You Men By Sr. Juana Ines De La Cruz

A few months back, I posted a poem by Anne Bradstreet, the first poet of America, and mentioned how cool it was that the first poet of America was a woman.

As fate would have it, the first poet of the Americas, or the Western Hemisphere, was also a woman, Sister Juana Ines de la Cruz.

Silly, you men-so very adept
at wrongly faulting womankind,
not seeing you’re alone to blame
for faults you plant in woman’s mind.

After you’ve won by urgent plea
the right to tarnish her good name,
you still expect her to behave–
you, that coaxed her into shame.

You batter her resistance down
and then, all righteousness, proclaim
that feminine frivolity,
not your persistence, is to blame.

When it comes to bravely posturing,
your witlessness must take the prize:
you’re the child that makes a bogeyman,
and then recoils in fear and cries.

Presumptuous beyond belief,
you’d have the woman you pursue
be Thais when you’re courting her,
Lucretia once she falls to you.

For plain default of common sense,
could any action be so queer
as oneself to cloud the mirror,
then complain that it’s not clear?

Whether you’re favored or disdained,
nothing can leave you satisfied.
You whimper if you’re turned away,
you sneer if you’ve been gratified.

With you, no woman can hope to score;
whichever way, she’s bound to lose;
spurning you, she’s ungrateful–
succumbing, you call her lewd.

Your folly is always the same:
you apply a single rule
to the one you accuse of looseness
and the one you brand as cruel.

What happy mean could there be
for the woman who catches your eye,
if, unresponsive, she offends,
yet whose complaisance you decry?

Still, whether it’s torment or anger–
and both ways you’ve yourselves to blame–
God bless the woman who won’t have you,
no matter how loud you complain.

It’s your persistent entreaties
that change her from timid to bold.
Having made her thereby naughty,
you would have her good as gold.

So where does the greater guilt lie
for a passion that should not be:
with the man who pleads out of baseness
or the woman debased by his plea?

Or which is more to be blamed–
though both will have cause for chagrin:
the woman who sins for money
or the man who pays money to sin?

So why are you men all so stunned
at the thought you’re all guilty alike?
Either like them for what you’ve made them
or make of them what you can like.

If you’d give up pursuing them,
you’d discover, without a doubt,
you’ve a stronger case to make
against those who seek you out.

I well know what powerful arms
you wield in pressing for evil:
your arrogance is allied
with the world, the flesh, and the devil!

Juana Inez (de la Cruz) lay clothes

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My BFF Won the Nobel Peace Prize!

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai has been awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for her work for education for girls around the world.  I could not be happier for my BFF.

Congratulations Malala, God bless you, and continued success!

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Random Thoughts on the Bechdel Test

Since I’ve been doing a series of Films About Women, I figured I should give my thoughts on the Bechdel Test.

For those not in the know, the Bechdel test has the qualifying criteria.

To pass the Bechdel test, a film

  1. has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man.

This test was first mentioned in a cartoon, but many people point out that the idea stems from Virginia Woolf.

“All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. [...] And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends. [...] They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen’s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that.” A Room of One’s Own

1 It goes without saying that the Bechdel test is not perfect.  Twilight passes the Bechdel Test, and Twilight is the worst thing ever.  (Seriously, fuck Twilight

2 On the same note, Henry V also passes the Bechdel test, but The Merchant of Venice does not.  And no actress would turn down the role of Portia to play Katherine.

3 What does it mean for two women to have a conversation about a man?  The best example of this is Zero Dark Thirty.  The main character has several conversations with women, but the conversations are always about a man: Osama Bin Laden. The women are not discussing Osama’s potential merits as a husband, father, or lover.  They are trying to kill him!  Is this a conversation about a man?  If a woman surgeon and a woman anesthesiologist have a discussion about a male patient, does that pass the test?

4 I do understand the motivation to quantify how women are portrayed in films. Are women portrayed as accessories for men? Do women have the same level of personality as a car? Or do they have their own lives? Do films respect the fact that a woman’s life and world are just as valuable and just as important as the life and the world of a man?

5 I’m not so interested whether an individual film meets the standards. There are a lot of really good films with absolutely no women, but not for sexist reasons. Into Great Silence does not feature any women, and only a few conversations in the entire film. Kundun has two women, but they are incredibly minor characters. Of course, both of these films take place in monasteries, so why would there be a surplus of women?

6 On the other hand, I do think it is valid to ask why so few films pass the Bechdel test relative to the films that fail the reverse Bechdel test. The reverse Bechdel tests asks
1 If there are two men
2 Who have a conversation
3 About something other than a woman.

Why do films often portray women as accessories for men, but rarely portray men for accessories for women?

7 Nonetheless, it is possible to pass the Bechdel test and still portray women as nothing more than accessories for men. As does Twilight.

Seriously, fuck Twilight.

