Sunday, February 22, 2009

See ya in a week or two...

I have no idea when I will next feel up to posting. Everytime I do a "I'll be offline for a while" post, I end up posting a few more times before I really go. It's like trying to get out of the house on those mornings when you keep leaving your wallet, your car keys, your books, etc.

On Tuesday, I will have my surgery - both breasts, ovaries, fallopian tubes. I don't know when I be ready to sit up in front of the computer and type. I'm guessing it'll be at least a week. But, you know, it might be less time, or it might be more time, depending. So don't worry if you don't see me here - it just means I'm recuperating. I'll be back to tell you about it.

Meanwhile, I am hopefully done with my surgery nightmares and nearly done preparing at work for my absence. I have managed to catch a cold, which will hopefully not upset the surgery schedule - I'm hoping I can be done with enough of it that we can proceed as planned (thank you, Zicam!)

See you all soon.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My head.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Media Education Foundation distributes "The Price of Pleasure."

I promised back in November that I was going to blog about "The Price of Pleasure," and I don't think I ever did. While I appreciated the film's critique on some levels, I was left disturbed by several elements of the film itself.

The main issue I have with this film is that it is manipulative. I use that word very intentionally: it is a film with a particular political argument to make, and yet it presents itself as a neutral exploration of the porn industry. When porn performers are included, their words and images are carefully shaped to make them appear either insincere (acknowledging some criticisms of the industry but continuing to work in it), unintelligent (not seeming to understand that they are exploiting / being exploited), and/or selfish (being concerned with personal success and not the political implications that the filmmakers want to present). Several of these performers, and notably, Ernest Greene, have protested the way they appear in the film and contrasted this to the "unbiased" presentation of the issue that they were promised by the filmmakers.

The film includes a few sensationalized dramatizations with voice-overs of women talking about their experiences with a partner who used pornography. These dramatizations are badly done; they reminded me a bit of the ads for products like the Snuggli or a specialized kitchen tool, in which actors are shown having tremendous difficulty talking on the phone while keeping a blanket on their shoulders, or trying and failing to peel a carrot without cutting themselves. The music employed throughout is discordant and unsettling, and it is used to make the viewer associate negative emotions (the music particularly evokes anxiety and fear) with the images that are being shown. Further, with the exception of the porn performers and clips from some porn films and magazines, there are no interviews with women who use porn or whose partners use porn and who feel empowered or at least NOT disempowered by it. This is not because such women do not exist or are hard to find. This is because the film has a particular message - porn exploits women and teaches men to abuse women - and these other perspectives do not fit into this message and would undermine it.

What all of this means to me as a feminist and educator is that the film is not going to be useful, generally, to me in the classroom, and that it would best be paired with additional perspectives to round out the experience for students.

What motivates me to write about it today is that I received a catalog from the Media Education Foundation, an organization that has distributed some excellent films (the "Killing Us Softly" series; "Wrestling with Manhood: Boys, Bullying & Battering") and some pretty mediocre ones ("What a Girl Wants"). MEF films do present pornography as exploitation, so it is not the affiliation that surprises me, but the fact that "The Price of Pleasure" continues to be presented as something that it is not. For example, Michael Kimmel, who I otherwise respect a great deal, is quoted in the MEF catalog as saying (taken from a review or cover blurb, I believe) : "I've been waiting for a film about pornography that was neither sanctimoniously scolding nor callously celebratory. And, finally, there is THE PRICE OF PLEASURE." The film's description reads: "the film moves beyond tired and often paralyzing liberal-versus-conservative debates to offer a nuanced take on the cultural implications of pornography."

Ladies and gentlemen, "The Price of Pleasure" is sanctimoniously scolding and fails to move beyond tired and often paralyzing debates of any kind. There is no nuance in this film. While it is true that it does "forc[e] us to consider how pleasure and pain, commerce and power, liberty and responsibility have become intertwined in the most intimate areas of our lives," it does so without giving us enough information to *fully* consider this information.

