Dear Pope, having kids can be selfish too

Dear Pope Francis,

Today, you told the world that “the choice not to have children is selfish” referring to a “greedy generation” who is not reproducing enough. Since you don’t have any kids yourself, and I’m the mother of three, I thought it might be helpful to hear about my experience. Becoming a parent is probably the most selfish thing I ever did, and I’m far from unique.

10441148_10203645596994987_6839419839864175114_n

Before I had children, like lots of people, I was busy contributing to society. I created a non-profit organization to foster and train ethical women leaders, produced top-rated talk radio programs, and wrote about politics and culture for newspapers, magazines, and the internet. I also spoke on radio and TV programs about these issues. At that time, I dated, but had no interest in having children or getting married ever. But when I was 32, I fell in love. I was so into this guy that I started to wonder what it would be like to create another human with him. The idea that you could make a baby with someone you love seemed  crazy magical to me, so beautiful, like a miracle. I decided I wanted to have that experience. He felt the same way.

He wanted to get married, and I didn’t. For most of my life, I thought marriage was oppressive to women, taking his name, wearing virginal white, being given away by your father to another man etc. If you’re committed, you don’t need a piece of paper. But something happened to change my mind. I I live in San Francisco, and gay people were organizing and fighting hard for the right to get married. Witnessing people advocate for something I’d always taken for granted forced me to rethink the institution. I realized that since Biblical times (and even earlier) when women were property traded by men, marriage has been evolving and will continue to. Being a part of that movement felt inspiring, so we got married.

unnamed

Over the next six years, we had two more kids, mostly because making babies and raising humans is as selfishly magical as I expected. It’s really fun creating little people and watching them grow. I love my children and my husband deeply, but in no way were the choices I made generous to society. I mean, you’re reproducing yourself. And after having kids, in some ways, I struggle to keep my world from getting smaller and myopic. I long for more time to write, create, and contribute to the world at the rate that I used to.

Women are the world’s biggest untapped resource. The status and education of women is directly linked to how many babies they have. The more children they have, the poorer women are.  We all lose out. Deciding to have kids or not is a personal choice, but I have a lot of admiration for people who don’t. People like you, Pope Francis, who dedicate their lives to pursuing what they believe in to make the world a better place. Don’t you think women deserve to make that choice too?

Sincerely,

Margot Magowan

Margot Magowan is a writer and commentator. Her articles on politics and culture have been in Salon, Glamour, the San Jose Mercury News, and numerous other newspapers and online sites. She has appeared on “Good Morning America,” CNN, Fox News, and other TV and radio programs. For  many years, Margot worked as talk radio producer creating top-rated programs. In 1998, Margot co-founded the Woodhull Institute an organization that trains young women to be leaders and change agents. Margot’s short story “Light Me Up” is featured in the anthology Sugar In My Bowl (Ecco 2011) and she is currently writing a Middle Grade novel about the fairy world. Margot lives with her husband and their three daughters in San Francisco.

 

Catholic school parent protests new teachers’ handbook calling masturbation “gravely evil”

This is a guest post from a concerned parent in the Bay Area in response to a chilling policy from the Archbishop of San Francisco.  I appreciate the words written below because they show how torn, conflicted, and frightened people can be about speaking out and making change in a church they love and grew up in. (I chose this picture because at least the guy likes pink.)
cordileone

I am writing this statement anonymously.  I am a parent at a Catholic school in San Francisco.  I must remain anonymous so that I do not affect my child adversely for expressing views contrary to those of the Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone.

The Archbishop released a new policy statement which will be inserted into the teachers handbooks in the four high schools the Archdiocese controls. He asserts that to affirm or believe in masturbation, artificial insemination, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage and abortion is “gravely evil.”  Not only does he judge these as “gravely evil,” he is forbidding teachers in these four highschools from asserting contrary views and/or participating in communication or activities or organizations that express contrary views. He states that violation of this policy will be determined on a case by case basis.  For example, you can attend a same sex wedding ceremony, but you cannot be on the Board of Planned Parenthood. In other words, whatever action the Archbishop happens to decide does not meet his “standards” gives him the power to terminate the teacher. His policy is chilling of speech, capricious, threatening and wrong.

