terça-feira, 23 de novembro de 2010

Thinking about Sweden, and other mappings...

"To learn from travel, one must train
oneself to capture messages."
Fatema Mernissi.

Sweden is a country I had never really thought about visiting, although in the back of my mind there lingered some awareness of its status as the best-ranking country in the world in gender inequality, and some notion that this wealthy Scandinavian nation is recognized as exemplary in terms of social equality in general and successful welfare state policy.
Would it be "too boring", too "solved" to really capture my imagination, I wondered, when the chance to go there came in the form of professional commitment.  Of course, there would always be historical monuments, natural beauty, perhaps the chance to take a ride through the countryside on a fine Swedish (or Icelandic) horse, and then of course, the numerous museums to visit....

Now I am already on my second trip there. On the plane from Amsterdam to Stockholm, after a grueling 11 hour flight from São Paulo, I sit next to a Swedish woman whom I soon learn has gone from nursing to a doctorate in public health. Probably well into her fifties, she is a still youthful mother of three, now in her second marriage to a man who had several children of his own. When I comment, “So, I know that your country is considered number one in gender equality”, her reply comes quickly, together with a wide smile and, I detect, a twinkle in her eyes, “Yes, this is true! But we are still not satisfied [with the way things are]!”

My first stroll around Stockholm takes place on a drizzly, mid-November afternoon. There, at the boutique she works at in a trendy Stockholm neighborhood, I meet Sari, a young Afghani immigrant. Although the acute perceptions of life in Sweden that she shares with me lead me to believe she has a real penchant for the social sciences, she tells me, in beautiful English, that she has finished high school and not gone on the university. Then she explains that in Sweden, her adopted country, everyone has all their basic needs taken care of, so that the real difference between rich and poor can be seen through access to spheres such as hobbies and leisure. “There are many things you may want to do but if you are from a poor family, perhaps an immigrant family, you just won´t get the chance”. She also tells me that her mom wanted to bring her daughters to Sweden so that they could have the opportunities she never did. And as her daughters lives unfold in new ways, Sari´s father "isn´t too happy with it".

Later, in the evening, I am at a bar with my Rumanian friend, enjoying a bit of the city's night life. As the night draws to its end, emptying out rather early, in fact (well, it is a Tuesday evening, after all) there is just us and a large party at another table. One member of the group, a young man, gets up and starts to dance, showing off his not-so-meager talents in flashy movements of hands, legs and body, rather à la Michael Jackson. Then the d.j., who seems to be a friend of the group, switches the track to Middle-Eastern music, and a middle aged woman and another, somewhat younger one, who we later learn is her daughter get up from the table as well. Soon we are all dancing and laughing together, this one brief chance meeting pulsing with a sweet and dizzying current of something larger. Tamara, the older woman, tells us it is her daughter´s birthday, gestures toward her lovely granddaughter, a girl of about 16, and then goes on to lament the closed-off nature of Swedish life, its families and reserved society. “Look at us, we are all from somewhere else!,” she exclaims. Somewhere, in this case, means mostly Iran, but also Cabo Verde and Chile. Later, the young Chilean I speak to in Spanish tells me she was born in Sweden, daughter of people who found exile there, after Pinochet´s coup wrought fear and terror in their native land.

I am in Uppsala, after day one of our conference, chatting with Johanna and Ingrid over a beer. It is rather noisy in the pub, populated at the moment by a gregarious crowd that doesn´t seem to fit the “boring” label I have heard foreigners apply to the Swedes over the past few days. So I ask my friends to tell me something about young people in Sweden today, their habits and their life style. Johanna tells me her older sister is a Lutheran pastor, a single mother who “made” her child under the auspices of a Danish sperm bank and with current plans to follow suit for a second one. Ingrid, who tells me she still dreams of a rather conventional married life, like the ones who parents built and enjoy, to date, also adds, “A husband! Yes, I would like one. But I can also easily make my life without one. In fact, my best friends are a bunch of guys, and I´m almost always hanging out them, só for them, maybe, I´m just... well, one of the boys!”

On the final evening of my stay in Uppsala, snow is falling lightly, covering the ground with a thin and gauzy sheet. It is almost warm outside, and better yet, I have the prospect of a toasty, cozy hotel room awaiting me. So, there is none of the discomfort of Curitiba at the end of a winter day in store for me tonight. I feel satisfied after several days of “communing with kindred spirits” and after a well- received talk on fellow women travelers - in this case the Brazilian women in Barcelona who have shared their life stories of searching for self, of border-crossings, introspection and sometimes, “muito jogo de cintura” (a particular kind of cleverness, roughly speaking). On the plane home the next day, I read stories from the book my son has given me for my recent birthday. There are many good ones among them, but one in particular (Conversa de Bar, by the gaucha Renata Wolff)catches my attention, reminding me of the session my students and I “back home” spent re-visiting Rosario* . Like Castellanos, Woolff, Plath and others I so admire, Wolff's story takes a humorous and ironic look at mythologizing - and often disabling- ways of writing women, and perhaps also, of being women: the scripts, the "contracts" we accept and their “fine print” - and bringing me back again to a one of the questions that so often, or from time to time, come backs to haunt me: if in our ocean and border crossing, if, amidst our changing circumstances and selves, there is something we must still, most urgently, most importantly, dislodge from within.

