Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Feminist Bookshelf: "The Tortilla Curtain"

In view of recent events, T.C. Boyle's novel "The Tortilla Curtain" -- a slang term referring to the U.S./Mexico border -- is just as significant today as it was when it was written in 1995.

This is a classic "muckraking" novel in the style of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle."

During August, President Obama signed the Southwest Border Security Bill. The bill approves $600 million to increase the number of boarder patrol agents and supports U.S. Marshals and other law enforcement agencies whose purpose is to investigate immigration violations.

It is a small step towards what the Obama administration hopes will lead to more bipartisan cooperation on the larger issue of immigration reform.

Immigration has been a hot-button topic down through the years.

And in this post 9/11 world of heightened security and economic turmoil, it has the engines of public opinion and politics revving once again.

It is also of vital interests to global feminists who see the connections of oppressions, both social and political, that affect women around the world.

The novel's plot is about borders -- both personal and geographical. Both are meant to keep something out whether it be human or nonhuman.

The novel's main characters are two couples. Delany and Kyra Mossbacher are a comfortable suburban pair "living the good life" in an upscale neighborhood in Topanga Canyon, Calif.

Candido and America Rincon are a pair of illegal immigrants from Mexico. Their home is a crude campsite in the canyon.

To them, the so-called "good life" means just having their basic needs met with food and clothing, a decent apartment, and work -- almost any kind of honest work.

The lives of the Mossbachers and the Rincons run in concentric circles that do, on occasion, intersect through a series of direct and indirect events.

Although they consider themselves "liberal humanists," the Mossbacher's commitment to the fundamental belief in human freedom is severely tested once their personal borders are breached.

When the Mossbbacher's homeowner's association wants to construct a stucco wall around the neighborhood, Delaney is against it. As an outdoor writer, it will inhibit his view and access to the area.

Yet, when a chain fence fails to keep coyotes -- an invasive species -- from killing the family's dogs, Delaney supports the proposal.

The Delaney's neighbors view immigrants the same way -- as an invasive species -- and the Mossbachers buy into it through extension even though it runs contrary to their liberal belief system .

The neighbors speak of the need to "get control of the border" to keep out the illegal immigrants who -- like the coyotes -- if allowed to cross that border, will threaten to take "what's ours" -- whether it be a dog or a job.

Of course this thinking is totally paranoid and illogical -- not to mention ethnocentric, prejudiced, and dangerous.

And yet, there are some similarities between the human and non-human species. Both are being forced out of their habitats by progress and politics and might not have a choice when it comes to survival. They must cross borders.

So, do fences make good neighbors? Do borders make good politics? In classic muckraking style, Boyle leaves that for his readers to figure out.

Other books by T.C. Boyle:

"The Road to Wellville"
"East is East"
"World's End"

Updated 11.29.10

Monday, August 30, 2010

Two great reasons to shop Avon now

Reason #1:

Avon sets and example as a socially-responsible corporation.

Since 2008, Avon and UNIFEM have partnered to end violence against women.

100% of the profits from their "Empowerment" products goes to the United Nations Development Fund for Women.

In addition to the original bracelet and necklace, Avon has added a ring($5), t-shirt($15), and wrap ($15).

Great gifts for a great cause.

Reason #2:

Avon sets and example as an environmentally-responsible corporate neighbor.

Avon has launched the "Hello Green Tomorrow" campaign to replenish South America's Atlantic Rainforest -- the lungs of the earth.

According to the program's website, it's goal is to "empower a global women’s environmental movement to nurture nature, leveraging our unique ability to educate, engage and mobilize worldwide through our women-to-women network of over 6 million Sales Representatives. Every dollar plants a tree. We started with a contribution of $1 million to plant 1 million trees in South America's Atlantic Rainforest."

Your $1 contribution can be added to your Avon order.

Star Trekking with Cherie

WADL 38 here in Detroit recently ran a "Star Trek" Marathon -- 15 original series episodes over five days.

Watching some of these "viewer favorites" lead me to think about my own favorite episodes; "Star Trek's" creator, the late Gene Roddenberry; and feminism.

Although I would not personally peg Roddenberry as a feminist, he was a brilliant writer with a vivid imagination and the fire to pursue his dream.

He told classic stories with timeless themes. They play as fresh today as when they were written over 40 years ago.

Showing great insight into the human condition, Roddenberry explored racism, ethnocentrism, conflict, power, and patriarchy.

Roddenberry also made the series timeless by creating the "star date" instead of framing it within the Gregorian calendar. The episodes could be anywhere in time.

Much content analysis -- both positive and negative -- has been done regarding the female characters of "Star Trek," .

