This week’s Wednesday 5 went to the source about women in combat, cried at a sweet love story from an old friend, found an authoritative guide to perfect local bars, took some lessons from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and got excited about this year’s Athena Film Festival.
When the Defense Department announced this week that it was going to declare servicewomen eligible for combat classifications, we thought instantly of WVFC’s Mare Contrare, who has spent years talking to women in uniform who have been serving on the front lines. Contrare has embedded into Afghanistan three times, over a period of one and a half years. She has gone into several provinces, with different factions and divisions of the armed forces, to research her book Bullets in My Pocket. She writes at her blog Write Softly:
“I’ve been speaking to several women who are Veterans and Active Duty service members as well as some male counterparts on their reaction to the US allowing women assigned combat duty. The response actually surprised me. While the press is celebrating, the people I spoke to agree the positions should be open, but were not quite as thrilled about it. I believe it’s because we had all seen combat. . . we wonder why anyone would want to go there.”
If it weren’t for Laura Beck at Jezebel, we might not have seen so quickly that Eve Pell, author of We Used to Own the Bronx, had brought her stunner of a late-life love story to the pages of The New York Times’s sometimes-anodyne “Modern Love” section. The story of Pell’s romance with her husband, Sam “just set my tear ducts into overdrive,” Beck writes, “and although I’m incredibly exhausted today (STFU, hormones!), I’m positive I’d still sniffle if I wasn’t.” She then quotes one of the story’s most compelling sections:
Sam and Eve met at a San Francisco–area running club, and she quickly became interested in getting to know him better. She devised a plan to get Sam to ask her to the movies, and it worked. It became a regular thing. One evening at the movies, after we had been seeing each other for several weeks, I felt his hand on mine. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can recapture the moment: the dark of the theater, the warmth of his hand, my happiness.
The article itself is well worth a read. One of our favorite bits:
Sam and I often ate at Chinese restaurants where I received some fortune cookies that truly lived up to their name. Two of our favorites:
“Persevere with your plans and you will marry your love.”
“Stop searching forever. Happiness is just next to you.”
Edith Zimmerman checks in this week at The Hairpin with author Rosie Schaap, whose book Drinking with Men shares her unending quest for the perfect local haunt, which takes her from a dive outside Los Angeles to a Dublin pub full of poets, and from small-town New England taverns to a character-filled bar in Manhattan’s Tribeca. Zimmerman asks about drinking as a problem, and Schaap says it’s complicated:
“I tell some pretty dark drinking stories in Drinking With Men, but I tell some really happy ones, too. My focus is much more on bars than on drinking—and though they work as a team, they’re not the same. A bar gives you community, at least when you’re a regular. Drinking alone doesn’t give you that, and that’s why it never interested me.”
Our own Diane Vacca was among those of us who delighted in Zerlina Maxwell’s (at Feministing.com) take on last week’s interaction between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. The entire conversation, also memorably spoofed by Jon Stewart at The Daily Show, reminded Maxwell of the term “mansplaining,” used so memorably by Rebecca Solnit in her essay “Men Explain Things to Me.” For Solnit, it was her own work being explained to her. In this case, Clinton’s face suggested that this was exactly what she was experiencing. Check it all out at Feministing.
We’re very proud at WVFC that we’ve been following The Athena Film Festival since its start. We’ll be reporting from this year’s festival (whose films focus on women as “thinking change agents”) next week—always a highlight. The main festival video, available at the link, showcases some of the wildly diverse films on this year’s program, including Oscar nominees like Brave.
Not sure why the festival’s needed? At the Huffington Post, Feminist Wire writer Soraya Chemaly gives a strong case, in a wide-ranging essay that touches on Sandy Hook, the Bechdel Test, and how power disparities in the culture magnify our challenges in the real world.
“In a culture absolutely sodden with images and messages of male aggression and violence conflated with leadership and heroism, our mainstream stories are made almost exclusively by men, for men with a hyper-gendered, outdated idea of what masculinity means in society. And white, to boot. I mean, really, isn’t it just bizarre that the male-to=female ratio in family films remains unchanged since 1946? And, arguably, the representation of women has gotten worse, not better? Gender ratios and communications styles, and how we portray them, make a difference in how we understand influence and power. Before men and women can really trust women as leaders, we need to reflect women’s abilities and competence in our media.”
Read Soraya Chemaly’s piece at the Huffington Post. Then, if you like, buy your ticket to one of the festival’s films, panels, and special-awards ceremonies.