Sophia Adalaine Zhou

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This past weekend, I helped Mike photograph his portrait ideas, and he let me edit them for him too — just some minor contrast and color balancing. It was lots of fun. :)

© Mike McAteer
April 2014

concept/model/artist: Mike McAteer
photographer/editor: Sophia Adalaine Zhou

Suburbia
September 2012

© Sophia Adalaine Zhou

Compliance.
April 2014

© Sophia Adalaine Zhou

Compliance is the act or process of complying to a demand or order. It refers to the conformity in fulfilling official requirements, and is a term commonly used in regard to policies, standards, and laws. Oppression is an excessive exercise of authority or power, especially in reference to its practice in an unjust or cruel way. Last week’s photo in the series was about a new insurance law that was recently passed in Michigan. Concerning the patterns observed in our society, in our nation, in our world, I wonder what is the real difference between compliance and oppression now that the lines become more and more blurred.

Far.
February 2013

© Sophia Adalaine Zhou

i don’t.
December 2012

© Sophia Adalaine Zhou

untitled 2187.
November 2012

© Sophia Adalaine Zhou

A is for ___ : subject to Anyone’s opinion and dictation of how to live
March 2014

© Sophia Adalaine Zhou

This week’s series’ photo is a little early. Last week’s previous photo topic was about Medusa, a girl in Greek mythology who was punished and transformed by Athena for being raped by Poseidon in the goddess’ temple. In relation to this prior topic, this week’s photo addresses a recently passed state law that has come to be known as the Michigan “Rape Insurance” Law.

Here is an article from earlier this month that reports on this law now in effect:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/13/michigans-abortion-rider-_n_4958517.html
Here is an article from October last year discussing Michigan’s anti-choice activists’ journey to pass this law:
http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/10/08/2751791/michigan-abortion-restriction-petition/
Here is an article discussing how insurance for abortion can be considered “extra insurance” similar to car accidents and car insurance:
http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/05/24/2060191/rape-car-insurance-michigan/

In summary, Michigan’s new insurance law requires women to purchase an additional insurance policy if she wants reimbursement for abortions. This new law drops coverage of most abortions from existing policies, and does not make exceptions even to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape, incest, or pregnancy complications that arise from consensual impregnation. Additionally, women who buy their own individual policies are now unable to purchase additional coverage from Michigan insurers.

Essentially, this new law does not allow women to get the same access to full health care as men receive. It also punishes women for being women, and if they are unfortunately raped, it shifts the blame and responsibility of the act onto them.

I thought it was an ironic and rather perfect parallel that I should come across this topic and these articles almost immediately after working on last week’s series’ photo. It was very surprising too: I had heard nothing about it prior because it became a law without being subject to vote by Michigan’s people. It was passed by the citizens’ initiative process, which requires a number of petition signatures from the acting group, in this case, Right To Life Michigan.

While reading about this law and considering its implications (of the immediate repercussions in the legal and health spheres as well as the overall larger picture of people, philosophies, and our society), for some reason I was reminded of a classic book I was assigned to read for school: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The story takes place in 17th century Boston, in a Puritan settlement where the community regards religion and law to be almost identical. The main character, Hester Prynne, was sent ahead by her husband to America but he does not arrive; the consensus is he has been lost at sea. With her husband missing and Hester refusing to name the father, she has apparently had an affair because she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a daughter. As punishment for her sin and secrecy, Hester is sentenced to public shaming and condemned to sew a scarlet letter A to the front of her dress forevermore. When she is released from prison holding her baby, Hawthorne narrates that she steps forth into the daylight before a crowd of “self-constituted judges,” some of whom vehemently wish to pass her sentence themselves and suggest her punishment be the branding of the letter into her skin, or even death.

There are clear differences between the situation in the story and the situation in Michigan, which I could only see initially and it made me wonder why I thought of the book at all. However, there are major connections too. The Puritan people of fiction persecuted Hester for her moral crimes according to the laws of their religion. They took it upon themselves and wished to further self-bestow the right to judge her punishment, her life, and even her right to live. As Hawthorne wrote, they were “self-constituted judges.”

I think people find it easier to feel strongly regarding others, whether in favor of or against, when they are not seen as people with their own names and stories. It becomes easy to objectify women, and people in general, when they are seen as a group without individual names, a mass without personalization or faces, when they are a projected letter and a biased reflection branded with someone else’s ideas.

In reading about Michigan’s new law, I also looked at Right To Life Michigan’s website; it’s irresponsible to form opinions without trying to see all perspectives as best as possible. Of the content there, two main topics caught my attention most: their desire to give “voice to the voiceless,” found in their category of Faith/School, and their headline that “some choices are not worthy of a woman,” found in their category of Prolife Issues.

These stand out to me as examples of hypocrisy. Were not the voices of women silenced when a law, strongly affecting their health and lives, was decreed without being subject to their own votes and opinions? Does a person’s life not belong to herself or himself? Even with religious perspectives in place, if a person’s life does not belong to themselves, why does it belong to another human instead of God? If some choices are “not worthy of women,” how are they worthy of other humans outside of the woman’s life?

