Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Sing with me: Well done, sister suffragettes!

I was reading AmandaPandagon's post on Disney's Mary Poppins, and its portrayal of Mrs. Banks, the Victorian 'suffragette' (yes I know this is old, but I've been stewing on it for a while), and I had to have my say.

O venerable Amanda, I don't agree with you. Maybe I always just saw what I wanted to see, but I never saw Mrs. Banks as an indictment of feminism or the suffrage movement.

For me, Mrs. Banks is a dilettante, a lady who lunches who'll pick up whatever the new trendy hobby is. This one just happens to be suffrage, but I can picture her previously being involved in things like seances and flower arranging in the same fashion.

However, where Amanda and her sources see this as a straight condemnation of the movement, as something just silly rich women did for fun, I see it as a point of development for Mrs. Banks and the people around her. Thanks to Mary Poppins's [can you tell I hate AP style on this one] magic, she learns that it's more important, both in general and to the suffrage movement to be a mother to her children. She learns to be an activist instead of just a dabbler. She learns that change begins at home, and that though it's fun to chain yourself to the paddy wagon, she can have more impact by saying, look, I'm a sensible woman, and I want suffrage, so clearly this is what sensible women want.

I especially see this in the scene at the end where she takes her 'Votes for Women' banner and makes a kite tail from it. I think that, rather than that being an image of giving up her ideals to her family symbolised by throwing away the banner, it shows her development - she's not hiding her feelings from her husband, or limiting her 'activism' to just what she does with her rich friends. She says that her banner is 'a proper tail' for the kite, and the scene of it on the kite has it fluttering, extended so that you can clearly see the printing. She's flying her ideals over the city for everyone to see.

I think this has a relationship to the larger concept of feminist revolution, the idea of having mothers on board. No matter who else is in your revolution, because of our ingrained feelings about mothers and child-protectors, if you've got mothers on your side, it's a lot harder for your opposition to denigrate you, because how tacky and unfeeling and taboo to attack mothers!

It's kind of like Jon said to me once: when a man runs for president, if his wife isn't politically involved, it's considered hideously bad form to attack her as part of your campaign, because in the minds of the traditionalists you're probably trying to reach, the First Lady is untouchable until she brings it on herself (Hillary for example).

It's the same for feminist movements. We want suffrage, we want equality, we want rights, not just for a bunch of 'nutjobby lesbian manhaters' or whatever the stereotype is in the minds of our opponents, but for mothers, and for the children of the future. By having mothers as a visible part of your movement force, you can take advantage of the "American as Mom and apple pie" traditionalism and use it for your own purpose - to point out that treating women as second-class citizens is un-American. Everyone's got a Mom somewhere, and who wants to have to go tell their mom that they voted to oppress her and keep her as chattel?

I know we don't want to have to rely on the lines of tradition to chage stuff, but it may help.

Oh, and just because I'm a crazy nitpicker, I think the line is 'Our daughters' daughters will endure us", as in, will live on after us in the changes we've made; I always thought as a little one, until I learned that meaning of the word, that the daughters would have to put up with listening to stories of 'back in the day'!

Indignant on God's behalf

I saw another stupid bumper sticker today that read, "Thank God Joseph and Mary were pro-life."

And I realised that this type of sentiment - and I doubt they realise this - implies that they think God is some kind of blithering idiot.

Now, stay with me on this one. Regardless of whether you take the story at face value - Mary was a virgin impregnated by the Holy Spirit - or a more interpretive one - my personal belief being that Mary got pregnant her first time, and God chose the child to be His - God wanted the child born and chose Mary for His purpose. So, to suggest that Jesus could've gotten aborted were Mary to get pregnant today implies that God's too dumb to pick someone who wanted a child rather than leaving it to chance. And of course, the fact that any number of things can happen to a fertilized egg between fertilization and birth, none of which would be anyone's fault, suggests that either God kept trying, or God knew what he was doing.

Same holds for people who try to claim that abortion is bad because omg what if we abort the Second Coming of Jesus? God knows we have free will, and he knows not all eggs make it into babies, whether through human intervention or not. So, if he really wants Jesus to be born, or born again, wouldn't you think he'd cover all his bases?