Sunday, November 27, 2011

Change For Japanese Royal Women

From the Examiner:
The Japanese government is reportedly considering some significant changes to Imperial House Law. Specifically, they are looking at an ancient law which stipulates that if a woman in the royal family marries a commoner she is no longer an official member of the royal family.

Currently, there are only seven men out of a 23 member royal family, and five of those men are over the age of 60. The aging of the men, and the marrying of the women, present a major hurdle in keeping up with their public duties. The remaining men in the family just simply could not complete the number of engagements they currently do, without women to assist them. The anxiety around the issue has only increased with the recent hospitalization of the Emperor. Changes look likely to happen, and the most immediate effect will be to TIH Princesses Mako and Kako, both unmarried daughters of TIH Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko. Changes would also affect HIH Princess Aiko, 9 but obviously she is a ways from marrying age. Aiko remains the only child of TIH Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako and is not in line to inherit the throne due to the succession laws in Japan. There is currently not push to change the law since the birth of Prince Hisahito has slotted him as third in line behind his uncle and father.

Sheng Nu - China's Leftover Women

In China, the sexist term “leftover woman,” sheng nu, is widely used to describe an urban, professional female over the age of 27 who is still single. This derogatory term has been aggressively disseminated by the Chinese government, warning women that they will become spinsters if they do not marry by the time they turn 30. The irony of the media campaign is that China’s sex-ratio imbalance has resulted in a surplus of tens of millions of men who will not be able to find a bride.

In 2007, China’s Ministry of Education added the term “leftover woman” to its official lexicon, according to state media reports. In 2010, the All-China Women’s Federation and other government groups carried out a nationwide survey of more than 30,000 people in 31 provinces. Their findings on “leftover women” have been publicized repeatedly by China’s official media.

The article uses the heading “See What Category of ‘Leftover’ You Belong to.” The first category is leftover women aged 25 to 27 years, who are called “leftover fighters,” sheng dou shi, a play on the title of a popular martial arts film. It says these women “still have the courage to fight for a partner.”

The next category is 28- to 30-year-old women, or “the ones who must triumph,” bi sheng ke, a play on the Chinese name for Pizza Hut. It says these women have limited opportunities for romance because their careers leave them “no time for the hunt.”

The final category, 35 and older, is called the “master class of leftover women.” The term qi tian da sheng plays on the name of an ancient Chinese legend, the Monkey King. It says this category of woman “has a luxury apartment, private car and a company, so why did she become a leftover woman?”

Call The Midwife

From the Guardian:
Bedpans, surgical gloves and cries of pain may not sound likely ingredients for the BBC's Sunday evening costume drama slot, but Call the Midwife is a series that aims to take the audience into new territory – childbirth 1950s-style.

Leading female talent drawn from several generations of British stars – including Vanessa Redgrave, Pam Ferris, Jenny Agutter and Miranda Hart – will come together in the new year to tell of the joys and hardships of a group of midwives working in London's East End in the 50s. The drama will be the first to put childbirth, and its place in social history, at the heart of a television serial.

On screen and off, it is a very female production. Screenwriter Heidi Thomas, who adapted the hit serial Cranford – a Sunday night triumph that the makers of Call the Midwife hope to emulate – says there are some in the television industry who have asked her whether she thinks men will watch the new drama. Her response is forthright. "They may well watch, but people don't ask whether enough women will watch Top Gear."

Other female members of the team on Call the Midwife include Eve Stewart, who earned an Oscar nomination for production design on The King's Speech and has now recreated East End street scenes for the new serial.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Beatrix Potter Versus Winston Churchill

From the Telegraph:
Children's author Beatrix Potter has finally won a 100-year-long battle against a noisy sea plane - winning sweet revenge over her arch-nemesis Winston Churchill.

In 1911 she furiously penned a strongly worded letter against the testing of a Britain's first successful sea plane, called 'Waterbird', over and on her treasured Lake Windermere, in the Lake District, blasting: "Those who want noise go to Blackpool."

Despite her loud opposition the tests went ahead on 25th November 1911 after Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, ignored her pleas and pressed on with Edward Wakefield's unique aircraft.

But plans to celebrate the centenary of that maiden flight and landing this Friday using a different sea plane were sunk when air enthusiasts lost a council application to temporarily lift Windermere's 10mph speed limit - which was introduced in 2005 and inspired by Potter's years of conservation campaigning.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Angelina Jolie as Gertrude Bell

Angelina Jolie is set to play a British woman who helped map out the modern Middle East in the early 20th century, the Hollywood Reporter said Friday.