I don’t support abortion; in looking at abortion images generated from the simplest of Google searches, I can honestly say I found almost all of the images painfully sad and awful to look at. I wish abortions did not have to happen, but it is an unfortunate fact of life that situations will arise where abortions are the best outcome. Why force a woman to give birth because of her rapist? Why bring a child into this world if it cannot receive financial support and ends up in an orphanage or on the streets?

Why actively hinder under the guise of helping? Why, and how, can you force a woman to plan for rape, incest, and pregnancy complications? Contrary to the article with the woman who compared car accidents with rape, the latter is not an accident. I fail to see how a penis accidentally springs forth from the trousers and accidentally “falls” into an unwilling woman’s vagina. Maybe someone can reasonably explain this to me.

So, for this week’s early photo, A is for Abortion, and the segregation of people based on their beliefs regarding this topic and this incredulous situation in 21st century Michigan. A is for Are you a god, and what gives a person the right to decide another person’s life? A is for the hope that my photo was compelling enough to capture your Attention to at least make it to the informative links regarding Michigan’s situation and its implications. (I specifically indicated these articles very early on in this now-essay, because A is also for grateful Applause if you’re still reading now.) And ultimately, A is for Aware, both in that Americans will realize what’s going on in our society and our country, and in that those Activists who pass these discriminative laws will realize the real Affects their Actions have on real people with real lives.

If you feel comfortable doing so, please share the links above and below; your circle and reach is probably far greater than mine. These last two links are to information about how to repeal this law:
http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/12/16/3067861/pro-choice-activists-michigan-referendum/
And to an online petition to support a public referendum on Michigan’s “Rape Insurance” Law:
http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/4178?l=jRFhGORw1lE

Medusa
March 2014

© Sophia Adalaine Zhou

Special thanks to Mark Douglas for providing lovely, serpentine resource images, and Mike McAteer.

Medusa is a mythological Greek Gorgon whom many people recognize because of the serpentine “hair” atop her head. In relation to last week’s photo in the series, she is another example of, in my opinion, unjust behavior on Athena’s part. In the story of Medusa, as told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, she was once a lovely maiden with lovely features, but her hair was the greatest beauty of her form. Her beauty led Poseidon to rape her in Athena’s temple, and thus the goddess decided to punish Medusa by changing the girl’s hair all to writhing snakes.

You may read the story from The Metamorphoses here. Regarding this story, it always baffles me how Athena, the goddess of wisdom and justice, would think it a wise and just decision to punish Medusa, the girl who was raped and powerless against the immortal and mighty god who violated her. Why would it ever be permissible to blame and punish the victim in a crime? (That is a rhetorical question.) Although this is merely a Greek myth, I think there are parallels to the mentality and behaviors in our society today, especially exemplified when boys - because they are not men if they think this way - “justify” their assaults by claiming the girl “asked for it” based on her state of appearance and choice of dress. It should be clarified that clothing types do not equate to sexual invitations. I can see how mixed messages can occur and be misconstrued, but if one could only remember that females are also people and not objects, such confusion would not arise.

Untitled 6344.
December 2012

© Sophia Adalaine Zhou

The first breath after winter
January 2013

© Sophia Adalaine Zhou

To weave my own
March 2014

© Sophia Adalaine Zhou

Arachne is a Greek myth about how spiders originated. Arachne, a girl known for her skill and artistry at weaving, did not acknowledge Athena, the goddess of wisdom, just warfare, arts, and skilled craft, as the deity that granted mortals such gifts. Taking offense to the girl’s human pride, the two entered a contest of weaving, where both created two beautiful tapestries: Athena’s depicted the gods Zeus and Poseidon in majestic glory along with herself. In the four corners, she added four scenes of other contests between mortals who dared challenge the gods, all of whom suffered misery, as a warning to Arachne. In response, Arachne used her tapestry to depict the crimes of gods, mainly the rapes that Zeus and Poseidon performed on mortal women. Athena, unable to deny the beauty of Arachne’s weaving and infuriated at the bold display of the gods’ crimes, tore the tapestry and struck Arachne. Unable to bear this, Arachne hung herself, and Athena, in pity, gave the girl life again but cursed her and her descendants to live as spiders.

In continuation of last week’s photo in the series, I noticed how Kali is often depicted with numerous arms, which made me think of insects, spiders, and the story of Arachne. This story has always caused me to feel greatly unjustified. Typically, I like the stories about Athena and how she is usually shown as a rational and just goddess of wisdom. However, there are stories like this one where she behaves just as childishly and rashly as the other gods (Zeus especially comes to mind). I find that it’s these stories of the Greek gods that shows their humanity, something quite ironic to me. In this story, I think Arachne did suffer because of her hubris but, just as she depicts in her tapestry, the gods are far from perfect beings, so what reason is there to emulate them? In many of the stories, especially when reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses, they just seem like immortal humans with far too much power and boredom. Arachne may have been ignorant of what she was getting herself into and may have been too outspoken and opinionated for her time, but I can’t help but commend her for her daring and defense of her own beliefs. I think this story would have had a much different reception if born in modern times.

hello there! nice blog. i love your rendition of kali.

Asked by milkkky

Hello to you too! Thank you very much, both for taking the time to leave me a message, and for enjoying my art! :D ♥

A Reminisce of Reincarnation
January 2013

© Sophia Adalaine Zhou

An overflowing of memories
November 2012

© Sophia Adalaine Zhou