¾

Pii of

bluæ
Lditors . Mar¿arct CcruIIo, John Ocmctcr, Rob LIias, MarIa LrIicn, LIizabcth lrancis, Matthcw
Goodman, Ann HoIdcr, Oonna Pcnn, CynthiaPctcrs, Kcn SchIosscr, Hassan VakiIi, OcbWhippcn,
and Ann Withorn. lntcrns. WiIIiam Hoyncs, Oianc LorcIIo, andAIan Spcars.
StaIf. John Ocmctcr.
Associatc Lditors . Pctcr Biskind, CarI Bo¿¿s, lrank Brodhcad, PauI BuhIc, Jor¿c C. CorraIc]o,
Mar¿cry Oavics, LIIcn OuBois, Barbara Lhrcnrcich, John Lhrcnrcich, PhyIIis Lwcn, Oan
Gcor¿akas, Tcd Gcrman, Martin GIabcrman, Jcff GoIdthorpc, Linda Gordon, Jim Grccn, Mikc
Hirsch, AIIcn Huntcr, Joc lntcrrantc, Mikc Kazin, Kcn Lawrcncc, Stau¿hton Lynd, Mark Maison,
Jim O' Bricn, Briºn Pctcrson, ShciIa Rowbotham, Jamcs Stark, GaiI SuIIivan, Annmaric Tro¿cr,
Martha Vicinus, Stan Wcir, Oavid Wid¿cry, and Rcnncr WundcrIich.
LoYcr:

Ocsìyn by Nìck1horkclson
Urawínu of¾a Raínc\ h� ^íck 1horkclson.
Vol. 20, No. 4 June-July 1 986 (on newsstands February 1987)
RADICAL AMERICA (USPS 873-880) is published five times a year (bimonthly except for a single issue March
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RADICAL AMERICA is a member of the Alternative Press Syndicate.

AERC
YLÏ.1Û. PL. ¬
INTRODUCTION
Z
IT JUST BE'S OAT WAY SOMETIME:
Û
The Sexual Politics of Women's Blues
Hazel v. Carby
CHALLENGING THE SCIENTIFIC
MYTHS OF GENDER AND RACE ZÛ
L. Frances White and Ann Woodhull-McNeal
BREAKING THE BLOCKADE:
ÛÛ
A Conversation with Cuban
Filmmaker Tomas Alea
Interview by Dan Georgakas
CLN¯INLINL ¯ÍL ¯LVLLL¯ILN º1
Fr. Edicio dela Torre talks about Democracy, Coalitions
and the Left in Today's Philippines
Interview by Michael Bedford
BY HERSELF: ÛÛ
Reflections on Simone de Beauvoir
Dorothy Kaufmann
|ÍLN UMOH]U 1J
h3l5 Mu$ll|
¯¯
··--.

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IVðb
lM1KLlLL1lLM
Black female sexuality enters public consciousness directly through movies like Íhc(ulOr
͵r]lcand ðhc`: Cu||µ ͵vcí|, or indirectly, through policy discussions of teen pregnancy,
the "vanishing" black family and the feminization of poverty. The policy discussions, in
particular, evoke myths about black female sexuality, so that the "epidemic" of teen
pregnancy, for example, conjures images of young black women's sexuality as "out of con­
trol." Striking in all these contexts is the absence of autonomous black women's or black
feminist voices. Several articles in this issue raise the question of who has defined black
women's desire. They reveal a diversity of black feminist concerns.
In a cultural context in which black female sexuality is the "silent presence" in public
discussions, Hazel Carby's article, "The Sexual Politics of Women's Blues" emphasizes that
the issue is not only the exclusion of black women's voices. Even when recognized, they are
included selectively. Some "traditions" are elevated as representative of the experience of
the race, while others are buried. Her recovery and evaluation of the tradition of indepen­
dent black women's blues of the 1920's recalls another moment of black power, one in
which black women became the sexual subject against both male power and the limits of
female respectability.
W
Z

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08äìomlO80¡ûl¡01080u0ä'10û tcmtemstiveV¡cw8.
lran Whìtc and Ann WoodhuIl-McMcaI
rcvìcw Ann lausto-Stcrlìn¿'s book, Myths of
Gender, an attack on thc mcthods and 'ra-
tìonaIìty' bchìnd scìcntìfìcaIIy dcrìvcd notìons
ofscxdìffcrcnccs.lausto-Stcrlìn¿ìdcntìfìcsthc
myths that shapc fcmaIc bìoIo¿y; shc rcvcals
thc ways ìn whìch ordìnary scìcncc (not bad
scìcnccor pscudo-scìcncc) dccpcnsthcscmyths
bylocatìn¿thcm ìnanunchan¿cablcnaturc. ln
thcìrrcvìcw, Whìtcand WoodhuIl-McMcaI cx-
tcnd hcr crìtìquc to rcvcaI thc ìmportancc of
raccìnthc'scìcntìfìc'constructìonofwoman.
lndoìn¿so,thcycxposcthcmythofthcunìvcr-
saI woman and poìnt to thc dìvìsìons bctwccn
womcn whìch occur as thc myths of whìtc,
Wcstcrnwomcnarc¿cncraIìzcdtorcprcscntthc
' myths of¿cndcr. '
ln cmphasìzìn¿ thcdìvìsìons amon¿ womcn,
thcy chaIlcn¿c whìtc womcn to rcco¿nìzc that
who thcyarcìscompIctcIyìntcrdcpcndcntwìth
who bIack womcn arcìnthccuIturc, andthat
fcmìnìst thcory must rcco¿nìzc thìs. Black
fcmìnìsm,thcn,ìsnotonIyaboutblackwomcn.
Whìtc/WoodhuIl draw on thc rcscarch of
hìstorìan SandcrGìIman to rcvcaI thcways ìn
whìch bIack womcn' s scxuaIìty bccomcs
3
synonymous with the bad woman in the
virgin/whore dichotomy. Thus, while the
myths that haunt black and white women are
intimately linked, black women experience a
particular dilemma. Socially fixed at one end of
the gender continuum, the onl y option for
respectability has often appeared to be the
renunciation of desire. Among writers of the
Harlem Renaissance, Hazel Carby locates a
tradition of middle-class black women who at­
tempt to break with the myths by displacing
desire with duty "to the race. " For both
White/Woodhull-McNeal and Carby, t his
strategy will ultimately fail. Carby follows the
blues singers of the same era in challenging the
idea that respect for black women could only be
gained by repudiation of desire. She critiques
feminist theory, black and white, for privileg­
ing the literary traditions of black women over
other cul tural traditions, such as the blues. I n
s o doing, s he emphasizes those theorists follow
black middle-class women in assuming their ex­
perience is representative of the race.
Finally, Kate Rushin, in her review of She's
Go{{a Have It, explores how black independent
fil mmaker Spike Lee represents black female
desire. She echoes Carby's focus on the
marginalization of independent black cul tural
traditions by the culture industry, while
simultaneously challenging whether Spike Lee
understands what black women want.
In this issue, we include a tribute to Simone
de Beauvoir by Dorothy Kaufman. She iden­
tifies Beauvoir ' s relationship to current
feminist discussions in France, where the am­
biguous legacy of The Second Sex has been the
center of many debates. I n particular, Kaufman
identifies the extent to which Beauvoir's at­
tempt to separate the maternal from "woman"
underlies her feminist radicalism.
• • • • • •
I n an internal contra document obtained last
year and discussed recently in The Nation', an
adviser to one of the mercenary groups
lamented their inability to turn world opinion
to their cause. "Culture and art constitute one
of the most effective vehicles for international
projections," the memo offered, citing the
ability of the Nicaraguan Sandinista govern­
ment to use "these tools effectively. " The pro-
4
posal recommended developing "popular con­
tra music, " "contra art " and concluded that
"t here is no doubt that a great market exists. "
The model for the popular cultural expression
that the contras refer to dates back to revolu­
tionary Cuba of course. A number of us
remember t he cultural explosion of Cuban
posters, art, and music that flowed from the
island nation after the revolution of I º5º. But
as we began our discussions of Dan Georgakas'
interview with Cuban filmmaker Guitterez
Tomas Alea, that appears in this issue, we faced
a curious block. Several of the members of the
editorial board had little exposure to the
cinematic tradition and the specific films talked
about by Alea. I t is an ironic aspect to the
US attempt to isolate Cuba that this govern­
ment is undercutting its own propaganda asser­
tion that Nicaragua is becoming "another
Cuba. " So complete is the economic, political
and cul tural blockade that very few people have
access to what that actually means. As aCuban
recently commented to one of our editors, "it is
not so much an ecnomic blockade, as a
blockade on reality."
As the second wave of the New Latin
American cinema surfaces now, ¯ it is important
to locate the political and cul tural inspiration
and, indeed,. a significant amount of the
material support, for this resurgence in the 24
year old Cuban cinema. There has been limited
release of some Cuban products in this country,
usually attended by a great deal of litigation
and struggle. But it is more important when
discussing the influence on the "collective sub­
jectivity" of Latin culture to consider Cuba
more within t he interrelationship of cineastes
and the fil mmakers across Latin and South
America, than in its presence within US
cul tures . The Cuban film community' s ability
to provide artists with the means to visualize
their own cultures and history without the col­
onizing filter of North America has provoked
and nurtured cinematic work now being feted
and celebrated worldwide.
In his interview with Georgakas, Alea,
perhaps the best known of Cuban directors,
discusses his work, the developing regional
cinema, and the interesting dialectics between
politics and art, and creator and audience that
is part of his country' s tradition. He speaks
of
the continuing influence of American culture,
both in its colonialist legacy and in the presence
of US commercial film in Cuba, and offers us a
view of socially and politically committed
cinema that contrasts with the formulaic
shal l owness and i ndividual ism of most
American film work.
For a national cinema less than three decades
ol d, t he productivity, variety, and ac­
complishments of Cuba are impressive. Alea
speaks also of the political and personal ground
that remains to be broken. Perhaps the most
striking example of that lies in the fact that One
Way or Another, directed by the late Sara
Gomez, and which Alea helped complete, re­
mains the only feature ever by a Cuban woman.
It was only in the last few years that women
have broken into the count ry's directorial
ranks, albeit primarily in the documentary
field. Thus while a number of the features by
men have provided provocative and agitational
attacks on machismo and racism, among other
problems, they have done so from the eyes of
one part of the film community. Alea's com­
ment, in discussing Gomez' work on One Way,
that he provided the "intellectual" influence to
her "emotional " insights, and his dismissal of
race awareness as being beyond the province of
a particular film reflect that limitation.
But the clearest sense that we get from the
discussion with Alea is that of "development,"
within the film industry specifically and the na­
tional culture in general, of a material and
ideol ogical growth; still in formation, but
nevertheless far from the static nature of most
Western and US work. Such a realization only
adds to the sorry nature of American policy
towards Cuba and the attempts to constrict
rather than expand cult ural borders .
A A A A A A
On February 2, the Philippine people, in a
constitutional plebiscite, ostensibly presented
President Corazon Aquino with a massive show
of support, approving her proposal by a nearly
four to one maj ority. But as the first anniver­
sary of her ascension to power arrives, the
social and political basis of this "mandat e" re­
mains very much a debated question. In the
week before the vote, right wing military units
and backers of deposed dictator Ferdinand
Marcos attempted to inspire a governmental
coup in anticipation of their former leader's
planned return to the Philippines. The previous
week, elements of the Marines and police open­
ed fire on an angry demonstration of peasants
seeking to pressure the Aquino government to
honor promises of land reform. Eighteen pro­
testers were killed and nearly one hundred
wounded. In response to this incident outside
the presidential palace, the New People's Army
cancelled its ceasefire arrangement with the
government and left the capital.
The US media has, as can be expected, of­
fered little information with which to under­
stand the situation in the Philippines in general,
and within the Filipino Left in particular. They
uniformly view the constitutional vote as a
repudiation of extreme Left and Right. But
even among many progressive critics of Cory
Aquino, forces who have charged that her
vaunted "People's Power" campaign has of­
fered little institutionalization of economic and
popular democracy, reactions to the constitu­
tion were varied.
In this issue we are presenting an interview
with Father Edicio dela Torre, a longtime acti­
vist, former political prisoner under Marcos,
and one of the critical thinkers of the Filipino
Left. While the interview, by Michael Bedford,
took place late last Fall, we feel that the sub­
sequent events bear out "Father Ed." Dela
Torre's description of the dilemma facing the
electoral and extralegal Left, and his depiction
of the limits to Aquino's program provide fur­
ther insight into the struggle to revive a pro­
gressive restructing of Philippine political life
after 20 years of dictatorship and within a still
combative environment. He offers a helpful ex­
planation of the concept of "critical support "
and of the maneuvering for democratic space
within the Aquino "democracy. " His emphasis
on the need for a parallel process of grassroots
organizing and consciousness raising offers a
glimpse of a developmental politics that seeks
to build understanding within an empowered
base of support . With the shadow of the
US still very much over the Philippine land­
scape, the terrain, as he points out, is fraught
with problems. The ability of the Left to avoid
political isolation within the post-Marcos re­
struct uring will be critical . If, as dela Torre
5
6
dcscribcs it, thc Aquino ¿ovcrnmcnt camc to
powcr unprcparcd, thc Lcft surfaccd with an
cvcn morc rcstrictcd prcscncc-followin¿ thc
rcprcssion undcrMarcos andthcirlackofsup-
port cvcn within thcanti-Marcos uppcrclasscs
from which Aquino comcs.
Òf critical importancc for Philippinc
solidarity activists, and LS anti-war and anti-
intcrvcntion forccs, is thc dc¿rcc to which thc
qucstion of LS bascs, and thc 'nuclcar-frcc'
provision of thc ncw constitution, providcs
spacc for challcn¿in¿ Amcrican prcscncc and
influcncc in thc Philippincs. Such a qucstion
can providc thc 'solidarity link' that lathcr
dcla Torrc discusscs, bctwccn thc work ofac-
tivisls in thcThird World and thosc within thc
bcllyofthcmonstcr. Hispcrspcctivcoffcrsusa
broadcr scnsc of not only what confronts thc
Lcft in hisnation, but ofawaytovicwthcLS
and itspolicics throu¿h othcrcycs.
I . "Contraprop: Thc Scllin¿ of thc l. O. M. , '
PctcrKornbluh, The Nation, January I 7, I ºB7,
p. 40.
2. 'Aftcrthc Rcvolutions. ThcSccond Comin¿
of Latin Amcrican Cincma, ' B. Ruby Rich,
Village Voice, lcbruary I0, I ºB7.
LÏÜ ÐÅ1ÏtÐ Ïb ÏÐ 1ÜtÏÜÏÏ
Arms shipmcntsto lran, profits funnclcd to thccontras, third-countryintcrmcdiarics, Swissbank
accounts-ournation is cmbroilcdinascandal. What canordinarycitizcnsdo in a timcofdurcss?
Ourin¿thcWatcr¿atcpcriod, mostAmcricansfcltthcur¿ctohclpthcircountrybutdid not know
what to do. And so thcy sat passivclywatchin¿ thcscandal dcvclop, fcclin¿ PÒWLRLLSS. This
scandal, lct ' s do bcttcr.
Mcrc
*
S ½hu¡ Y0u Luu L0:

