Still from “mujer_cita_MIA” featuring Niurca Márquez

This is probably my favorite visual moment in the film.

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Artivism in Process: making mujer_cita_MIA

mujercita artist

Once again, it’s late at night and I am at work in my studio: painting, scratching on celluloid and editing sound. Actually just finished the hand-crafting of the 16mm footage, and have spent all night compiling the dozens of interviews that will make up the soundtrack for this work.  I have recorded over 5 hours of conversations with women from varying ages and backgrounds. ALL have shared with me at least one story of child molestation, sexual assault or rape.

The interviews include a lot of my own commentaries and the sharing of my own experiences, which include three rapes in my adult life and one at the age of 4. I have spoken to about 13 women, of whom only two have never been raped. Of those two, one endured an attempted rape and the other a child molestation.  Of the group that admitted to having been raped, three also endured physical violence in the form of beatings or physical threats from intimate male partners.  Maybe it’s my particular group of friends, but these statistics don’t match that “1 in 3” that’s always being thrown around as the actual incidence of rape and violence among women.  Of the 13 women interviewed, only one was raped by a stranger at gunpoint, and only one was raped by more than one man in the same incident.  The vast majority were incidents that involved friends, dates, acquaintances, intimate partners, and family members.

Among the interviewees, I spoke with Patricia, a Mexican woman from Juarez and former sex worker, who shared with me the atrocities that her home town is besieged by: horrific accounts of rape, murder and mutilation, and unspeakable acts of hatred and violence against women.  Another woman shared with me an intimate, chilling story about being raped by her husband shortly before they were married, and how this incident shaped the dynamic of the abusive relationship that ensued between them after marriage. The conversations also include snippets of commentaries on sexuality in general, sexual shaming and the ways in which power in heterosexual relationships is often defined by sexual acts of coercion that bleed into the fiber of daily domestic life.

mujercita still 1

Admittedly, I could have selected a more optimistic subject to be working on, but what saves the beauty and integrity of the piece is the work of the two dancers that I have filmed for the first set of videos in the series. Niurca Marquez is a dancer and choreographer of Cuban origin whose work blends Nouveau Flamenco with techniques rooted in ancient forms.  Lucia Aratanha is a dancer, choreographer and theater director, originally from Brazil, whose work juxtaposes classical and contemporary dance with experimental movement theater. Their grace and power – both physical and spiritual = bestows the piece with the empowering serenity and strength that I hope to bring to the hearts and minds of my audiences, to women everywhere, to the Ladies’ Room.

If you happen to be in Miami on April 18-20, please drop by and see the piece at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W Flagler St. in Miami, in tandem with three musical concerts by contemporary local artists that will be presented there during those nights as part of FUNDarte’s Miami On Stage series showcasing the work of local artists. mujer_cita_MIA will be screened on the façade of the building, in the lobby, and in the Ladies’ Room.  Hope to see you there!

Now, back to editing…

In a perfect Slut-Shame-Free World… a Compliment Could be “Just a Compliment”

Recently, U.S. President Barack Obama paid a compliment to political colleague and personal friend California Attorney General Kamala Harris, which included a mention of her as being “good looking.” A lot of people got upset about it, and a lot of others rushed to the Prez’s defense with remarks such as: “it was just a compliment, for crying out loud.”

Admittedly, being of open mind with matters concerning absurd public formalities, while also generally given to supporting Obama on most things, I had to question my own reaction of outrage at the whole affair. Why does it make me so angry that he has the freedom to say this? Is it because it’s BAD to have a moment of human admission and praise somebody’s appearance, particularly if that person is a long-time friend and colleague? I mean, it’s not like he didn’t say that she’s brilliant and all that other stuff before mentioning her appearance…  My conclusion is that basically, the compliment wasn’t so bad, given the context of their relationship and the fact that she really IS brilliant, tough, and… well yes, admittedly, in my humble opinion: beautiful. Complimenting someone’s good looks is not a bad thing, in and of itself, unless…

…the person paying the compliment is a Female political figure and the Media gets to interpret her comment.

