birthcontrol

We’re having the wrong conversations about birth control

What’s that saying Don Draper’s always trotting out to Peggy?

“When you don’t like what they’re saying, change the conversation.”

Today the US Supreme Court is hearing arguments in Sebelius vs Hobby Lobby Stores and is scheduled to make a ruling in June. I’ll try to make this background quick: the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) mandated employers offer health insurance plans that meet minimum requirements, one of those requirements being that contraception be covered. The evangelical Christian owners of the Hobby Lobby stores maintain it curtails their religious freedom to be required to meet those requirements – specifically they object to having to offer plans that cover Plan B (the morning after pill) and IUDs, which they incorrectly believe to equivalent to abortion. There’s another case being heard on the same principle, this one involving Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp, a Mennonite company with the same objections. At stake are a whole lot of issues of whether or not a corporation can hold religious beliefs, and whether or not anyone is able to opt-out of government operations they disagree with – and these are the issues likely decide the case one way or another… but those are not what I want to talk about right now.

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Music - an art for itself - via http://www.planetofsuccess.com/blog/

Music to write by

Unlike some crazy pants people who think writing and music shouldn’t go together, I’m *all for* shutting out the world with a good pair of headphones and sweet tunes while I write. Or work. Or read. Or sometimes just walking down the street so people don’t talk to me.

Either way, lately I’ve been seeing and responding to a bunch of requests all over the corners of the internet I inhabit for good music to write to.

This killjoy study found that listening to music significantly impaired memory recall but since writing is an act of creation not memorisation, writers are in the clear to listen to whatever they please. That being said, there are two key guidelines that’ll make your listening/writing experience go more smoothly.

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Stop being awful to Angie Wilson

Angie Wilson via stuff.co.nz
Angie Wilson via stuff.co.nz

Ugh, this is really bugging me.

Quick background for those who don’t know: Angie Wilson is a 19-year-old Kiwi woman who, at 17, was involved in a sexual relationship for money with a 40-year-old man.

She felt guilty when she found out he had a partner and “freaked out” when she thought she would not get money he had promised her.

During a four day-period, she sent text messages threatening to expose their relationship. She texted: “I’m only 17. It will look bad.” She demanded $3000.

The man told his partner and then killed himself the next day. Later, one more text arrived from Wilson: “Make sure there’s 4K in there tomorrow or I’ll tell everyone you are a dirty old man.” (via stuff.co.nz)

The reaction to this on reddit has been nothing but vitriolic,  and all aimed at Angie – who had previously been warned by the police for harassing a man she engaged with sex with for money. Those who dared empathise with her didn’t come off much better.

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Bechdel Test comic

Passing the Bechdel Test is not a victory for feminists or ‘strong female characters’

This feel-good chart from Versha Sharma and Hanna Sender at Vocativ had me feeling momentarily good about the state of women in film. It shows that films that pass the Bechdel Test vastly outperform films that don’t at the US box office. In case you don’t know, the Bechdel Test is a litmus test for any one film’s treatment of its female characters. To pass, a film must meet these ridiculously simple three criteria:

That it have (1) at least two named women, who (2) talk to each other, about (3) something other than a man.

bechdel_724196827221

The chart shows that  out of the Top 50 grossing films (determined by US Box Office in 2013), those that passed (if even dubiously) the Bechdel Test, easily outperformed those that didn’t. US box office is only half the story, so I went to Box Office Mojo and tallied up the worldwide gross (that is, including the US and the rest of the world) to see if the pattern held internationally. I don’t have as pretty a chart to show you – but yes. It does. Perhaps even more so.

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CC BY 2.0 via epSos.de

Rant warning: expat problems, bank fees, and maths ahead

Being somewhat of an international girl, I find myself having to transfer money between my US and NZ bank accounts on a somewhat regular basis. Also being that I’m usually pretty broke, I’ve prided myself on being able to find the best deal on forex for small amounts. But after a few changes over the past few months to the services I’ve known and loved, all the savings I’ve ever discovered have been eroded and I’m now pretty convinced the banks are definitely out to screw us all. As if anyone needed more convincing.

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Blue Ruin dir by Jeremy Saulnier

Double the bumble, half the cute

To be clear up front: ‘double the bumble, half the cute’ refers to my interviewing skills, not the movie. Which is not bumbling at all.

So this was pretty cool. I got to interview the director and lead actor for BLUE RUIN last Friday, right before their movie preemed at AFI. It began its run earlier this year when it was accepted into the Directors Fortnight selection at Cannes, and won a FIPRESCI prize (the critics award) alongside a film you’ve probably head a LOT about this year, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR. You know, the one with the 7-minute lesbian sex scene that everyone from lesbians to the actresses involved have criticised. Anyway.

