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Friday, October 27, 2017

Twenty years ago, in Moscow, Matt Taibbi was a misogynist asshole—and possibly worse

Posted By on 10.27.17 at 04:40 PM

  • Penguin Random House
  • Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi has a new book out now, I Can’t Breathe, about all the forces that conspired to kill Eric Garner. It's an important story that has become part of our national conversation, as evidenced by Ryan Smith's interview with Taibbi in this week's Reader. But it's also inadvertently become part of another conversation that has risen to a crescendo in the past few weeks: the Weinstein conversation. This, of course, encompasses not just Harvey Weinstein, but the misogyny and abuse of power that allowed him, and men like him, to harass and abuse women for decades with no apparent punishment.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Happy Death Day isn’t just a horror movie, it’s a kids’ movie

Posted By on 10.25.17 at 05:52 PM

Happy Death Day
  • Happy Death Day
I consider Happy Death Day to be a lesser Blumhouse production, but the teens and preadolescents at the screening I attended last weekend seemed to love it. I can understand why—for an audience that doesn't remember Groundhog Day, the premise, which finds a college student reliving the same day over and over (and getting killed at the end of it), might seem inventive. Moreover, the film offers a vision of early adulthood that could seem appealing to kids, presenting college as a time for socializing, dating, and self-discovery. None of the characters are particularly complex, but at least one of them learns to be a better person during the course of the picture, which makes Happy Death Day surprisingly optimistic for a slasher comedy. The violence isn't even scary, since the audience knows the heroine will reawaken after she gets stabbed to death. Yet in removing a sense of consequence from violence, the movie crafts an interesting metaphor for early adulthood as a time when you can fail repeatedly at life until you get it right.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Nasty Women attempts to sum up what it's like to be a feminist in Trump’s America

Posted By on 10.11.17 at 07:32 PM

The Women's March in Chicago on January 21, 2017 - ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES
  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
  • The Women's March in Chicago on January 21, 2017

It seems inevitable that a book of essays about feminism in Trump's America would be called Nasty Women. You will recall that this is how Trump referred to Hillary Clinton during the third presidential debate almost exactly a year ago. (That wasn't the stalking debate, but the one after, when they returned to podiums.) Feminists immediately adopted the term as a point of pride. There were T-shirts and tote bags. We were sure we would be vindicated on November 8.

The day after the election, after Clinton's concession speech, Samhita Mukhopadhyay recorded a video for Mic, where she was, at the time, a senior editor. "I spent three days working on a heartfelt essay about how this was a historic moment for women," she said, trying not to cry, "and how young women that were born now, their first memory would be of a woman president, and that feels really stupid now." But Clinton's speech made her realize this wasn't a time to wallow in defeat. Instead, it was time to continue the fights against sexism, racism, and Islamophobia and "to support the voices of the people that were left behind in the election and those that are afraid right now."

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Bossy Chicago leads the way for woman-owned businesses

Posted By on 07.24.17 at 02:07 PM

Isabel Benatar and Sam Letscher, cofounders of Bossy Chicago, in the Garage at Northwestern - AIMEE LEVITT
  • Aimee Levitt
  • Isabel Benatar and Sam Letscher, cofounders of Bossy Chicago, in the Garage at Northwestern

When Samantha Letscher and Isabel Benatar, the founders of Bossy Chicago, met and became friends a little more than a year ago, in an entrepreneurship course during their sophomore year at Northwestern, they decided that one day they wanted to start a business or organization that would combine their interests in feminism and social change. Over this past winter, they began working in the Garage, Northwestern's student start-up space, and thinking more seriously about what kind of project they wanted to do.

"It was post-Trump," Letscher recalls, "and everyone was talking about boycotting companies that supported Trump's campaign and boycotting Uber. There was a lot of talk about ethical purchasing and how we shouldn't support big, bad companies that support Trump. We started to wonder, what companies should we be supporting? We wanted to make positive energy instead of telling people what not to do."

So why not, they reasoned, encourage people to start supporting woman-owned businesses by guiding them directly to those businesses? After all, people are going to go shopping or out to dinner anyway. And part of feminism is about women helping other women. So why not give another woman your money?

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled is only a superficial success

Posted By on 07.05.17 at 02:47 PM

The Beguiled
  • The Beguiled
Warning: This post contains spoilers.

I can understand why the Cannes festival jury awarded Sofia Coppola with the best director prize in May for her work on The Beguiled (which opened in Chicago last Friday). The film is exquisitely realized, with strong ambience, carefully modulated performances, and a painterly attention to textures. It builds upon Coppola's work in such movies as Marie Antoinette and The Bling Ring, drawing viewers into a particular time and place through precise detail and subtle handling of social cues. And like all of Coppola's efforts to date, The Beguiled effectively conveys a sense of isolation, which gives the movie a melancholy tinge.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

A radical collective of southeast-side girls is challenging the status quo and working to build a better world

Posted By and on 05.18.17 at 01:21 PM

Rebel Bell Natalia Ortega, 13, with her mother and mentor, Leticia Ortega - MICHELLE KANAAR
  • Michelle Kanaar
  • Rebel Bell Natalia Ortega, 13, with her mother and mentor, Leticia Ortega

On a recent Saturday morning in Veterans Park on the far southeast side, Olga Bautista crouched on the bocce court drawing lines in the sand with a stick. Eighteen girls, ranging in age from three to 18, sat on a bench, watching. "This is Torrance Avenue," she said, pointing at the line down the middle, "and this is 95th, and over here's 100th. That's South Deering, and there's Jeffery Manor. I grew up over there." She gestured to the area south of 100th Street.