Let’s just let our imaginations run wild with the potential headlines we might be reading if Kamala Harris had complimented Barack Obama on his good looks in the same tone that he used to compliment hers.

“Kamala Harris Makes Indirect Pass at President”

“Kamala Harris Thinks President is Hot Stuff”

“Kamala Harris Flirts Shamelessly With President in Public Forum”

“Does Kamala Harris Realize that Barack Obama is Married?”

“Kamala vs Michelle: President Has His Choice of Women”

“Kamala Harris Blurts Out That She’s Hot for the President”

“Kamala Harris Proves that Women Cannot Keep Their Minds on Business”

“Kamala Harris Mixes Business With Pleasure”

“Kamala Harris Admits She’s Attracted to President Obama”

“What’s Behind Kamala Harris’ Compliment to the President?”

What a heyday the Media would have with it all! It could roll for weeks. We’d read repeatedly that the Attorney General is single, with descriptions of her failed relationships and insinuations about her long-standing friendship with the Prez. Some articles might even speculate a possible rivalry between the Attorney General and the First Lady, backing up the assertion with twisted half-truths, leading suggestions, and, on tabloid covers, strategic photographs of the two women Photoshopped with scowls on faces to insinuate animosity.  Other journalists would launch into sexy descriptions of Kamala’s choices in clothes, shoes, perfume, and makeup, with speculations on whether or not her body language and manner of dress could be described as “coquettish” on occasions where she has been seen in public with the President.  There would be discussion of her entire dating history, questioning and subtle judgment of her social and/or romantic behavior, and probably even an underhanded suggestion that she might in fact be a Lesbian.  Harris’ family members would be interviewed to provide lame comments such as “She probably meant it platonically” as evidence of the weak argument being made in her defense.  In short, she’d be professionally crucified in a matter of minutes and Media ratings would rise like mercury in a thermometer dipped into molten lava.

In a few day’s time, Harris’ public image would have been smeared, ripped apart, taken down, and dismembered.  From that point forward, Kamala Harris would never again be taken seriously as a professional or politician, but instead she would go down in history ubiquitously as “the girl who came on to the President” and blew her career in the process.  Maybe I’ve seen too much Telemundo, but I’m certain that the subtext would go something like a telenovela: beautiful, successful politician on the outside, desperate, wanton female on the inside, and guess which aspect will win and, in the end, sink her?

Considering all of the above, and the fact that, though it may read as hilarious, it’s not far at all from the truth of slut-shame media practices, I honestly wish that the President had kept his mouth shut, or complimented his buddy in private, where none of us could catch the slick note of entitlement that he and other men enjoy: that freedom of personal expression that women still don’t have a right to.

On the day when Kamala Harris can pay Barack Obama a similar compliment in public, and have it not cost her career, reputation, and image as a moral/immoral female, I will agree that it was “just a compliment.”  In the meantime, though I realize that the President apologized, I can’t help but perceive his comment as an irritating, off-color faux pas at best; at worst, a blatant wielding of patriarchal privilege and a bristling example of yet one more human right that women still lack in the 21st Century, and men take totally for granted.

The Lowly, Lecherous Leg of the Law: An Open Letter to Steubenville Rapists’ Defense Attorneys

Dear Adam Nemann and Walter Madison:

While following the famed Steubenville Rape Trial, one thing became especially troubling for me throughout the entire 4-day ordeal: The fact that two adult men were being paid a fortune to bully, humiliate, slut-shame, defame and discredit – while salaciously perusing naked photographs of – an unconscious, naked 16-year-old female child.  Quite honestly, I often thought: THESE guys are actually the ones who should be locked up.

I kept wondering how YOU went to sleep at night. I kept asking myself: do they have daughters? What are they telling their daughters? What will they tell their own daughter if/when this happens to HER?

My mind became so full of unanswerable questions regarding the lowliness, filth and banality of YOUR respective characters, that I will share with you all of the places my mind went to in the following list of questions that I came up with to ask you.

1) What are your ages?  I assume that both of you are around 40, from the photos you both look to be at least 35. In other words, each of you is roughly 20 years older than the rape victim whose naked pictures you got to look at a million times in a courtroom filled with other adult men?

