Posts Tagged ‘misogyny’

Mid-career — say the 4th or 5th season — the father-daughter pair, Sam Stewart [Wainright] (Honeysuckle Weekes) and Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen)

One of the last moments of this long-running series (began 2001, finally ended 2016)

I have been writing about Foyle’s War for some weeks now, watching & re-watching, and reading about the 8 series for some months, and originally intended to write one last blog tonight. These are seriously anti-war semi-historical mystery-thriller (seasons 1-6) and spy (7-8) DVD videos, from a beautiful box set I bought myself. I will write my last for now a few nights from now.

Dear friends and readers

This fourth of July in the US there has been another mass killing — during a parade somewhere in Chicago a man with a war weapon came along and began murdering people swiftly — as opposed to the way some weeks ago now now an 18 year old man executed slowly over an hour a group of children and their teachers in Texas some weeks ago, and some weeks before that a white man murdered a group of mostly elderly black people in a small grocery store because they were black.

Police literally shot to bits (rained bullets from high speed guns) a black man who was guilty of a minor traffic infraction. 60 shots. The white man who had been planning his massacre for weeks was just “taken into custody.” How is this?

It is no longer acceptable to use the word woman or women — you can be called out for complaining about being erased — while laws criminalizing pregnancy and women who get pregnant are now spreading across the US.

The heat in Alexandria today was so bad that after a longish walk in Old Towne, then supper, exhausted also from weeks of stress which makes me wake at 4:30 am (if I’m lucky enough to sleep 4 hours from midnight on), I fell asleep for 3 hours.

There are now 6 very bad people on the Supreme court who are busy making it impossible to do anything about gun proliferation, misogyny reaching new levels of cruelty, repression and absurdity, and climate catastrophe because (as they know) the congress is paralyzed due to an irrational custom called the filibuster where a group of people representing a minority of people in the US can stop all good or socially beneficial legislation. In their planned next step they are going to make it easier for states to prevent people from voting, to throw votes out, to do whatever any powerful group within a state wants to stop democracy from functioning.  They are also destroying whatever social safety net the majority of the people of the US want to function for themselves as a people.

Seven years ago now I posted on this blog what I thought was an appropriate video to watch during this yearly marking of the day in 1776 the Declaration of Independence was written, or published, or somehow made official. Appropriate then, before Trump took office as POTUS, it’s equally so tonight as the people in Ukraine flee their homes by the millions because Russian soldiers with ferocious weaponry and bombs are grindingly destroying Ukrainian city after city, and murdering as many Ukrainians as possible so that a very small number of Russians can take abolish a culture, take control of a land and its resources and use it to enrichen themselves further.

Zinn’s topic is “the three holy wars:” the American revolution, the civil war and World War Two:

Zinn points out that all wars consist of the indiscriminate killing of huge numbers (often thousands and thousands, millions sometimes) of people for uncertain ends. Maiming of thousands and sometimes millions more.

War is a top-down exercise; it cannot be carried on by any group in society but those who have their hands on great wealth, law and courts, power to make millions of people go out and kill others lest they be killed or imprisoned for not doing so. And so when the war is done very little reform the average person wants is achieved. After the Revolutionary war, very wealthy people made the constitution about property. After the civil war slavery was turned into state terror and semi-slavery for black people. Did World War Two end fascism? Not at all; turns out fascism lay low for a bit, and then emerged slowly again and eventually became strengthened, with new means found. In between war and passivity – or the stranglehold we are seeing in the US today in gov’ts, there are a thousands of possibilities to do good, and occasionally some good is done.

Listen up.


For myself I have come up against the effects of Covid among the people I associate with: most of the people at the two OLLIs where I teach are still resisting coming, or have become unwilling to come, in person to classes or events. This is part of the bad effects of zoom technology. There are good ones (e.g., virtual conferences from far away).

Helen McNicoll, In the Shadow (or Shade) of the Tent — French Canadian painter, turn of century, found on the Net …

A week ago, the last Tuesday of June, at OLLI at AU for the fourth and last session of my Retelling Traditional Tales, just one person showed for my class. There were originally 8 registered. Two never showed; after two very good sessions; for the third, we were down to four but still a good session.  The one woman who showed for this last time and I had a good time one-on-one going over the second half of the book. I learned from her how hard Christa Wolf is for an average even good reader. She had not realized as a reading experience the two last essays of Cassandra and Four Essays were traveler’s tales. She could not see the funny and interesting adventures because she got bogged down with that Wolf was reading (Wolf’s talk about her reading and her thoughts about her reading vis-a-vis the time in Athens and Crete) so that’s part of what happened — she called it a “very literary text.” I could never have learned this about her reading experience in a zoom.  So I could not have helped her  She then said very interesting things about what she did understand, and I think had the two people I mentioned come they would have too. But these two central people had summer activities, one wrote me impertinently about watching the Jan 6th hearings, and 3 just vanished.

