16 August 2014

I ♥ Being a Girl people, Ilze

Hey-ho folks!

My name is Ilze Leimane and this is my story!

There are thousands of things that can make me happy but three that always work are

What brought me to I ♥ Being a Girl? The fact that I ♥ Being a Girl!
Once upon a time (5 years ago) I started to volunteer in  Latvia's Association For Family Planning and Reproductive Health which inspired me to educate myself more about the issues all over the world and one of them (with thousand sub-issues) is sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). From the local I decided to go global. I have been volunteering in Europe and Asia, gained experience and inspiration to do something on this topic. For quite a while I am part of the YSAFE group where I have met dozen of inspiring people with the interest to improve the SRHR=Human rights.

Surely world be a better place if we would
  • watch more documentaries over various topics. Here you can find bunch of them. Personally, my last favourite is Schooling The World (2010) 
  • listen reggae, meditative and tribal music! And here is one great musician Asa (Asha)! You should get to know her!
  • read more books as such! I recommenced Khaled Hosseini books (very strong, cruel and honest stories from the Afghanistan that won't let you go for a while after finishing the book). Also, you should read blogs, start with the I ♥ Being a Girl to make world a better place! One more recommendation is this blog. It's about the 20-years-old girl who is cycling around the world! Inspirational!
  • step in a another man's shoes for a day. Just try and you will break many of your own prejudices and stereotypes!

There are millions of things I want to do before I am 80! I want to create something sustainable for the people around me and beyond, visit 6 continents and learn 6 languages, learn how to dance, how to play ukulele, how to balance! Live in African village at least for a year, return to Puducherry, live in a eco-village, change someone's life, overcome my fears, change my stereotypes and hike the Kilimanjaro! I want to be healthy and unstoppable! Proud, useful, happy and the most important - to have a choice!

Emotions are contagious, spread more positivity and good thoughts. It will affect other people who will affect more people. If you think that you are too small to change something, try sleeping with a mosquito in the same room.


15 August 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Frida (2002)


There are many reasons to be obsessed with Frida Khalo. Her paintings, her life story, her activism, her style, her resilience... Frida (2002, Julie Taymor) offers a taste for all of it. It's a high-budget Hollywood interpretation, of course, and bound to be an interpretation after what's known about her life and what can be seen in her paintings through the prism of the director and many other people. And through the Frida Kahlo myth too, of course.

Nevertheless there are certain aspects of her life that are very clear.
  • The use of personal, painful, often gendered experiences in creative expression, working through and with them (very similarly as Sylvia Plath, by the way). 
  • The courage to embrace her roots and go beyond them at the same time. Her way of both painting and dress is clearly based on Mexican imagery, but then she takes it a step farther and makes it her very own.
  • The wish to follow her desires, to act upon them. While this is not supposed to be always easy, there's no doubt that Frida's journey was an authentic one.  
Etc, etc... the internets are full of people - including us, of course - swooning over Frida's work and icon that the popular culture has turned her. Go, read some! But, whatever you read, keep in mind that, as somebody on tumblr said:
"Frida Kahlo was a disabled politically active woman of color who deliberately fucked with gender roles and don’t you ever forget it."

P.S. For the dessert, here's the story on her dresses: 1, 2.

08 August 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Summertime (1955)


Just in time for August, another treat with Katharine Hepburn: Summertime (1955, David Lean). And exactly as it happens with many more classic - and contemporary - movies, there are several ways how you can read the plot. Our mission is emancipatory, so on that we shall focus...

1) A woman traveling solo to a country she does not know without speaking a word in its language. Already daring.

2) She is not young. Or breathtakingly beautiful. Or overly confident. But she's very excited to be doing things and going places.

3) She meets a person. And has lots of fun with them. While nobody is promising marriage or happily ever after.

4) After that, she takes a decision to stop a relationship that is not promising anything more than she has already seen. She leaves. To go back to her life. Because she has a life. For real.   

Obviously, all of this happens in a sauce of she wasn't really living until she met the right man, but - as we did with Roman Holiday (1953), which has a very very similar narrative - let's treat the love interest as a driver of empowerment and self-discovery instead of being a prince charming and a savior. Because in both of these movies (both set in Italy, curiously enough, the paragon of loose morals for 1950's Hollywood, apparently), the protagonists have romantic fun and then move on. With a bittersweet break-up, yes, but with little doubts about what they have to do and where are they going.

