Tag Archives: feminist

Film Review: The Machine

I spent half an hour this morning writing a post about this fascinating film, and the internet ate my post. Ugh. So anyway, you can find the basic plot on Wikipedia.

Here are my condensed thoughts. Warning! Spoilers!

Netflix has this as a ‘G’ it is NOT a G or PG, it has some really brutal, bloody scenes.

Now, I know I keep saying I’m not a feminist, but I saw this from a totally feminist perspective and that’s one of the things that made it so fascinating.

It seems to me that Machine and the Cyborgs could be seen to represent a ‘new world, and perhaps the female world whereas everyone else represents the ‘old world’ of patriarchy.

One of the scenes that I couldn’t understand to begin with is Suri killing a guard in a horrible scene where he is dowsed in petrol and set alight. But after re-watching a couple of times, I noticed that Suri overhears him say that she is planning a revolution.

Suri is one of the brain-damaged former soldiers with an implant but she seems to have freedom and autonomy as the assistant to Thomson, although it is a limited freedom.

The main male character is Vincent McCarthy, and it’s unclear until later on whether he is good or bad. He is clearly tolerating what he must know to be a brutal, criminal system, for the sake of his brain-damaged daughter.

The main female character Ava is murdered, as was McCarthy’s previous assistant, so you have two ‘girlfriend in the fridge’ incidents right there to begin with.

Then a cyborg robot is made using Ava’s computer ‘brain’, and Ava’s form, despite McCarthy promising Ava he wouldn’t use her face in that way.

The implant has the side-effect of taking away the power of speech but Machine and the Cyborgs share a secret, machine language so they can communicate -and plan the revolution -secretly.

Machine’s female form is shown off when she dances, but Thomson has her fighting for him, and twice calls her an “angel of death”.

Thomson forces Machine to kill by manipulating her emotions, and calls himself her ‘master’. It was also Thomson who had arranged Ava’s murder. He is clearly without empathy and seems to be the embodiment of patriarchy.

Machine passes the Turing test, proving herself to be ‘alive’, but Thomson insists that cyborg soldiers with consciousness is too dangerous and blackmails Vincent into doing surgery to remove Machine’s consciousness.

During the procedure, Machine promises she will be a “good girl”. She also promises McCarthy that she can be less intelligent, less human, she can be what they want her to be. She also says that she loves McCarthy, but he doesn’t hear her.

The only males who survive the revolution are the ‘good guys’, McCarthy, (and the male cyborgs). At some point, McCarthy has to pick sides. He makes his choice by pretending to have removed her consciousness.

When the machines overthrow the establishment, Thomson disables as many of the cyborgs implants to try to stop the revolution, but Suri locks him out. Thomson shoots Suri but she survives.

Later, Ava, although she doesn’t kill Thomson outright, makes him “dead inside, like you tried to make me dead inside.”

At the end of the film, Vincent is talking to his daughter, whose brain or life essence he has saved in digital form, but she doesn’t want him, she wants her ‘Mother’ (Machine).

The taking away of the power of speech, the Naming of Ava’s robot as Machine, using her face and body form against her will, the fact that only the men have surnames…everything in this film seems significant.

Anyway, hopefully somebody with more knowledge can take this further. I would really like to read a proper feminist analysis of this film.

I’d give it maybe 4 1/2 stars as I didn’t like the blood and brutality, but I thought it was a great film, with really interesting themes.

Searching the Scriptures: A Feminist Introduction

searching

This doesn’t quite qualify as a book review as it is a book that I read nearly 20 years ago, but I lent it to a friend some years ago and despite my best efforts, did not receive it back, so I decided to treat myself to a new copy.

Searching the Scriptures: A Feminist Introduction, edited by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, is a collection of essays introducing the topic of feminist hermeneutics, published in 1993 in preparation for the centenary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s ‘The Woman’ Bible’ in 1995.

