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Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Week from Hell

It was one of those bizarre weeks in the life of a person or a community.  The good news came from France that they had legalized gay marriage, yet the response by their divided community seemed so out of place, for France.  To have that many people riot in the street against gay marriage didn’t make sense to me.

Rhode Island passes gay marriage making them the 10th state to do so.  But there are 50 of us.  That leaves 40 to go.  Will that all change with a repeal of DOMA?  Should be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Then we come to a week ago Friday.  My story goes like this.  I take the dog to the groomer and hear about the middle of the night manhunt for Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.   I had just gotten back from the groomer and was getting ready to go to breakfast with my brother and his wife at this lovely woman owned place in Somerset called Lina’s.  I got an alert text that the university is closed.  I’m confused.  Boston is pretty much shut down on a manhunt for the Marathon Bomber so it doesn’t make any sense why we are closed.  I text my boss and ask her to call me when she has a chance knowing she must be very involved with whatever is happening there.  We turn on the TV.  A ticker underneath one of the channels says that the suspect who is still alive, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev went to school “somewhere outside of Boston.”  My brother jokes and says “maybe he went to UMass Dartmouth.”  We both laugh, but mine has that kind of nervous undertone to it.   Then I get another alert text that the university is being evacuated.  I try to log into the website but it won’t let me.  I later learn this was from too much traffic.  When I finally get in it states that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a registered student. 

We go to breakfast and when I get back I am glued to the tv.  I get an email from my bosses boss stating if  we are already on campus, can we come to a meeting.  Thankfully I’m not already on campus.  I reply I am not on campus as I was planning to go in later that day but I can.  My boss calls me and tells me she is not sure if they need me yet.  She texts later to say no and less than 15 minutes later calls and asks if I can go work at the area high school to meet the students who are being evacuated and have nowhere to go, primarily international students. 

I work at the high school for about four hours helping students get set up at a local hotel.  What I learn about how close my connection was to this young man is that he is on the intramural soccer team who we played recently in the Kick the Silence, Stop the Violence event.  I also learned, later during the week, that if the FBI had released the photos earlier, like on Wednesday night, the hunt that went on in Watertown could have happened on campus instead. 

On Sunday I worked for five hours answering parent phone calls, mostly about the safety of campus.  And I went to a meeting with the Muslim Student Association regarding their safety on campus.  Many of them, particularly the women, were afraid of a backlash against Muslims. 

On Tuesday we hosted almost 200 students to campus for our annual GLBT Youth Symposium.  This was, as usual, an uplifting event.  

So for this week I critique nothing.  I feel good about gay marriage passing in another country and another state and I feel sad that a young man is going to lose his life or spend it in jail for reasons we do not yet know.

A Culture of Violence

I remember vividly, age 10, and Dad taking me on vacation.  In Houlton, Maine, where we lived, school started in mid-August so that the last week of September and first two weeks of October school could close for Potato Harvest.  I had lots of friends who picked potatoes.  I never did.  It was a good excuse to stay with my mom for a week or two in Massachusetts.  But this year, Dad decided he would take time off and take me to Boston and to see my Grandparents (his parents) in Worcester.  He got tickets to see The King and I with Yul Brynner.  He had the lead in that play forever, playing the King 4,625 times. I was not impressed with his acting.  Clearly that part was too familiar to him.  I couldn’t understand a word he said. (A theatre critic at age 10, who knew?)  He’s also the guy who filmed a commercial about the dangers of smoking before he died that went something like “‘Now that I’m gone, I tell you: Don’t smoke. Whatever you do, just don’t smoke.”

During this trip, we also saw my first 3-D movie, some strange western. 3-D tumbleweed rolling toward us. The point of this whole trip was really to show me Boston. Dad loved Boston.  He grew up in Worcester and to this day loves every Boston sports team. That is a story for another day.  He spent a good amount of time teaching me the importance of offensive driving in a city. While I was 5 years away from getting my license, he wanted to show off his city driving skills.  He also drove me through the “combat zone,” explaining what all the XXX signs were about.  At one point, we were crossing the street and he pointed to a woman and said “that’s not actually a woman.”  Who knew back then that I’d be advocating for transgender rights as part of my work?

Suffice it to say it was a memorable trip to Boston, mostly because my Dad was so passionate about it. 

A few years ago my brother and I spent two nights in Boston seeing the Dave Matthew’s Band at Fenway.  We did all kinds of touristy things like the Duck Boats, tried to figure out the T, took a pedi-bike after dinner, ate on Newbury Street, walked along the Charles.  It was really fun.  We stayed on the Cambridge side at the Hyatt Regency with a gorgeous balcony looking over the city. 

Two days after the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, I feel like I cannot write about anything but Boston, even though I want to write about how sad I am that we live in a world where people want to kill each other, where people want to slaughter innocent people to make a point about something or to express their own anger and rage.

I often tell my students and my friends that I don’t watch any of those CSI shows (that often have strong female characters) because I cannot support the culture of violence.  These so-called detective shows are all about women –mostly– being murdered.  I don’t need to spend my day dealing with rape on my campus and then come home to watch women be murdered.  Real life violence is too much for me as it is, I don’t need to veg-out on fictional violence.  I don’t watch horror movies either.  These movies always slaughter women.  

So maybe we should take a pause from these events in Boston.  Stop wondering who is behind all this and ask ourselves, what have we done to promote, ignore or remain apathetic to a culture of violence in our world?  Yes, someone needs to take responsibility for the killing and maiming of hundreds of people, but we live in this world too.  We need to look in our own mirrors and think about the ways we promote and support a culture of violence.  What do you watch?  What do you read?  What video games do you play?  How do you talk about people?  Do you say about a hot young thang, “I could hit that?”  That’s violence.  How does your language perpetuate that culture?  How do you support a culture of violence?  Mull that one over.

