All posts by mijaalegrespr13

You Go, Kee

While I typically like to relate my journal entries to a cultural text,Children of Men is pretty much in a league of its own.  Though I could discuss the scary ways this reminds me of present and historical treatment of immigrants or the possible weird fetitization of black women’s hyper-fertility, I would rather leave the movie in its own context and explore a question of my own.  How awesome is Kee?    In the midst of complete and utter turmoil, traveling as a refugee, watching friends and loved ones die, and in the company of activist-murderers she delivered and protected a precious baby girl. 

            The first thing that I came to appreciate about Kee is her insight and instinct.  There is nothing worse than watching a movie and watching the main character make completely foolish decisions, especially when there is a lot at stake—that’s just stressful.  All along, Kee had a keen sense of who she could trust.  She trusted Julian enough to show Theo her pregnant belly and ask for his help when she barely knew him.  She trusted herself and her body enough to realize that she was pregnant when she had never even been taught what pregnancy looked and felt like.  Though pregnancy was foreign to her, Kee relied on the sensation of her kicking baby girl to know that she was pregnant rather than just infected with some bug.

            Not only was Kee insightful, but she boldly and confidently asserted that those around her take own ideas seriously.  When Theo (still a stranger) woke her in the middle of the night to say that she must escape with him for safety, Kee’s guardian and midwife,  Miriam, objected in a tantrum.  It was Kee who squashed the feud and told Miriam that she would be leaving with Theo.  This was one of the many decisions that saved Miriam and her baby.  This trend continued in the moment when the prison guard learned of Kee’s baby and promised her safety but she refused at the incomprehensible cries of a foreign woman who objected.

            Of course, I cannot go on a Kee praise rant without paying ode to her as she who could tough out any situation.  I think I laughed out loud when Kee and Theo had a respite at Jasper’s house after escaping the refugee activists who wanted steal Kee’s baby and Theo is soaking his feet while pregnant Kee engages in conversation over a home-cooked meal.  Furthermore, Kee causally endured hours of contractions as she toured refugee internment camps and watched her beloved midwife get slapped and taken by a rough prison guard.  With a couple of hefty pushes she delivered her baby in a dingy refugee hostile and was less shaken up by Theo himself.  Neither the emotional pain of seeing the deaths of everyone who sincerely tried to help her or the physical pain of her pregnancy stopped Kee from seeing that her baby girl remain safe. 

            For Kee’s own sense and boldness, it was my impression that the film did have a promising ending.  Though everything seemed to be evil and corrupt, if Kee believed in the Human Project then so do I!


Frankenstein- mother/father/creator?

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein is a wealthy, curious science nerd who becomes passionate about creating life.  Frankenstein does in fact succeed in doing so and without much thought he pulls together all of the greatest limbs of dead people he can find so that he can give life to a living person.   He succeeds.  Frankenstein is a brilliant thinker, scientist, creator, but when his creation comes to life, there is one role that Frankenstein never considers and that is father.  Frankenstein finds that his creation is hideous, this is not his child but instead a “monster”.  Frankenstein abandons the monster and it is not until later in life that he is forced to deal with how his monster-neglect has actually  created a monster.

At first I felt sympathetic for Frankenstein who knew not any better than to bring a new life into this world but then I thought about motherhood as I have witnessed it and concluded that Frankenstein is doing a very sorry job with little effort.  First I thought about how Frankenstein’s immediate reaction was to abandon his creation because it was ugly.  Frankenstein did not even know that true nature of the “monster” before the monster’s yellow skin made him fear for his life and run away.  What does Frankenstein think he looked like as a new born?  He was probably a few different shades of yellow, blue, purple, and red, was covered in blood and gunky yellow stuff, had a tail coming about of his belly button and had no teeth! Yet, his mother did not abandon him out of fear because he looked different.  Eve did not abandon her first child when it did not look like her or Adam.

Men as child bearers make for lonely families.  Though Frankenstein did not oppose creating a companion for the monster because of the birthing pains (which he probably would not have considered), he does refuse to give the monster a companion.  Even after promising to give Frankenstein another monster lady with whom he can roam around with, he recants this decision after tormenting thoughts of all that could go wrong.  This, of course made the monster incredibly angry and drove him to seek vengeance.

It seems to me that much of Frankenstein’s plight was because of his marriage to the idea that his job was to simply create life and then sit back, hands-free, and let it take its course.  Frankenstein had no idea of the sacrifice and work that it would take to bring life into this world.   So, of course he was preoccupied with distress when he did not do this job as a creator/mother/father and decided to suffer rather than to love and teach his creation.

