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women

Movie Review: “On the Basis of Sex,” Directed by Mimi Leder, 2 hours

My movie buddy and I enjoyed the biopic about Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s early days in the fight for gender equality, even though it was formulaic and predictable from the beginning to the powerful ending where the real Ginsberg mounted the Supreme Court steps.

The movie is very timely as it hit theaters just as Ginsberg was missing her very first sessions while battling lung cancer. The last report I saw said that she had beaten cancer once more and was back on the job. The documentary, “RBG,” about her had just closed a week or so before this dramatization was available. Another reason that the movie is so timely is that the Supreme Court has been making headlines for years as it cleared legalities out of the way for the ongoing power-grab of the plutocracy.

Only Ginsberg’s early legal efforts, and especially her first big trial before the Supreme Court, are covered. But the inference is that she went on to win more and more gains for women. We were pleased that the movie didn’t try to give all the credit to the legal system, but made the point that people change things before laws recognize it.

In discussions after the movie, we talked about the Equal Rights Amendment, which both of us fought for in the 1970s. It passed in Congress but, like any constitutional amendment, it had to be ratified in the states. We came close but we didn’t win, or rather we haven’t won yet.

The ERA would have overturned all the many statutes and case precedents justifying gender discrimination in America. Ginsberg’s approach, in the movie, was to tackle them one-by-one, and that’s what she and others have been doing. The movie implies that we’ve been winning all this time and will continue winning until gender equality is fully achieved.

But, so far, it hasn’t happened.

Why Not?

Women live longer and consequently outnumber men in America and on the planet. If they could get together, even vote together on women’s issues, they would win. But the truth is that they don’t.

Texas has had two outstanding women candidates for governor in the last two elections. Both were outstanding for their stands on women’s equality. Neither one of them won, and neither one of them got all of the women votes. I think that both of them, like Ruth Bader Ginsberg and maybe even like Hillary Clinton, made some progress; but so far no victory cigar!

Frederick Engels, in the 19th century, wrote that women were the first oppressed class, mostly because their oppression coincided with the birth of written history. Both written history and women’s oppression came about because surplus wealth was beginning to be produced. Men took that wealth and developed writing to account for it. They developed women’s oppression in order to make sure that their heirs were biologically theirs.

Engels said that women’s oppression would end in future society because women would be in the workforce and fully as productive as men. I think that’s been the case so far. The laws didn’t change first. What happened first was that women established their power and their rights in the workforce.

Union Women Are Far Ahead

Most American workers aren’t organized into unions, but the ones that are practice women’s equality rather thoroughly. As our working people attain more power, women’s equality will at long last attain its final goal.

Meantime, let’s keep marching!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s Workers Beat program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Movie Review: “Roma,” Written, directed, and filmed by Alfonso Cuarón. 135 minutes

“When I was little, we had this wonderful servant…”

Nearly all movies are about rich people. The women wear low-cut gowns and the men spiffy tuxedos. Every now and then, somebody walks on stage to bring them tea or take their hat. Every now and again, the servant gets one line which is often a wisecrack. They’re only props in the movie.

“Roma” begins with a servant. As soon as I saw her, I hoped the movie was going to be about her and not about the affluent people who command her every thought and motion. For once, my hope was realized!

Her peers call her “Manita,” but the employers call her “Cleo.” She has to overcome difficulties that are just as bad, probably worse, than theirs. She depends on them completely. My favorite line in the movie was “Are you going to fire me?”

When I was young, I once sat in a booth at the Hamburger King with four high school girls. They were dissing a girlfriend whose family servant had yelled at them for some bad behavior. “I’ll never forget her name,” said one of the girls that I didn’t know very well. Then she spat the name with disgust: “Evelyn!”

The one girl I did know well, who knew me, and was looking directly at me, said, “Good thing it wasn’t Gladys, wasn’t it Gene?” My mother was a scrub woman who had worked for that family. Nobody ever made a movie about her.

But, thank goodness, somebody made a movie about Cleo and it’s getting rave reviews everywhere. The few criticisms note that the story isn’t really told from Cleo’s point of view, but from that of one of the children she served. She doesn’t get to say a lot, and she doesn’t really explain anything. She endures. From the bosses’ perspective, that’s what servants do.

