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Profile for Robin Orlowski > Reviews

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Content by Robin Orlowski
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Reviews Written by
Robin Orlowski "political activist" (United States)

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Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty
Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty
by Dorothy Roberts
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.66
30 used & new from CDN$ 6.25

5.0 out of 5 stars Needed account of reproductive history, Aug. 17 2002
Roberts, a Rutgers law professor, examines the sociopolitical reproductive history of black women--concluding this group did and still faces disparate treatment in public policy. The combined impact of race/ethnicity, sex and ecconomic status govern black women's relation to their own bodies--and treatment from policymakers and medical personnel.
While this premise has been previously examined by other scholars, Robert's contribution differs in legal analysis of the state/women relationship specifically as it applies to black women. She also faults fellow feminists for their ignorance, silence, and apathy towards black women's unique reproductive rights.
Begining with a critique of the predominantley white pro-choice movement for preoccupation with white middle class women and the assumption reproductive access means the same thing for all groups, Roberts holds black women's fertility is only valued if a predominantley white society can find ways to benefit from it.
She also notes that illegal abortion took the highest tolls on low-income black women who were unlikely to have the financial and political clout of rich white women to convince doctors to perform theraputic abortions in secret. At the same time, abortion should not be the sole issue of a truly progressive reproductive rights movement because coercive sterilization and contraceptive programs are also painful incidents in black women's reproductive history.
The pro-choice movement should oppose reccent 'welfare reform victories' because of the destruction such punitative measures have on black communities. Although most recipients were and continue to be white, policy debates were flooded with inferred images of the black "welfare queen" to foster and exacerbate racial and class tensions within the most conservative industrialized nation in the world.
Because anything else repeats the very conditions she is seeking to eliminate, a truly progressive reproductive policy supports the rights of all women to control their own bodies. Not enough to perform "multicultural" outreach, all feminist reproductive rights groups must fully intergrate a multi-pronged, class concious approach into their mission statement and policy objectives.
This book is an indispensible text for a social science course on reproductive rights, law, and/or social policy, but should be read by all who are concerned about securing freedom for all.

Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Rastus: Blacks in Advertising, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Rastus: Blacks in Advertising, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
by Marilyn Kern Foxworth
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 45.13
23 used & new from CDN$ 32.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Badly needed commentary, Aug. 10 2002
After the civil war, (segregation notwithstanding) African Americans were technically free people, yet were featured in service products essentially recreating slavery. African Americans were only allowed a public acceptance if they conformed to stereotypical images produced by the larger (predominantely white) society.

Kern-Foxworth's tome provides an eloquent examination of this double bind through brand origins to their modern day counterparts. Early depictions of Aunt Jemima reveal a gross caricturization of Black women's physical features and alleged mannerisms that can never be mistaken for flattery, yet this image was welcomed into many facilities where a living African American irrespective of title would never had been welcome.
Critics of this meticulously researched, spell-binding work could argue the presence of African Americans featured on foodstuffs could be a paean to black visibility via capitalism (where purchasing popularity becomes linked to empowerment/) but the argument would conveniently neglect the undeniably problematic implications of linking African American service and purchase.
Not even a transformation from turbaned servant to the vague "modern woman" has completely resolved very serious cultural contradictions and dilemmas surrounding Aunt Jemima. Is she a tool of the dominant society, a covert agent for revolutionary change or somewhere in between? Through art deconstructing and explore cultural politics, she is positioned as an uneasy reminder of America's less than admirable history of discrimination and bigotry.
Reading this book is tough, but critical for everybody interested in political change and pop culture. Advertising imagery is not inanimate, instead both reflecting and shaping the nation. Encouraging critically thought about the political undertones of pop culture, the author by extension makes profound contributions to civil rights public policy.