The larger or wider problem: in the wing of the OLLI at AU building I was in, I was the only teacher and class there. No one in the hitherto lively social space. I have been telling myself this is the result of fear of catching Covid among an elderly population & summer activities. I didn’t want to face what a friend told me flat out:  “it is just so much more convenient” to join in online. She herself had not registered for my class because it and getting there and coming back would have interfered with two classes online. Another friend registered for my OLLI at Mason class says when she comes she misses a very interesting class (more than mine?) that starts almost immediately after mine. It’s 45 minutes each way for a 90 minute class, she also said. I know one has to structure one day around coming if I go anywhere.

Well I almost switched to online for the fall. I went to the OLLI at AU office and offered to; I asked if half-way through the fall could she (Lesley is the person in charge of this) tell me if there were more in person courses for the spring, and she said 2/3s of the classes in the fall are in person. 5 of these hybrid, all the others just in person. I, just for myself so want to be in person, relented and agreed to come in person. I noticed none of the people blamed me — that would have worried me — I get very good evaluations in the fall and spring and my numbers were fine. This weekend the staff at OLLI at AU sent me a special thank you for coming in.

I have over these 8 years of teaching at these OLLIs twice seen a class fall wildly off — when I tried to teach the later Virginia Woolf (her books just did not satisfy and were too hard for the people) and when I tried the gothic in OLLI at Mason the first time I taught there:  in the case of the gothic I chose online texts and discovered these people won’t do that; they’ll use a kindle but an online text they want to print out. This was also the full 8 years ago; I was in bad state from just having lost Jim and I chose modern gothic texts.  The idea these people had of the gothic was they were going to read Hawthorne and Poe.  Of course the blurb told them otherwise. To me as a teacher there is no comparison to teaching in person and online yet I admit I too can enjoy zooms as a participant and my every-other-week Trollope zoom could happen no other way (it derives from the London Trollope Society) —

but I do need to come in in person in this summer. Otherwise I’d be alone most of the time — it’s not good for me. I become very melancholy.

One of last moments of 2018 Woman in White: Jessie Buckley as Marion free at last …

I have had two happy in person teaching experiences (90 minutes) this summer at OLLI at Mason — our subject is Collins’s Woman in White; there are 9 registered and 8 showed the first and second week. Practically all spoke; they spoke to one another; everyone seemed interested and enjoying our talk. But I worry about this Wednesday. One woman has already said she has a conflict (a summer invite) and I’m not sure this friend will make it. She doesn’t really value literary learning. The buildings at Tallwood are all deserted, no one in the hitherto crowded social space, no one sitting in the chairs placed out there for people to talk — as once people did. I was told the day before a class was held where 27 people came. The staff were ecstatic.

I went to a retirement party at OLLI at AU the week before and while there should have been more people there, those there were so glad to be there, and there were enough people so that a real party atmosphere ensued: wine, good music, talk. I’ll go in person to the OLLI at AU happy hour next week. So I shall carry on trying. I cannot help them in the evening or night. I can’t drive in the dark.

Another angle: as an Aspergers person I am often desolate, unable to socialize, to break in, finding that I have not been able to sustain a relationship (Mary Lee cut me off when her husband died because she knows I’m an atheist and think Jim doesn’t exist anymore and she can’t take that it seems), but this is my latest version of a lesson that teaches me that NTs don’t want to socialize either, or not in the ways I do or for the same reasons quite (in gatherings exclusion plays a larger role too for NTs too, the awareness of who is excluded and that you belong).

I do like to tell some good news. So Good news! for me. I’ve discovered a way to get myself to write legibly again. For a number of years now I’ve been often unable to read my own handwriting; well the other day I experimented in forcing my hand to write the letters slanted to the left instead of the right. I was taught when very young I must slant to the right, but quickly I knew as a kind of trick I could slant the letters the other way. Well I’ve begun to do this and I find by forcing myself to do this I write a round and legible script. I write the letters out again. I’m experimenting with my stenography but the problem is Pitman sten attaches specific meanings to when a stroke is to the left or right so this probably won’t work. But it is good news for me. I just have to remember to write slanting to the left (or backwards). It is strange for me to look at because the letters come out looking very rounded (so a different handwriting than the one I’ve regarded as mine for some 75 years) and neatly on a line even when there is none there.