We loved the movie. I’m especially grateful for it. Oddly, subscribers to Netflix can watch it at home even while it’s sweeping up awards in theaters.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio program 89.3 FM every Saturday at 9 AM Central Time. They podcast on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

It’s not about religion, nor about lack of religion

The Netflix Cowboy Epic, “Godless,” is spectacularly awful. The spectacular part is the truly wonderful scenes of horses and raw nature. The costumes are excellent. The blood and gore is spectacular. There may be more dead bodies created on-screen than in any movie I’ve seen. There are at least 100 murders and maybe another 50 combat deaths, all committed with gleeful abandon. 

The awful part is the stereotyped characters. Believe it or not they actually present a whore with a heart of gold and a gunfighter of great repute who wants to hang up his pistols. There’s a straight-shooting widow woman, there’s a charming child (who, believe it or not, idolizes the gunman), a sheriff trying to overcome a reputation for cowardice, a Bible-spouting unscrupulous villain, an amoral newspaperman, a native sidekick — just about every stereotype I’ve ever seen in decades of watching Westerns. Just to make sure you know that they will stoop to everything, they sprinkle it with unrelated nudity.

After the ultimately predictable carnage near the end of the series, I began to get even more uneasy with the plot. “Please God,” I remember saying, ‘Don’t let him ride off into the sunset!”

The advertisements give the impression that there’s going to be at least a nod toward feminism. After all, it’s supposed to take place in a town without men. No such luck! It’s a male-dominated shoot-em-up, just like all the others. It’s a spectacular one, though!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s Workers Beat program 89.3 FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcat it on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

Important as they are, elections are just battles within a much greater war. With the mid-terms over, we now have opportunities to organize working families.

Here in Dallas, for example, there’s an action against Trump’s proxy war in Yemen on Monday. There will be more. Christmas and New Years’ are great times for social organizing. The nationwide coalition watching the Mueller investigations may be calling more street actions any day now. The MLK birthday falls on a Tuesday next year. The event with the most potential is the Women’s March set for Saturday, January 19.

January 19, 2016, was the biggest day of protest in American history. Women set the pace, but all kinds of issues were included in the giant marches all over the nation. None of those issues has been resolved. In fact, the outlook has generally worsened; consequently, one might expect January 19, 2019, to surpass the 2016 events.

Here are two more good reasons for expecting an even bigger protest in 2019:

  1. The worldwide situation is causing unprecedented demonstrations in other parts of the world. Americans are learning from them
  2. Success inspires more success, and the number of women elected to Congress in 2018 set a new record.

Starting now, let’s add a third reason for a big turnout on January 19: you and I are already started working on it!

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. They podcast on Itunes. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my tacky little personal web site

 

Book Review:

Smith, Norma, “Jeannette Rankin. America’s Conscience.” Montana Historical Society Press, Helena, 2002.

jeannette-rankin

According to the intro, Norma Smith wrote this in the 1970s. She died in 2001, before they decided to publish it. She developed the information by research and visiting Rankin several times in the 1970s. It seems suitable to read this book in late 2018, because the mid-term elections put a record 100 women into Congress! But once, there was only Jeannette Rankin.

I was impressed with the historical value of this volume. I know a little bit about some of the historical events involving Rankin, but this work brings it together and contributes valuable information.

I especially like trying to understand the transitional nature of politics during and after World War I. Up to 1916, African Americans and other progressives generally supported the Republican Party because they won the war to end slavery. The Republicans lost some of that vote because of overt racism during the T.R. Roosevelt administration. Major African American leaders such as W.E.B. Dubois switched to the Democrats during the 1916 presidential race partially because President Wilson said he had “kept us out of war.”

Jeannette Rankin ran as a Republican, but she didn’t consult them when she voted. She apparently didn’t consult anybody!

Rankin was a major mover of the suffragette movement. She was a congresswoman twice. She stood up for many social programs benefiting, especially, women and children. She was an important part of the pacifist movement and is the only person to have voted against both WWI and WWII. Each of those votes ended her political career at the time, even though she had been elected both times by anti-war voters. I guess that’s how fast public opinion can change.

I’m not sure what it means, but Rankin was a big disappointment to the feminist movement of the 1960s. I think she opposed the Equal Rights Amendment! By the time she died, women did not esteem her. Anti-war activists certainly did, though, because she lived long enough to add her voice to protests of the American adventure in Vietnam.

jeannette-rankin-peace

Earlier, Rankin was smeared in many different ways. Anaconda Copper was one of her enemies, and they controlled most of the press in Montana.  Among the slurs against her was the often charge of communist. According to this book, she could not have possibly been a disciplined or consistent communist, because she voted, during her second term, to extend the Dies witch-hunt Committee. It changed its name to House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

There were some intersections between Rankin’s life and that of my personal hero, Frank Little. She was born in Missoula, and apparently lived there when the IWW carried out its first big free speech fight. She came to Butte within weeks after Frank Little’s lynching. She apparently did not publicly approve of Little, but she decried the manner of his death.