Lr¿c thc nation` s ¿ovcrnors to dcclarc Washin¿ton, O. C. , a Mational Lmcr¿cncy Zonc. This
will allowcriticalsupplics offoodand crcdibilitytorcach¿ovcrnmcntofficials .

Bccomcpcn pals with somconcimplicatcd in thc scandal. Lxprcss your fcclin¿s about thcirin-
volvcmcnt, andsharc cmbarrassin¿ momcnts from your ownlifc.

Kccp a family scrapbookofsouvcnirs from thc crisis, such asncwspapcr articlcs, photo¿raphs,
and forci¿n currcncy from cach ofthccountrics involvcd.

Lmcr¿cncypcrsonncl suchasConstitutionalscholarsandpublicrclationsspccialistsarcur¿cdto
hcadimmcdiatclyfor Washin¿ton, O. C. All othcrs arcadviscdtostay out ofthcvicinityforthc
duration ofthcscandal.

Scnd a ¿rcctin¿ card to thc Prcsidcnt from timc to timc. Phonc calls and tclc¿rams arc dis-
coura¿cd, asthcyaddur¿cncyandprcssurctoanalrcadytcnscsituation. Asimplc¿rcctin¿card
sufficcs, such as 'Occpcst sympathy to you in this timc of national dis¿racc. '

Oo MÒT usc thc scandal to avoid dcalin¿ with pcrsonal problcms or houschold difficultics .

Add your own spcculation about how thc situation will dcvclop. Psycholo¿ical studics indicatc
that in timcs of crisis, ¿ucssin¿ and spcculation play a vital rolc in maintainin¿ social
cquilibrium. AMationalSpcculationHotlincisbcin¿sctupandanB00numbcrbcin¿sccurcd,as
an cxcrciscin participatory dcmocracy. Staffmcmbcrs willcompilcthcspcculations foruscby
thcncws mcdia.

