When it comes to Current TV, we here at Bitch thought we'd found a one-Bitch-one-woman sitch with our crush Sarah Haskins. However, it might be time for an open relationship, because we are omgsoinlove with Bryan Safi and his Current show That's Gay. Check out the latest episode on lady kisses!
Ellie Greenwich, October 23, 1940 – August 26, 2009
American singer, songwriter, and producer Ellie Greenwich died yesterday of a heart attack. Greenwich was best known for writing and co-writing such girl group classics as "Be My Baby" (The Ronettes), "Da Doo Ron Ron" (The Crystals), "Leader of the Pack" (The Shangri-Las), "River Deep, Mountain High" (Ike & Tina Turner), and many others. Greenwich and Jeff Barry, her former husband and writing partner, had 17 singles in the pop charts of 1964.
When I was growing up, one of my very favorite things was to have books read out loud to me. My mother (a total bookworm, thank goodness) read to my little brother and I every night, and it was the best thing ever. We'd beg for her to read just one more chapter of My Father's Dragon or From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and I loved to fall asleep guessing what was going to happen next.
However, I am now a bit older and I no longer live with my mother (knock on wood). That is why, for this installment of BiblioBitch, I would like to make a case for the mighty audiobook. Audiobooks have replaced my mother when it comes to reading out loud to me at bedtime, and they usually feature celebrities (something that was missing from my childhood listening experience -- sorry Mom, but it's true).
This week we talk with author Laurie Halse Anderson, who's written five YA novels, including the New York Times best-seller Speak, one of the most compelling depictions of the trauma of the interior space of a teenage sexual assault survivor. Anderson has been getting letters from teen rape and incest survivors ever since she published Speak, which was her first novel, ten years ago. Her latest,Wintergirls, covers the well-worn, adolescent terrain of eating disorders through the lives of two 18-year-old girls, Lia and Cassie.
Page Turner talked with Anderson about growing up feminist, what she loves about the teen audience, personal power in a consumer-driven culture, and how Wintergirls brought to light her own issues with disordered eating and body image.
This isn't a post about feminism specifically, but it is about an item some feminists hold near and dear: penises. The U.S. government's Center for Disease Control (CDC) is considering promoting routine circumcision of all American males. They hope cutting off men's foreskins will also cut their risk of transmitting HIV/AIDS. But the CDC's study shows that circumcision does not reduce HIV transmission among the group most at risk in the U.S.: gay males.
Almost 80 percent of American males are circumcised already and many consider circumcision a routine surgery for cultural reasons as well as to reduce the risk of infection. But some people, especially some men who had no say in the matter, push back against the norm.
Obviously, anything that science can do to stem the AIDS epidemic is a welcome discovery. But it's not clear at all that recommending all American males get circumcised would have a significant impact on HIV in America. Groundbreaking studies showed that in Africa, circumcision could reduce transmission of HIV up to 50 percent. But those studies focused on heterosexual sex. The CDC found that the HIV transmission rate among American gay men was the same regardless of whether or not they possessed a foreskin. It looks like circumcision doesn't provide the same protection against AIDS during anal sex as it does during vaginal.
Personally, I find it troubling to promote a surgical procedure on millions of people without their consent (even if they're too young to do anything more than pee and gurgle) without some solid stats proving it could save their lives later on. It's bunk to recommend circumcising all men based on research showing it may only benefit the straights.
I'm a big advocate of the political power of popular culture. I want to make every single person who is still saying, "I just don't understand why they have to be so public about it," sit down and watch The Laramie Project. The ability of narrative to move us is a side of feminist activism we don't talk about much, but it is, to me, the best one we have, which is why I love writing about pop culture from a feminist angle. I don't go, as I've said before, for monocausal explanations of just about anything. But I do think there's some relationship between seeing something depicted in a story and finding it easier to approach in real life.
The exception that's been proving my rule lately is the appearance, suddenly, of a spate of television shows about fat people: More to Love, The Biggest Loser, Drop Dead Diva. I put it this bluntly because in general, I'm an advocate of fat acceptance, and that includes calling fat what it is: fat. The Washington Post, in what one supposes was a hamfisted attempt at solidarity, recently proclaimed that "fat is fabulous" on television these days. They went on to speculate: what could possibly be behind this trend of having so much adipose tissue on display? Could it be that the fat people are taking over (the article slyly notes that "adult obesity rates increased in 23 states last year, and nearly one-third of all children in 30 states are considered overweight")? Alison Sweeney, the host of The Biggest Loser, limply offers that it must be about people connecting with the "human spirit."
The ambitious, and successful, documentary Going on 13 will begin broadcasting on Public Television this September. The 73 minute film (which is in English, Spanish and Hindi, with English subtitles) takes place over a period of four years and reveals the interior lives, family commitments and school days of Ariana, an African American, Esmeralda, a Mexican American, Isha, an immigrant from India, and Rosie, a mixed race Latina, as they navigate crossing the threshold from childhood to adolescence.
Directors Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Dawn Valadez's award winning project is an intimate look at a difficult transitional period for any child; their compassionate study is landmark not only in its ambition but that in it addresses the concerns of a diverse group of pre-teen and urban girls of color.
Moments we get to share include Ariana crying at her mother's wedding, Rosie discovering Allen Ginsberg at a local bookstore, Esme's sister's Quinceañera, and Isha's trip to India. We see them questioning the changes their bodies are making – or what they've heard those changes will be. One schoolmate asks, "Have your parent's talked to you about pube-er-tee? Do you have internal or external bleeding – or something like that?" Another friend says about a boy crush, "They are in love, even though they don't know what love is." A later scene featuring a woefully unqualified male schoolteacher conducting a sex education class makes it all the more painfully clear that our children receive mixed and confusing messages at a critical time, and that girls in particular are in need of female role models and support systems.
But they grow up anyway –with or without it. As Esme wisely puts it, "I'm turning into a young person and I'm supposed to change. I can't stay little all my life. I would if I could, but I can't so I shouldn't."
Co-directors, Guevara-Flanagan and Valadez graciously took the time to answer interview questions by email on their filmmaking careers, finding the girls (and where they are now), the logistics of such an ambitious project, and what they're currently working on. The first part follows; part two will be posted on Friday!