This is a marvelous and insightful piece on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - People’s Army and where it stands today in the struggle to liberate Colombia from imperialism and the neoliberal oligarchy. Rough translation by redguard; read the original Spanish here.
By Valerio Tomassino
In less than three months a team of journalists traveled to several guerrilla camps in southwestern Colombia. This is a region where life is intense activity of the Colombian armed conflict. One of them wrote this story.
The news last night completed its ideological work: in a few minutes we will meet with a commander of the Joint Western Command of the FARC-EP, and despite knowing the capacity for deception of the Colombian mass media, we continually feel a certain fear that we will find a kind of Pancho Villa and a barbarian.
Upon arrival, the image disappears; RCN sold us immediately. Out of uniform, the commander is as much a Colombian peasant as any. Talkative and happy, he warmly welcomes us and tells us about his work as a guerrilla strategist that protects the Cordillera Central of a huge military operation. From his head emerged many of the stratagems of what a colleague called the “Stalingrad” of Colombia. His easy speech and friendly talk gives the impression of not being aware of the magnitude of his military responsibility — not abandonment, but the tranquility and humor with which he discusses the military adventures of the fighters under his command in this ice cream parlor.
This expectation for Asian American artists to represent one’s community “positively” at the expense of an expansive and complicated portrayal — the “burden of representation” — is something that Parreñas-Shimizu feels strongly about. “The demand to make films that represent your community does an injustice to the actual work the filmmakers are trying to do,” Parreñas-Shimizu says. “You can’t film an idea. You have to film very concrete things, a very concrete person who’s going through some kind of dilemma. This person may not be a positive person. I’m thinking of the work of Quentin Lee’s Ethan Mao, which features a character who’s bullied and silenced by his own father for his sexuality, and then wields a gun against his own family. I think it’s a story worth telling. But once you make the demands of, ‘Is this the kind of visibility we want?’ it can be unfair to the goals of the filmmaker, which is to tell stories that help make spaces for these people.”
At the same time, Parreñas-Shimizu understands and feels the importance of Asian Americans wanting to see themselves in a way that hasn’t been seen before. This is why she was instantly mesmerized by the breakout of NBA player Jeremy Lin, whose sudden emergence was coined “Linsanity.” “It’s interesting to watch all the cameras look for Asians in the audience, but Asians have always been there,” insists Parreñas-Shimizu, a long-time fan of sports teams from her hometown of Boston. “Participation in sports is itself an assertion of citizenship and belonging. For me, being a Filipina immigrant in Boston and just loving the Celtics and basketball, I remember loving that school was canceled because the Celtics won the NBA championship and you’re part of that group in the subway going to the celebration…But yeah, you see that hunger. I know that hunger. It’s painful.”
But the medicine that so many Asian American men use to heal that pain — what Parreñas-Shimizu calls a “phallic masculinity,” or what other scholars call a “hegemonic masculinity” — only hurts others in the process. “I think it’s very easy to define masculinity in terms of the hero who saves the day and beats everyone up and sleeps with a ton of women. So if you define masculinity in that way, the Asian American man has to fall short. You’re still proposing a straitjacketed definition of what is gender and sexuality for Asian American men,” says Parreñas-Shimizu. “I want to open up a world where someone like William Hung can be sexy! And the thing is, people did find him sexy! He got marriage proposals! So if we look at masculinity, and what people want from it, it reveals that there’s something very limited in that kind of phallic masculinity. It’s not really good for people.”
That tension between the desire for national recognition and the danger in subscribing to a phallic masculinity (which undergirds the nation) is what drove Parreñas-Shimizu to unearth the vast filmic repertoire of Asian American masculinities. “After I toured for two years for my first book, people kept asking, ‘Now that you’ve proven the hypersexuality of Asian American women, what do you have to say about the asexuality of Asian American men?’ I thought, “We have to historicize it and see if that’s really what’s going on. Because if it’s true that Asian American men have only been seen as asexual and effeminate, then how do you make sense of Sessue Hayakawa or James Shigeta? These huge heartthrobs from almost 100 years ago, fifty years ago? So many women fainted at the sight of their sexiness and beauty. So we have to be very careful about creating that blanket statement.”” —So loving Terry K Park’s interview with Dr. Celine Parreñas-Shimizu about her creative life, her scholarship, and her latest book, Straitjacket Sexualities: Unbinding Asian American Manhoods in the Movies on the R today. (via racialicious)
South African runner Caster Semenya will carry South Africa’s flag at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.
“It’s such a privilege for me to do such a big thing like that,” Semenya said in a recorded statement, according to The Guardian. “To carry the flag for the team, it’s such a big thing.”
In 2010 Semenya became a household name not because of her athletic abilities but because the 21-year old faced a year of dehumanizing public speculation about her sex.
“I have been subjected to unwarranted and invasive scrutiny of the most intimate and private details of my being,” Semenya said in late March 2010 when the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) declared her to be “female-enough” to compete as a woman.” —Jorge Rivera, “Caster Semenya To Carry South Africa’s Flag In Olympic Ceremony,” Colorlines 7/26/12 (via racialicious)