Simply Devine Review

I vowed months ago I would critique restaurants as well as culture, I mean, food is culture, right?  But I need to be more consistent.  Isn’t that a them for life, the need to be more consistent?  Anyway, I am going to try once a month to write about food.  We have no kids so we do eat out a lot.  We also eat out with people to be in company with them.

Simply Devine is a restaurant in Warren, RI in the old Nathaniel Porter location.  Simply Devine was opened by a couple in 2012 who also run Simply Devine catering.  We went late on a Sunday afternoon before seeing a play at the local theatre.  We were sat by an old fireplace that now runs with gas.  It was charming.

I ordered the lobster risotto and Jeff ordered the lasagne.  You can check out their menu here.  The first thing Jeff always does when we go to a restaurant is to look at the bottom of the flatware to see where it is made.  I have no clue, in general, on what is “good” flatware versus bad. I love fiesta ware! He said the flatware was average and the silverware even lower grade.  White tablecloths, candles and fireplaces require a nicer flatware.

We were brought bread, warm pieces of cut french bread that were good, with hard pats of butter.  I think a place like that should always serve whipped butter.  I ordered a side Cesar salad, which was good.  My lobster risotto was served with saffron, cremini mushrooms and peas.  The mushrooms were very hard to chew, suggesting they came dried and were not softened up enough before cooking.  They had the texture of leather.  I thought the amount of lobster in the dish was moderate.

Jeff’s lasagna, on the other hand, was served in a stainless steel casserole dish, over a plate of baby arugula.  The arugula had no dressing on it, was almost there as a decorative piece, but it was strange.  He said the lasagna was nothing compared to mine.  He felt the noodles were overcooked and it had very little flavor.

We ordered the berry tart for dessert with was good.  He had coffee and a grand marnier.  I finished my Sauvignon blanc.  He said the coffee was excellent.

Our take out came in a plastic bag, which didn’t seem to fit with the environment either.

Overall, we’d give this restaurant a 5 out of 10, meaning we’ll go back for a drink and appetizers as the bar was very quaint, but we’re on the fence on whether we would order dinner here again when there are so many other sure things in the area.

I can say, the play that followed, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, at 2nd Story, was, according to Jeff, “one of the best plays I have ever seen at 2nd Story,” and I have to agree.  For a show with some clearly misogynistic undertones, the acting was top notch and the directing excellent. 

Body Awareness by Annie Baker

I went to see The Wilbury Group’s production of Body Awareness last Saturday night.  It was directed by a dear friend and mentor, Wendy Overly.  In a nutshell, a lesbian couple,  live in a small town in Vermont with one of the women’s sons.  Phylis works as a Psychology Professor at the local college, Shirley State, and is in charge of their eating disorder awareness week, which has been re-named Body Awareness Week.  The play takes place over the course of those five days.  Joyce, Phylis’s partner’s son, Jared, is 21, lives at home, and appears to have some kind of spectrum-based disorder.  Phylis and Joyce have given him a book on Asperger’s and he is defensive and stubborn about having it.  Frank, a visiting artist, is staying with Joyce and Phylis for Body Awareness week. He is in town with his photography exhibit that looks at women of all ages and sizes in the nude. 

The inclusion of mental health issues in a play that examines body image issues was interesting.  Of course I am more interested in the feminist messages of the play.  Right from the start, over a discussion with Jared about his use of pay-per-view porn, Joyce informs her son that she thinks women with no body hair is gross.  She says to him “You now people don’t really look like that. It will be extremely hard for you to find a real person who looks like that.”  (She is wrong on this point).  She goes on “I assume you know we have pubic hair for a reason.” 

One of the conflicts in the play is between Joyce and Phylis around Frank’s exhibit.  Phylis thinks it’s pornographic and that Frank is a creep for doing this kind of work.  Joyce decides to meet with him during his stay to get her picture taken.  As much as she appreciates his art, Phylis’ criticism has rubbed of on her and she’s very nervous.  She questions whether his taking pictures of naked women is creepy or makes him a sleazeball.  He responds “what if Michaelangelo masturbated to the statue of David?  Does that make him a bad sculptor?”

This exhibit in the play, I believe is based off of an art exhibit called The Century Project by artist Frank Cordelle.  We brought his exhibit to UMass Dartmouth in the last 90s, I believe.  It was very controversial because we exhibited it in our Campus Center and people had to walk by it unless they chose to walk outside the building.  The discussion continually came back to the issue of porn versus nudity, something I feel very strongly about.  I think many of us are raised in families where nudity is not acceptable unless you are a baby.  This, of course, limits how we then feel about our sexuality, our body, our body image.  I had a mom who was very comfortable walking around naked.  I always embraced nudity as a positive, never seeing it as pornographic.

Today, however, the only nudes that people get to see, outside of the art world, are the cloned-pubic-hair-less-fake-titted women who all look the same, minus the hair color on their heads.  It’s sad that the only acceptable look of a woman nude in our culture today is one type.  Three years ago I taught a class called The Female Body:  Women’s Health, Sexuality and Reproductive Rights.  One of the groups did their presentation on Playboy through the years to show how diverse the women use to be.  This came out of numerous discussions we had about body hair and how young women and men police other women about their need for no hair “down there.”  They believe it is “dirty” to have pubic hair.   

The play has an interesting climax that deals with other “body” issues like exposure and sexual violence.  It runs this weekend at The Wilbury Theatre Group. As there is so little theatre, written and directed by women, this is a must see.

my feminist praxis

critical reflections on my feminist praxis: activism, motherhood, and life

The Feminist Critic

Providing weekly critiques of theatre, film, books, politics and pop culture from a feminist perspective.