According to Agence France-Presse, the Oscar-winning actress is slated to play the title character in “Gertrude Bell,” who has been described as the female Lawrence of Arabia for her pioneering work in establishing the framework for what would become Jordan and Iraq.

The project is still in development by British director Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions, said THR, noting that Miss Jolie has a history of playing strong female characters.

Bell was passionate about archaeology and languages, spoke several languages including Arabic and Persian, and wrote about her extensive travels in a number of books, including “Persian Pictures,” and “Syria: The Desert and the Sown.”

During World War I, Bell, who won widespread admiration among Arabs, worked as a British spy and helped to dismantle the Ottoman Empire and to found Iraq.

The project’s screenplay is being written by Jeffrey Caine, who wrote the script for 2005’s “The Constant Gardner.”

See also: 

Deare Sister - Letters of Historical Women

Deare Sister - a work of fiction consisting of letters that might have been written by such historical women as Lady Godiva, Milton’s daughter, Rubens’ model, Mozart’s mother, Freud’s wife, Plato’s students, and others.

As Chris says: "In fact, I chose women who, for whatever reasons, probably didn’t write such a letter, or any letter, or anything at all for that matter. Or if they did, it hasn’t survived (at least, not in the easily accessible pre-internet mainstream). In this way then, I did not presume to speak for anyone who could and did speak for herself. These pieces are not so much what the characters really would’ve said but what I think they should’ve said."

About Chris:

~ author
~ poet
~ scholar
~ voice of female consciousness

Visit Chris' website:

Bending The Boyne - Women & Prehistory

Bending the Boyne - a novel of ancient Ireland by J.S. Dunn:

"2200 BCE: Changes rocking the Continent reach Eire with the dawning Bronze Age. Well before any Celts, marauders invade the island seeking copper and gold. The young astronomer Boann and the enigmatic Cian need all their wits and courage to save their people and their great Boyne mounds, when long bronze knives challenge the peaceful native starwatchers. Tensions on Eire between new and old cultures and between Boann, Elcmar, and her son Aengus, ultimately explode. What emerges from the rubble of battle are the legends of Ireland’s beginnings in a totally new light.

Larger than myth, this tale echoes with medieval texts, and cult heroes modern and ancient. By the final temporal twist, factual prehistory is bending into images of leprechauns who guard Eire’s gold for eternity. As ever, the victors will spin the myths."

Women, Sex & Prehistory - J.S. Dunn gives us the background to this exciting new novel:
"We’re going to focus on the Atlantic Bronze Age at four thousand years ago, around 2200 BCE.

One piece of the puzzle in constructing Bending The Boyne was, How did that early culture view women? Boann, the female protagonist, comes from the earliest myths where she appears briefly in a tangled story.

The written record for the Atlantic Bronze Age (the area from Iberian coasts up through the Isles) is limited. Teasing out any meaning from the transcribed oral history has its perils. It is the oldest mythology of western Europe. Irish/Welsh/Gaulish oral tales were written down much later by cold, hungry monks whose own sexuality probably had limited expression. The original tales are not short on sexual imagery and clearly got censored in places.

The monks also applied a layer of Greco-Roman sensibilities. Greco-Roman gods were immortals lolling in the clouds, divine beings who meddle in human affairs. In contrast, the beings in early Irish/Welsh/Gaulish myth are archetypes, they are real persons who struggle, sweat, eat and drink, fornicate, and die as mortals. The monks couldn’t resist tampering with that vivid “pagan” imagery to suit later beliefs.

“...they made the sun stand still to the end of nine months / strange the tale...” from the Dindshenchas text. Boann’s son Aengus is born at winter solstice and symbolizes the astronomy practiced at the mounds. One version says Elcmar fathered Aengus, another improbably says the Dagda fathered her son and hid that liason by stopping the sun for nine months. This may be the first bit of Who’s Your Daddy gossip about a celebrity, Boann. Confusion about Aengus’ birth leads to tragedy.

It may be that Boann’s original oral tale told of the solstice standstill but monks scrambled that, trying to write it down like Homeric tales of divine gods.

Not only is Boann portrayed as a hussy to whom notions of paternity mean little, another fragment says that she violates a cultural rule at the well of Wisdom. As a result, the well’s waters flood east to the ocean, forming the river Boyne---and killing Boann. That seems harsh and smacks of misogyny, but no more than Eve’s punishment in the Old Testament. It may be that monks inserted this moralistic outcome for Boann, or, that the original version said that Boann’s indiscretion led to her punishment.  

Whose perspective of Boann and women at 2200 BCE does her tale reflect, the indigenous Boyne astronomy culture or that of armed newcomers, the warriors looking for gold? Burial practices changed at this time, implying that the Boyne society began to stratify. High status goods, copper and bronze daggers and gold jewelry, appear in some male burials but very seldom with female burials.

Yet Boann symbolizes the Milky Way, a celestial being of great importance. It seems unlikely her starwatching culture, pastoral farmers and herders, viewed her fertility as deserving of punishment. In Bending The Boyne, she is given prominence as an astronomer and is not drowned for acquiring wisdom!

In associating Boann with the Milky Way and Aengus with solstice, the myths emphasize the importance of astronomy to her Boyne culture. Before the Pyramids and Stonehenge, her people built impressive passage mounds, a calendar in their landscape for sun, moon, and stars. The great mounds may themselves express the natives’ veneration of fertility (the female mound) and the sun’s generative power (phallic) and a balance between the genders.

For more reading, see generally The Prehistory of Sex, Timothy Taylor (Bantam, 1996), and of course, Bending The Boyne.

Thanks to Melisende for the blog invite!" 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pictish Settlement Uncovered

Earlier this year Dr Gordon Noble, from the University of Aberdeen, and Dr Meggen Gondek, from the University of Chester, led the Rhynie Environs Archaeological Project (REAP) in an excavation at the site where carved stones have been found south of the village.

Between AD400-900 it is understood that the kingdoms of the Picts became some of the most powerful political groups in the north of Britain, but there is very little documented history and archaeological record about these people.

Student Robert Lang with spindle whorl from the possible building site near the Craw Stane. Image: University of Aberdeen.

The symbol stones that the Picts left behind are acknowledged to provide a record of their identity, beliefs and lifestyle, although the elaborate carvings on the Rhynie stones have not been translated. In fact, very little direct work has been carried out in relation to the Rhynie stones, until now.

The REAP team’s excavation near the symbol stones – discovered between the 19th century and the 1970s – is one of the first large scale digs at this kind of site.

Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Bill

From The News:
The civil society has lauded the passage of the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Bill by the National Assembly, hoping that it will help protect women’s rights once it sails through the Senate.
 Hilda Syed, a senior member of the Women Action Forum, told The News that it was a wonderful piece of news, adding, however, that the task now was to pass the bill from the Senate as well.
 “The domestic violence bill stayed in the Senate for three months after which it lapsed but we are adamant to pass it through. Similarly, as soon as the amendments are made to this bill, it should come into force so that its efficacy is not compromised,” she said.
Zohra Yusuf of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said that the unanimous acceptance of the bill by the NA was a positive sign for sure as it made certain “evil practices” illegal. But given the history of such laws being interpreted wrongly or not implemented at all, awareness of the law enforcement authorities is also needed.
 She said that the bill was focusing on the punishment aspect at the moment, and it should also take into account the problems women faced while reporting inheritance issues.
 “Recently, Bangladesh announced equal property rights for women on International Women Day which did not go down well with the clerics (there). But at least it is a step in the right direction. We need to focus on that as well.”

The Woman Formerly Known As Margaret Tudor

Owned by the Revd WH Wayne from at least 1886; sold by Wayne to A Smith of Albert Gate Art Galleries, from whom it was purchased by the National Portrait Gallery. Purchased 1898 (NPG 1173).

The National Portrait Gallery acquired this portrait as Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII and wife of James IV of Scotland. However, both the style and the lack of any securely identified portraits of Margaret Tudor make this identification unlikely. The painterly technique suggests a French or possibly Flemish origin. The woman's costume is also in the style of French court dress of the early 16th century. Her gold jewellery and the stylised pomegranate and leaf pattern, commonly reproduced on expensive silks of the period, hint at her noble status. Recent microscopic examination of her medallion has revealed a horseman hunting with a falcon. Falconry and courtly love were frequently linked in medieval literature, so it is possible that this woman is wearing a love token.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Women in Roman Mosaics

From the Science Codex:
Numerous images of women appear in Roman mosaics. The majority are inspired in mythology – goddess, heroines and other protagonists of countless legends – although other flesh and blood women, probably dominae, their daughters, handmaidens and servants, are also documented. "The most significant aspect of these images is the different roles they reflect and their contribution to the construction of certain stereotypes, not just in the Roman world, but also throughout history and up to the present", points out Luz Neira, Associate Professor of Ancient History in the Department of Humanities: History, Geography and Art, and a researcher at UC3M's Institute of Culture and Technology.