What I've been waiting for is a film that presents arguments from a variety of perspectives on this issue. I'd like to see a film that does not so obviously have a stake in the porn - anti-porn war, but rather one that presents arguments from sex workers who are working in the industry and allows them to share both the good and bad of their experiences; from people who use or have used porn and can share with the viewer a range of experiences from abuse and addiction to empowerment and sexual access; from people who have important cultural critiques of porn and sex work; from people who are working to legislate against sex trafficking and who see porn as inherently connected to this problem; from people who argue that trafficking is best approached inclusively and who advocate labelling sex work as "work"; from people who have experienced what unionization, or legalization, or decriminalization has meant for sex workers, whether it be good, bad, or in-between; from other people whose perspectives I am forgetting as I write this.

In the meantime - Renegade Evolution, Ernest Greene, folks who are working in this industry - if you are reading this, I hope that you will consider making your own film, specifically for use in the Women's Studies classroom...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My sagging social life.

Today, I had coffee with a friend and then met some others for drinks after work. I had a really good time. Being with them reminded me, yet again, that one of the side effects of chemo that is less visible is that there is less energy and time for one's social life. I have really missed that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama's controversial middle ground.

The other day, the local paper ran a headline that went something like, "Obama takes controversial middle ground in abortion debate." What he was doing was focusing on the reasons that women need abortions in the first place, hoping that by concentrating on addressing these problems, he could reduce the number of abortions. This is not a bad thing to do; when I lived in SD, I met an amazing woman who raised money for women who needed abortions, and she said that she very frequently heard, "I just can't do it - I have two kids already and my partner just walked out, and I don't have the money." So, certainly, I support all of the things that will pull women and children out of poverty and grant them access to health care and education and help them to prevent unwanted pregnancies - all the things the Republicans oppose, in other words.

But here's what's weird to me. In SD, Obama's approach was pretty much the same as the pro-choice activist approach. In much of the rest of the country, however, this stance is perceived as being not committed enough to choice. And even more interesting - in SD, the anti-choice movement was completely opposed to such an approach, while in the nation, at the moment, it seems that the anti-choice folks are hesitantly encouraged by Obama's focus (though they are far from happy about some of his other moves).

I don't really have anything to add here that I haven't said already, many times, but I thought this was interesting.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Unarmed people killed by police.

A commenter shared this with me. Please check it out.

I don't know yet if I agree with T that police officers shouldn't carry guns, but I'll admit that it really changes my own perspective to think about what it would feel like to know that I myself might be likely to be killed by a police officer. I don't walk or drive down the street living in that reality. I know of a female college student who was beaten up at a protest by a cop who was known for violent behavior. I had a student who was raped by a police officer at gunpoint. A friend of mine watched a cop shoot and kill a puppy during a power struggle because he wanted to show he was in control. So I have a healthy fear of the police, but at the same time, I also live in a white body and I am the person that cops are supposed to be protecting and I know this subconsciously. And to protect me, don't they need to have guns? This is what is going on, almost below the radar, in my head when I think about taking the guns away. And that is a hard thing to admit.

But Black men are at tremendous risk from the justice system, and at some point we have to ask ourselves as a society, at whose sacrifice are some of us being protected by cops having guns? And then it becomes pretty obvious that that's exactly what's going on - we are sacrificing people of color so that whites can have an illusion of safety. (Not unlike our foreign policy, actually.)

I'm also thinking about what happened here this past fall with the RNC and how quick people are to use weapons when they have them. This certainly isn't unique to police officers, but it does give me pause.

Thanks, T, for making me think about this in a different way.

The chemo is having one last go at me.

I've had a pretty good run with the chemo and really feel like I have no business complaining. But this DAMN TAXOL has decided to mess me around this last time as much as it can.

I had my last chemo one week ago, and the pattern has been that I get it Friday and have fairly severe aches, mostly in my legs and feet but in other places, too, Sunday - Wednesday, with Monday and esp. Tuesday being the worst. It was the worst the first time, better the next two times, and a little worse this last time. But what sucks is that, this time, having made it through the achiness earlier in the week, I'm getting aches in my fingers, hands, wrists, and forearms yesterday and today and probably tomorrow unless I get lucky. For a while, I was really worried it had to do with typing, and I have a ton of papers to finish grading online. But then, I noticed some hives on my leg (Taxol can also cause hives) and figured that it was all the Taxol. Another helpful symptom is that the pain goes away for a bit and then comes back - if it were typing-related, I think it would either be more constant or happen when I held my hands in certain positions. And the Taxol-related pain has done this disappearing every so often (which is actually quite helpful).