I attended Catholic grammar school and high school, and University of San Francisco Law School, a Catholic Jesuit University.  I am so grateful for the incredible education I received at these Catholic institutions.  I experienced thought provoking discussions and analysis in high school religion and English classes.  I was taught to think for myself.  Both students and teachers represented and argued for a myriad of viewpoints and ideas.  I was challenged on Sundays, not just to sit through mass with an empty stomach — as we had to fast before Communion in the old days– but to listen to the stories of kindness and love almost beyond human capacity.  The Father who gives a huge celebration for the prodigal son.  The good son who works hard for many years while his brother squanders his money and drinks and plays.  It was the jealous brother, not the frivolous one, who was chastised in the story.  So we are challenged to give love, kindness and forgiveness even when an unfairness gives advantage to another who wants redemption. These kind of stories, of radical forgiveness, acceptance and love, I hold in my heart as the ideals I strive for — to welcome my reckless brother, to celebrate and love my irresponsible child on his/her return to my home, to be the better person.

I feel challenged to embrace this Archbishop even though his careless and callous unkindness espouses universal control over classrooms, teachers and thereby students.  He threatens teachers with dismissal if they dissent from his view of sexual morality and his description of all matter of practices of sexuality as “gravely evil”.  This harsh and narrow-minded judge who maintains unfettered control of the Archdiocese that includes San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties, even he who is doing such harsh and harmful work, I must find a way to show love and kindness toward him.  I must try to find compassion.  This is the kind of challenge posed to me as a Catholic, to love someone who is threatening me and those I love and care for, my child, my child’s teachers, his school and the church itself.  I am struggling with this.  That is what Catholicism challenges me to do — to love all, no matter what they do, no matter who they are, prisoner, prostitute, bishop, teacher, homeless, myself, my children, my enemy, each and everyone.  Love and kindness is our code as Catholics.

 

I am struggling with holding love and compassion for this Archbishop.  I find his imposition of his views on sexual morality on the teachers of the Archdiocese unkind, unloving, chilling of speech and intellectual discourse and development.  Putting these particular ideas and the threat of termination of teachers who offer contrary views or publicly support entities that embody contrary views, is threatening to the teachers livelihood, their personhood, their ability to speak and to teach well.  The Archbishop’s representative was on Forum this morning, a nationally broadcast radio program out of San Francisco.  He indicated over and over that the teachers are to hold the Archbishop’s sexual morality belief, allow kids to say what they want, and to persuade the kids, bring them back to the Archbishop’s position.  I am Catholic and this is NOT what I want.  I do not want my kids to be persuaded/indoctrinated in these views.  I do not want anyone to persuade them of their views. I want my kids to develop their own views and to become their own person in the context of a Catholic community that promotes love, kindness, tolerance, compassion.  I want to trust that these tools are enough to guide my child into adulthood and into becoming a good person, maybe even a good Catholic person.  I do not want them to learn to control, dominate, judge, restrain others.

 

Any expression, sexual or otherwise, when done to excess or to hurt yourself or another person is wrong.  Unkindness is wrong.  Hate is wrong.  Violence is wrong.  Hurting another intentionally or with callous disregard is wrong.  There are plenty of things that are wrong.  There are very few acts or people who are “gravely evil”.  And many evil acts are perpetrated by people who appear evil, but in fact are simply gravely ill and need our love, compassion and kindness.  War is wrong.  Killing is wrong.  Terrorizing others is wrong.  Abuse is wrong.  This policy is terrorizing teachers, staff and thereby potentially terrorizing students, parents, others who, for example, use assistance from doctors to get pregnant, or who live in a homosexual relationship, or God forbid, disagree with the Archbishop’s view of sexual morality.

 

Recently, I wrote a letter to the Vatican representative in Washington DC to ask for help to return civility, love and kindness to our Archdiocese.  I hope that Archbishop Vigano will pass along our concerns to Pope Francis who represents fully the Catholic ideals of love and kindness I learned, experienced and strive to embody in my own life.

 

An anonymous, terrified, saddened parent of a student in a Catholic high school.

