Another article addressed what we all know is the widespread fear of the f-word—feminism—not among men, who seem hardly aware of it, but among women, especially girls.
A girls’ club that is “for girls, by girls” is made up of teenaged girls, many of whom were nervous of using feminism to describe themselves. Whether they knew that the word means simply “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, legal and economic equality with men” wasn’t clear. What frightened them were the words they associated with feminism: radical, extreme, rage…
These are words attached by many news stories to descriptions of rallies, speeches, and so forth—words the might well describe the ravings of Donald Trump—but that have, at least for me, a legitimacy when used to talk about passionate advocacy—or passion in general.
The Museum of International Folk Art here in Santa Fe has a new exhibit on the history of flamenco. The images are radical, they are extreme, they are often full of rage. These passions are what astonished and moved me when I saw a troupe of flamenco dancers perform in Seville. The gorgeous athletic women didn’t mince, smile, or flirt; they glared, they seemed to threaten. And they were clearly in charge of their partners.
But these attitudes terrify us—girls and women in this culture, at least, white girls and women—those with darker skins have probably found occasion to use these attitudes because they face threats we know nothing about.
The next gallery in the museum, The Gallery of Conscience, exhibits “Between Two Worlds,” the writing and the art of those immigrants this country seems determined to disavow.
A sixteen-year-old girl’s poem goes,
“Every day you wake up
people are already up and working,
up and running for their lives
across deserts and rivers…”
A man from Cameroon reminds, “You must distinguish between feeling unwelcome and being unwelcome,” reminding me that all immigrants from every part of the world face discrimination here.
Santa Fe, mercifully, is one of the sanctuary towns where our local police don’t call in ICE when they arrest what may be unpapered immigrants (can we call them that, rather than illegals?) although the Federal Government is threatening to undo this local ordinance as it has already interfered with our drivers’ licenses, which were issued to everyone, papered and unpapered, until the Feds declared they could no longer be used to board airplanes. Now the men and women who do all our hard physical work have a sort of special permit that allows them to drive and get insurance but also makes it clear they are not like the rest of us.
How does all this relate—if it does—to fear of the f-word?
A stack of penciled notes in the exhibit gave me a clue. The notes were written by people passing through who were asked to describe a time when they felt they didn’t belong.
My parents’ house.
Every time I enter my children’s school.
Being a Jew.
In Santa Fe.
From the age of 7 to the age of 47.
If so many of us feel we don’t belong—and these notes were written by the general public—it is not surprising that we are terrified of exhibiting the political will that might conjure up images of rageful, extreme and radical women.
Like the Flamenco dancers who, perhaps, through the practice of their art know that is where they always belong.