Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Big, scary, global questions. What are your thoughts?

Yesterday I had a meeting with Maya to work on her opening comments for the September 21st show, called "Global Sisterhood: Women Helping Women," which I thought would be a piece of cake.  After all, even for people who are skeptical about feminism and it's modern implications in this country (don't worry, we'll convince them otherwise), it's tough to argue that  some girlpower wouldn't do wonders around the globe.  After all, how do you defend practices like stoning women for committing adultery, or performing cliterodectomies?  As they say (okay, I actually heard this from Bill Maher, but I believe there was a more significant "they" before him), "Don't get so tolerant that you tolerate intolerance."

But ending these practices and mobilizing women toward their own liberation is not so simple as calling out the injustices and telling women to fight.  After all, when we put on our feminist hats, does that enable us to remove our American ones?  If we tell women that they want the right to choose, the right to dress and marry and divorce and bear children as they please, take whatever career they please, is that not perhaps just another way of imposing our "enlightened" American culture on a "third world" culture?

On the other hand, if we say that cliterodectomies are acceptable because they are a deeply engrained cultural and religious rite of passage which many women want to experience, are we not denying basic human rights?  Are we not condoning one of the most violent forms of female oppression possible?

These are extreme examples.  But how about this one: President Sarkozy of France recently announced that he would be backing the movement to outlaw burqas in his country, because they were a symbol of women's "enslavement" (read the full story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/23/world/europe/23france.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=sarkozy&st=cse).  Personally, I agree with his analysis of the symbolism of the burqa.  But I cannot help but see his move as more strongly motivated by his anti-immigration, xenophobic attitude, rather than his passion for women's rights.  So do I fight for the religious rights of Muslims, or the symbolic freedom of women?

These are the kinds of questions that we must address when we discuss the meaning of global sisterhood.  Do we choose the liberation of women when it implies a disregard for cultural differences?  Can we promote the freedom (religious, social, political, emotional, reproductive, etc.) of women without disrespecting the fundamentals of their culture and religion?  Or does a fundamentally patriarchal and oppressive culture deserve disrespect? 

Okay, now my head is actually spinning.  Have any thoughts on these questions?  Please, comment!  Give me clarity!  Make my head spin more!  Or, if you have brand new questions swirling around in your mind, please send them my way so that perhaps our panelists can help to answer them.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Global Sisterhood

It's that time: time to start getting ready and excited for the next talk.in episode.  We're all feeling especially energetic about this next episode, and about the panelists that are coming together.  Plus, the taping itself is going to be our first major fundraiser.  Hopefully a little info about the title, and one of those remarkable panelists, will whet your appetite for all the good stuff to come:
The September 21 talk.in feminism today show "Global Sisterhood: Women Helping Women",
will focus on how American women, over the past 40 years, have responded to-and learned from- women across the globe. 
Panelists will include Margaret (Peg) Snyder, Feminist Author, and Founder of UNIFEM. 
Peg is a Board Member and Treasurer of The Green Belt Movement International, 
www.greenbeltmovement.org, as well as a Board Member and Vice President of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Market Women's Fund, www.smwf.org  

More info will be here soon about our other panelists, and how you can get involved with the fundraiser.  In the meantime, be sure to check out the podcast of our third talk.in episode, now online: http://www.wmgchicago.com/podcast042709.htm

Go see some art!

Want to see some awesome activist art?
WMG recommends that you check this out:
"Dismantling the Corporate State, and Other Amusements"
Works by Anne Elizabeth Moore
June 19 - August 22, 2009
Columbia College Chicago's Center for Book & Paper Arts,
1104 S. Wabash, 2nd floor, Chicago 
PH: 312. 369. 6630 

Dismantling the Corporate State, and Other Amusements is an exhibition of nine experimental works
and activist projects of Anne Elizabeth Moore at Columbia College Chicago's Center for Book & Paper Arts. 
Included in the exhibit is 
New Girl Law, a letter-pressed, hand-bound book created in conjunction with 
the 32 young Cambodian women leaders in Phnom Penh.  The group collaborated a revision of the traditional text
known as Girl Law, which circumscribes proper roles for women in Cambodian culture. 
This version calls for basic human rights, gender equity, the eradication of corruption, and funding for cultural production. 

Also, it's Pride weekend!  I won't even bother trying to list all the great things happening around the city, but check out The Reader or any other local paper for events.

