Sunday, June 29, 2003

In Loving Memory

Katherine Hepburn

May 12, 1907 -

June 29, 2003

Katherine Hepburn has always been one of my all-time favorite actresses. She was beautiful, strong, hilarious, brave, and just about the best actress there ever was. Sadly, she died today at her home in Old Saybrook, CT, surrounded by friends and family. She was 96 years old.

Katherine Hepburn was born May 12, 1907, in Hartford, CT, where her father was a physician and her mother, Katherine Houghton Hepburn, was a suffragist and an early and militant supporter of birth control. Between 1932 and 1994, Hepburn starred in 53 films. She has been nominated for an Oscar 12 times, won 4 of them (for Morning Glory (33), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (67), The Lion in Winter (68), and On Golden Pond (81)), and won an Emmy for her made-for-tv movie Love Among the Ruins (75). A feat, by the way, which remains unmatched by any other actor or actress.

From her obituary in the Washington Post:
As a young Hollywood actress, Hepburn was often at odds with the major film studios, which disliked the fact that she would only accept the roles that suited her. She had an independent spirit that led some producers and directors to view her as "an ornery, opinionated snob." She never had a press agent, she often refused to cooperate with film studio publicists, and for years she did not grant media interviews.

If the bulb of a camera flashed from the audience when Hepburn was on the live stage, she would often stop the performance, deliver a sharp tongue-lashing to the miscreant and then begin the scene over again.

In her manner of dress, she was equally unconventional. Her customary attire was a turtleneck sweater, men's trousers and an odd black hat, and it often appeared that much of her clothing was 20 or 30 years old. The Council of Fashion Designers of America gave her an award in 1986 for demonstrating "what American fashion was all about even before any of us thought of designing it." Hepburn's response: "Imagine, the original bag lady getting an award for the way she dresses."

A physical fitness enthusiast, she often played tennis before breakfast, swam outdoors regularly, even in the winter, and whenever possible rode a bicycle instead of riding in a car. She was once the runner-up for the Connecticut women's golf championship.

She was often imperious, both on stage and off, but she could also be sensitive and considerate of others. In the summer of 1980, when "On Golden Pond," was being filmed at Big Squam Lake, N.H., she became concerned that the activity might disturb the region's regular summer residents.

One day she walked over to the cottage nearest to where the movie was being filmed. "I'm Katharine Hepburn. We're making a movie next door, and I hope we're not ruining your summer," she told the startled occupants.

Katherine Hepburn will be dearly missed!

Friday, June 27, 2003

How to stop baby rape

An acquaintance of mine from South Africa pointed out an article from a women's glossy mag that discussed the topical issue of "baby rape." Baby rape is frighteningly common in South Africa (and some other parts of Africa). Part of this is due to the myth (urban legend) that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS (another frighteningly common occurance in South Africa). Men began raping younger and younger girls (to ensure that they would be virgins), and it has become relatively common to rape baby girls as young as 6 months old (possibly even younger).

In the article, many "experts" were discussing possible solutions to this epidemic. In the midst of some great wisdom, one "solution" stuck out (and chilled me to the bone):

The solution to baby rape, according to Dr. Lorna Jacklin of the Teddy Bear Clinic for abused children, is to prevent it from happening in the first place. And this, she says, is achieved by working with mothers. She says that in all the cases of baby rape she's seen, the mothers either weren't ready for motherhood, or weren't coping with it very well. We have got to empower women to select when they are going to have babies and we have to support and educate them once they do have babies.

Now, I'm all for empowering women. I'm all for helping women select when and if they will have children. And I'm all for supporting and educating both the women and the children. But to pretend that this is a "solution" to ending baby rape is appalling. In the case, the more reasonable (and effective) solutions would including educating the men -- both that rape is WRONG and that it will not cure AIDS.

Once again, the responsibility for a man's greivous acts fall on the shoulders of women. [fume]

Gang rapists are "vigorous" and therefore "normal"

According to the BBC, during a debate about Japan's declining birthrate, Seiichi Ota, a lawmaker with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said that at least gang rapists had a healthy appetite for sex and that "[g]ang rape shows the people who do it are still vigorous, and that is OK. I think that might make them close to normal."

After female legislators issued a joint statement on Friday condemning the remarks as an insult to all women, as well as many other legislators speaking out against the comments, Ota was reprimanded by LDP secretary-general Taku Yamasaki.

After the reprimand, Ota told reporters on Friday that he deeply regretted the "inappropriate, exaggerated expression" and that that his comments "needed to be considered in context."

What context could there possibly be for making this sort of statement acceptable? Well, I can't think of any, but according to him, the context was as follows:

The remarks came as the veteran politician attributed the country's declining population to a lack of courage among Japanese men to enter into married life, the Mainichi Shimbun reported.

Asked by the debate's moderator whether this explained the behaviour of five college students who were arrested earlier this month for gang raping a peer, Mr Ota said that rape showed a healthy attitude.

"I know I'll get in trouble for saying that, though," he reportedly added.

He now says that he "wanted to add that rape is a serious crime that should be punished severely." But, even if he had added that, would that have changed the offensiveness of his statement? Not even close. As Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pointed out: "Rape is an atrocious act of cowardice and has nothing to do with virile qualities." He couldn't be more right. Rape -- particularly gang rape is not about sexual virile-ness, it's about power, control, and entitlement. And to take it a bit further:

Yasuyuki Takai, vice chairman of the Japan Federation of Bar Association's committee on victim support, said Mr Ota's remarks were indicative of Japanese society's passive attitude to rape, which often goes unreported.

"It shows that in Japan, rape is not thought of enough as an awful act... Japan's social views against incidents of rape need to be made more strict," Mr Takai told the French news agency AFP.

Prison sentences for rape in Japan range from two to 15 years, but it is unusual for a sentence to be more than five years.