"The people in these neighborhoods used to work in the steel mills," she continued. "There were more steel mills here than anywhere else in the United States. Then the steel mills closed and people lost their jobs. They had to move in with their families. How many of you have had to live with other people besides your family?"

About half the girls raised their hands.

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Friday, May 12, 2017

This Mother’s Day, groups rally to support incarcerated moms

Posted By on 05.12.17 at 11:57 AM

  • Alexis Mansfield / Facebook

Ahead of Mother's Day this Sunday, a coalition of local groups has organized a variety of ways to bring immediate support to incarcerated moms and bring attention to the impact that imprisoning the primary caregivers of minor children has on families and communities.

On Friday, demonstrators will gather at noon at the Thompson Center for a rally in solidarity with incarcerated mothers. On Saturday at noon, a vigil and toiletry drive will be help in front of the Cook County Jail. Then, on Saturday May 20, two busloads of children and their caregivers will be taken to visit their moms at Logan and Decatur prisons in downstate Illinois, where more than 80 percent of the some 2,000 inmates are mothers of minor children.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Immigration fears, state budget woes have made things worse for domestic violence victims

Posted By on 05.10.17 at 05:40 PM

An advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline center's facility in Austin, Texas. On Monday the nation’s most prominent domestic violence hotline said there has been a sharp increase in calls from abuse victims struggling with issues related to their immigration status. - AP PHOTO/ERIC GAY, FILE
  • AP Photo/Eric Gay, File
  • An advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline center's facility in Austin, Texas. On Monday the nation’s most prominent domestic violence hotline said there has been a sharp increase in calls from abuse victims struggling with issues related to their immigration status.

It's a basic lesson in civics that while the operations of government may seem remote, the effects of its policies will eventually be felt by everybody, including the most vulnerable populations who have the least power to change anything. This has become abundantly clear over the past few months as the federal government's crackdown on undocumented immigrants has made undocumented victims of domestic violence afraid to press charges against their abusers, and as the Illinois state government's failure to come up with a budget for nearly two years running has cut funding and services to help those victims.

In the thick of these problems is Chicago's Domestic Violence Legal Clinic, which provides free legal assistance to low-income residents of Cook County. Executive director Margaret Duval took some time to explain to me the new challenges facing victims—and their advocates—in advance of the group's benefit, which takes place Thursday.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Unforgettable revives a worthy subgenre but adds nothing to it

Posted By on 04.26.17 at 08:00 AM

Rosario Dawson (left) in Unforgettable
  • Rosario Dawson (left) in Unforgettable
This spring Chicago is offering lots of great opportunities to see movies directed by women. The Gene Siskel Film Center is almost done with its series devoted to pioneering American filmmaker Lois Weber, and next month it’ll present a retrospective of films by Lina Wertmuller; Block Cinema wraps up a Chantal Akerman series this week with a screening of From the Other Side on Thursday and a symposium about the director’s work on Friday; Doc Films is in the middle of a series called “Women by Women: Portraits by Contemporary Directors,” which has included such great films as Vagabond, Madeinusa, and Wendy and Lucy; and at the Chicago Latino Film Festival (which started last weekend at the AMC River East), almost a quarter of the narrative features showing were directed or codirected by women. As film culture has traditionally been—and in many respects remains—dominated by men, these local efforts to spotlight female perspectives are encouraging.

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Taking on my college town’s bar scene taught me that protest is a form of self-care

Posted By on 03.30.17 at 02:00 PM

The author, sporting a ski mask, during a post-protest interview with Iowa City's CBS affiliate KGAN.
  • The author, sporting a ski mask, during a post-protest interview with Iowa City's CBS affiliate KGAN.

Picture it: Iowa City, March 2014. Laughter fills the women's bathroom at Brothers, a huge sports bar that squats next to the University of Iowa. As undergrads line the mirror, fiddling with their lipstick and offering each other sloppy affirmations, my friend Annie and I stand in a stall, pulling ski masks over our faces.

"Ready?" she asks.

"Ready," I reply.

We pop open the door and march towards the sinks, tossing stacks of fliers that read, "THIS BAR SUPPORTS A RAPE CULTURE." I unravel a larger poster with matching text, and the undergraduate drinkers—who've by now realized that we aren't terrorists—read our fliers and applaud as we bolt out to the bar.

I think it's perfectly fine to spend hours sniffing bath bombs at Lush, and most folks I know could benefit from some solo time with a coloring book. But these calls for self-care are often actually calls for women in particular to buy something. We could all use a little extra self-care right about now, but glossy magazines have essentially medicalized what my mother used to call "retail therapy," and now treat it as a salve to systemic oppression. Plus, bubble baths and meditation are typically acts of domesticity and solitude, leaving little room to publicly express anger or offer solidarity.

With this in mind, I'd like to offer an alternative: protest. Based on my experiences as an organizer and participant, protest is also a form of self-care. The act of gathering with folks who share your experiences is a healing thing.

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