The Feminist Bride

As an educated woman and a potential bride, I felt threatened by years of weddings focused on virginity and patriarchy. More and more of my friends are getting engaged and planning weddings, and I find my consciousness heightened about this strange, ritualistic celebration. I wonder if it’s entirely necessary to wear an engagement ring, change my name, and be “given away” by my father. At the risk of starting to sound like an episode of Sex in the City, is it possible to transcend ignorance and still experience wedding bliss?
According to Family Guy’s Lois Griffin, “If you ask me, feminism is about choice, and I choose to be a wife and mother” (episode 202: I am Peter, Hear Me Roar). I commend Lois for her choices, and I hope to receive the same support for the choices I make. My idea is that many modern women are independent and self-sufficient. She’ll bring home as much bacon as her man, and her identity should be kept in spite of marriage.
This translates to a conflict between me—and the likes of me, assuming I don’t stand alone—and the traditional wedding. Convention tells us the bride’s family pays for the wedding, or at least the bulk of it. This and the bridal shower are residues from the days of dowry. “Sir, I’ll take that daughter off your hands, but you’ll have to pay me to do it, since she’ll never make any money herself.” I don’t think so!
In cahoots with the old dowry are the traditions of consent and the giving away of the bride. I understand the sentimental value of being walked down the aisle by one’s father, or even both parents, but the idea of a bride being property transferred from her father to her husband at the alter is antiquated and sexist. Why does the bride have be patronized while the groom marches himself up the aisle and stands proudly on his own two feet?
Speaking of pride, another thing about weddings I find revolting is the repeated show of the bride’s virginity. Centuries ago, a wife who didn’t bleed on her wedding night could be divorced and treated like a whore without further questioning. Today the bride’s white gown shows her purity and her veil symbolizes the metaphorical veil of her innocence being lifted away by her husband.
To counter these intrusive symbols, I don’t necessarily suggest shunning the color white or opting out of a veil. Certain aspects of the metaphors behind the veil and the white gown are beautiful and still relevant. For example, a bride wearing these garments goes to the alter with a clean, white slate, ready to open her eyes to a new life with her spouse.
I realize that this is an area upon which one should tread lightly. Marriage is “sacred” as they say, and personal, and like I said above, I believe that everyone is entitled to make their own choices. I hope only to point out that traditional marriage is also very symbolic, and that many of these symbolic acts are sexist. Women today are powerful and can stand up to the men of the world bearing their “maiden” names and their identities while cultivating beautiful relationships. I hope to be one of them!
To everyone planning a wedding, I ask you to understand the traditions you’re practicing so that the symbolism of our ceremonies matches the social progress we’ve made and will continue to make.

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A Scotch and Cigar Man

The first time I heard Ron White’s comedy, I was in the passenger seat of my boyfriend’s car, hunched over on the dashboard, begging him to turn it off so I could stop laughing. I laughed so hard my chest burned and tears streamed uncontrollably down my cheeks. Some of his jokes may be offensive and he may be a red-faced fat man rarely seen without a cigar and a glass of scotch, but Ron White — alias “Tater Salad” — is one funny man.
[poster] Most of White’s jokes revolve around the theme of alcohol, or more specifically, being drunk. “Tater Salad” is actually a fake name he created once while being arrested and charged with being drunk in public. His jokes about this story were apparently so popular he named his website www.tatersalad.com.
Those jokes not alcohol-related run the gamut from mother-in-laws to meat-lovers and everything in between. “Everybody on the plane was nervous, but I’d been drinking since lunch, and I was like, ‘Take it down. I don’t care… Hit something hard. I don’t want to limp away from this son-of-a.’ The guy sitting next to me is losing his mind. Apparently, he had a lot to live for. He goes, ‘Hey man, if one of these engines fails, how far you think the other one will take us?’ ‘All the way to the scene of the crash…which is pretty handy, because that’s where we’re headed!’”
Some of White’s jokes may mildly offend some, especially women and vegetarians, of which I am both. For instance, he jokes about a diamond company getting honest in their advertising and finally saying what they meant all along: “Diamonds: That’ll shut her up…for a minute!” My laughter subsided a little upon first hearing that one, but even a vegi like myself can appreciate White’s opinion of vegetarians, which is delivered in such a flabbergasted manner that the delivery may be just as funny as the joke:
“If you’re here tonight, and you’re a vegetarian… shut up. You’re not gonna recruit me. I didn’t climb to the top of the fucking food chain to eat carrots! What are ya, nuts?”
Ron White’s delivery is probably what most distinguishes him from other comedians. Says Journalism junior Lacey Moore, “I think he’s a refreshing change from the typical comedian and is great at making fun of his own shortfalls.” His sarcasm and his impersonation of himself as a drunkard can be enough to make a listener almost pee his pants (trust me on this one).
Another one of his famous jokes expresses his frustration with a man who tied himself to a tree during a hurricane to prove his physical strength:
“He said that at 53 years of age he was in good enough physical condition to withstand the wind and the rain of a force 3 hurricane. But let me you tell you something here: it isn’t that the wind is blowing; it’s what the wind is blowing. If you get hit with a Volvo, it doesn’t matter how many sit-ups you did that morning!”
From 2000 to 2003, White traveled with the Blue Collar Comedy Tour and that led to a television series on Comedy Central, two CDs and a DVD of the group’s performances. The other members of the tour were Jeff Foxworthy (of the infamous redneck jokes), Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy. Since that tour ended, Ron White has released his own CD entitled — no surprise here — “Drunk In Public.”

