All posts by Laurie

Sue Hodges: Powerful Disability Activist

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Laurie and Debbie say:

Sue Hodges (1942-2017) was a powerful disability activist. It was an honor to have her as one of the models for Women en Large. She died in March.

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The East Bay Times says:

As a child, she contracted polio and although she survived the initial paralyzing effects of the disease, later in life, that illness came back to inflict much pain and disability on her. Susan was active in the Berkeley Free Clinic and devoted much of her life to social causes. For 5 years, she worked as a classroom assistant at Language Associates, a school for special needs children. Her most notable contribution was in the field of disability rights — especially for people in wheelchairs. The effect of her childhood polio and a bad car accident forced her into a wheelchair when she was in her early 40’s. From that time on, Susan worked tirelessly for the cause of the disabled, with emphasis on securing adequate pay for their caregivers. Susan was a co-author of the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act, for which she was personally honored by President Clinton at the White House in 1994. She earned Woman of the Year for the State of California in 1999 and also for the City of Oakland in 1999. Gradually, her physical condition declined to the point where she spent much of her time in a hospital bed at her home…

I remember vividly photographing her in her home.  She was one of the people whose thoughts really contributed to the book. (Many of the women in the book have made important contributions to groundbreaking social justice work.)

Her work helped give millions of people access that was desperately needed and deserved. And her work for decent pay for care givers was profoundly important to people who important service is usually ignored.

A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints

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Laurie says:

I love the wood block prints from the Ukiyo-e (“floating world”) in the Japanese Edo period.

Kitagawa Utamaro – From the Series Fujin tewaza jūnikō (Twelve Forms of Women’s Handiwork)

There is an excellent article by Susan Chira in the New York Times about a stunning exhibition of prints from the Edo period in Japan. They are of a wakashu, who were considered a third gender. The article is thoughtful and discusses these works and their context both in Edo Japan and
in the present time.

A figure in a translucent kimono coyly holds a fan. Another arranges an iris in a vase. Are they men or women?

Wakashu and Young Woman with Hawks

As a mind-bending exhibition that opened Friday at the Japan Society (in New York City) illustrates, they are what scholars call a third gender — adolescent males seen as the height of beauty in early modern Japan who were sexually available to both men and women. Known as wakashu, they are one of several examples in the show that reveal how elastic the ideas of gender were before Japan adopted Western sexual mores in the late 1800s.

Suzuki Harunobu Youth on a Long-Tailed Turtle as Urashima Tarō

The show, “A Third Gender: Beautiful Youths in Japanese Prints,” arrives at a time of ferment about gender roles in the United States and abroad. Bathroom rights for transgender people have become a cultural flash point. The notion of “gender fluidity” — that it’s not necessary to identify as either male or female, that gender can be expressed as a continuum — is roiling traditional definitions. …

The wakashu are a case in point. The term describes the time a male reaches puberty and his head is partly shaved, with a triangle-shaped cut above the forelocks that is a telltale way to identify wakashu. During this stage of life only, before full-fledged adulthood, it was socially permissible to have sex with either men or women. …

It is one of the many reflections on contemporary society that this provocative exhibition raises. Walking through it is a reckoning with categories, definitions and how they resonate in societies still uncertain about whether lines between genders should be bent or blurred.

You really need to read the whole article to get a sense of what this means. There is also fascinating information and a video at the Royal Ontario Museum site , where the exhibition originated.


Hosoda Eisui – Wakashu with a Shoulder Drum

It runs til June 17th and I’m hoping to see it when I’m in New York.