 

The following is the letter I wrote to Archbishop Vigano, the Vatican’s representative in Washington D.C.:

 

 

Your Excellency Vigano,

 

With all due respect, I submit a letter I received from my son’s high school.  It is a very nice letter and includes all the wonderful and amazing principles supported by Pope Francis — love, inclusion, respect, et cetera.  I am so grateful for the kindness of the staff at (my child’s school).

 

I am concerned about the letter from Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone that is on (the Archdiocese of San Francisco) website, and is linked in the body of this letter.  The letter threatens to chill dialogue in school and beyond, and threatens the secure employment of teachers and staff.  The tone is very upsetting to me as a person and a lifelong Catholic. Further, the text of the policy was not included with the letter, making the insinuations in the letter that much more frightening and unnerving.  The words in the policy were reported in the newspaper, and were also extremely upsetting.

 

The action taken with publishing this letter and the policy statement does not reflect the love and kindness that Pope Francis has so consistently shown through his words and actions.  Please help to restore to our Archdiocese, the love, kindness, respect and all the virtues that Pope Francis has so eloquently demonstrated in his work as the head of our church.

 

Thank you and God bless you.

 

 

 

Thank you, SI for your annual contribution! Why do men feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons.

Sports Illustrated’s 2015 swimsuit issue cover shows a model pulling down her bikini with a come hither smile on her face. YAY! We get to see this image with our kids while paying for our groceries at Safeway. Yet another drop in the bucket to a mainstream, American culture that tells men they are entitled to women. Think it’s harmless fun?

America The Beautiful: Swimsuit Issue 2015

Last year 22 year old Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree after posting a video on YouTube and writing a manifesto describing his hatred of women, his anger for being rejected by them, his frustration and not being able to get a girlfriend, and his jealousy of sexually active men. All these signs were ignored. After the violence, most of the media cast Rodger as a crazy guy, a glitch in the system when in truth, he’s a product of it. Here were some exceptions:

The Atlantic reported:

Suffice it to say that the killer was a misogynist, and that lots of women have reacted to his rampage by reflecting on how women are denied full personhood.

 

PolyMic reported:

Rather than seeing Elliot Rodger as a product of society, the media has depicted him as a bloodthirsty madman, a mere glitch in the system.

 

New Statesman reported:

The ideology behind these attacks – and there is ideology – is simple. Women owe men. Women, as a class, as a sex, owe men sex, love, attention, “adoration”

The Daily Beast reported:

If the Santa Barbara shooter had been Muslim, and left the same sorts of video screeds and more, our government and media would undoubtedly be labeling this incident as terrorism. Just as an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist sets out to kill American infidels simply because they are “American infidels,” the Santa Barbara shooter set out to kill women simply because they were women. You tell me the difference. To fail to label the latter terrorism suggests a politicized use of the term, one interested in defending Judeo-Christian Americans and values, but not women.

The fact of misogyny America is not an accident. It is as deliberate as the shooting in Santa Barbara Friday night.  Those who seek to perpetuate misogyny, to actively further the subjugation and suffering of women, are not just nut-balls but adherents of a very specific and very ugly social and political ideology.  And those who take up weapons and kill large numbers of people in furtherance of that ideology? They’re terrorists.

Facebook posts popped up commemorating Rodger. On a page titled “Powerlifters Against Feminism” I read this:

Shoutout to my boy elliot rodger. He did the best thing us men could do. And paid the ultimate price. Let his death be a memorial day in which we hate against the subhuman species called women.

 

I contacted Facebook, asking them to shutdown the page, and I got this reply:

We reviewed the page you reported and found that it didn’t violate community standards.

 

After hundreds of Reel Girl fans contacted Facebook, the page was finally taken down, never explaining why they were so slow to label “that subhuman species called women” hate speech.

In the USA in 2015, we don’t take violence against women seriously because misogyny is normal here. Men are taught that they are entitled to women. Please look at the pictures in this post: Why do men in America feel entitled to women? A gallery of reasons.

If you think SI is breaking ground with the plus size model featured in the 2015 swimsuit issue, please read Memo to the world: Objectifying fat women is objectifying women.

 

Five Things I Hated About “Penguins of Madagascar”

This is a guest blog written by Reel Girl fan Nikki Roseworth. Nikki is eleven years old and lives in a small town in Oregon. She has a dog named Charlie and loves rock climbing, archery and fencing.