Perhaps the future isn't all that different from the present. Although humankind is technically advanced, many of the same sexist attitudes and portrayals are still in place. Sound familiar?

Or, maybe this was one of the clever devices used by Roddenberry to express a challenge for change that requires constant checking of our thoughts and attitudes.

Here are my top five favorite episodes, in no particular order, so you can enjoy a mini-marathon anytime -- courtesy of hulu.

Turnabout Intruder A former flame takes over Captain Kirk's body and places his essence in her own. How many female stereotypes can you count here?

The Squire of Gothos Kirk and company become the playmates of a super being who isn't exactly what he appears to be.

Space Seed One of the most famous episodes -- the prelude to the movie "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." William Shatner was intensely jealous of the late Ricardo Montalban -- or, for that matter, any male costar who threatened his place in the patriarchal pecking order.

Plato's Stepchildren. Features the famous interracial kiss. A boundary-pushing Roddenberry first.

Arena This episode teaches an important, timeless lesson in humanity on so many levels. Amazing. It also features one of my favorite extraterrestrials -- the Gorn.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cherie on WXOU 88.3 FM

During my last semester at Oakland University, I will be working at the student radio station, WXOU 88.3 FM.

I will be reading and writing international and entertainment news to start.

Catch me this Friday at 2:00 p.m. for the week's news in review.

Live streaming from the website works best.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Poetry Podcast: Selections from "Whispers of the Lakota"

I didn't have to go looking for this month's selections -- they came to me.

They came in the form of a little book of poetry by the children of the Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, SD titled "Whispers of the Lakota."

Listen to the poems here:

I was struck by the insight and hope of these young Native Americans who embrace their culture, understand their history, and find strength within themselves.


About the Red Cloud Indian School

According to its website, Red Cloud was founded as Holy Rosary Mission in 1888 by the Jesuits at the request of Chief Red Cloud, a leader of the Oglala Sioux Indians residing on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The Red Cloud Indian School, Inc., is a non-profit corporation (501C3) operating as an accredited private school and organized under the laws of the state of South Dakota. Private donations support 97 percent of Red Cloud Indian School. The school receives no Federal, State, or Tribal funds.

The Red Cloud Indian School provides a quality education of the mind and heart for almost 600 Native American students every day. The main campus near Pine Ridge Village consists of one of the largest private Native American schools in the country.

About the Lakota people

In popular parlance, several of the plains tribes are referred to by the loose term "Sioux".

Sioux is actually the French abbreviation of the Ojibwe (Chippewa) word meaning "snake", and was originally a reflection on the stealth and sudden striking capability for which they were well known among those groups and tribes who considered them to be enemies.

The Sioux identify themselves as Lakota (pronounced in some dialects as Dakota or Nakota), a term which means "friend" or "ally" in the Lakota language.

The Lakota Nation has had a long history of great and well known leaders such as Red Cloud, Big Foot, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and American Horse.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ecofeminism in action: The story of "Pick Up Line"

I was not aware that fishing line left in the water can cause so much harm to wildlife.

The problem goes beyond this story I did for The Oakland Press:

Water fowl dying from fishing line left in area lakes -- 19 Aug. 2010

In the process of researching the story, I met Pamm Tarchinski of Grand Haven, Mich.

Pamm is a wildlife enthusiast who saw an environmental problem and took responsibility to solve it.

After seeing many water birds injured by "spooled off" fishing line left in the water of the ponds and lakes near her home, she began to do research.

She found out the problem goes far beyond local ponds and lakes. It extends to the ocean where it can affect animals as large as whales.

Pamm also found a solution in special recycling containers made from PVC pipe and connectors placed in strategic locations around lakes and rivers.

She initiated a local project with help from her neighbors, Grand Haven's city council, and its department of public works.

Here's Pamm with one of her containers that can yield up to a bushel of fishing line every two weeks:

Pamm has a website pkupline.com where she has instructions for making the recycling containers.

Also included is her documentary called -- appropriately -- "Pick Up Line."

Pamm has put personal responsibility together with ingenuity to protect our environment and our fellow earthlings.

And that is ecofeminism in action.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"The Sexual Politics of Meat" --- Sexy or sexist?

Pamela Anderson's recent PETA ad has been deemed too racy for Montreal -- but it's really just a new take on an old idea.

I made this connection while ordering my text books for my gender and international relations class.

The cover of Carol J. Adams' book "The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory" features the "Cattle Queen," a nude woman with her body marked for various cuts of "meat."

So what's the big deal? Pam's wearing a bikini.

Here's the big pictures the critics are missing --

Is there a connection between the objectification of animals and the objectification of women? YES.

And this ad makes that point clear.

