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Joy. The oldest trick in the book.

I love film. Let me start there. I’ll continue with the caveat that this review is colored by my most recent film excursions, including the story of a woman overcoming tragedy and defamation to bring retribution on an Australian country town, and the story of a woman who loses house, home, income and reputation to bring about votes for women in the early 1900s. Joy is about a woman who must stand up to her family’s expectations (or lack thereof) and invent a mop. I left disheartened by these producers who promised me an uplifting, relatable tale of feminine strength and success, and did not deliver.

I can pinpoint three things about this film I thought did more damage than good for the causes its advertising proclaims to endorse.

  1. Every female character in this film is depicted as either weak-willed and self-doubting, or a manipulative, self-serving bastard. And what little bit of that felt like satire was patronising to the audience in its Luhrmann-esque opulence.  For all that Joy is a woman we can relate to: a goodhearted, hardworking mother with twentieth-century-disease. Flung along the milestones of marriage, mortgage and motherhood, her story is all too familiar; perhaps this is what the opening notes about how the story is inspired by countless women who have triumphed over adversity meant. But I call foul, and maybe I am wrong, because for all the obstacles, she did smarten up, she did stop presuming advice from those around her was good, she did end up in he big house with the kids who loved her and there was no love story. But I call foul: Joy is not the only woman in this film, and her story is one where her success is impeded by bitter people around her who never change, or feel like they should change and in real life, it shouldn’t be like that. Joy’s entrepreneurial spirit is the only good thing about this movie (aside from the nod to Joan Rivers) and it is continually drowned out by dream sequence and sickening scapegoating by the other characters. Which brings me around to…
  2. Some have said that Joy‘s intrigue and modernity are based around a lack of resolution in the film, it’s a real “real-life” picture. I call foul again because nowhere in the content do we find remorse or victory over the agonising-to-watch mistreatment of parent upon child in the film. Optimists like me in the audience will see that the fact Joy never cast out or reprimanded her father for his remarks on how worthless she was, nor her underhanded sister, nor her victim mother, is an indication that true resolution comes from abject forgiveness. Optimists like me will recognise that although Joy directly and violently cast the same cynicism and shutdown of self-esteem inflicted upon her to her daughter, the fact that they’re still the image of loving at the end of the film probably means she turned out OK too. But it matters what we say to our children, it matters what sense of hope or importance we foster in them – that is apparently the message of the film but the titular character continues the vicious cycle in the scene and this is never resolved or commented on.
  3. The grandmother narrator character was poorly constructed and poorly written. The cool speech from the trailer isn’t even in the film (fair because the film’s structure makes that speech redundant).

This film is a remark upon what must be overcome by women to achieve success, what expectations and crises of faith in oneself. And then it isn’t. See it for yourself, because I think films like this should be seen. And be entertained by it, for it is entertaining enough. But I believe we still have a responsibility to respect our audiences when we make abundantly clear the value of women in home, workplace, education centre and political stream. I fear this offering to the film industry’s representation of women is tokenistic, lazy and misguided. Joy is better than no joy. But Joy‘s lesson is hard to make out, and talking about things it only thinks it knows. Erin Brockovich would be rolling in its grave if it were anything close to dead. Now there’s a movie.

The cinema played this advertisement before the film about how terrible an adolescent boy felt after he hit his girlfriend as a deterrent to abuse. The whole ad was about how bad he felt. Think about that.

 

If you’re a woman who wants to do something great, check out these places:
http://www.goldmansachs.com/citizenship/10000women/about-the-program/index.html
http://thestoryexchange.org/
https://businessfamilies.org/en/education/?l=en&co=bff-prepare-propel-your-venture

If you’re the victim of domestic violence then you can speak to someone. It doesn’t to be physical violence to make an impact on your life. That is one thing to film makes clear:
http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/finding-help
http://au.reachout.com/tough-times/bullying-abuse-and-violence/abusive-relationships
http://www.amnesty.org.au/svaw/comments/2239/

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Sisters Unite! A Review of ‘Suffragette’

When Suffragette opened in London, a woman I know was there, waving her banner and fighting with fervour for the rights to safety of women everywhere. When it came here to Australia, I waited three days and joined perhaps eight people to see the film that is part of revolution in cinema: films that gather and mobilise women in their production, their distribution and their attention. Eight wasn’t enough, but it was better than one, and better than none.

