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From Arkibong Bayan (arkibongbayan.org)

Photo from Arkibong Bayan (arkibongbayan.org)

Edgar Allan Paule of the blog Viewer Discretion pretty much articulates my thoughts about the short film Ang sinabi ng mga magsasaka sa Hacienda Luisita [What the formers told me in Hacienda Luisita].

In the short film, Felicity Tan interviews farmers involved in the strike that led to the Hacienda Luisita massacre in November 2004.  The farmers argued against agrarian reform and voiced their support for the feudal system that had them as tenants. Under patronage, they said, conditions were better.

There are a number of good takedowns of the short film (such as this one). But the Spivak fangirl in me appreciates Edgar Allan Paule’s analysis of  how systematic forces like feudal capitalism co-opt the speech of those who are already exploited and rendered subaltern.

Hacienda Luisita strike. Photo from arkibongbayan.org

But. I am still struck by the suspicion with which these farmers regarded Satur Ocampo and the representatives of the Philippine left who came to support the strike. The farmers said they were fighting for better work, better pay. But the strike, as represented by their maka-kaliwa supporters, was turned into a call for land.

Iba na,” said one farmer.

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A year of riding

Some things I’ve (re)learned from a year of riding.

The climb is its own reward:

That hubs are spaces of tension. (The graffiti on this one reads “Hike, not bike.” What does that make those of us who do both?)

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Appalling billboard

There was so much to choose from, but this one made me the saddest:

Letter

Dear Kasama:

I feel bad that I spent the better part of our reunion railing about white liberal feminists and other scholars who frustrate the hell out of me. And that when you asked what it was about their work that bothered me, and what was I was looking for from them, I could not muster a coherent response.

So after a few days of thinking about your questions, this is what I’ve come up with.

Some specific things that bother me include:

  • that many Asian and Southeast Asian Studies departments are organized along Area Studies lines, focusing on regional security and economic development.
  • that my university’s department is still predominantly composed of white males, something that seems true of most Asian studies departments, based on conference attendance.
  • that readings lists in introductory classes are largely organized around the works of white scholars. Works by “natives” like Reynaldo Ileto get relegated to optional or recommended reading, much in the same way many Intro to Women’s Studies classes tokenize Audre Lorde and bell hooks.

My issue is not that these scholars and activists are assholes.  It’s that Western schools of thought on history and development studies (or worse, “Oriental Studies”) have an extremely poor track record of interpellating their former colonies. And our narratives still end up shoring their legacies of liberalism, neoliberalism, and colonialism.

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Massacre in Maguindanao

The descriptions that follow may be triggering, but please read and watch. People have asked me, “What can I do?” and it will be in the context of this violence—including sexualized violence–that this call to action is situated.

***

Last November 23, fifty-seven people were massacred in the Southern Philippine province of Maguindanao. They were on their way to filing a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, who was running against a powerful political dynasty with close ties to the Arroyo government. Because Esmael had received death threats, his wife Genalyn, two sisters Eden and Bai Farinna, and two female human rights lawyers Cynthia Oquendo-Ayon and Connie Brizuela went in his place. Also in the convoy were other family members and at least 35 journalists.

They expected  that a convoy of civilians—women and journalists—would be granted safe passage. Instead, witnesses report that the convoy was gunned down by a private army of 100 men. On a national highway. In broad daylight.

The bodies were later found in shallow graves and scattered around bullet-ridden vehicles.The bodies of the women were also sexually mutilated. Reports state that the women’s pants had been pulled down and that they had been “shot in their private parts.”

Marga Ortigas of Al Jazeera has a good report that situates this massacre in a wider context of “lawlessness, the proliferation of illegal weapons, the impunity with which crimes are committed.”

***

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Oh yeah you’re a feminist!

Last week, three young women from the Feminist Majority Foundation visited the large Intro to Women’s Studies class that I work as a TA. They did what I take to be a standard invitation:

FMF member: Okay! So who here is a feminist? Raise your hand!

(a smattering of hands go up)

FMF rep: Okay! So who here believes there should be equality between men and women?

(A lot more hands go up, but slowly.)

FMF rep: Okay  then!  That means you’re all feminists!

This is a group of young women and men, taking a Women’s Studies class. A large portion of the students were women of color. And they did not identify as feminist. If I was an FMF representative, I’d be curious to know why. Perhaps we could talk about their ideas about feminism. What was it about feminism, or perhaps just the term “feminist,” that they did not find relatable?

They FMF members smiled a lot, and seemed like nice enough young women. But they were also arrogant, and their blithe dismissal of any concerns the students had — oh yes you too are a feminist! — made me angry.

When I met with my students in discussion class, I asked them about why they didn’t raise their hands. Some said it was just because they were uncomfortable with the term.

A number were upset about FMF’s support for the invasion and continued occupation of Afghanistan. One student used the term “colonialist,” and another said it was attempt to “save brown women from brown men.” These were first- and second-year students, quoting Spivak. I almost cried.

Others took issue with the second question, the facile “equality between men and women.” One Chicana student recalled the racism leveled at her father, her brothers, and her boyfriend faced every single day. Another student brought up Devah Pager’s “The Mark of a Criminal Record,” a matched-pair experiment that showed how white men with criminal records still received higher job callback rates that Black applicants with similar work experience but no criminal record. What men were the FMF reps referring to?

In the end, we did get a good discussion out of the FMF visit. And I did learn a lot about and from my students. The FMF reps might have too, had they bothered to ask questions and listen.

A good life

Last spring, I spent a lot (to me) of money on a mountain bike. I have spent the past few months happily developing my climbing legs and literally soaring to new heights.

bikeI’ve also spent a lot of time feeling guilty. That I, a woman of color grad student from the Third World, could possibly spend that money on a bicycle.

How do I justify that? And why do I feel like I have to?

***

I previously wrote about the dearth of people of color riders on the Los Angeles trails. I have since spoken to other people of color who have been thinking about riding, about spending money on a basic mountain bike, one with decent brakes and some kind of suspension. For many, it’s do-able if (like me) they cut wayyy back on other expenses. But oh the reluctance, since spending the money and actually devoting time to riding is often labeled as unproductive. A waste of time. And maybe, just a bit selfish.

What constitutes a “good life”? For many, the idea of a good life follows a linear progression of childhood, college, marriage, mortgage, kids, retirement. Judith Halberstam observes how this idea of a good life is built around accumulation. Those who live outside this logic of consumption and accumulation are pathologized and vilified.

This dominant idea of a good life already devalues activities like riding and running and  walking and being outside. Because these are pursuits that do not necessarily promote the productivity that “a good life” demands. Instead, they are often a refuge. They are opportunities to breathe, to reflect, and to feel joy outside the consumption-based logic of capitalism.

Perhaps this is a reason why such interruptive and “unproductive” activities are vilified and pathologized in the first place.

***

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