The Arts as a Healing Balm for Mansplaining's Psychic Ills

March is women's history month, but don't let that circumscribe your fun. You can get together with a posse of your like-minded women friends and mock mansplainers anytime. Now, I know many of you have just recently learned that there even existed a name you could attach to this annoying behavior plaguing your existence. Believe me, I know how important naming experience is - that's why I have a whole category assigned to the topic. But your joy need not begin and end with just knowing that the craptastic manifestations you've been subjected to are (1) not your fault, (2) part of a larger system of patriarchy, and (3) mocked by many, many, many women all over the place.

No, you can have even more fun. Why not get together with a couple of good friends for movie night or a book club meeting? Get a nice bottle of wine (if you are a wine drinker) or a local microbrew or just make a nice pot of tea. You could order some tea from Premium Steap - they have awesome stuff, and it's a woman-owned business.

So, let's talk about two things - what to read or watch, and what to eat.

What to watch on movie night:

Whale Rider
Netflix's summary is better than Imdb: "A Maori tribe must contend with the distinctly nontraditional concept of having a female leader when the intended heir to the throne dies during childbirth, leaving his twin sister, Paikea (Keisha Castle-Hughes), to prove herself."

Antonia's Line
This is beautiful. Warning: as I recall, there is a sexual assault in the movie, so maybe not for everyone. I am not surprised that the director's film "A Question of Silence" is not available through Netflix. You can read more about it here. Warning: spoilers about Antonia's Line in that article.

Shirley Valentine
Must see. Especially for every woman who has every run off and left a note on the table...or would like to...

Please nominate other suggestions for movie night in the comments and say why they are femsplainer "I see sexism everywhere" worthy, because this is a personal, eclectic, and two-thirds white list. Romantic comedies don't count. Please don't ask me to explain why. If you nominate "Something's Gotta Give" I'll have to do a whole post on why that movie is wrong, wrong, wrong.

What to read for book club meeting:

If you are going to buy any of these, try to order them through a local independentl bookstore.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Okay, this is a children's novel. My fifth grade teacher had our whole class read it together, out loud - we took turns reading from it. She was an awesome teacher. This is an awesome book. One of my early steps on the road to...well, who I am today. Thank you, Miss Pekar. Buy this book for your young daughters, and let them revel in Kit Tyler, who will not be mansplained, befriends a poor child and an outcast old woman and, since she is going to have to marry anyway, manages to snag the dude with the ship who can sail her off to the Caribbean.

Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
1973 classic lesbian picaresque. The first line is "No one remembers her beginnings." Donna E. Shalala is quoted on the back cover thusly: "Molly Bolt is a genuine descendant - genuine female descendant - of Huckleberry Finn."

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
Marge Piercy's classic may be more relevant than ever these days. You will certainly have plenty to discuss with your reading group if you pick this one, and you won't need any publisher-prepared list of questions to provoke your thinking, is my bet.

Poems from the Women's Movement ed. by Honor Moore
Includes goodies like "I Like to Think of Harriet Tubman" by Susan Griffin, Anne Sexton's "The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator", and Michelle Cliff's amazing "Women's Work".

Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier
This book is just a whole lotta fun and food for thought. Which is what you want for a book club.

Chrysalis: Maria Sybylla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis by Kim Todd
I am about halfway through this book and all I can say is, wow. Kim Todd has brought Merian and her world to life in rich full color. Imagine yourself in late 1600's, women burned as witches all across Europe for the slightest oddities and infractions. You leave your husband, with your two daughters and your mother, to go join a religious cult. He shows up to demand your return. You refuse him. Then at age 52, you set off for Surinam, because you really, really need and want to study the insects and their metamorphosis in place, not dead in someone's curiosity cabinet. You want to paint them in their life stages along with the plants they eat. Never mind those guild bastards won't let women learn how to use oil paints. You will do amazing work.

