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Jane Fonda in Five Acts: Quotes from the HBO Documentary

HBO has phenomenal programming. Lifelong fan here. They’ve done it again with another fantastically amazing documentary about womanhood. On the surface, Jane Fonda in Five Acts is a video autobiography. But Jane Fonda is so deeply vulnerable with her sharing that she actually speaks to the female experience the world over. On deeper levels the documentary is like a study of the stages of womanhood, femininity and self-discovery.

I have never been married, but the things Jane navigated within herself through her marital relationships resonate with me because I have learned similar lessons in different types of relationship interactions. Her message is so universal and so plainly delivered, it makes Jane Fonda in Five Acts a film of profound beauty and depth.

Act 1: Henry
Any healthy country, like any healthy individual, should be in perpetual revolution, perpetual change.

You have to have the courage to speak about the changes that are needed. And that includes challenging, at the root, the corporate power that has taken over the economy of this country.

We looked like the American Dream. Rich. Beautiful. Close. But a lot of it was simply myth.

A lot of other people were defining me, all of them men. I never felt real. I thought, I just have to get out from under my fathers shadow. Maybe if I go to France and join the New Wave, I will find I really am. I was always in search of somebody who was real in there [in me].

Act 2: Vadim
Here I was, trying to not be defined by men, ended up with a man who was the ultimate definer of femininity. That’s where I was at that time. I wanted someone to mold me. I wanted him to help me become a woman.

I felt like I was a bad mother and I was terrified. It surprised me this feeling of fear. Later on when I looked back on it, I understand.

I always saw my mother as a victim. Women=victim. I am a woman. I am damaged. I am going to be crushed.

My mother was a very complicated woman. A very damaged woman.

I heard my father say things about my body that has twisted my life ever since.

“Where are you? Where are you? Why won’t you show up?” Words she imagined her toddler daughter spoke to her through searching eyes.

I desperately needed structure. I desperately needed guidance. And, uh, I’ve always turned to men for that.

Act 3: Tom

I had suffered from an eating disorder for a long time. Nobody knew. The thing about bulimia is is that it’s a disease of denial. It takes a lot subterfuge. You’re very tired. You’re very angry. And You’re very self-hating. And I realized, I’m heading to a really dark place. I’m either going to head into the light, or I’m gonna succumb to the dark. And it’s a life or death thing. I went cold turkey. It was really really hard. There was something about taking control of my body in that way that got me over the addition. It changed my perception of myself. It was a revolution for me. Though completely unintentional.

He thought I was superficial. That I wasn’t smart enough. But I was producing my own movies. The kind of movies that say the things that I think needed saying.

He fell in love with somebody. And I found out. It did knock the foundation from under me because I could never imagine life without Tom. If I’m not with Tom Haden, then I’m nobody.

Act 4: Ted

I learned a lot with all the men in my life, but learned the most with Ted. His vision is macro and I’m micro, so we were a great partnership.

We had a wonderful ten years, but I had to hide a part of me in order to please him.

Ted couldn’t be alone. So my whole life was about him.

As we moved through the decade we spent together, I became more of a feminist. And so my focus was more on women’s empowerment. But it’s hard to be a complete feminist when you’re in a marriage that doesn’t quite work. None of my marriages were democratic, because I was too worried about pleasing. I had to be a certain way in order for them to love me. I had to look a certain way. And I looked different for all of them. I wanted to be living as a whole Jane. A fully realized Jane.

When you reside within your own skin, you can feel it. You’re holding all of you. Your anger. Your kindness. Your judgementalness. Everything that makes up what you are. Including the fact that you may be stronger and braver than the man you’re married to.

There was a softer voice saying: If you stay, you will never be authentic. You will never be able to be whole.

Act 5: Jane
It was probably the most profound turning point of my whole life. I left this man and one part of me was so sad. And the other part of me said, “I’m gonna be okay. I don’ t need a man to make me okay.” That was it. And I’ve never looked back.