Oon` t'I.O.'onthccrisis .ThcSur¿con Õcncralsu¿¿cstsamaximumofthrcc hourspcrday. lf
youarcconsistcntlycxcccdin¿thislcvcl ,orfccl youcannotcontrolyourscandalintakc,youcan
obtain frccsupplics of carplu¿s, post-it notcs (to covcr thccycs), and scicncc fiction novcls at
most hospitals and mcntal hcalth ccntcrs.
A public service of the Institute for Current Events Therapy, 84 Anderson Street, San Francisco, CA 941 10.
IT JUS BE'S OAT WAY
SOMETIME:
The Sexual Politics of Women's Blues
Hazel V. Carby
This paper considers the sexual politics of women's blues and focuses on black women as
;
cultural producers and performers in the 1920's. Their story is part of a larger history of the
J
production of Afro-American culture within the North American culture industry. My
research so far has concentrated almost exclusively on black women intellectuals who were
part of developing an Afro-American literate culture and thus it reflects the privileged place
we accord to writers in Afro-American Studies. Feminist theory has analyzed the cultural
production of black women writers in isolation from other forms of women's culture and
cultural presence and has neglected to relate particular texts and issues to a larger discourse
of culture and cultural politics. I want to show how the representation of black female sex­
uality in black women's fiction and in women's blues is clearly different. I will argue that
different cultural forms negotiate and resolve very different sets of social contradictions.
However, before considering the particularities of black women's sexual representation, we
should consider its marginality within a white dominated feminist discourse.
In 1982, at the Barnard conference on the politics of sexuality, Hortense Spillers con­
demned the serious absence of consideration of black female sexuality from various public
: (no¡:|ort:.fI-OIll �cun \¡Ol¡cr·, /lIdefJelldelll WOlllell' Blues, Vol. I. Rosella Records.
l
9
discourscs includin¿whitc fcminist thcory. Shc
dcscribcdblackwomcnas 'thcbcachcdwhalcs
of thc scxual univcrsc, unvoiccd, missccn, not
doin¿, awaitin¿ their vcrb. ' Thc scxual cx-
pcricnccs of black womcn, shc ar¿ucd, wcrc
rarclydcpictcdbythcmsclvcsinwhat shcrcfcr-
rcd to as 'cmpowcrcd tcxts'. discursivc
fcminist tcxts . Spillcrs complaincd of thc
rclativc abscncc of African-Amcrican womcn
fromthcacadcmyand thus fromthcvisionary
companyofAn¿lo-Amcrican womcn fcminists
and thcir privilc¿cd modc of fcminist cxprcs-
sion.
Thc collcction of thc papcrs from thc Bar-
nard confcrcncc, thc Pleasure and Danger an-
tholo¿y, has bccomc onc of thcsc cmpowcrcd
fcminist thcorctical tcxts and Spillcrs' cssay
continucs to stand within it as an important
black fcminist survcy ofthc ways inwhich thc
scxuality of black Amcrican womcn has bccn
unacknowlcd¿cdinthcpublic/criticaldiscoursc
of fcminist thou¿ht.¯ lollowin¿ Spillcrs' lcad
blackfcministscontinucdtocritiqucthcnc¿lcct
of issucs of black fcmalc scxuality within
fcministthcory and, indccd, l as wcll as othcrs
dircctcd many of our criticisms toward thc
Pleasure and Danger antholo¿y itsclf.¯
As black womcn wchavcprovidcdarticulatc
and politically incisivc criticism which is thcrc
for thc fcminist community at lar¿c to hccd or
to i¿norc-upon that dccision lics thc futurc
possibility offor¿in¿ a fcminist movcmcntthat
is not parochial . As thc black fcminist and
cducator, Anna Julia Coopcr, statcd in I Bº2, a
woman'smovcmcnt shouldnotbcbascd onthc
narrow conccrns of whitc middlc-class womcn
undcr thc namc of 'womcn'; ncithcr, shc
ar¿ucd, should a woman' smovcmcnt bcform-
cd around thc cxclusivc conccrns of cithcr thc
whitc woman or thc black woman or thc rcd
woman but should bc ablc to addrcss thc con-
ccrns ofall thc poor and opprcsscd. ¹
Butinstcadofconccntratin¿ uponthc domi-
nationofa whitcfcministthcorctical discoursc
whichmar¿inalizcsnon-whitcwomcn l am ¿o-
in¿tofocusonthcproductionofadiscourscof
scxuality by black womcn. By analyzin¿ thc
scxual and cultural politics of black womcn
who constructcd thcmsclvcs as scxual sub]ccts
throu¿hson¿, inparticularthc blucs, l wantto
asscrt an cmpowcrcd prcscncc. lirst, l am ¿o-
10
in¿ to situatc thc historical momcnt of thc
cmcr¿cncc of womcn dominatcd blucs and
cstablishathcorcticalframcworkofintcrprcta-
tionandthcnlwillconsidcrsomcaspcctsofthc
rcprcscntation of fcminism, scxuality and
powcr in womcn'sblucs.
MOvin' On
Bcforc World War l thc ovcrwhclmin¿ ma-
]ority of black pcoplc livcd in thc South,
althou¿h thc ma]ority of black intcllcctuals
whopurportcdtorcprcscntthcintcrcstsof'thc
racc'livcdinthcMorth. Atthcturnofthcccn-
turyblackintcllcctualsfcltthcyundcrstoodand
could ¿ivc voicc to thc conccrns of thc black
communityas a wholc. Thcywcrcablcto posi-
tionthcmsclvcsas spokcspcoplcforthc 'racc'
bccausc thcy wcrc at a vast physical and
mctaphorical distancc from thc ma]ority of
thosc thcyrcprcscntcd. Thc mass mi¿ration of
blackstourbanarcas, cspcciallytothcciticsof
thcMorth, forccd thcsctraditional intcllcctuals
toqucstionandrcviscthcirima¿inaryvision of
'thc pcoplc' and dircctly confront thc actual
displaccd rural workcrs who wcrc, in lar¿c
numbcrs, bccomin¿ a black workin¿ class in
front ofthcir cycs. ln turn, thc mass ofblack
workcrs bccamc awarc of thc ran¿c of
possibilitics forthcir rcprcscntation. Molon¿cr
wcrcthc` `TalcntcdTcnth, ' thcpractitioncrsof
policicsof racialuplift,thcundisputcd'lcadcrs
ofthcracc. 'lntcllcctuals andthcir constitucn-
cics fra¿mcntcd, black union or¿aniscrs, Mar-
cus Garvcy and thc Lnivcrsal Mc¿ro lmprovc-
mcnt Association, radical black activists, thc
Sanctificd Churchcs, thc Mational Association
ofColorcdWomcn, thcHarlcmcrcativcartists,
all offcrcd altcrnativc forms of rcprcscntation
andcach strovcto cstablish thatthccxpcricncc
ofthcir constitucncy was rcprcscntativc ofthc
cxpcricnccofthc racc.
WithinthcmovcmcntofthcHarlcmcultural
rcnaissancc black womcn writcrs cstablishcd a
varicty of altcrnativc possibilitics for thc fic-
tional rcprcscntation of black fcmalc cx-
pcricncc. Zora Mcalc Hurston chosc to rcprc-
scnt black pcoplc as thc rural folk; thc folk
wcrc rcprcscntcd as bcin¿ both thc sourcc of
Afro-Amcrican cultural and lin¿uistic forms
and thc mcans for its continucd cxistcncc.
Aella 1arvon. Carl Ian IechlenDholo.
Hurston's cxpIoration of scxuaI and powcr
rcIations was cmbcddcd in this 'foIk' cx-
pcricncc and avoidcd thc cuIturaI transitions
and confrontations ofthc urban dispIaccmcnt.
As Hurston is frcqucntIy situatcd as thc forc-
mothcr ofcontcmporarybIack womcn writcrs,
thc tcndcncy of fcminist Iitcrary criticism has
bccn to vaIorizc bIack womcn as 'foIk'
hcroincsat thc cxpcnsc ofthosc tcxts which cx-
pIorcdbIackfcmaIcscxuaIitywithinthccontcxt
ofurban sociaI rcIations. Put simpIy, a Iinc of
dcsccnt is drawn from Their Eyes Were Wat­
ching God to The Color Purple. But to
cstabIish thc bIack 'foIk' as rcprcscntativc of
thc bIack communityat Iar¿cwasandstiII is a
convcnicnt mcthod for i¿norin¿ thc spccific
contradictions of an urban cxistcncc in which
most ofus Iivc. Thc cuIturc industry, throu¿h
itsvaIorization inprintandinfiImofThe Col-
or Purple, for cxampIc, can appear to comfor-
tabIy addrcss issucs of bIack fcmaIc scxuaIity
within a past history and ruraI contcxt whiIc
compIctcIy avoidin¿ thc cruciaI issucs of bIack
scxuaI and cuIturaI poIitics that stcm from an
urban crisis.
"There's No Earthly Use In Bein Too-ga-tha if
it Don't Put Some Joy in Yo Life"s
Howcvcr, two othcr womcn writcrs of thc
HarIcm Rcnaissancc, Jcssic lausct and McIIa
Larscn, did fi¿urcanurban cIassconfrontation
in thcir fiction thou¿h in distinctIy diffcrcnt
ways. Jcssic lausct bccamc an idcoIo¿uc for a
ncw bIack bour¿coisic; hcr novcIs rcprcscntcd
thc manncrs and moraIs that distin¿uishcd thc
cmcr¿cnt middIc cIass form thc workin¿ cIass.
ShcwantcdpubIicrcco¿nition forthccxistcncc
ofa bIack cIitc that was urbanc, sophisticatcd
andciviIizcdbuthcr rcprcscntation ofthiscIitc
implicitIy dcfincd its manncrs a¿ainst thc
bchavior ofthcncwbIack proIctariat. WhiIc it
must bcacknowIcd¿cd that lausct did cxpIorc
thc Iimitations of a middIc-cIass cxistcncc for
womcn, uItimatcIy cachofhcr novcIs dcpictin-
dcpcndcnt womcn who surrcndcr thcir in-
dcpcndcncc to bccomc suitabIc wivcs for thc
ncwbIack profcssionaI mcn.
McIIa Larscn, onthcothcr hand, offcrs usa
morc sophisticatcd disscction of thc ruraI/ur-
ban confrontation. Larscn was cxtrcmcIy
criticaI of thc HarIcm intcIIcctuaIs who
¿IorificdthcvaIucsofabIackfoIkcuIturcwhiIc
bcin¿ashamcdofandridicuIin¿thcbchaviorof
thc ncw bIack mi¿rant to thc city. Hcr novcI ,
Quicksand (1928), contains thc first cxpIicitIy
scxuaI bIack hcroinc in bIack womcn's fiction.
Larscn cxpIorcs qucstions of scxuaIity and
powcr within both a ruraI and an urban Iand-
scapc; inbothcontcxtsshccondcmns thc ways
inwhich fcmaIcscxuaIityisconñncd and com-
promiscdasthcob|cctofmaIcdcsirc. lnthcci-
tyLarscn's hcroinc, HcI¿a,hastorcco¿nizcthc
ways in which hcr scxuaIity has an cxchan¿c
vaIuc within capitaIist sociaI rcIations whiIc in
thc country HcI¿a is trappcd by thc consc-
qucnccs ofwoman's rcproductivc capacity. ln
thc ñnaIpa¿cs ofQuicksand HcI¿acchocsthc
pIi¿htofthcsIavcwomanwhocouIdnotcscapc
to frccdom and thc citics ofthc Morthbccausc
1 1
shc could notabandonhcr childrcnand, at thc
samc timc, rcprcscnts how a woman' s lifc is
draincd throu¿h constant childbirth.
But Larscn also rcproduccs in hcr novcl thc
dilcmmaofablackwomanwhotricstocountcr
thc dominant whitc cultural dcfinitions of hcr
scxuality: idcolo¿ics that dcfinc black fcmalc
scxuality as primitivc and cxotic. Howcvcr thc
rcsponsc of Larscn' s hcroinc to such ob|cc-
tification is also thc rcsponsc of many black
womcn writcrs: thc dcnial of dcsirc and thc
rcprcssion of scxuality. lndccd, Quicksand is
symbolic ofthctcnsioninninctccnth and carly
twcnticth-ccntury black womcn' s fiction in
which black fcmalc scxuality was frcqucntly
displaccd onto thc tcrrain of thc political
rcsponsibilityofthcblackwoman.Thcduty of
thcblack hcroinc toward thcblackcommunity
was madc cotcrminous with hcr dcsirc as a
woman, a dcsirc which was cxprcsscd as a
dcdicationtoupliftthcracc. This displaccmcnt
from fcmalc dcsirc to fcmalc duty cnablcd thc
nc¿otiation of racist constructions of black
fcmalc scxuality but dcnicd scnsuality and in
thisdcniallicsthcclasscharactcrofitscultural
politics.
lt has bccn amistakcofmuch black fcminist
thcoryto conccntratcalmostcxclusivcly onthc
visions ofblackwomcnasrcprcscntcdbyblack
womcn writcrs without indicatin¿ thc limita-
tions of thcir middlc-class rcsponsc to black
womcn's scxuality. Thcsc writcrs faccd a vcry
rcal contradiction for thcy fclt that thcywould
publicly compromisc thcmsclvcs if thcy
acknowlcd¿cd thcir scxuality and scnsuality
within a racist scxual discoursc thus providin¿
cvidcnccthatindccdthcywcrcprimitivcandcx-
otic crcaturcs. But bccausc black fcminist
thcoryhasconccntratcduponthclitcratcforms
ofblackwomcn' sintcllcctualactivitythcdilcm-
ma of thc placc ofscxuality within a litcrary
discourschasappcarcdasifitwcrcthcdilcmma
ofmostblackwomcn. Ònthcothcrhand,what
a considcration ofwomcn' s blucs allows us to
sccisanaltcrnativcform ofrcprcscntation, an
oralandmusicalwomcn' sculturcthatcxplicitly
addrcsscs thc contradictions of fcminism, scx-
uality and powcr. What has bccn callcd thc
'Classic Blucs, ' thc womcn' s blucs of thc
twcntics and carly thirtics, is a discoursc that
articulatcs a cultural andpolitical stru¿¿lc ovcr
scxual rclations. a stru¿¿lc that is dircctcd
a¿ainst thc ob|cctification of fcmalc scxuality
within a patriarchal ordcr but which also trics
to rcclaim womcn' s bodics as thc scxual and
