Tag Archive: Oppression Of Women

“I Am Not A Witch”: Review!

“I Am Not A Witch” (2017) is a Zambian film that mixes magic realism with biting social commentary. For those interested in dipping their toes into African Cinema, I highly recommend!

With Love/ Maaretta

Hello readers, I´m in New York right now! And just finished one major course at the university, with another course coming to an end (meaning lots and lots of time consumed by studying for the exam). So since I have quite little time, I would like to just briefly recommend some films, Tv series and Graphic novels. During this month I can say that a post on the Adult swim television series “Rick and Morty” will be posted soon enough, and a discussion about a “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic” episode is due this month as well. So stay tuned, and check out some of the stuff mentioned below.

The film “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is an excellent character study as well as a psychological thriller. It tells the story of a young girl who struggles with reuniting with her sister after escaping a cult. It´s directed by Sean Durkin and stars Elizabeth Olson, who does an excellent job depicting the complexities of being brainwashed, as well as how painful it can be in the battle of freeing oneself from the oppressions of authoritarian control. John Hawkes (known mostly by his roles in “Deadwood” and “Winter´s Bone”) is shockingly creepy as the cults charismatic leader. “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is also a riveting depiction of systematic sexual abuse and oppression of women. The cult has extremely old fashioned views on gender, and therefore rape is used as a form of getting the newly recruited women to submit. Martha, the films protagonist, not only undergoes such abuse herself but is also shown drugging another girl during such rituals. It´s disturbing, but unfortunately feels like an honest account of how different forms of groups and societies control women. The film easily passes the Bechdel test, and has a heart-breaking depiction of Martha´s relationship to her sister. Martha´s sister tries to understand and support her, but it´s a difficult situation. Few films have such an honest depiction of family: showing events of the interpersonal which even the most loving family members are not able to control nor come to grips with. It´s an unsettling, moving and tragic watch, and it´s a guarantee that once you´ve seen the film you´ll never forget it.


“The Snows of Kilimanjaro” is a 2011 French film that has nearly nothing to do with Ernest Hemingway. Despite the name being a little misleading, this film is a thought-provoking, political piece that is neither simplistic nor preachy. Directed by Robert Guédiguian, the film spins the tale of an elderly couple who are life-long Marxists and who, once they find themselves the victims of a robbery, are forced to question not only their ideologies but also themselves. The film unravels the robber’s story, the thief’s mother, the aforementioned couple and the couple’s children – with all of the characters attempting to come to terms with their feelings, thoughts, and views on the situation. The director cleverly gives each character reasonable arguments. The thief points out that despite the couples avowed Marxism, they still exist in the sphere of the privileged due to their class and that what they may consider fair is not always fair for someone else. The robber’s mother (who has abandoned all of her three children, forcing the thief to become the sole provider for his two underage brothers) points out that it was her boyfriends (the robber and his brothers have two different fathers) who pressured her into having children and then promptly abandoned her after the children were born. The film also attempts to convey how little acts of kindness can at times solve huge problems. A smart film well worth watching!

Original french poster

Original french poster

“Daddy´s Girl” by Debbie Drechler is a very nauseating, but powerful graphic memoir. When Ms. Drechler was a child, she was reputably molested by her father. This would later reflect in her relationships in college, where she undergoes a rape and isolation from her peers. The comic is short, but honest in its brutality and melancholy. Dreschler shows the many layers and forms of abuse, and how they intertwine with each other. It is filled with gut wrenching scenes such as when Debbie wonders if she is a horrible person, since god allows her father to molest her and if her mother is so distant to her due to her father’s abuse. Even more unsettlingly, the comics end is left open, making the reading experience even more a disturbing endeavor. It´s fairly harsh, but definitely worth the read.