The film is wonderful, I suppose that’s why you’re here, to see if based on my opinion that the film is worth forking out a fair cop of money to see. And it is worth it, not because of my opinion, but because if you do spend the money, you’re telling conglomerates and industries that this is a good thing: telling these stories, hiring these women on merit and demonstrating what equal rights look like in the artistic domain.

The term ‘suffragette’ has been somewhat archived, though there are still suffragettes now, rightly so. The term refers to a movement of women (and some men) seeking the right to influence law and political leadership of the countries they work, produce children, and contribute to the sustainable environment of. In the film, we see the movement through the perspective of Maud Watts, excellently portrayed by zephyr Carey Mulligan. Suppressed actively by her boss and passively by her husband, Maud is haphazardly brought into the inner sanctum of the suffragette movement thanks to local insider Edith – yes Helena Bonham Carter can absolutely still act – and the encouragement of suffragette icon Emmeline Pankhurst, played by Meryl Streep. You could say she loses everything, but then having it was a fragile façade built with brick and paper by the men who thought nothing of her strength and importance.

Maud Watts isn’t everywoman, nor everyman; someone who sees the iniquities around them and for all their pain and pity, can’t muster the strength to stand up to those with more power, more influence. But with friendship, resilience, and a sense of integrity unable to be ignored, finds themselves doing the work in this life that will change lives beyond them. Maud Watts isn’t a reflection of each of us, for all that she should be.

The movie does not end happily, but you knew that already because we are living the ending: each day, where 1 in 3 women will be killed by her partner or ex-partner. The story of this film is true, and ongoing. There is bred in us a gentle apathy, cleverly painted with compassion and naiveté to fool our mirrors into throwing a picture of benevolence in our faces that we wear with pride, not knowing what Emperor’s New Feminism some of us parade the streets with.

Don’t mistake Suffragette for a period piece, nor a skewed biopic. It is a film to remind us how history repeats, and snowballs as it does. It is a film to enlighten us to the battles that bore a fruitfulness we greedily feast on, with the skirmish forgotten behind us in the newspapers, in our Facebook feeds. It is not a film to be heartened by, but one to be awakened by. One to walk away from calling our mothers, and sisters and friends to make sure they’re alright, to tell them they’re not alone in whatever struggle they face now. A film to go home from and start showing people our bruises, holding people accountable for their prejudices. We are ten times more fortunate than we can comprehend or be taught, and infinitely more than we deserve.

Many points are to be made about the rise of films that are led by female heroes, host female-dominant casts, and are made by female-dominant crews and financers. Much of the representation has balanced, but the inequity exists still in the shadows. I say the same thing to people talking about how much has improved for the gay community: it’s not better, it’s just quieter. The diseases of prejudice and discrimination aren’t dormant, they’ve merely become immune to the floodlights of social media and mainstream television. Violence against women, political and domestic, has only finessed into certain hours, certain rhetoric, certain communities and become slipperier to grasp at and tear apart than ever before. Injustice against women hasn’t reduced, it’s simply adapted, become better at hiding itself. Applauding our successes in doing whatever part we have, passively or actively, to create the environments for female-focused films is crucial to the continual pursuit of complete parity, not a laurel to rest on. Know the difference. Please.

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Let it last be said that I am a man, with a privilege that may be ingrained, but not impotent. I don’t intend to use what gifts I’ve innocently been born to against a cause that truly must be run by those it will provide equality to. But as someone who will benefit from feminism, my stance is in firm, active support. And if yours isn’t, whoever you are, and whatever disillusion you live under, then go see the film. Wake up.

 

Here are some places to learn about and contribute to the safety, agency and equality of women globally:
http://www.whiteribbon.org.au/finding-help
http://www.bigsteps.org.au/about
https://unwomen.org.au/
https://sistersuncut.wordpress.com/

Here is another review of the film I enjoyed reading:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/29/suffragette-reminds-us-why-its-a-lie-that-feminists-need-mens-approval

Here is one I didn’t:
http://www.afr.com/lifestyle/arts-and-entertainment/film-and-tv/movie-review-suffragette-2015-20151224-glujye

Please share your comments, links and stories x

10 Things that ’10 Things I Hate About You’ taught me about Growing Up

NB: There are a stack of wicked and funny 10 Things Life Lessons posts. Check them out. There are no crossovers, and this one’s a little deeper. You’re welcome.

Knowing how to be self-aware is a lesson some people take until their forties and beyond to learn. Spending the formative part of our lives making every effort to suit to perceived expectations of those around us puts many in a hard place leaving teenage years behind (though not necessarily adolescence). In the interest of improving our growth as humans in the coming year, maybe consider how you’ve gone through the following and how are you making peace with it now? Time for changes?