*(Castellanos, El eterno femenino)

segunda-feira, 15 de novembro de 2010

"Corpos e crise"

Muito tempo ausente! Nem era minha intenção, mas gente do ceu, quanto trabalho tive nestes meses!!! Vou postar um pedaçinho de uma resenha que escrevi, que logo sairá publicado...

Bodies in Crisis: Culture, Violence and Women’s Resistance in Neo-liberal Argentina, by Barbara Sutton. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2010. 256 pp. ISBN: 9780813547404 $25.95

The history of contemporary feminism the world over has been characterized by practical struggles and political debate which bring women’s bodies into focus. At the theoretical level, this has included the critique of a disembodied, universal enlightenment notion of the human being (“man”), portrayed as fully human insofar as “he” is revealed to be a subject of reason and fully in control over the “messier side” of existence (body, emotions, etc.) and perpetuating a dichotomy in which women are ultimately defined as Other: body, emotion and the danger of all that threatens to escape disciplinary control. This of course has been a contradictory cultural legacy, one in which women were (are) exhorted or expected to “be [just] the body”… yet certainly not a body of their [our] own; rather, a body to be constantly shaped and redefined according to the vicissitudes of the patriarchal imaginary, according to openly or surreptitiously imposed codes and languages of “what a woman is” – whether domestic servant, wife (and mother), piece of property, Playboy bunny, prostitute or “ human dictaphone”, as Gayle Rubin ironically commented in her pioneering text (1975). It also enables us to understand why a political-discursive focus on re-thinking and re-claiming our bodies became such an important focus of late 20th century feminism.
Argentine-born and raised, sociologist Barbara Sutton provides a unique account of the social and political conjuncture in her country at the beginning of the 21st century that is both a brilliant attempt to theorize women’s lives and struggles by bringing the body clearly “back” into the picture, and a rendering of a concrete story of oppression and resistance in which women come to life as embodied (and rational/reflective and emotional) subjects of history...

sexta-feira, 10 de setembro de 2010

new one of mine...


He loves a devastated land
the warring tribes have stilled
but the uprooted fields, the children
with open hands and limp hair
cows gone to bone, still swaggering on their feet,
an utter impossibility to reconstruct –

it is not like the way his kinsmen repopulate,
not like the way age comes to green mountainsides
in the Pyrenees, where balding hikers set down to
an evening meal they have chosen to make meager, the dry wine,
the goat cheese, so carefully selected

perhaps a bit closer it is, to we who have chosen love
in its strangest formulae-
the broken-winged sparrows, our children’s freedom,
happiness or toil in the hardest tongues or feats.

quarta-feira, 1 de setembro de 2010

Work in progress...


Denise Duhamel
versão: Miriam Adelman

Ela pode ser do Japão, do Hong Kong, da China,
das Filipinas, do Vietnã, da Tailândia o da Coréia.
A menininha que brinca com ela pode decidir:
O sul, o norte, uma província
nebulosa. Tanto faz, segundo a Mattel, que relata
que esta Barbie continua tendo “olhos arredondados”
porém “boca e busto menores” do que
sua irmã dos EUA. As meninas, como alguns homens já crescidos
gostam da variedade, desde que bonita, desde que
haja cabelo comprido para mexer.
Num comercial nas horas noturnas, a Manhattan Cable
oferece um serviço de acompanhantes “Geishas to Go”
garotas do “Oriente, onde os homens são rei...”
O Ken Branco deita barriga para baixo
enquanto uma Barbie Oriental caminha sobre suas costas.
Ou é uma mulher de verdade pisando no Ken?
Ou uma Barbie Oriental pisando num homem real?
Você precisa viajar ao Japão
para comprar esta Barbie específica. Uma garota geisha
pode chegar à porta do teu apartamento em Nova Iorque
em menos de uma hora. Por sinal,
não existe um Ken Oriental.
Os que estudam o delicado equilíbrio
do comércio e câmbio americanos

Workin' on it...

Mais um poema da genial Denise Duhamel, que estou traduzindo.
Curtam primeiro a versão original:

Denise Duhamel (from Kinky, Orchises Press, 1997)

She could be from Japan, Hong Kong, China,
the Phillipines, Vietnam, Thailand or Korea.
The little girl who plays with her can decide.
The south, the north, a nebulous
province. It´s all the same, according to Mattel, who says
this Barbie still has “round eyes”
but “a smaller mouth and bust”
than her U.S. sister. Girls, like some grown men,
like variety, as long as it’s pretty, as long
as there’s long hair to play with.
On a late night Manhattan Cable commercial
One escort service sells Geishas to Go,
girls from “the Orient, where men are kings…”
White Ken lies on his stomach
while an Oriental Barbie walks on his back.
Or is it a real woman stepping on Ken?
Or Oriental Barbie stepping on a real man?
You have to travel to Japan
to buy this particular Barbie doll. A geisha girl
can be at your door of your New York apartment
in less than an hour. Of course,
there is no Oriental Ken.
Those who study the delicate balance
of American commerce and trade understand.

sábado, 28 de agosto de 2010

"The World We Have Won"...

