What Else You Can Do To Fight H.R.3 & H.R.358 – Links

Aside from contacting your representative and tweeting at #dearjohn here are some quick and easy things you can do to oppose H.R.3 and H.R.358:

Sign the We Won’t Go Back to the Back Alley petition at MoveOn.org

Sign the petition at Tiger Beatdown

Modify and send this form letter from Naral to your representative.

Sign the Redefining Rape petition at Moveon.org

Ask Nancy Pelosi to lead the fight against the anti-choice agenda

Send a message to your representative through NNAF

Also related things you can do to protect reproductive rights:

Take the Naral oath to stand up to Speaker Boehner

Tell Congress you want Birth Control to be free under the new healthcare law

Sign the petition to Repeal the Hyde Amendment

Defend Planned Parenthood against right-wing smear campaign

And you can always donate to Planned Parenthood, the National Network for Abortion Funds, Naral Pro-Choice America, and National Abortion Federation.

If I’ve forgotten anything, and I’m sure I have, feel free to link in the comments!

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“No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion” & “Protect Life” Bills

So this is out of my usual topic, having nothing whatsoever to do with film, but I think it is important, as a feminist to talk about H.R. 3 the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” and H.R. 358 the “Protect Life Act.” I have been protesting these bills all week at the twitter hashtag #DearJohn, contacting my representative, signing petitions and urging others to do the same. Today I wrote a letter that I will send to all the Democrats co-sponsoring these bills. I appealed to them as Democrats in hopes that they will be more inclined to see sense than their Republican opponents. Here is my letter:

Dear Congressman;

As a Democrat and a woman I am deeply disappointed by your support of House bills H.R. 3 the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” and H.R. 358 the “Protect Life Act.”  Each bill is a profound attack on women’s reproductive rights and goes against the Democratic principles we hold so dear. I understand that you are pro-life and I respect your determination to protect fetal life even though I do not necessarily agree with it. I hope you recognize that a woman’s right to control and make decisions about her own body is equally important. No one knows the struggle a woman goes through in deciding whether or not to continue a pregnancy but the woman herself. Each time is different and I believe sincerely that women are fully capable of making decisions that include a full awareness of what is best for herself, her family, and the fetus. I hope that soon you will come to recognize this as well.

H.R. 3 the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” goes far beyond existing law to deny coverage through private insurance, denying use of funds from a Health Savings Account, and denying tax deductions for the self-employed and employers. This bill would prevent employers from making their own decisions about what coverage to offer their employees. It would harm small businesses by removing a tax incentive they depend on. It would force insurance companies to strip abortion coverage out of their plans, which is the opposite goal of health insurance reform. In these difficult economic times we should not be removing the safeguards that low-income women and small businesses depend on in order to survive, we should be extending them.

H.R. 3 would make permanent the Hyde Amendment, which disproportionately harms low-income women, preventing them from managing their families as they see fit. Each additional child is a financial burden that she and her family may be unable to bear making it harder to survive and making them more dependent on government programs like Welfare, Unemployment, and Medicaid.

HR3 will make it harder for rape victims to seek justice, by creating a hierarchy of rape that is based on the worst elements of rape culture. HR3 is based on the idea that “good” people are only raped by strangers and “good” people are the only ones deserving of medical care.* Even with the “forcible rape” language removed H.R. 3 continues to put women in the position of having to prove their rape in order to have access to abortion. In a culture where rape is difficult to report due to attitudes such as the above, this is placing an undue burden on rape survivors. 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Only 6% of rapists are ever convicted. Hyde and H.R.3 will force many women to carry pregnancies resulting from rape to term because they are unable to prove to the government’s satisfaction that they have been raped. This is a psychological and physical ordeal no one should have to suffer through. A rape is traumatic enough without having the violation continue for months due to an unwanted pregnancy your government will not allow you to terminate. This is doubly true for women in the military where sexual assault is a growing problem and access to abortion is next to impossible. Furthermore abusers often force a pregnancy on their victim as a means of control. This law, and existing law, aids perpetrators of domestic violence in abusing and controlling their victim through forced pregnancy. Victims often don’t have access to their own money and it is impossible for them to pay for an abortion out of pocket. The ban on federal funds keeps victims dependent on their abuser.