Last but not least: The third talk.in podcast is online!  Listen up: http://www.wmgchicago.com/podcast042709.htm

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Amber Waves of Blame (okay, it's really Katha Pollitt's title, not mine)

If you’re wondering why an intergenerational conversation about feminism is so difficult (and so necessary), you’re not alone.  We at Women’s Media Group have made the opening of the generational borders between women one of our main priorities, and in her amazing article for The Nation, Katha Pollitt reminds us why.  In her article “Amber Waves of Blame,” Pollitt explains that, “Media commentators love to reduce everything about women to catfights about sex, so it's not surprising that this belittling and historically inaccurate way of looking at the women's movement--angry prudes versus drunken sluts--has recently taken on new life, including among feminists.”  Check out the article in its entirety here:



Dear Readers,


Welcome to the Women’s Media Group blog!  Since WMG is all about figuring out what it means to be a feminist in the 21st century, it seems like 21st century tools are the only appropriate way to go about this, so here we are, on your computer screen.  I don’t know how you came to be reading about WMG, but I’m happy you’re here.


My name is Jenny Friedler, and I’m a rising senior at Colorado College, as well as WMG’s current blogger-in-residence (aka intern).  The two driving forces behind WMG are Maya Friedler and Jamie O’Reilly – if you want to know more about them and how they arrived at the creation of WMG, check out their bios on the website (http://www.wmgchicago.com/about.htm).  They’re both pretty amazing women.


If you’re reading this blog, you might already know what Women’s Media Group is.  Or, you might think you know… kind of.  Well, let me cut through some of the confusion.  Let’s start with the mission statement:


“Women's Media Group, Inc is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization created by Maya Friedler, and others, to encourage, promote and participate in the public dialogue of women's issues from a feminist perspective, via film, radio, recordings, and the Internet, as well as through live productions and forums.


Women's Media Group provides a platform for discussion and resources to community organizations, and individuals, who are exploring feminism via research, archiving history, writing, recording, and creating art. By hearing from, and collaborating with others, Women’s Media Group challenges gender inequality in areas of politics, public health, the law, and social mores, while acknowledging, identifying and contributing to the progress made in various areas.”


At the present moment, the primary project of WMG is the production of a radio show called talk.in.  So far we have recorded three episodes: “The Post-Feminist Mystique: Bringing Back the F-Word,” “Sex: Let’s Get Real” and “Hanging by a Thread: Where’s The Safety Net?”  We plan to record our fourth and final episode of the pilot season on September 21st.  You can listen to any of these episodes here: http://www.wmgchicago.com/podcast.htm.  If you’d like to learn about how you can donate and participate, or how you can attend the next taping, that info is all on the website as well.


So what else do we do?  Well, that’s the best thing about WMG  - while we do have some major upcoming projects in the works, the dialogue about feminism that we aim to continue can take on any number of forms, and it will continue to evolve along with the rapidly changing modern media.  We have sown the seeds of a story project working with artists from all different fields to tell women’s stories in an innovative, exciting way.  The talk.in project began after Maya and Jamie tried to put a documentary together about what feminism means now, but realized that the subject was just too huge and too current to put off for the years it would take to make a film.  They wanted to start talking, and start listening, and so talk.in was born.  The experiences of the talk.in shows have allowed us, in turn, to refine the scope of this documentary, and its production remains a primary goal for WMG.


Ultimately, the goal of WMG is to re-engage citizens everywhere with feminist issues.  Of course, the word feminism is loaded with connotations, so let us be clear: we see feminism as the basic desire for equality, for the recognition that all genders are equally and fully human.  We also see feminism as an inclusive, not exclusive movement; this is a movement for anyone who believes that our world will be a more harmonious, vibrant place when women are an equal part of it. 


One of the most important aspects of the work that we at WMG aim to do is to help move feminism past the backlash of the 80s and 90s and into the 21st century.  The conversation about women’s issues today requires not only the recognition of how far we’ve come, but also the incorporation of new voices and new words in order to get where we’re going. 


How does this blog fit into all that?  It will be a way to stay updated on what WMG is doing in between talk.in episodes; I’ll keep you up to date on the stories we’re clipping from the news, the guests we’re booking for talk.in, important dates and events, and the general happenings around WMG.  If anything exciting pushes our buttons, this will be the place to hear about it.


So please, come join us.  Listen to the podcasts.  Read the blog.  Come to the live tapings.  Give us your thoughts.  We are all part of the same movement, and we want to hear from you.




Jenny Friedler and Women’s Media Group