Foxy Brown (Sous-titres français) [Import]
Foxy Brown (Sous-titres français) [Import]
DVD ~ Pam Grier
Offered by Warehouse105
Price: CDN$ 9.93
19 used & new from CDN$ 4.44

4.0 out of 5 stars Hidden Treasure, July 27 2002
Both at the time of it's 1974 release--and today, this movie has received harsh criticism from critics too eager to consign it to history's trash heap. This is rather unfortunate because the low-budget screenplay has much to offer American society.
Yes, there is a large amount of violence and sexual scenes throughout Pam Grier's star vehicle, but "blaxploitation" movies were not designed to show the world as pristine and sweet. Instead, the gritty plot (and ironically, the retrospective filming tecniques) remind the audience that the world isn't always safe and there are people who do have a "rough life" but can and do hold their own in that world. On top of that, the protagonists actively dedicate themselves to stopping the injustice without appology or compromise.
For the cultural studies or social scientist, the film also shines by allowing us to see race, socioecconomic status and gender issues continously explored throughout the release. Even if wardrobe and props look severely dated, the screen play's plot (and subsequently raised "food for thought") has kept it's relevancy.
When Foxy goes undercover in Ms. Katherine's harem, she finds the clients are white male politicians, a commentary on power exploitation that ironically resurfaced with Anita Hill's treatment before the US Senate Judiciary Committee many years later. Indeed, when Foxy is fighting men, the antagonist is usally white, ecconomically poweful, and sexually lecherous.
At the same time, both a reference to disabled people as "cripple" (disability rights had not yet permeated the nation in 1974)and caricature of most lesbians (sans a sympathetic bystander in the bar)as evil and sadistic virtually guarantee this movie cannot ever be classified as a "politically correct" production. Individuals watching this feature need to take the above scenes with a grain of salt.
Still, despite portions of the screen play, and over the top 70's fashion, it is a cut far above such white "camp" as the 60's Batman feature film or the 1992 introduction to Buffy. If you want strong women, get a hold of this movie.

Prisoners of Hope: The Story of Our Captivity and Freedom in Afghanistan
Prisoners of Hope: The Story of Our Captivity and Freedom in Afghanistan
by Dayna Curry
Edition: Hardcover
38 used & new from CDN$ 1.35

2.0 out of 5 stars Yawn, July 26 2002
This book chronicles (and not very well either!) the story of two young women who, despite college degrees and access to the global media, remain incredulous a country opposed to religious freedom for all held them captive for dissenting religious views.
Although the book is marketed as a current affairs/biography text, I would think a better subcategory could be humor from the omipresent hypocricsy. Under the auspices of relief work, the two went in to convert others to their own religion and thus, should have not been shocked by their subsequent treatment. It's easy to display religious zeal until it is yourself that is the victim of such treatment.
Still, even at it's worst, the text could help prevent future youth from making the same cultural blunders. If a trip to a different country is planned, at least have the common deccency and courtesy to fammilarize yourself with the culture before arrival. It also serves as a badly needed reminder why preservation of Church-State separation ultimately benefits all people.

Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States
Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States
by Rickie Solinger
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.61

