Tag Archives: feminism

Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power Book Review

To be a woman in politics is to have a backbone made of steel. It requires courage, strength, an incredibly brilliant mind, and the ability to navigate through the bullshit.

Nancy Pelosi has done this and so much more. She has broken barriers, become a controversial figure, and stood toe to toe with some of the most notorious political figures of our era. Her biography, Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power, by Susan Page, was published earlier this year. Pelosi was born in Baltimore, the youngest child, and only daughter in a prominent Italian-American family. Though she was raised in an era in which girls were boxed in, her mother encouraged her to color outside of the lines.

Moving to California after marrying, Pelosi only got into politics after her children were grown. Starting at the local level, she climbed up the ladder with a shrewd mind and an understanding of the game. Page spends most of the book examining her career and the challenges (especially when going against you know who) that she has come against. Diving into the details of the last few decades, the woman we meet is one who does not shrink when coming against a man who thinks that he knows better than her.

I enjoyed this book. The reader is introduced to Pelosi as the whole woman, not just the image on the evening news. She is thoroughly human in a way that I found relatable and inspirational. Pelosi may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you cannot deny that what she has accomplished is exceptional and admirable. We need more women in this world like Nancy Pelosi.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power is available wherever books are sold.

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Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge Book Review

The making of a movie or television show is sometimes just as exciting as the movie or television itself.

Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge, by Becky Aikman, was published in 2018. In 1991, the film Thelma & Louise took Hollywood and the world by storm. Written by Callie Khouri, it was revolutionary then and unfortunately, is still revolutionary now. The story of two women (played by Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, respectively), who start out on a road trip and turn into outlaws is a classic.

The book not only tells the story of how the movie was made, but it also speaks of the boundaries that were broken in the process. Interviewing the actors, Khouri, the producers, and others, it is a fascinating tale both in front of and behind the camera that created a crack in the glass ceiling and opened the doors for women to be more than a pretty face on the screen.

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I loved this book. I also love the movie, in case you didn’t notice. What was not surprising was not just the usual strung-out process from page to screen, but also the idea of a female screen writer creating a tale that is more than the expected narrative. It’s a reminder of how far we have come and how far we still need to figuratively travel.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge is available wherever books are sold.

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A League of Their Own Character Review: Marla Hooch

*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday at the latest from now on).

*I apologize for not posting last week. Life got in the way.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the movie A League of Their Own. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

Movie makeovers are not uncommon narratives. What makes one stereotypical and another unique is how the writer(s) approach the makeover. In A League of Their Own, Marla Hooch (Megan Cavanaugh) is not your average woman. Raised by her widower father, Marla was brought up as a boy. She can play baseball like no one’s business but was never taught the female graces of the era.

Brought to tryouts with sisters Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) and Kit Keller (Lori Petty), she makes the team. Before they can get on the ballfield, they must go through etiquette lessons and a beauty expert. The response to Marla’s appearance is not unexpected.

Ironically, it is Marla who lives the traditional life. She meets her husband at a jukebox joint. After being given a lot of liquor and a tight dress, she gets on stage and starts to sing. Though she lacks the voice, the standard image of a beautiful woman, and the confidence without the liquid courage, she gets the guy. Marrying halfway through the season, Marla returns the next season to play with the Peaches.

To sum it up: Marla’s glow-up is more than a physical makeover. True beauty, as cliche as it sounds, comes from within. It is her belief in herself that not only gets her on to the team, but also provides the romantic life that might not have had otherwise.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Ladies Get Paid: The Ultimate Guide to Breaking Barriers, Owning Your Worth, and Taking Command of Your Career Book Review

It’s not exactly a secret that women, especially women of color earn less than men. Instead of speaking up and asking for what we deserve, we often accept less to be seen as a good employee.

Ladies Get Paid: The Ultimate Guide to Breaking Barriers, Owning Your Worth, and Taking Command of Your Career, by Claire Wasserman, was published earlier this year. Wasserman, the founder of Ladies Get Paid, encourages her readers to see their career worth and not be afraid to stand up for themselves. Citing stories of subjects who have followed her advice, she speaks of subjects such as asking for a raise/promotion, dealing with office politics, and feeling like you are not enough.