Five Things I hated about “Penguins of Madagascar”

penguins

  1. The only female, Eva, is weak and quite dim-witted. She relies on males for help, has no brain of her own, and is nothing more then a pretty face. She speaks very little and when she does, it’s in a British haughty sounding voice saying something like “Hello DARRRRRRRLING.” (Not what she really says, what she could say and have the voice fit, if that makes sense.)

 

  1. The only other female with a speaking role that I can think of is a skinny, sexed up redheaded woman who screams when the “evil” penguins get unleashed. The ONLY other. She has no name, is not mentioned in the credits, and yeah, she doesn’t really even SPEAK. Just screams. And yes other characters that are males scream too. Still, SEXISSSSST!

 

  1. The egg in beginning kinda is a slur to childbirth. See, the males “give birth” to Private. Male childbirth is a thousand year old cliché. In the Greek myths, Zeus gives birth to his daughter, Athena. And Kronos gives birth to his children the gods. All of this is technically correct (I.e Kronos vomits up his children). The only power women used to have was childbirth, and see, we make movies where males take that power.

 

  1. I thought the credits could be better, maybe a female artist like Beyoncé or Nicki Minaj doing a quick, fun song? No… The music in the credits is even male dominated!!! It’s Pitbull….

 

  1. All Eva does with her tech job is say “Where’s the sound?” Nothing more needed. She’s the tech expert and can’t fix a Skype error?

More Reel Girl posts on these frat boy penguins:

Only girl in ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ is love interest

Sexist Penguins of Madagascar shouldn’t get their own movie

‘Minions’ and ‘Penguins’ star multiple males, no females

‘Penguins of Madagascar’ preview gives female one line: ‘Where’s the sound?’

Best movies for kids? Five new releases rated for gender stereotyping

I’ve been MIA finishing up my book. Though my time blogging is currently reduced, my time spent watching movies with my 3 daughters ages 5, 8, and 11, is not. I’ve consolidated my recent reviews into one post.

Please remember that showing your children media where powerful, complex females are front and center is important for both girls and boys to see. (If you don’t know why, please read this.)

Reel Girl attributes 1 – 3 S’s for gender stereotyping or 1 – 3 H’s for heroines.

“Strange Magic”

SM_Moon_Goblins_Online_1s_w13.0

I hated “Strange Magic” so much, that I felt compelled to post here even though I have negative time. As I watched the trailer, at first I was excited for this movie. The preview features a female saving the world. What could be better than that? I started to get suspicious when the trailer announced in giant block letters: FROM THE MIND OF GEORGE LUCAS. In the mind of Margot Magowan, the creator of this blog, George Lucas is more known for gender stereotyping than genius. I’ve written extensively about male domination and “Star Wars” from the tiny minority of female characters in the movies, to how my daughter was teased by her gender police peers in pre-school for wearing “Star Wars” shoes for boys to the prevalence of kids’ toys and books showing Leia in her slave costume. I became even less hopeful about “Strange Magic” when, on the way to the movie theater, my daughter told me Lucas said that “Strange Magic is ‘Star Wars’ for girls.” How condescending is that? He compares this shitty, little movie about a love potion to an epic? At even if “Strange Magic” were good, why bifurcate of children’s media into “for boys” or “for girls?” All that duality accomplishes is to create further gender splits and stereotyping on what girls are supposedly like versus what boys are supposedly like. Even in the girl empowerment movement, too often, movies that star girls are recommended as great movies for girls. Children get trained that stories about girls are at best, special interest and at worst, don’t matter much. Then, in the grown up world we then see something like the Academy Awards nominee list for 2015 where movies about females are, once again, not considered important at all.

Beyond all of these initial feelings I had about the movie, it sucked. Totally. I can’t be more clear. It is all about love, because you know, girls they love to love. Everyone is singing about love in a cheesey medley that lasts for the entire movie. I felt like I was watching a bad video that wouldn’t stop. I almost never get bored in movies, and I was bored out of my mind. “Strange Magic” is basically another– yet another— beauty and the beast story. It’s not creative, a stereotype, and a rip off. The best part was the mushrooms playing telephone. I’m not giving “Strange Magic” a Triple S because the protagonist is female (though you can’t tell that from the poster she’s gone missing from) and she has moments of bravery.

