If These Walls Could Talk Kristin Kroeckel From the beginning of time, men and women have been fighting for issues that they believe in. They have fought together to become free from the reign of unjust rulers. They have fought together to gain women the right to vote and free the slaves in south. Throughout time men and women have joined forces for the better of generations to come. Just like in the past, men and women still fight together for the many issues we face today as a whole. Both men and women fight for issues that may not directly affect their sex but in turn will ultimately affect everyone. Throughout the past semester we’ve covered many issues in which women have faced. We’ve seen them fight for the right to vote, for equality and how they have dealt with other various issues. One issue still comes to mind though, one, which we haven’t yet discussed. That issue is abortion. Abortion has been one of those issues that isn’t always promoted or talked about. It has been brushed under the carpet during certain periods in our country’s history and at other times it’s right there on the front page of the newspaper. The goals of including this topic in the course are fairly simple. The main goal is to educate those who are interested in women’s issues brought about in literature on this topic. To show them writers feel it is an important issue that needs to be portrayed from the woman’s point of view. Everyone will have his or her own opinions on the topic, which is great. Different opinions and values are what makes our country great. Even though this topic may lead into having a discussion on whether it is right or wrong- that’s not the purpose of including this into the class. It is merely to show that this is a women’s issue and nothing more than that. The film If These Walls Could Talk, is the perfect candidate for this issue. It keeps the issue on more of a personal level rather than a political level. The basis of the film is pretty simple to follow. It shows three different women who live in the same house over three different decades. Each of these women deals with the issue of abortion in her own way. This also helps to show how society’s views on abortion affects what each of these three women decide to do. Over the course of the whole movie, each woman is kept at the center of their segment which is key to getting the message across. Actress Demi Moore plays the first woman. Moore plays a nurse who has an unwanted pregnancy, during an era (the 1950s) in which abortion is illegal. She goes through many drastic measures like other women of that decade did to abort their unwanted pregnancies. Moore’s character is kept as the main and at times the only character in the scene and you see the whole situation happen as close as the audience can get without being that character. It keeps the issue at the personal level it should always be viewed from. Next, Sissy Spacek plays a woman in the 1970s who has four children and is pregnant yet again. She discusses with her husband what they should do because they cannot handle nor afford another child without everyone else suffering. This brings a twist to the situation because in the first she is pregnant with a child out of wedlock and now it’s a happy family with an unwanted child possibly on the way. Finally Anne Hecht is a college student in the 1990s who doesn’t know if abortion is right for her. She faces a group who sits outside the clinic trying to keep young girls from getting an abortion. She leaves the first time and the second time she decides to have an abortion. Her doctor is played by Cher, and she coaches her through the whole procedure. At the end of the procedure a man who snuck into the clinic, shoots Cher for being a doctor who performs these abortions. From the 1950s segment to the 1990s segment, the story is kept close to how each unwanted pregnancy and the issue of possibly having an abortion affects each individual woman. It shows that it is not just young girls who are having unprotected sex that are getting them. It is an array of women and all for different reasons. This film shows how these reasons and the women involved are all different but is brought together by whether or not they have the right to decide. That is what the abortion issue is about, the women who should have the right decide whether or not to have an abortion. It shows the issue from the one perspective everyone fails to remember. If These Walls Could Talk can be tied into both The Bell Jar and Madras on Rainy Days. It is similar to The Bell Jar in the fact that women in both texts are expected to fit this pre-made mold. They are expected to be the wife, mother and fashion expert as Esther feels she is being pushed to be. She feels trapped in a world run by men and women who support these roles in which women are expected to fall into. Likewise, the women in the film feel as though they need to have these abortions because they cannot fulfill these rolls. They do not fit into the “motherly” image, nor do they have the means both physically and mentally to have these babies. It is the same struggle just from the point of view of a different situation- both though, lead right to the same struggle. Similarly, in Madras on Rainy Days, the women struggle with their restrictions. They see men being able to act freely and without restriction whereas they are held under strict rules and breaking them could ultimately lead to death. In a similar note, women are under strict laws with the abortion issue. They have not always been allowed to make the decision to get an abortion and this is portrayed very well in the film. During Women in Literature, we also watched the film If These Walls Could Talk 2. This film is set up the same way as the first one except that it covers a different issue. The second film also tends to have a happier ending; it seems to look at the issue on a lighter note. Whereas the first film that deals with abortion, brings the grim reality to the issue. The film itself is only about 95 minutes, so it could be watched in either a class, which meets once a week, or twice a week. It would be better watched in the longer class to allow for more time for discussion, but either way would work. For the longer class, viewing