Ascent of Woman: A Fascinating Documentary About Women Throughout World History

Looking for a new show to binge on? Ever wish history texts and documentaries didn’t ignore the “other” half of the population? Have you ever wondered, “yes, yes, but what were the ladies doin’?”  Cheeeeeck out this new BBC show. It’s on Netflix. Ascent of Woman is a fascinating look at the history of the world, based on how it has affected women, and based on the incredible contributions women have made. It is in four parts: Civilization, separation, power and revolution. It starts from around 1350 B.C.E in Turkey and goes allllll the way to current day. Rad, I know. The show is engrossing, fascinating, and based on research. It is written and hosted by Historian, Dr. Amanda Foreman, who travels around the world taking viewers to real sites where events took place. Not only is Foreman a Historian and popular documentary writer/host, but she is also a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and has written numerous eye-catching articles, including this one about Hillary Clinton, and is currently the chair of the Man Booker Prize.

To give you a sneak preview of the shereoes in Ascent of Woman, here are just a few blurbs about some of the amazing people discussed in the series. (The following blurbs are based on information from the series. C.E refers to Common Era, which replaces the term, A.D/after death.) 

Unknown.jpegEmpress Wu Zetian = Emperor of China during 684-705 C.E. She steered China away from Confucian policies that were harmful to women and towards Buddhist principles and maintained, what many historians regard as a peaceful empire. She was the only female emperor in Chinese history.

 

 

 

Tizian_123.jpgRoxelana = 1504-1558 C.E. During the Ottoman empire in Constantinople, she rose from a sexual slave to the wife of the Sultan. She completely changed how royal women helped rule. Before her, there was a system of sexual slaves having to supply sons to the rulers and provide heirs. After the women supplied male heirs, they would be banished from the harem, or the place where the women were held. But after her as a role model, women were allowed to stay with the sultan. The heseki hurrem hababa was commissioned by her, a bath house where only women could go and she brought in the era, called the Sultanate of Women.

 

Nurjahan.jpgNur Jahan- Empress in India who lived from 1577-1645 C.E. She broke away from the stereotypical female identity and turned femininity in Mogal Court on it’s head. She was loved by all people. She had artists depict women in art, for a change, and created less restrictive clothes. She allegedly was also very good at hunting with a bow. Since the law then was that women couldn’t show their face, she had to rule without her face being seen. And yet, all traders had to work under Nur Jahan’s authority. All contracts and trade agreements required her signature. Coins even had her name on them, demonstrating just how far-reaching her authority was. Her style ideas were used in buildings in India: Never before had white marble been used until she ordered a building be constructed for her parents. The structure had white marble and intricate flowers, design ideas which went on to be used for the Taj Mahal.

Marie-Olympe-de-Gouges.jpgOlympe de Gouges- 1700’s France. When the infamous Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen was written, there was no mention of woman. So Olympe de Gouge wrote these ideas herself into her own Declaration of the Rights of Women. She was a fundamental figure in The Enlightenment, and yet, even today, has not been recognized in the Pantheon among the rest of the heroes. (Goes to show just how far we still have to go to gain the acceptance of women’s contributions in history.) She advocated for freeing slaves and outcried against the abuse of women and children. She was executed/assassinated via guillotine for supposed “opposition to the revolution.” This, of course, is tragically ironic considering she was a major part of the revolution. Her ideas just happened to not be in a male-centered way because, well, her revolution included women.

So check out the BBC show, Ascent of Woman, on Netflix. 

 

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If Rom-Coms Presented Reality

This video is so true and hilarious!

(Also, something interesting to note is the options Youtube gives you after watching this clip. One would think they would provide similar searches to the one you’ve clicked, right? That’s usually how search engines/websites work. But in this case, they provide the opposite: They provide anti-feminist rhetoric. Why? Interesting…)

#chicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes on a Dictator

MV5BMTgwODIxMjM3NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzYzODA2NjE@._V1_UY268_CR9,0,182,268_AL_As the Syrian revolution has been fighting long for their freedom from the brutal dictatorship of Bashar Hafez al-Assad, and as the refugee crisis intensifies, this documentary offers a harrowing, and incredible perspective about these massive, current issues. With the immense help of gathering people via Facebook and other social networks, the regimes of Egypt, Tunisia and and Libya had successfully been dismantled by the people, and Syria was attempting to follow suite. But al-Assad’s reign of terror has continued.