White’s taken his comedy on the road again, this time on a solo tour that will stop at the Breslin Center April 14. For more information on show times and ticket prices, check out www.breslincenter.com .

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Now Playing

So you’d like to catch a piece of the film festival, but you don’t want to choose randomly from the wide array of selections? Here’s a breakdown of the major films by genre: foreign language, romance, drama and documentary. Like many independent films, expect the unexpected with titles such as “Threads of Belonging” utilizing all improvised performances or “Blue Skin,” a film devoted to the art of tattoo. Choose from your favorite category and enjoy the festival. For more information about the East Lansing Film Festival or any of the films listed below, see the ELFF’s Web site: www.elff.com.

Foreign Language
“The Sea Inside” (Spanish), Saturday 1:30PM
“Kamchatka” (Spanish),Wednesday 7:30PM
“Borders” (French),Saturday 4:00PM
“Seducing Doctor Lewis” (French), Saturday 6:30PM
“The Tunnel” (German), Saturday 9:00PM
“Brothers” (Danish), Friday 7:00PM
“Behind Enemy Lines” (Hebrew and Arabic), Saturday 6:30PM
“Father and Son” (Russian), Saturday 4:00PM

Romance
“Headrush,” Saturday 6:30PM
“Little Kings,” Saturday 9:00PM
“Stranger than Fiction,” Sunday 4:30PM

Drama
“Threads of Belonging,” Friday 9:30PM
“Wit” directed by Mike Nichols, director of “Closer,” Saturday 1:30PM
“Down into Happiness,” Sunday 12:00PM
“Pearl Diver,” Sunday 2:00PM
“Tarnation,” Friday 9:30PM
“Solitude,” Sunday 4:30PM
“Sleeping with the Enemy,” Saturday 6:30PM

Documentary
“Blue Skin,” Saturday 6:30PM
“The Future of Food,” Saturday 1:30PM
“A Tribe of His Name,” Saturday 1:30PM
“A Whale of a Tale,” Saturday 9:00PM
“Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession,” Friday 9:30PM
“Trudell,” Friday 7:00PM
“Plagues and Pleasure on the Salton Sea,” Saturday 4:00PM
“Dust to Glory,” Sunday 8:30PM—Hannah Community Center
“Big Enough,”Sunday 2:00PM
“Neighbors in the Square,” Sunday 2:00PM
“Different by Design: Columbus, Indiana,”Sunday 12:00PM
“Picture Me an Enemy,” Saturday 9:00PM
“The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan,” Friday 7:00 PM

Political Documentary
“Parallel Lines,” Sunday 4:30PM
“Professional Revolutionary,” Sunday 12:00PM
“Rush to War,” Friday 9:30PM
“Tying the Knot,” Saturday 9:00PM
Unless otherwise noted, flims are shown at Wells Hall.

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Thou Shalt Not… Prevent Equality?

