Saturday, June 30, 2012
Princess (Movie) - mother status
Cinderella - Dead, evil step-mother.
Snow White - Dead, evil step-mother.
Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) - Honestly, I can't remember. Probably alive, but asleep the whole time?
Ariel (The Little Mermaid) - Presumed dead. I don't think she's ever mentioned.
Jasmine (Aladdin) - Presumed dead. Again, I think she's not mentioned.
Tiana (The Princess and the Frog) - ALIVE, and a positive figure, but not in most of the movie, as, well, she spends most of her time as a frog.
Pocahontas - Presumed dead.
Belle (Beauty and the Beast) - Dead.
Rapunzel (Tangled) - Mother alive, but Rapunzel abducted and raised by evil witch.
Mulan - Mother alive, but Mulan is away for most of the movie.
As you can see, only one of these princesses was raised by a loving mother who is still alive when the movie's storyline takes place, unless you count Sleeping Beauty. And, again, aren't they all asleep for the most part? And the two movies where we really see the loving and caring mother, the girls are away from their family setting for most of the movie. Tiana in The Princess and the Frog spends most of the time removed from her family setting and wandering as, well, a frog. Mulan bravely goes off to war, and has some strong feminist elements, but her primary relationship even when she's with her family seems to be with her father. My husband loves Mulan, because he sees it as a father/daughter relationship movie, so I don't think I'm exaggerating this.
And while a lot of the fathers are dead, too, in princess movies, we do have strong father/daughter relationships with Ariel, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Belle, and Mulan. Not all of these daughters are removed from their father's care through the whole movie, notably Jasmine and Pocahontas.
For bad examples of mother/daughter relationships, Disney's Tangled really takes the prize. Here we have a daughter raised by a woman/witch who keeps her locked in the tower and apparently just wanted her because the girl's magic hair keeps the witch young. The mother/witch figure is truly disturbing here, because it is portrayed as a twisted version of real affection. Whereas the evil stepmothers in Snow White and Cinderella are just flat-out mean and nasty, the witch in Tangled is not directly so for most of the film.
Brave is so very different in that it tells the story of a girl asserting her independence and developing her own identity, but it does so while having her deal with a loving, caring, and living mother. And, even more unusual, the heart of the story is really about the relationship between Merida, the daughter, and Elinor, her mother. They want different things for Merida's life, and the tension develops from this. They love each other, but they don't understand each other, and they don't know how to communicate and regain the closeness they had when Merida was younger. In one heart-breaking moment, they each, in anger, destroy an object that is precious to the other. Elinor realizes immediately what she has done; Merida takes much of the movie to understand what she needs to do to repair things, literally and figuratively.
We need more of this sort of movie--stories that tell of girls developing their identity and individuality--and we need more with mothers who aren't dead or evil who are a part of these girls lives. So while there's much to critique in this movie, my bottom line is thankfulness. I think this is a story that will stand up as my own daughter reaches those ages where she needs to pull away more from mom. It will be something that I can refer back to as a metaphor for our real lives.
Sunday, June 24, 2012
The woman pictured is Antonia. She was a young woman, and the mother of a young son--a toddler or infant. She didn't like having her picture taken, and so this is created from one of the only pictures of her as a young woman. She was from Central America (my memory is saying Guatemala, but I'm not positive) and walked across all of Mexico and into the Arizona desert. At some point, she couldn't keep up, and was left behind by the "coyote," the guide. When they found her body, her son was still alive, staying alive by licking the last of her tears. And this is all I know of Antonia's short story--all I know is this and her image on the medallion.
No mas muertes.
No mas muertes.
I'm outside "tent city" in Phoenix with about 2000 Unitarian Universalists and allies. It is 99 degrees now that it is night time, down from 109 today. In tent city, people who are rounded up for deportation are imprisoned out in this heat without relief. We are told that they can hear us in the tent city, as we chant and sing and cheer.
It is wonderful to have the UCC president (his title is different but I don't have it handy) with us tonight and telling us the UCC is with us in this fight.
Friday, June 22, 2012
There are always good UU events to be found outside of the General Assembly programming, too, and this year I find myself, although registered for GA, interested in attending more of it. One high-profile example is an event hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee at the Hyatt tomorrow: a conversation with Bill Schulz (UUSC president, and former UUA president, and former Amnesty International president or director or whatever the top title is there) and Anita Hill (yes, that Anita Hill!). (3:30-5:00, Hyatt Ballroom AB)
Another interesting opportunity is the ability to see The Minister's War tonight, tomorrow, or Sunday evening, or screenings of the shorter version throughout the days. (Full screenings at 6, 8, and 10pm at 222 E. Monroe St.) There's a suggested donation of $5 for this.
All this means is it's a good year to be even around GA, and there's plenty to do without registering. But that opportunity to hear Michelle Alexander alone was worth the registration, in my opinion. And, of course, I get to vote in the plenaries, which is important, although you can do that as an off-site delegate, but there was still a $100 fee for that.
Still, I can see the possibility of saving money in future years by coming to the GA city, attending some events electronically and some events off-site, and just making the most of what's available. I might actually get to see something of the city, too, if I did that. Many years at GA there are suggested sight-seeing things to do in these interesting locations, and I've never taken the time off or added time on to do those things. To take one day off in a full day of meetings is reasonable by work standards, but it's harder to justify when I've paid money to be at the things that are offered that day. So, this is definitely something to think about more for future years as a viable option.