Vários meses já passaram sem nova postagem... Aliás,é a primeira vez que isto acontece desde que iniciei o blog, em 2008. Muitas viagens, muitas demandas para atender e pouco tempo para deixar fluir coisas "mais livres" ou traduzir poesia.
Percebo que vou continuar um pouco mais neste ritmo, pelo que opto, hoje, por compartilhar um trechinho do livro de Jeffrey Weeks,de título supra-citado. Estou gostando da crítica que ele faz, de vários autores/ perspectivas que já foram objetos de crítica minha também-- além dos abertamente conservadores, a de Zygmunt Bauman, por exemplo, cuja acolhida aqui no Brasil me parece muito "sem ressalvas" demais* . Este livro de Weeks, publicado em 2007, me parece, como um todo,um ótimo antídoto para as inúmeras tentativas de fazer um balanço sobre nosso momento histórico que circulam por aí que evitam incorporar nas suas análises um olhar
para as dimensões da vida social tão centrais - e tão profundamente vinculadas a "todo o resto" - que são as questões de gênero e sexualidade. Inclusive, me parece um absurdo tentar (re)pensar noções de política, cultura, comunidade, sujeito, "indivíduo" etc. sem contempla-las .... mas isto discutirei mais, pois pretendo postar uma resenha do livro depois de terminar a leitura!

"An emphasis on individual autonomy, and the individualization of moral choice, is, I argue, a characteristic feature of the contemporary world, but it is closely linked to values of reciprocity and mutual care, which are lived out in ordinary everyday life. I challenge currently fashionable theories about deficits in 'social capital' and argue that, on the contrary, despite huge and potentially disruptive changes in everyday life, there are both strong continuities in values and behaviour, and new sources of social capital that sustain life experiments. One important aspect of this is the rise of a 'friendship ethic', especially among
LGBT ... people, which underpins various ways of doing family, and which poses genuine challenges to heteronormative values... [the querying/queering of traditional institutions] throws new light on debates about rights, commitment and recognition..." (Weeks, p. XIII)

Com as devidas especificidades que diferenciam, entre outras coisas, realidades de "centros e periferias", e centros com suas periferias, e os centros das periferias, e lembrando -como nos disse a maravilhosa antropóloga colombiana-norteamericana Marcia Ochoa, quem esteve por aqui recentemente - La moda nace en Paris y muere en Caracas! E todo continua "aberto ao debate"... por supuesto!

* Ver meu texto, "Visões da pós-modernidade" publicado na Revista Sociologias (da UFRGS)

quarta-feira, 30 de junho de 2010

and another one of mine....

(Ok, I have to admit that it's hard to post these
humble creations on the same pages that host poets
like Sandra Cisneros and Denise Duhamel, but
what the hell, it may be my only chance...)

(for N and D)

though we use the same threads
and choose our patches from the same mound
there is still some need to
explain the design, make explicit
the meaning, the final picture.

so, i turn myself inside out for you, so
like a garment you can see my seams and my
rough edges, whatever there is to turn and
run from, whatever there is that can melt into
some small kindness

into the dusk,
there’s tapering, cutting –
here the snipped thread is already too short,
a story that can’t be finished, a version
nipped in the bud,
but there, you see, is another string
to be pulled from the underside
and we’ll just keep at it-
sewing and mending as if life
could go on forever, a bit of frayed
fabric like a warning: better
lift up your head and
get on with things, my girl!

"Barbie bicentenária"

Eis aqui, a nova tradução.
Consegui preparar rápido, graças às excelentes sugestões da Sabrina.
E como sempre, trata-se de trabalho em andamento, assim que aceitamos
sugestões e comentários.


Por ser a boneca mais popular
do século XX, a Barbie é enterrada
numa cápsula do tempo na Filadélfia
no dia 4 de julho, 1976. Ela é espremida entre
uma embalagem vazia de Kentucky Fried Chicken
e uma lata cheia de Coca-Cola, pois virou
ícone cultural e agora tem que pagar o preço.
Ela se lembra de um tempo
em que ainda poucas meninas a conheciam
e não precisava fazer tanta pose.
Agora, sendo verdadeiro item para colecionador,
precisa garantir – cada cabelo no seu lugar!
Eu acabo de ser eleita
Garota Personalidade, uma categoria superlativa
do anuário escolar. Posso
posar para foto com o fofinho
do Garoto Personalidade, o primeiro
e único jogador do time de futebol
que quer sair comigo.
Ele diz querer namorar firme comigo
e com outra garota ao mesmo tempo.
Não acho justo, mas sendo Garota Personalidade
demoro demais para o conseguir dizer.
Veja, eu já passei da idade de brincar de boneca,
mas por algum motivo se implantaram no meu subconsciente.
Eu não me pareço nada com a Barbie,
então talvez nem mereça um namorado todo meu. Pior ainda, a meu ver,
minha rival lembra uma delas.
Quando finalmente, constrangida, escrevo um bilhete
para o Garoto Personalidade, o enfio na fresta do
armário errado. O garoto-ninguém que o encontra
não quer devolver, nem quando peço
muito educadamente. Logo todos vão saber
que não sou sempre bem-humorada.
Temendo um escândalo, peço conselhos
aos Mais Bem-vestidos e Os com Maior Probabilidade
de Sucesso na Vida. Estes dizem não se importar
com o que as massas pensam. Sinto que mentem –
mas podem retirar meu título Garota Personalidade,
nem ligo mais. Pelo menos estou melhor
que aquela Barbie Bicentenária que ficará
numa abafada cápsula até o ano 2076.
Talvez ao final, a pressão terá sido excessiva.
Talvez – como eu – , poderá se expressar.
Talvez venha a piscar para a lata de Coca-Cola
antes de sacudirem, explodirem, detonarem
com tudo.