The United States is a nation that boasts of religious freedom and equality for all people. However, the case of the Ten Commandments in the Supreme Court is proof that our shining golden façade is truly only a gilded one. A public monument bearing the Ten Commandments— along with “I am the LORD thy God” engraved boldly across the top— is nothing if not an effort to evangelize and show preference for Christianity over other faiths.
The monolith that is the subject of this debate was donated to the State of Texas in 1961 by an organization called the Fraternal Order of the Eagles (please note that it’s a “fraternal” organization, thus it enforces patriarchy, just another system that undermines equality). The monument became part of a group of monuments collectively called “The Pride of Texas”. Among this collection were monuments dedicated to the Alamo, Pearl Harbor, and WWI. There is also a monument for the Confederate soldiers of the American Civil War— I wonder how African American legislators feel about that one.
Since the stone bearing the Ten Commandments is the only one of this collection that represents a religion, it seems that the state of Texas is partial to Christianity, and thus the state denies equality of religion. A statement has been published by the Grand Presidents of the FOE that responds to accusations like the one I’ve just made includes the following:
“The Fraternal Order of Eagles has promoted the Ten Commandments not in an attempt to impose religion on the masses, but rather in recognition of their role in the very foundation of our legal system. Our very laws are built on the bedrock moral precepts of the Ten Commandments, and we look forward at long last to having that affirmed by the high court.”
I do not deny that this nation was founded by Christian people and principles, but since then the United States has evolved to become a haven for people of all races, ethnicities and religions, not exclusively Christianity—or so we say. The U.S. Supreme Court banned the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools 25 years ago. In order to continue progressing toward a future of religious equality and tolerance, we need to keep religion separate from politics, and that means keeping religious symbols out of the public sphere. The backyard of Texas’s Supreme Court is nothing if not public space.
According to the statement by the Grand Presidents of the FOE, “our very laws are built on the bedrock moral precepts of the Ten Commandments.” However, there are only three of the 10 that are present in U.S. law, those being the commandments that concern murder, theft, and perjury. The rest of the commandments are broken before my very eyes every day, and I doubt not that these sins have presence in the lives of most American citizens— Christians not excluded. How many of you have worked on Sunday, lusted after a movie star, argued with your parents, and wanted something you couldn’t have? Four commandments were broken in that last sentence alone.
The public display of the Ten Commandments is not only an insult to non-Christians; it is a detriment to the future presence of tolerance, equality, and freedom in the United States. Beyond all this, the display of these commandments comes close to breaking the second commandment, which forbids the display of “any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.” It’s hard to find a much clearer example of hypocrisy. My hope for this conflict is that the monument be moved to a private setting, the separation of church and state be sustained, and Americans move forward together toward a freer future.

Disagree? Let us know at letters@thebiggreen.net

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From Pirates to Green Beer

[beer] Today we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with green beer, corned beef and t-shirts bearing phrases like “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” (although we both know you’re probably not). Yet, the real St Patrick didn’t drink, eat or wear any of those things we think of as hallmarks of the holiday. (Okay, maybe he wore the t-shirt). In fact, the origins of the day infamous for Guiness revelry evolved from an adolescent boy’s enslavement by Celtic pirates…
You heard me right. Pirates. At the age of 16, the future Saint Patty was kidnapped from his home in Scotland and taken by pirates to Ireland, where he served as a slave for six long years. He eventually escaped, and after a short stroll (about 200 miles, give or take a few) and a boat ride, he found his way home. Sounds like the screenplay for a Jerry Bruckheimer picture, doesn’t it?
Patrick was eventually ordained as a Catholic bishop and decided to return to the land of his enslavement. He is credited with converting the Celtic Irish people to Christianity by using the clover as a metaphor for the trinity. Legend also says that he drove all of the snakes off of the island, but history says that is one thing he definitely didn’t do. Snakes or no snakes, he died at the age of 96 on March 17, 493 and became the patron saint of Ireland.
[clover] St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated all over the world, particularly in Australia, the U.S. and Canada and is an easy excuse for college students to really celebrate. “It’s the only time of the year when it’s okay to drink green things, everyone’s drunk before noon and sober people are out numbered in class 10-1,” said construction management junior Mike Bonner.
Want a piece of irony to chew after a sip of that Guinness? According to The Wearing of the Green, by Mike Cronin Daryl Adair Price, until the 1970s, pubs in Ireland were closed by law on St. Patrick’s Day, since the day was celebrated as a religious holiday. Since then, however, celebrations have moved from the church to the bar, and there they remain.
Speaking of bars, there are several in Lansing and East Lansing that are offering St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. A few places that will be blaring the bagpipes include Buffalo Wild Wings, Harper’s and the Claddagh Irish Pub in Eastwood Towne Center. You’ll find everything from green eggs and ham (more Seussian than Irish, but who cares?) to that infamous clover hued beer.
“St. Patrick’s Day is the one day of the year when everyone is Irish,” said Junior Dave Wells. So, pull out your favorite shade of green today and Erin Go Braugh!