I loved this book. Wasserman writes in such a way that even the timidest of readers would find the courage to speak up for themselves. What got me was the stories of the women she profiled. Even though the details are different, the narrative arc is the same. I also very much appreciate the big point she makes is that employers continue to pay those of us with darker skin less than our lighter-skinned sisters.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Ladies Get Paid: The Ultimate Guide to Breaking Barriers, Owning Your Worth, and Taking Command of Your Career is available wherever books are sold.

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Is the Wicked Child From The Four Children Really That Bad?

Character types are the backbone of storytelling. Whether or not a writer(s) chooses to go beyond these stereotypes tells us everything that we need to know about the creators of the narrative.

The Jewish holiday of Passover starts on Friday night. One of the components of the story of the exodus from Egypt is the Four Sons. Each son (whom I refer to as a child instead, because of well, feminism.) is a stereotype. The eldest knows everything that there is to learn about and is still eager to know more. The second-born would rather be someplace else, doing anything else. The third child knows the basics and needs a simple answer. The youngest does not even know how to ask the question.

My problem is with the image of the second eldest child. In traditional terms, this person is dealt with harshly. They are basically told that had they been in Egypt, they would have been left in bondage. Looking at the text with a modern lens, rebellion or questioning the status quo is not a bad thing. It forces us, as a culture to look our demons in the eye and make a decision: do we deal with our problems or stick our heads in the sand?

In a religious context, the second child speaks to those of us who are discontent with the all-or-nothing aspect of faith. According to a Gallup poll from last year, less than half of all Americans attend regular religious services. This is compared to 80 years ago when almost three-quarters were in a house of worship at least once a week. I think this comes down to flexibility and understanding that many younger people are turned away from the old-school way of looking at religion. If the wish is for the pews to be full, a little creativity may be needed to bring back those who have drifted away.

To everyone celebrating, have a Happy Passover.

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Can We All Be Feminists?: New Writing from Brit Bennett, Nicole Dennis-Benn, and 15 Others on Intersectionality, Identity, and the Way Forward for Feminism Book Review

Every social movement, for all of the good things it creates, has its own flaws. It is through these imperfections that allow both the movement as a whole and the organizations that make it up to improve upon its ideals.

Since its inception in the late 19th century, the feminist movement has opened the door and broken down barriers that in the past, kept women in virtual slavery. The long-running issue that exists is that the image of a feminist is of a middle or upper-middle-class Caucasian woman. Women of color, disabled women, immigrant women, etc, are often marginalized. Can We All Be Feminists?: New Writing from Brit Bennett, Nicole Dennis-Benn, and 15 Others on Intersectionality, Identity, and the Way Forward for Feminism was published in 2018. Edited by June Eric-Udorie with essays by writers such as Britt Bennett and Nicole Dennis-Benn, the book explores the different facets of feminism that are still not given their due.

I really enjoyed this book. Every woman (and everyone else by extension) who believes in the feminist principles should read it at least once. It is a reminder that for all of the good the movement has done, there is still internal rejigging that needs to be done in order to have our words match our deeds.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Sisters in Arms: A Novel of the Daring Black Women Who Served During World War II Book Review

During war, the one upshot (if there ever was one) is that with the men on the battlefield, women take on roles that otherwise would be denied to them.

Sisters in Arms: A Novel of the Daring Black Women Who Served During World War II, by Kaia Alderson, was published last year. As World War II rages on, the powers that be in the American military have opened the door for women to serve. Known as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), these soldiers may not have been on the front lines, but their contributions cannot be ignored.

In the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, two young women have joined up. Grace Steele and Eliza Jones may come from the same part of the city, but that is the only thing they initially have in common. Grace is a musical prodigy whose career has been sidelined by a family tragedy. Eliza, who works for her father’s newspaper, wants to be a respected reporter. Instead, she is sidelined to beats that are “appropriate” for a female.

They are not only the first women to officially join the army, they are also among the first African-American women to sign up. After basic training, Grace and Eliza form and lead the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. On top of doing their jobs, they also have to deal with prejudice that comes with their gender and skin color.

When they are finally sent to Europe, Grace, Eliza, and the rest of their battalion are thrilled to finally be able to serve their nation, regardless of the danger.

