Tag Archives: feminist

Imprisoned Pussy Riot member hospitalized

A jailed member of the Pussy Riot feminist punk band has been hospitalized and had complained of headaches and of suffering from overwork at a prison colony known for its tough conditions, a fellow band member said.

An official confirmed that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who is serving a two-year sentence for an irreverent protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral, is in a hospital at her prison colony in Mordovia in western Russia. But Federal Prison Service spokeswoman Kristina Belousova declined to specify her illness or comment on her condition, saying only it was “nothing serious.”

She didn’t say when exactly Tolokonnikova was admitted, but said it happened recently.

Yekaterina Samutsevich, a band member who also was sentenced to two years in August but later released on appeal, added that during their trial Tolokonnikova said she was suffering from headaches and the judge ignored it. Samutsevich said that Tolokonnikova feels exhausted after working long hours with little sleep.

“They don’t allow her to have any rest; she works nearly round the clock,” Samutsevich told independent Rain TV on Friday. “She said she feels tired, extremely tired.”

Pyotr Verzilov, Tolokonnikova’s husband, said the hospitalization was connected with an appointment Tolokonnikova had been scheduled to have before she was sent to the colony, rather than a specific illness. “Obviously, the conditions aren’t that great, but her lawyer’s dealing with it,” he told The Associated Press.

In an interview published last week in the independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Tolokonnikova stoically described harsh prison conditions, saying she doesn’t expect any leniency from authorities. 

Tolokonnikova, who works at a sewing machine like most female prisoners in Russia’s prison colonies, told the paper that she has had her fingers punctured by the needle but has picked up speed and experience and can now meet her quota of making lining for 320 jackets a day. Like other prisoners, she bathes once a week and uses cold water to wash the rest of the week. 

“I am not paying much attention to living conditions,” she said in an interview filmed in December. “I’m ascetic, and living conditions matter little for me.”

Tolokonnikova said she meditates to prevent her spirit from being dulled by the monotonous labor and added that the main thing she misses at her prison colony is the ability to read freely.

Tolokonnikova, Samutsevich and the third band member, Maria Alekhina, were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in August after they raucously prayed to the Virgin Mary for the deliverance from Putin at Christ the Savior Cathedral. Samutsevich was freed in October, but the two others were sent to prison colonies. The verdict has drawn global outrage, highlighting Russia’s intolerance of dissent.

Should his and her Oscars be done away with?

Do Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Helen Mirren need affirmative action to snare one of Hollywood’s favorite accessories, an Oscar, Emmy or Screen Actors Guild trophy?

In a society tilting steadily toward gender neutrality, the separate-but-equal awards that divide actors into one camp and actresses into another have the whiff of a moldy anachronism.

True, the Association for Women in Science gives honors to encourage female participation and success in male-dominated fields. But to mark enduring achievements, would its members ever yearn for a Women’s Nobel Prize in physics?

In contests of intellect or artistry, should gender ever matter?

“It’s not like it’s upper body strength,” Gloria Steinem dryly observed of the requirements of acting.

The separate labeling of male and female performers is losing favor in the industry. Actresses often swat the distinction away by calling themselves “actors,” standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts.

Usherettes are long gone from movie theater lobbies, after all. And defense officials said Wednesday the Pentagon will be lifting its ban on women in combat.

SAG, which holds its awards ceremony Sunday, edged toward neutrality with its trophy dubbed the Actor, although the guild gives separate honors to best performance by a male actor and by a female actor.

That cracks the door open, but only slightly. Fling it wide so that Daniel Day-Lewis’ majestic performance in “Lincoln” and Jessica Chastain’s steely turn in “Zero Dark Thirty” vie for the grand prize!

“That’s a great idea,” said Mark Andrews, writer-director of the animated film “Brave.” “At the end of the day, we’re all storytellers, and I don’t think when we’re defining a character that the gender is the major defining factor.”

In all other awards-eligible fields, including directing, writing or cinematography, everyone is “going for it,” male and female alike, Andrews said.

That may be progress in theory for performers but not in practice, according to Sally Field, a SAG and Oscar best supporting actress nominee for “Lincoln.”

“If you do that you won’t see any actresses up there (on stage) at all,” she said. “The percentage of roles is so weighted toward actors. That’s the way it’s always been.”

Exactly, concurred Naomi Watts, “The Impossible” best actress SAG and Academy Award nominee.

“There’s so much competition in life and I do think we are different,” she said. “Yes, we should be able to have the same things as much as possible … (but) life’s a battle already and there’s so many great roles written for men. Women are definitely at a disadvantage when it comes to volume.”

Rapper Nicki Minaj, who’s considering launching an acting career, has a pragmatic take on the issue.

“You see all those divas in the audience looking so pretty, and they all want to beat each other out,” she said. “It’s entertainment.”

Hathaway, in the running for SAG and Oscar supporting actress honors for “Les Miserables,” considers the gender split “an awesome question worthy of an awesome debate.”

“Can I conceive of a world where performance becomes a genderless concept? Absolutely. Do I think it’s going to happen anytime soon? No,” she said.