scnsuous ob|ccts ofwomcn' s son¿.
Testifyin'
Withinblackculturcthcfi¿urcofthcfcmalc
blucs sin¿cr has bccn rcconstructcd in poctry,
drama, fiction and art and uscd to mcditatc
upon convcntionalandunconvcntionalscxuali-
ty. A varicty of narrativcs both fictional and
bio¿raphical havc mytholo¿izcd thc woman
blucssin¿crandthcscmytholo¿icsbccomctcxts
about scxuality. Womcnblucssin¿crsfrcqucnt-
ly appcar as liminal fi¿urcs that play out and
cxplorcthc various possibilitics ofa scxual cx-
istcncc;thcyarcrcprcscntationsofwomcnwho
attcmpt to manipulatc and control thcir con-
struction as scxual sub|ccts. ln Afro-Amcrican
fiction and poctrythcblucs sin¿cr hasa stron¿
physical and scnsuous prcscncc. Shcrlcy Annc
Williams wrotc about Bcssic Smith:
the thick triangular
nose wedged
in the deep brown
face nostrils
flared on a last hummmmmmmm.
Bessie singing
just behind the beat
that sweet sweet
voice throwing
its light on me
I looked in her face
and seed the woman
I ' d become. A big
boned face already
lined and the first line
in her fo'head was
black and the next line
was sex cept I didn't
know to call it that
then and the brackets
round her mouth stood fo
the chi'ren she teared
from out her womb . . & = ¨
Williams has ar¿ucd that thc carly blucs
sin¿crsandthcirson¿s 'hclpcdtosolidifycom-
12
Cover photo from Big Mamas, Independent Women's Blues, Vol. 2. Rosetta Records.
munity valucs and hci¿htcncommunitymoralc
in thc latc ninctccnth and carlytwcnticth ccn-
turics . 'Thcblucs sin¿cr shcsays uscs son¿ to
crcatcrcflcctionandcrcatcsanatmosphcrcfor
analysis to takcplacc. Thc blucs wcrcccrtainly
a communal cxprcssion of black cxpcricncc
which had dcvclopcd out of thc call and
rcsponscpattcrnsofwork son¿sfromthcninc-
tccnth ccntury and havc bccn dcscribcd as a
'complcx intcrwcavin¿ of thc ¿cncral and thc
spccific' and of individual and ¿roup cx-
pcricncc. John Coltranc has dcscribcd how thc
audicncc hcard 'wc' cvcn i f thc sin¿cr said
'l '. Òfcourscthcsin¿crswcrccntcrtaincrsbut
thcblucs wcrc not an cntcrtainmcnt of cscapc
or fantasy and somctimcs dircctly rcprcscntcd
historical cvcnts. '
Stcrlin¿ Brown has tcstificd t o thc physical
prcscncc and powcr of Ma Raincy who would
drawcrowds fromrcmotcrural arcastoscchcr
'smilin' ¿old-toofcd smilcs' and to fccl likc
participants in hcr pcrformancc which ar-
ticulatcd thc conditions of thcir social cx-
istcncc. Brown, in his pocm 'Ma Raincy, '
rcmcmbcrs thc cmotion of hcr pcrformanccof
'Backwatcr Blucs ' which dcscribcd thc
Teenaged Bessie Smith, 1920.
dcvastation of thc Mississippi flood of 1927.
Raincy's ori¿inal pcrformancc bccomcs in
Brown's tcxt a vocalization of thc popular
mcmory of thc flood and Brown's tcxt con-
structsitsclfas apartofthcpopularmcmoryof
thc 'Mothcr ofthc Blucs . '³
Ma Raincy ncvcr rccordcd 'Backwatcr
Blucs, ' althou¿h Bcssic Smith did, but local
son¿stcrswouldhcarthcblucs pcrformcd inthc
tcnt shows or on rccord and transmit thcm
throu¿hout thc community. Ma Raincy and
Bcssic Smith wcrc amon¿thcfirstwomcnblucs
sin¿crs to bc rccordcd and with Clara Smith,
Lthcl Watcrs, Albcrta Huntcr, lda Cox, Rosa
Hcndcrson, Victoria Spivcy and Lucillc
14
Hc¿amin thcy dominatcd thc blucs rccordin¿
industry throu¿hout thc twcntics. lt has oftcn
bccn asscrtcd that this rccordin¿ of thc blucs
compromiscdandadultcratcdapurcfolkform
of thc blucs but thc combination of thc
vaudcvillc, carnival andminstrclshows andthc
phono¿raph mcant that thc 'folk-blucs' and
thc culturc industry product wcrc incxtricably
mixcdinthctwcntics. By 1928 thcblucssun¿by
blackswcrconlysccondarilyoffolkori¿in and
thc primary sourcc for thc ¿roup transmission
ofthcblucswasbyphono¿raphwhichwasthcn
|oincd by thc radio.
BcssicSmith, MaRaincy, LthclWatcrs, and
thc othcr womcnblucs sin¿crs travcllcd in car-
nivals andvaudcvillcs which includcd actswith
animals, acrobats and othcr circus pcrformcrs.
Oftcn thcmaincarnival playcd principally for
whitc audicnccs but would havc black
sidcshows withblackcntcrtaincrs forblackau-
dicnccs. lnthiswayblackcntcrtaincrs rcachcd
black audicnccs in cvcn thc rcmotcst rural
arcas. Thc rccords ofthc womcn blucs sin¿crs
wcrc likcwisc dircctcd at a black audicncc
throu¿h thc cstablishmcnt of 'racc rccords' a
scction ofthc rccordin¿industry which rccord-
cdboth rcli¿ious and sccular blacksin¿crs and
black musicians and distributcd thcsc rccor-
din¿s throu¿h storcs in black arcas. thcy wcrc
rarcly availablc in whitc nci¿hborhoods.
When A Woman Gets the Blues ...
This thcnisthc framcwork within which lin-
tcrprctthcwomcnblucssin¿crsofthctwcniics.
Tofullyundcrstandthcwaysi nwhichthcirpcr-
formancc and thcir son¿s wcrc part of a
discoursc of scxual rclations within thc black
community it is ncccssary to considcr how thc
social conditions of black womcn wcrc
dramatically affcctcd by mi¿ration, for mi¿ra-
tion had distinctivcly diffcrcnt mcanin¿s for
black mcn and womcn. Thc music and son¿ of
thc womcn blucs sin¿crs cmbodicd thc social
rclations and contradictions ofblack displacc-
mcnt. ofruralmi¿ration and thcurbanflux. In
thisscnsc,assin¿crs,thcscwomcnwcrcor¿anic
intcllcctuals; not only wcrc thcy a part ofthc
community that was thc sub|cct of thcir son¿
butthcy wcrcalsoa product ofthcrural to ur-
ban movcmcnt.
Mi¿ration for womcn oftcn mcant bcin¿ lcft
bchind. 'Byc Byc Baby' and 'Sorry l can`t
takc you' wcrc thc common rcfrains of malc
blucs. ln womcn's blucs thc rcsponsc is com-
plcx. rc¿rct and pain cxprcsscd as 'My swcct
man donc ¿onc and lcft mc dcad, ' or 'My
daddy lcft mc standin¿ in thc door, 'or 'Thc
sound ofthc train fills myhcartwith miscry. '
Thcrcwasalsoancxplicitrcco¿nitionthatifthc
|ourncywcrcto bcmadcbywomcnithcld par-
ticular dan¿crs for thcm. ltwasnotascasy for
womcn as it was for mcn to hop frci¿ht trains
and ifmoncy was savcd for tickcts it was mcn
whowcrcusuallyscnt. Andyctthcwomcnwho
wcrc sin¿in¿ thc son¿s had madc itMorth and
rccordcdfromthc ' promiscdland' ofChica¿o
and Mcw York. So, what thc womcn blucs
sin¿crs wcrc ablc to articulatc wcrc thc
possibilitics ofmovcmcnt for thc womcn who
'Havc ramblin on thcir minds' and who in-
tcndcdto'cascondownthclinc' forthcyhad
madc it-thc powcr of movcmcnt was thcirs.
Thc train, which had symboliscd frccdom and
mobilityfor mcninmalc blucs son¿sbccamca
contcstcd symbol. Thc soundofthc train whis-
tlc, a mournful si¿nal of immincnt dcscrtion
and futurc lonclincss was rcclaimcd as a si¿n
thatwomcntoowcrconthcmovc.lnI º24both
Trixic Smith and Clara Smith rccordcd
'lrci¿ht Train Blucs . ' Thcsc arc thc words
Clara Smith san¿.
I hate to hear that engine blow, boo hoo.
I hate to hear that engine blow, boo hoo.
Every time I hear it blowin, I feel like ridin too.
That 's the freight train blues, I got box cars on
my mind.
I got the freight train blues, I got box cars on
my mind.
Gonna leave this town, cause my man is so
unkind.
I'm goin away just to wear you off my mind.
I'm goin away just to wear you off my mind.
And I may be gone for a doggone long long
time.
I 'll ask the brakeman to let me ride the blind.
I 'll ask the brakeman to please let me ride the
blind.
The brakeman say, "Clara, you know this train
ain't mine. "
When a woman gets the blues she goes to her
room and hides.
When a woman gets the blues she goes to her
room and hides.
When a man gets the blues he catch the freight
train and rides.
Thcmusicmovcsfromcchoin¿thcmoanin¿,
mournful sound ofthctrainwhistlctothcsyn-
copatcd activity of thc sound ofthc whccls in
movcmcnt as Clara Smith dctcrmincs to ridc.
Thc final opposition bctwccn womcn hidin¿
and mcn ridin¿ is countcrpointcd by this
musicalactivityand thcdctcrminationinClara
Smith's voicc. 'lrci¿ht Train Blucs ' and thcn
'Chica¿o Bound Blucs , ' which was rccordcd
byBcssicSmith andldaCox,wcrcvcrypopular
so Paramount and Victor cncoura¿cd morc
'railroad blucs . ' In 1925 TrixicSmith rccord-
cd 'Railroad Blucs ' which dircctly rcspondcd
tothclinc 'hadthcblucsforChica¿oandl| ust
can't bc satisficd' from 'Chica¿o Bound
Blucs. 'Trixic Smithrcplicd with 'lfyou ridc
that train it'll satisfy your mind. ' 'Railroad
Blucs ' cncapsulatcd thcambivalcnt positionof
thc blucs sin¿cr cau¿ht bctwccn thc contradic-
toryimpulscs ofnccdin¿ to mi¿ratcMorth and
thcnccd to bcablctorcturn forthc 'Railroad
Blucs ' wcrc hcadcd not for thc Morth but for
Alabama. Bcin¿ ablc to movc both Morth and
South, thc womcn blucs sin¿cr occupicd a
privilc¿cd spacc. shc could spcak thc dcsircs of
rural womcn tomi¿ratcandvoiccthcnostal¿ic
dcsircs of urban womcn for homc which was
both a rcco¿nition and a warnin¿ that thccity
was not , in fact, thc 'promiscd land. '
Mcn's and womcn' s blucs sharcd thc
lan¿ua¿c and cxpcricncc of thc railroad and
mi¿ration but what that mcant was diffcrcnt
for cach scx. Thc lan¿ua¿cofthcblucs carrics
this conflict ofintcrcsts and is thccultural tcr-
raininwhichthcscdiffcrcnccswcrcfou¿htovcr
and rc-dcfincd. Womcn's blucs wcrc thc
popular cultural cmbodimcnt of thc way in
which thc di ffcrin¿ intcrcsts ofblackmcn and
womcnwcrca stru¿¿lcofpowcrrclations . Thc
si¿n ofthc train is onc cxamplc of thcway in
which thc blucs wcrc a stru¿¿lc within thc
lan¿ua¿c itsclf to dcfincthc diffcrin¿ matcrial
conditions ofblack womcn and blackmcn.
Baad Sista
Thcdiffcrin¿ intcrcsts of womcn andmcn in
thc domcstic sphcrc was ccarly articulatcd by
Bcssic Smith in 'ln Housc Blucs' a popular
son¿ for thc mid-twcntics which shc wrotc
hcrsclf but didn't rccord until 1931. Althou¿h
thcman ¿cts up and lcavcs, thcwomanrcmains,
trappcdinthchousclikcaca¿cdanimalpacin¿
up and down. But at thc samc timc Bcssic's
voicc vibratcs with trcmcndous powcr which
implics thc cruption that is to comc. Thc
woman in thc housc is only barcly rcstraincd
from crcatin¿ havoc; hcr capacity for violcncc
hasbccncxcrciscdbcforcandrcsultcdinhcrar-
rcst.Thcmusic,whichprovidcsanoppositional
countcrpoint to Bcssic's voicc, is a parody of
thcsupposcd wcakncss ofwomcn. A vibratin¿
cornct contrasts with thcwords that ultimatcly
cannot bc containcd and roll out thc front
door.
M'dÎnÛluP
1 6
Sitting in the house with everything on my
mind.
Sitting in the house with everything on my
mind.
Looking at the clock and can't even tell the
time.
Walking to my window and looking outa my
door.
Walking to my window and looking outa my
door.
Wishin that my man would come home once
more.
Can't eat, can't sleep, so weak I can't walk
my floor.
Can't eat, can't sleep, so weak I can't walk
my foor.
Feel like calling "murder" let the police squad
get me once more.
They woke me up before day with trouble on
my mind.
They woke me up before day with trouble on
my mind.
Wringing my hands and screaming, walking the
floor hollerin an crying.
***** (?), don't let them blues in here.
***** (?), don't let them blues in here.
They shakes me in my bed and sits down in my
chair.
Oh, the blues has got me on the go.
They've got me on the go.
They roll around my house, in and out of my
front door.
I0
ThcwayinwhichBcssic¿rowls 'sowcak'con-
tradictsthcsupposcdwcakncssandhclplcssncss
ofthc woman inthc son¿and¿rants authority
to hcr thou¿hts of 'murdcr . ' Thc ra¿c of
womcn a¿ainst malc infidclity and dcscrtion is
cvidcnt in many of thc blucs. Ma Raincy
thrcatcncd violcncc whcn shcsan¿thatshcwas
'¿onna catch' hcr man 'with his britchcs
down, ' in thc act of infidclity, in 'BlackLyc
Blucs. 'Lxactin¿rcvcn¿ca¿ainst mistrcatmcnt
also appcars astakin¿ anothcr lovcr as in 'Òh
Papa Blucs' or tauntin¿ a lovcr who has bccn
thrown out with 'l won't worry whcn you'rc
¿onc, anothcrbrownhas¿otyourwatcron'in
'Titanic Man Blucs. ' But Ma Raincy is
pcrhapsbcstknown forthc rc|cctionofalovcr
Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, 1924.
in 'Oon't lish in My Sca' which is also a
rcsolutionto ¿ivc upmcnalto¿cthcr. Shcsan¿.
If you don't like my ocean, don't fish in my
sea,
If you don't like my ocean, don't fish in my
sea,
Stay out of my valley, and let my mountain be.
Ain't had no lovin' since God knows when,
Ain't had no lovin' since God knows when,
That's the reason I'm through with these no
good triflin' men.
Thctotalrc|cctionofmcnasinthisblucs andin
othcr son¿s such as 'Trust Mo Man' stand in
1 7
dircct contrast to thc bIucs that conccntratc
upon thc bcwiIdcrcd, oftcn haIf-crazcd and
cvcn paraIyzcd rcsponsc of womcn to maIc
vioIcncc.
Sandra Lcib has dcscribcdthcmasochism of
'SwcctRou¿h Man, 'inwhichamanabuscsa
hcIpIcss and passivc woman, and shc ar¿ucs
that a distinction must bc madc bctwccn rcac-
tions to maIc vioIcncc a¿ainst womcn in maIc
and fcmaIc authorcd bIucs. 'Swcct Rou¿h
Man, ' thou¿h rccordcd by Ma Raincy, was
composcd by a man and is thc most cxpIicit
dcscriptionofscxuaIbrutaIityinhcrrcpcrtoirc.
Thc articuIation of thc possibiIity thatwomcn
couIdIcavca condition ofscxuaIand financiaI
dcpcndcncy, rc|cct maIc vioIcncc, andcnd scx-
uaI cxpIoitation was cmbodicd in Ma Raincy' s
rcc
¬
rdin¿of'HustIinBIucs, 'composcd|oint-
Iy bya man and a woman, which narratcs thc
story ofaprostitutcwho cnds hcrbrutaItrcat-
mcnt by turnin¿ in hcr pimp to a | ud¿c. Ma
Raincy san¿.
I ain't made no money, and he dared me to go
home.
Judge, I told him he better leave me alone.
He followed me up and he grabbed me for a
fight.
He followed me up and he grabbed me for a
fight .
He said, "Girl, do you know you ain't made no
money tonight.
Oh Judge, tell him I' m through.
Oh Judge, tell him I'm through.
I' m tired of this life, that's why I brought him
to you.
Howcvcr, MaRaincy'sstron¿cstasscrtionof
fcmaIcscxuaIautonomyisason¿shccomposcd
hcrscIf, 'Provc lt On Mc BIucs, ' which isn't
tcchnicaIIy a bIucs son¿ butwhichshcsan¿ ac-
companicd by a Tub Ju¿ Washboard Band.
'Provc lt OnMc BIucs' wasan asscrtion and
an affirmation of Icsbianism. Thou¿h con-
dcmncdbysocictyforhcrscxuaIprcfcrcnccthc
sin¿crwantsthcwhoIcworIdto knowthatshc
chooscswomcnrathcrthanmcn.ThcIan¿ua¿c
of 'Provc lt OnMc BIucs' cn¿a¿cs dircctIyin
dcfinin¿ issucs of scxuaI prcfcrcncc as a con-
tradictorystru¿¿IcofsociaIrcIations . BothMa
1 8
Raincy and Bcssic Smith had Icsbian rcIation-
ships and 'Provc lt On Mc BIucs' vaciIIatcs
bctwccn thc subvcrsivc hiddcn activity of
womcn Iovin¿ womcn with a pubIic dccIaration
of Icsbianism. Thc words cxprcss a contcmpt
for asocictythatrc|cctcdIcsbians. 'Thcysav Í
do it, ain'tnobodycau¿ht mc,Thcysurc¿otto
provc it onmc. 'Butatthc samc timcthcson¿
is a rccIamation of Icsbianism as Ion¿ as thc
woman pubIicIy namcs hcr scxuaI prcfcrcncc
for hcrscIf in thc rcpctition of Iincs about thc
fricnds who 'must'vc bccn womcn, causc Í
don't Iikc no mcn. '
But most of thc son¿s that asscrtcd a
woman's indcpcndcncc did so in rcIation to
mcn not womcn. Onc of thc most | oyous is a
rccordin¿ by LthcI Watcrs in I º25 caIIcd 'Mo
Man' sMammaMow. ' ltisthcccIcbrationofa
divorcc that cndcd a marria¿c dcfincd as a fivc
ycar 'war . 'LnIikc Bcssic Smith,LthcIWatcrº
didn' tusuaIIy¿rowI, aIthou¿h shccouId,rathcr
hcr voicc which iscaIIcd 'swcct-toncd' ¿aincd
authority from its styIistic cnunciation and thc
way in which shc aImost rccitcd thc words. As
Watcrs said shc tricd to bc ' rcfincd' cvcn
whcn shc was bcin¿ hcr most outra¿cous.
I 7
You may wonder what's the reason for this
crazy smile,
Say I haven't been so happy in a long while
Got a big load off my mind, here's the papers
sealed and signed,
And the judge was nice and kind all through the
trial.
This ends a five year war, I'm sweet Miss was
once more.
I can come when I please, I can go when I
please.
I can flit, fly and flutter like the birds on the
trees.
Because, I' m no man's mamma now. Hey, hey.
I can say what I like, I can do what I like.
I'm a girl who is on a matrimonial strike;
Which means, I'm no man's mamma now.
From the Chicago Defender, October 22, 1927.
I'm screaming bail
I know how a fella feels getting out of jail
I got twin beds, I take pleasure in announcing
one for sale.
Am I making it plain, I will never again,
Drag around another ball and chain.
I' through, because I'm no man's mamma now.
I can smile, I can wink, I can go take a drink,
And I don't have to worry what my hubby will
think.
Because, I' m no man's mamma now.
I can spend if I choose, I can play and sing
the blues.
There's nobody messin with my one's and my
twos.
Because, I'm no man's mamma now.
You know there was a time,
I used to think that men were grand.
But no more for mine,
I'm gonna label my apartment "No Man's
Land. "
I got rid of my cat cause the cat's name was
Pat(?).
Won't even have a male fox in my flat .
Because, I' m no man's mamma now. "
Watcrs' shccr cxubcrancc is infcctious. Thc
vitaIity and cncr¿y of thc pcrformancc
ccIcbratcsthcunfcttcrcdscxuaIityofthcsin¿cr.
Thc scIf-conscious and scIf-rcfcrcntiaI Iincs 'l
canpIayandsin¿thcbIucs'situatcsthcsin¿cr
at thcccntcrofa subvcrsivc andIibcratoryac-
tivity. Many ofthc mcn who wcrc marricd to
bIucssin¿crsdisapprovcdofthcircarccrs,somc
fcIt thrcatcncd, othcrs, Iikc Ldith Johnson' s
husband,cvcntuaIIyappIicdcnou¿hprcssurcto
forcc hcr to stop sin¿in¿. Most, Iikc Bcssic
Smith, LthcI Watcrs, Ma Raincy and lda Cox
did not stop sin¿in¿ thc bIucs but thcir pubIic
prcscncc, thcir stardom, thcir ovcrwhcImin¿
popuIarity and thcir insistcncc on doin¿ what
thcy wantcd causcd frcqucnt confIict with thc
mcn inthcir pcrsonaI Iivcs.
Funky and Sinful Stuff
Thc fi¿urc of thc woman bIucs sin¿cr has
bccomc a cuIturaI cmbodimcnt of sociaI and
1 9
scxuaI confIict from GayI Joncs' novcI Cor­
regidora to AIicc WaIkcr's The Color Purple.
Thc womcn bIucs sin¿crs occupicd a priviIc¿cd
spacc; thcyhadbrokcnoutofthcboundarics of
thchomcandtakcnthcirscnsuaIityandscxuaIi-
tyout ofthcprivatcand intothcpubIic sphcrc.
For thcsc sin¿crs wcrc ¿or¿cous and thcir
physicaI prcscncccIcvatcdthcm to bcin¿ rcfcr-
rcd to as Goddcsscs, as thc hi¿h pricstcsscs of
thcbIucs,orIikcBcssicSmithasthcLmprcssof
thcbIucs. Thcir physicaIprcscncc was acruciaI
aspcct of thcir powcr; thc visuaI dispIay of
span¿Icd drcsscs, of furs, of ¿oId tccth, of
diamonds of aII thc sumptuous and dcsirabIc
aspcctsofthcirbodyrccIaimcdfcmaIcscxuaIity
frombcin¿ an ob|cctification ofmaIc dcsircto
a rcprcscntation offcmaIc dcsirc.
Bcssic Smithwrotc about thcsociaIcriticism
that womcn faccd ifthcy brokc sociaI convcn-
tion. 'Youn¿ Woman' s BIucs ' thrcads
to¿cthcr many ofthcissucs ofpowcr and scx-
uaIitythathavcbccnaddrcsscd sofar. ' Youn¿
Woman ' s BIucs ' sou¿ht possi bi I i ti cs ,
possibiIitics that arosc from womcn bcin¿ on
thc movc and confidcntIy asscrtin¿ thcir own
scxuaIdcsirabiIity.
Woke up this morning when chickens were
crowing for day.
Felt on the right side of my pillow, my man
had gone away.
On his pillow he left a note, reading I 'm sorry
you got my goat.
No time to marry, no time to settle down.
I'm a young woman and ain't done running
around.
I'm a young woman and ain't done running
around.
Some people call me a hobo, some call me a
bum,
Nobody know my name, nobody knows what
I've done.
I 'm as good as any woman in your town,
I ain't no high yella, I' m tequilla brown.
I ain't gonna marry, ain't gonna settle down.
I'm gonna drink good moonshine and run these
browns down.
See that long lonesome road, cause you know
its got a end.
And I'm a good woman and I can get plenty
men. 1 4
Clara Smith, Hattie McDaniel, Ethel Waters (1931), Bessie Smith.
Thc womcn bIucs sin¿crs havc bccomc our
cuIturaI icons of scxuaI powcr, but what is
oftcnfor¿ottcnisthatthcycouIdbc¿rcatcom-
iccntcrtaincrs. ln 'OncHourMama' ldaCox
uscd comcdy to intcnsify an irrcvcrcnt attack
on maIc scxuaI prowcss. Thc womcn bIucs
sin¿crs had no rcspcct for scxuaI taboos, for
brcakin¿ throu¿h thc boundarics of rcspcc-
tabiIity and convcntion. Thc comic docs not
mcIIowthcasscrtivcvoicc, butonthccontrary,
undcrmincs mythoIo¿icsofphaIIicpowcr, and
cstabIishcs a scrics ofwoman-ccntcrcd hctcro-
scxuaI dcmands. Manywomcnhcardthc 'wc'
whcnldaCoxsaid '! . '
I ' ve always heard that haste makes waste,
So I believe in takin my time.
The highest mountain can't be raced
It's something you must slowly climb.
I want a slow and easy man;
He needn't ever take the lead,
Cause I work on that long time plan
And I ain't alookin for no speed.
I 'm a one hour mama, so no one minute papa
Ain't the kind of man for me.
Set your alarm clock papa, one hour that's
proper,
Then love me like I like to be.
I don't want no lame excuses,
Bout my lovin being so good,
That you couldn't wait no longer
Now I hope I 'm understood.
I ' m a one hour mama so no one minute papa
Ain't the kind of man for me.
I can't stand no greenhorn lover
Like a rookie going to war,
With a load of big artillery,
But don't know what it' s for
He' s got to bring me reference
With a great long pedigree
And must prove he's got endurance
Or he don't mean snap to me.
I can't stand no crowing rooster
What just likes a hit or two
Action is the only booster
Of just what my man can do.
Ida Cox.
I don't want no imitation,
My requirements ain't no joke,
Cause I got pure indignation
For a guy what's lost his stroke.
I ' m a one hour mama, so no one minute papa
Ain't the kind of man for me.
Set your alarm clock papa, one hour that ' s
proper,
Then love me like I like to be.
I may want love for one hour,
Then decide to make it two.
Takes an hour fore I get started,
Maybe three fore I ' m through.
I'm a one hour mama, so no one minute papa
Ain't the kind of man for me. "
Butthis momcntofoptimism, ofthc bIucs as
thc cxcrciscofpowcrand controIovcrscxuaIity
was short Iivcd. Thc spacc occupicd by thcsc
bIucssin¿crswasopcncdupbyraccrccordsbut
racc rccords did not survivc thc dcprcssion.
Somc ofthcscbIucs womcn, Iikc LthcI Watcrs
andHatticMcOanicIs, brokcthrou¿hthcraciaI
21
boundarics of HoIIywood fiIms and wcrc in-
scrtcd into a diffcrcnt aspcct ofthc cuIturc in-
dustrywhcrcthcyoccupicdnotapriviIc¿cdbut
a subordinatc spacc and articuIatcd not thc
possibiIitics of bIack fcmaIc scxuaI powcr but
thc 'Ycs, Ma' am' s' of thc bIack maid. Thc
powcr of thc bIucs sin¿cr was rcsurrcctcd in a
diffcrcnt momcnt ofbIack powcr, rc-cmcr¿in¿
in GayI Joncs' Corregidora and thc woman
bIucs sin¿cr rcmains an important part of our
twcnticth-ccntury bIack cuIturaI rcconstruc-
tion.
¡OO1NO1Lb
1 . Hazel V. Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood: The
Emergence of the Afro-American Woman Novelist (NY:
Oxford University Press, in press).
2. Hortense Spillers, "Interstices: A Small Drama of
Words," Carol Vance ed. , Pleasure and Danger: Exploring
Female Sexuality (Boston and London: Routledge Kegan
Paul, 1 984) pp. 73-100.
3. Hazel V. Carby, " 'On the Threshold of Woman's Era':
Lynching, Empire and Sexuality in Black Feminist
Theory, " Henry Louis Oates, Jr. , ed. , Race, Writing and
Difference (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1 986), pp.
301 - 1 5.
4. Anna Julia Cooper, A Voice from the South (Xenia,
Ohio: Aldine Publishing House, 1 892), p. 125.
5. Sherley Anne Williams, "The House of Desire, " i n
Erline Stetson, ed. , Black Sister: Poetry by Black American
Women 1 746-1980 (Bloomington: Indiana U. Press, 1 98 1 ).
6. Sherley Anne Williams, "Fifteen, " Some One Sweet
Angel Chile (NY: William Morrow and Co. Inc. , 1 982).
7. Sherley Anne Williams, "The Blues Roots of Contem­
porary Afro-American Poetry, " Michael S. Harper and
Robert B. Stepto, eds., Chants ofSaints (Chicago: U. of Il­