2) Given the fact that you argued for days that your clients’ behavior toward the 16-year-old rape victim was within the expected, acceptable, normal, masculine sexual behavior of ANY normal, healthy guy under the circumstances, I wonder: how many times did YOU each experience the expected, acceptable, normal, healthy masculine reaction of getting an erection while ogling that naturally-provocative image of a naked, unconscious 16-year-old female child?

3) And, related to that last question, I will even dare to ask the unthinkable.  After all, isn’t it unthinkable that given the evidence presented in that courtroom you sunk to the level of attempting to blame this crime on the VICTIM? So here goes, unfiltered: Given that no one could possibly expect a normal, healthy, masculine  guy to resist the automatic, natural sexual arousal provoked by the sight of an  unconscious naked female child, I wonder: how did YOU TWO battle the natural, acceptable, normal, masculine sexual excitement and natural, irrepressible, masculine urge to ejaculate while poring over those pictures?  Or…  did you ever actually surrender to that urge?

4) And, since Guys will be Guys, and taunting and laughing at rape victims are all just a part of the natural, normal, healthy, masculine FUN of being a Guy: How much FUN was it to spend four days smearing the reputation of a brutally-traumatized, injured child in the eyes of the entire world by insinuating that SHE was merely an immoral little slut who was asking to enjoy this healthy, masculine bit of FUN at her expense? Did it perhaps remind you of your glory days when maybe YOU TOO enjoyed the normal, healthy, masculine FUN activity of slut-shaming girls, and particularly rape victims, in High School?

5) Then again, since drinking to the point of unconsciousness, by your argument, constitutes consent to sexual acts and indicates beyond refute that a victim is WILLING to be used and defiled sexually as well as allowing photographs of the act to be published on the Internet, I wonder: How many times during your high school or college days did either of YOU indulge in drinking to the point of passing out with the hopes that a few guys would rape YOU and publicize pictures of it?  Were you ever fortunate enough to have the fantasy fulfilled?

5) Given the fact that 1 in 3 Women is Raped in her lifetime, it very likely WILL happen to somebody in your family.  Will your arguments remain the same when someone you love – a woman, child, or in the rare instance, a man: maybe even YOU – is raped by the same Rape Culture that you work so ardently to uphold and defend?  Will you sink to such an abominable low as to blame your own daughter, mother, or sister and hold her up in a courtroom to face the same humiliation, violation of privacy, smearing, defaming, bullying and slut-shaming that you inflicted on Jane Doe?

5) And, last but not least: given your views on consent and certain sexual behavior that you clearly see as non-criminal – how many times have each of YOU enjoyed some normal, healthy, masculine FUN by performing sexual acts on the body of an unconscious victim such as this one, and managed to get away with it because maybe you guys were star athletes – or perhaps, successful attorneys?  How proud are you of your contribution to a culture that regularly slut-shames rape victims and defends sexual assault as normal?

I realize my questions are highly offensive and suggest vile things about you. They probe the nature of your personal, private, and sexual behavior, the respectability of your character, your hidden personal agendas, and the moral fiber that governs and determines your attitude towards Rape, consent, and presumably, women in general. But then again, as i understand it, didn’t you probe, insult and humiliate the 16-year-old victim in much the same way, with the exception that you were paid handsomely for doing so?  Didn’t you attempt to defame her character and blame HER for the heinous crime committed against her, in the attempt to add another courtroom victory notch to your CV and expand your client base to include defending MORE rapists?  Didn’t you, in order to accomplish this, seek to discredit HER character and ruin HER reputation, convincing the judge as well as the entire world of HER vile and filthy character and HER immoral fantasies and conduct?

I have no words to describe the level of despicable that I see you as. You are not only an embarrassment to men everywhere, but to the entire human species. You represent, in my opinion, the vilest element of society: those that are willing to harm, humiliate and damage an innocent child for their own gain.

Since the Laws Laid by Men are banal and unjust, i pray: May the Law of Karma prevail in both of your lives.