So here’s a quick guide, delivered in a language any 1999 teenager can understand. Definitely a movie worth checking out:

1. Romance really trumps profit.

romance

Sometimes one of the most confusing things about being a teenager is how every “know better” figure in our lives is quite emphatic about the fact that we should be focusing on our futures, on prematurely delineating an entire career and professional goal pathway for ourselves. The benefits of this prioritising are evident in mid-life crises, quickie marriages and quickie divorces and lengthy divorce settlements, abrupt career changes, stockbroker suicides and Japanese men who leave for work but sit in park all day ‘cos they’d rather do that than admit being made redundant. To boot, entering teen years guarantees a complete download of sexual drivers and the shocking awareness of the sex we’re attracted to. And at the end of the day, we come across an individual who we let vomit all over our shoes, not because we’re getting money out of it, but because it’s freaken’ endearing!

2. Hurting someone once is more than enough. Second chances are for masochists.

hurt

Now I completely endorse separating behaviour from person in the arena of child-rearing (calling your daughter a “bitch” because she broke something is not going to aid her developing self-worth, nor her decorum). However, when it comes to adults, who have all decision-making faculties at either their disposal or acquisition through education, I don’t believe hurtful behaviour should be allowed to continue if it cannot be understood or physically empathised with. Now sure she got back with the lying guy who was so-not-who-she-thought-he-was when he bought her a really extravagant gift (not sure what message THAT sends!), but I was happy that she maintained right to the very end that she wouldn’t be walked over or mistreated. It is the opinion of this blog that it is far better to be single and true to yourself, than married and destroyed. Don’t let it happen. Don’t let your friends do it. Tell your parents if you think it’s happening. Don’t do it to others. Just don’t.

3. Anger NEVER works alone.

anger

What I always loved about this film is how the vitriolic sidekick was actually a sweetheart and it was the combined angst that brought out the worst in these two friends. I mean it doesn’t take much to see how much more dangerous the gang is made by sheer numbers, we know when we cross the street to avoid the group of four or more youths, we know when we hush our voices talking about that particular high school clique. But remember that within the individual is always an angry voice taking over control from the past or the potential tense. If faced with anger, it’s usually unlikely it has anything whatsoever to do with you, and all to do with that inner voice of fear, retribution, confusion in the assailant. There’s a reason why in the face of trauma, the victims show far more compassion than the armchair activists. Because they’ve seen the real cause in the villain’s eyes. There’s no excuse for violence, but there’s none for withholding forgiveness either.

4. Parties are great if you don’t have an agenda.

parties

I shudder to think what would happen if there was a support group for people who’ve experience Blue Light Disco Crises. The teenage party is always the setting for serious drama to unfold, most people even anticipating that by waiting until a party to have a tender conversation or amping up to something drastic where the excuses of underage alcohol consumption or peer pressure serve to back us up. So go to the party, ask your parents permission so they can pick you up when ish goes down, wear the dress, but avoid expectations. Expectation breeds regret, Enjoyment breeds Memories.

5. People lie. Like sometimes even a lot.

hurtonce

There’s not really much to elaborate on here. The beauty of high school is that within such an enclosed, developing community there is as much hegemony, civil conflict, corruption of authority and isolation from the outside world as we see in the more macroscopic developing communities worldwide. Except, you know, there’s no aid organisations to improve your corner of the education nation. You just get to suffer and hope your domestic life isn’t riddled with manipulation and omission of information, restrictions on your liberties, infighting, micromanagement and entirely conditional support of ventures. Oh wait…

6. It’s not innocence they’re being overprotective about, it’s the transformation of innocence to naivete.

chastity

So this picture perfectly explains how I feel about being abandoned by my virginity. As per point 4, the most cruel dichotomy of being a teenager is the slut-prude binary system.

For men, this manifests as the pressure to know what you’re doing by having sex as prematurely as possible (made all the easier by mobile-phone-access to pornography), but not being a wanker so you will have no idea what your body is doing the first time you orgasm-here’s a tip, it’s getting someone pregnant or afraid of sitting down. Thankfully, almost all men ignore the peer pressure and masturbate quite freely and frequently, so all they have to fear is the illegitimate and pervading size-based ridicule.

