Sunday, May 22, 2011

To: the Short Pants Analogy and how it works.

I was disturbed when I was researching online a few years ago, and Eve Ensler called for short skirts by women all over the world in the commemoration of V-day that year. I understood how third wave feminism called for women's 'rights over their own bodies' etc. but I thought that the idea of short skirts everywhere challenged a personal moral code in the universe somewhere. That it was directly linked to the over-sexualization of women and I couldn't understand why an act that seemed in sync with how women are objectified everyday was being taken as revolutionary action. It just didn't sit comfortably with me.

Fast forward to now. I have a friend who wears dresses everyday (usually with heels) and believes that it is her own statement of feminism, that it is her experience of liberation as a woman. We have just spent the last six months battling the frigid zone here in New York, and my cupboard now has a number of short skirts stashed in its corners somewhere, despite that it has still been too cold to use them. I know now however that these skirts carry context.

In Trinidad, I would never wear a short skirt or pant outside of my neighborhood. In our understanding of things short (I mean here anything more than an inch or two above the knee cap) it's a game of thing association. It is a sexual display, that a woman is trying to get the attention of men, that she is probably 'loose', that she is a potential 'bad ting', that it serves as an invitation for lustful thinking. I have observed how my thinking has shifted. Ryan suggested it may be a more white western concept of liberalism at work in these metropolitan areas.

Whereas if a white woman was to walk the street on a hot day in a bikini, it would be more easily acceptable than if your mother (of colour) was to do this...anywhere in the world. As black people there has always been a conservative in our thinking, which could have been derived from a number of historical places. That being said, I think this is the culture of this society, and just because a woman is wearing clothes above the knee doesn't guarantee that an American man is going to look at her twice. It is just the way things are here.

I must also inject here at this point that my morality has not changed. I still define for my own purposes and personality and beliefs what would be considered as too short for me as woman to wear in public. What has changed however, is that I am now less quick to criticize women, based upon the length of their clothes. In a Christian or wider religious context yes, by all means, wear a longer skirt, 'modesty' has to be maintained; but in terms of women who do not share my Christian world-view, I am less quick to judge them as overly-sexualized beings looking for the attention of eyes everywhere. It just might be the heat, just as in that Aesop fable with the Sun and the Wind.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

To: Life Giving.

My grandmother whose birthday we usually celebrate with Mother's Day has finally gotten to the stage of life she called 'Ayo Pancho', which is in effect, her death, that is, in the more human sense. I have made peace with the humor of her soul and the way she would anticipate ancestorship every year at her low-sodium, middle-of-the-week dinner with her closer friends and neighbors. How there would somehow be the odd presence of Royal Castle chicken next to the bowl of Lo Mein. Her rendition of 'Mother's Eyes' and the haunt of Jonnie Walker on the outer carve of her notes.

When she was able, she had the tradition of appeasing the spirits of her deceased parents by preparing saltless food and leaving it out for them once a year, laid out on the dining room table with a shallow bowl with a candle footed in some water. She used the bright red table mats with the stars on them that looked like the old 'Cannings' logo. My family became more Christian and she became less able to do it herself, and eventually it stopped. My documenting of it is the only way I will remember it like it had been. I am not sure how her daughters will treat with Mother's Day today.

My own boyfriend sometimes accuses me of hating men. This is not true. It's only that to this point in my life I have known the strength of so many women in my life, who have given birth to one of my selves, whose stomachs have carried me through the war of the world and who have nurtured the patchwork of song in my spirit. My father is a beautiful man, he has never failed me, not once. My lover is uniquely amazing and I love him beyond all, but the women in my life are the ones who have made me.

For my own mother, and what it means to have a child who identifies strongly with ethnicity, a double world she can only understand on certain levels. The way that my legal studies could make her infinitely happy and the way she works to understand me more, the thing that came out of her, but less from her. The prayers she formed me in. I thank her, she is more of a woman that I could ever thank her for being.

For my aunts, who have helped me tremendously to now, who taught me all I know about family and what it means to keep one. The wishes and proud hopes of my grandmother, Anita, to show me the miracle of the loaves. For Ryan's mom and how her faith feeds mine some days. To the women without blood relations who have shaped me, Aunty Charmaine, Mrs. Marin, Mrs. Singh, Aunty Debbie, Aunty Camille. For the counsel of my sisters. Kel, Ivy, Akilah, Ardene, Dej. This is a celebration of you all. I cannot thank you as you should be thanked. There are blessings that can reach where I cannot.

My Grandmother's Road March.