As Fields pointed out, the bedrock challenge is that women get fewer substantive roles than men. Ironically, that’s obscured by the artificial parity on stage each year at awards shows. Five women compete, five men compete, two winners are crowned.

So what’s the problem? A quick numbers check makes it clear: Females comprised about a third of the characters in the 100 top-grossing films in 2011, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

This, despite the fact women make up slightly more than half of the U.S. population and, according to the center’s previous research, the finding isn’t an anomaly.

In this context, feminist leader Steinem sees legitimate reason to retain separate acting awards. When two unequal groups are combined it’s the less-powerful one that loses, she said, as when 20th-century U.S. school desegregation lead to mass layoffs of black principals and administrators.

Tom O’Neil, editor of the Gold Derby awards prediction site, said strong forces are arrayed against any such change in Hollywood.

Awards shows routinely try to add celebrity-driven categories, not drop them, to increase a show’s “glamor and glitz” quotient, he said, as well as mask the industry’s unequal treatment of women.

“It’s criminal,” he said, bluntly.

In the behind-the-scenes film and TV categories in which the sexes compete, women rarely make it on stage at awards ceremonies. The Oscars started in 1929, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the first woman, Kathryn Bigelow, was honored as best director (for “The Hurt Locker”). Statistics again provide clarity: Women made up a paltry 9 percent of the directors on 2012’s top-grossing films, a new San Diego State University study found.

Let’s give two-time Oscar winner Field the last word in this debate.

Actresses “should be in their own category because they ARE in their own category,” she said. “They face their own specific kind of difficulties surviving in this business that actors, bless their hearts, don’t face.”

New York City honoring Ms. magazine

The city of New York is honoring Ms. Magazine today as the landmark publication celebrates its 40th anniversary.

The national feminist magazine was launched in New York in July 1972.

To celebrate, a city hall ceremony, “Born in New York,” is taking place at 1 p.m.

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Member Gale A. Brewer will present a Proclamation to Ms. founders, staff and friends.

“For the generations of women who created 40 years of Ms. magazine, it’s especially moving to be honored by this city of its birth,” said Gloria Steinem, a founder and editor. “We thank Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Council Member Gale A. Brewer and all who made this happen and, I thank my beloved New York itself. As E. B. White wrote, ‘This city, this mischievous and marvelous monument which not to look upon would be like death.’”

Of the magazine’s name, Steinem has said, “We were going to call it ‘Sojourner’, after Sojourner Truth, but that was perceived as a travel magazine. Then we were going to call it ‘Sisters’, but that was seen as a religious magazine. We settled on ‘Ms.’ because it was symbolic and also it was short, which is good for a logo.”

Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.

wonder_woman

Vatican attacks U.S. nun group for ‘radical feminist themes’

The Vatican orthodoxy watchdog announced this week a full-scale overhaul of the largest umbrella group for nuns in the United States.

The Vatican said the group takes positions that undermine Roman Catholic teaching on the priesthood and homosexuality while promoting “certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

An American archbishop was appointed to oversee reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which will include rewriting the group’s statutes, reviewing all its plans and programs – including approving speakers – and ensuring the organization properly follows Catholic prayer and ritual.

The Leadership Conference, based in Silver Spring, Md., represents about 57,000 religious sisters and offers programs ranging from leadership training for women’s religious orders to advocacy on social justice issues.

Representatives of the Leadership Conference did not respond to requests for comment.

The report from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the organization faced a “grave” doctrinal crisis, in which issues of “crucial importance” to the church, such as abortion and euthanasia, have been ignored. Vatican officials also castigated the group for making some public statements that “disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops,” who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

Church officials did not cite a specific example of those public statements, but said the reform would include a review of ties between the Leadership Conference and NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby. NETWORK played a key role in supporting the Obama administration’s health care overhaul despite the bishops’ objections that the bill would provide government funding for abortion. The Leadership Conference disagreed with the bishops’ analysis of the law and also supported President Barack Obama’s plan.

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, said in a phone interview that the timing of the report suggested a link between their health care stand and the Vatican crackdown. The review began in 2009 and ran through June 2010, a few months after the health care law was approved. The report does not cite Obama or the bill.

“I can only infer that there was strong feeling about the health care position that we had taken,” Campbell said. “Our position on health care was application of the one faith to a political document that we read differently than the bishops.”

When the Vatican-ordered inquiry was initially announced, many religious sisters and their supporters said the investigation reflected church officials’ misogyny and was an insult to religious sisters, who run hospitals, teach, and play other vital service roles in the church. Conservative Catholics, however, have long complained that the majority of sisters in the United States have grown too liberal and flout church teaching.

Around the same time of the doctrinal review of the Leadership Conference, the Vatican ordered an Apostolic Visitation, or investigation, of all American congregations for religious sisters, looking at quality of life, the response to dissent and “the soundness of doctrine held and taught” by the women. The results of that inquiry have not been released.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said the Leadership Conference had submitted letters that suggest that sisters in leadership teams “collectively take a position not in agreement with the church’s teaching on human sexuality.”

