Thursday, 23 December 2010

on the beauty and civility of death

On the eve of the eve of a very canonical birth, i'd rather think about the gender of death.

"Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility."
(E. Dickinson)


"Wearing the new dress that she bought yesterday in a shop downtown, death goes to the concert. She is sitting alone in the box and, as she did during the rehearsal, she is looking at the cellist. Just before the lights went down, when the orchestra was waiting for the conductor to come, he noticed her. He wasn't the only musician to do so. Firstly because she was alone in the box, which, although not rare, wasn't that frequent an occurrence either. Secondly because she was pretty, possibly not the prettiest woman in the audience, but pretty in a very particular, indefinable way that couldn't be put into words, like a line of poetry whose ultimate meaning, if such a thing exists in a line of poetry, continuously escapes the translator."
(J. Saramago)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Who's afraid of Conceição Lima?

"For it still remains politically essential for feminists to defend women as women, in order to counteract patriarchal oppression that precisely despises women as women" (Toril Moi, Sexual/Textual Politics, pp. 13)

When political and ideological oppression starts depriving women like São Lima of their freedom, of their job, and of their voice, then it's time to recall the moments when you were told in restaurants that there's no more need for feminism today, that oppression does not exist, because all around women are writing/producing/thriving. Although it matters that this is happening in São Tomé, it doesn't really matter. It could be Pakistan, England or Austria, for all we know. It's happening, open your eyes and write about it (or write your name down here).

And as you write about it from your own position of comfort, you should trim the guilt and think instead about what little difference your writing about it may produce. A little but real difference to someone - to you? - will make it worthwhile.

So it's really not about the tag, my dear (but) silly feminist princess. The women writers you insist on bringing together in your uni-multi-Khalo-brow-phd thesis refuse, as you know so well, to be called feminists. Hélène Cixous thought feminists were bourgeois little women running after power in the patriarchal system. Even that mother of mothers, Simone de Beauvoir, started by calling herself a socialist (while a certain Same called her a Beaver in bed). And yet, the symbolic value of their work for women - for you - is extraordinary.

(Suddenly, the implicit tag starts burning inside)