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The Freedom to . . . Speak


The Washington Post showed Charlie Hebdo’s cover of this week’s issue in their article discussing it.  The New Yorker didn’t. Nor did The New York Times.  (Although their online edition contains a link to Charlie Hebdo).  I read an article online about the new edition with the caricature of Mohammed crying, holding a sign that says “Je suis Charlie” and the words above him Tout Est Pardonne (All is forgiven).  I hesitated before posting the article on my facebook page.

Yesterday I saw a friend’s post that said “Why is no one posting the cover of this week’s Charlie Hebdo on Facebook? I believe The Times ran a front-page article, but neglected to print the image. We all get kind of quiet when it’s truly risky, myself included.” People are critical of The New York Times not posting it because print readers do not have the access to the links provided to online readers.

This is all very timely in connection to the hack of Sony Pictures in response to the release of The Interview.  There are literal violent attacks on free speech taking place in the world.

As a theatre artist and a writer, this is heavy shit.  And it should give anyone pause who writes, who tries to express themselves through art, pause.  These attacks are on artists.  The people who made The Interview are writers, directors, and actors.  The people who work at Charlie Hebdo are artists and writers.  If you are an artist or writer, you should be upset by this.  Very upset.  And you should be speaking out about what this means.

I have written things that people don’t like.  They tell me.  I tell them I appreciate their opinion.  And then we move on because it is my opinion.  I have also had people comment on my blog in hateful and misogynistic ways.  I delete them.  The difference to me is that we can disagree with each other without being hateful.  We can express our opinion without hate.  Once hate or violence enters the discussion or the debate, we’re not going to come to any understanding or respect for each other.

After 911, the citizens of this country did not come together for a Unity March against terrorism.  We became very afraid.  I honor the people of Paris and of France for coming together against violence, coming together against attacks on free speech.  For coming together.  Period.


We are not a nation that tends to come together for much.  We tend to unravel, mistrust, and debate in nasty ways.  It saddens me.  The recent divide on the killing of black men is a perfect example.  I have seen more hate on facebook by defensive white people than I have ever seen.

The gray that is our world is unacceptable to so many people who want to live in the black and white.  Audre Lorde, a feminist writer and activist whose writing inspired so much of who I am and what I believe said “your silence will not protect you.”  She was right.  If we cannot speak and act and create, why live?


Positive Women Role Models Non Existent

There is an advertisement out by General Electric called “What My Mom Does at GE.”

It’s just lovely.  It doesn’t exactly describe whether her mom is an engineer (it seems like it) or what her title is, but it is clear that this woman is a scientist and she builds and designs things.  And her daughter is proud.  The feminine pronoun used throughout the commercial is “she.”  This is positive.  So positive, in fact, that I am blogging about it.

I did a talk in 2012 for the UMass Dartmouth Kaput Center’s Interdisciplinary Colloquium Series called “Choosing Science:  Succeeding without Visible Role Models.”  I ask how girls go into science when there are no positive representations of female scientists in any media, except for a few forensic crime scene investigators.

When is the last time you saw a commercial that represented a woman as a scientist?  If these representations are so few and far between, what is all that junk we are seeing in the middle?  I could write 20 blogs about bad commercials to every good one.  This Business Insider article provides a pretty depressing look at print ads for women through the years.  In a Google search “positive representations of women in commercials,” I got ZERO hits.  The horribly sexist EU video “Science:  It’s a Girl Thing!” almost makes things worse, until you check out this website.

I’m good with the world if I stay on Netflix, avoiding commercials.  But some days I need a dose of Colbert and Stewart and I’m left seething.  Huff Post did a list of bad commercials in 2012 (Gag warning!).  Seeing some of these commercials makes me wonder how people are even ALLOWED, by law, to put this shit on television.  If these were depictions of children being treated like this, people would freak.  But, whatever, it’s just girls, er . . . I mean women.

The Superbowl is yet another great opportunity to poorly depict women.  See this post.  And as we live in a world where girls and women are simply a commodity that should be bought and sold, never educated (See our #BringBackOurGirls campaign at UMass Dartmouth Center for Women, Gender, & Sexuality’s Facebook Page), and even selectively reduced, I am left to ask the misogynist male leaders of the world where they think more boys are going to come from?   Keep reducing the number of females on the planet and I can assure you, you will lessen the time on earth in which you can rule.

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.