Best of 2013 (Part l)
Malcolm Venville. The Women of Casa X.
The British photographer Malcolm Venville has made a searing photographic record of a deranged reality. Complementing Venville’s photographs is a series of astonishingly candid interviews with the women of Casa X by the well-known Mexican writer Amanda de la Rosa. These are the portraits and testimonies of thirty-five survivors of the monster of the City, with much to say about life in a slum in Latin America: about the Mexico that horrifies, about sex, poverty, love, and the darkest side of human nature.
One night in Mexico City, Carmen Muñoz, sex worker, was roaming the streets looking for customers. Unexpectedly, she found two colleagues, both over sixty years old, sleeping on the street, covered by newspapers. After almost forty years of giving service to butchers, porters, refuse collectors and criminals, they were now long forgotten by their families and society. Carmen was confronted with what would be her own fate, like most women of her profession. Striving for dignity for all of them, she organised her colleagues and led a group that resolved to find a home where they could spend their last days in safety and warmth.
In 2006, after twelve years of work, and with the support of Mexican intellectuals and artists, the government gave them a seventeenth-century mansion, where Carmen founded Casa Xochiquetzal - Casa X. Around sixty women, all over fifty years old, receive shelter, food, and medical and psychological care. This is not just a retirement home - most of the women who live there still walk the streets. But Casa X is the only refuge for prostitutes in Latin America.
Casa X is located in the heart of the notorious district of Tepito. Although only eight blocks from the historic centre of Mexico City, Tepito is a micro-universe, where life is lived in a unique fashion. For nearly 500 years it has been a place of impunity, crime, smuggling, violence and prostitution. The neighbourhood did not submit to the Aztec Empire, or to the Spanish conquistadors, or to the current authorities. Tepito has an identity that goes beyond its boundaries. It has its own social organisation, myths, heroes, slang, and even its own local deity, La Santa Muerte (Holy Death). The women of Casa X are stuck at the bottom of the ladder of this world, and keeping the memories of it in their bodies.
Illusions of the Body was made to tackle the supposed norms of what we think our bodies are supposed to look like. Most of us realize that the media displays the only the prettiest photos of people, yet we compare ourselves to those images. We never get to see those photos juxtaposed against a picture of that same person looking unflattering. That contrast would help a lot of body image issues we as a culture have.
Within the series I tried get a range of body types, ethnicities & genders to show how everyone is a different shape & size; there is no “normal”. Each photo was taken with the same lighting & the same angle.
Celebrate your shapes, sizes & the odd contortions your body can get itself into. The human body is a weird & beautiful thing.
Photographer: Gracie Hagen
23-year old Nataly Palacios Córdoba was murdered by her boyfriend in August. Her death caused such a shock that her classmates decided to launch the ‘Love doesn’t kill’ campaign.
When Mortimer Herbert Morris-Goodall gave his young daughter a stuffed lifelike toy chimp named Jubilee, his wife’s friends were horrified by the plaything and admonished that it would frighten little Jane out of her wits. Instead, it became the spark of fascination to light the inner fire that would make Jane Goodall (b. April 3, 1934) one of history’s greatest primatologists and the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.
At nineteen, after her mother told her that secretaries could get jobs anywhere in the world, Goodall decided to pursue secretarial training in London. But she remained enchanted by animals — she continued to read countless books about them between her poetry and philosophy coursework, and roamed the Natural History Museum on lunchbreaks. Her cross-disciplinary curiosity also drove her to take a course in journalism, and she found enormous delight in the poetry of Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot. But while her life in London was infinitely stimulating, it was the furthest thing from lavish or even comfortable — she was so desperately short on money, in fact, that in her memoir Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey she describes her usual dinners as consisting of “a quarter of a boiled cabbage (the cheapest vegetable) and an apple, or a Penguin biscuit.”
After graduating, she followed her passion for animals and Africa — the place she wanted to go the most — to a friend’s farm in the Kenyan highlands in 1957. She was mesmerized and determined to stay. Her uncle arranged for a secretarial job with the manager at the Kenyan branch of a British company, but Goodall longed to work with animals. A friend suggested she should try to meet the legendary Kenya-based archeologist and paleontologist Louis Leakey at the Coryndon Museum of Natural History, so she reached out to him. They met at his “large, untidy office, strewn with piles of paper, fossil bones and teeth, stone tools, and all sorts of other things,” and he took her around the museum, asking her all kinds of questions about the various exhibits. Goodall, who had read voraciously about Africa, was able to answer most, and Leaky was impressed that someone without a scientific degree would know so much. So he offered her a job as his personal secretary. Leakey soon sent Goodall to Cambridge to obtain formal scientific education, and she became only the eight person ever to be allowed to pursue a Ph.D. without a previous Bachelor’s degree.