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Elizabeth Beltzhoover Mason by Gilbert Stuart

Elizabeth Beltzhoover Mason Gilbert Stuart

Gilbert Stuart, as I’m sure you know, painted a lot of portraits. I like this one, which is at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

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He was despised by Hillary Summers

I realized that I mostly post sopranos on my blog. There are a number of reasons for that, most of which are not my fault. :)

However, I did find this lovely performance of He Was Despised from the second act of Handel’s Messiah sung by Hillary Summers. Now this is a contralto voice.

And once again, perfect diction! I can understand the words! Even if I can’t understand the language the singer is singing, I want to hear the consonants.

Oh, I do have a post coming up at some point with a baritone.

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Evangeline Meets Gabriel By Samuel Richards

I read Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 8th grade.

Evangeline Meets Gabriel Samuel Richards

This is a drawing of the end of the poem, when an aging Evangeline meets her dying betrothed. It is a sad and moving scene, and I cannot decide whether it is satisfying or infuriating.

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Films About Women 15

1 My Fair Lady
My Fair Lady, the musical based on Pygmalion, stars Audrey Hepburn in a role originally written for Julie Andrews. At the time, it was common to cast actors and actresses and later dub their voices with singers, or rather more specifically, Marni Nixon. Marni dubbed Audrey Hepburn’s voice, as well as the voice of Natalie Wood in West Side Story and Debra Kerr in The King and I.

The film relies heavily on the play by George Bernard Shaw, but with an added romantic ending that is lacking in the original play. Apparently, audiences from the very beginning wanted a romantic ending for the two characters, but Shaw protested this arrangement, and wrote an essay explaining why this was impossible. (I agree.)

The film is very funny, and addresses the rigid class system of Britain in the Edwardian/Georgian era, before the war. Henry Higgins studies speech patterns and believes that, by “correcting” a woman’s cockney accent, that he can pass her off as a duchess. It also addresses the rolls of men and women within society. Shaw’s plays, for all his importance and prolific output, have not fared well in the decades since his death, but My Fair Lady remains incredibly popular.

Audrey Hepburn is wonderful in the role and Rex Harrison, who reprises his role from onstage, is suitably gruff and pompous. The music is incredibly famous, with many of the songs becoming standards. The sets and musical numbers are charming and excellent, and the costumes are wonderful.

Here is Marni Nixon singing (and Audrey Hepburn’s acting) for I Could Have Danced All Night, the most famous number from the film.

It’s the kind of film making and film that exemplifies a style that no longer exists.

2 Norma Rae

Norma Rae was offered to many famous Hollywood actresses, all of whom turned it down. In the end, it was offered to Sally Field, who was mainly known for the television series The Flying Nun. The role won her an Oscar and made her a star. It was very well deserved. Sally Field is wonderful in the role of a southern woman working in the textile industry. The work is hard, monotonous, and very dangerous. She meets a young Jewish man from New York who is a member of the Textile Worker’s Union, who has come to unionize the factory. Norma quickly becomes convinced that her factory needs a union to correct the injustices in the factory and to protect the workers from abuse.

As stated above, Sally Field is a force of nature in the film. In the most famous scene in the film, she rebels against her bosses and demands that they call the national guard to drag her out of the factory. She jumps on top of a workbench and holds up a sign that reads Union, and in solidarity, the rest of the workers shut off their machines. As she is ordered out by security, she triumphantly rings the bell.

The story is also shows life in a small southern town. It is delightful to see films about places other than New York, much as I love New York. (I really do. It’s the greatest city of the world.) It also shows the strain that takes place in a marriage when one partner strives for a vision and a dream. Norma Rae devotes all of her free time toward unionizing her factory, and her marriage suffers.

Norma Rae is also a celebration of bygone people in a bygone era; a time when many Americans worked in factories and fought for unions.

Norma Rae

3 Philadelphia Story

In Part 11, I discussed the film August Osage County, a play turned into a movie with many of Hollywood’s greatest stars. This last film, The Philadelphia Story, proves that this kind of film is nothing new. This film stars Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart (in the role that won him his only Academy Award) and Carey Grant. Carey Grant’s salary in this film was the highest ever paid to an actor, and he donated it entirely to the British War Effort.

The film is about a couple , Samantha and Dexter Haven, played by Carey Grant and Katherine Hepburn, who are divorced. Samantha is about to marry a nouveau riche man named George Kittredge.

It’s a film about a love quadrangle, snoopy reporters, and family secrets. It also addresses the idea of perfection in women, and women who like to be seen as perfect, as opposed to human.

It is a lighthearted film that actually served as Katherine Hepburn’s comeback film. Several of her films in previous years had bombed, and she was earning the reputation of box office poison. She bought the rights to this film and carefully orchestrated her comeback. Jimmy Stewart and Carey Grant were brought in by the studio to buffer the star, because it was believed that she could not carry a film by herself. The film was a success, and Katherine Hepburn re-established herself as one of Hollywood’s top actresses.

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