I’m a pretty awkward person in real life, so it’s sort of hilarious that I even make money as a journalist which forces me to interact with strangers and ask sometimes awkward and personal questions of them. I sought advice of a friend (thank you!) for tips before I went into this interview and then it basically all went out the window the moment I was there. I discovered interviewing really busy people during a film festival doesn’t go down like it does in my imagination, which involves a long conversation, perhaps chai tea, many laughs, heartwarming revelations, and ends on mutual respect between interviewer and interviewee. Instead, I got 20 hurried minutes whittled down to an even more hurried 16 minutes, in a noisy filmmaker lounge, while the three of us huddled over my iPhone to record the conversation and I prayed it was working because there was pretty much no way I could take notes as a back up. I sweated and fumbled my questions and hoped I wasn’t asking the most inane questions in the most inane of ways. I nearly tripped over my bag and also nearly forgot my phone on the way out. I am Zooey Deschanel with double the bumbling and half the cute.

But I actually loved it.

After all that, if you still want to read the review and cringe your way through my awkward interview tactics (feedback welcome!), then check it out.

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The Rocket dir: Kim Mordaunt

AFI Fest review: The Rocket

I’m doing a bit of writing for this year’s AFI Fest and my first review is up. WHAT WHAT. The Rocket is Australia’s entry into the Foreign Language category at the Oscars this year.

The characters in Kim Mordaunt’s narrative debut THE ROCKET have likely never traveled outside the remote parts of Laos they live in, but the Western world intrudes – and shapes – their lives nonetheless. That intrusion comes in several guises: the Australian hydroelectric power company whose new dam forces young Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe) and his family to relocate; the landmines littering the landscape, the legacy of a U.S. bombing campaign that saw 260 million bombs dropped on the country during the Vietnam War, 60 million-plus of which are still unexploded; and the funk music that so moves the quirky Uncle Purple (Thep Phongam), a Laotian James Brown.

Read the rest here.

I’m afraid of the future

Childish Gambino instagram
via instagram/childishness

 

Donald Glover (or Dong Lover, as many like to affectionately refer to him) is the dude you might know as Troy from Community, or Childish Gambino. As the latter, he rapped one of my favourite lines : “69 is the only dinner for two” – which I may have drunkenly texted one night to several ex-boyfriends as a “hilarious” non sequitur.  Not my proudest moment.

Donald Glover, at 30, has a career to envy: writer on 30 Rock, star of Community, and successful rap career. His next album is due out this (Northern) winter, and after the success of Camp, is pretty hotly anticipated. If I could achieve just a third of what he has, I would be an amazingly content and happy woman. Maybe.

He posted the above instagram, plus several others that all talk about fear of failure, fear of not living up to potential, fear of being called a phony, fear of being disliked, fear of not being loved. It’s scarily familiar territory for me. Except I obviously don’t worry about what people say about my rap career, which is best known for for my Form 2 epic about the school canteen: Yo! Gurt / Fruit loaf / Sally lun and cream/ Mince pie, pizza / and rye / bread. I think we can all agree I didn’t miss my calling there.

It’s both comforting AND disconcerting to know these fears and self-doubts are shared with someone as talented and adored as Donald Glover. One the one hand, it makes me feel like maybe I’m normal to feel this way. On the other, what if it never goes away and I’m never happy no matter what?

Every time I write and push something out into the world with my name attached, it’s a scary undertaking. Even something an inconsequential as this blog. I’m constantly judging myself by how I think people will receive it. Success is almost more scary than failure. At least if I fail without ever succeeding, there’s no one there to witness it. I delete more blogs than I post because of this kind of self-censorship. What if people hate me? What if they think I’m being an attention whore? What is this blog even supposed to be? Is it a feminist critique of feminist critiques of racism in pop music or is it a place to whine about my feelings?

While researching a story about design thinking for NZ Marketing magazine recently, I came across this idea of rapid iteration; that it’s better to push something out into the world that’s imperfect and unfinished – and improve upon it through feedback from real-world users – than to keep it to yourself until it’s perfect. Because nothing’s ever perfect. I’m trying to practice that with this blog, and my writing in general. Let go of the idea that achieving perfection is necessary to avoid criticism (because it won’t), or that perfection itself is achievable (because it’s not).

Now that I’m officially full-time freelance again (aka unemployed), it’s even more important for me to force my way forward despite these fears that want to hold me back. And in a way, I’ve put myself in this position – where my actual ability to put food on the table is dependent upon my ability to create opportunities for work – because I know that I will never confront those fears and doubts otherwise. Is it okay to admit I really, really want to be a successful, prolific and respected writer? Is it okay to admit that I think I can be one if I can get out of my own way long enough to actually write?

So, to bring it back to Donald Glover. It’s really important that people speak about these fears because we need to start talking about the bullshit standards we put on ourselves and each other. There’s also something to be said for depression and anxiety and our experience and denial of them. I’m in awe of DG for opening himself up publicly like that. But then I’m in awe of anyone who ploughs through and does things that scare them because the alternative is a life crowded with what-ifs.