of the film would happen first. Then letting the class discuss their reaction to the movie itself first will help people see the movie for what it is and not just the issue it revolves around. This should also keep the discussion from getting too far along right from the start. Then letting them discuss how the issue and time periods in which each takes place affects the women in the film. I think everyone involved should keep in mind the issue is how it is a women’s issue and keep it controlled to that and not whether or not abortion should be allowed or not. Some people feel abortion should be legal so it is regulated and safe. On the other hand some people are afraid it will become just another form of birth control. According to George F. Regas, a priest, many women “all have expressed profound gratitude that abortion was a legal and safe option”. All of those women chose to have their babies, but many times just having the option helps to make a decision. Being able to watch three totally different women in three different periods of time deal with one common issue helps the viewer to better understand it. You see what a woman does when abortion is illegal and unregulated and what one does when it is legal with set regulations. The outcomes and experiences for each are shocking opposites. From the beginning of the battle against abortion, it has almost always been traced back to religious views. Extremely religious people, popes, priests, etc: all feel it is killing an unborn child regardless of the stage of development in which it is in. But should any religion’s values be used as grounds on making laws? According to the Bill Of Rights Amendment I states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”. So right there as part of the written laws in which our country is run by, it states that they cannot make a decision on an issue based on any religious views. So, for example, they cannot say abortion is illegal because it is immoral based on the Bible. The film shows the mother’s struggle with the issue. It also shows how other people’s views affects her, both their religious values and morals which they live their own lives by. Throughout history, women have been fighting for various issues, which affect them. Abortion is right up there with all those issues. Women fought for the right to vote and for equal rights, both issues had both men and women who supported it and men and women who were against it. Abortion is the same way- some women and men feel it should be legal and others feel it shouldn’t be. Bill Baird is one of the leading advocates for reproductive freedom since the 1960s. He wrote an article featured in the Sept/Oct 2000 issue of The Humanist regarding abortion and his take on the issue. He stated in the article, “...while Americans personally dislike abortion they believed in allowing people to make their own individual choices” (Baird). This shows how even though people have their own personal values they do not always feel the need to impose them on those around them. If These Walls Could Talk is a great way to show this. For example, the one nurse in the 1950s segment gives Moore the number of someone she knows who can do an abortion even though that nurse doesn’t agree with the procedure. She saw a desperate woman and that’s what she cared about, the woman not whether or not she agreed with what the woman wanted to do. Everyone has their own opinion about the issue- certain religious groups speak out against the issue but that also does not mean everyone practicing that faith feels that way. It’s a very individual kind of issue and it’s based on everyone’s personal values. Most Catholics turn to the Pope as the highest religious leader on Earth. He leads his people as the Bible tells him to. Some Catholics agree with all the views he has on modern issues, and sometimes they do not. The New York Times printed an article on November 25, 2005 about the Pope and his views on various issues. They printed, “Though he remains deeply conservative-and has strongly affirmed John Paul’s positions against abortion, homosexuality, and secularism...” (Fisher). Of course anyone who is familiar with the views of the Church would expect the Pope to be against these issues. But it is also not the Church’s place to impose its religious beliefs nor should one religion have power over any other. This is not the way of the Bible and the Church. And it is not the way of our Government either. Our government is made to govern and protect its citizens. The film helps to show how much support these women need from the government to make this decision. It also shows how other people feel their view on the issue is the right one and many of them come off as completely crazy because of the lengths they will go to recruit others to follow their side. If These Walls Could Talk shows the drastic measures women in the 50s took to rid their bodies of unwanted pregnancies. It shows the pain they went through when having an illegal abortion done on their kitchen table. It also shows how reality hasn’t really gotten any better in the 90s through to the present. Many people still feel it is wrong and they will turn to killing innocent people who feel differently. It just shows how drastic the two sides of the coin are and how neither side wins regardless of what the laws may say. If abortion is legal and regulated, pro-choice supporters win and anti- abortionists are upset; and vise versa. The film is very affective in keeping the issue very real and emotional in that it will affect both men and women alike. It makes the issue so real, at times you feel the pain and anguish these three women feel throughout the film. Abortion is a very real and serious issue. It is something everyone needs to be aware of and not just because of the politics that surrounds the issue. It is a very personal and big women’s issue. It needs to be talked about and introduced to more people. Men and women alike need to be educated from a perspective that is not trying to sell the issue like it’s a product but to educate them on what the issue is really about: life and death; a distraught mother; the woman at the beginning of a possible unwanted pregnancy.
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