About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has two blogs going on WordPress. "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories" is about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard. "Write Through It" is about writing, editing, and how to keep going.

Focus on Women @ MVFF

The M.V. Film Festival’s March 15–18, 2018, festival includes these four films that explore women’s lives from a variety of angles. Lots of other good stuff too! For schedule and more info: http://tmvff.org/.

In the Taliban-controlled area of Waziristan, where sports for women are decried as un-Islamic, and girls rarely leave their houses, young Maria Toorpakai defies the rules by disguising herself as a boy, so she can play sports freely. As she becomes a rising star, however, her true identity is revealed, bringing constant death threats on her and her family.

Drawing from over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage that has been tucked away in the National Geographic archives for over 50 years, award-winning director Brett Morgen tells the story of Jane Goodall, a woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and revolutionized our understanding of the natural world.

Amy Nicholson in Variety: “To young fans who’ve slapped Ginsburg’s face on T-shirts, coffee mugs and a million memes, she’s a hero, icon, and rebel, the yas queen of the judicial branch better known for Kate McKinnon’s Saturday Night Live impersonation than her hard-fought feminist victories.

“RBG colors in that knowledge gap, showcasing the Ginsburg who argued for equal rights in front of the Supreme Court before SNL was even on the air. This spry celebration reveals that the real Ginsburg is neither beast nor badass, but an even-tempered, soft-spoken mediator—not typically the traits that inspire rousing high-fives, but qualities that honor the slow, uphill slog of positive change.”

The Divine Order
Winner of the Audience Award for Best Narrative Film at the Tribeca Film Festival, The Divine Order is set in Switzerland in 1971 where, despite the worldwide social upheavals of the previous decade, women were still denied the right to vote. When unassuming and dutiful housewife Nora (Marie Leuenberger, winner of a Best Actress award at Tribeca) is forbidden by her husband to take a part-time job, her frustration leads to her becoming the poster child of her town’s suffragette movement. Her newfound celebrity brings humiliation, threats, and the potential end to her marriage, but, refusing to back down, she convinces the women in her village to go on strike … and makes a few startling discoveries about her own liberation.

On Preventing Gun Violence

Mass. attorney general Maura Healey

Nine members of the Women’s Committee just sent a letter to the editor to both the Martha’s Vineyard Times and the Vineyard Gazette. It supports Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey’s recent op-ed in the Boston Herald insisting that “every strategy to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people needs to be on the table.”

We also call for the passage of H3610, a bill providing for an ERPO (extreme-risk protection orders) law. The bill, currently before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, would enable courts to temporarily prohibit a person from possessing or purchasing guns if law enforcement or immediate family members show that they pose a significant danger to themselves or others.

If Florida had an ERPO law, it’s likely that the arsenal of the alleged Parkland high school shooter could have been confiscated.

Here’s the text of the letter:

To the Editor:

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead, at least 14 wounded, and countless bereaved, we stand with Attorney General Maura Healey when she says that this “is not a reality we can accept.”

We stand with her, too, when she adds that “every strategy to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people needs to be on the table. That includes common sense reforms like universal background checks, giving police discretion to deny licenses to domestic abusers, and allowing the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.”

Massachusetts has been a leader in showing that thoughtfully written and effectively enforced gun laws can reduce gun deaths without impinging on the rights of responsible gun owners. At present, however, Massachusetts doesn’t have an extreme-risk protection order (ERPO) law, which would enable courts to temporarily prohibit a person from possessing or purchasing guns if law enforcement or immediate family members show that they pose a significant danger to themselves or others.

A crucial bill to rectify this — H3610, “the Decker bill” — is in the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. Our state representative, Dylan Fernandes, is a co-sponsor of the bill. Please consider calling the co-chairs of the Joint Committee to urge that the bill be reported out of committee favorably. The co-chairs are Rep. Harold Naughton (617-722-2230) and Sen. Michael Moore (617-722-1485). You can also call House Speaker Robert DeLeo (617-722-2500) to express support for the bill.

Before the February 14 Parkland shooting, there had been frequent reports and complaints about the alleged shooter’s erratic and sometimes violent behavior. If Florida had an ERPO law (it doesn’t), his ability to buy firearms could have been curtailed and his arsenal confiscated.

Thoughts, prayers, and passing the buck have not solved the gun violence crisis and never will. It’s long past time for Congress to heed Maura Healey’s insistence that “every strategy to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of dangerous people needs to be on the table.”

For more information on these issues, including legislative updates, readers are urged to contact Everytown for Gun Safety and the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.

Ann Wallace, Cathy Walthers, Kathy Laskowski, Maggie Brown, Margaret Emerson, Max King, Nan Byrne, Sarah Nevin, Sheila Lyons, and Susanna J. Sturgis

Films to Watch Out For

While organizing the Women’s Winter Film Series, we kept learning about films that could have been included — if the series went on for a year or so. Here’s a list of some of them, so you can invite a few friends over for a home viewing — or organize a women’s film series in your own home!

Many are available for home viewing at no or low cost through CLAMS (Cape Libraries Automated Materials Sharing), a network connecting Cape & Islands libraries), Kanopy (a live-streaming service available to patrons of most Vineyard libraries), PBSNetflix, or YouTube. Contact info is given for the others. Several are available primarily through Women Make Movies (WMM), a nonprofit dedicated to the production and distribution of films by and about women. Many of WMM’s films can be purchased for home viewing for $19.95.