linois Press, 1 979), pp. 1 23-1 35.
8. Sterling Brown, "Ma Rainey, " The Collected Poems of
Sterling A. Brown (NY: Harper and Row, 1 980).
9. Clara Smith, "Freight Train Blues, " Women 's Railroad
Blues, Rosetta Records 1980, RR1 301 .
10. Bessie Smith, "In House Blues, " Bessie Smith: The
World's Greatest Blues Singer, Columbia Records C033.
1 1 . Ma Rainey, Ma Rainey, Milestone Records 1 974
M47021 ; Sandra Leib, Mother ofthe Blues: A Study ofMa
Rainey (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press,
1 981 ) .
1 2. Ethel Waters, His Eye Is On The Sparrow (NY: Double­
day, 1 951 ) .
1 3. Ethel Waters, "No Man's Mama, " Big Mamas, Rosetta
Records, 1 982, RR 1 306.
14. Bessie Smith, "Young Woman's Blues, " Nobody's
Blues But Mine, Columbia, 1972, CO 31 093.
1 5. Ida Cox, "One Hour Mama, " Mean Mothers, Rosetta
Records, 1980, RR 1 30.
22
HazcI Carby teaches Afro-American Studies
and Women 's Studies at Wesleyan University.
She is the author of Rcconstructin¿
Womanhood. Thc Lmcr¿cncc of thc Afro-
Amcrican Woman MovcIist, to be published
this year by Oxford University Press.
Thi s paper was ori ginally presented at the keynote
speech at a Fi ve College Conference on Sexual i ty .
Mt. Holyoke College. South Hadley Mass. , Oct. 25,
l º8ô. The paper was presented along with playing of
the songs discussed a number of the cited.
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---Te l987Marxist Schol ;s Conference will coi J l cide with
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workers. national l y or racially oppressed peoples. or
women ae partculaly encourage.
--Proposals are invited in any area of academic study or
soial actvism; sessions wi ll Oorganized accoding
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Deadline: May 3Ü, l 987. Direct i nqui ri es to: Prf. Jack
Kurzweil. Elec. Engi neerng Dept . . San Jose St. Univ. , San
Jose; CA 951 92. Send one copy of paper/proposal IU
Prf. Kurzweil and one to Prof. Har y Targ.
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CHALLENGI NG THE
SCIENTI FIC MYTHS OF
GENDER AND RACE
A rev| ew ofMYTHSLÎ C| ND| k
| New York. 8as| c 8ooks, 1 985)
L. Frances Whi te and Ann Woodhul l · McNeal
"Researcher Ties Math Sense To Hormones" blared out as the title from the Associated
Press coverage of the Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting. The article
reported that Dr. Camilla P. Benbow, who acknowledged that her findings might be "un­
popular and controversial, " argued that junior high school boys are probably better than girls
at math because of their male hormones and not simply because of their upbringing. Of
course, work that contradicted these findings, also presented at the meeting, received little at­
tention. Apparently, "Researcher Finds No Significant Difference Between The Sexes In
Math Ability" is neither a catchy title nor the opener for an enticing article in today' s papers .
Benbow' s work on hormones and gender has a knack for making the newspaper. Six
years ago, it caught the eye of Anne Fausto-Sterling when Benbow' s work with Julian
Stanley appeared in the New Ycrk 7imeº and the journal Scieuce, making essentially the
same claims. Fortunately Fausto-Sterling has written a book, M+thº c! Geuder, that
responds to the work of Benbow and other scientists who overlook the complex interaction
between physiology and environment, and posit a mythological biology that fits so well with
the conservative and repressive climate of today. M+thºc!Geuderresponds to a backlash
phenomenon in which biological theories, masquerading as objective, non-ideological
Jane Goodall with chimp, 1962.
25
thcorics, actas tooIs ofrcprcssion. lrom its in-
ccption, bioIo¿y as a scicntific ficId invoIvcd
thc racist and scxist attcmpt to cIassify human
bcin¿s into normaI and abnormaI catc¿orics.
ParticularIy durin¿ thc ninctccnth ccntury,
scicntists bccamc obscsscd with thc dcsirc to
mcasurc and quantify various parts of human
anatomy. (PhrcnoIo¿y and cranioIo¿y appcar
inhindsi¿httobcabsurdattcmptstoundcrstand
human bcin¿s but thcy sharc roots and
many simiIaritics with notions about in-
tcIIi¿cnccthataIIowlQtcstsandthcirrcsuItsto
bc inHictcd on youn¿ studcnts. ) As scicntists
typcd and catc¿orizcd humans, thcy providcd
scicntific |ustifications of a sociaI ordcr that
aIIowcd whitc mcn to dominatc most of thc
worId. SimilarIy, sincc thc mid-I ºT0s, socio-
bioIo¿yandothcrdctcrministthcoricshavcsup-
portcdthccffortsofconscrvativcwhitcmcnto
maintain thcirIooscnin¿¿rasp onthc worId.
Of coursc, most scicntists do not
acknowIcd¿cthatthcirworksupportsthcstatus
quo; thcysimpIy formuIatc qucstionsforcxam-
pIc in such a way that thcir answcrs rcinforcc
ri¿id catc¿orics of¿cndcr, raccandscxuaIity. lt
is avcra¿c, cvcryday scicncc (not simpIy 'bad'
scicncc or pscudo-scicncc) that cnforccs
cuIturaI norms.Oftcnbythc'simpIc' studyof
'scx diffcrcnccs' scicntists rcinforcc thc
cuIturaImcssa¿cthatmaIcandfcmaIcbchavior
iswircdintoour¿cncsandhormoncs, andthus
is unaItcrabIc. Wc arc not ar¿uin¿ a¿ainst thc
importancc of rcco¿nizin¿ cuIturaIIy con-
structcd diffcrcncc. Quitc thc contrary, wc
rcco¿nizc howcIaimin¿cuIturaI diffcrcncc has
bccn an important basc from which com-
munitics havc mountcd poIiticaI chaIIcn¿cs.
What wc ob|cct to is thc bcIicf, supportcd by
mainstrcam scicncc, thatbioIo¿icaIIy bascd dif-
fcrcnccs tcII us anythin¿ important about racc,
¿cndcr or scxuaIity.
lronicaIIy, somcpcopIc who attackmiso¿yny
and hctcroscxism havc turncd to bioIo¿icaI cx-
pIanations to support thcir ar¿umcnts. Somc
fcminists, such asAIicc Rossi, a¿rccthatmuch
human bchavior is 'wircd into' our ¿cncs.
Thcy turn scxist paradi¿ms on thcir hcads,
vaIuin¿ womcn' s 'inhcrcnt' quaIitics ovcr
mcn' s, such as¿rcatcrnurturin¿ capacitics. At
thc samc timc somc ¿ay mcn ar¿uc that
homoscxuaIity is naturaI, that thcy do not
26
choosc to bc ¿ay but arc born homoscxuaI .
Thcirar¿umcnts appcar asamis¿uidcdattcmpt
to rcassurc hctcroscxuaI socicty that cxposurc
tohomoscxuaIsdocsnotsprcadhomoscxuaIity.
Suchar¿umcntsarccostIy. lnamorcrcprcssivc
socicty, pcopIc with a homoscxuaI '¿cnc'
wouId simpIybc cIiminatcd. (Myths of Gender
providcs furthcr discussion on thc probIcm of
studyin¿ ¿cncs to undcrstand compIcx human
bchavior. )Such ar¿umcnts arcaIsodoomcdto
faiIurc bccausc, Iikc mainstrcam scicncc, thcy
acccpt a scicntific practicc that assumcs that
bioIo¿icaI diffcrcnccs dctcrminc bchavior or
sociaIarran¿cmcnts. MorcdccpIy, thcyassumc
that wc can undcrstand our bioIo¿y scparatc
from thc cuIturc that has shapcd its mcanin¿.
Onthccontrary, aslausto-StcrIin¿ar¿ucs, not
onIy docs bioIo¿y not dctcrminc cuIturc, but
cuIturcdctcrmincshowwc undcrstandbioIo¿y.
Myths about scx diffcrcnccs aIso pIay a
roIc inconstructin¿ ima¿cs ofsupcriorwcstcrn
cuIturc a¿ainst infcrior non-Wcstcrn cuIturcs .
lor cxampIc, Luropcans and Luro-Amcricans
havc Ion¿ Iookcd askancc at thc roIc womcn
pIay inAfrican a¿ricuIturc. lrom thc vanta¿c-
point of Wcstcrn idcas ofwomcn' snaturc, thc
tradition of womcn workin¿ in thc ficIds and
controIIin¿ IocaI markcts with thcir surpIus
¿oods sccms unnaturaI, backward and incffi-
cicnt. CoIoniaI officiaIs, missionarics, aid
donors and dcvcIopmcnt cxpcrts havc aII tricd
to incrcasc maIc roIcs in farmin¿ as a way of
' scicntificaIIy' improvin¿ African a¿ricuIturc.
lt has bccn Icft to fcminist critics and African
womcnwho kccp onfarmin¿andmarkctin¿to
cxposc thc narrow basis of thcsc scicntificaIIy
dcrivcd notions of scx diffcrcnccs.¯
LnIikc many othcr practicin¿ scicntists,
lausto-StcrIin¿acccptsthcvcrdict ofcritics of
scicncc that scicntific thcory and obscrvation
arcinHucnccdbysociaIfactors. Shcar¿ucsthat
scicntificrcscarchonscxdiffcrcnccsisrc¿uIarly
fIawcd bccausc thc rcsuIts of this rcscarch af-
fcct thc scicntists' scnsc of scIf. 'And what
couId bc morc pcrsonaIIy si¿nificant than our
scnscs of ourscIvcs as maIc or fcmaIc? ln thc
study of¿cndcr (IikcscxuaIityandracc)itis in-
hcrcntIyimpossibIcforanyindividuaItodoun-
biascd rcscarch. ' [p. I 0]
Myths of Genderis abroadsidcattack onthc
myth that bioIo¿y is primary in dctcrminin¿
human bchavior.
Some scientists and social theorists (myself includ­
ed) no longer believe in the scientific validity of this
framework. Such thinkers reject the search for uni­
que "root causes, " arguing instead for a more
complex analysis in which an individual's capacities
emerge from a web of interactions between the
biological being and the social environment.
Within this web, connecting threads move in both
directions. Biology may in some manner condition
behavior, but behavior in turn can alter one's
physiology. Furthermore, any particular behavior
can have many different causes. This new vision
challenges the hunt for fundamental biological
causes at its very heart, stating unequivocally that
the search itself is based on a false understanding of
biology. The question 'What fraction of our
behavior is biologically based, ' is impossible -
even in theory - to answer, and unanswerable
questions drop out of the realm of science
altogether, entering instead that of philosophy and
morality. [pp. 7-8]
The "Normal" Science of Sex Differences
Fausto-StcrIin¿ takcs hcr rcadcrs carcfuIIy
throu¿h Iitcraturc on 'scx diffcrcnccs' that has
trickIcd down to non-scicntists but whosc fun-
damcntaIfIawsarcdifficuIttorcco¿nizcwithout
hcIp. For cxampIc, shc cxamincs thc arcas and
thc ways in which mcn and womcn arc said to
diffcr inintcIIcctuaIabiIity. thcmyth of¿rcatcr
maIc variabiIity; studics of vcrbaI abiIity; of
spatiaI-visuaI abiIity; cffccts of cxpcricnccs in-
cIudin¿chiIdhoodpIayandparcntaI¿uidanccon
tcstscorcs; brainIatcraIization(ri¿ht-brain,Icft-
brain) and thc a¿¿rcssivc bioIo¿izin¿ of math-
tcst-rcscarchcr CamiIIa Bcnbow. ln aII ofthis
shcnotcsthat scicnccIikcstodichotomizc and
assi¿n diffcrcnt quaIitics in ordcr to diffcrcn-
tiatc ¿roups. mcn and womcn, bIacks and
whitcs. Shc notcs, c. ¿. , how thc hormoncs
tcstostcronc and cstro¿cn arc caIIcd 'maIc'
and 'fcmaIc' hormoncs, aIthou¿hcachisprc-
scntinbothmaIcsandfcmaIcs. SimiIarIy,math
abiIitics ¿ct assi¿ncd to maIcs as a
charactcristic, aIthou¿h it is cIcar with any
rcfIcction that thcrc arc many womcn who arc
bcttcr than manymcnatmath. Fausto-StcrIin¿
consistcntIy asks convcntionaI scicntific qucs-
tionsaboutthccvidcnccprcscntcdand¿cncraI-
Iy finds 'bad' scicntificpracticc. But shcaIso
¿ocs an important stcp furthcr by askin¿
fcminist qucstions that Icad not onIy to bcttcr
scicntificpracticcbutaIsotowardafcministvi-
sion ofscicncc.
Whcn, for cxampIc, shc cxamincs thc
rcscarch on mcnstruation and hormoncs, shc
findsboth bad scicncc and a fIawcd anaIyticaI
framcwork that faiIs to producc contcxtuaI
rcscarch. As shc notcs , thc work on
prcmcnstruaI syndromc (PMS) has dramaticaIIy
fiItcrcd into thc pubIic consciousncss. Thc ma-
|or promotcr of thc probIcms of PMS, Or.
KatharinaOaIton, hasar¿ucd thatitcancausc
HigTlesf
honors for
*lnherent
Quality go t o
brassieres by
Maiden Form . .
as unsurpassed
in styling.
fabrics and
workmanship!
27
womcn to kiII, attcmpt suicidcandbattcr thcir
chiIdrcn as thcysuffcr fromupto l 50diffcrcnt
symptoms. But as lausto-StcrIin¿ asks |ust
what this syndromc is, hcr scarch ofthc rcIc-
vant Iitcraturc rcvcaIs inconsistcnt and conHict-
in¿ answcrs. Rcscarchcrs Iump to¿cthcr scvcraI
phcnomcna, from ¿Iaucoma to scvcrc dcprcs-
sion, thatmayhavcvcrydiffcrcntsourccs.lnthc
fcw studics that attcmptcd to dcfinc thc syn-
dromc carcfuIIy, thc numbcr ofwomcn found
to havc PMS droppcd drasticaIIy. ln ¿cncraI,
thc studics arc sIoppiIydoncanddonotpcrmit
rcpIication or comparison.

