I hadn’t been planning to write a blog post tonight, but the significance of today is too important to ignore. So, here goes, and forgive me if the thoughts I want to communicate don’t come out perfect: Today (March 8) is International Women’s Day. Basically, this is a date to commemorate the progress women have made throughout the world, honor the women who pushed for that progress, and recognize the progress that still needs to be gained to ensure that women worldwide have equal rights and opportunities.
It’s Sunday afternoon as I write this, and instead of going to the gym or running errands as I usually do on a Sunday, I’m just relaxing and doing an odd job or two around the house. And, of course, writing this blog entry. The reason I’m relaxing is because the past 48 hours or so have been pretty busy for my feminine side. The CD/trans support group I’m a part of had a Saturday afternoon meeting. And Friday night, I took part in what I want to talk up here — another open-mic poetry reading Friday night at Mother Fool’s coffee house on Williamson Street.
Okay, I’m about to get serious. I’ve always admired how Wisconsin has, generally, had a history of progressive treatment of citizens who are part of diverse groups. A prime example of this was the 1982 legislation that prohibited discrimination in fields such as housing and public and private employment based on a person’s sexual orientation. That law had bipartisan support and was signed into law by a Republican governor who was fiscally conservative yet progressive on social/cultural issues.
First off, I may be ranting in a couple of spots in this post, so please accept my apologies in advance. Okay, as I’ve mentioned at least a couple of times on here, I don’t get into watching awards shows very much. Oh, sure, I may sample some of the pre-show red carpet coverage. And I’ll catch a moment or two of the ceremony as I’m surfing through the channels. And I’ll certainly read up and/or watch some of the highlights the next morning. But watching 3+ hours of one award after another and performance after another can feel like a tedious slog. On top of that, there’s the fact that most awards shows occur on a Sunday night, when I tend to turn in early so that my body and mind (the latter especially) can rest up for the week to come. (Notice I’m leaving out politics; a certain segment of the populace will sneer at whatever statement of social/cultural import a host, winner, or presenter may say, but I’ll never dissuade them from saying it, especially these days.)
After another long, tiring, downer of a week, I thought I’d use this Saturday post to catch up on some works of note from the accomplished actress Jessica Chastain. And it’s not just about her acting skills, which I’ll dive into in a moment. To use a common contemporary term, Ms. Chastain is one woke person, and not just because she wears black on the Golden Globes red carpet in solidarity for the Time’s Up movement. Nope, Jessica Chastain talks the talk and walks the walk. She has been a prominent voice regarding the issues of gender equality, safety, and misogyny that are plaguing Hollywood. A particular concern of hers has been matters of pay equality: When she’s negotiating to be the leading lady in a film, Jessica abides by a personal rule of seeking compensation for her talents that’s equal to that of the male lead (the “favored nation” clause). Even if the producers balk or she must walk away from a plum role, Jessica takes satisfaction in drawing that line of fairness, no matter how many zeroes that paycheck may or may not include. In other words, it’s not about the money; it’s about sticking to her principles of equal pay for equal work.
An anecdote to lead off: Back in October, I joined fellow members of a trans support group at the OutReach Awards Banquet. One of our cis-gender allies joined us, and at first, she wasn’t sure exactly which table was which, but she checked her table number on her name tag and, by coincidence, sat right next to me. Ours was Table 44. “Good,” she chuckled, “because I like ’44’ better than ’45.'”
Note the quote marks around “44” and “45” in that last sentence, for our friend wasn’t joking about the tables on that night. No, hers was a remark about the era in which we’re stuck in right now. One year ago this weekend, You Know Who formally and officially became the 45th You Know What. In the 52 weeks since then, it’s felt as if we’ve collectively turned around an endless line of dark corners, each bend darker than the one before it. There are far too many of those dark corners to be specific about here, though I should note the latest… er, one of the latest of dark corners from this week concerned an “overhaul” of the Department of Health & Human Services’ Civil Rights Office. The proposal would add a division that protects those in the medical profession who desire to “profess their religious expressions,” up to and including their objections to providing services or caring for people they have religious objections to, including abortions or treatment to trans patients.
The other day, I heard a great quote uttered during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration here in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the speaker or the full quote. However, I do recall it being a “show me this and I’ll show you that” kind of quote, one where two people see the same thing but see it very different… like, say, one person seeing the glass as half-empty and the other seeing it as half-full.
The “show me… and I’ll show you…” portion of that quote stuck with me the rest of the holiday, and it inspired me to write… and rewrite… and rewrite (as I usually do) the following poem. As you’ll read (and especially notice in the last stanza), I’m not afraid to call out someone who is dismissive of those who do not live the same “pure” life they profess to live. What’s for sure, the holier-than-thou set aren’t saints themselves, no matter how much they proselytize with their “holy book” of choice.
