articulate intelligent ideas?  How else can we explain why Joe the Plumber (who isn’t sick of this guy?) is on the campaign trail with McCain speaking on economic issues and foreign policy?  This is ludicrous!

As Monbiot points out:

It wasn’t always like this. The founding fathers of the republic — men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton — were among the greatest thinkers of their age. They felt no need to make a secret of it.

So, not only is Obama’s intellect to question and be suspicious of but his lack of brawn reinforces the fact that he isn’t fit to lead: he isn’t a “real” man. Oy vey!  See where these “real” men have taken us?  Now, wake up.

2004 Republican National Convention:

In Ohio with John McCain:

October 22, 2008

Eleanor Smeal to John McCain

Eleanor Smeal, president of The Feminist Majority Foundation, posted an open letter to John McCain on the Huffington Post today.

Dear Senator McCain,

This week you have lashed out against the “Feminist Left.” I understand your frustration. You see that women are not flocking to the McCain/Palin ticket and you don’t understand why. Allow me to illuminate you.

The truth is, Senator McCain, your candidacy is the worst for women in recent history. You thought that women would vote for you once you put a woman on your ticket. But women aren’t fooled by this tactic. Women, Senator McCain, vote on issues important to us, not on whether or not the candidate wears a skirt.

The problem, Senator McCain, is your voting record, platform, and policies. You have consistently voted wrong on issues that directly impact American women’s bank accounts, personal liberties and health.

• You voted 19 times against increasing the minimum wage (the majority of minimum wage earners are women) – before you finally voted for it because it included business tax cuts. You voted to gut the Family and Medical Leave act – and you oppose expanding its coverage.

• You oppose the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would restore women’s ability to fight wage discrimination in the courts – telling women our problem was that we needed to get more education and training.

• You voted NO on the Violence Against Women Act and NO on funding for the Office of Violence Against Women.

• You voted NO on starting the Army’s Breast Cancer Research Program which has funded hundreds of millions in breast cancer research. You voted NO on reauthorizing the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and supported Bush’s veto.

• You oppose a woman’s right to choose, and your running mate Sarah Palin opposes legal abortion even in cases of rape and incest.

• You voted to terminate federal funds for family planning and you have ducked questions on contraceptive insurance discrimination.

• You have stated that you admire the voting records of Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and John Roberts, and have stated that you would like to put Justices like them – Justices who want to overturn Roe v. Wade – on the Supreme Court.

We have compared the votes and platforms of Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin on women’s issues and the record is clear. No matter how you look at it – Obama/Biden score close to 100% and McCain/Palin approach a zero on women’s rights and issues.

If credit should be given for consistency, you deserve such credit when it comes to voting against women’s interests. Twenty-six years of voting against women’s rights and issues and you think women, when given a clear choice, won’t notice?

This is what using fear tactics gets ya…

…and it is truly disturbing.

There has been lots of discussion regarding the fear mongering scare tactics used among the right-wing ticket and many of it’s supporters in recent weeks. Claims that Obama is a terrorist. A scary Socialist. Muslim. Arab. It’s a dangerous world in a dangerous time. Spreading and condoning this culture of fear has generated racial slurs and hate crimes. Following hot on the heels of the Obama effigy, verbal threats, vandalization and assault have become familiar.

Against a backdrop of GOP-backed allegations that it is involved in voter registration fraud, the activist ACORN group has been targeted with emails and voicemails threatening its staff as well as Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

One of the aggressive messages, secured by HuffPost’s OffTheBus, says that “all the ni**ers,” including Obama, are going to get “assassinated” and “hung.”

The threats come at a time when the McCain-Palin campaign has been publicly linking the non-profit Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now directly to the Obama campaign while suggesting the group is engaged in a coordinated effort to register ineligible voters.

In addition to the verbal threats and racially offensive messages, ACORN offices in two cities were recently vandalized, and a 58 year old Obama campaign volunteer wrongly assumed to be associated with the group was assaulted Saturday.

In a conference call with reporters Monday, ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring said numerous employees of the group nationwide have started receiving threatening telephone calls, voicemails and emails and described the intimidation as “a byproduct of [the Republican] voter suppression campaign” and “what happens when you pursue the politics of fear as your electoral strategy”

Click here to read the full story and hear the audio clips.

This is U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s solution. What’s next? Blacklisting? This is treading in some deep, dark waters.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: So this is a character issue. You believe that Barack Obama may — you’re suspicious because of this relationship — may have anti-American views. Otherwise, it’s probably irrelevant to this discussion.
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-MINN.: Absolutely. I absolutely…
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that… Barack Obama may have anti-American views?
BACHMANN: Absolutely. I’m very concerned that he may have anti- American views. That’s what the American people are concerned about. That’s why they want to know what his answers are. That’s why Joe the plumber has figured so highly in had the last few days…
MATTHEWS: OK. I just want to get off this…
BACHMANN: What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America? I think people would love to see an expose like that.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: If you are an American, you’re an American and this business, for example, the congressman from Minnesota who is going around saying “let’s examine all congressmen to see who is pro- America, and who is not pro- America.” We have gotta stop this kind of non sense. Pull ourselves together, and remember that our great strength is in our unity, and in our diversity. That was really driving me, and put this on people like Mr. Ayers, are trivial issues, for the purpose of suggesting that Mr. Obama would have some kind of terrorist inclinations. I thought that was over the top. It was beyond just good fighting back and forth. I think it went beyond.

Read full story here.

Palin's designer wardrobe

Filed under: Gender,Media,Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , — Melanie @ 7:46 am

Amidst claims, that she’s just like all the other working class folks, it has been revealed that over $150,00 has been spent on the Palins’ wardrobe.

“It shows that Palin ain’t like the rest of us,” Tom Matzzie, a Democratic strategist told the Huffington Post, when asked how the party would or could use the issue. “It can help deflate her cultural populism with the Republican base. The plumber’s wife doesn’t go to Nieman’s or Saks.”

Check out the full story here and here.

See how GOP donors respond here.

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