Archive | Feminist Matters

The DIY Feminism of ‘The Babadook’

If science fiction shows us what we fear about our future, horror films show us what we demonize now. Take last year’s “Mama” and “The Conjuring.” Though quite good, both channeled our culture’s feminist backlash by indicting women who defy their “natural” maternal instincts. “The Babadook,” the debut feature from Aussie writer-director Jennifer Kent (expanded from her award-winning short “Monster”), may press that same bad-mommy button, but it does so with a great deal more insight and compassion – not to mention a crafty girl aesthetic. Imagine a movie hand-stitched by an Etsy queen or, better yet, a Bust Magazine editor, and we have some sense of what “The Babadook” brings to the table.

Amelia (Essie Davis) is a struggling single mother. With her salary as an eldercare nurse, she barely makes ends meet, and she’s still mourning her husband, who was killed en route to deliver their son, Sam (Noah Wiseman), now six years old. It doesn’t help that the kid is a handful. With his penchant for shrill tirades and handmade weapons, the hyperactive boy has been pulled out of school and alienated everyone in Amelia’s life. Even before a real monster descends upon their household, then, life is a nightmare – an effect captured in a recurring series of quick, rhythmically intercut shots that recall the drug montages of “All That Jazz” and “Requiem for a Dream.” (A clever association.) Click: child yanks mother from a deep sleep. Click: they peer under bed for monsters. Click: they peer in wardrobe for monsters. Click: mother reads child another bedtime story. This repetition of the mother-and-child routine is a soul-chilling metronome–one that’s especially unsettling because Amelia drones on in an exaggerated version of the impatient singsong every parent uses with a kid who just won’t go the f–k to sleep. Continue Reading →

The Fairest of Them All

I woke up laughing today. I’d dreamed that someone had (nastily) said to me, “Your ass is getting fatter” and I’d replied, “Thank God.” I’m still laughing as I write this–the person was so devastated I wasn’t devastated!–but it does make me think. What would happen if we all, especially women, unplugged from caring what others thought of our looks? A negative (hell, even a positive) evaluation of our attractiveness is often the most powerful weapon in a saboteur’s arsenal. Imagine how much we each could get done if we stripped others (and ourselves) of that power.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman

Mark Twain once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme.” Certainly that’s true when it comes to feminism. Women began the twentieth century fighting for the right to vote as well as for legal, affordable contraception. Although they achieved their goals, 100 years later voting is once again a problematic issue and the “right to choose” becomes more tenuous by the day.

Part of the problem is women today take their liberties for granted because they don’t realize how recently they were acquired. “Herstory” isn’t remembered well, even by many activists. And when that’s the case, we’re not just doomed to rhyme; we’re doomed to lose momentum.

In her new book, The Secret History of Wonder Women, Jill Lepore reminds us of the suffragists and feminist utopists of the early twentieth century who helped birth the most popular female superhero of all time. Although the raven-haired Amazon didn’t debut in a comic book until 1941 (just as the United States entered World War II), Lepore details how she harkens back to the first wave of feminism. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy