Pam Grier is known for a lot of things. She is known as a truly gifted, hard-working, dedicated and passionate actor. She is known for being at the forefront of the blaxploitation scene, for her role as Coffy, Foxy Brown and for Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, a role, it turns out, that Tarantino wrote specifically for her. She is also known as Kit Porter, the ex-alcoholic and known singer who turns her life around and truly re-discovers herself within a group of supporting and loving friends, who just so happen to be lesbians, in Showtime’s The L Word.
I knew Pam Grier mostly as Kit Porter, being much too young to have known her work as she was just a twinkle in a B-movie producer’s eye, but I was still thoroughly excited to get to know Pam Grier, the person and the actor, when I had the opportunity to review her newly-published memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts. That in itself shows how Pam Grier transcends generations; her vast portfolio truly contains something for everyone, regardless of their age or their personal entertainment preferences.
Grier begins her memoir naturally, in the early years of her life–years 1949 to 1970. She grew up with her father serving in the Air Force, which allowed her family to see and experience everything this country, as well as other countries, had to offer, but at a time where people of color were forbidden to experience something as simple as public transportation. She recalled a specific experience when she lived in Columbus, Ohio at a time where segregation was at an all-time high and her family had been given a lovely place to live on base, but only because upon meeting her father, his superiors thought he was Caucasian, when he was really biracial. When they found out that her family were people of color, they promptly told her father that he would have to make other living arrangements off base. It was at this time, when Pam Grier was just five years old, where she realized that being a person of color came with many obstacles and she and her family ran into the racial wall throughout her childhood.
While Grier and her family moved every two years because of her father being active in the Air Force, she had always considered Colorado home, although she did spend some time in Wyoming on her family’s farm, which was also where she climbed onto her first horse and fell in love for a lifetime. While living with her Aunt Mennon, a compulsive, irresponsible and generally angry “wild child”, in the projects of Denver, Colorado with her mother, father and brother, as well as with her cousins, she was six years old when she was first raped by her three male cousins in the home when her mother was out and her aunt had left the children unattended. She was saved by the telephone repairman, who had come into the house and barged into the room when he had heard what was going on, after an appointment to fix the telephone wiring had not been cancelled. Grier never told a soul about what had happened to her, not fully comprehending what had happened. After being raped, she developed a stutter and consistently went out of her way to make herself unattractive to the boys, and to men as she grew older.
Her introverted behavior didn’t stop until she was much older and after losing her stutter, her introverted-self returned when she was raped again at eighteen years old, while out on one of her first dates with a family friend. Again, she didn’t tell anyone what had happened to her, this time, in fear of her family going out and killing her attacker and her need to keep peace within her family, as her parents divorced and she saw her mother struggling to complete her nursing degree.
After competing in and winning a beauty pageant, purely for the prize money she needed to fulfill her hopes of going to college to study film and to become an actress, Grier was offered the chance to move to Hollywood. She took the plunge and moved to California, quickly snatching up as many jobs as she could possibly work, as well as attend groups and meetings with UCLA students studying film on campus, although she was not a student.
While dating now basketball household name, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who when she met him was just named Lew, Grier landed her first acting job, a “B-movie”, The Big Doll House. After completing that movie, she was immediately hired by the same people behind the first movie, for her second, Women in Cages. It was also at this time when Lew, now Kareem, was consistently pressuring her into converting to Islam and to be an obedient wife he could take care of; but Grier never wanted anyone to take care of herself, being a driven and strong-willed woman with goals of her own that needed fulfilling. She and Kareem inevitably split when he gave her an ultimatum to marry him, or else he would be marrying a Muslim woman who had already been prepared for him–and he would be marrying this woman on Pam Grier’s birthday of all days. Needless to say, she declined his offer, as painful as it was, because regardless of how open her mind was to the idea, the more she read the books Kareem had given her about converting and what would be expected of her, the more she thought that the religion was degrading and oppressive towards women and Kareem married a woman he did not know for his religion.
Pam Grier mentions a great deal about the importance of the women’s liberation movement and her mother sending her information on the movement and the advancement of women. She also mentions a cameo appearance Gloria Steinem made on The L Word, asking who has fought harder for womanhood than Gloria Steinem? But these statements in conjunction with one particular statement really left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Almost off-handedly, Grier mentions her sexual relationship with a man as a grown woman and says that women should wait to have sex until they can be with a good man because if they don’t and have too much sex at a young age, they will be too stretched out for sex to be pleasurable. This is actually rather offensive, since feminism has a great deal to do with sexual liberation, as well as liberation from the patriarchy. To warn that you will be too stretched out for it to be pleasurable feels more like a back-peddle from feminism and sexual liberation. While this may seem like a very tiny issue and may not even catch the attention of most who read her memoir, it is still embedded in my mind and it’s still rubbing me the wrong way.