“Conscience protections” in both H.R. 3 and H.R. 358 go beyond allowing a healthcare provider to refuse to provide abortions, if that is against their beliefs. It allows pharmacists to refuse to provide contraception, which is an important means of preventing unwanted pregnancies. As a result, more women end up seeking abortions because they were unable to prevent pregnancy due to someone’s “conscience.” It allows them to also refuse Plan B, a pill that does not induce abortion, but merely prevents a pregnancy from starting. These two provisions of “conscience protections” allow abortions to become more frequent and necessary. Not less. Furthermore, H.R. 358 the “Protect Life Act” does quite the opposite. It allows ER doctors to refuse to treat women with life threatening pregnancies by both refusing to provide an abortion, and refusing to refer her to a hospital that will perform one. This goes against longstanding law mandating that in an emergency, doctors must provide lifesaving care without regard to the patient’s ability to pay. This bill would allow doctors to let pregnant women die because the life saving medical procedure is against their personal beliefs. I hope that this provision merely escaped your attention and that now you will withdraw your support for this heinous bill.

Abortion is a legal medical procedure that many women require access to in their lives. Democrats have purported to support women’s reproductive rights and as a Democrat I call on you to stand behind those words and vote no on H.R. 3 and H.R. 358. There are many things our government can do to reduce the need for abortion. Effectively banning it is not one of them. That will only lead to more dangerous and deadly abortions, or suicide, for those desperately seeking to end a pregnancy. To reduce the need for abortion we can provide comprehensive sex education so that young people can make more informed and responsible decisions about sex, whether that is to wait or use contraceptives when having sex. We can provide more accessible and affordable contraceptives, including Plan B, so that an unwanted pregnancy becomes less frequent. We can strongly pursue and prosecute rapists and abusers so that no woman is forced to have sex or become pregnant against her will. We can provide universal healthcare so that carrying a pregnancy to term becomes less dangerous and expensive. I am sure that as someone who values life that you value the lives of women equally to that of a fetus. Please remember that as you make your decision on H.R.3 and H.R. 358. Thank you for your time.

*This section I borrowed from Sady Doyle at Tiger Beatdown. She organized the #DearJohn protest and has been vocal and determined in opposing these bills. She is also a damn good writer and you should definitely be reading her blog.

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Public Enemies

The tradition of the heist film is well known; a charismatic outlaw cleverly evades police, on a spree of robbery and violence until he goes down shooting in a dramatic showdown at the end of the film while shouting his defiance. Michael Mann’s Public Enemies breaks this mold. Mann’s film is subtle and dark with outbursts of violence unfolding across stunning visual compositions. The story follows the devolution of John Dillinger, public enemy number one, as the newly formed FBI closes in on him.

A lone man stands against the desert and blue sky. Pops of gunfire flash in the night. Scenes takes place at night or in low light and shadow. Mann’s brilliance is in creating quiet moments of tension. When Dillinger escapes from jail he sits at a stoplight next to army men who could easily capture him. We wait in suspense with him until the light changes and he drives out of town. He sits in a movie theater as the screen flashes a picture of his face and tells the audience to look around for him. Later Dillinger walks into the headquarters for the man hunt and checks out their bulletin board and asks the score of the game.

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An Ode to JJ and Prentiss

It is rare to find a strong female character on a network show, much less two or three. Criminal Minds had three such women in Jennifer Jareau, Emily Prentiss, and Penelope Garcia. These women are smart, complicated, not at all fragile, and essential to the success of the team, not to mention the success of the show. Yet CBS has fired A.J. Cook and limited Paget Brewster’s episodes for the upcoming season, leaving only Kristen Vaughness and a new actress to be determined supposedly for creative reasons ” to refresh a veteran drama series.” As amazing as Vaughness’ geek goddess Penelope Garcia is she can’t make up for the now 4-1.5 split that turns the BAU into a boys club with quirky tech support. Irin at Jezebel already called out the sexism of this move in “Women Are Expendable on Criminal Minds” :

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‘Hamlet’ Holds a Mirror Up

The purpose of playing,

whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to

hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature, to show virtue

her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and

body of the time his form and pressure.

Michael Almereyda’s Hamlet addresses the self-reflexivity of the Shakespearean text in an innovative way. As the play comments on theater’s function in society, the film is equally aware of itself as cinema. Hamlet‘s self-awareness allows Shakespeare to comment on art’s reflection of life. Almereyda’s version homes in on Hamlet’s character and underlines Hamlet’s self-reflexivity applying it to film.