And before most of the above happens, this quote:
"Renato De Rossi: Listen to me! Stop behaving like a schoolgirl! What my wife does is not your business. What signora Fiorini does is not your business. You come here and what you do? You hide in a gondola and you sigh “Oh, Venice is so beautiful, so romantic! Oh, these Italians, so beautiful, so romantic! Such children!” and you dream of meeting someone you want: young, rich, witty, brilliant, and unmarried, of course! But me, I’m a shopkeeper, not young, not rich, not witty, not brilliant and married, of course. But I am a man, and you are a woman. But you see…it’s “wrong” it’s “wicked” it’s this, it’s that. You’re like a hungry child who is given ravioli to eat. “No!” you say, “I want beef steak!” My dear girl…you are hungry. Eat the ravioli.
Jane Hudson: I’m not that hungry.
Renato De Rossi: We are all that hungry, Miss Hudson."
Realizing your most authentic needs and fulfilling them is very important. And sometimes other people might help with that.

01 August 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Sylvia Plath movies


This is a tragic story. We've warned you. But it's also essential for your herstory knowledge and a very good way to empathize with the problematic of The Feminine Mystique, to understand the great drama of those women educated (therefore craving stimulus and self-realization) but confined to running a household and suffering whatever comes in order to keep up the appearances and keep the family together*.

We offer a double feature about the poet Sylvia Plath (1932-1963). Open her wikipedia page, scan through it, then start with the movie version of her acclaimed semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar (1963) - The Bell Jar (1979, Larry Peerce). A coming-of-age story gone sour is just what you need to observe the moment when the idealism and ambition (to become a renowned poet) clashes with the adult world. In this case the adult world implies dumbing things down for the audience of a women's magazine, men that think people owe them sex, fear of pregnancy, fear of the future, invasive and traumatic psychiatric treatment, the desire to disappear...

The novel is based on the experience Plath had while doing an internship in a New York magazine and her consecutive mental breakdown. A version about that summer in Sylvia's life can be read in Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953.

Then go on with Sylvia (2003, Christine Jeffs) covering Plath's career after the recovery, relationship with Ted Hughes, and suicide at the age of 30. While putting no stigma on Sylvia's history of mental health issues, the movie charts the path from poetry and love, through the hell of betrayal, inability to create and utter abandonment, back to writing from the darkest places of her experience and moving generations of people with the sheer force of her suffering. 

The relationship dynamics are pretty much the same as depicted in Hemingway & Gellhorn (2012) - full of the struggle to create, to get out of the shadow of a celebrity-partner and deal with their ego - just more intense and with a tragic ending.

* Here it is about running a household instead of doing anything else as a consequence of social norms requiring it (while offering almost no alternatives, and demanding that you become a wife and a mother primarily even if you are a great poet, scientist, dancer, doctor...). It is obviously not the same as being able to decide to dedicate yourself to caring because that's what resonates with your most authentic self.

25 July 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Fake Orgasm (2010)


While normally we do not mind spoilers (assuming that analysis = spoiler), this is an exception. Click "play" and watch this 2010 documentary on conceptual/performance artist Lazlo Pearlman. The title Fake Orgasm refers to one of his performance which included a fake orgasm competition... but that's just the beginning as he goes much farther exploring and demolishing the notions of gender, heteronormativity, gendered expectations in the bed and out of it.

If you are already familiar enough with the notion that gender binary is an anachronistic concept, this won't be that surprising, of course. But it can still give you ideas about possible work in bringing this message to other (unsuspecting) people and breaking down the cages that social constructs like this may be for people.  

There are some moments of Spanish spoken with no translation in this version, but you should be able to manage through it. All the crucial narrative is in English.

18 July 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011)


For a culturally stimulating watch that familiarizes you with one of the icons of the men's men's men's world that fashion was and still is to a large extent, get Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011).

Introducing Diana Vreeland (1903-1989) - especially to those that were born after her epoch in Vogue had already ended - and through archive footage and people that knew her showing that:

You don't have to be conventionally pretty to have fun with dressing-up and to become a style paradigm on your own.

You don't necessarily need a formal education to be good at something and get a job that you are passionate about (although this part is clearly much harder than it was in the 1930's).

You may realize and act upon the fact that family life may just not be for you. Nevertheless - and as the children of Diana confirm - would be nice to realize that before actually bringing any children into the world.

You should be able to express yourself and speak clearly and loudly from your most authentic self. This is not a victimless advice, of course, but the clear satisfaction you can see in Diana's face when commenting on how she perceived the world is priceless. (Again, this is not to promise that just anybody can become the editor-in-chief of Vogue, but to encourage to practice creative self-expression whenever and however you feel it to be adequate. And maybe a bit over the top too.)

You should - to the extent that's possible, obviously - surround yourself by things and people that entertain, educate, and inspire. Because the eye (and the mind) has to travel.  


16 July 2014

Inspirational women taking pictures

A 19th century photographer, found on Pinterest.