In programs and presentations, investigators noted “a prevalence of certain radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.”

“Some commentaries on ‘patriarchy’ distort the way in which Jesus has structured sacramental life in the church,” the authors of the report wrote. The investigation also found that while the Leadership Conference has emphasized Catholic social justice doctrine, the group has been “silent on the right to life from conception to natural death, a question that is part of the lively public debate about abortion and euthanasia in the United States.

The reform will be managed by Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain, who recently urged parishioners in Washington to circulate anti-gay marriage petitions, and could stretch over five years.

Nick Cafardi, a canon lawyer and former dean of Duqesne Law School, said he has worked over the years with many nuns and that the description in the report does not reflect his experience with them. Cafardi is an Obama supporter.

“I don’t know any more holy people,” Cafardi said of American religious sisters. “I see a lot more holiness in the convents than I see in the chancery.”

Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.

Esteemed lesbian poet Adrienne Rich dies at 82

Adrienne Rich, a fiercely gifted, award-winning poet whose socially conscious verse influenced a generation of feminist, gay rights and anti-war activists, has died. She was 82.

Rich died March 27 at her Santa Cruz home from complications from rheumatoid arthritis, said her son, Pablo Conrad. She had lived in Santa Cruz since the 1980s.

Through her writing, Rich explored topics such as women’s rights, racism, sexuality, economic justice and love between women.

Rich published more than a dozen volumes of poetry and five collections of nonfiction. She won a National Book Award for her collection of poems “Diving into the Wreck” in 1974, when she read a statement written by herself and fellow nominees Alice Walker and Audre Lorde, “refusing the terms of patriarchal competition and declaring that we will share this prize among us, to be used as best we can for women.”

In 2004, she won the National Book Critics Circle Award for her collection “The School Among the Ruins.” According to her publisher, W.W. Norton, her books have sold between 750,000 and 800,000 copies, a high amount for a poet.

She gained national prominence with her third poetry collection, “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law,” in 1963. Citing the title poem, University of Maryland professor Rudd Fleming wrote in The Washington Post that Rich “proves poetically how hard it is to be a woman — a member of the second sex.”

She was, like so many, profoundly changed by the 1960s. Rich married Harvard University economist Alfred Conrad in 1953 and they had three sons. But she left him in 1970 and eventually lived with her partner, writer and editor Michelle Cliff. She used her experiences as a mother to write “Of Woman Born,” her groundbreaking feminist critique of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood, published in 1976.

“Rich is one of the few poets who can deal with political issues in her poems without letting them degenerate into social realism,” Erica Jong once wrote.

Unlike most American writers, Rich believed art and politics not only could co-exist, but must co-exist. She considered herself a socialist because “socialism represents moral value — the dignity and human rights of all citizens,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005. “That is, the resources of a society should be shared and the wealth redistributed as widely as possible.”

“She was very courageous and very outspoken and very clear,” said her longtime friend W.S. Merwin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet. “She was a real original, and whatever she said came straight out of herself.”

As Merwin noted, Rich was a hard poet to define because she went through so many phases. Or, as Rich wrote in “Delta,” ‘’If you think you can grasp me, think again.”

Her political poems included “The Burning of Paper Instead of Children,” an indictment of the Vietnam War and the damage done and a cry for language itself: “The typewriter is overheated, my mouth is burning. I cannot touch you and this is the oppressor’s language.”

One of her best-known poems, “Living in Sin,” tells of a woman’s disappointment between what she imagined love would be — “no dust upon the furniture of love” — and the dull reality, the man “with a yawn/sounded a dozen notes upon the keyboard/declared it out of tune, shrugged at the mirror/rubbed at his beard, went out for cigarettes.”

Rich taught at many colleges and universities, including Brandeis, Rutgers, Cornell, San Jose State and Stanford.

She won a MacArthur “genius” fellowship, two Guggenheim Fellowships and many top literary awards including the Bollingen Prize, Brandeis Creative Arts Medal, Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and the Wallace Stevens Award.

But when then-President Clinton awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1997, Rich refused to accept it, citing the administration’s “cynical politics.”

“The radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening at a devastating rate,” she wrote to the administration. “A president cannot meaningfully honor certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonored.”

In 2003, Rich and other poets refused to attend a White House symposium on poetry to protest to U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Born in Baltimore in 1929, Rich was the elder of two daughters of a Jewish father and a Protestant mother — a mixed heritage that she recalled in her autobiographical poem “Sources.” Her father, a doctor and medical professor at Johns Hopkins University, encouraged her to write poetry at an early age.

Rich graduated from Radcliffe College in 1951 and was chosen for the Yale Younger Poets Prize for her first book of poetry, “A Change of World.”

Living in Cambridge, Mass., she befriended Merwin, Donald Hall and other poets. In 1966, her family moved to New York City when her husband accepted a teaching position at City College. Soon after she left Conrad, he committed suicide.

Rich taught remedial English to poor students entering college before teaching writing at Swarthmore College, Columbia University School of the Art and City University of New York.

Download a PDF of the current issue of Wisconsin Gazette and join our Facebook community.