Thanksgiving food for thought

We’re about to head out the door to go down to John’s parents’ for Thanksgiving. And of course, first and foremost on my mind is: “how will I get a post up tonight?” So I’m dashing off this bit of a placeholder.

And also taking the opportunity to share something new I learned about Thanksgiving from a video I saw this morning. Apparently, Thanksgiving was created as a national holiday in 1863. Sarah Hale, publisher and editor of a magazine, Gode’s Lady’s Book, was the motivating force behind getting Abraham Lincoln to declare the holiday, and to have it be during the workweek. She motivated women around the country to harrass their congressmen and senators to bring about the holiday. According to the folks interviewed in the video, the bits and pieces of myth and knowledge about the pilgrims were collected together and made part of the holiday, along with the recipes collected in the women’s magazine.

I just thought that was interesting. And not something that gets mentioned when we learn to draw hand-trace turkeys in elementary school.

10 great movies with kick-ass women who don’t necessarily kick anyone’s ass

I’ve been putting together a number of lists of movies, TV shows and other media that feature women that I have called kick-ass. (For an index to the lists, see the kick-ass women project page.) The lists so far are mostly about movies and shows in the action genre, with lots of nods to those women characters who can really kick some ass. As in physical kicking of physical asses. It has recently been suggested to me that it would also be nice to see more about movies with women who kick-ass in a more figurative sense: strong, courageous, intelligent and in control. Possessing of dignity, integrity and wit. So, here goes:

10 great movies with kick-ass women who don’t necessarily kick anyone’s ass

  1. Cold Comfort Farm (1995)
    Flora Poste (Kate Beckinsale) is a witty young woman who likes to put things in order. She is not easily daunted, even by her somewhat menacing eccentric relatives. (This is one of my favorite movies, too. Also a very funny and pleasant movie.)
  2. Dolores Claiborne (1995)
    This thriller features several strong and intelligent women characters, played by Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Judy Parfitt.
  3. Contact (1997)
    Jodie Foster plays Eleanor Arroway, a brilliantly kick-ass scientist. (I actually haven’t seen this yet, but have it on good authority that her character kicks ass.)
  4. Zero Effect (1998) Kim Dickens plays Gloria Sullivan, a young woman who brilliantly and calmly masterminds a scheme for her own ends. An excellent mystery movie overall, too.
  5. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
    Viola De Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) flouts tradition and disguises herself as a boy in order to pursue her desire to act on the stage.
  6. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
    In this adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles), is a high school girl who knows her mind. And knows a lot of other things, too.
  7. Saving Grace (2000)
    Brenda Blethyn plays Grace Trevethyn, a courageous and innovative woman with a green thumb who turns to unusual measures to make money to save her house.
  8. Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001)
    Audrey Tautou stars as Amélie, who uses her wit and creativity to make a difference in the world around her.
  9. Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
    Parminder Nagra plays Jesminder ‘Jess’ Kaur Bhamra, a teenage girl who defies her traditional family’s wishes to pursue her love of football (as in soccer). Also features Keira Knightly as another footballer.
  10. Volver (2006)
    This Almodóvar movie is dominated by strong women characters.Penélope Cruz stars as Raimunda, a daughter, a sister, and a mother of a teenage daughter. Courageous and resourceful, she pulls things together to protect her daughter after an incident where her daughter kills a man in self-defense.

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This post is being kicked over to the //engtech group writing project #3.

Thanks to bs, who suggested a version of the title of this post in a comment.

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on kicking ass

I’ve been working for some time on an endeavor that I have dubbed “the kick-ass women project.” So far, the project has involved putting together various lists of movies and shows that have prominently featured women characters who, in my opinion, kick some ass.

However, I have yet to either define the term kick-ass or really describe what it is that I mean by the expression kick-ass woman. So here goes a try.

A kick-ass woman is a woman is more than ordinarily strong, courageous, and intelligent. Kick-ass women (or for that matter, kick-ass people in general) are those who face up to challenges that are beyond the ordinary, stand up for themselves and for others, and demonstrate their stength, courage and intelligence.

What do I mean by strength? Well, strength of character, primarily. Courage to stand up for her beliefs, for her rights, or even for her wants. Plus the brains to figure out what needs to be done.

Of course, I also enjoy the action genre, and added to these fundamental kick-ass qualities, I appreciate additional qualities. A kick-ass woman should ideally have some physical strength and the ability to hold her own in a fight. And I do have a penchant for women who can show off some martial arts skills, and literally kick some asses. Or other bits. In action or suspense movies, a kick-ass woman should also be able to outwit her opponents.