I bought it in 1996 as a curious non-feminist. I think I would still place myself in that category. Although I accept the basic idea of feminism – the need for equal and fair treatment for women, I am still not quite comfortable enough with the whole feminism entity (as I understand it) to declare myself a member. Beginning to read it a second time with so many years in between, however, I find that I am more ready and able to understand or at least begin to grapple with some of the arguments.

As a caveat, I must say that I have not read or even seen a copy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s original 1893 book.

When I re-opened the book it fell, appropriately, to Judith Plaskow’s chapter on ‘Anti-Judaism in Feminist Christian Interpretation’. Since this is a subject close to my heart, I thought I would share some of its insights.

Plaskow begins with explaining the significance of Cady Stanton’s book and how, on a basic level, it sought to acquit Christianity by laying its oppression of women at the door of Judaism.

“Anti-Judaism in feminist interpretation signifies both a failure to include all women within its vision and an often unconscious appropriation of anti-Jewish themes and strategies that are as old as the New Testament itself.”

Plaskow talks about the way in which, in order to do this, feminist interpretation unwittingly makes use of quite inappropriately (even patriarchal?) conservative principles of interpretation.

“The claim that ‘Jesus was a feminist’ – a claim first articulated by Leonard Swidler and then taken up by numerous feminist interpreters – can be argued persuasively only on the basis of a negative view of Judaism.”

She outlines some of the ways in which the view of 1st century Judaism as an oppressive patriarchal society is arrived at by picking and choosing sources that seem to agree with that view, whereas there seems to be a lot of evidence for two schools of thought (perhas allied to Hillel and Shammei?) within 1st century Judaism – one of which tended to be more oppressive and the other liberal.

Plaskow also goes on to outline the way in which St Paul’s very difficult, ambivalent attitude toward women is explained away by viewing Paul as being anti-feminist and oppressive in his Jewish identity, but liberal in his Christian identity, a dualism which necessarily ‘others’ Jewish women.

Plaskow says that, with a view to moving toward a more critical feminist hermeneutic, “The first step in eradicating anti-Judaism is becoming aware of its existence, and this means becoming educated about the dimensions of the problem.”

She mentions that “Feminist exploration of Jewish women’s history is a very new field…” – most of the references she gives are essays and articles in obscure periodicals rather than easily accessible books, so I would be interested to know what has happened since the book was published.

In conclusion, Plaskow says that one of the difficulties of dealing with anti-Judaism in Christian feminism is the isolationism, so again I would be interested to know what progress has been made by Jewish and Christian feminists working together since the 1990s.

Searching the Scriptures is a big, meaty volume, nearly 400 pages, so I doubt I will read it from cover to cover in one go – it will keep me occupied for some time, and I will probably dip in and out of it. But Plaskow’s essay has whet my appetite and I will look forward to seeing volume 2 in due course.

Apologies for publishing this blog-post prematurely, and I hope (I can’t see, since I am posting via my phone!) that, having edited, it will all come right in the wash 🙂

I would be interested to hear from reluctant / converted Jewish or Christian feminists, or anybody who can recommend reading in this area.

Missional Moms

I have been seeing the term ‘Missional Mom’ around about the place recently, and I followed a link this afternoon to a podcast on the Verge Network, which is an organisation that encourages mission and evangelism.

http://www.vergenetwork.org/2014/06/26/podcast-6-how-to-be-a-missional-mom/

The podcast is an interview with the author of a book of the same name.

I must say at the outset that I haven’t read the book. Nor do I intend at this stage to part with my hard-earned cash to get a copy. (If somebody would like to send me a copy to review, I will happily oblige, however.)

The central argument seems to be that Christian moms (mums for British readers) should not be ‘just’ moms; they should love Jesus more than their children (and apparently they should also love their husbands more than their children; hm, is this Biblical, or an American cultural bias, I wonder?), that they should not make idols of their children, with the implication that being ‘nothing but a mother’ is to do just that.

I think this needs answering.

Certainly, I can agree that we should love Jesus ‘more than these’.

Certainly, I can agree that we should not make idols of our children.