Denise Duhamel
Tradução: Miriam Adelman
Revisão: Sabrina B. Lopes

Em 29 de junho de 2010 12:16, Miriam Adelman escreveu:

terça-feira, 29 de junho de 2010

Preparo nova tradução...

Gente, aproveito o momento para postar mais um poema
de Denise Duhamel em versão original. Minha
versão ao português aparecerá por aqui em breve...


Because she is the most popular doll
of the twentieth century, Barbie
is buried in a time capsule in Philadelphia
on July 4, 1976. She is scrunched between an empty Kentucky
Fried Chicken bucket and a full Coca- Cola can.
She’s become a cultural icon and now she has to pay
the price. She remembers a time
when just a few girls knew her
and she didn´t have to put on such airs.
Now a full-fledged collectible, she has to make sure
every hair is always in place. I’ve just been voted
Best Personality, a superlative category
in our junior high yearbook. I’m able to pose
for a picture with the cute Best Personality boy,
the first and only football player
to ever ask me on a date.
He says he wants to go steady with me
and another girl at the same time.
I don’t think it’s fair but being the Best Personality girl,
it takes me a long time to say that.
You see, it’s turned out that although I’m too old
to still play with fashion dolls, they’ve somehow become implanted
in my subconscious. I don’t look anything like Barbie so maybe I don’t deserve
a boyfriend of my own. And to make things worse, in my mind,
my rival resembles Barbie quite a bit
When I finally write the Best Personality boy
an angry note, flustered, I slip it between the slots
of the wrong locker. The nobody boy who finds it
won’t give it back, even when I ask him politely.
Soon everyone will know I’m not always in a good mood.
Fearing a scandal, I ask advice
of the Best Dressed and Most Likely to Succeed.
They say they don’t care what the masses think –
and though I sense they’re not telling the truth-
suddenly it doesn’t matter if my class
takes my Best Personality honor away or not.
At least I know I’m better off
than that one repressed Bicentennial Barbie
who’ll be stuck in that stuffy time capsule
until the year 2076. Maybe
when she finally comes out, the pressure
will have been too much. Maybe she’ll be able, like me,
to express herself. Maybe she’ll wink at the Coca-Cola can
before they both shake, explode, make a mess.

- Denise Duhamel, do livro KINKY

quarta-feira, 23 de junho de 2010

Part II of “Telling stories, connecting lives”

Walls, veils and other social norms...” (Mounira Charrad)

In Brazil, where post-modern freedoms, highly unequal opportunity structures and much discursive ambivalence regarding feminism produce a complex scenario for gender politics and change, the horsewomen I have interviewed over the course of the years see themselves as unconventional, openly or covertly challenging customs and norms that attempt to impose meanings of womanhood on everyone.*

On the other hand, the riding women I interviewed in Spain (Barcelona and Andalucía), especially those of the younger generations, tended not to see their activities in this sporting field as anything that made them stand out from other countrywomen. The patriarchal past that threw innumerous obstacles in the path of women’s choices and public sphere roles and activities is portrayed as largely overcome or surpassed. In fact, when I asked them a question that usually elicited an assertion of “difference” from Brazilian equestriennes, my Spanish interviewees would look at me with perplexity and often ask me to explain what I meant. “Different from others?? Braver than others?? No, we are all like this today”** was the response I got from one quite successful young Andalusian horsewoman - herself the only woman on a prominent equestrian team – after I had had my chance to clarify my admittedly tendentious query.

In the history of Western modernity, the passage from the Victorian or romantic era in which women were viewed as sexless bearers of a natural “virtuous” proclivity toward abnegation, service and love (but not sex) to a “post-modernity” in which ambiguous messages about women’s bodies and sexualities abound, new forms of social control emerge which, we could argue, take advantage of such ambiguities. The most difficult and paradoxical aspect of this situation is that it involves, or tends to generate, considerable complicity from women themselves, who so often desire to be exactly what contemporary hegemonic discourses tell them they should (must) be.

Some non-Western histories, it seems, have quite a different point of departure. Mounira Charrad and Fatima Mernissi have written about how traditional Islamic notions of women as sexual and dangerous underlie the institutional constructions of the “walls and veils” that are meant as material and symbolic barriers to the spaces and places where they would come into contact with men outside the closest kin circles. Western discourse has thus seized the opportunity to construct a simplifying dichotomy of “western freedoms” vs. “non-western bondage”, which – for all I have stated above and many other things that I need not repeat here – is at best, highly contentious. At any rate, as women around the non-Western world struggle to build their own idioms of emancipation - which include elements shared with Western feminism as well as particular, contextual ones – it should come as no surprise that some continue to include headscarves and protectively modest forms of bodily exposure.

