The Ladies’ Room

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People are a little surprised when i explain that i want to present mujer_cita_MIA in public rest rooms, specifically Women’s rest rooms.  Like, ew… really? Yes, really.  Initially, the conversation has been: “Are you going to interview women in public Ladies’ Rooms?” No. I am going to use the Ladies’ Room as an exhibition space for the video projects.  “What will it look like?” Like a loop of moving image art on a flat screen. “Will it be like a commercial for feminism?” No, it’s actually contemporary video art in a public rest room. “What is it about?”  It’s about our existence as women.

The layers of meaning that the Ladies’ Room brings to the piece are many: Presumably, the Ladies’ Room is a private, female-only space in which women feel safe; yet public rest rooms rank alarmingly high among the places of highest risk for rape. And then there’s the systematic attempt to define “female” and “femininity” and the issues trans and androgynous people face with regards to using the Ladies’ Room.  At this time I won’t expand upon my belief that the myth of the binary gender system is a patriarchal form of social, political and economic oppression, as that subject deserves its own post, but do keep that in mind as you read.

The Ladies’ Room is that ironic place of utmost privacy in public. It is a place where fleeting intimacy occurs between random strangers as we wash our hands and apply lipstick in a mirror together, greet each other politely, make small talk, and wish each other a nice day, having just taken care of other, more delicate, personal matters.  Imagine if, as we do this, we are surprised by the presence of a unique video art piece on the wall. And if, furthermore, the work is layered with references to the issues that we are confronted with daily and discussing through social media, among friends in private and public places, and quite possibly, in the Ladies’ Room itself. Imagine if the work addresses our strength as women, the difficulties that we face daily and our power to continuously evolve. Imagine if the video is telling our stories through an abstract and universal visual language.

mujer_cita_MIA wants to reach a specific population of people and make a subliminal commentary on society from the perspective of a Latina immigrant in Miami, along with others who enter into the dialogue via social media. The conversations that i am having on facebook, and particularly on Twitter, with women from all over the world, are the basis for the images that i am creating for this city-wide film and video art project.

The idea first came to me in 2007 while working on a piece made with recycled vintage porn footage and television commercials on 16mm which i also hand-colored and scratched on. My first impulse at the time was to propose exhibiting the work in the Rest Rooms of some of Miami’s most popular nightclubs.  I even came up with a sort of business plan for it, thinking it a great ménage-à-trois between fine art, public service, and commercial potential. That piece grew into an installation that was instead presented in the closet of a local gallery, but the idea of the public rest room stayed in my mind.

So my first choice of venues would be Ladies’ Rooms in local nightclubs, as I really want to address rape and sexual assault in that context, where sexual nuances and cues are flying about.  The point of the work is not to moralize upon those nuances, but to stimulate the psyche through moving imagery that subliminally empowers us to feel more confident about our bodies and the social and sexual choices we make, both within the specific space and, by extension, within the dynamics of our personal relationships.

There will be several versions of the videos designed for different types of spaces, some more suitable for younger viewers to be installed in venues such as restaurants, libraries, and youth centers where the target audiences are girls of varying ages.  The piece is multilingual and filmed mostly in Miami.  And for guys who want to see the work: videos will be posted online so that you can also see them and comment on them. i want to get this message out there and love exhibiting my work in public space.

And… If anybody knows of a cool venue that might be interested in featuring this work, drop me a line. Likewise if you are a composer, musician or sound artist interested in contributing work to the piece. At this time, i am in the development stage of this project. Any leads to potential funders, contributors or sponsors is also greatly appreciated.  info@solislandmediaworks.com

Love to you all! please visit often.

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NObody’s fucking victim

marie en el monte

i am not the victim of the swine

who think they stole

my body’s secrets:

i am in fact

NObody’s fucking victim.

i am the 1 billion women

that are being counted

as we rise, dance & awaken

the earth from centuries of

rotting stench, and the

other 2 billion that nobody’s

talking about

because we are too terrified to talk

struck dumb like tombs

hiding the decay of love, innocence

hope, beauty and our precious

femininity

however we choose to define it

for ourselves.

i am those women who get up

and pee, drink, sweat, laugh, fuck, cry, shit

and apply

a full face of makeup so as to

play out the drama on the streets again

defying the incessant banging

of the constant

threat

that stalks the gutters out there

and rises from sewers all around us.

i am those women who clench their fists

inside boxing gloves

punching the living shit out of

every demon

every nightmare

every shred of shame & terror

that clings to the walls of

our inner selves

while we walk

that beautiful

womanly walk

all 3 billion of us.

i am those 3 billion women that cover this earth

with our blood, sweat, tears, love & persistence

the 3 billion women who will each in her lifetime

perform at least 3 billion miracles

of healing, nurturing and giving

restoring with every act her own

breath

heart

mind

body

spirit

and power.

i am All women:

NObody’s fucking victim.

you hear me?

NObody’s fucking victim.

i am too beautiful for your defilement

too strong to be damaged by you

too large in numbers to be overpowered by you

and my mission is far too important

for you to detain me

any longer.

rape by any other name…

color 1

i have no proof that he put something in my drink, but outside of this incident i have never blacked out from drinking in my life. i am not a saint, but i am not a heavy drinker, and i had ONE mojito that night. it was a Tall mojito and i deliberately didn’t finish it because i hadn’t eaten dinner. halfway through the drink, i started feeling like i was getting too drunk too quickly, so i ordered a club soda with lime, and as far as i can remember, i never finished that mojito.

It never crossed my mind that the drink could have been roofied. Presumably i was safe. this was my third date with him. we were friends. i had effectively friend-zoned him on prior dates with swift pecks to cheek and actually saying out loud: “I am not interested in casual sex.”  He had responded with the appropriately respectful behavior that made me trust him enough to accept his invitation out dancing…  so i was safe, so Safe in fact that i never imagined anything could happen to me with such a nice, big, friendly, Safe & Respectful guy at my side.

i wanted to dance. the whole mission had been for him to practice the Salsa steps he had learned in his professional Salsa lessons with me: i was born bailando Salsa.  But on the dance floor, almost immediately i started feeling dizzy and losing my balance, my rhythm, my step, timing, my whole relationship to the music and to the band. i blamed it on the fact that i was far too drunk and that all he was doing was spinning me like a damn top: otherwise he couldn’t dance a lick. i kept trying to teach him how to just HOLD rhythm and stop all the goddamn spinning. i remember saying: “Watch the other couples.” Dancing Salsa can be a living nightmare with a guy that doesn’t get it. under my breath i was cursing the day i ever agreed to do this with a muhf*ckn European….

But i trusted him and attempted to enjoy myself. i remember laughing and trying to make the best of it.  i chalked it up to being drunk, but i was losing control in a way that isn’t normal for me.  i fell against him on the dance floor.  i saw people staring at me, but everything was spinning. everyone must have assumed that i was okay and that of course, my big, respectful, gentlemanly European date would take care of me. but people were looking at me with worried faces, and stepping aside as i fell. i was confused as hell, but managed to amble my way back to the table and insisted that i needed some  food. He said, “let’s go get something to eat.” i assumed of course that we’d go to a restaurant, but by that time i was seriously slipping and i cannot even remember leaving the club.

i must’ve passed out instantly as i don’t recall driving with him. i woke up fleetingly in his car in the parking lot of his apartment building, not knowing where i was, and wondering why we were there, angry and nauseous. Rarely in my life have i ever fallen asleep in a car or moving vehicle so i couldn’t understand how this had happened.  But i must have passed out again, or just don’t remember what transpired.  In hindsight, i realized that approximately 5 to 6 hours elapsed between the time we left the club (they close at midnight) and the time that i woke up in his bed at sunrise.  i was still dressed, but he had unlatched my bra, and my skirt was pulled up around my hips. i was laying on my back, splayed open. my stomach was gurgling, i felt completely acidic, floods of nausea kept sweeping over me.