In some ways, a kick-ass woman character can also be defined by things she is not, things she does not do. For example, she doesn’t wait around for some man. To rescue her. Solve things for her. Notice her charms. Send her flowers. Marry her. She is not just the “love interest,” the prize, the trophy. She is not helpless. This is not to say that she can’t be a love interest, or accept some help, or be noticed for her charms. She can like getting flowers. She can even have romance, love, sex, marriage, whatever. More power to her. But these things are not the extent of her worth, her self worth, her role in whatever movie or show we’re watching.

I like to think of women as fundamentally strong, courageous and intelligent. This is the baseline. Sure, some women are stronger, others wimpier. Some brilliant, some not as bright. But generally, women have the potential to kick ass. It’s just that all too often in the media that is served up to us, whether it’s the more traditional male-dominated action and suspense movies, or the “chick movie” type romantic comedies, the women characters are overshadowed or underdeveloped. Watered down, or just gussied up.

Like many others, I want more movies and TV shows to feature women who demonstrate their strengths.

So, where am I going with this project? Well, I’ll probably put together a few more lists. It has come to my attention that I should put together lists of movies where the ass-kicking is more figurative than literal. While heavy on the action genre, my existing lists do include some such non-action movies, but there are certainly more out there.

I’ve also come across a number of other resources (books and websites) that discuss, rate or list kick-ass women movies and shows. I’ll get around to writing about them. At some point.

I also still have this plan of reviewing and actually scoring individual movies (or shows), based on the kick-assedness of the women characters.

I even have plans to write more about the expression kick-ass, and why I’ve chosen it over terms like sheroe or heroine.

opportunities

Phoebe got a cool toy as a gift for Christmas. (Actually, she got lots of cool toys, but I’ll spare you the details. For now, at least.) The toy I’m talking about is actually more of a set of toys: it’s the Fisher-Price airplane with Little People.

plane_people.jpg

The set came with 3 people: the pilot and 2 passengers. You have no idea how thrilled I was to see that the pilot is a woman. How cool is that? I mean, seriously. The small step of representing a woman as a pilot in a miniature toy represents a giant symbol: a woman is shown matter-of-factly in a prestigious and traditionally male-dominated pilot.jpg job, and this mass-produced representation is being sold as part of a mainstream popular toy. This is huge. (I once wanted to be a pilot, by the way, but that is a story for another day.)

So there we were, Christmas morning, looking at Phoebe’s new toys (once we finished wrestling to free the toys from their elaborate packaging). And I saw the pilot, and felt my thrill. And when I looked at the other two little people figures, I said to John “hey, the passengers are women, too. They must be a newlywed lesbian couple heading off for a tropical honeymoon.” I was joking when I said it, but honeymoon was what came to mind when I saw the two passengers all decked out in their Polynesian-inspired garb. I live in Massachusetts, one of only a few US states to have legally recognized same-sex unions, and apparently the only US state to recognized such unions as marriage. (By the way, when working on my wedding anniversary post, I discovered that the definition of marriage was under dispute on Wikipedia. That in itself tells quite a story. But I see now that the flags announcing the dispute have been taken down. I’d be curious what the changes made were…I found one older version in Google cache but haven’t had a chance to look.)

So here’s the thing. I’d like Phoebe to grow up accepting diversity in people: diversity in ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Ideally, she would get to know people of such diverse backgrounds and beliefs in person. And hopefully she will. But the reality is that we live in fairly rural Massachusetts. In a town where there is not a whole lot of diversity. It struck me that toys and playing games offer opportunities to supplement the exposure to diversity she might get through school and the media. We don’t actually particularly know any married same-sex couples. But we can matter-of-factly say that pat.jpgthe two women figures in the play set are married. Just as the set matter-of-factly depicts a pilot who is a woman.

Of course, John now has me half-convinced that one of the passengers in the set is actually supposed to be male. I still think of her as female. Just possibly a less girly female than the long-haired lei-wearing obviously female passenger. She, who is wearing shorts and purple sandals, and has a moderately short haircut, is at the very least of somewhat ambiguous gender. We have agreed to call her Pat. Just Post Jan 2007

feeling optimistic

You’ve probably heard the news. (I’ve heard it, and I basically live in a cave.) Hillary Clinton is in. As in announcing her candidacy. For president. I have to admit that I’ve had mixed feelings about her. I loved her during Bill Clinton’s administration. I was excited about her commitment to issues such as national healthcare. But then she’s seemed to move more and more into the center since those halcyon days. I was disappointed in her support of the the war in Iraq. I’d come to like her a lot less. And whenever I’ve heard people say that she’d be running for president, I’ve thought, “there’s just no way.” No way she’d run. And no way she could win. But now I’ve read a few things that make me think again. Like this article. And this one, from a couple of years ago. And suddenly, I’m feeling a tingling of optimism. That after these dark politcal years, we’re once again moving forward as a society. Not only can people imagine having a woman as president, they believe it can happen. Soon.