The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
This book is hilarious, and heartbreaking, and an easy read. Bonus for those who love gardening. Good English wives throwing off the shackles of grinding domestic duty and dry religious hectoring about self-denial to blow their savings and escape the rain for a month in sunny, heavenly, flowery Italy. Since they are English in the twenties, class issues are at play. There's a movie of the book, so you can combine movie night and book club. I haven't seen the movie, or finished the book yet. I know it has a classic happy ending...but it's worth it for the early part. Mrs. Wilkins is a hoot. "You wouldn't believe how terribly good [we] have been for years without stopping, and how much now we need a perfect rest."

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
I read the following on this web site:

Woolf says that there have been few great women in history because material circumstances limited women's lives and achievements. Because women were not educated and were not allowed to control wealth, they necessarily led lives that were less publicly significant than those of men. Until these material limitations are overcome, women will continue to achieve, publicly, less than men. Woolf's materialist thesis implicitly contests notions that women's inferior social status is a natural outcome of biological inferiority. While most people now accept the materialist position, in Woolf s time, such arguments still had to be put forward with conviction and force.

I don't know about you, but I still hear lots of d00ds mansplaining to me how the reason there are no great women [fill in the blank] in history is the magic of biology evolution testosterone spatial skills math ability God's will eleventy!!!1!!

Apparently, there are a lot of d00ds who have never heard of Virginia Woolf.

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
This classic is an absolute must read. Buy it even if you read only one of the fifteen shorts essays. And that one should be "The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action". You and your book club can chew on that for a whole session. But then you should read the whole thing.

You will note that most, or all, of these recommended books are not recent. It's good to know your history, to know that this conversation has been going on, and that women have been doing remarkable things, for a long, long time. And, I am pointing you to books that I have found personally useful and affecting, in the hopes you will too. Once again, feel free to add your nominations in the comments, and tell us why.

What to eat:

We already talked about tea from Premium Steap. If you make a nice pot of tea, why not try a simple delight like my favorite childhood snack, Banana Graham Cracker Squares? Take a banana, cut it in two or three lengths - about the width of a graham cracker. Now slice it length-wise, in thin slices, and place the slices on a graham cracker to cover. Top with another graham cracker. Ice the top graham cracker with either icing you make yourself or, if ultra lazy, store-bought from a can. Let sit for awhile so the banana can soften up the graham crackers. These are incredibly good.

If you are having wine, some good cheese and crackers is always nice. I was going to suggest some more recipes but this post has taken so long to put together it is now time for my own Friday night movie night with Mr. Z. Please leave tasty movie night/book club snack suggestions in the comments if you like. Perhaps I will add more later.

And there you have it. Good women friends, a nice movie or book discussion, and some tea or wine and good food - an excellent balm for mansplaining's psychic ills!

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The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Yes! My mother bought it for me when I was a girl, and I've bought a copy for my daughters... So far only the eldest has read it, but she loves it, and she spent a lot of time searching out the history behind it.

Whale Rider is based on a book by a man. Be careful when watching the film - perhaps perform a sageburning ceremony or paint a sacred circle of menstrual blood around your couch before before you pop the disc into the DVD player. Otherwise Witi Ihimaera's spectral penis may fly across from New Zealand and pollute your womanspace with negative patriarchal vibes. BE WARNED!

Shirley Valentine is also based on a play written by one of those awful beasts. The film was also directed by a penis-wielding oppressor. You should be ashamed of yourself Zuska, for recommending these films that are really just men mansplaining women's experience. Are you secretly a double agent working for the mansplaining phallocracy? I've always had my doubts about your womanist credentials, seeing as you are not a natural born woman, but rather a surgically created one, but I tried to put these doubts out of my mind. Now, I'm questioning your whole agenda. Did you become a woman simply as a way to further an oppressive system?