He had left a slimy used condom beside the bed, and was in the kitchen preparing food, humming and acting as though we had just finished making love like any normal couple. he called me “cherie” & asked how i was feeling. i wanted to vomit but couldn’t. i was numb, confused, dizzy, teetering, and trying with all my might to remember what had happened. i tried to imagine myself having sex with him, had i agreed to this? i could recall fleeting glimpses of him on top of me. i might have been in and out of consciousness, i could recall some bits, but no context. what had happened before and after? how much had been real and how much was the illusion of my obscured memory? had i responded to him, invited this at some point?  all that was clear to me was that i was horrifically sick and felt like shit.

i was starving, but by now i could not eat the cheese that he was putting in front of me, and the nausea continued to well up in me. i was pissed that he had not offered food sooner.  but i was too incoherent to articulate or understand anything.  i do remember a moment when, from the balcony of his apartment, i saw the sun rising over the Bay.

i found my shoes in the living room, with my panties. All i could say was “i’m sick and i need to go home.” i cannot clearly remember descending in the elevator, nor any conversation while riding in the car with him. thankfully he did take me home, as I could not have mustered a way to get home by myself in the condition I was in. the sun was up when i found myself at my front door.

my daughter was waiting up for me, quite concerned, as she had been texting me for hours during the night with no response. i vomited profusely and took a bath in baking soda, my go-to spiritual detox of choice. i told her what i could remember of what had happened, but I never called it rape nor even considered a roofie. Instead, i stated it as: “I drank too much and slept with a guy and can’t even remember any of it. I’ve never done this before in my life. i’m so ashamed.” It was She who looked stunned and horrified, and asked “are you sure he didn’t put something in your drink?” i felt a huge stab of shame and guilt at that thought: At my age how could i have LET this happen to me?  i was 55 years old when this took place. i replied, “No. I just got so drunk that I slept with the guy & can’t remember any of it.” For me, it was far more comfortable to think that i had actually DONE this, than to say i had ALLOWED myself to be raped again, for the third time in my adult life. Also, at that moment, my recollection of the evening, even of how much I’d drunk, was pretty vague, and my body just wanted to vomit and go to sleep.

It wasn’t until the next day or the following (both of those days still feel like a blur) that I began to suspect that it might have actually been a rape drug, as the lingering effects of drowsiness and difficulty with concentration began to feel less and less like any normal after-effects of alcohol i had ever experienced.

but the critical blow arrived when i happened to see my ex-husband two days after the incident. i told him what happened. he replied very matter-of-factly: “You let it happen.”  Hearing that remark, from a man with whom i lived for almost 20 years, the father of my children, and someone who claims he “loves” me and is my “friend,” it’s not hard to imagine why I decided not to pursue the nightmare of pressing a rape charge via the U.S. judicial system. like most of us who choose not to report, i stand by that decision and my right to privacy, particularly at a time when i was especially vulnerable and already violated. We all know it is virtually impossible to get a conviction for “just plain old rape” unless additional crimes such as battery are also included, which was not the case here, though Rohypnol – the drug I believe I was given, based on the descriptions of its symptoms on the manufacturer’s website – can be fatal when mixed with alcohol, so technically, this rape could have turned to murder had i consumed enough of the drug. i still get a creepy feeling when i think “what would have happened to me if i had FINISHED that drink?”

i am a feminist. i am a peer rape counselor. i am a past rape survivor. i know better. I know how we internalize, block, hide, and blame ourselves. i know how it stays deep inside of us, working on our behavior for years. i know just how hard it is to take on the overwhelming guilt, fear, anger and shame that comes with the thought: “I was raped.”  nonetheless, i blamed myself for this incident until very recently.  This happened almost nine months ago, but i can only begin to speak about it now. i am grateful to those in my life that are catching the flying pieces of me that come undone as i process this. i know there is love out there, and i feel it.  i don’t have any proof of anything so i cannot call this asshole out by name (though a group of friends are helping me set up a sting operation on him). There was no physical evidence of abuse, and i was actually grateful to know he had used a condom. All i have is my story: i am releasing it to join the other billions of stories out there, across cultures and continents.  May it clear the air for any woman who needs to hear this: it wasn’t your fault, mamita. You didn’t do this. neither did i.