Y
sa00
wvcw
mcvc0a
Y
s
cam0
28
lausto-StcrIin¿ points out that many
hi¿hIy traincd rcscarchcrs faiI to usc double
blind experimentation, ` common in scicntific
cxpcrimcnts, bccausc thcy bcIicvc so firmIy in
bioIo¿icaI primacy.
One need worry about double blinds only if one re­
mains conscious of the fact that thoughts, mind­
sets, and emotions can affect one's physiology. Of
course most women know this perfectly well, since
overexcitement, exhaustion, travel, illness, and
stress can alter the timing of one's period, change
the number and intensity of premenstrual signals,
and influence the presence or absence of the
menstrual fow and its degree of discomfort; these
are all variations in the physiological expression of
the monthly cycle; influenced by one's emotional
state. [p. l05)
lndccd, thc fcw doubIc bIind studics on PMS
trcatmcnt thathavc bccn conductcdshow that
many womcn r cs pond to pI accbos ,
dcmonstratin¿ that cuIturc and psychoIo¿ycan
infIucncc womcn's prcmcnstruaI cxpcricnccs.
[WhiIc pointin¿ out thc intcrpIay bctwccn cn-
vironmcnt and bioIo¿y, lausto-StcrIin¿
carcfuIIy trics to avoid thc concIusion that aII
prcmcnstruaI symptoms arc 'onIy in womcn's
hcads. ']Thusama| or flawinthcPMSstudics
isthcirconccptuaI framcworkthatncvcrs asks.
howdorcproductivccycIcsintcractwiththccn-
vironmcnt?
Thc studics arc aIso fIawcd bccausc of a
thinIy vciIcd mcdicaI modcI that vicws womcn
as naturaIIy abnormaI . (Ofcoursc, byimpIica-
tion, thc standard ofnormaIity is maIc. ) Thc
Ian¿ua¿c choicc of PMS rcscarchcrs cxposcs
this assumption. Thcy su¿¿cst that 70 to º0"t
of aII fcmaIcs havc prcmcnstruaI symptoms.
Thc probIcmatic word 'symptom' may su¿-
¿cstthatncarIyº0¾ofaIIwomcnarcdiscascd.
lfindccd wcrcad 'symptom' as 'discasc' or
'abnormaIity, 'thcn wc do havc a ma|or pro-
bIcm on our hands. On thc othcr hand, if
'symptom'mcans 'si¿ns, ' thcn PMSismuch
ado about nothin¿.
lausto·StcrIin¿ a¿rccs that somc womcn
suffcr probIcms associatcd with prcmcnstruaI
pcriods. Yct thc usc of PMS studics has an an-
• "double-blinds" are experiments in which neither the ex­
perimenter nor the subject knows what the research is
testing.
MIT, 1904.
droccntric and anti-woman bias that supports
our scxist sociaI structurc. lt is oId winc in ncw
bottIcs, buiIdin¿ onccnturicsofWcstcrn bcIicfs
that mcnstruation turns abnormaI humans
(fcmaIcs)intoncarmonstcrs.Onthcrcscarchon
mcnstruation, lausto-StcrIin¿ concIudcs.
That so many scientists have been able for so long
to do such poor research attests to both the un­
conscious social agendas of many researchers and
to the theoretical inadequacy of the research
framework used in the field as a whole. Once again
we encounter the failure of a simple linear model of
biological causation, and must struggle instead
with a more complex conceptualization in which
mind, body, and culture depend so inextricably on
one another that allegedly straightforward studies,
ones claiming to find single causes for cyclic
behavior, must be looked upon with deep suspi­
cion. [po 101]
Western Myths and the "Universal Woman"
lausto-StcrIin¿ succcssfuIIy chaIIcn¿cs thc
myths of whitc Wcstcrn socicty about thc
'naturc of woman' and carcfuIIy, scicnti-
fìcaIIy and systcmaticaIIy dcmoIishcs thc
'scicntific cvidcncc' thatissocommonIyuscd
to boIstcr thcsc myths. Yct, shc writcs as if
thcrcisonIyoncsctofmythsabout¿cndcrthat
appIy to aII womcn. Just as womcn arc not a
unitary ¿roup, so too, arc thc myths about
womcn compIcx and mcdiatcd by racc, cIass,
andcuIturc. Sinccwchavcbccomcincrcasin¿Iy
awarcofthcroIcthatscicncchaspIaycdincon-
structin¿ nc¿ativc ima¿cs ofbIack womcn, wc
hopcd that hcr book wouId hcIp shcd Ii¿ht on
thìs history.
lausto-StcrIin¿, howcvcr, somctimcs writcs
as if womcn's cxpcricncc is not dcfincd and
dividcd bycIass and cuIturc. Whcn, for cxam-
pIc, shcsu¿¿csts that in ordcr forthcfcminiza-
tion ofpovcrty tobchaItcd, ' womcn wiII havc
to takc thcir sharc of thcsc hi¿hcr payin¿ |obs
[that comc with scicntific and tcchnoIo¿icaI
trainin¿ (p. 6I )] , 'shcsccms to bypassthcpro-
bIcms ofracc andcIass that dìvidcwomcn and
kccpcvcnmanymcnfromhavin¿thcir 'sharc'
ofhi¿hpayin¿|obs. lnrcco¿nition ofthc way
racism and cIass may intcract with ¿cndcr to
rcstrict womcn's possibiIitics, wc nccd to cx-
29
pand our undcrstandin¿ of what kccps womcn
from Icarnin¿ thc math and othcr skiIIs that
thcynccdtoquaIifyfortcchnicaIIy skiIIcd| obs.
By showin¿ howscicntific studics of¿cndcr
rcfIcct and rcinforcc dominant Wcstcrn myths
ofwomanhood, lausto-StcrIin¿ Icads us tothc
qucstion ofthc ori¿in ofthiscuIturaIconstruc-
tion ofunivcrsaI womanhood. Wc havc found
thc work of mcdicaI historian Sandcr GiIman
cxtrcmcIy hcIpfuI for brin¿in¿ into focus how
intcrIockcdthcconstructionofraccand¿cndcr
is in Wcstcrn history. WhiIc hchas bccn|ustIy
criticizcd by somc fcminists for appIyin¿ thc
ob|cctivc¿azc ofadistanccd,maIcauthorityto
womcn who wcrc victims of racism and
miso¿yny, his work docs offcr insi¿ht into thc
waythcmcdicaIficIdinthc ninctccnth ccntury
hcIpcd crcatc nc¿ativc ima¿cs of womcn. Hc
notcs thc powcr ofmcdicaI icons (rcprcscnta-
tions) to rcprcscnt boththcnormaI andthcab-
normaI byappcarin¿tobcscicntificand ob|cc-
tivc.
Medi ci ne offers an vspeci al l y interesting source of
conventi ons si nce we do tend to gi ve medical con­
ventions special ' sci enti fi c' status as opposed to the
"suhjective" status of the aesthetic conventi ons. But
medical icons are no more "real" than "aesthetic"
ones . Li ke aesthetic icons , medical icons may (or
may not) he rooted i n some observed real i ty. Like
them, they are iconoghraphic i n that they represent
these real i ties i n a manner determi ned by the hi stor­
ical position of the observers, their relationshi p to
thei r own ti me, and to the hi story of the conventions
whi ch they employ. '
GiIman dctaiIs a fascinatin¿ history in
which Khoikhoi womcn from Southcrn Africa
(commonIy anddcro¿atoriIycaIIcd Hottcntots)
camctorcprcscntaIIbIack womcn. lurthcr by
dccIarin¿Khoikhoiwomcn's¿cnitaIiaasabnor-
maI and discascd, mcdicaI practioncrs hcIpcd
pIaccbIackwomcninanantithcticaIpositionto
whitc womcn. Ooin¿ what scicntists do bcst,
doctors cxamincd obscrvabIc physicaI dif-
fcrcnccs, assumin¿ that any dcviation from a
whitcmiddIccIass normrcprcscntcdpathoIo¿y.
SimuItancousIy, ninctccnth ccntury mcdicinc
focuscdonthcwhitcprostitutcasthcrcprcscn-
tativcofthc scxuaIizcd woman. passionatcbut
discascd, uncIcan, out of controI and
dan¿croustowhitcmcn.LItimatcIymcdicaIcx-
pcrts bc¿an to protray whitc prostitutcs in
rcprcscntations that Iookcd Iikc thcir racist