I loved this book. I came into the book knowing that there were women in the military during the war. But my knowledge did not extend beyond that basic fact. After I finished it, I felt a sense of pride. We all know the promises that the country makes and the half-truths that are the day-to-day reality. But when we open the door to change, the ripples can be nothing short of world-changing.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Sisters in Arms: A Novel of the Daring Black Women Who Served During World War II is available wherever books are sold.

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This Week in American Women: Ketanji Brown Jackson, Karen Berg, and Madeleine Albright

Despite what history (and some men) may say, women are resourceful, intelligent, and more than capable. We just need the opportunity to prove ourselves.

Last week, America lost one of her giants in both history and politics. Madeleine Albright passed away at the age of 84. Appointed to the role of Secretary of State by former President Bill Clinton in 1997, she was the first woman to hold that position. Born to Holocaust survivors who fled Soviet-era Czechoslovakia in 1949, she did not learn that her family was Jewish until she was in her golden years. She will be remembered not just for the crack she left in the glass ceiling, but for her fight for peace and understanding between the nations.

May her memory be a blessing. Z”L

For the last week or so, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has been grilled by members of Congress in regards to her potentially taking over the seat of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer when he retires at the end of this term. Judge Jackson is more than qualified for the position. To say that some members of the Republican Party have been outrageous in their conduct towards her is an understatement. Instead of asking genuine questions about her work experience, they are once more appealing to their base by picking at literal straws.

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, the subject of abortion has come up again in the cruelest of manners. Standing up for women and other possibly pregnant persons is State Senator Karen Berg. As the only female and the only doctor on the committee, she pointed out how ridiculous and dangerous (starts at 40:51) the limits on abortion are.

It’s time that we listen not just to these women, but to all women. We have voices, we have opinions, and it’s about dam time we are given our due.

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It’s Been 100 Years Since the First Bat Mitzvah

Every culture and society has its own ceremony or experience to mark the point in life in which a young person starts on the road to adulthood.

In Judaism, this commemoration is called Bar Mitzvah (for a boy) or Bat Mizvah (for a girl). Usually held around the child’s 13th birthday, it is both a religious experience and a time for family and friends to celebrate the new phase in this person’s life. While Bar Mitzvahs have been held for centuries, a Bat Mitzvah is a relatively new addition to the Jewish life cycle.

Last Friday was the 100th birthday of the first Bat Mitzvah. On March 18th of 1922, Judith Kaplan (daughter of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, founder of Reconstructionist Judaism) became the first girl to officially celebrate her entrance into the world as a Jewish adult.

Coming only two years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment, it was just reading from the Torah. It was a revolutionary act, opening the door for future generations of Jewish women to move beyond the traditional spheres of marriage, housework, and motherhood. Since then, it has become standard practice within most streams of Judaism that both girls and boys will have their turn on the bimah.

In honor of this anniversary, an Instagram account has been created to tell Kaplan’s story in a way to speaks to this generation of kids. It’s cute, charming, and reminds me of my own excitement of becoming a Bat Mitzvah almost 30 years ago.

If I am reminded of one thing, is that feminism, like all social movements, cannot exist in a bubble. Without allies, it is nearly impossible to turn slogans and ideas into reality. Rabbi Kaplan, in our modern vernacular, was a feminist ally. It is through him and his daughter, we would still be stuck in the dark ages and the outdated idea of what women can and cannot do.

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The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination Book Review

Over the centuries, women have been portrayed as many things: the innocent victim who is in need of rescue, the slut, the man-hater, the marriage-minded miss, etc. The problem with these images is that they are 2-D and without room to grow beyond the boxed-in perception. The only way to smash these stereotypes is to allow us to tell our own stories from our perspective.

The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (published in 1979), this classic 1970’s second-wave nonfiction book examines how female characters are portrayed in 19th-century novels. Authors Susan Gubar and Sandra M. Gilbert compare the images of women created by male writers as opposed to the images created by female writers. Using the analogy of Bertha Mason (the literal madwoman in the attic) from the Charlotte Bronte novel, Jane Eyre, they dive into the fiction of authors such as Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Mary Shelley, etc.

This book is a classic for a reason. Forty-plus years after its initial publication, it is as relevant today as it was back then. Their theory that women writers have a greater insight and ability to create 3D fully human characters as opposed to the typecast idea of females that some male writers have can still be seen today on both the page and the screen.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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