Category Archives: Politics

Women, Men and Trains

470_indiaIndian women have been granted an unprecedented break–8 women-only commuter trains. Was anyone else struck by this headline news, and by “struck” I mean,… did you pause?

On these trains known as Ladies Specials, a weight has been lifted. Men are not there to do what they reportedly do onboard every day–pinch, grope, molest, threaten and shout insults at the women. Apparently, this harassment is the norm. Apparently, it was bad enough to warrant the government stepping in. 

Imagine a women-only train. It might be like a big slumber party. In my world, it would manifest as a man-free subway at 4am on a Saturday night. Oooooo. How fucking freeing! What about a man-free traveling experience? I would drive across America or any wild country and push deep into the night, until I collapsed alone and sleepy in my car, a tent, or a grassy ditch on the side of the road. I’d be relaxed, watching the stars sparkle without letting my imagination roar me into at least twenty minutes of heart palpitations: A man is going to find me here and hurt me. A man is going to find me here and hurt me. (An aside: I know plenty of women who are braver than me on that front.) Though I am deeply nourished by the different men in my life, I am also convinced, after 30 short years of living, that this fear of men is inherent in all women, even those who refuse to admit it.

Why? There are so many books that attempt to pin it down, so many poems. No need to descend into the messy discussion of biology (predators, the mechanics of body parts, sowing seeds, choosing carefully for your womb and all that fraught stuff). Instead, here’s some wisdom from a man on the topic… Continue reading

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Filed under All The World, Environment, In The News, Politics

"The Garden" and its South Central Farmers

I’m watching Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s 2008 documentary “The Garden,” a film about urban farmers in South Central Los Angeles and their fight against developers.

And I’m nearly speechless.

For 14 years, 350 familes grew their own food on this 14 acres, once scorched by riots and pain. It was the largest community garden in the U.S.

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In 2006, the garden was bulldozed – all 150 plant species – and plans are underway to build a Forever 21 warehouse and distribution center on this land. This, even though the farmers had raised the money to buy the property from the developer. He’s on record as saying, his words smacking of self-righteous privilege, “Even if they raised $100 million, this group could not buy this property… It’s not about money. It’s about I don’t like their cause and I don’t like their conduct. So there’s no price I would sell it to them for.”

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A flood of words get jammed in my fingers when I try to express how I feel about this. Did I mention that most of these farmers are Latinos and Latinas from the community? Are you surprised?

What I can manage to stammer is that this is the mark of everything wrong about the United States, about our dominator society. This is a prime example of what will destroy our national soul.

In the movie, there is footage of heavily armed police officers storming through tall rows of vegetables. If it were fiction, it would be hilarious. But it’s real, and it’s powerful and embarrassing.

The footage of carefully tended, productive, green vegetables, fruits, herbs, being torn up to put in concrete buildings just wrecks me. I feel that loss viscerally, and it makes me hungry for the social upending that will bring in a nurturing, partnership society. Right NOW.

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Filed under Environment, Movies, Politics, Race

Watch My New Short Film: Small Changes

This week, I’m sharing my own work, because I’m so dang proud of it. Chris & I, along with our incredibly talented Austin-area friends, created this 2 minute water conservation PSA in response to RainBird’s “Intelligent Use of Water” film contest. Austin is in the middle of the worst drought in 50 years, and last week, officials announced even tighter water restrictions, so this awareness-raising contest comes at a crucial time.

We had a great time making this film, and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out. Enjoy!

Small Changes from Jennifer Gandin Le on Vimeo.

Written by Jennifer & Christopher Gandin Le
Edited by Matt Donaldson
Music by Liz Clark
Starring our brilliant friends and cohorts!

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Beauty in a Wicked World is a weekly column by Jennifer Gandin Le. It appears on Wednesdays.

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Filed under Beauty in a Wicked World, Education, Environment, In The News, Movies, Politics, Science & Technology, Writing

Vote with Each Bite

Remember studying The Jungle by Upton Sinclair in Civics class? We read excerpts and made gagging noises when we got to the parts about rat pieces and feces found in American food. Maybe we didn’t quite understand the other call for social reform in the book: to end the profound mistreatment of immigrant workers at the turn of the century. 1906 seemed like another world. We had no idea how close this book hit to home, to now.