I wish I were braver. But I am what I am.

Your age is less chronological and more spiritual and attitudinal. I was so old at twenty. On a soul level… I saw no future. I was very dark. Very sad person. There was no joy. I didn’t really know who I was. It took a really long time to find my narrative.

This is the beginning of my last act. In order to know how to go forward, I had to know where I’d been.

Their incapacity to love wasn’t because you weren’t worthy of love. It was because they too had been wounded. And then you can forgive. It goes from one generation to another and somebody’s gotta break the cycle.

I get so sad when I think of what I wasn’t for my daughter that she needed. It’s hard to take that in because it’s so painful. But its never too late.

I’m now having relationships that are much more democratic, but I am most myself when I’m with my women friends.

It’s hard to be really happy if your life doesnt have meaning. People turn to religion because it gives them meaning. But I am an activist.

I had spent so much of my life feeling if I’m not perfect, no one could love. Then I realized, trying to be perfect is a toxic journey. We’re not perfect. We have to love our shadow. We have to embrace and accept our shadows. And sometimes good enough is good enough.

#JaneFonda #JaneFondaInFiveActs #HBO #HBODocumentary

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Book Review: BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and MeBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I am not a fan of this book. I thought it was more contrived and pretentious than delivered from an authentic place. I read it over a year ago for a book club I host. For that reason I am sharing my discussion notes in lieu of an in depth review.

LaCelia Book Club
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
January 11, 2016 Discussion

Who is he speaking to?
Addressed to his son, but that sense is lost almost immediately – yes/no?

“Your body can be destroyed.” (p 9)
“Other worlds where children do not fear for their bodies.” (p 20) **Interesting use of body rather than life.

Felt wrong to comfort you…. this is your country, this is your world, this is your body you must find some way to live within all of it.

Howard University: only Mecca he will ever need. (p 39)

Doesn’t believe in “God”. Compares Christianity to Western civilization (“their god”). But uses faith-based terminology: belief, The Mecca, calls his son his god

The body as the ultimate expression of being and existence.

“…burning and looting as Christian charity.” (p 101)
– deep-seated hatred of Christianity
– deep seated fear of living free as he is

Spirit and soul as body and mind are destructible/perishable (p 103)

“Dreamers” should be “Destroyers”
We all have dreams, but we don’t all destroy others for our dreams. (p 111)

What is acting, talking, and being “white?” (p 111)

Mrs. Jordan’s words sum up my response to this book. (p 113)

A book suggestion that came up during our discussion was to read The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. I read it. I was able to see what Coates was attempting to do, but it clarified that Between the World and Me was more an attempt at mimicry than authenticity.

View all my reviews

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Cupcake vs. Man Conundrum

bitmoji-20160411045333Office small talk gone wrong.

There were left-over birthday cupcakes in the office. I walked over grab a couple and shared with ladies on my return to my desk that there were some goodies around the corner.

One co-worker vehemently protested the cupcakes. She went on and on about how she couldn’t possibly eat a cupcake (miniature or otherwise) because of all the flavorful bites of food she had last week which have since caused her belly to poke out a bit. She continued that she has a trip coming up in a month and half that she wants to look and feel good for.

I said that eating food has an effect on our bodies, but told her I was not trying to force a cupcake on her. I attempted to shift the conversation by mentioning that my personal fitness trainer had texted me the day before complaining about pancakes I had eaten last week and insisting that I not “cheat”. I was chuckling as I shared that I hadn’t responded because I didn’t want to sound cross when I text back that eating pancakes is not cheating when I didn’t agree not to eat pancakes; and point out that I didn’t agree to share my food log to be beaten up about my food choices.

To this, the co-worker responded: “LaShawnda, you will never get a man like that!”

I thought I misheard her. “I will never get a what?”

“You will never get a man. Everything is an argument with you.”

I was flabbergasted. What was I arguing about? I pointed out that there had been no agreement with my trainer regarding what I eat and my response would be about setting boundaries not arguing. She walked away laughing.