Grier has been involved in long-term relationships with many men who had not been worthy of not just her, but of any self-respecting woman and after reading about her experiences watching boyfriends like Freddie Prinze Sr. and Richard Pryor fall down the long and dirty road of deadly drugs and self-destructive behavior, you have to respect a woman for following her logic instead of purely her heart and knowing that as much as she wished she could save the men she loved throughout her life, that sometimes you have to let them go and make their own decisions and having to be more of a mother than a partner to a man is something no woman should be expected to do. It was when she was in a relationship with Richard Pryor, who at the time had been doing so much cocaine that it was present in his seminal fluid, that Grier was told by her gynecologist that she would have to stop having a sexual relationship with him unless he wore a condom or she could die because the cocaine was showing up inside of her and was destroying her reproductive organs. Throughout Foxy, Pam Grier consistently proves to herself that she is stronger and more self-aware than she could ever possibly give herself credit for.
Pam Grier is a survivor. A survivor of repeated sexual assault, as well as a survivor of cervical cancer that she found she had when dating a man named Phillip who let his mother live in poverty, having to carry one light bulb from room to room when she needed to see around her house while he was raking in millions, and who also stood Grier up after she had come out of surgery. But Pam Grier consistently triumphed, throwing herself into winning the fight of her life and consistently shining in every finished product that emerges where we are able to see her dedication and hard work pay off. Grier is an underdog; a woman who came from very little, but with one dream and a great deal of hard work, she succeeded in what she set out to do in her life and she just keeps on shining.Sunday, April 18, 2010
The 40th anniversary of Earth Day is just around the corner on April 22nd and to celebrate, Babeland is running an awesome eco-fundraiser to benefit the non-profit environmental news site, Grist, an award-winning online magazine that has been referred to as “The Daily Show of the environment” by Newsweek.
So what makes a sex toy “green”? Green sex toys are made of body-friendly materials like silicone, stainless steel, glass, wood and non-phthalate plastics; they are also made of renewable resources, such as glass, wood and steel. Plus, when choosing a rechargeable vibrator, you will keep up to 100 dead batteries from winding up in landfills.
To make sure 20% of your sale is donated to Grist to celebrate Earth Day, be sure to make your purchase from Babeland before the end of April. You can choose any product that is made from a body-safe and/or renewable resource, as well as any lubrication, oil, gel and even condoms made of organic, all natural ingredients. Or you can pick a product listed below when you Read moreSunday, April 11, 2010
Last year I had the opportunity to review a really great book–My Little Red Book, an anthology of short stories, essays and recollections of women’s first periods from women of all ages, from all over the world.
Being the body-loving, over-sharer that I am by nature, I could not get enough of the stories in the book from authors and activists you already know like Jennifer Baumgardner, Megan McCafferty and others.
Not only did Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, the Editor of My Little Red Book, compile a ton of intelligent, hilarious, emotional and celebratory stories, she is also donating all of the royalties from sales of the book–which has become a New York Times bestseller, by the way–to charities promoting women’s health and education, like the Health and Water Foundation, UNICEF, Forum for African Women Educationalists, Save the Children, Girls Inc., Planned Parenthood, Choice USA and many, many others.
The Hachette Book Group gave me the opportunity to give away 10 copies of My Little Red Book on the website I’ve been spending the bulk of my time lately, now that the second edition of the book is being released. Needless to say, I wanted to let all of the awesome body-loving folks who follow Menstrual Poetry know about it.
There aren’t too many entries yet, so the chances of winning a copy are pretty great. All you have to do is go to the giveaway post and leave a comment with your own first period story.
Because all of this takes place on a completely other blog, the comments on this post are closed. I hope you all enter and if you want to purchase the book, head on over to Powell’s.
By now I’m sure you’ve all seen, or at least heard about Bristol Palin’s most recent PSA for the completely unrealistic, abstinence-pushing Candies Foundation. Most who are bringing this PSA up for discussion agree that warning teenagers of the very real consequences of [unprotected] sex is great. It’s also important to remember that any time someone, regardless of who they are, acknowledges their privilege and owns that privilege, it’s essentially a good thing; although it is a little fuzzy as to whether Bristol Palin has acknowledged her own privilege or the person who wrote her lines acknowledged it for her. But even when given the skeletal structure of something that could be positive, there are many ways to completely mess it up and even come off as offensive–which is exactly what this PSA did.
“What if I didn’t come from a famous family? What if I didn’t have all their support? What if I didn’t have all these opportunities? Believe me, it wouldn’t be pretty. Pause before you play.”