Scene from "Daddy´s girl"

Scene from “Daddy´s girl”

This recommendation is no doubt cliché, and therefore I´ll keep this extra short. I was first not sure whether I should or shouldn’t watch “Breaking Bad”, but finally caved in and have loved every minute of watching the first four seasons (fifth season still unseen). It follows a chemistry teacher named Walter White, who in order to pay for his cancer treatments takes up with his former student Jesse to cook Crystal Meth. The writing is tight, the acting superb and the comedic moments (bloody) hilarious. One of the best acting performances was done by Giancarlo Esposito, who plays the drug kingpin and Walters temporary boss Gustavo “Gus” Fring. Gus´ calm and collected demeanor is eerie yet fascinating, and as he switches between playing nice to ruthlessly violence one is reminded of such works as “American Psycho”. Gus has also an interesting back-story and motivations, which the show did an excellent job building up. “Breaking Bad” has also done one of the funniest bottle episodes, where Walt obsesses over killing a fly. Great series!

Walter and Jesse

Walter and Jesse

That’s about it for now. Happy Watching and reading!

A short yet richly detailed novel, “Women Without Men” starts out by telling stories about five different Iranian women, who in time all meet and work together in a unique garden. The novel was an inspiration for artist Shirin Neshats video series that bared the identical name.

Left to right: author Ms. Shahrnush Parsipur and director Ms. Shirin Neshat

Shahrnush Parsipur has been a highly productive writer since her debut in the late 1970’s. She was born in 1946 in Iran, but after being arrested for her political opinions in 1974, she fled the country in 1976. After living and studying philosophy and Chinese in France, she returned to Iran in the 1980’s where she was once again imprisoned. Her most famous and controversial novel “Women Without Men” was written in 1974 and ultimately published in 1989. Ms. Parsipur currently lives in the United States.

The five main characters are lively, captivating women. Their stories are distressing but hopeful. As heroines they are strong and eager to discover what the world has to offer, but first they have to overcome their traditional backgrounds. Parsipur graciously blends surrealistic life tales with down-to-earth heroines. Even if the women face serious obstacles that many women deal with in real life, the surrealism featured in the novel opens up new possibilities of authorial potential and grants unorthodox directions and opportunities for these women towards developing independence and find a ground for fulfilling their dreams.

For instance one of the women through the surrealistic telling is given a chance to stand up to her extremely abusive brother, while another woman is able to start her own career after years of being trapped in an unhappy marriage. A third finds love after a sorrowful life in a brothel. While not overly optimistic, “Women without men” illustrates both the oppression of women as well as female empowerment. The oppression is shown as the existent fact of the social, and unfortunately existing situation for women, whilst the surrealistic elements are played through in the combination of stories as the portrayal of desire and hope for transcendence from the operations of suppression through empowerment.

Picture from Ms. Neshat’s film series “Women Without Men”

Parsipur paints up a world where women can discover their strength and self-worth through her colorful and elegant language. She highlights troubles of women, but also inspires to work against these confluences and impositions of gender imposed troubles. The freedom that women have may be limited, but “Women without men’s” inspirational tales make the future of all women seem much more bright and promising.

Yvonne Vera (1964-2005) was one of the first women writers from Zimbabwe to get international attention and acclaim. Even though she lived major parts if her life in Canada, her fiction took place in Zimbabwe and centered on the lives of young Zimbabwean women. Vera described her home lands dark history under British colonization and oppression while also giving a sharp, feminist critique to the domineering and repressive attitudes of the men in the country. Yvonne Vera was an extraordinarily astonishing writer who died much before her time due complications of AIDS. Luckily she has left a great literary legacy behind.

Vera’s definitely most famous novel, “Butterfly Burning” centers around the life of a lively young and ambitious woman called Phephelaphi, who falls passionately in love with a much older man, Fumbatha. The two lovers move in together in hopes of happiness. But Phephelaphi wishes to educate herself and become a nurse, while Fumbatha pushes Phephelaphi for her life to find its only dedication to him alone (as the roles of men and women should play out in this culture). This causes a major conflict in the relationship, and Phephelaphi is forced to reconsider her love.

“Butterfly Burning” is Vera’s manifesto to independence and female liberation. Phephelaphi fights the patriarchical society to get the freedom she earns for. Through the character of Phephelaphi Vera portrays the difficulty women face when their strength and liberty is made clear. Phephelaphis only weapon is her determination. The novel has a bittersweet tone; even if Phephelaphi is strong and is ready to fight for her rights, she still must suffer continual heartbreaks at the hands of the patriarchical society.