When she came back, she walked over to me and said the following while avoiding eye contact, “I didn’t mean to cause offense, but I’ve learned that you have to learn to appease men to keep them and the way you talk will not appease any man.”

“I am not interested in appeasing anyone at the expense of being who I am.”

“Well, maybe I’m projecting a bit. One of my friends just told me that and it sounded like you could benefit from the advice. From my experience, my relationships didn’t work because I didn’t put effort into appeasing them.”

“That’s not my issue.”

“Perhaps not….”

“I don’t need to appease “men.” I always say, I only need one man. My goal is to have a good partnership. If I can partner well with someone, everything else will fall into place. I am not interested in being miserable or changing who I am to appeal to anyone’s idea of who they think I should be. Having a man isn’t that important to me – not at the expense of myself.”

“Well, I have no response to that. I’m not arguing.”

Even having typed this out, I’m still a bit speechless. Perhaps she needed to talk. Perhaps she really wanted to attack me. Perhaps she’s feeling the pressure of being a people- and man-pleaser. Whatever the case, she’s not doing herself any favors. Nor is she doing any favors for women or men in general.

bitmoji-20160411045417I may be a hopeless idealist, but I do believe there is value in being genuine. It’s not automatically antagonistic to state what you will and will not do or what you want, don’t want or what you will and will not accept. What I have learned through my interactions with people is that people who live honestly and fully as themselves will always incite resentment from people who practice hiding themselves as a way of getting people to like and accept them. Hiders will always be insecure, because they do not generally allow for opportunities for others to truly get to know who they are. They only allow for their social representative to be known: the good guy, the nice girl, the charmer and the sweetheart. In doing this, they become stuck and beholden to a false image they created to interact with and please a public they will never really know.

 

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Untitled.

Heartbreaking and far too common.


Untitled.

When I was six years old, I gave my first blowjob.
“It’s a game”, said He. “Don’t you want to play?”
It was too big, and I threw up on him.
He said I’d do better the next time.

When I was seven years old, I watched a group of fellow second graders cheer as a boy in my class tried to kiss me. He hugged me from behind, giggling all the while.
I threw sand in his eyes, and was sent to the Principal.

When I was eight years old, I had an elderly teacher ask me to stay behind in class. He carried me on his shoulders, and called me pretty.
“Teacher’s Pet!” my friends declared, the envy visible on their faces.
They ignored me at lunch that day.

When I was nine years old, an older girl on the school bus would ask me to lift my skirt up for her. She was pretty and kind, and told me that I could only be her friend if I did what she said.
I wanted to be her friend.

When I was ten years old, a relative demanded that he get a kiss on the cheek every time we met. He was large and loud, and I proceeded to hide under my bed whenever I learnt that he was visiting.
I was known as a rude child.

When I was eleven, my auto-man told me that we would only leave if I gave him a hug every day.
He smelled like cheap soap and cigarettes.

When I was twelve years old, I watched as a man on the street touched my mother’s breast as he passed us. She slapped him amidst the shouts of onlookers telling her to calm down.
She didn’t calm down.

When I was thirteen years old, I exited a restaurant only to see a man visibly masturbating as he walked towards me. As he passed, he winked lasciviously.
My friends and I shifted our gazes down, aghast.

When I was fourteen, a young man in an expensive car followed me home as I walked back from an evening class. I ignored his offer to give me a ride, and I panicked when he got out, only to buy me a box of chocolate that I refused. He parked at the end of my road, and didn’t go away for an hour.
“It turns me on to see you so scared.”

When I was fifteen, I was groped on a bus. It was with a heart full of shame that I confided in a friend, only to be met with his anger and disappointment that I had not shouted at the molester at the time when it happened. My soft protests of being afraid and alone were drowned out as he berated my inaction. To him, my passiveness and silence were the reasons why things like this continue to happen.
He did not wait for my response.