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My Body Image Awakening

If you’ve seen the comic masterpiece, “Dodgeball,” and you’ve heard the excremental verbiage flowing from Ben Stiller’s mouth, then you’ll recognize this bit:
White Goodman: At Globo Gym we understand that “ugliness” and “fatness” are genetic disorders, much like baldness or necrophilia, and it’s only your fault if you don’t hate yourself enough to do something about it.
Now here’s my confession: I’ve believed White Goodman’s cruel statement, and I’ve told myself I’ll be thinner and prettier if I just hate myself enough. But recently I started to question that attitude, and now I’m seeing myself in a brand-new light – I look like an idiot.
Reflections of my body have been with me since I was 13. I was diagnosed with diabetes and I had to start counting the carbohydrates I ate, so I essentially became a calorie-counter in middle school. I haven’t stopped counting, and I’ve added other ridiculous practices to the list of things I now hate myself for, including: looking at myself in every piece of glass that reflects (car window, storefronts, mirrors, etc.); mentally labeling every girl who is fatter than I am as inferior and every girl who is thinner than I am as my enemy; tanning periodically so I have to stare at my naked body in a mirror under bad light (this obviously takes me down the road to self-hate); constantly being on the lookout for women in the media who are more beautiful, more starved and more airbrushed than I am, so that I can make them my role models and die a little every day I realize I’ll never look like them.
Number four on that list is where Natalie Portman comes in. The girl inside Queen Amidala has been my idol since she began her “Star Wars” saga. I look at pictures of her and dream of how she must breeze through life on her willowy limbs, feeling light as a feather. I can’t believe she’s just naturally thin and beautiful, because if I realized that, then I’d also have to realize I could never look like her. DING, DING, DING! This is the point of my awakening.
Has it ever occurred to anyone else that we sometimes know characters in the media better than we know the people we see every day on the street? I can tell you Jessica Simpson’s legs look thinner when she wears heels, and Jen Schefft (“The Bachelorette”) looks best in halter tops because her boobs are so huge. Meanwhile, my little sister wants breast implants, and my boyfriend asks me if I’ve noticed he hasn’t had time to work out lately. What do my observations about women on television do to help the people I really love? Jack shit, and that’s the truth.
In “Dodgeball,” Young Patches O’Houlihan says dodgeball is a sport of violence, exclusion and degradation. Doesn’t this sound like the game the media inspires us to play against ourselves? The body images for women and men projected on our televisions do little more than encourage us to practice violence (think of bulimia), exclusion (my mental competition with other women) and degradation (“Honey, do I look fat in this?”). I know, this may seem like a shallow and clichéd lesson to learn. But it’s one I think could make a lot of people happier.
The television is not a mirror. We use Hollywood to build the ruler we measure ourselves by, but this is simply impractical. We don’t live in Hollywood. We don’t all aspire to be actors. And most of us don’t have the money to get Zone meals delivered to our homes three times a day like Jennifer Aniston. So let’s break this ruler and form a new one! Instead of measuring only height, weight and cup size, we’ll use our ruler to measure strength as a friend, intelligence and the ability to quote “Family Guy.”
It comforts me knowing there are other people with a shared passion for my new goals: RUBI (Respecting and Understanding Body Image), a group of people right here on MSU’s campus. According to RUBI’s homepage, 80 percent of women are dissatisfied with their bodies, and the physique of a model is thinner than 98 percent of women in America.
It’s time to leave the matrix, people. Swallow the red pill and get the hell out of there. In my case, I know it’ll take some time, but ultimately I hope to be happier with my body and not hate it so much. I won’t let tiny inflections in the mirror keep me from a night out. I won’t ask my boyfriend if I look fat in my jeans…because, unless I’m looking like Roseanne Barr, I don’t care to know. Finally, I’ll fire Natalie Portman from the position of role model and I’ll try to find someone better qualified and more realistic to take her place.

RUBI is participating in Eating Disorder Awareness Week, February 28 – March 4. More information about RUBI can be found at the Olin Health Center info page.

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Literary Corner: Another Braff Makes Us Laugh

