DON’T LOOK UP: Violent Patriarchy Goes Down

I’m not focused on feminism most of the time but it was impossible for me to view the holiday season blockbuster DON’T LOOK UP without a keen awareness of what it had to say about gendered politics. My last blog post considered the intersectional wisdom of Black feminist thinker bell hooks. This one will consider the folly of proceeding without that wisdom.

Meryl Streep’s performance channeling the goofy worst of the female former governor of Alaska and some current members of Congress was a perfect way to show rather than tell: electing women solves nothing. Or, put another way, a woman who claws her way to the top of violent patriarchy will not embody the feminist values of concern for the common good, the imperative to cooperate, or reverence for life on our planet. Played for laughs with a perfect surprise at the tail end of the credits.

More central to the film’s narrative, though, is the juxtaposition of an idealistic scientific heroine played by Jennifer Lawrence with a weak-willed scientist antihero played by Leonardo DiCaprio.

Lawrence rocketed to stardom as the protagonist of THE HUNGER GAMES, and the association with dystopian competitiveness is likely not lost on the audience.

At first her male mentor/boss creates space for her amazing discovery and gives credit where credit is due. But then he treats his wife like crap and falls into the morass of structural sexism enshrined in modern government and mass media. Lawrence is sidelined like legions of female discoverers before her; its been over 100 years since Einstein used his wife’s mathematical calculations without attribution, and little has changed. Then, Lawrence’s instant memehood is emblematic of the way social media tears women to shreds as misogyny cowers and snipes from behind screens.

The way in which the solutions to a natural disaster are conceived of as military first and capitalistic second further illustrate the problem with patriarchal thinking. The filmmakers clearly had a great time creating the characters who drive the rockets to doom, lampooning both generals with muscle for brains and brainy tech entrepeneurs with their minds on their money and their money on their minds.

Ariana Grande as the voice of wisdom was a nice twist since she’s first presented as a vapid foil to Lawrence’s nerdy Cassandra. Once the two are working together, Lawrence’s communication powers increase considerably.

Cate Blanchett takes a star turn as a dumb blonde journalist successfully riding the shallow wave that passes for culture on broadcast television. A recurring theme of the film is journalists as corporate stenographers for the status quo being mercilessly lampooned. 

The data mongers who know everything about us predict the deaths of two characters, but only one of these predictions proves true. An extended family dinner of the sort convened by nurturers since the dawn of humankind may not be able to save the world, but it does save a soul or two. A final prayer to the big daddy in the sky reminds us that things might have ended differently had the spiritual wisdom of matriarchies not been replaced by the degraded values of violent patriarchies. 

Hierarchies have served us poorly as elites who have clambered over bodies to reach the top of the heap hog both resources and the power to conceive and implement solutions.

In the end, we are reminded that whatever Nature has in store for us can only be faced together. The I’ve-got-mine-and-you’re-out-of-luck mentality is the antithesis of feminist values, and likely spells our collective doom.

Love, Kindness, And Solidarity Are The Most Radical Acts Of All

The longest night of the year calls us to practice radical love. 

I’m writing before dawn as I stoke up the fire to warm the house while a carpet of tiny ice crystals sparkles outside reflecting the full moon in the sky.

Rituals of light involving candles, bonfires, and holiday decorations prop up our sagging morale as we in the Global North struggle through the second winter of a pandemic more deadly than ever. 

source: Getty Images

The passing of Black elder bell hooks was an occasion to remind ourselves of her wisdom and fierce advocacy for love as the ultimate radical act. Her guidance:

love is a combination of six ingredients: care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust,

and so if you don’t know what you’re doing, just pull out that little card and ask yourself ‘in what way does my action that I’m taking reflect these traits, these characteristics, these values’

Tempers are raging in the world white supremacist patriarchy created. That world is filled with threats of violence, actual violence, and a hail of bullets at regular intervals. Videos shared on Tiktok went viral calling for last Friday to be national school shooting day. Previous campaigns motivated students to destroy school bathrooms and punch teachers.

Teachers are quitting in droves, and those still hanging on are posting anguished reflections on the rising tide of anger directed at them by parents who have come undone and children whose social opportunities boiled down to zoom and video games for a year. 

High school teacher Julie Holderbaum wrote:

Oh my God, another one? How many school shootings does that make this year?

Are all teachers as overwhelmed and exhausted as I am?

Does anyone care what teachers are going through in this country?

When is someone going to do something about it?

Health care workers also are operating in a state of extreme duress that can only be sustained for so long. Much of it is fueled by their frustration and despair as angry, ignorant people refuse to observe safety protocols to protect others: the little children too young for the vaccines, and the immunocompromised people too ill to receive them.

Brute force in the form of vaccine mandates has failed as those who study public health success stories knew it would. 

Irresponsible advice last spring — from the CDC no less — to take off our masks and resume commerce and in-person school led us deeper into the crisis. 

This month the White House press secretary sneered at a reporter who asked why the federal government does not provide at home tests for everybody like other countries do (i.e. countries with universal public health care programs). Simple, non-invasive PPE like N95 masks for all is still lacking.

Providing them would be an act of love, but the people have long since stopped expecting rule by corporations or oxymoronic for-profit health care to be guided by love. Will they share vaccine knowledge with the world or hoard it to increase their own wealth? You know the answer.

Scholar of failing empires Chris Hedges says that cruelty it not an accidental byproduct of the current system, it is the point

Our courts fail to punish sexual exploitation of children, protecting the powerful men and women in Epstein’s little black book.

Instead, a court in the government that capitalism and its foundation, racism, built, punish a Puerto Rican immigrant truck driver whose company vehicle brakes failed resulting in a crash fatal for others. 

Image source: “Viral TikTok Shows Truckers Boycott On Behalf Of Rogel Augilera-Mederos

Aguilera-Mederos manifested love when he said how he wished that he could have traded his own life for that of the victims. 

The judge sentenced him to 110 years. Silver lining in that particular cloud: truck drivers are refusing to enter the state of Colorado in response and over 3 million people have signed this petition asking that his sentence be commuted to time served.

Workers are unionizing like mad, hooray! Solidarity is an act of love — while condemning someone risk death for the bottom line is routine corporate behavior even in a weather emergency.


As the war machine churns out deadly poisons, accelerates climate change, and takes no responsibility for burning children to death in Afghanistan; as the social safety net tears beyond repair and your wealthy government responds by going on holiday; and its automated messages fill inboxes with ominious reminders of the resumption of student loan payments in January; as we struggle through the longest night of the year,


love, kindness, and solidarity are the most radical acts of all.