To be honest, I wish I paused before I played this video. Essentially, what this ad is saying is Bristol Palin is a high-profile teenage daughter of a celebrity (yes, I know that Sarah Palin is technically a politician, but come on now) and because of that, it was okay that she got pregnant because she has a family who supports her and she will not only be financially stable, but extremely, grossly well-off throughout her entire life. But all of you teen girls out there who are seeing this ad–you don’t come from high-profile families and you don’t wake up in the morning and have people pick out your clothes and do your hair and makeup for magazine covers, public service announcements, interviews and the like and because of that, well, you shouldn’t have sex until you’re married, where then you will, according to the conservative, abstinence-only education-pushing majority out there, have 2.5 children, a dog and a husband to financially support you and your ever-growing family.
Even the entertainment website E! online caught onto the ridiculous amount of privilege dripping from this PSA, saying:
“[Bristol Palin] may want to try for a more compelling message than, “I’m privileged, so it’s OK that I got pregnant, but you’re not, so don’t.” (We paraphrase…but just barely.)
This message firstly does a terrible disservice to those who have supported the Candies Foundation under the misconception that the foundation supported spreading comprehensive information to teens on contraceptives. Hell, Candies has featured sexually suggestive ads like crazy throughout the years, even going as far as to feature condoms themselves! The proof that the Candies Foundation can now be considered a conservative, abstinence-only-pushing foundation is evident in the fact that the ad pushes the tag line “pause before you play” instead of “protect before you play,” which would have made this PSA just a little more tolerable.
This PSA showcases elitism at its very finest. It comes out and hits us with the message that only those of a higher class are entitled to certain things–even motherhood. To suggest that those who are privileged are held to different standards is classist. While Bristol Palin is still, technically a teenager and while this ad is meant to be directed towards teens, I did get a bit offended by it, for more than just the obvious reasons and I suspect it may have hit a lot of you out there just the same.
Bristol Palin is 19 years old. She comes from a very wealthy family and from the Chanel jacket and pearls she’s wearing in the beginning of the video, as well as the decor of the room she is in, perhaps it is because of the wealth she was brought up in and is used to that misconstrues this entire PSA, making it terribly hard for the average, middle to lower class population to relate to.
Obviously, the PSA relies on that moment of truth, when the camera pans back and we’re shown Bristol Palin, sans fancy clothes and in your average, white t-shirt, jeans and her hair pulled back. This is, I guess, supposed to make teens think “Oh no! I don’t want to end up like that!” But in reality, the same people the Candies Foundation is attempting to appeal to look just like that, making this ad merely reinforce the same consumerist ideas we are already being fed constantly from every direction. Not having money to buy awesome and fancy things should not be the least of the worries of teen mothers today and the Candies Foundation does nothing to help address more important issues teen mothers have to deal with when trying to survive on a limited income. What about the fact that most teen mothers still don’t know who they are yet? These teen girls are still growing into the women they will become emotionally and when it comes to emotional intelligence, watching one episode of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant can tell you that is a core issue that needs to be addressed by foundations, corporations and people claiming to want to help teens avoid unwanted pregnancy.
Lastly, and this is just me, I’m 23 years old, have been on my own since I was 17, have no children and that sparse room with its windows and hard floors alone look nicer than any room in my entire apartment. And that couch? Well sure, I have a nicer couch than that, but only because mine is a 15-year hand-me-down from my father and before I got that, I had a futon–and it was broken. Just sayin’.
I am pulled in two different directions by Bristol Palin when it comes to her abstinence-only position. In essence, I would hope that Bristol realizes the amount of pressure teen girls feel when it comes to having of sex. Not all teens have parents who can or will speak openly to them about sex or how to protect themselves, not just from an unwanted pregnancy, but also from sexually transmitted infections and the media plays a huge role in influencing not just youth, but all people. So when Bristol Palin comes out on the cover of In Touch magazine holding her son Tripp, alongside her mother and brother Trig with the huge caption “We’re glad we chose life!” with a huge centerfold showing a glamorized Bristol playing with her son and then to come out with a PSA where she is being paid to look as miserable as humanly possible to essentially “sell” teens to the abstinence way of life, well, I get a little confused and if I’m confused, imagine what most teen girls out there are thinking.
I absolutely love the idea of telling teens not to have sex until they are ready to accept the responsibility of their own sexuality, but I am also realistic and instead of pushing an abstinence-only agenda, I would like to see more teens getting valuable information on how to protect themselves completely if they already are or are even thinking about having sex. I would hope that Bristol Palin would take the same approach, having been there herself.Friday, April 9, 2010
While the above picture is no doubt absolutely hilarious, for good measure…
Please note: Contrary to the popular belief in our woman-shaming society, your vagina is not dirty, vulgar or disgusting and not only is douching unnecessary, it is harmful to the bodies and reproductive health of women. It can cause harm to and disrupt the balance of your natural organisms and douching can also lead to infection and cause an infection to spread to the reproductive tract.
Just so you know!