Reel Girl rates “Strange Magic” ***SS ***

“Paddington”

Part of the reason it’s so challenging to recognize sexism in stories for children is because we grew up with these narratives. We’re attached. I feel this way about Paddington. I loved him when I was a kid. I had several plush versions of him, and I read all the books about him. I wanted to love marmalade because Paddington did. I was devastated when I finally tired it and had to run to the garbage to spit it out. (I still don’t get the love, it’s orange rind, right? Who would like orange rind besides a bear and maybe the British?)

I liked the movie. I thought it was true to the book. I would’ve called “darkest Peru” just Peru. But in a nutshell, the movie made me laugh. My 5 year old was in stitches. Nicole Kidman is good as the villain. Her role is similar to the evil woman she played in “The Golden Compass.” Unfortunately, her character uses her womanly wiles to manipulate; she is called “Honeypot” while her ga-ga male partner is has the code name “Fierce Eagle.” The dad in the movie dresses as a woman (ha ha.) A maid. A male goes ga-ga over him (ha ha ha). And of course, Paddington is the main character in his eponymous movie. The mom and the sister have pretty big parts for supporting roles but these roles are, of course relegated to supporting.

Besides the humor, the main reason I liked “Paddington” is because it’s well plotted. There is foreshadow, climax, and transitions for all the characters. Perhaps I was so impressed with the structure because I’m currently writing a book and studying these phases. And perhaps, the other reason I liked Paddington is nostalgia. So, I’ll leave you with this: If you’re choosing between “Strange Magic” and “Paddington,” see “Paddington.”

Reel Girl rates “Paddington ***S***

“Selma”

I loved Selma. I cannot fucking believe it was not nominated for an Academy Award and that the director, Ana DuVernay, was also overlooked. In 2015, a black female has never been nominated for a Best Director Academy Award.

Yes, the movie is about a legendary man, Martin Luther King Jr., but the narrative focuses on this particular time in his life and the people around him. It’s always annoyed me how biographies of MLK (and Ghandi) leave out the disrespect these men showed for the women around them. “Selma” addresses King’s philandering and the effects of his behavior on his wife. The movie also addresses female leaders in the movement, and the stories of the women who were around King.

There is violence in “Selma.” After checking Common Sense Media, which is a great resource for specific examples of sex/ violence in movies (but pretty negligent about gender stereotyping) I decided to take my 8 year old along with the 11 year old. At one point when an officer hit a protester,  perhaps because I gasped, my younger daughter, who always studies my reactions, said: “Why did you take me to this?” She covered her face. I told her. “This really happened. It’s part of history. People were beat up and killed just because of their skin color.” The movie also includes the scene where the 4 girls are burned in their church, also a horrific moment in history. If you read this blog, you know I believe in protecting children from stories they are not ready for. Kids need to feel strong and secure so they can be healthy, grow, and take risks. Dumping adult narratives and adult problems on young children can be abusive. Taking all this seriously, thinking about it, witnessing my daughter’s reaction, I’m glad I took her to see “Selma.” At the end of the movie, she said she liked it and asked me a ton of questions about MLK. I recommend the movie for children 8 and up, but it’s a choice that depends on you and your kid.

Reel Girl rates “Selma” ***H***

“Into the Woods”

You should see this movie with your kids just for the Red Riding Hood character. She is well acted, a great singer, and she cracked me up. Emily Blunt  is also excellent playing a baker’s wife who is desperate for a child. After the witch (played by Meryl Streep,) gives the baker and his wife a list of tasks, Blunt seems like she’s ready to take them on. For a split second, I thought she might be the protagonist of the movie. But the baker steps in (of course he did, she’s the baker’s wife) and tells her its too dangerous. He will go into the woods. (I’ve got to add here that over Christmas, my daughters and I saw Rudolph’s dad say the same thing to Rudolph’s mom when he goes off to search for his son. This scene happens all the time in movies for kids, years ago and now. We re-interpret and change fairy tales, but we can’t change this?) Not only is Blunt not the hero, she dies after she kisses another man who is not her husband. Meryl Streep, as always, is fantastic but her character is obsessed with being young and “beautiful.” I enjoyed “Into the Woods” and it’s scattered moments of female empowerment, but it’s not feminist.