Instead of talking again and again of how women are so often objectified by media and the popular culture, let's look at women who have literally objectified others and made art out of it. This is a mini compilation that brings together some that dedicated their skill and film to capture conventional beauty for mainstream culture (and did it very well!) and some that observed the real life passing by, even shifted through the darker aspects of the reality.

Regina Relang (1906-1989) was an artist and a self taught photographer from Munich, Germany. She began working for Vogue in 1938 and became one of the leading German fashion photographers in the 50's and 60's.

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) was a photographer that went from a family commercial fashion photography business to a full-fledged passion for the weird, the raw, the hidden.  A version of her artistic journey is developed in Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus.

Karen Radkai was a freelance photographer that worked primarily for Vogue in the 50s and 60s. Internets know little more about her, but offer her work though.

Vivian Maier (1926-2009) was a nanny who lived in Chicago for most of her life and passed away in 2009 at the age of 83. Little more is known about her, except that she was an avid street photographer. Her work was discovered at an auction in 2007, more than 100,000 negatives and undeveloped rolls of film, sold by a storage facility who were cleaning out her locker for delinquent rent. Cannot wait to get my hands on the documentary that tells more about this thrilling discovery.

Annie Leibovitz (1949) an American portrait photographer, doing mostly very glossy celebrity photos. Many of them very good and already iconic, though.

11 July 2014

Friday is the (Inspirational) Movie Night: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2014)


Cha-chan! Here you have a series (well, 13 times 44 minutes) that are breathtakingly inspirational on several levels: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2014). It's a work of many people, including the antifeminist-but-rich-enough-to-fund-science-communication-projects Seth MacFarlane and the amazing Ann Druyan and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Love for science and Carl Sagan has already been expressed on this blog, so now we just have to convince about the added extras that the new Cosmos includes.

Verónica Bayetti Flores has already done that in her Feministing.com article Five times Cosmos’ Neil deGrasse Tyson stole my feminist heart that captures very well how at times the new Cosmos goes even further than the Carl Sagan's one in criticizing the harm that we humans do to each other and other species. Some of the obstacles in our way to well-being and harmony that Cosmos identifies are lack of knowledge, of course, but also the predatory capitalism, religious dogmatism, human pettiness and the structurally discriminating hierarchies of knowledge that have left and keeps leaving behind many people... including women, of course. This Cosmos does introduce you to many females science pioneers you had no idea about. Plus, the discrimination and ridicule suffered by them is also very clear. And the determination and lucky circumstances needed to succeed in the men's world that science was is.

Among others, you'll get to know Ms. Annie Jump Cannon, Ms. Henrietta Swan Leavitt, Ms. Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, Ms. Marie Tharp. And there are so much more of them! For more inspiration (for a Wikipedia research, at least), look at the poster they're selling at A Mighty Girl.

And just for the dessert, Neil's response to the question on gender bias in science (from 1:01:31 in the video, although you might also enjoy the rest of it). So we know that he's with us...

06 July 2014

Working Group

Hello lovely people,

Since 2005, YSAFE (Youth Sexual Awareness for Europe) has become a visible youth network working in the field of SRHR in Europe and Central Asia. YSAFE members are active on national, regional and global levels.

I <3 being a girl was the first project of YSAFE, funded by the ‘Girls Decide’ initiative of IPPF 2010.

Now we would like to establish a Working Group to activate the blog a bit more.

If you are a YSAFE-member and interested to become a part of the Working Group, please contact our YSAFE coordinator Ivy Miltiadou (imiltiadou@ippfen.org)

05 July 2014

Thinking bit: Bodies (the summer edition)

Again and again... We are bombarded with images of unattainable beauty standards and quite toxic ideas of beauty all day long. And just time by time somebody comes along and offers a (at least slightly) different message.

Meghan does not go as far as I'd like, though. There's still the wish to cash in on antagonizing skinny vs. curvy, implying that there's something wrong with being slim, using dancers of color as props, the fact that she is still conventionally pretty just bigger, and the pastel colors may just not be for you... But well, it's a pop video! Every little step towards a more diverse body-scene out there is welcome.

The tag line - Every inch of you is perfect, from the bottom to the top! - can, of course, be criticized due to the fact that it is exactly the pursuit of unattainable perfection that keeps many of us down, that the real win here would actually be accepting that each body is different and be happy and loving with the one you've got.

But take for what it is - a bouncy summery pop song - that may be just right for the moment when you decide to stop worrying and complaining about the body you live in. The moment to put on something you feel comfortable in and that's adequate for the temperature out there and have fun. Yes, with bikinis*, shorts, ice cream, and all of that jazz!

 * A great source of fatkini inspiration can be found reading Virgie Tovar and GabiFresh.
All bodies = bikini bodies. Have a swimsuit and a body? Put one on the other. Voilà, enjoy!