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:
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.”
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.
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!