Reel Girl rates “Into the Woods” ***H***

“Mockingjay”

I was really annoyed that “Mockingjay” was split into two parts. Unlike the final Harry Potter book which was also divided in two, the “Mockingjay” narrative could easily have fit into one movie. While I saw the two earlier movies in the series on opening day, for this one, I took my time. My 11 year old and I saw “Interstellar” and “Beyond the Lights” before we went to “Mockingjay.” My expectations were low, and I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t bored for a second. I didn’t think the movie was slow. I loved seeing Julianne Moore as the president, and I also appreciated in a bittersweet way, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Jennifer Lawrence playing the incredible Katniss, as always, is amazing. Because the movie was slowed down, I got an interesting perspective on how a revolution is planned and a movement is built.

Down to the last scene, “Mockingjay” is a manipulative money grab designed to pull us in, to get us to fork out money for two movies instead of one. I think a lot of fans feel like the same way, and that’s why the third movie didn’t make as much money as the first and second. That said, I’m hooked. I can’t help it. I’ll be first in line to pay for Part 2.

Reel Girl rates “Mockingjay” ***HHH***

More Reel Girl posts on new releases for kids and gender stereotyping:

Beyond the Lights ***HHH***

Annie  ***HHH***

Interstellar **HH**

Seven Things I Love About ‘Annie’

This is a guest blog by Lesley Williams about the new “Annie”

091e4bb366abad795d3047cfda0a5a24

Seven Things I Love About “Annie”

1) The heroine is a whip-smart African American girl who gets dressed up for a party in age appropriate (i.e. non-sexualized clothing) and without straightening her kinky hair.

2) The hero is an African American millionaire who is neither a drug kingpin, rap star, nor an athlete.

3) There is a chaste, and very sweet interracial romance which no one makes a big deal about.

4) Miss Hannigan is allowed to have a change of heart and ends up saving Annie, rather than callously abandoning her. In so many children’s films, the villain is a 2 dimensional caricature, with no nuance and no redeeming characteristics, who typically gets killed, or at least carted off to jail at the end. Kudos to the filmmakers for imagining a person who might do bad stuff, but is not an irredeemably bad person, (and who incidentally has a love interest who believed in her goodness all along).

5) The film is forthright in its depiction of how depersonalizing the child welfare system can be, even though individuals within it may be kind. We see Annie waiting in an absurdly long line and coldly told to bring back a certain form, yet when the rich guy character turns up it’s a very different story.

6) Annie is illiterate. We see how she copes: memorization, verbal skills, and chutzpah, but when she is caught off-guard and asked to read in public she is terrified and humiliated. There is talk of how kids often get overlooked in overcrowded schools, and the film ends with Annie and her adopted dad opening a literacy center.

7) Unlike almost every film I’ve seen with a similar scenario, when the soulless opportunist running for office has a change of heart, he doesn’t win the election, he says, “Hey, I have no business being mayor. Vote for my opponent with the solid record of public service!”

Lesley Williams is a librarian in the Chicago suburbs with a rad and righteous teen daughter. She has a blog on African American literature at aalevanston.blogspot.com/ and is  passionately concerned about sexism, racism and under-representation of females and racial minorities in pop culture.

A story is not a life condensed, but a moment expanded

A story is not a life condensed, but a moment expanded.

That is my theory, having written a novel for children. I have learned so many things writing this book with my husband that I feel like no matter what happens, if no one else reads it, or if I’m the next J.K. Rowling, I am forever changed. And just that, by the way, is something I’ve learned. Art is about process, not the result. It’s so strange to take a round-about route and end up at all the cliches. But here’s what I’ve leaned about cliches, you’ve got to get there your own way, to feel it, and that’s the only way they’re true for you.

I’ve written a fantasy/ adventure starring two female protagonists, with male and female supporting characters, but probably more females than males. My book is a book about girls for all kids.

