Saturday, May 2, 2009

Congratulations to Carol Ann Duffy....'s about damn time!

After 341 Years, British Poet Laureate Is a Woman:
The writer Carol Ann Duffy was appointed Britain’s poet laureate on Friday, becoming the first woman to take a 341-year-old job that has been held by, among others, Dryden, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Cecil Day-Lewis and Ted Hughes.

Ms. Duffy, 53, is known for using a deceptively simple style to produce accessible, often mischievous poems dealing with the darkest turmoil and the lightest minutiae of everyday life. In her most popular collection, “The World’s Wife” (1999), overlooked women in history and mythology get the chance to tell their side of the story, so that one poem imagines, for instance, the relief that Mrs. Rip Van Winkle must have felt when her husband fell asleep, finally giving her some time for herself.

Announcing the decision, the culture secretary, Andy Burnham, called Ms. Duffy “a towering figure in English literature today and a superb poet” who has “achieved something that only the true greats of literature manage — to be regarded as both popular and profound.”

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pitcairn Island

On Fresh Air yesterday, British journalist Kathy Marks spoke with Terri Gross about her new book, Lost Paradise, a nonfiction account of the child abuse sex scandal on Pitcairn Island. Pitcairn Island is a British outpost in a remote part of the South Pacific. It is and has always been extremely isolated, with no airstrip and reachable only by a grueling 6 or 7 day sea journey from Australia. Only about 50 people live there, most of them descended from British sailor Fletcher Christian and the crew of the Bounty, which fled there in 1789.

In 2000, while British detectives were on the island investigating rape allegations made by a 15 year old girl, they discovered evidence that suggested most of the adult male population, 10 men, had been sexually abusing the island's girls for decades. And most of the victims, who had chosen to leave the island over the years, had been initially raped as young as 7 or 8.

How does something like this not just happen but become an embedded community norm practiced without impunity for years? Marks' explanation is a troubling one: she says that Pitcairners had lived an isolated existence in a male dominated society where men were doing exactly what they pleased." Raping children, eh? Was there just not a good game on?

Marks says the women on the island (who had overwhelmingly been victims themselves) felt unable to blow the whistle on the abuse or even to admit such things were occurring. She says, "If you are the mother of a girl who's being abused, what can you do? There's no one to complain to. The people in authority are doing it as well. Your own husband and brother are doing it." Even 10 years later, there is still a very strong sense of denial in the community, which Marks attributes to patriarchy: "It's ingrained in the mentality of the men in Pitcairn that this is an OK thing to do."

As unbelievable as it sounds, she has a point. A Google search of the island doesn't turn up much more than fluffy travel journals that call it a paradise and praise the islanders' virtuous, crime-free lives. If any mention of the sex scandal is made, it laments the loss of manpower that occurred when 9 of the 10 men were sentenced to prison terms in 2004 – not the physical and emotional injuries endured by the first- and second-grade girls who were sexually assaulted. One site even made a big deal about how the jail hadn't been used since 1922.

Throughout the trial most of the international community hemmed and hawed over the British investigations, fretting about ethnocentricity and British cultural imperialism. I, however, find it a bit suspect for men to cry "Culture!" when they're caught with their dicks in little kids' mouths. Or when he wants to confine his wife to the home. Or when he wants to excise her clitoris. Or when he wants to forbid her from earning money or casting a vote. No matter what the atrocity, so long as the victims are all women, a pretty effective case can be made for cultural relativism. Judging by the reactions in the media and international community to the Pitcairn scandal, there are plenty of people willing to look the other way and let Pitcairners do to "their women" as they like.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A couple announcements

Occasionally people email me with links and press releases and such that they'd like me to post on the blog and while I'm not always the most timely of email correspondents, I do like to try to help out and publicize other blogs and organizations as long as they're relevant. So, here are a couple things that have come my way in the past few weeks.

Feel free to post your own news, links, blogs, etc. in the comments!

1. The All Girl Army is recruiting new young feminists for its network of blogs:
The main part of the All Girl Army site is the individual blogs for no more than 29 girls and women between the ages of 10 and 25 who identify as feminist, and a single, collective blog which highlights entries from the individual blogs, as well as news items pertinent to women and girls and topics given for more writing and discussion.
For more information, check them out!

2. The Fresh Air Fund is looking for volunteer families to host city-area kids so they can have a summer "fresh air experience":
THE FRESH AIR FUND, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Nearly 10,000 New York City children enjoy free Fresh Air Fund programs annually. In 2008, close to 5,000 children visited volunteer host families in suburbs and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada. 3,000 children also attended five Fresh Air camps on a 2,300-acre site in Fishkill, New York. The Fund’s year-round camping program serves an additional 2,000 young people each year.

And, don't forget, feel free to post your own links below!

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Two videos to brighten your Monday

This is from a few months ago, but I just discovered it: Carrie Fisher roasts George Lucas at the AFI Life Achievement Awards. As I recently re-watched Star Wars and have always adored Princess Leia (and, quite separately, Fisher herself), who is quite a feminist character (at least in the first two movies), this seemed appropriate:

And, for your further Monday cheering, check out the March 11 episode of Amy Poehler's Smart Girls at the Party (H/T Choices Feminist Campus):

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Why I Love Hillary, Reason #347

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R.I.P. Bea Arthur

Bea Arthur, 1922-2009

You're freakin' awesome and will be greatly missed:

From some other memorial posts for Bea Arthur, check out, in no particular order:

Bitch Ph.D.
Alas, A Blog
Women's Media Center
Bitch Magazine
Salon Broadsheet
Women and Hollywood
Hoyden About Town

If you know of any other good memorial posts for the eminent Ms. Arthur or you've written one yourself or you found some great video clips on the interwebs you'd like to share, feel free to post links below!

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Feminist Flashback #34

(H/T Sally's tumblr)

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