Women are sometimes referred to as a "piece of meat" or their treatment is referred to as "like a piece of meat."

Perhaps this ad is unknowingly feminist by refocusing on the sexual politics of meat consumption.

But only those of us looking through a very sharp feminist lens would know it.

Read Adams' book -- I am.

Mad Max Mel crashes car in Malibu

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy!

Mel Gibson is best known for his recent misogynist tirades against his former girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, who is also the mother of his baby daughter.

Oh, by the way, he's also a racist.

You must read "Hate hides behind many faces" by one of my favorite people, Leonard Pitts, Jr. -- just scroll on down.

From Yahoo News and the Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – The California Highway Patrol says Mel Gibson crashed his sportscar into a Malibu hillside but was not injured.

The agency says Gibson crashed his 2008 Maserati into a hillside on southbound Malibu Canyon Road around 8:35 p.m. Sunday. Gibson's spokesman, Alan Nierob, says the actor is doing fine.

Police say Gibson was alone in the car and that alcohol was not suspected in the crash. A news release states that a friend picked up the 54-year-old actor-director from the scene.

No further details were released and it was unclear how much damage Gibson's car sustained.

Hate hides behind many faces


Apparently, Mel Gibson is a better actor than anyone knew. He got in touch with his feminine side in the movie “What Women Want,” direct­ed by Nancy Meyers. But he hates women. He famously partnered with Danny Glover and lent his voice to a docu­mentary celebrating African-American military history. But he hates black people. Or so you must conclude if you believe last week’s bomb­shell from Radar Online, a celebrity gossip Web site. It reported on July 1 that Gib­son’s estranged girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, had taped him in the throes of a profane­ly and profoundly hateful rant. He reportedly called Grigorieva, with whom he has an infant daughter, a “whore,” a “b----” and a particularly vulgar term for the female pudendum. Then there is this pungent quote: “You look like a f------ pig in heat and if you get raped by a pack of n------ it will be your fault.” You may think the most damning word in that quote is the n-word. Actually, it’s just before that. After all, only animals hunt in packs. At this writing, it is nearly a week since the story broke and Gibson has yet to deny the authenticity of those words, even as he has come under fire from the NAACP, Gloria Allred and Jesse Jack­son. If all this seems familiar, it is because Gibson made in­ternational headlines four years ago when, during a traffic stop for drunken driv­ing, he exploded into a tirade against the “f------ Jews.” I slammed the actor as a bigot, drawing cries of protest from some readers. You shouldn’t be so hard on him, they said. The guy had been drinking. Stuff happens. I can only hope those read­ers are paying attention now. People tend to have this naive notion about hate. They think it’s something you can see at 20 paces, something obvious and over-the-top, like the Nazis that Jack Kirby drew for Marvel Comics; you always knew they were evil from their craggy teeth and bad skin.

But hate looks like a grand­mother baking cookies, a teacher standing in front of the class, a preacher opening his Bible. It looks like you or me, like anybody anywhere.

The philosopher Hannah Arendt famously wrote of what she called the “banality of evil.” Well, there is a banal­ity to hatred, too. We are conditioned to expect a grand, operatic malevolence, but there is nothing grand about it. Hatred is ordinary, hatred is insipid, hatred is small and mean. It is a series of compro­mises made with conscience, an expedience that bypasses thought and compassion.

It is a sickness, and Gibson apparently has it bad.

I probably shouldn’t feel sorry for him, but I do. I want to be furious at him, but the only thing I feel is pity. If these accusations are true, he is a troubled and conflicted man. I hope he gets better soon.

But solving the problem will require facing it. And who can say if he will? Consider that back in 2006, when his anti-Semitic outburst was in the headlines, the actor apolo­gized profusely, then said: “Please know from my heart that I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot.” It was an astonishing statement from a man who had just cursed the Jews for causing all the wars in the world. There was in it an echo of the alcoholic in denial, refusing what every­one else knows to be self­evident.

It will be interesting to see if Gibson is now done denying. Meanwhile, he has given us all a valuable object lesson.

If it is true that those of us who have been hated some­times have a hair trigger that sees hatred everywhere, it is also true that many of our countrymen who lack that experience have a blind spot that keeps them from seeing it anywhere, even when it is blazingly obvious.

So Gibson’s travails remind us: Hate isn’t always as obvi­ous as a Jack Kirby Nazi.

Sometimes, hate is hand­some, familiar and beloved.

Indeed, sometimes, hate looks like a movie star.

Fire Fun Day at the Troy Museum and Historic Village

I had a great time learning about fire safety with Lt. Tonya Perry of the Troy Fire Department.