I wrote this book because I’m sick of seeing so many stories for kids where girls are on the sidelines, sexualized, and stuck in supporting roles; where if you read a story where a girl is the main character, she is often surrounded by males; because while “buddy” narratives starring males abound, there are few stories where two girls come together to save the world. I wrote it because I wanted my children to see more girls taking risks, having adventures, changing, and growing. I wrote this story because four years ago, my husband suggested I stop complaining about what’s not out there and write. I wrote it because I wanted to walk my talk. I wrote it because I’m a writer. I wrote it because I’m madly in love with my husband, and this is a story he started to tell our daughters. I wrote it because I wanted to create something with him.

Here are just some of the things I’ve learned from the writing of it: Contrary to popular belief, to be a writer, at least for me, at least for me to write fiction, I’ve got to be an optimist. I’ve run into so many plot problems, I wanted to throw up my hands and say: there’s no way out of this! But there is always a way. I’ve learned how to find creative solutions in my work, and from this repetitive experience, I’ve learned how to find creative solutions in my real life. I’ve had to learn to be resilient. I need grit. The reason I started Reel Girl is because fantasy creates reality in an endless loop. If we can’t imagine equality, we can’t create it. Creating your own story not only creates your own reality in the book, but also teaches you the possibility of creating your own realities in life. This is liberating on so many levels. So many of us have grown up with family narratives with the good guys and the bad guys, the heroes and the villains, repeated and repeated and repeated. Now, I think part of really growing up is telling your own story, being the narrator of your own life.

I didn’t understand the purpose drama in stories. Bad things have to happen to your protagonist. Does that mean we want bad things to happen in life? We need excitement, trauma blah blah blah (and this goes back to “writers/ artists are depressed, unhappy, sick” etc) Now I believe that the adventure is an emotional metaphor. For me, cleaning out my closet is a huge Sisyphean task, but I can’t write a story about that, it would be boring. So I pick a metaphor everyone can relate to. In real life, just for a moment, I feel like my world is falling apart from something small, like I lose my keys. I feel like I’ve been abandoned. It’s a mini-panic attack, a second. If I were to write a story about the feeling, it would involve losing something major and important, a magical golden locket. I’ve come to believe that health is experiencing your emotions, fully and openly, and then releasing them. I don’t mean openly as in catharsis, telling everyone how you feel. That’s often inappropriate. I mean being open to your own emotions, how they feel for you. Getting out of a shower or getting out of bed can feel like a huge transition. A story is all about transition, that moment, something we experience countless times, every day but we block it out, because it’s too scary to be present, to be in our bodies, to be alive. Writing this story has taught be how to be alive in every moment or at least aspire to be.

Finally, I’ve learned, contrary to popular belief, that happiness is insightful.

ANNIE! Go see it.

It’s so great to see “Annie” revitalized with an African-American girl in the title role. In the first scene of the movie, a white, red-haired girl is reading a report to her class. Turns out there’s another Annie in the room. Quvenzhane Wallis goes on to give her oral report and steal the show. Daddy Warbucks is now Will Stacks played by Jamie Foxx, that’s right America– a black guy billionaire businessman and a dad.

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - December 2, 2013

It’s sad that in 2015 I have to go on and on about the rare, rare, RARE female protagonist of color in a children’s movie. This whole blog is dedicated to gender equality in the fantasy world and girls of color shown front and center is almost non existent in kidworld. “Annie” was produced by Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, and Jay Z. It is no coincidence that people of color with money use it to create movies that star people of color. So you know what we need, more women and people of color with $$$$. Unfortunately, the people that run Hollywood are white men, thus the stars of the “fictional” narratives are…white men! This has been going on since men wrote the Bible, I mean since men wrote the Greek Myths, I mean since men started writing and not letting women write, or go to school, or publish books, or be pictured in media coverage of stories about censorship. But, I digress. Back to “Annie”: Pathetically, the black girl front and center, starring the show, does not even manage to dominate the clothing line sold at Target. Here’s the ad:

141230131223-target-annie-in-store-620xa

To protest this racism, there’s a petition you can sign.

In the movie, I also liked the role of Grace played by Rose Byrne. She is an employee of Stacks but not a secretary. (Can you imagine that sentence about a male character? “He’s an employee but not a secretary, isn’t that wonderful?”) Grace is a high level employee who he respects and listens to. (He listens to a woman. Wow.) Also, Grace doesn’t take on the mother role for Stacks. There are instances in the movie where instead of letting Grace step in as “the soft touch,” Stacks takes control, having the talk required with Annie, telling Grace he’ll take over, not letting her do it for him. Stacks does ask Grace to help Annie get dressed, but that makes sense to me in the plot. It’s that dress in the Target ad that Annie wears.