*In recent (forthcoming) work, I have tried to show some of the ways in which women involved in different arenas of equestrian sport construct discourses on the body, on subjectivity and identity that pose a challenge to conventional ‘technologies of gender’, de-emphasizing historical notions of delicate, maternal or otherwise “controllable” female bodies and emphasizing such elements as strength and courage in facing risk and adventure - in ways which are radical enough to take them beyond accepted normative paths. Coupled with my informants’ discourse of physical competence, skill and bravery, was a relative lack of (openly expressed) concern for bodily appearance/perfection.
** This coincides with anthropologist Sara Pink’s comments emerging from her work on Spanish women bullfighters: “… a woman’s performance represents a statement about female body-use and body-image. The performance must be seen as a ritual statement about these notions of the female body through which it is relocated in a new position in society and culture -both physically in the bullring and metaphorically. The new body use symbolizes a new body-relationship to the rest of society by which the female body stands for not a reproducing body, but a publicly proven, physically fit body, and a successful, ‘dominating’ body."

segunda-feira, 31 de maio de 2010

a new one of mine...

Half truth

Winter upon us. Yet
He returns from his month
in a hut, from his African mistress
whose fan breathes its breathless
artifice of wind along the milky whiteness
of his sleep, into
the dark-curtained rooms of a
Spanish lover.
Soon he will be off again, this time toward
east-lying plains
Where his girls will folk-dance him into the night
And offer him red wine, sausages, morning rides
Into the hills.
Daddy still pays for his plane tickets.
Women still believe his stories.
History proceeds at a breakneck pace
Yet sometimes so little changes:
Our foolishness, our deep-churning need
For the tiniest element, the smallest blue flame
sheltered for a second from the wind.

sábado, 22 de maio de 2010


Gente, aí vai, já incorporando algumas sugestões do amigo
Marcelo Toffoli...


- Denise Duhamel (do livro Kinky)

Barbie imagina se seria traição
sonhar com namorados, bonecos que
Mattel nunca fabricou para suas brincadeiras.
Um com dreads rastafári feitos de pelúcia
Em lugar de duros arcos de plástico,
Outro gordinho, meio calvo
Com óculos de John Lennon
E um terceiro com um nariz grande e sexy
como Gerard Depardieu.
Porém, supõe ela, seu Ken é mesmo inofensivo
Peitoral todo sarado afastado por rígidos seios
que não cedem ao toque
e ele não pode lhe obrigar à nada
quando ela não está
com vontade.
Ela se lembra das últimas palavras
da descontinuada boneca Midge,
“Hey Barbie, não complique,
É um casamento, não é?”
Desde o outro lado do corredor
Entre o monte de brinquedos pra menino
O Soldado Joe de vez em quando olha pra ela
Mas não faz exatamente seu tipo.
Ela na sua caixa, com elásticos que prendem
Seus braços.
A capa de plástico distorce sua visão
Do mundo.
Não é só aventura romântica o que ela deseja::
Há passeios de balão,
Aulas no curso noturno, trabalho de caridade.
Barbie se consola, reconhecendo que não é
Muito diferente do resto de nós, de como jogamos:
Entre gratidão e ambição,
Passividade e culpa.

versão: Miriam Adelman.

quarta-feira, 19 de maio de 2010


Gente, passou voando um mês inteirinho, sem nenhuma postagem nova!
Continua sendo minha intenção escrever a segunda parte do ensaio dedicado a Fatima
Mernissi, e muitas outras coisas. Mas o semestre está num momento crítico, ando
sem tempo para vários projetos, e ainda escrevendo palestras de última hora, para "atender a demanda"... Em todo caso, consegui escolher mais um poema de
Denise Duhamel para traduzir, e reproduzo aqui a versão original, prometendo ter
uma versão preliminar em português, se for possível, antes do final do mês.


Barbie wonders if it’s cheating
when she dreams of fashion doll boyfriends
Mattel never made for her to play with.
One with Rastafarian dreadlocks –
spun with fuzz, not stiff
like the arcs of a plastic Jello mold.
Another chubby and balding
with John Lennon glasses.
And a third with a big sexy nose
like Gerard Depardieu.
Still, she supposes, Ken is harmless enough.
His pecs kept at bay by her stiff unyielding breasts.
And there is nothing he can force on her
When she’s not in the mood.
She remembers discontinued Midge’s last words:
“Hey Barbie, it’s a marriage, don’t knock it.”
From the stack of boy’s toys across the aisle,
GI Joe occasionally gives Barbie the eye,
though he’s not exactly what she has in mind.
In her box, elastic bands hold back her arms
And the plastic overlay she peers through
distorts her view of the world.
It’s not only a romantic fling she desires:
there are hot air balloon rides,
night school classes, charity work.
Barbie comforts herself
knowing she’s not much different
from the rest of us, juggling gratitude,
ambition, passivity and guilt.

- Denise Duhamel

terça-feira, 20 de abril de 2010

Telling stories, connecting lives.

(Part I)

To travel is the best way to learn and empower yourself”, said Yasmina, my grandmother, who was illiterate and lived in a harem, a traditional household with locked gates that women were not supposed to open. “You must focus on the strangers you meet and try to understand them”. The more you understand a stranger and the greater is your knowledge of yourself, the more power you will have”. For Yasmina, the harem was a prison, a place women were forbidden to leave. So she glorified travel and regarded the opportunity to cross boundaries as a sacred privilege, the best way to shed powerlessness.
(Fatema Mernissi, Scheherezade Goes West…)

Of all the authors and writers on my ever-expanding list for this one of my current projects (helping to extend mappings of gender and culture beyond the borders and boundaries of Euro-american paths and patterns; advancing the fusion of feminist and post colonial perspectives for sociology, etc. ), no one has inspired me more than Moroccan feminist, Fatema Mernissi, in her more personally-informed writings, Dreams of Tresspass and Scheherezade Goes West. These two works, which weave their tapestry through a language particularly rich in personal memoir and reflection (and thus show how the fabric of each of our lives is linked up to culture, history and social institutions), render a convincing picture of the common threads, that, moving beyond conventional bias and stereotype, connect women’s struggles for equality, for full access to public space and voice, and for (individual and collective) self-representation (in politics and in art, in media and everyday life), historically and at present, in different parts of the world.