But it does not follow that a mother who has set aside the rest of life and career to give her all to being a mother has made an idol of her children. It does not follow that she loves Jesus any less than missionary moms or moms who are out at work in the Christian or secular workplace.

‘Missional Mom’ could so easily be used as a(nother) stick to beat stay-at-home mothers with.

I am very conscious of the ‘mommy wars’, and they really help no-one – not the women, not the children, not the family and not the faith.

We all follow the path we believe to be the right one, or the one we must follow, or the only one we can afford to follow, we do the best we can. We shouldn’t need to constantly defend our position, and we certainly shouldn’t attack mothers who are following a different path to our own.

But the fact remains that motherhood is a high calling, and one that should not be dismissed or taken lightly, nor delegated carelessly. It is a mission field in itself, every bit as valid as the mission field of other people’s children or indeed any other.

The idea that a stay-at-home mother, ministering to her children’s needs and training them up in the faith, is somehow deficient and lacking in ministry must be rejected. There is no greater mission.

I am already a Missional Mom.

Memories of a Rebound Romance

I had a facebook notification this morning about an old friend’s birthday. I haven’t seen or spoken to this friend in over 20 years and know very little about her life beyond the fact that she got married and had children.

20 years ago though, I mopped up a broken heart when my friend dumped her boyfriend for another, and on the rebound he took an interest in me.

At the time, I was also being pursued by somebody else (in what, in hindsight was a slightly creepy manner, which was repeated as stalking when I left him a few years later).

My friend’s ex, we’ll call him Boy A, became besotted with me, to the point where I felt suffocated – buying me flowers and gifts, wanting me to spend whole weeks at his house and so on. I was only 17, and I didn’t want to be tied down in a serious relationship. The attention was nice but it also felt heavy. I knew I was a rebound but I don’t think he did. He thought I was the love of his life. He asked me to marry him after a two week romance.

When I finally made the decision to go with the other boy, let’s call him Boy B, Boy A accused me of – well, let’s just say some not very nice things which particularly concern a girl’s integrity. My old friend took his side and accused me of breaking his heart and hurting him very deeply. This after two weeks, even though she had left him after two years and an engagement! Apparently he swore off girls for good after me because I had shown that they are all no-good, two-timing users and betrayers. My friend later told me that he had something of a breakdown afterwards and never recovered, and it was all my fault.

Seriously.

I did like him very much, and at the time I wished things had been different. I felt guilty for years about hurting him, and wondered if I had made the wrong choice. But when I think about it now, with the benefit of age and experience, it does rather make my blood boil. I had never agreed to go steady. I knew Boy B before I met Boy A, and I made it clear from the outset that he was in the picture. We had only been together a fortnight and I had been very open about my friendship with Boy B and that he was pursuing me. Boy B even called me at Boy A’s house (creepy! But not secret.)

If the roles had been reversed, and I had made such a fuss as a woman scorned after a rebound fling, I have no doubt that I would have been told to let it go and not be so ridiculous. But somehow, what I had done, as a young woman, was viewed as deeply wrong and inappropriate, and his reaction was never questioned even though it was clearly over the top and out of proportion.

Boy A, if you’re out there, I’m sorry I hurt you, it wasn’t intentional; I hope you recovered and can see things in perspective. I was never the kind of person you imagined me to be. But I hereby relieve myself of the guilt that I ruined your life, because I didn’t. Even if I had done the things you accused me of, I never lied to you, and I never made any promises. You were on the rebound and I thought I was helping. I’m sorry my involvement made it worse in the end, but it wasn’t my fault.

In both cases though, these boys seemed to think it was their right to be able to completely possess me, as though I were some kind of chattel they could own (and presumably discard at will). But when the chattel rises up to discard the possessor, all hell and fury breaks forth. It was a long time ago, but it was the 1980s, not the 1880s, and I hear that young women don’t have much of a better time of it today.

I have never been particularly feminist in my thinking, but this is the sort of thing that makes me want to explore feminism.

Just had to get that off my chest this morning!