And so began the professional journey of a remarkable pioneer. Goodall spent nearly half a century studying the social and family interactions of chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park. The insights from her longitudinal observations have served as fundamental pillars of understanding not only primate behavior, but also animal consciousness at large. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977, dedicated to her relentless advocacy of international wildlife and environmental conservation, and has authored numerous books on primate behavior, animal welfare, and what it means to inhabit our inextricable connectedness to our closest fellow beings.
To support Goodall’s work and its far-reaching legacy, consider contributing a donation to the Jane Goodall Institute.
I just want to say that this is why minority representation in the media matters. Mae Jemison was inspired to become an astronaut after watching Nichelle Nichols as Uhura on Star Trek.
Media is NEVER “just” media.
No, it’s never “just” media. Which is why we started The Reconstructionists.
"The first female firefighter was a slave. She volunteered in a New York City firehouse in 1818. Her name was Molly Williams and her achievement is often marked by a quote saying that she was “as good a fire laddie as many of the boys.” If true, Williams overcame a huge hurdle, one that exists almost two centuries later in the department, where females are still struggling to be considered physically competent and asexual enough to hang out in the company of men.
The first paid career U.S. firefighter, Judith Brewer, wasn’t hired until more than a century and a half later, in Arlington, Virginia, in 1974. The wives of the men in her house demanded a meeting to discuss the hire. Brewer was quoted as saying that they ‘were upset about their husbands bunking with a woman.’”
"In 2000, there were a total of twenty women in the FDNY. Twelve years later the tally was thirty-four. The most recent probationary class accepted eight, the most of any class dating back to 1982, when females were first allowed into service. However, four of the eight females have since dropped out of training.”
"Her friends often say, ‘Oh my god, you must work around hot guys all the time.’ But Medina swears she’s never been attracted to anyone in her firehouse. ‘It’s also a bit taboo,’ she says. She pauses, then adds: ‘And ya’ know, they tawk like this: Sophy, how ya’ do-win. Hey yo bada bing bada boom.’ She admits she’s exaggerating as she imitates men in her firehouse, the way a sister would a brother, and as though she’s been given that right as a member of its tight-knit, devoted community.”
Discover how to dress for your shape with fashion expert Caryn Franklin’s body shape fashion tips e-books.
Time has picked the 13 “Gods of Food” for its November cover package, virtually ignoring the goddesses, and made it worse by excluding them in the accompanying graphic of culinary influences. Its editor Howard Chua-Eoan, in an interview with Eater:
Why are there no female chefs on the chef family tree?
"Well I think it reflects one very harsh reality of the current chefs’ world, which unfortunately has been true for years: it’s still a boys club… And when you look at this chart it’s very clear. It’s all men because men still take care of themselves. The women really need someone — if not men, themselves actually — to sort of take care of each other."
Why did you decide not to include any female chefs among your Gods of Food?
"[N]one of them have a restaurant that we believe matches the breadth and size and basically empire of some of these men that we picked. They have the reputation and all that and it’s an unfortunate thing."
“I don’t make the sad news; I just reflect it, like a mirror.”
From a NYT discussion: Why Do Female Chefs Get Overlooked?
“No women chefs among the magazine’s Gods of Food? Outrageous but accurate and, for that matter, obvious. …The relevant issue is why women do not move up in the kitchens of major restaurants… I suspect it’s due to restaurant kitchens’ militaristic command structure, and women tend not to thrive in such situations. (Don’t get me wrong; they’re not doing so well in other fields, either —- only two of the 10 most important ballet companies in the world are led by women.)
Excessive manliness is widespread in restaurant kitchens. … Female cooks have always been treated appallingly. Include sexual harassment — more verbal than physical — in the list of transgressions. So it’s no surprise that relatively few have even entered the business, much less gotten to the top.”
"Press coverage matters. David Chang, one of Time’s cover boys, would not be where he is today if he had not received an enormous amount of glowing and supportive press early in his career. …
Some people might assume that if the press isn’t giving more coverage to women then it’s because there aren’t enough female chefs who deserve the coverage. I would suggest that if you think the word “deserve” has anything to do with who gets press coverage then you don’t know anything about the real world. …
When Alain Ducasse opened his first restaurant in New York City, The Los Angeles Times wrote that he was the only chef in the history of Michelin to have six Michelin stars. Several other articles echoed this misinformation. The fact is, Eugénie Brazier, a woman, earned six Michelin stars all the way back in 1933. So it would help if more journalists knew the history of the field they’re covering.”
"[W]hat does the supremely intelligent and thoughtful Thomas Keller think of being on a list that excludes his influential female colleagues? How ashamed is David Chang to have allowed his beautiful talented face to appear on the cover to represent the club that starves, or at least underfeeds, his sisters?”