I'm glad to be done with this. Though apparently, the medication I'll be taking in a few months can cause some of these same symptoms. Yay!

Perspective and possibility.

So, as I contemplate my upcoming mastectomies, I'm finding it very helpful to broaden my perspective. Hopefully, this is not an exercise in cis privilege. But I've found trans theories and writings to be extremely helpful and soothing. From the perspective of a cis woman with cancer, mastectomy is not a positive thing. From the perspective of a transman, though, it could be liberating. And I've found it really helpful to reflect on this and to think that the same surgery that I'm having might be something that someone else would be happy to have. Not that I'm not happy to have it - I think it's a pretty good trade. But I mean, it changes the way I see the surgery to recognize that the reaction to it is really about perspective.

I'm thinking about doing a ritual before my surgery. I am someone who does not participate in ritual on a very regular basis, but when big things happen, it's important to me that they be marked in a meaningful way. I think by claiming this as a ritual moment, I'm helping shape my own understanding of it as well as my healing.

Interestingly, when I did a Google search on ritual and mastectomy, I came up with a few links to Jewish poetry and mikvah rituals. I started thinking about a mikvah - a ritual bath for Jewish women. The technical problems here are that I'm not so much Jewish as JewISH, so I'm not sure that the Mikvah Association here will let me in. A friend suggested I do it myself in a friend's hot tub, but some of the side effects of the chemo are exacerbated by hot water. I decided to call my oncologist to ask about this. I wanted to know if I needed to worry about making the side effects worse or about my lowered immune system in either a hot tub or a public facility (that, I'm guessing, wouldn't have chlorinated water).

I called and left a message for a nurse to call me back. How do you leave a message for something like this, when you know that the person you're leaving the message with is not going to understand it at all? This is Minnesota, after all, and while there is a sizeable Jewish population in the area, the odds that the person answering the phone was Jewish were pretty small. So I said I had a question about baths. "A bathing question?" the receptionist said. "Yeah," I said. (I wonder what on earth she thought.)

The nurse who called me back was not the nurse who I had left the message for. The nurse I'd left the message for is one I have had a good relationship with - and she's pretty quick. The nurse who called me back was Weird Nurse, the same one who freaked me out prior to my chemo treatments by droning on and on about nausea.

Weird Nurse was not terribly helpful. She was concerned that I could burn myself because the numbness I'm experiencing makes it hard for me to know the temperature of the water. So I assumed the hot tub was out, and asked about the immune system issues. She told me to be very careful, which confused me, because if I'm going to be immersed in a pool of water, how exactly am I going to be careful? And of what? I needed some more specific advice.

So I said, "look, could you just tell my (Jewish) oncologist that I am thinking about doing a, a, m-i-k-v-a-h...MIK - VAH...right, tell him that, I'm pretty sure he'll know what that is, and ask him if that's a problem given my immune system. Thanks."

So I get a call back and she says, "Wow, I had to look that up. You're right, he knew what it was."

And I said, "And what did he say about the immune thing?"

She said, "He said be very careful."

I said, "Um, of what? The water temperature?"

She said, "The water temperature primarily."

I got off the phone and told Mr. Plain(s)feminist, who said, "Clearly, G-d doesn't want you to do this."

So I may hold off on the mikvah for now. But I'm still in search of a ritual.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The worst review ever.

I happened to read a theater review yesterday because it was near me and I needed something to read - and I think this is, hands down, THE worst review of a play that I have ever read. Here are the opening two paragraphs:

"Planting Shelly Anne," the newest offering from the Workhaus Collective, is a play that ought to be buried deeply in the ground.

Jeannine Coulombe's narcissistic, jumbled, 95-minute whine-a-thon is dreadful in almost every respect: Its storytelling is bloated, infuriating navel-gazing exacerbated by a playwright in love with her own voice. Its staging is affected and ineffectual. The performances are the best thing about it, but — obviously — that's not saying much.

There are many, many other negative comments in this review, but the one that stands out is this: "John Riedlinger and young Renee Roden do no harm completing the cast as Shelly Anne's inattentive husband and bratty, neurotic daughter."

I wonder, is it really conscionable to write such a nasty review? On the other hand, was the reviewer left any choice? I felt bad for the playwright and director (the actors mostly seemed to be treated more kindly, as the critic focused his displeasure on the staging and the play itself).

The entire review can be found here, for now.