This documentary titled, #chicagogirl: The Social Network Takes on a Dictator, takes you into the world of a Syrian activist fighting for her people through the power of the connections through social networks.  This film is available on Netflix, and follows the life of Ala’a Basatneh, the young woman leading the revolution in Syria from her home in Chicago. Through the power of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, Basatneh functions as the main person bringing the pieces of the revolution together on the internet. Be aware that this documentary shows graphic scenes of the violence and terrifying real footage of people outrunning snipers and blasts from the regimes army. I highly recommend this film for the understanding it provides in relation to the Syrian conflict and for the incredible young woman behind the scenes in the revolution.

 

The Force Awakened My Love of Star Wars

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Notice in this official movie poster, the female character isn’t below the male characters for a change, and has a fierce stance, instead of a sexualized position, as we are used to seeing. Photo Credit: StarWars.com

(No spoilers here.)

The new Star Wars movie, the Force Awakens, which has already set records and earned $813 million dollars worldwide, has a fierce female lead and demonstrates how epic movies can be when they utilize a female character fully. Just check out how refreshing, and awesome this movie is! Go see it.

Us ladies are just so used to not seeing women getting to do anything interesting in films, cause it’s so few and far between, when they actually do get to be an integral part of the story, it’s very refreshing. Movies like this, (Mad Max, Fury Road is another great example) are going to set the trend going forward, showing that women are real people, with depth of character and extraordinary talents that make movies epic. These new movies are going to make the films that exclude women look very old fashioned. People are hungry for characters who aren’t just white males, and Star Wars delivered.

Rey, the female lead, has depth of character, tremendous fight in her, a mysterious back story, and she kicks ass and takes names. Also, it passes the simple Bechdel Test, something majority of films amazingly cannot do. (A movie that has more than 2 female characters who have names, who talk to each other, about something besides men.) Throughout the movie, I saw many scenes where at least one woman was present, (also something most movies cannot do) and there were many occasions, where women were an integral part of the story line, not just on the side lines of the story.

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Photo credit: Comicbookmovie.com

During a scene where the Resistance is fighting back, there is a female character flying one of the planes and shooting at the evil First Order and taking part in discussions with her fellow fighters. Lupita Nyong’o’s character, Maz Kanata, makes me think of Yoda, except even more quirky and interesting. Maz Kanata runs her own business and is a crucial source of information in the story and supplies something very critical to Rey. And a certain female General commands a terrific presence in which she is a confident leader. There were females on the dark side though too, including a robot leader.

Why is all this so important? It is important to have women in roles where they are a part of the story, because, in the real world, women are a part of the story of life too, something that should be reflected in media so girls (and boys) aren’t brought up thinking women can’t, or shouldn’t, do things. It’s amazing what having role models in movies can do. The alternative to having women in movies is to ignore women’s existence in films, something I think we all can agree is not only old fashioned, but a rough deal for everyone involved, particularly women. I was also glad to see a man who is black as a lead role too, changing the dynamic of whiteness, at least a little bit, in the film. He was an integral part of the story as well and emerged as a moral hero from the beginning.There could have been more female characters at the table making decisions in some scenes, but overall this film was wonderfully refreshing and the lead character, Rey, was a ruler of her own destiny and a crucial leader propelling the storyline forward. I am now a huge fan of Star Wars and hope they continue to include epic female leads going forward in the remaining Star Wars films. 

 

Something is Missing

One night, I decided to sit down, relax and watch a little Apple TV. So I cruised the gazillion channel options and landed on the History Channel. These were the TV show options I faced:

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Photo credit: Screen shot of History Channel options, Julia View

The above options, (Mankind, The Men Who Built America, Mississippi Men, Monument Guys, Mountain Men, No Man’s Land, Noreaster Men) were only a smattering of my choices. Don’t worry, there was also, Only in America with Larry the Cable Guy, Rivermen, The Woodsmen, The Great Satini Brothers and Axmen, among similar others,  to choose from. Who can tell me what’s missing from these TV show choices? Yes, you  in the back. Women. Yes, women are missing.

Out of the entire 84 TV show choices available to choose from, only one seemed to have anything to do with a woman: Bonnie & Clyde. That’s it. The rest were staggeringly lacking in a key ingredient to humankind: Women. Oh, and there was one small History Special about the sex lives of “our nation’s leaders” and how said sex lives changed America. So there were probably some sexual female bodies in that show, draped across men who did stuff. Great.

I’ve watched many other TV shows from the History Channel, ( including the entire series called Mankind: The Story of All of Us) and this trend of the near-nonexistence of women appears to be nothing new. Mankind: The Story of All of Us is intended to be a show about all of humankind. But, in the entire series, it is rare to see a female face or even hear the mention of a female figure in history.

According to the History Channel, women have done nothing of value to contribute to society and we have nothing to see. This is the message they are sending to the general public, whether it was their intention or not. I guess, after all, it is called his-story…

Let’s get some herstory up in here. Better yet, some heristory.