Maleficent: a must see movie!

“No society treats its women as well as its men.”
UN Development Programme, 1997)


There’s a new movie I’m wanting to see. It’s called Maleficent and stars Angelina Jolie.

It’s timely because it’s really about rape, which has now entered into virtually every fabric of American life, including our schools. On our higher college campuses, one out of five coeds will be raped.

Time Magazine in its recent cover issue on the subject, mentions that the University of Montana (Missoula) has averaged 80 rapes annually over the last two years. It isn’t unique: even the Ivy League schools have a high incident rate–that is, of reported rapes, twenty percent of them related to alcohol. Some experts speculate that most campus rape goes unreported.

Across the nation, the same 20% figure prevails, with 80% of rape victims below age 25, according to The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, done in 2010, and made public last year. Stalking, now abetted by smart technology, is even more widespread, or five times the number of rapes.

But let’s get down to bedrock: The survey estimated that 1.27 million American women were raped–or one woman every 29 seconds–and 5.1 million stalked–a fall out rate of one woman every 7 seconds.

Rape is so much a part of our national fabric that it’s found its way into a Walt Disney film in a grim version of Sleeping Beauty. In the eponymous film, Maleficent is a fairy initially enjoying unlimited aerial freedom in a forest setting (i.e, archetypal rendering of situational danger), who falls in love with Stefan, a human being, who betrays her.

Rape, in the film’s metaphorical version, is transposed into Stefan’s drugging Maleficent so that he can take her wings back to the king of humans. In this age of ambien, pervasive alcohol, and PT141 on the horizon, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

In a cogent review,, Hayley Krischer writes that “Maleficent is a commentary on current male and female relationships. It’s a commentary on rape culture. And much more, it’s a story that allows a woman to recover. It gives her agency. It gives her power. It allows her to reclaim the story. And this is something that can’t be ignored.”

Sadly, clipping a woman’s wings is what many men do, with rape its ultimate manifestation, taking away their ability to be fully themselves, free to pursue their dreams, able to soar above the nets of male malice, discrimination, exploitation and often betrayal. (Krischer reminds us that 70% percent of rapes are committed by someone the woman knows.)

While many gains have been made with the rise of feminism in the 1960s, the rape culture is still with us, and even more, of men who still try to clip a women’s wings through unequal pay, feminization of poverty, career barriers, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and physical violence.

In a culture still dominated by testosterone driven men I doubt this sad scenario will ever fully vanish, but at least a film like Maleficent can give women awareness and its articulation, empowering them to keep their wings intact.





Women are better lovers

byronThere is this passage in the poet Byron’s Don Juan that has always impressed me as one of the keenest observations concerning women to be found in literature:  “Man’s love is of his life a thing apart,/’Tis woman’s whole existence” (Canto I, 194).

In my thinking, most men lack women’s capacity to love fully.  I write this knowing the tendency of stereotype to overlook exceptions, which are often many.  Still, I think my observation holds.  And thus I count women superior to us men, for surely love is the noblest of human emotions.

Women think with their hearts, though not at risk of their intelligence, for they know how to discern; witness any shopping outing and you’ll catch my drift.  They’re no less so when it comes to sorting out men.

Women frequently assume risk, or gamble on love, unlike many men who prefer the safety of the status quo over commitment.  While marriage in the West continues its decline, given opportunity, most women prefer it; less so, men.  As the late Toronto Star columnist Merle Shain reminds us, “Men opt for security in lieu of feeling and call their decision maturity” (Some Men are more Perfect than Others, p. 6).

 Sometimes women lose heavily, having bet all, and thus they grieve; yet they excel even in their loss, since we’re defined more by what we attempt than what we lose.  The ancient Greeks had it right: assertion validates identity.  Far better to enter into your feelings and chance possibility than to awake one day to numbing emptiness, the sorrow of not having loved and wishing you had.

They say women adore intelligence in their males, and they do; but what really seizes their hearts are the courageous kind, who accepting their vulnerability, refuse to let fear foreclose on happiness.  With brave men such as these, love offers its amplest bloom.


Gloria Steinem: righting the hierarchy

There’s a great interview by Marianne Schnall in this morning’s Huffington Post Steinem Interview featuring feminist emissary, Gloria Steinem, still going strong at 77. On Monday, August 15, HBO will broadcast a biographical piece, “In Her Own Words.” While in our household we do have satellite TV, we’re unfortunately not signed up for HBO.

But back to the interview, which summarizes many goals still eluding one half of the human race:

1. Men sharing equally in child-raising.

2. Greater participation of women in the political process. (The U. S. ranks 70th.)

3. Ending domestic violence, sex trafficking, rape, serial killing, aborting female fetuses, female genital mutilation, child marriage, denying female children progtein, health care and education.

Where the interview misses crucially is its omission of the salient catalyst to affording balance to the gender hierarchy: the need to humanize men. In fairness, while Steinem does talk of the need to redefine gender roles, the crux is that men, the still entrenched power brokers, have to change to significantly improve women’s lot in life. I remember this poll taken several years back in which women were asked what they desired most in a male partner. It wasn’t looks, intelligence, even success. It was sensitivity. I’d go for empathy. Think about it, men: put yourself into women’s shoes and you’d change your ways on the quick.

The best psychology reading I’ve done over the years has been Carl Jung’s notion of anima and animus–that there exist countering social selves at the unconscious level, female and masculine dispositions if you will, that demand acknowledgement if we’re to find psychological wholeness.

Only as men give expression to their repressed anima can they find integration and well-being. Finding balance, it surely would make for a better world.

In liberating women, men ultimately liberate themselves.

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