Water Movie Review

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Review:

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual abuse

One of the most horrifying films I’ve ever seen. I saw in an arthouse theater soon after it came out in 2005 and haven’t seen it since, but I still feel physically ill when I remember certain scenes.

Water was written and directed by Deepa Mehta, a native of Amritsar, Punjab, India who now lives in Canada. It is set in India in 1938, during the rise of Gandhi, but mostly follows the life of a 7 year old child bride who is widowed and sent by her family to live for the rest of her life in an ashram (house of prayer) with other widows. The women are desperately poor and survive by begging and, it turns out, by prostituting the younger and prettier members of the ashram to wealthy men. Starting in childhood.

It does end on a slightly more hopeful note than most of the rest of the film, but overall, it is very hard to watch. Nevertheless, I do recommend watching Water if you can safely do so without triggering yourself. Not only is it a beautifully made and well-acted film, it’s also a very powerful and important one. Call me a bleeding heart, but I think it’s important for those of us with comfortable Western lives to be aware of the struggles of people in general and women in particular in more superstitious and unforgiving times and places. The plight of poor widows in India remains dire. If you feel inspired to try and help, check out The Loomba Foundation and similar charities.

Women in the Material World Book Review

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Review:

A companion book to Material World: A Global Family Portrait that is just as eye-opening and thought-provoking as the original! In Women in the Material World, Peter Menzel and his partner Faith D’Aluisio returned to many of the same families visited in the original book to focus on the lives of the women, with more extensive interviews about their lives.

As in the first book, the similarities between the different women’s hopes and dreams is beautiful and inspirational, but the differences in their day-to-day lives is frequently shocking. This book was my first introduction to the practice of bride kidnapping, for example, a horrific but common practice in Ethiopia in which a man literally kidnaps and rapes the woman he wants to marry in order to force her family to acquiesce to the marriage, regardless of her own wishes. (For more about this practice – and some hopeful progress towards ending it – see this excellent article: Kidnapped. Raped. Married. The extraordinary rebellion of Ethiopia’s abducted wives.)

Most of the interviews are incredibly honest and revealing as the different women share struggles including unplanned pregnancy, loveless marriages, sudden widowhood, the death of a child, past abortions, raising a disabled child, single parenthood, and more. At the same time, there are also stories of success and inspiration, including beautiful portraits of family happiness and love even in the most trying circumstances. The affection that the photographers developed for many of the women and families that they interviewed also comes through loud and clear.

Highly recommended.

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My rating:5 Stars (5 / 5)

The Descent of Woman Book Review

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Review:

I read The Descent of Woman for the first time during my brief but intense trashy novel phase when I was about 13, mainly because it talked so much about sex. 

Needless to say, it’s not a trashy novel, but rather a fascinating study of human evolution. As an adult, I’ve looked more into the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis, and from what I’ve found, it seems to be mostly bunk. However, The Descent of Woman is such a well written, entertaining (often laugh-out-loud funny), and thought-provoking book that it’s remained one of my favorites despite its dubious scientific credentials. 

Additionally, I think that even if the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis itself is wrong, there is value in Morgan’s absolute evisceration of the sexism that pervaded popular scientific discussion of human evolution at the time, and which unfortunately still rears its ugly head from time to time today.

My rating:5 Stars (5 / 5)