Note: This list isn’t comprehensive. Nowhere close. Have a film that really should be on the list? Mention it in the comments!

More Noteworthy Films by and about Women

A Better Man (2017; co-dir. Attiya Khan; “a fresh and nuanced look at the healing and revelation that can happen for all involved when men take responsibility for their abuse”; http://www.docnyc.net/film/a-better-man/)

Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed (2004; Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 presidential bid) YouTube (pay); Women Make Movies; PBS

Citizen Jane: Battle for the City (2016; Jane Jacobs vs. development mogul Robert Moses) CLAMS.

The Color Purple (1985; classic adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel) CLAMS

Dolores (2017; about union organizer and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta)

Driving with Selvi (2016; dir. Elisa Paloschi; the story of South India’s first female taxi driver, a refugee from a violent marriage; http://drivingwithselvi.com/)

Eagle Huntress, The (2016; 13-year-old nomadic Mongolian girl fights to become the first female eagle hunter in her family). CLAMS

Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement (2009; documents the relationship of Edie Windsor, a pioneer in the fight for marriage equality, and Thea Spyer). CLAMS

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners (2012; about activist and radical black academic Angela Davis) CLAMS

Frida (2002; biopic about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo) CLAMS

Girls Lost (2015; gender-bending Swedish film that explores growing up female) Netflix and CLAMS

Gotta Make This Journey (1983; Featuring the pioneering a cappella ensemble of black women,Sweet Honey in the Rock) WMM

GTFO: Get the F&#% Out (2015; documentary exploring the misogyny, harassment, etc., facing women in the video game industry) Kanopy

The Handmaid’s Tale (1990 version) CLAMS; Amazon prime video; Hulu

Heather Booth: Changing the World (2017; portrait of a veteran activist-organizer) WMM

The Hunting Ground (2015; dir. Kirby Dick; documentary about sexual assault on campus; http://thehuntinggroundfilm.com/)

I Am Jane Doe (2017; sex trafficking) Netflix

Iron Jawed Angels (2004; Alice Paul and the US women’s suffrage movement) CLAMS; YouTube

Live Nude Girls Unite! (2000; documentary about the organizing efforts of strippers and support staff at a San Francisco peep show in the mid-1990s) Kanopy

Love It like a Fool (1977; short about the activist singer-songwriter Malvina Reynolds [1900–1978]) YouTube

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (2017; dir. Bob Hercules & Rita Coburn Whack; documentary about the amazing memoirist, poet, and activist) PBS

Mozart’s Sister (2010; drama based on the life of Nannerl Mozart) CLAMS

Nothing Without Us: Women Who Will End AIDS (2017; dir. Harriet Hirschhorn; http://www.docnyc.net/film/nothing-without-us/)

Ovarian Psycos (2016; fierce, unapologetic and feminist young women of color in Los Angeles confront injustice, build community, and redefine identity through a raucous, irreverently named bicycle crew: The Ovarian Psycos Cycle Brigade) WMM

The Passionate Pursuits of Angela Bowen (2016; the lifelong journey of a black lesbian dancer activist who grew up in Boston) WMM

Radical Grace (2015; dir. Rebecca Parrish; three feminist U.S. nuns fighting against the patriarchal church hierarchy and for social justice; http://radicalgracefilm.com/)

The Revival: Women and the Word (2016; follows black lesbian poets and musicians on a several-city tour that connects them with their audiences, their families, and the black feminist legacy that sustains them) WMM

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014; documentary about the early U.S. women’s liberation movement, 1966–1971) Netflix

Sonita (2015; dir. Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami; in Iran, Sonita, a refugee from Afghanistan, dreams of becoming a rapper while trying to avoid a forced marriage) WMM

Suffragette (2015; a drama about the militant UK suffrage movement of the early 20th century) CLAMS

A Taste of Honey (1961; working-class teenage girl finds herself pregnant after being thrown out of her mother’s house; focus on her new support network/family) CLAMS

To Keep the Light (2016; Inspired by the stories of real-life women lighthouse keepers, Erica Fae’s acclaimed film focuses on Abbie, a lighthouse keeper’s wife in late 19th century Maine; http://www.tokeepthelight.com/)

To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters (2016; dir. Sally Wainwright) Netflix; CLAMS

Trapped (2016; dir. Dawn Porter; abortion providers fight back against legal restrictions; http://www.trappeddocumentary.com/)

Vessel (2014; dir. Diana Whitten; a woman’s project to offer abortions on a ship offshore evolves into something stronger) Netflix

What Doesn’t Kill Me (2017; dir. Rachel Meyrick; about survivors of domestic violence with a focus on children for whom courts give custody to abusive fathers) WMM

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015; documentary about the great singer-pianist-activist) Netflix; CLAMS

With Babies and Banners (1979; story of Women’s Emergency Brigade during a major UAW strike from December 1936 to February 1937; 45 min.) YouTube

Five Corners, 1/20/2018

Quite a few members of the Women’s Committee were among the 150 or so who gathered at Five Corners this afternoon to rally with Women’s March 2018. The signs were great! Unfortunately, I forgot my camera. 😦 You can find a sampling on the Martha’s Vineyard Times website  and that of the Vineyard Gazette. Meanwhile, here’s my sign.