I knew that the suffragette movement was fractious and I knew that FDR had to overcome a lot of resistance as he maneuvered the United States into World War II, but I’d never seen the detail that I find in this book.

There are a lot of other interesting historical people in this book. Texans may be interested in Rankin’s long friendship with Maury Maverick of San Antonio. Maverick wrote her that she had done the right thing in voting against WWI, but he wrote that he had changed his position because WWII was different. He wanted her to vote for war, as almost everybody did after Pearl Harbor. She stuck to her guns and voted against it anyway. It’s interesting to speculate about her motives and what might have happened.

One of the things I didn’t know is that FDR had already moved to wreck the Japanese economy months before Pearl Harbor. According to this book, FDR left them little choice but to attack. Rankin generally did not support FDR.

As far as I can figure out, Rankin’s politics were inconsistent, as middle-class politics generally are. She was remembered as an eccentric in her personal life and in politics. But I don’t think anybody ever accused her of following somebody else.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” radio program 89.3FM in Dallas and on-line at 9 AM every Saturday Central Time. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal web site

My astute movie buddy found out that Texas Women’s University was staging Bertold Brecht’s play, “Mother Courage” in nearby Denton, Texas. She bought tickets immediately, thereby providing a genuine educational experience for me.

My own experience with Brecht had never gone much further than listening to Bobby Darin’s 1960s rock song, “Mack the Knife.” But I knew he had been a communist and was a German who opposed Hitler. This play was written about the time the Nazis invaded Poland. The play doesn’t mention Hitler nor WWII, it is set in the Thirty Years’ War in Europe in the 17th century. But then,”M.A.S.H.” was set in Korea, but it was about Vietnam.

Wikipedia says, “Mother Courage is considered by some to be the greatest play of the 20th century, and perhaps also the greatest anti-war play of all time.” You should try to see it if you can, but not because you’re going to like the title character. Or not because you’re going to like anybody at all in this play. They’re not heroic nor self-sacrificing, not physically beautiful, not charming, not tremendously insightful nor clever. They are just people. In other words, this is not an American play. As far as I know, Hollywood has never shown the slightest interest in filming it.

Apparently, Bertold Brecht didn’t believe in cultivating emotional transference between his characters and the audience. He felt that nothing should get in the way of the basic art experience between audience members and the entire performance. He wanted to make his point. In this case, his point was that war is an awful thing benefiting no one, and perhaps adding that people who try to exploit war deserve help the least.

Mother Courage and her children sell food and sundries to Protestant soldiers, or sometimes to the Catholics, in the devastating religious war underway. The thing that she and others in the play dread most is the possible ending of the war. It would cut off their livelihoods. This message is more than obvious in a conversation between two Swedish soldiers in the first scene. The rest of the play enlarges the theme, like a map of battle zones, by sticking pins in it.

Movie Review:

“The Hate U Give,” Directed by George Tillman Jr, 129 Minutes

It’s a young adult movie made from a young adult novel. I am not at all sure how African American moviegoers will view it, but it’s a great introductory course on Black Lives Matter for the rest of us.

As you can figure out from the trailer, the story is about how teenagers are affected when a white police officer shoots an unarmed young Black man. It’s an unfortunately familiar problem. The film’s treatment is pretty strong, even though some might say it isn’t strong enough, and it covers many aspects of racism today. That makes it really worthwhile.

Luckily, it’s also a very fine movie. The screenplay is tight, the pacing is about right, the cinematography and the music jell together well, and the actors are simply wonderful. No matter what anybody thinks of the movie, I doubt they will be able to resist the unfathomable charm of the young star played by Amandla Stenberg.

at arrivals for EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING Special VIP Screening, TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly Grauman's), Los Angeles, CA May 6, 2017. Photo By: Priscilla Grant/Everett Collection

It makes all the sense in the world that her character’s name is “Star.” Her siblings, too, have empowering names that help carry the plot along. Coincidentally, the actress’s name, Amandla, also carries a lot of punch.  The word “Amandla” means “Power.” It is explained on Wikipedia.

When a movie is this enjoyable, it’s hard to remember that it’s also timely and important.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON radio’s “Workers Beat” program, 89.3 FM in Dallas, at 9 AM Central Time every Saturday. If you are curious about what I really think, check out my personal site