For women, this binary hits them harder because preservation of virginity is pressed on them more harshly than men so they’re afraid to express their burgeoning sexuality with their increasingly-frustrated contemporaries (ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the cougar’s opportunity). For those of you long enough into adulthood to have forgotten, there are NO cues in high school society to inform a young woman if the decision she makes when propositioned for sex, or if she’s gutsy enough to approach an appealing male, whether she will fall on the side of the slut-prude divide that won’t denigrate her. A tragic some-of-the-time she’ll just say yes so she won’t have said no and risk being labelled a prude, or being raped. She’s probably caught on that even if she does say no, her accomplice will say she did it anyway for their own posterity.

For transsexual teenagers, homo- or multi-sexual teenagers, older than average students or exchange students from European cultures? You don’t actually get to choose, you’ll be viewed through the lens of your sexual activity and labelled a slut from the get-go. But it’s probably for the best, you’ll need to get used to it because adult society hasn’t worked this one out yet either.

7. Teachers are people. Students are people. These people treat one another like crap a lot. That should stop, and stuff.

teachers

Like is there any way to secure secondary schools against being the most mentally unsafe places to be? How do we discourage students from ostracising, victimising, assaulting and vandalising each other when it’s so apparent that teachers are a huge part of the process. I went to a school were teachers physically abused students, and each other. Upper management at the school emotionally and mentally abused teachers in front of students and students themselves. Students certainly aren’t unlikely to have started it. I was socially abused by a teacher in primary school because I deprecated a joke he told in class. Now sure, adults should know better not to use adult tactics or nuances to hurt children. But just in general, all of these people in a school setting need to be continually, systemically educated in garden-variety kindness, value of community and given practical skills in mental health aid. Including the parents, oh god when parents put their hand in the pie, everything goes to crap. This is why your kids don’t want you to drop them off, not because they’re embarrassed by you, but because they’re genuinely concerned for what damage you can do to the citizens and culture of the school culture, being an ignorant, unwitting tourist who “means well”.

8. Literacy is sexy. Also, someone’s intellectual appeal will always win out over their looks, good or bad.

literature3

I’ve always understood “cool” to mean “adj. acting in disregard or disinterest of other individual’s thoughts, real or perceived”. People get ugly, but there’s nothing uglier than fearing ugliness. You can never keep up with trends, and those who do find it very exhausting and distressing. If teenagers who go onto being successful early-adults seem to demonstrate anything, it’s usually that they’ve managed to detach their egos well enough to be themselves. It’s a far less taxing process to curate our actual self when operating in the big wide world, than spending our twenties making all the unproductive mistakes just so we can establish enough evidence for a regression into our authentic characters to look like a “I love being thirty, you can just forget all the bullshit” stage of growth. You can forget all the bullshit before you’re 21 if you have the grace, gall, guts, and some god-forsaken self-awareness. Here’s to no more midlife crises, just be your damn self! Unless you’ve coded up an entirely new person by the time you graduate, in which case, here’s to therapists become the fastest-growing profession worldwide.

9. Eroticism shouldn’t be suppressed. Responsibility and Health come from honest, even frank, education.

eroticism

I wonder if 50 Shades of Grey would have sold so well if we’d actually bothered to tell kids and teenagers what sex even was. Legit, what kind of farce is sexual education. I don’t have enough space to express my diatribe, nor to refer to other bang-on diatribes out there, nor services working their liberal butts off to fix the cause of these diatribes. So I’ll make it quick: TELL KIDS WHAT SEX IS SO THEY DO IT WITHOUT HURTING EACH OTHER.

Segregating boys from girls for sex education is not only counterproductive, counter-intuitive and counteractive, it’s godawful stupid, especially when we give them access to pornography on a daily basis (yes I think music videos and NSFW buzzfeed articles count). Also, there is a lot more to sex than reproductivity; teaching us what our reproductive systems look like and what they do in the event of a heterosexual emergency is super-valid but completely useless information in lieu of any context. Putting condoms on bananas has no transferable skills for students to learn how to help each other with female condoms. By the time they sent a timid, tight-collared educator to tell my student class what lubricant was, half of us already knew and used through trial and error! Oh and making us do a project on a particular STI didn’t serve as deterrent either, but seemed to increase the instances of anal sex-yet another thing no-one was prepared to engage in (see earlier point on use of lubricant). Anyway, my high horse needs some water. Taking a break.

10. The sacrifice of your pride is the first step to EVERYTHING.

No need to elaborate. See the movie. Work it out.

pride

Oh and also. If I can throw an eleventh in at the last minute? It’s never Nigel with the brie. Ever.

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