I’m tempted to only give “Annie” two H’s because I really don’t like the Miss Hannigan character played by Cameron Diaz. She is washed up at 40, a desperate alcoholic who is looking for a man, any man. If I were remaking “Annie,” what would I do with this character? Do you all have any ideas? While I wouldn’t do a boy-crazy woman, she’s got to be mean and pathetic enough to rip off an orphan. Maybe a gambler? She was great at cards but now she’s hard on her luck…

Reel Girl rates “Annie” ***HHH***

 

 

Brooke Shields has written stunning memoir of life as the child of an alcoholic

There are a couple reasons why I bought Brooke Shields’s memoir There Was a Little Girl The Real Story of My Mother and Me. I grew up in the 80s and remember images of Shields, from the infamous “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins” ad to her hair perfectly coiffed to cover her breasts in “Blue Lagoon” to that child-woman face staring at me from magazine cover after magazine cover.

index

When I saw the book at my local store, I was curious about her story, the one behind all those images. I was also drawn in by the book’s title There Was a Little Girl. In some ways, I imagine what happened to Shields, the contradiction of being a real, emotional being beyond all those “beautiful” photographs of her, the three dimensional versus the two dimensional, is an extreme version of what happens to girls everywhere, the paradox of being seen yet not being seen at all.

In the first pages of her book, Shields writes that she wants to tell the real story about her mother. She resents the characterization of Teri Shields as an aggressive stage mom. Shields believes that her professional life saved her, it was a way for her to exist in a world beyond her mother’s frenetic one. The real danger, Shields writes, was that her mother was an alcoholic, self-medicating her depression and anxiety. Her mother was ill. Teri was loyal to Brooke, obsessed with her, and conscientious, but while those characteristics may imitate aspects of love, they aren’t real love, the kind of love that makes a child feel happy, safe, and strong. Instead, Teri used her daughter like a tranquilizer, a buffer between her and the world, a passive receptacle for her thoughts and beliefs, almost like a translator, to communicate with the outside, all the time, making Brooke think it was her choice to play that role.

Problems started to happen when Brooke finally took steps to become more independent. Her mother undermined or ignored these attempts, instead of supporting Brooke, took her moves personally, continuing to only see the Brooke that she wanted to see, the one who was most useful to her, the one in the photographs.

There Was a Little Girl is a sad, raw, and beautiful book about how one person’s alcoholism affects those who love her.

Reel Girl rates There Was A Little Girl ***HHH***

 

Orthodox Jews photoshop Merkel out of solidarity photo because she’s a girl

Want to know what’s wrong with the world? Here it is, a picture paints a thousand words as they say, so here are three:

#1 A solidarity march for Charlie Hebdo. Do you see German Prime Minister Angela Merkel front and center? Can’t miss her, right? Elbows linked with other marchers who are marching for the right to free speech, the right not to be censored.

neasspyir0vvverunsfn

#2 Here’s how the photo appears in the orthodox newspaper HaMevaser. Merkel is photoshopped out along with two other women Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt. The names of these three women are also not printed in the paper.

B7N-dN_IEAImSit

#3 Here’s what the photo looks like with the women shown and the men disappeared. I don’t know who created this photo but I saw it on Soraya Chemaly’s Facebook page.

10933796_10205268039090811_3698979919105011945_n

Lori Day comments on Soraya’s page:

The secondary benefit of this photo, to me, is showing how few female leaders we have. Look at that empty street. PROBLEM.

Is this the march that the White House is apologizing for not sending a higher level official to? Why is that story headline news while this sexism is under the radar, something I didn’t hear about until I checked my Facebook page? Why does the world sit by and allow sexism to happen again and again and again?

HaMevaser, this is a visual assassination. The world is waiting for an apology for your sexism and misogyny, for falsifying news, for using censorship to supposedly cover a story censorship, for using religious extremism to cover a story about religious extremism, for being hypocrites and liars.