Baby William a very few days old

And Izzy and I have bought two return-trip plane tickets to go to Toronto, Canada, the second week of August. Thao had her baby, now 3 weeks ago, William. Thao lives in Canada, where the gov’t is still run by sane people sanely. She has reserved for us two “suites” (rooms) in her condo building for 3 nights and 3 days. So we will visit. Izzy has been to Toronto once — by herself many years ago when she was doing her Masters Library degree at the University of Buffalo. It was her first trip alone: she stayed two days, explored the vast interesting city a bit, went to a museum, to a park and then back to Buffalo. She took photos too. For this past weekend it seems that Laura went to Colonial Beach, Virginia, a vacation beach spot where she and Rob enjoyed themselves. I go with the friend who said people were choosing online experiences to the National Building Museum to see the Folger Company do Midsummer Night’s Dream in mid-July (lunch out before).

I started my Anne Finch work today, once again, this time vowing to produce the review at last. (I’ve made arrangements to try to give a paper on manuscripts left by Jane Austen and Anne Finch at EC/ASECS this October.)  probably cannot convey the depth of my emotional reluctance to write this review.  It is enormously painful.  So I must follow Austen’s Catherine Morland and keep it brief.  The paper will not be as bad, and if my arrangements with Tony Lee fall through, I won’t go to the EC/ASECS at all, and then never again.

The last two days I’ve pulled the inbuilt calendar in Woman in White out for about 2/3s of the book! Soon I’ll put that online too. Somehow or other.

So not giving up. Neither daughter is likely to ever get pregnant — this is nowadays a cause for rejoicing.

It is frustrating to me to have collapsed so this evening. Izzy and I had walked for an hour in Old Towne, up to the Potomac and back to my car in the deadly heat of 5 o’clock. Stubbornly I then watered my new plants and flowers — put in by Rosemont at last so I have six pretty beds of plants and flowers around the front lawn again.

I began this blog leading up to Howard Zinn; I end with Robert Reich, showing us that of course Democrats can pass bills protecting reproductive and voting rights. Why aren’t they?



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Frida Kahlo-stilllifechina
Frida Kahlo (1907-54), Still Life (on China)


Only connect as E.M. Forster wrote. Menstruation, the immiseration of white women (you are much better off in a city), the plight of Muslim women, cats in medieval manuscripts — are my topics today.


Over 100 years worth of products used for menstruation are skimmingly covered in this informative enough article by Lia Kvatum published April 25th in the Washington Post. It has links to other places where you can read more about this or that issue. Although written in an upbeat tone, the article does tell the truth. You might assume that attitudes towards menstruation are no longer (at least in these official western style ad) as uncomfortable and repressive as they once were: what is interesting is still in the 1990s you see discomfort and the heroine at the center anxious. And the reassuring “second older self” is a girl dressed in a mildly feminine way – her hair impeccably coiffeured, looking attractive as if she’s going out on a date.

From the outset at the opening of the century they can be divided into two types: soothing and reassuring and clinical and practical. They are still constrained but note the article its impetus from a museum of menstruation which has been thrown out of its official quarters in an institution and is now in a private person’s basement:


One purpose is to advertise and hope someone will take up the things and put them where they won’t get lost and dispersed and others can see them.

I recognize just about all the products; the ones used before I was 11 I’ve been told or read about, and I myself made my own home-made products when I was broke at one point. In documents I’ve read (letters, diaries) you can now and again come across a reference to washing a cloth for one’s period:


I did not know that women are still dying of toxic shock syndrome — I would say I understand why a girl would use a tampon (it enables her to swim the first couple of days; it avoids menstrual belts and sticky plastic),


but I know and have seen other uses: use this and you break your hymen and get it over with. And not everyone reads the instructions or is told not to leave a tampon in past at most a couple of hours. We have to remember the state of education today might be very poor for a particular girl in a particular area: sexual education in schools is preaching abstinence in some areas of the US. I have never in my life douched myself with these chemical products. I suspect because at some level of my being I am so sceptical, cautious, and as a result of experience nowadays instinctively uncooperative I was spared some of the worst biologically- and sexually-linked products pushed at me now and again. Here are two recent ads; there are worse ones and there are better. None of those readily available connect sex with sin; they seem to be all secular, non-judgemental (no idea this is a punishment from God):



One video segment resonated with me. A older woman tells of how her mother refused to talk to her or say anything at all when she began to bleed. I remember when I came home frightened, I phoned my father. I never had a trusting relationship with my mother. He must’ve explained enough and said something soothing (the two prongs of the ads) and probably told me to do something to stop getting soiled. But when my mother came home, she came right up to me and slapped me across the face with all her might. And then handed me a pad, wordless. He came home with a thick book probably enlightened for its time — I read about homosexuality for the first time — some title like “Everything you Need to Know about Sex for girls.” He said little himself, only read it.