Hawke’s Hamlet is a filmmaker instead of an actor, a creator, who wants to control his own destiny and the performance of others. He seeks their honesty and truth while continuing to dissemble and manipulate them. He does not want others to “play upon” him yet he feigns madness and uses double meanings to assert his intelligence. The camera’s proximity and intimacy allow performance to mirror life as Hamlet desires. Continue reading

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Gimme Shelter: The Complicity of Viewing

“See the Rolling Stones and die

Gimme Shelter, the Maysles brothers’ documentary on the Rolling Stones, has been named “the most harrowing rock ‘n’ roll movie ever made.” Critics, especially around the film’s release, considered both the Maysles and the Rolling Stones complicit in the murders at the Altamont Speedway. During the concert (and therefore the film) there were 850 injured, 2 dead in a hit and run, one drowned, and Meredith Hunter was killed by a Hell’s Angel after he pulled a gun. This murder became the central event of the film, and is the climax that the film builds around. The careful structuring of the film is perhaps the reason it was thought to exploit events or even stage them for the benefit of the camera. The murder seems the inevitable conclusion of the film, raising questions about the ethics of documentary and the media in general.

Gimme Shelter begins with a photo shoot that cuts straight to a concert at Madison Square Garden on the Stones’ 1969 US Tour setting up the mold for a typical rock documentary. The filmmakers break this mold revealing the Stones in the editing room, viewing an early version of the film. We briefly see David Maysles as he tells Mick that the shots of them in the editing room will be useful because they can cut from that to anything anywhere in the film, revealing the process of filmmaking and a bit of the filmmakers themselves, though their role is only suggested not overtly integrated into the film. These shots in the editing room become a thread of self-reflexivity throughout the film, reminding the viewer that this is a film and commenting as well on the act of viewing. It also reveals the Stones reaction to their own representation. Using the editing room as the spine the first half of the film moves between footage of the Madison Square Garden concert, the set-up for the Altamont (Mick in press conferences, the lawyer and organizers who set it up, etc.) and the Stones’ down time in the recording studio and at the hotel. The second half of the film begins with a tracking shot from a helicopter over a street flooded with people and lined with cars, and continues, focusing more on the fans and the chaos that begins to erupt at the Altamont, leading to the Rolling Stones’ performance and the murder of Meredith Hunter. Continue reading

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Agnès Varda

Agnès Varda’s career as a feminist filmmaker moves from the French New Wave and Left Bank movements to political modernism, portraying with sincerity the lives of women. From her first film, La Pointe Courte (1956), she combines realism with subjective stylized editing and abstract compositions which continue throughout her work. Her feminist agenda is best represented in Le Bonheur (1965), a modernist attack on traditional morality that disturbed viewers by suggesting that one woman can easily take the place of another, and One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (1977), which traces the course of two women’s friendship from 1962-1974 to focus attention on abortion and childbearing from feminist viewpoint. Cleo from 5 to 7 (1961) and Vagabond (1985) epitomize her realist, documentary-like style intermingled with character subjectivity and authorial marks.

Cleo from 5 to 7 and Vagabond create a realistic aesthetic using aspects of a documentary and then break this illusion with the narrative structure. Cleo from 5 to 7 uses continuity of time and space, following her as she wanders through Paris in long shots or long tracking shots that allow the viewer to see through Cleo’s eyes. She pursues the Neorealist goal of portraying two hours of a woman’s life, giving equal emphasis to car rides, walking, and shopping as Hollywood does to explosions, gunfights and sex. Varda uses handheld camera, direct sound, and available light creating a realistic documentary-like style. In contrast to the realistic aesthetic the narrative is episodic and broken into thirteen chapters; breaking the illusion of reality in a Brechtian manner. The arbitrary chapters and flow of unlinked encounters show Cleo’s lack of purpose and direction. Vagabond employs the Cinema Vérité ideal of seeking truth and combines it with Art Cinema flashback structure to investigate the life of Mona Bergeron. The people who met her on the road speak directly to the camera about her, then we see it in a flashback. This structure unravels, revealing more of the lives of those who met Mona, not cutting directly between interview and flashback. It begins to show events no one had witnessed. The camera reveals not only Mona’s own life and personality but how she is perceived by and affects others. In her films, Varda gives her female protagonists the respect and integrity female characters rarely receive. Continue reading

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