3.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious project but falls short in some places, July 12 2002
Impressed by her earlier work in "Wake Up Little Susie" I purchased Ms. Solinger's reccent work with anticipation of equally dynamic thought. In this work, she suggests herself and other feminists have failed to permanently secure public policy victories previously gained because of replacement of "rights" with choice in the name of political expidiency.
Within the context of "choice" freedom is merited out to those groups of women that meet the dominant society's preferences. Race and ecconomic status have been used by politicians and political pundits to divide women from eachother---and most importantly, from being recognized as full citizens under the law.
The book's interweaving of abortion access, adequate welfare provisions, and ethical adoption is admirable, but it stands to be overshaddowed by critical ommissions and simplifications.
Identifying herself as a pro-choice woman of the baby boom generation, Solinger then audaciously claims the "Back Alley Butcher" was a PR creation, since conditions without legal abortion were never as bad as fellow feminists had suggested. Charging the phrase was rooted in political expediency, she somehow overlooks that a nation allowing women to be slaughtered and maimed wholesale in lieu of competent medical care can be easily seen to wage war on the very right of women to be treated as human beings and citizens.
This text gives the impression Solinger did not actually bother to test her political theory (adopted for whatever reason) against the gargantuan presence of illegal-abortion related injury and fatality statistics. Even though she has repeatedly reminded the reader of her staunchly pro-choice credentials, the information in this portion of the book sounds like an anti-reproductive rights broad side and therefore actually undercuts her own argument.
It is profoundly difficult to heed Solinger's call for a radical feminist overhaul of public policy when misinformation from the very classist and racist forces she opposes are held as sound historical research. Prior to the legalization of abortion, poor women of color were more likely to die from illegal procedures than their white affluent sisters.
In conclusion, this book would be acceptable when used in conjunction with a medium-sized reading list, but should never be studied as a single text on reproductive public policy.

Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right
Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right
by Ann Coulter
Edition: Hardcover
62 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars Hillarious and frightening, June 29 2002
Once again, Ann Coulter attempts to provide justification for her world view using manipulated facts and outright interestingly enough, complain that mainstream media engages in the very same practices.
If the right looks bad to mainstream America, they have only their own reccord and actions to blame. From lynching laws to the attack on social security and equal pay, the conservative movement has historically been on the wrong side of public policy issues.
The American Left could not have done as good a job as the right wing itself in proving how mean spirited, shortsighted, unrealistic and irresponsible the conservative movement really is for America. Indeed, the truth speaks for itself.
That Coulter would feverishly attempt to rebut fact through the frenzied treatise indicates she is also aware of the reality, and is trying to ignore it through a profound case of projection.

Crusade in the Classroom: How George W. Bush's Education Policies Will Affect Your Children and Our Schools
Crusade in the Classroom: How George W. Bush's Education Policies Will Affect Your Children and Our Schools
by Douglas Reeves
Edition: Paperback
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.68

1.0 out of 5 stars A student with learning disabilities was affected, June 2 2002
This book presents a rose colored perspective on the Bush adminstration's educational proposals--which in reality are far from ideal. Based on previous state-level experience, they will be a disaster if implemented at the federal level.
Both throughout my public schooling and undergraduate education, I was required to take Texas's academic programs, supposedly designed to measure minimum academic skills, but impossibly configured to assess the information learned by special education students. This policy contradiction was certainly noticed by state educators and bureaucrats, but oddly enough--real solutions to narrow the gap between established standards and student performance were never implemented.
Unlike my former Colorado school, special education students in Texas, irrespective of severity of disability were confined to a separate classroom with an overworked teacher who did not teach grade and ability appropriate curriculum, but just taught whatever was easiest for their own needs. Thus, disabled students would naturally operate at an educational level far bellow their mainstreamed peers whether this performance was in a "poor" or "rich" district.
During college, I was subjected to the whims of administrators who selectively ignored portions of federal law requiring the use of assistive technology on standardized tests for qualifying students. Although I was eventually able to graduate, I also became intimately familiar with the presence of bias in late 20th century higher education.
My experiences were not isolated, but a microcosm example of what in fact happened in Shrub's home state, ironically under the guise of "educational standards" and "educational reform".
Fortunate enough to be blessed with progressive parents who realized the proposals, then programs were actually code for dismantling civil rights gains, I know there are other parents and students who continue to remain unaware of the "real" costs of Bush's education program. They are a covert way of allowing the state to punish disabled students for both their disability and the subsequent magnification by unequal school funding and antiquated educational instructional policies.
It is politically easier to point fingers at children, blaming them for their own lot in life than to take a critical and comprehensive examination of flaws in the current educational delivery system
Given that during the presidential campaign, the Bush camp did not have much to say about disability rights and access; I have no illusions about his handler's intent to declare war on the progress wrought since the 1975 federal passage of laws guaranteeing equal educational opportunities to disabled students. Even if such attacks are camouflaged in talks of "standards" and "achievement" they ultimately create a climate where it is acceptable to attack "different students".
If their policies are not firmly held in check and opposed, the nation will travel back in time to an era where discrimination kept all of the country from reaching it's full potential.