The disabling myths and traps of patriarchy have different faces and versions. We westerners tend to be unaware of the wide array of mechanisms and strategies that women in other parts of the world have developed to thwart and challenge their subordination, as we fall prey to “orientalist” mentalities that have encouraged us to think of Middle Eastern –and non-Western women in general – in monolithic terms, as oppressed victims who have been denied of the opportunities to reflect upon their lives and struggle for better ones. But as Mernissi points out, in Arab and Middle Eastern literary and folk traditions - and in history and society as well-, there is a legacy of intelligent, daring and competent women who not only assert themselves but are also admired for their unconventional attitudes. From a legendary tiger-hunting Persian princess to the clever Scheherezade who used her wit and story-telling skills to change her own fate, as well as that of other women who had been destined to doom , to the many women across the Arab world today who flock into universities, politics and scientific and technological occupations, Mernissi evokes another notion of the feminine: “A woman", she tells us, "must always be ready to jump on a horse and cross alien territories. Uncertainty is a woman´s destiny”. (And the courage to face this uncertainty, a not so uncommon response, I might add here)Yet Western philosophers, writers and painters (men, for the most part), mesmerized by what they had heard about the “harems of the Orient”, let their own imaginations run wild, fantasizing an enigmatic world populated by sensual eastern beauties who existed for and through their almost magical abilities to guarantee men their pleasures. These harem women became an object of male fascination – written about and painted by “masters” over the course of several centuries. As Mernissi’s witty narrative unfolds, she shares with us her unique insights – her own process of uncovering a foreign way of thinking – into Western representations of the harem, which have been cleansed of, or were perhaps always blind to, the intense subjective and relational dynamics in which women acted to assert their own desires, wrest control from men or construct particular forms of “counter-power”.

The worlds of east and west have both been, for many centuries, a “man’s world”. And modernity – as it makes its way over the globe, in different times and rhythms, and full of holes and contradictions of its own – does, in the best of hypotheses, create an important new terrain where women struggle for “subjecthood”. Mernissi evokes the work of other contemporary writers, such as Naomi Wolf and Pierre Bourdieu, who have been particularly brilliant in unmasking the forms of symbolic violence that are at work, in the West today, and run against the grain of modern feminist struggle. These are extremely powerful ways of devaluing women – and doing so through the reproduction of consent. Thus, “Unlike the Muslim man, who uses space to establish male domination by excluding women from the public arena, the Western man manipulates time and light… by putting the spotlight on the female child and framing her as the ideal of beauty, he condemns the mature woman to invisibility…”; the “violence embodied in the Western harem is less visible than in the Eastern harem because is not attacked directly, but masked as an aesthetic choice.”

[to be continued]

domingo, 4 de abril de 2010

"Manifest Destiny"- primeira versão!

Trabalhei já na tradução do poema de Duhamel, e estou ansiosa para deixá-la à disposição d@s leitores/as que tenho por aqui. Sugestões aceitas, como sempre.
Aliás, pretendo continuar o trabalho... o livro ("Kinky") como um todo é realmente genial.

Obrigada,mais uma vez, à Sabrina Lopes, pelas correções/sugestões.

Destino Manifesto.

Nas Filipinas
as trabalhadoras das fábricas
de bonecas de moda
recebem um bônus em dinheiro
se se esterilizam. Nas esteiras,
rodam com excesso de velocidade
pedaços de corpos.
Nada a ver com o famoso episódio da tv
quando Lucy e Ethel experimentam
um dia de trabalho, botando chocolates dentro de caixas
numa linha de produção nos Estados Unidos. Elas
enchem suas bocas com uma boa parte
dos doces que vêm velozmente, dão risadas
de baba marrom quando são despedidas porque
realmente não tem importância –
Ricky e Fred têm bons empregos.
Para provar que são eles mesmos
os que devem trabalhar,
os garotos fazem uma bagunça na cozinha
da Lucy, uma panela de arroz explodindo
como um vulcão branco. As mulheres
nas Filipinas e noutros lugares ponderam
o big business, os benefícios de descontinuar
a própria linhagem. Nos seus sonhos
estas mulheres embalam úteros de Toys R Us
enquanto uma Barbie estéril, seu cabelo preso
sob um capacete de Lucite, finca a bandeira da Mattel
numa lua que pouco convence.