[green] “The thing I notice first about the fourth grade at Fillmore Elementary is death and God — or the amazing lack of them. A whole morning goes by and there’s no talk of plagues or slavery or the smiting of anyone, and not as much as a peep on sacrificial slaughters or pestilence.”
Jacob Green has many unthinkable thoughts, from his experience transferring to a non-Jewish school to the number of sperm he possesses. These thoughts and more play out in the debut novel by Joshua Braff, brother of Scrubs actor and Garden State director Zach Braff.
The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green is littered with the main character’s desires, fears and confessions. These thoughts sneak out through the fabric of adolescent protagonist Jacob Green’s struggles and they give him a certain vulnerable charm.
[sperm] Jacob’s unthinkable thoughts weave in and out of the entire novel, giving the reader a sense of living through his growing eyes, mind and body. One such thought comes packed within a Bar Mitzvah thank-you that Jacob imagines sending to a friend of his father:
“In the sixth grade a classmate named David Barnett told me we only have a million to spend so we should be careful with every drop. I’ve got to tell you, Morris and Dora, I’m a little concerned. I have no way of knowing how many sperms I have left in my testicles.”
Jacob is plagued with the typical plights of adolescence, such as a ripening sexuality and a desire to rebel against his family’s religion. But he’s faced with some additional struggles the majority of us don’t see, like an apparent learning disability and a father whose tyranny and aggression are positively frightening.
Jacob’s father, Abram, presents the greatest conflict in the story. Braff foreshadows this conflict with the following introduction to the book:
Do not reject the discipline of the Lord, my son;
Do not abhor his rebuke.
For whom the Lord loves, He rebukes,
As a father the son whom he favors.
-Proverbs 3:11—13
Although not nearly as rebellious and angry as his older brother, Asher, Jacob is clearly frustrated with his father’s impossible standards for love and perfection. As the story progresses through five years of Jacob’s life, we see how his relationship with his father manifests itself in Jacob’s character. His father’s childish tantrums and selfish demands cause Jacob to be spontaneously angry, so much so that he breaks his own wrist punching a wall. But after Asher and Mrs. Green leave the home, Abram becomes dependent upon Jacob, his “good son,” and Jacob accepts the position as his father’s crutch.
The novel, although not a strict autobiography, seems to take a certain volume of material from the author’s own life. There are also a number of similarities between Joshua Braff’s novel and brother Zach Braff’s film, Garden State.
[gardenstate] There are many dots to connect between the works of the Braff brothers. Both have written about introverted protagonists who are half-heartedly Jewish and grow up in New Jersey, and both Zach’s film and Joshua’s novel feature rocky relationships between fathers and sons. So the big question is how much of the fictional content is autobiographical? How much does Joshua Braff hide in the character of Jacob Green?
First, there is the issue of the parents. In Braff’s novel, Mr. and Mrs. Green separate and it is hinted they’ll both remarry. In the dedication of his novel, Braff thanks his four parents. Jacob is described in the novel as having blonde hair and broad shoulders, making him strangely similar to the photo of his creator on the book jacket.
But I’m not here to accuse Braff of stealing material from his own life. After all, it’s often said authors write best about what they know, and what can they know better than their own thoughts…especially the unthinkable ones?

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Civil Liberties Up in Smoke

You can’t smoke if you’re pregnant. You can’t smoke in your non-smoking friends’ homes. Now you can’t smoke in bars in New York. Now you can’t smoke EVER; if you want a job, that is. Let me confess: I hate smoking. I hate the smell of it and I throw fits when my boyfriend smokes a cigarette when he’s out with his friends. But despite my aversion to this habit, I am thoroughly disturbed by the news that Michigan employers can fire employees for smoking outside of work.
That’s right. You didn’t smoke during your shift, or even on your unpaid lunch break. You smoked Saturday night, in a bar, out with friends…and on Monday morning they fired your smoky ass because a company squeal told the Boss that you disrespected your lungs. Did you know that this practice is entirely legal?
Weyco, Inc., a Michigan health insurance and benefits company, has a policy that forbids its employees to smoke, inside or outside of the workplace. Even for a health insurance company, this just doesn’t line up for me. What new restrictions on employees could we find around the corner? Next company employees will be expected to abstain from sex unless said interactions are between legally married spouses. And although the above policy should make it pretty clear [since gay couples may not be legally wed in this country] company employees will be expected to abstain from sexual interaction of a same-sex nature. Oh, company employees might soon be expected to abstain from alcohol too, because it’s not good for the liver, or the medical bills. What else could they demand? Fidelity? Religiosity? Good credit?
What we’re talking about here is a question of civil liberties. Unlike The State News, I don’t think that “good business sense” justifies discrimination. Virg Bernero, D-Lansing, has proposed a bill that would prevent the Weyco, Inc. incident from recurring by making it illegal for employers to pink-slip their workers for engaging in legal activities outside of the workplace. The bottom line is that what we all do in our homes is our business. That’s called privacy, and in a world where our identities fly around in digital space for all to catch, we need to enforce it.
I expect that right-wing senators will oppose Bernero’s bill because they’ll say that they want small government; that the law should not be imposed on small businesses. But what happens if enough small businesses enforce policies like Weyco Inc.’s, and incidents like the one I’m griping about start happening left and right? If employers keep stripping civil liberties away, who knows- smokers, occasional drinkers, atheists, gays and lesbians- even you, may be out of a job.

Disagree? Let us know at letters@thebigggreen.net and we’ll post your response.

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