In Fumbatha Vera depicts both an intolerant patriarch, but also a victim of the colonization. As a child he’s father is mercilessly and brutally killed at the hands of the Englishmen. Vera makes it clear that such crimes were too often committed during the colonization of Zimbabwe and gives the reader a clear image of the traumatic modern history of the country. Many habitants of Zimbabwe suffer from this history. Fumbatha’s anger is understandably due to his past; but Vera still gives him little sympathy when he tries to hold back Phephelaphi only because she is a woman.

“Butterfly Burning” illustrates independence which freshly emerges in women born into a male dominant society as well as habitants of a colonized land. Both must face great challenges to free themselves and gain self control. Vera’s novel tells in poetic and lyrical sentences of the harsh lives of the subjugated. The novel describes in frank words that the road to liberation is long, but reachable.

In “Without a name” the young woman Mazvita goes to drastic measures after first becoming pregnant and therefore being kicked out by her live-in lover. After giving birth to her child, Mazvita walks the streets of Harare ( the capital of Zimbabwe). Riots are breaking out in the politically hostile environment. Mazvita can barely survive the restless streets and sees little hope of being able to feed her child. As the riots unevenly rise and accelerate, Mazvita makes a heartbreaking decision.

“Without a name” gives, as the title suggest, an image of a woman with little identity in society. No one notices or cares about her and her child. The riots don’t scare her since she is not really a part of them, even if she witnesses vicious violence. Her own fate is already too ferocious for her to care about the fate of others.

“Under the tongue” tells the story of a girl who is left alone with her grandmother after her father is murdered by her mother. Zhizha, the girl, suffered sexual abuse at the hands of her father. The mother, unable to turn to any help, defends her daughter by killing him. She is then imprisoned. Zhizha loses her ability and courage to speak up and express her. As she vaguely remembers the horrors she’s lived through, her grandmother bound, teaching Zhizha to finally to talk and once and for all confront the abuse.

In “Under the Tongue” Vera illustrates the importance to talk about the dark and harsh realities. She sharply attacks cultures where women and girls (as well as men and boys) are hushed and denied the chance to tell their stories and therefore denied the right to properly heal. “Under the Tongue” is a dedication to language and the beauty of dialogue; it is through these two things that a society can end violence.

Yvonne Veras prose is unique in its use of blending versus with prose. Nature, humans as well as events are gracefully and elegantly portrayed. As nature is described as beautiful, the events and actions of humans vary from horrible to depressing to hopeful. The major theme of the novels being the lack of freedom. Too often must the women suffer and pay for the gender they were born into.

Yvonne Vera’s novels are must reads for anyone interested in women’s issues.

Zimbabwe's Flag

Recently, in the last midterm elections, the USA has seen an increase in the number of women running for political office. Usually this would be considered a good thing from the feminist position, unfortunately a lot of these female politicians are women that are against certain basic women’s rights and support ideologies of overt sexist conservative males. This problem for women has cropped up not only in the US, but also in countries like Iran and Costa Rica. However, the increase of Anti-feminist women is most notable in USA.

The political blog “The Daily Kos” has published an right-on analysis of this phenomena by Kaili Joy Gray titled, correctly enough, “The Year of the Women That Wasn’t”. It is interesting to see so many women politicians with such strong colonized-consciousness’s! But luckily women voters aren’t being fooled by these faux-feminist women: Check out the article here.

Since so many women politicians are holding these strong right wing views that cut back on women, I think it’s time we coin a word to describe this kind of phenomena: I, simply, suggest the term, “Manwashed”. This term is coined from “Whitewashed“, which means a black person who is propagandized and internalizes the views of whites, which makes him/her want to go against his/her better interest, and the interests of her/his group, and help the dominate oppression of a certain white class. “Manwashed” is a good term to use on women who have internalized ideologies of essentialisms and dominations of a certain men’s class (and one which still runs strongly through-out our society) and their oppressive views on women. A typical Manwashed woman in my eyes would be typified by Sarah Palin, who is against abortion even in rape/incest cases and made women pay for the Rape Kit when she was governor of Alaska.