-Denise Duhamel, tradução: Miriam Adelman.

sexta-feira, 2 de abril de 2010


Depois de vários dias de
ponderação, escolhi este poema de Denise Duhamel,
para a próxima tradução:


In the Philippines
women workers in fashion doll factories
are given cash incentives
for sterilization. Body parts roll
too fast on conveyor belts.
It’s not like the famous episode
in which Lucy and Ethel
try a day of work, boxing chocolates
on an assembly line in the U.S. They stuff
most of the quick-coming candy
into their mouths, laugh brown drool
when they are fired because it really doesn’t matter –
Ricky and Fred have good jobs.
To prove they’re the ones
who belong at work, the men on t.v.
make a mess in Lucy’s kitchen,
a pot of rice exploding
like a white volcano. The women
in the Philippines and elsewhere ponder
big business, the benefits
of discontinuing its own children. In dreams
these women package Toys “R” Us Uteruses
while a sterile Barbie, her hair tucked up
inside her Lucite helmet, plants
a flag for Mattel on the cheesiest moon.

Denise Duhamel (from her book Kinky)

Escolha nada fácil, pois o livro está cheio de poemas
muito bons e os mesmos, muito cheios de "desafios" para @ tradutor(a).
Mas vamos lá... logo aparecerá por aqui, a versão!

sábado, 27 de março de 2010

Tunisia, part II.

It is windy, very windy and the sand blows over the desert in a gauzy white veil. We are there, my son and I, part of group coming from Spain in which we are the exception – the other 20 odd folk are all young Spanish university students, from Barcelona and Madrid, Valladolid and Granada. We mount the camels that are waiting for us and begin our saunter into the dunes: a tame ride on the fringes of the Sahara, where the sands have not yet taken on the reddish-ochre glow of the “deep desert” postcards we have seen. In fact, this is but a common ride offered to tourists, two or three camels pulled by taciturn men who seem disgruntled with their task. They become even more so when I exchange my odd mount for a better one - the fiery red Arabian horse who is offered to me, too tempting not to accept after so many years of nurturing my own “Orientalist” fantasy of deserts and desert horses…

As the days go by, we get to know our fellow travelers better. The young Spanish students in our group seem to take in everything with a definite enthusiasm for difference (the “natural”, the “cultural”) on occasions with awe … yet without any apparent signs of discomfort. Of course, our contact with the local people has been basically limited to the perfunctory – bargaining at the marketplace, primarily, and then there are the linguistic barriers that leave us content just to take in the long descriptions and explanations that our guide, who is quite fluent in Spanish, provides us. There are few moments when the barrage of vendors subsides. They are there even when rocky surge of the Atlas mountains separating Tunisia from Algeria rises before us, or while eating succulent dates in an “oasis” that looks more like a park in a small city than that which our long-kindled fantasies have led us to expect…

From the window of the bus, rapid succession of images: arid landscapes, arid towns. Peasant women with scarves and headgarb, or working alongside other members of the family in orchards and fields not so unlike “a roça” back home, occasional shepherds with their diminished flocks picking their way through the incongruous juxtaposition of new constructions and old mosques, people hawking their wares on the highway, a young woman waiting at an empty train station in the middle of nowhere. Driving through one small city at twilight, I see a neon sign outside a long flat building that says something like ‘Faculte d’Études Sociales et Politiques’, seeming so strangely out of context (my bias, albeit.)

Grabbing at any chance I get to talk to anyone, with whatever linguistic resources I have at my disposal – the cab driver, a gracious woman pharmacist with whom I share a brief exchange when I go in to purchase a pair of tweezers, the handsome young man whose horse I ride over the sands that in this case, are but the “gateway” to a Sahara I will never really enter. As days go by, we get better at the tasks at hand: bargaining at the medina, photographing peasants, veiled and unveiled women from a bus window as the scenarios whizz by, framing everything in transient perspective. Our guide is perpetually taking advantage of the hours spent riding our tour bus to feed us tidbits of information on his country: its long history since the days of Carthage and Rome, its route into modernity, the current political regime and the historic, improved status of women within this Muslim country, how Berber shepherds who still live inside caves carved into the stony hills depend also on the few dinars we drop into their boxes after our brief glimpse at their abode. I am not sure how many of the young folk on board pay attention, but some, I am sure, are as interested as I am. For others, perhaps much less.

Like most of the places I have been through too quickly, I feel like I should come back. There are things around me I try to grasp in too little time. Too many days spent on the bus, with all those landscapes and dun-colored towns whirring by. A calm afternoon in Sidi Bou Said and the gleaming blue sea stretching out behind it, Lucas and I drinking mint tea and almonds with the young ladies from Barcelona, and gentle caress of the Mediterranean sea and feeling just so damn lucky to be in a place I had never dreamed of getting to. Time, travel and strong(er) currencies are a privilege I know are not to be taken lightly. To greedily drink from the fountain of what this world has to offer and to perhaps give something back: just some coins, just these words?

quinta-feira, 25 de fevereiro de 2010

Day three in Tunisia: reflections on “consuming place” and searching for the Other…

Part 1.