 

On this whole Royals/racism thing

I never expected the quick opinion I dashed off in my bedroom to end up travelling as far and wide as it has. Hardly expected anyone to pay attention to it outside of my friends. I’m happy it has, and I can’t deny I haven’t enjoyed it.

But I am somewhat uncomfortable with the fact that my blog has become “the rebuttal” to the Feministing piece. I do not speak for all women, and as a white woman from New Zealand I don’t have the perspective of a person of colour on the issue either.

I knew when I wrote the blog that it wasn’t complete. I expected other people would chime in with more complete analyses and my blog would be forgotten among those. I expected to get dissenting opinions. But I haven’t. I know those dissenting opinions and complete analyses exist though and they should have space to be aired as well.

I want to make something clear: I think Veronica Bayetti Flores misinterpreted the song, and the basis of her misinterpretation lead to an incorrect conclusion. I think part of that was caused by her own US-centric view, and I think she cherry picked evidence to support her argument.

That’s not to say I don’t think the song isn’t problematic. I just don’t know how to express the ways in which it might be and I’m not sure I should be the one to do that. I don’t want my voice to drown out the voices of others on this.

So, assuming anyone else finds this post – I’m inviting anyone with dissenting opinons to email me or leave a comment… and I’ll be happy to publish them and give them space to seen and discussed.

Screen shot 2014-04-23 at 9.59.58 PM

No, Feministing. Lorde’s Royals is not a racist song

I love a social justice throwdown as much as the next lefty feminist. I love discussing how lyrics of popular songs are problematic and I love being challenged in my own thinking. But holy shit, even I realise not everything in this world is an instrument of oppression.

And not everything in this world should be viewed through the lens of Americans, particularly when it comes to race and cultures of other countries. To insist otherwise is ignorant at best and imperialistic at worst.

Case in point: Wow, that Lorde song Royals is racist by Verónica Bayetti Flores. The writer asserts  Lorde’s song is not, actually, about a rejection of conspicuous consumption – the type sold to us in American and European cultural exports depicting excessive wealth and behaviour – but in fact, it’s racist. Because in the chorus Lorde mentions gold teeth, Cristal, and Maybachs.

Because we all know who she’s thinking when we’re talking gold teeth, Cristal and Maybachs. So why shit on black folks? Why shit on rappers? Why aren’t we critiquing wealth by taking hits at golf or polo or Central Park East? Why not take to task the bankers and old-money folks who actually have a hand in perpetuating and increasing wealth inequality?

Actually, no I don’t know who she’s thinking of when you mention gold teeth, Cristal or Maybachs. They’re generic elements of excessive wealth and American cultural exports. And even if you can make the argument those specific items reference only black rappers (and not, say, Ke$ha or Katy Perry, for example) it’s an argument that cherry picks a few items from a whole song to make the point.

The relevant part of the song is here:

But every song’s like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin’ in the bathroom.
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin’ the hotel room,
We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
But everybody’s like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your time piece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash
We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair

If Lorde has chosen some aspects of conspicuous consumption that overwhelmingly refer to black hip hop culture,  she has also included other aspects that  refer to conspicuous consumption predominantly associated with other cultures. Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash? I’m thinking Richard Branson and maybe Russian oligarchs there. Blood stains and ball gowns? Celeb socialites with a hint of My Super Sweet 16. Cadillacs? Rich old people. Trashin’ the hotel room? Rock stars.

The theme of the song is a the dissonance between that life (ironically one that Lorde is probably now set to live) and the one she lives in New Zealand, but it is not at all about race.

Flores says if Lorde really wanted to critique the excesses of wealth, she should have focused on the golf course or bankers on wall street. Ignoring for the minute that enforcing accurate and comprehensive critical analysis of social and political issues in a 3-minute pop song is ridiculous; those things aren’t tubefed to us en masse through the American cultural exports of popular entertainment so why would she mention them in a song about pop culture?

Look Feministing, I know page views are great and everything but there’s really nothing to see here and it would be great if you could move along. I hear there are real issues of racism and class and womens’ fight for equality that need our attention.

edit: In Lorde’s own words 

“I was just sort of reeling off some of the things which are commonly mentioned in hip-hop and the Top 40. I did get a little ridiculous on it, but the sentiment’s there,” O’Connor says. “I’ve always loved hip-hop, but as a fan of hip-hop, I’ve always had to kind of suspend disbelief because, obviously, I don’t have a Bentley. There’s a distance between that and the life I have with my friends going to parties and getting public transport and doing the things that every other teenager does.”

edit 2: Apparently I didn’t have discussion/comments open on this post. But I fixed it and you may express your opinion  below.

edit 3 (Oct 9): If you have a dissenting opinion and don’t feel comfortable posting here, please see my new post and feel welcome to share those opinions. I will be happy to share and discuss them. You’re still welcome to post disagreeing opinions on this post too, though!

the pretty life

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