I was very hurt and later indignant over my mother’s behavior. Just as bad to my mind is the social reinforcement that still goes on for customs of such symbolic punishment. Years later when I finally told someone (perhaps here on the Net somewhere, maybe an exchange of emails but I think it must’ve been on some listserv! or web-, or blog-site), I got justifications from other women for her behavior. This was a custom. It was just fine. I should have taken it or today take it as amusing. I say still it’s a custom she should not have followed mindlessly and without examination. To me it epitomizes not just how she behaved over and her attitudes towards sex (hostile, ashamed on the one hand, conspiratorial when she would be confiding on the other), but in other areas of life.

How did I behave when my two daughters told me “what had happened?” For the older one I tried to explain, had brought home menstrual pads with sticky plastic on the back, offered advice, and gave her a thick book; the younger one had the older one in the house and seemed to know about what was happening, but my procedure was the same, explanation, apparatus to cope, advice and thick book. Perhaps in earlier centuries the girl would not have been home alone and someone (mother, aunt, sister, cousin, governess, woman or fellow servant, girlfriend) would’ve been here to talk and help right away. Perhaps misogynous attitudes would have been inculcated openly.

17th century painting of an old woman reading a book; we glimpse a cat on a high shelf, perhaps company (Metsu)

On a more sheerly sombre note, an all too brief article online abouts an increasing health crisis for US white women: early death, drug addiction, alcoholism, poverty, increase of fatal diseases, depression.

An older woman, now living alone, worried over finances …

A couple of weeks ago (around April 11th), the Washington Post was featuring stories growing out of a study by Anne Case and Angus Deaton (Princeton economists) working and lower middle class white women are doing much worse than they used to — while they still die at a later age than white men and black men and women and other minorities, statistics show a rise in all sorts of destructive behavior (drugs, drink, risky behaviors with men), and the gap is closing. These are directly linked to their status, lack of income; women living in more rural areas and small towns are especially prone to misery and earlier death. Age 45-54 is the worst. However, lonely and anonymous your daily life you are much better off in a city where there are social services and things to join and do with other organized social groups of people.

A sheer uptick in suicide among white women as such was another story. They are experiencing full force what black women in the US as a group have always known: asked to be responsible for families, left alone (divorced, separated, never married), at the same time as they lack companionship and the things that are supposed to make others respect you.

The centrifugal nature of our US culture, long working hours, low pay, unemployment, degrading jobs, high expectations inflicted on women without any reality of real support, the easy break-up of marriages, having children out of wedlock with no permanent partner. It adds up to deep harm for all women but those who are born to the wealthy.

Connect the many stories about the rise of Al-Shabab in Somalia — that means for women horrors western women can’t begin to imagine — terrible economic conditions. you are married off early, ceaselessly pregnant, not trained to do anything for money — a large percentage of the desperate refugees are pregnant women in burkas with children hanging from them. What are they told about their menstruation?

Who is our major hope just now? Hillary Clinton is among the privileged of US society. I loathed her book, It Takes a Village, because in it she showed an unexamined disdain and contempt for women on welfare. She talked of children as a investment and wrote that poor women should have their children taken from them if they are not bringing them up “productively.” I admit I was not at all surprised when her husband with her public blessing destroyed welfare. I was never fooled that it was for these women’s good — this is the idea of “tough love,” yes let me thrown you out and you will be better off eventually. The idea was to stop paying women with children who couldn’t get a decent job and that is what was done.

Yes Clinton has since becoming senator worked for better pay, family paid leave, women’s health care and liberty too worked for real and hard. But where is she for the vulnerable, poverty-stricken, non-employable, partly disabled (from cultural forces) working (often white) women? Where does she identify? Middle class women. Probably she appeals to black women because she has ever presented herself as ambitious, filled with self-esteem, conventionally strong. I grant she has said she will work to extend widow’s benefits. I pay high taxes on my widow’s annuity. But I prefer Sanders’ tone and perspective. He means fundamental reforms, he used to mean of economic structure too, now it’s “just” a genuine movement away from immiseration for all and hope for a better independent self-fulfilling future (he for making state colleges for free — no loans from banks, no massive debt). I voted for him in the primary because on my doorknob was a paper reminder from his organization to vote. That piece of paper cost his organization money. He voted against the TPP; she for. He is faulted for “not having a foreign policy; he does, but he brings it out only in glimpses as it would undercut the US foreign policy since 1947 (he sees the Palestinians are the victims of slaughter, fierce colonialist seizure of their property, starvation policies), a hawkish, adamantinely anti social-democratic one, violent and supportive of horrifying regimes, one she shares despite her late embrace of Obama’s moderated approach.

To change women’s lives something far deeper, far more inward, sexual liberation and self-esteem for who we are, not for any use that will be made of us, is the place to begin to do good work.

In medieval books of hours when one finds cats, they are at the margins of the page and most of the time poignant figures playing some sort of music instrument


Miss Drake

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