I know a woman who gave birth to a monster of sorts and she had a much different approach- Bella Swann Cullen.  In Breaking Dawn Bella gets pregnant.  The father is a vampire so this means that Bella will be having a little blood-sucking vampire.  Vampires are real monsters.  It is in their natures to kill people, they do not necessarily have souls, and they are thirsty for human blood.   Bella’s pregeancy was perilous and though she human, she had to drink human blood to feed her baby.  Though Bella’s baby Renesemme was flawless and beautiful, Bella still had a child with the possibility she would have a blood thirsty baby.

Both Frankenstein and Bella are crazy but raise questions for me.  What does one need to know before having a child?  What kind of responsibilities are necessary for a mother/father to have without leading to child neglect?  How can a creator see past the horror he or she has created to locate its potential for growth and love?

The Princess Promise, Marriage for Lady Happy and Us Happy Ladies Too!

Recently, I stumbled across this article in Salon magazine, which I had to share on my best friend’s Facebook wall.  The article captured perfectly the ongoing paradoxical conversation of our daily discourse- “men ain’t shit and OMG it’s time to panic because as educated, awesome, successful (*aspiring to success) black women we’re bound to end up alone blah blah blah.” This article, however, shared a little nugget of hope, “Feminism isn’t Ruining Your Love Life.”  Sara Eckels writes the article as a myth-buster to us hopelessly heterosexual, independent women who can affirm the popular Irina Dunn quote, “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” and yet at the same time are preoccupied with startling statistics that tell us our chances of being attacked by a terrorist are greater than our chances of getting married. #Foreveralone.

I chose this article because Dunn’s quote “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” could be a quite suitable mantra for the utopian Cloister of freedom that Lady Happy creates in Margaret Cavendish’s “The Covent of Pleasure”.  Lady Happy, the main character of the play, is a young virgin woman who has inherited wealth and has resilient spirit of female independence. The thick walled wonderland she creates that only grants entrance to single ladies is a testament to her belief that, “Men are the only troublers of Women; for they only cross and oppose their sweet delights, and peaceable life; they cause their pains, but not their pleasures.” Lady Happy acknowledges that for a poor woman unable to afford her own pleasures, a man might be suitable, but in the case of “upper-class women where Fortune, Nature, and the gods are joined to make them happy” the most joy and pleasure can be found in the fantastical world of the ladies-only Convent of Pleasure.

Eckels’ article is written to 21st women who can identify with the ladies of the Convent of Pleasure.  We have the modern day version of wealth and independence (education, good salary, career ambition, etc.).  While Eckels could have simply directed us to the Covent of Pleasure, she instead makes a convincing case that us ambitious ladies will still get married.  In fact, the article cites that women who get married later have increasingly lower divorce rates, women with college degrees are more likely to get married, and claimed “women aged thirty to forty-four earning more than one hundred thousand dollars per year are—once again—more likely to be married than their lower-earning cohorts.” *Cue wedding bells* I’m wondering if these stats can be printed in wallet size as a gift to our antsy and concerned elders…

Hooray! I can breathe—I will find a man.  A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. My elation at the promises of matrimony led me to question if I believed men were actually the bicycle to my fish.  If we really did not need men, why was this article written to celebrate the likelihood of spending the rest of our lives with a man?

In the end of “The Convent of Pleasure”, I was left wondering if there could really exist a Utopia that rejects the need for heteronormative romance.  Somehow, in the play, a prince disguised as a Princess manages to enter the Covent of Pleasure.  It does not take much time before Lady Happy and this Princess are discussing joining “as one Body and Soul, or Heav’nly Spirit” and dancing around the may pole to become Queen and King.  By the time the Princess (formerly known as Lady Happy) does tie the knot with her Prince, the prince is now dressed in “man’s apparel” as a princess disguised as a Prince. Thus, the play ends with the happily ever after of a Prince and his Princess.

Both Eckels’ article and “The Convent of Pleasure” leave ample space for the princess promise of heteronormative matrimony.  And hey, I’m not complaining, but it is certainly ironic that Lady Happy marries a prince in her ladies-only convent that was built on the principle that men are dreadful life-suckers who can offer no more than a respectable, wealthy lady can provide for herself.  Maybe I’m complaining a little.  Lady Happy’s convent had so many luxuries and pleasures- decadent foods, lavish décor, free women in solidarity. Still, and despite any queerness and unstable gender identities, Lady Happy’s utopia was not complete until she had the Prince to her Princess.  Not quite the same as fish is to bicycle.