Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On Health Care or Lack Thereof

The health care system in this country is not something that I am extremely well-versed in as a scholar. I understand enough about my own insurance plan (through my father for one more year!) to get by and luckily my parents have been wonderful about picking up the slack while I am still in school. I never really stopped to consider just how very privileged that makes me.

Throughout the past three years I have come to a much more personal and intimate understanding of how this health care system is damaging, destructive, reckless, and just so unfair. I briefly mentioned many months ago that I went through a devastating break up. That break up was caused by my partner's serious and severe mental illness. He had struggled with depression since childhood. At the time we broke up he was twenty seven and had been living without health insurance since he was seventeen. He was bounced around free clinic to free clinic to see therapists and get medications. At least while we were in Milwaukee he saw the same therapist who kept an eye on the medications he was given by different psychiatrists every few months.

When we moved to Chicago the situation became much more precarious. He had no therapist, no way to get his medications and still, no insurance. We were able to get him in to a free clinic that re-filled his prescription for two months and set him up with an appointment to see a psychiatrist in three months! Well, he came down to the end of the prescription, was very busy with school and his part time job and preparing for the holidays (during which his depression always got much worse). This was when the meds ran out and he abruptly stopped taking them. Anyone who knows anything at all about anti-depressants knows that you should never stop taking them abruptly or without the guidance of a physician. Of course, he did not have access to a physician or a psychiatrist and that is why he ran out in the first place.

His behavior that following month can only be described as erratic. He ended our three year partnership, he dropped out of school, left his job, moved to Philadelphia on a whim and abandoned the kitty he had adopted eight years ago. When he finally did managed to see a psychiatrist again and get back on the meds his life was so screwed up that he wasn't able to recover and the anti-depressants made him just not care.

He moved back to Chicago but without proper management of his medication and depression he was unable to hold a job and was quickly evicted. I have been dealing with helping him find resources for the homeless and mentally ill. Last week I had him committed to a state mental institution so that at least he would have a place to stay and someone to assess his situation and (hopefully) medicate him properly.

I have watched a sweet, kind, loving, patient and generally wonderful man reduced to homelessness, debilitating poverty, suicide attempts and general misery for himself and everyone who loves him. And I blame the pathetic excuse for health care we have in this country. If only his five year job had allowed him to work an extra two hours a week so that he could be considered full time so he could be eligible for health benefits, if only the city or state would have some options for people who work $8/hour jobs and can barely pay their rent much less health insurance premiums. If only people understood that depression is cyclical. A person can get too depressed to keep a job and then not have access to the resources necessary to deal with said illness.

It makes me so sad to think of how much different things could be in my own personal life if this system weren't so terribly unfair. I cannot tell you the misery that this had caused me and certainly not the misery it has caused him. Right now it is a fight for survival, two years ago all it needed to be was a monthly appointment with a psychiatrist.

Disembodied Art Courtesy of David Byrne

My roommate is a serious biker. For her job (and anything else she chooses to do) she bikes about fifty miles a day! I, too, love biking but if I hit ten miles a day I'd be amazed.

Anyway, she sent me an e-mail about these new bike racks in New York City. She is excited to see such lively and colorful accoutrements just for bikers.

I wonder why a pornulated female body must be part of the city's art and biking culture? Why choose that particular form out of the thousands if not millions of alternatives? For context purposes please see Melissa McEwan's many posts on disembodied things.

If I had to lock my precious bike to this rack (no pun intended) regularly, all I'd be able to think about is how female bodies are quite literally turned into objects for others' use.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

I cannot believe I missed it! August 5th was my blogiversary. One year. And a hell of a year it has been. I hope you all have enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing. I cannot begin to express how amazing and wonderful it is to have a venue outside of the academy through which I can grapple with complex issues of gender representation in mass media. I love being able to have discussions with readers, I love knowing that people other than professors are reading my thoughts, and I especially love that I don't have to be as careful to use the proper academic jargon in my writing here. Don't get me wrong, I love a big ol' hunk of theory as much as the next person but I also love reading the less restrained thoughts of readers and other bloggers. Thank you all and here's to another wonderful year!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Eve and Wall-E

I finally saw Wall-E. I hadn't really planned to see it but so many people I know really liked it and the trailer seemed so adorable... well I just couldn't resist. Before I discuss the movie I'd like to discuss the inaccessibility of feature films. I took a friend to see Wall-E and for the two of us, factoring in my student discount and not purchasing any snacks, it cost over $20! I could have purchased groceries for myself for a week with that. I guess that that is why I don't go to movies very often. I am tired of being criticized for being so out of the loop when I don't know about the recent blockbusters. Seeing movies in the theatre is a privilege that I cannot imagine very many people can afford to indulge in regularly.

Naturally, what I found most interesting about this film was the anthropomorphism and gendering of the robots. How do viewers become aware that Wall-E is supposed to be male? I guess it is never made explicit but I believe it was intended. The name Wally is male. But WALL-E is an acronym for "Waste Allocation Load Lifter- Earth Class." The other major character is Eve or as Walle-E calls her Eva. Eve is obviously a feminine name. I think that viewers are to gather that Wall-E and Eve are a nice heteronormative couple who happen to be genderless, sexless robots.

When Wall-E and Eve are aboard the Axiom we see many other robots some of which are clearly gendered, wearing make-up for example, and many that have no obvious gendered identifiers. I don't want to go into the depiction of humans in this film because many other feminist bloggers did a great job. Please read their interpretations!

Besides the rather odd signifiers of gender in seemingly genderless robots and the heteronormativity implicit in those signifiers, I think that Wall-E also challenges traditional notions of gender. If Wall-E was intended to be male, he behaves in a way that challenges hegemonic masculinity. He is obsessed with the idea of romance and companionship. He watches Hello Dolly and dances. He is very emotional. He takes care of Eve and 'falls in love' with her. He courts her tirelessly despite her seeming indifference to him. At the end he becomes very weak and she saves him! Eve is consistently depicted as the stronger and smarter of the two and at the end, she saves his life. Or as my friend Sophie puts it: Eve is badass. Indeed.

Again we are handed a complicated situation. On the one hand gendering robots so that they might fit into the accepted mold of heteronormative coupling is far from progressive. On the other hand, presenting the 'female' robot as the stronger, sleeker, smarter of the two is pretty progressive for Disney.

I really enjoyed the film, mostly because I thought that Wall-E and Eve were so adorable. I actually cried at the end!

Also, I think that Eve looks like an iPod and Wall-E looks like... a Victrola?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

Happy One Year Anniversary to me and my wonderful city! Though I had some major reservations about moving here, I am quite sure that I made the right decision and I couldn't be happier. I love so many things about Chicago. Here are a few:

*public transit- though it is very far from perfect, it is available and fairly efficient which is more than I can say about other cities in which I have resided

*the gorgeous and accessible lake shore harbors and beaches

*lake shore trail

*bicycle friendliness and Bike Ambassadors (and not just because my roomie is one!)

*Music Box Theatre

*Wishbone Southern Reconstruction Restaurant
*Chicago Diner
*Pick-Me-Up Cafe

*Intelligentsia Coffee

*charter schools

*Boystown and Andersonville

*Drs. Ann Russo, Beth Catlett, Allison McCracken and Francesca Royster

*the history and contemporary art museums- and the fact that all public museums have a free day for residents of the city!


There are so many things but I think the thing I love the most is just the feeling that I have living here. It isn't easy to describe but I feel very independent and comfortable... There isn't a word for how I feel walking down the gorgeous streets of Lakeview at night. I just love it.