We read A Room of One's Own in our Great Books Colloquium in college. I devoured it. I still remember d00ds in the class going on and on about how it was no big thing and why is this supposed to be so important? because, I mean, Duh!, of course you can only do cool shit with some spare time and cash; this is not ground-breaking. This was held up to validate the fact that even women who did have some space and time and financial autonomy *still* didn't write anything groundbreaking because this was all so self-evident!

And me gnashing my teeth thinking, if it's so fucking obvious to you that these things are necessary what are doing about making them available to the people that don't have them? Also, if you're so fucking smart that this is so fucking obvious, what gives with your circular logic and utter lack of irony?

The prof, who was in many ways an arrogant asshole, issued appropriate Socratic smackdown in this case. I always loved him for that.

Throwin' in my own mansplainin' two cents:

Don't stop with Rubyfruit Jungle!

Brown is very eclectic as an author (so eclectic she is actually two different species!) so you may not want to just pick up any of her books, but the others that follow on RJ, In Her Day, Six of One and Bingo (did I leave one out) as single history with intertwining themes is excellent, and personally, maybe because I'm a guy, I found High Hearts an interesting read, because as with Marge Piercy's "Gone to Soldiers" it is a wartime story written by a woman (and in the case of High Hearts focusing on one woman character).

But actually, eventually, read everything by Brown.

And if mid 20th century and Jewish (recent) history is of interest, Piercy's Gone to Soldiers is great.

seeing as you are not a natural born woman, but rather a surgically created one,

Well, THAT bit of news is going to come as a great shock to my mother!

I'll second Women's Work the first 20K. An excellent read.

Sue Miller's Lost in the Forest

Most of the movies I see, I see with my 2 boys - 9 & 11yo, so these are all on the juvenile side of things but I do my best to avoid the worst. I'd also love suggestions.

Porco Rosso - anime by Miyazake most of his movies feature really strong girls.

The Incredibles - This one may be "wrong" but I love the mom.

Ratatouille, a great chef pointing out just how hard it is for females to be accepted as a professional chef.

Crouching tiger hidden dragon.

I absolutely loved The Witch of Blackbird Pond when I first read it in grade school!

I stumbled across Margaret Atwood late in high school, and offer up The Edible Woman and The Handmaid's Tale as suggestions. Also, The Red Tent by Anita Diamont, and Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

As for movies... The Piano, North Country, New Waterford Girl

By AnonAndon (not verified) on 27 Mar 2010 #permalink

Get a nice bottle of wine (if you are a wine drinker) or a local microbrew or just make a nice pot of tea.

You fucking bitchez need some MOTHERFUCKING JAMESON, not that sissy-ass "nice" shit!

When I was a young girl my father used to admonish me to do this or that because, as he said, "it'll put hair on your chest".

"But Daddy, I'm a girl. I don't WANT hair on my chest!"

"Never mind. That's not what I meant!"

MFJ advisory taken under consideration.

Ha, I love the hair on your chest story. I had a similar experience, my grandma would tell my brother that stew would put hair on his chest, while informing me that stew would give me larger breasts. Needless to say, we doubted the stew's ability to discriminate between the both of us and stayed away from it, lest we end up with large hairy breasts.

A few suggestions for those who enjoy sci-fi:

Lilith's Brood - Octavia Butler

A Door Into Ocean - Joan Slonczewski

By Tlazolteotl (not verified) on 29 Mar 2010 #permalink

Shirley Valentine is on of my favorite movies, and it was the final reason I still had VCR hooked up to the entertainment system.

When that finally came out on DVD, the VCR went to Goodwill. She is freakin' hilarious.

I'd recommend the first couple seasons of 'Mad Men,' if there's anybody left who hasn't seen it. The third season's pretty good too, but the first two seasons really showcase the patriarchy. How things change and how they stay the same. Joyce Carol Oates even digs it. Of course, those who don't get it don't get it and think the show's all about how awesome it is to be a white male and have all these women and POC under your boot heel.