Perry has been a fire fighter for 25 years. She is a member of Troy's volunteer fire force and is in charge of fire safety and education.

What is the leading cause of fires today? Watch and find out:

Homemaker of the year exemplifies care-focused feminism

Charlene Jolly of Highland Township, Mich. was named Homemaker of the Year at the Oakland County Fair in Davisburg, Mich. last month.

Read my article from The Oakland Press here.

When I interviewed Charlene, she was "so proud" of her accomplishment -- and she should be!

Care-based professions -- and yes, a homemaker is a profession -- are seldom recognized or respected in our society.

Care-focused feminism is the first feminist model that I personally identified with -- because it's so damn simple.

By focusing on care it embraces the best of human nature and extends the ethics of care to both men and women.

What a concept.

Here is care-focused feminist theory in a nutshell -- very well put by Wikipedia:

"While some feminists have criticized care-based ethics for reinforcing traditional stereotypes of a “good woman” others have embraced parts of this paradigm under the theoretical concept of care-focused feminism.

"Care-focused feminism is a branch of feminist thought, informed primarily by ethics of care as developed by Carol Gilligan and Nel Noddings. This body of theory is critical of how caring is socially engendered to women and consequently devalued. 'Care-focused feminists regard women’s capacity for care as a human strength' which can and should be taught to and expected of men as well as women. Noddings proposes that ethical caring has the potential to be a more concrete evaluative model of moral dilemma, than an ethic of justice. Noddings’ care-focused feminism requires practical application of relational ethics, predicated on an ethic of care.

"Critical of how society engenders caring labor, theorists Sara Ruddick, Virginia Held, and Eva Feder Kittay suggest caring should be performed and care givers valued in both public and private spheres. Their theories recognize caring as an ethically relevant issue. This proposed paradigm shift in ethics encourages that an ethic of caring be the social responsibility of both men and women."

Congratulations, Charlene. You embody care-focused feminism whether you know it or not -- and you look beautiful.

Cherie's finale at the Oakland Press

My internship is now officially done.

A special thanks to my editor, Julie Jacobson, a strong, confident, intelligent woman and a wonderful exemplar.

Dancing with Grace: Birmingham's Grace Kowalski partakes in rigorous ballet program in New York -- 02 August 2010

Cemetery to honor vets for VJ Day - 04 August 2010
See my video here -- it will move you:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ecofeminism in action: Camp Casey

Yes, we are all earthlings.

Definition: One who inhabits the earth.

But, until we experience a personal connection with another species, the true meaning of those words can be lost on us.

I recently met three ladies who make that personal connection possible for children at a time in their lives when they can be fragile and vulnerable.

Enter Molly Melamed, Lauren Maiman, and Amy Gill, all of Ferndale, Mich.

They run an organization called Camp Casey.

Camp Casey provides horseback riding camps and other horse-related activities for children who are suffering from cancer and their families.

In the process Camp Casey does two unique things -- strengthens family connections and makes interspecies connection possible.

And that is ecofeminism in action -- right here in Oakland County.

Read my article about Camp Casey here:

Camp Casey events focus on families -- The Oakland Press 02 August 2010


"Diana: A strange autobiography" dared to tell the truth

Here is a segment from one of my favorite PBS shows, "The History Detectives" with my personal favorite detective, Tukufu Zuberi.

Every week there is fabulous research in action on this show with wonderful results that bring truth and closure.

This segment begins with Randy Sell of New York City and a book he found at a used book store entitled, "Diana -- a strange autobiography" by Diana Fredericks.

The book was first released in 1939.

When he found the book, Sell was writing a dissertation and was "really interested in books about lesbian, gay, bisexual people."

The 1930's saw multiple restrictions against homosexuality in the United States. It was very difficult for gay men and women to live their lives openly. Hollywood banned depictions of homosexuality in the movies. And gays and lesbians were deviant or tragic characters whose story's either ended sadly or resulted in heterosexual "reform."

This book paints quite a different picture.

A publisher's note says, "This is an autobiography of a woman who tried to be "normal" (quotes mine.) Although she has found it necessary to write under a pseudonym, she has fearlessly told the truth."

Watch as Zuberi reveals Diana Fredericks true identity and sheds more light on the significance of this work:

Watch the full episode. See more History Detectives.

I was unable to find a copy of "Diana" at either the Troy Public Library or The Kresge Library on the Oakland University campus.

I did, however, find the 1995 release mentioned in the story that includes the introduction by Julie Abrams. It is available at Amazon.com for $22.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cherie at The Oakland Press -- videos

Check out my latest video production for The Oakland Press:

VIDEO: Pooches' fashion show benefits adoption center --
02 August 2010