Everyone who eats should watch Food, Inc. Or at least the trailer.

Should you buy popcorn and M&Ms? Probably not– unless you can down them during the previews. This documentary isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s tasteful and informative. Most importantly, it argues for our right to knowledge, to be able to find out “what’s in the kitchen.”

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Filed under All The World, Environment, Health, In The News, Movies, Politics, Race

The Social Media Moment + Sidelined Communities

deannazandtThis week, I got an exciting e-mail from my friend and fellow 2006 REAL Hot 100 winner, Deanna Zandt. She’s a media technologist and a leading expert in women and technology, and she’s about to add “first-time author” to her resume.

She’s signed with the Berrett-Koehler publishing group to write a book about “the social media moment as a huge opportunity for social change and action.” Women, people of color, queer people, and many more have too often been left in the dust of technological advances (see film, TV, and radio in their formative years). Deanna will use her experience in the feminist community and bring in experts from the fields of racial justice, LGBTQQI organizing, the front lines of the class warfare, and more, to assemble strategies for widening the diversity of voices in social media.

Deanna is a sharp, compassionate, thoughtful person, and her book is going to help women and other sidelined communities release their fear and take advantage of the new technologies. The last thing we need is another place where the dominant culture creates uncontested content that blocks out all other perspectives.

If you’re interested in technology and social justice, you should be reading Deanna’s blog. Also, the publisher doesn’t offer advances, so Deanna is fundraising for living expenses this summer while she writes the book in 4 short months. Even if you have $10 to spare, visit her Feed The Author page and join supporters like the Hightower Lowdown, and Don Hazen and Doug Kreeger (editor and board member of AlterNet). It’s a fantastic project in which to invest.

Her full fundraising letter below the cut.

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Filed under Beauty in a Wicked World, Education, Gender, Politics, Race, Science & Technology, Writing

Celebrate Loving Day TODAY in NYC!

loving_day_invite_nyc_2009There’s a free party happening on the East River in Manhattan today from 3pm-7pm, and it celebrates the anniversary of Loving v. Virginia (1967), the Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage in the U.S.

DJ Dhundee and DJ Tyler Askew will be spinning, there’s free BBQ all day long, and there’s free beer for the 1st hour. It’s at Solar 1, on the East River Waterfront at East 23rd St, NYC.

Go soak up some of the beautiful day in the company of beautiful, happy people and families!

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Filed under Health, Music, Politics, Pop Culture, Race, Random, Relationships, Writing

Cairo Speech: "Make Peace"

Yesterday afternoon, I streamed President Obama’s much-anticipated speech in Cairo addressing Muslim communities of the world. Curled up at my tiny desk with computer and alocasia polly plant, I listened via the echo of my iPod buds. Why? Because my boyfriend’s brother, Mike, was hunched over his computer about 10 feet away (so it goes in this city apartment) focusing on an important email about his Fulbright placement in Turkey. I didn’t want to disturb him.

As the President’s speech unfolded, time stopped and some part of me zoomed-out. Mike is about to spend a year in a very Muslim part of a Muslim country; President Obama is asking us all to lay down our fear; it is 2009 and life is rich. In an unprecedented tone for an American President, he lauded the rich contributions of Islam in founding the modern world, spoke of the thriving American Muslim community and quoted the Koran, the Talmud and the Bible. The clear message: Fear gets you nowhere. (He’s choosing love over fear! I kept thinking, in reference to my friends who speak that way).

What started with the humility of “words alone will not meet the needs of our people”lead to “violence is a dead-end, not a sign of courage or power” and we must “chose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past” and that a “woman denied education is a woman denied equality” and finally telling young people that we have the chance to “re-imagine the world.”

All of this positive speak was buoyed by the President’s acknowledgment of the hard sustainable work necessary to undo centuries of tension. While shifting the model of leadership, President Obama called out to the citizens of the world to step it up. After the 57 minutes speech, I recounted the particulars to Mike…. Continue reading

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Filed under Environment, Orienting, Politics