Yesterday I went to hear Michelle Alexander speak about her book, The New Jim Crow. I also went to a follow-up session with the author of a UU study guide. Sadly, Alexander.had time for only two or three questions, and I was about eighth in line.
I think to read this book, no matter how progressive already, is to have a great awakening--at least it was for me.
And hearing her speak here in Arizona, it became clear to me that our immigration system is also part of the new Jim Crow. It is so similar in effect on a people to our prison system.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Things are going crazy in Michigan, folks. Our legislators are considering severe anti-abortion legislation. Our women representatives are being barred from speaking in the house because of saying things like the word "vagina." This issue is alive and serious in the state of Michigan. We're turning anatomical terms into dirty words that can't be spoken aloud, and the effect is the silencing of women on women's issues. How many women got to speak to the House Health Policy Committee at their hearing of the bill? None--three men only, although Rev. Jeff Liebmann did a fabulous job.
This morning at the Meadville/Lombard alumni breakfast, we heard, as always, memories from ministers who graduated 25 and 50 years ago. The minister from 50 years ago couldn't be there in person, but sent his memories in writing. He talked about creating an organization of ministers to help pastor to women and help them connect to illegal abortion providers, so that they could have safe abortions in the time before Roe vs. Wade.
I don't want to have to do that ministry--but I might have to in Michigan soon, if this trend holds.
So my mind isn't made up about the CSAIs--but I sure know what's resonating right now. We're here talking about immigration, but for the first part of the week, my heart was still on the Michigan capitol steps, where the Vagina Monologues were taking place Monday evening.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The UU Ministers Association voted today to pass new language for a year of study. This language would change our code of professional ethics from language that basically outlawed specific actions to a much simpler and straight-forward "19 words." The new language reads:
"I will not engage in sexual contact, sexualized behavior, or a sexual relationship with any person I serve professionally."
Previously, the guidelines forbade sexual relationships with people one counsels, interns, married congregants, staff, minors, and, if married, anyone one serves professionally except one's partner.
The new language passed by a majority this year and must pass by two-thirds next year. (This, incidentally, means it is harder to change the UUMA code of conduct than it is to change the state of Michigan's constitution--which is certainly more a problem for Michigan.)
I voted for this, although I was torn, as I have known colleagues who have met their spouse in their congregations, and have pursued those relationships is in ways that were non-exploitative. Universalist fore-father John Murray met Judith Sargent Murray as a member of his congregation. But times have changed. And while we know there are significant differences between ministers and counselors, we now hold ourselves accountable in ways much more similar to other professions.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
The thought shared today in ministry days is that doing social justice without having the models and training is like doing the work of religious education without renaissance modules and trained religious education professionals.
We do have models and structures out there that we can tap into, though. In Michigan we have the Michigan UU Social Justice Network (MUUSJN), which recently brought a workshop on healthcare to Jackson. We can network with other local (non-UU) congregations, and with other Michigan UU churches. We need something like what we had in Jackson with the Jackson Interfaith Peacekeepers, but with a broader social justice platform.
I think one of the questions is: What do we want from our faith? Are we looking for our religion to be a place from which we do social justice? If so, let's start working on putting the structures in place to do that ministry.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Now I'm in a smaller church and a smaller city, and the situation is very much the same. We have a smaller church school, with K-5 in one class. As I think about our UU children and youth, I don't think we have any two families with grade-school children in the same school. I think we have children in Jackson schools, Columbia schools, Hanover-Horton schools, Grass Lake schools, and a couple more school districts further north of Jackson, but no two children in the same school from different families. At the High School level, it's possible that we have more than two families with children in the same school district, if we count members who are not active in the church and whose children don't come to religious education classes, but our few active teens are all, I think, in separate school districts.
What these two examples tell me is that the vast majority of UU children and youth grow up fairly religiously isolated in their school lives. Before we get to college, where we're in educational systems with thousands of students, we don't have enough critical mass to, for example, form high-school-based religious club. And it also means that our children in religious education classes pretty much only see each other once a week. Occasionally strong friendships can form--some of my daughter's best friends are her church friends--but it's harder for our children to make friends with children from their own religion.
There are positive things about this, of course. It means we raise flexible, tolerant children, who are good at being allies and bridge-builders. It means our children learn quickly and early how to relate to people of other religions and appreciate and embrace that diversity.
But it has its drawbacks in terms of support for our children when they face religious intolerance, which they sometimes do. And I think it's also a factor in retention. My child wants to go to church so often for the primary reason that she loves the other children there and doesn't get to see them any other time of the week. But if she hadn't made those strong bonds there, there would be much less drive from her to go to church. And, as we see, our teens often start to get to be reluctant to go to church, and we lose them. I continued to go to church as a teen despite any strong friends who were active in my youth group, because we had a strong program--it had a sizable group, it was fun, and it was engaging. But if you have a small group, and no strong friendships, it's a rare UU youth who will prioritize religious education in a busy teen schedule.
Unfortunately, this means rocky roads for most UU religious education programs -- there's simply no magic formula to making friendships happen so that children will want to come to church. The best answer I have is this: One of the primary reasons someone comes to a UU church for the first time is because the person has been invited by someone that person knows. What better person to invite than the parent(s) of your child's best friend? If it works, you gain a friend at church, your church gains a member, and your child gains a reason to want to go to church.
I can think of no better way to help our children be less religiously isolated, to help grow our religious education programs and churches, and to build the drive in our children and youth to want to come to church.