Born in the USA
Born in the USA
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 30.78
27 used & new from CDN$ 1.44

5.0 out of 5 stars Expert political positioning, May 29 2002
This review is from: Born in the USA (Audio CD)
When this album debuted, few people across the nation realized it was not a tribute to all things status quo or a jingoistic call to arms, but a sarcastic embittered critique of that status quo and the Reagan era excesses (not neccesarily apparent yet, but still looming) whic would symbolize the times.
From the title track (A vet's disillusionment with his country) to the slightly more upbeat "Dancing in the Dark", Springsteen celebrates the struggles and lives of the common person who struggles to make ends meet in increasingly hostile times.
Springsteen is often cataloged as a rocker, but this album has distinctly folk-like ethos succinctly displayed throughout this CD. His ability and willingness to accord fair treatment to 'unhip' and 'uncomfortable' topics is readily apparent throughout the entire reccording.
The ode to construction workers "Working on the Highway" and the morose "Glory Days" make it clear that Springsteen lyrically is as far away from 80's excesses as one could get without boarding a time machine to the early 1960's. Invoking the musical flavors of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, his voice unfalteringly probes the national conciousness and implores us to rethink priorities.
This "Boss's" genius lies in the fact that he transcends both generes and decades. If you only own one Springsteen album, this should be the one.

Dress Codes: Of Three Girlhoods--My Mother's, My Father's, and Mine
Dress Codes: Of Three Girlhoods--My Mother's, My Father's, and Mine
by Noelle Howey
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from CDN$ 1.44

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb account, May 29 2002
I first came across Noelle Howey's experience in a briefly condensed first-person magazine article, and was delighted to pick up this book which is a more detailed account of her family's transition and restructuring.
Her dad started out as the quintesential "good old boy" but gradually realized that he had to be open with his need to be a female lesbian. The disclosure alternatley reassured and startled the author who realized that American society does not generally supply children of GLBTs with a "what to expect" guidebook.
Although I personally was not undergoing a story simmilar to hers, I was captivated by the frank prose and unyielding love for her father--irrespective of dad's gender. The journey was not easy for any of the family members (indeed, Howey takes care not to gloss over the contradictory feelings and internal frustrations that she experienced during her dad's transformation), but absolutley critical for the family's mental stability.
Our society loves to wax poetic on "family values" but does not neccesarily place compatible actions behind those words. Against all expectations and pronouncements from the larger society, the Howey family dealt with the revelation in a positive and empowering manner that ultimatley made the new family structure a zillon times stronger than their so-called "All American" model.
Even if you do not have a transgendered family member, it is impossible to read this book without crying, laughing or otherwise being reminded that good families come in all formats.

Happy Birthday, Addy
Happy Birthday, Addy
by Connie Porter
Edition: Paperback
40 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful addition to children's litterature, May 26 2002
This review is from: Happy Birthday, Addy (Paperback)
This book continues Addy Walker's adventures after successfully escaping her plantation for freedom up North.
Addy continues to be amazed by the opportunities that are so much more broader than those on the old plantation, but also realizes that even "free" states have racial segregation and discrimination. She is no longer the property of slaveowners, but still cannot travel certain places or excercise privlleges that whites in Philadephia are able to use.
With her friend Sarah's encouragement, Addy picks out a birthday. While such an action might seem mundane by today's standards, Addy (like others during slavery) never had a day that was uniquely hers. Taking her time with the big decision, Addy ultimately picks a day that has meaning for her and indeed, the entire nation.

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