When I was sixteen, I discovered that Facebook had a section of inbox messages named ‘others’, which contained those mails received from strangers, automatically stored as spam. Curious, I opened it to find numerous messages from men I had never seen before. I was propositioned, called sexy, asked for nudes, and insulted.
Delete message.

When I was seventeen, I called for help as a drunken man tried to sexually harass me in a crowded street.
The people around me seemed to walk by quicker.

At eighteen, I was told that sexism doesn’t exist in modern society.
I was told that harassment couldn’t be as bad as us women make it out to be.
That I should watch what I wear.
Never mind you were six, never mind you were wearing pink pajamas.
That I should be louder.
But not too loud, a lady must be polite.
That I should always ask for help.
But stop overreacting, there’s a difference.
That I should stay in at night, because it isn’t safe.
You can’t get harassed in broad daylight.
That I should always travel with no less than two boys with me.
You need to be protected. 

That it can’t be that hard to be a girl.

I am now nineteen years old.
I am now tired.

(This poem was anonymously submitted to Glasnost.)

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Womanhood: The Seat of Feminine Power

Over the past few years I have come to the realization that the  feminist agenda has become the death of femininity. The essence of womanhood is buried deeper and deeper into rhetoric and nonsense with each new political agenda women and men dream up regarding equality between the sexes.

When I was younger, I screamed for equal rights and recognition as loudly as the next woman. However, as I have grown and matured in my womanhood, I realize that there is nothing about manhood that I want or aspire to be. I have come to view the feminist political agenda as a battle cry for aspiring to maleness.

I am not equal to man. Nor do I want to be viewed as such. I am not interested in being slapped on the back, punched in the face or wrestled to the floor. I am not interested in nose to nose combat or shoulder to shoulder competition for rewards that appeal to men. I AM A WOMAN. I was created purposefully and significantly different from a man. I function differently. I think differently. I desire differently. I pursue differently. I plan differently. I live differently. Women and men are different beings. That is okay.

No man is my equal. No man can nurture and birth life within their body. Manhood is a completely different process and experience than womanhood. No man is going to understand firsthand the monthly flow of my blood or the ache of my breasts. No man can fully empathize with my swelling or my birthing. Nor can any man fully appreciate all my concerns about pregnancy – the ability to become pregnant, capability of carrying a healthy child to term, the timing of pregnancy, location of birth and considerations of how to bring a child into the world – in a hospital medicated into oblivion, or cut open to accommodate a doctor’s schedule or someplace focused on my peace of mind and spirit. Women have a creative power that is fed from a spiritual well. And we are losing touch with our true selves with each successive generation that buys into the “think-like-a-man/be-like-a-man” foolery.

Women have a different seat of power than men do, which leads to a different expression of power than men have. We’ve been throwing away our power because we think what men have is so much better. It’s not. Men depend on us much more than we depend on them. Ask one. Then ask follow-up questions. His love or his hate of womanhood is going to be rooted to a woman who was prominent in his life and therefore had great influence in the man he has become.

American women have allowed themselves, and men in general, to minimize the importance of family. The woman is the true power in the home and the man is the natural authority. Why has this become so abhorrent? Power and authority when joined together is magnificent. Women are the incubators and birthers of generations. Yet we have allowed the deterioration of society to make us feel as if we are only sexual organs, paychecks and a vote. That’s what a strict adherence to feminist political theory has gotten us. We’ve degenerated ourselves, yet we are looking to men to build us back up. We have the power to recreate our public image and we are more than capable of doing so.

Women have the power to change how we are represented in the media and the substance of our representation via entertainment. More and more we have delegated the raising of our children to society-at-large, entertainment, schools, neighborhoods, friends and extended family. We lament about a disconnected society without acknowledging that we disconnected from our homes first. The family is the first unit of society. When we disregard our power and influence within our family (with our spouse, children and other family relationships) we are also disregarding our power and influence in larger society circles.