Show me fields that have long been fallow
Overgrown with unsightly weeds
I’ll show you land that can spring to life
With someone’s ideas and dreams
Show me an artist’s canvas or a poet’s notebook
That are still blank and untouched
I’ll show you space that can be
The ground spring of a masterpiece
Show me someone immature and unruly
And I’ll show you a bright mind
That, if molded the right way
Will grow the fruits of their full potential
Show me someone not following the rules
And I’ll show you someone living free
Show me someone who doesn’t respect others
And I’ll show you someone who lets others be
Show me who should stay in a gilded cage
That with iron and lock and key you construct
And I’ll show you someone yearning to soar
To heights that will leave you awestruck
Show me someone who you prefer to stay quiet
And I’ll show you a person ready to roar
I’ll also show you someone ready to rebuild
If you only see someone you have no hope for
Show me someone who’s immoral
And I’ll show you someone on the straight and narrow
Show me someone that should conform
And I’ll show you someone who’s blazing their own trail
Show me someone whose existence you deny
And I’ll show you someone who needs to thrive
Even though caring for them is what you’re sworn to do
Would your “conscience” be quick to shun them…
And not care for them…
And seal their doom…
Just because they’re not like you?
Show me someone who’s only a gender
Or a skin color
Or a religion
Or an age
Or a behavior
Or “less” than you
And I’ll show you someone more than a label
For they’re much more than your closed mind
Forbids your open eyes to see
You think you see the scourges of the earth
But I see someone who can clear those fields
And plow those lands
And construct those buildings
And write those sonnets
And paint those masterpieces
And mold those minds
And help build a future
That will benefit the whole world
Show me all that you claim is ugly
And I’ll show you a mirror
So that you can look into it
And see true ugliness
Staring right back at you
As I’ve admitted once or twice on here before, I don’t get into watching awards shows on television very much. So, if you were with me in my apartment this past Sunday (January 7), not only would you have been sweltering with me in an apartment that has the heat stuck in a way-too-high position (a subject for another post, I promise), you’d also would’ve been switching back and forth between football and college basketball and hockey and even cricket. In other words, we wouldn’t have been watching any of the 75th Golden Globe Awards ceremony or preceding red carpet.
And judging from the social media talk during the ceremony, as well as the post-ceremony analysis… oh, what a night we would’ve missed. For one, there were the award winners, of course. Then there was Seth Meyers’ opening monologue and his getting help with the jokes he couldn’t tell. And definitely bigger than all of that, there was the appearance of a certain TV anchor turned talk show host turned actress turned media mogul — yeah, I’m talking about Oprah — who, when accepting a career achievement award, brought down the house with a speech about justice for women that many equaled to a speech from a campaign in two years’ time for a certain public office (the one currently occupied by You Know Who). No doubt, her speech was a rousing and optimistic one that will certainly inspire more than a few women, of all ages and identifications, to stand up and stand strong.
This is the final weekend of 2017. And, yikes, what a year. When I say that, I obviously don’t mean that 2017 was full of happiness and good cheer. To the contrary, 2017 was crappy. To confirm that, one needn’t look to far from the current occupant of a certain house in Washington. Yes, the man with thin orange skin, the biggest ego in the universe, truly poor character, and a reputation of wanting to destroy (or at least unjustly distort the reputation of) anyone who doesn’t get in line with him and see the world the way he sees it. And the way he sees it, he’s the only savior from this world of evil and prejudice, despite overwhelming evidence that he’s the leading propellant of evil and prejudice.
Yeah, You Know Who (my shorthand for the above mentioned man with thin orange skin) and his minions have led us into very dark times here in 2017. But for every dark story this old year has wrought, there has been at least one positive story to counter it. And with it being the end of the year, it’s high time for me to think of some positives.
Two days ago, I took a stab at writing, or at least sketching out, my own Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. Yes, they’re the kind of movies that feature the same things and themes every time out: Cute girl (played by a “Hey, I know her from somewhere” actress) falls head over heels for handsome man (played by a “Hey, I know him from somewhere” actor). They find that magical Christmas spirit together. And they’re films that are all shot on the same Canadian studio lot that doubles for Anytown, U.S.A. and feature ample amounts of saccharin-sweet goodness.
As you may have judged from my own attempt, Hallmark Channel’s long, long list of identical/interchangeable Christmas movies are ripe for the parody… preferably not by this amateur but by skilled people who can do effective satirical parodies on a routine basis. Well, lo and behold, the people at Saturday Night Live took that ball and ran with it on Thursday. Or, to be more precise, a couple of weeks ago.