Also, this documentary called 'The Heart of the Game' is about a star high school basketball player who gets pregnant. It's crystal clear on how girls are judged and discriminated against in ways that never ever ever apply to boys, particularly in matters of sex. I don't want to spoil it, but I promise it's not depressing.

By snobographer (not verified) on 29 Mar 2010 #permalink

When I was a young girl my father used to admonish me to do this or that because, as he said, "it'll put hair on your chest".

My mother said this to me and my sisters all the time!

Alas, we never grew into the sons she really wanted. But, as she says now, "at least I have my grandson!"

I'm reading Edwidge Danticat's Krik? Krak! and Rebecca Stott's Ghostwalk now. Both highly recommended.

Also try Deborah Cameron, The Myth of Mars and Venus, if you haven't already.

For folks who like out of the mainstream movies here are two suggestions:

Karov La Bayit (Close To Home) - Two women, both soldiers in the Israeli army, start out not liking each other but slowly come to be friends. See

Sukkar Banat (Caramel) - A story about five Lebanese women living in Beirut. The imdb plot summary uses the phrase "romantic comedy" (which are forbidden!) but I don't think this film really belongs in that category. See

Re: "A Door Into Ocean - Joan Slonczewski"

I want to second the recommendation for this book. It was amazing on so many levels. I loved the overall idea of having two civilizations or cultures that are so different that the characters from these different worlds simply cannot understand each other. It's not just language differences, it's a different way of thinking.

Add to that all the other themes: violence vs. non-violence, consensus vs. hierarchical, advanced computer and mechanical technology vs. advanced medicine and genetics -- too many more to mention!

Marge Piercy's "He, She and It" gave me my first Bechdel test moment. Two women, both 50+, one is the mayor of the town, the other a pioneer in the cybernetics that have caused the major conflict in the story. They are sitting on a patio in the afternoon, playing chess, drinking wine and eating melon. They are discussing the issues affecting the town and what they were going to do about it. I read that in my early twenties and was immediately struck by the fact that I could not remember having read a scene before like that.

I really enjoyed "May" (DO NOT READ THE BACK OF THE BOX, IT HAS A HUGE SPOILER). It is a strange movie, the main character is an awkward 20 something girl who is venturing into the world of dating and relationships for the first time. It is a descent into madness film that changes feel seemlessly, starting out very innocent and cute and ending up very dark. It doesn't make a big deal out of the queer romance scenes, which I like. If you cannot handle gore do not watch this movie. May works at a veterinarian clinic and there are scenes with surgery, among other things.

I liked The Descent a lot, it is a horror movie about a team of women spelunkers who go caving together. It gets you scared before the freaky creatures ever show up, which is impressive. Passes the bechdel test with flying colors. Watch it with the original ending, if possible.

Ghost in the shell is a japanese animation movie about cyborgs in the future. The animated series is awesome, too. Outside of a wee bit of needless nudity, the main character (The Major) is taken very seriously. The series brings up interesting gender stuff, like being able to turn off your skin sensors when some creep keeps touching you, or being able to pick the gender of your cybernetic body, etc. The first female priminister of Japan is in this show too (its in the future), and she is friggin cool.

The Wire is something people should watch if they haven't yet. It is an HBO series from awhile back, about police officers in Baltimore. Every season is excellent. It is an antidote to most cop shows, where there are bad guys (criminals) and good guys (cops). The main feature that makes The Wire so good is the realism. The police are not shown to be specifically a force for good or evil, and neither are individual characters. There are seasons that focus on politics and media, as well. This show illustrates exactly how major social systems are broken. This show ruined television for me, just about everything is crap in comparison. Mad Men has been the only standable thing to come out drama wise since then.

Louise Erdrich. Last report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. Four Souls. Master Butcher's Singing Club. Tracks. The Beet Queen... Any of 'em.

I dunno about y'all, but I'ma sit my ass down and watch the X-Files from start to finish on Netflix. Scully be bitchin'. See you in a couple months!

*retreats to TV cave with large glass of Ovaltine*