When we venture out on our own in the late afternoon, I stop to ask for directions from a young man who has anxiously offered his services in escorting us to the city center in his horse and cart. We hesitate a bit, wondering whether to accept or to continue our trajectory on foot. I gather all my available linguistic resources to carry out our conversation in bits and pieces – as much French as possible, with Spanish and English thrown in whenever I get stuck. Twenty year old Mohammed takes a liking to us and offers to show us a bit of the city “not for money”…and then to take us to a store where we can pick up some swimming trunks or a pair of shorts for Lucas. When he drives us a bit out of the way, into what is evidently the periferia of a city that, with the exception of its row of luxury hotels, in itself has a shabby and chaotic appearance, I wonder for a moment where he is taking us… just as I am grateful for the chance to get a bit further from the beaten path. He seems kind and interested in conversation, and I feel frustrated with myself for my still so very limited ability to express myself in French. I believe him when he says he is taking us “not for money” and attempts to refuse the coins I give him…

My son, who complains that I am “too optimistic” about everything, most of the time, believes that the local folks’ interactions with us could hardly be based on anything more than immediate interest in financial reward and seems to find my attempts at communication rather silly. Even when we stop some young women on the street, and I use my feeble French to ask for directions, what I interpret as shy smiles are to him grins and laughter at my linguistic limitations. Of course, I do not fool myself… we are little more than part of a huge mass phenomenon, coming now to a country whose economy is moved by tourism, traveling the world at any chance we get. “You must be a sociologist”, said a young man whom I talked with at convenience store, “you ask so many questions!” Just as he is perceptive, I suppose I am obvious. And I also suppose one could say, this is one of the many moments in which my professional and my personal interest come together. Perhaps also, for many of the people who deal with the throngs of tourists crowding their markets and streets, sociability, communication and curiosity intermingle with their need or interest in making a livelihood from the foreign visitors who come to their shores. (After all, haven’t notions of pure sentiments, actions, borders and boundaries lost their credibility? )

domingo, 7 de fevereiro de 2010

Snapshots of a place and time

Vai passando muito tempo sem nova postagem.
Para não deixar os dias passar assim, "em branco" -- na verdade, não,
mas outros trabalhos têm tomado muito meu tempo -
decidi postar hoje este pequeno texto,
"work-in-progress" que comecei a escrever ao sair de
uma exposição de fotos à que tinha entrado, um dia,
por acaso, num passeio pelas Ramblas...)

A blue dress hanging on the cottage porch
Small fingers of a girl pushing back her hair,
Adjusting her barrette
Rows of cinderblock apartments, and inside –
a fragile dining table covered with plastic,
a stunned grandchild looking out the window.
Perhaps his green eyes follow the road winding out,
An intuition that somewhere something else
Might happen. On the tv, there are layers of
Snow covering highways and train tracks
And a warm place where buildings crumbled at dawn
Under the terrible tremors of the earth
(And now no water. No mouthfuls of rice or potato.)
Or perhaps what he sees is a still time, the uncertainty
Of change, the tedious repetition of childhood hours
with nowhere to go beyond the rusty playground
of a dusty vila -
A small blue bicycle left to its busted wheel.

Walking out into the lights of this port city, i am reminded
how lives can be different. Tonight there is fresh snow on the
children calling from back home where it is summer,
where people prepare for another season and its endless
rainfall. Passerbys pushing like thick traffic.
Choices stretching out in all directions like too many
corners to turn. Mistakes that can still be

domingo, 10 de janeiro de 2010


Com este poema da escritora curitibana e grande amiga minha,
Claudia Borio, @s lembro que a proposta de Juntando Palavras é cultivar um espaço de troca literária. Assim, espero neste ano receber cuentos, crônicas e poemas de vocês, querid@s amig@s, em inglês, português ou espanhol...


(para Giorgia)

Ela estava incrivelmente bela
E digna.
Eles a tinham convidado
Para tirar fotografias de uma festa,
Nada menos,
Como se ela não tivesse
Mais com o que se preocupar.
Ela tomou somente uma cerveja
E tirou algumas fotos,
No entanto, lembrava-se.
Seu cãozinho, que morrera,
Luto por uma relação, por uma época,
Tudo o que acabara.
Lágrimas concentradas.
E hoje ele estava aqui,
Aquele homem,
De cabelos raspados, como ela
Sempre o descrevia,
Tudo o que ela deixara para trás,
Tudo ao que renunciara,
Tudo o que tinha dado errado
Ou que tinha significado
Algo que fracassara.
Ele viera para a Grande
Divisão dos Bens.
Era um bom homem,
Diziam os que o conheciam.
Mas ela também, fôlego,
Uma Boa Mulher.
Dividiram, então, os CDs
E ele ficou com os Rolling
Stones. Mas eu gosto mais
Do que você, disse ela.
Ele não se interessou
Por seus argumentos
E ficou com todos eles,
Mesmo aqueles de que ele não

-- Claudia Borio

quarta-feira, 6 de janeiro de 2010

First post of the new year!

Here´s my newest "work-in-progress":

This is not a love poem…

Hey babe, just in case you haven’t noticed
we are not nor have we ever been in
There are girls out there for you, a true plethora
but not one with Angelina’s eyes and mouth, Raquel´s
bra-size and a roll of witty comments written
into the script.
No one out there for me
as sleek and daring - and gentle -
as Johnny, and of course, no endings with that perfect
of babies and no-place-like -home.
Around here things are looking more like
a freak show these days,
the littered carnival grounds where after hours
a few desperate creatures come scampering in
to scavenge,
or many unedited hours of footage
and when the lights go on
or when the sun comes up
i am here alone with my headache and you,
across town, with your change
strewn across the floor to
remember how much you spent last night
looking for happiness or at least
a few cold moments of pleasure.

Hey babe, this is just the first cold winter of a
new millennium
where we can still sit in warm cafés and read
the newspaper and argue
about the worth of our words. Put your
pen to the paper. Love
your daughter. Open your heart and
this time, don’t be late:
next train to paradise, quarter past twelve.