30

' . ........ . ... ..
icons of Khoikhoi womcn. lndccd prosti!utcs'
Iabia wcrc vicwcd as an atavistic throwbackto
thoscofKhoikhoiwho,ofcoursc,wcrcsuppos-
cd to bc Iowcr on thc cvoIutionary scaIc than
'normaI' whitc womcn. GiIman ar¿ucs that
somccxpcrtscIaimcd thatwhitcprostitutcsaIso
bc¿an to appcar morc mann¡sh with a¿c; thus
thcima¿cofIcsbiansascorruptandoutofcon-
troIhcIpcdtorcinforccthcima¿cofprostitutcs
as scxuaI dcviants. LItimatcIy, howcvcr, thc
amaI¿amation of bIack fcmaIc, whitc pro-
stitutc, and(whitc?)Icsbianima¿csrcprcscntcd
aII womcn as thc sourcc of corruption and
discasc. (p. 23I . ) GiIman has providcd a rich
cxpIoration into thc dynamic waythat icons of
bIack womcn camc to rcprcscnt not onIy thc
scxuaIizcd woman but aIso ' womanhood'
itscIfas a sourcc ofcorruption and discasc.
Gender, Race, and "Evolution"
This kind of anaIysis, rcco¿nizin¿ how
cntwincd racc and ¿cndcr arc in Wcstcrn
cuIturc, opcnsthcpossibiIity ofbrcakin¿down
notionsofunivcrsaIwomanhood. Thcstudyof
cvoIution, anothcr arca lausto-StcrIin¿ ad-
drcsscs, opcnssimiIarpossibiIiticsforcxpIorin¿
how ima¿cs of racc and ¿cndcr wcrc con-
structcd to¿cthcr to form myths about ¿cndcr.
AncxaminationofthcrcIationshipbctwccnthc
dcvcIopmcnt ofprimatoIo¿y and myths about
¿cndcr and Africa whcrc much primatoIo¿icaI
rcscarch is carricd out providcs fcrtiIc ¿round
for such an cxpIoration.
Oonna Haraway provocativcIy points us
in thc dircction ofundcrstandin¿ this rcIation-
ship. ` Shc bc¿ins by rcmindin¿ us of thc
priviIc¿cd position of apcs and monkcys for
Wcstcrncrsasthcythcorizcthcirhistoryandcx-
pcricnccs throu¿h thc Icns of a naturc/cuIturc
dichotomy. But, shc asks, 'Howandwhcrcdo
pcopIc see nonhuman primatcs? ' Thcy study
thcm in Iaboratorics and zoos Iocatcd in thc
Wcst and, mosI importantIy, cxpcrts travcI at
¿rcat cxpcnsc and institutionaI backin¿ to thc
tropicsofAsia,AfricaandLatin Amcricaoftcn
rcturnin¿ with fiIms for tcIcvision naturc
spcciaIs.
Those animals with an almost magical status for
late-industrial capitalist people live in a kind of dis­
tant dream space produced out of the history of
colonialism, symbolized by the mountain gorilla or
the chimpanzee in the heart of Africa . . . To
watch wild monkey and apes, to find that par­
ticular 'nature' that exists outside 'culture' . . . is
to enter in the history of Western expansion and
colonialism. Indeed, the special symbolic status of
'wild' animals is part of the history of colonial
discourse. The history of wild animals is intimately
part of the history of race, sex, and class in a world
capitalist system. (pp. 78-9)
Haraway, thcn, is conccrncd about thc in-
tcrscction offcminist and coIoniaI discourscs in
thc cffort to cstabIish a distinction bctwccn
naturc and cuIturc. Likc lausto-StcrIin¿, shc
undcrstands how important thc fcminist rcvoIu-
tion in scicncc is. Whitc fcminist primatoIo¿ists
havc now ¿aincd thc authority thc spcak and
chan¿c our maIc/fcmaIc boundarics. Thcy havc
cIcarIyoffcrcd usamorcradicaI storyofwhatit
mcans to bc human-maIc and fcmaIc. ln onc
important way, Haraway ¿ocs a stcp furthcr
than lausto-StcrIin¿. Shc cmphasizcs that thc
ncw narrativc offcrcd by many fcminist
primatoIo¿ists/scicntists must cxposc thc
Wcstcrn bias in thc naturc/cuIturc duaIism.
Whcn fcminist primatoIo¿ists ask 'what it
mcans to bc fcmaIc, to bc animaI, to bc othcr
than man, ' thcy must idcntify how traditionaI
notions about womcn havc dcpcndcd on Thc
TropicaI Othcr and thc African 'ficId' whcrc
naturc rcmains untamcd and whcrc Man Iivcs
cIosc to thc wiId animaIs.
Haraway's formuIation Icads us bcyond
assumptionsofunivcrsaIwomanhood. Bypoint-
in¿ out that notions about African womcn arc
ticd to wiId animaIs, whcrcas whitc womcn arc
sccn to bc civiIizcd, Haraway cmphasizcs that
thc naturc/cuIturc dichotomy dividcs womcn
from womcn as wcII as maIc from fcmaIc.
ByunivcrsaIizin¿ 'womcn' and thcir aspira-
tions, lausto-StcrIin¿ oftcn simpIy omits non-
whitcwomcnfromhcrstudyabout myths. Thc
vicw of womcn that shc is stru¿¿Iin¿ a¿ainst
(womcnaswcak, non-a¿¿rcssivc, cmotionaI . . .
) is firmIy cntrcnchcd in a Luroccntric
worIdvicw, butisnotthcsamcasothcrcuIturcs'
dichotomics of ¿cndcr. Morcovcr, as has bccn
notcd bybIack fcminists such as bcII hooks and
An¿cIaOavis, thismythofwho 'womcn'arcis
aIso notoftcnappIicdto womcn ofcoIor inthc
LS.´ln thc casc of myths lausto-StcrIin¿ is so
abIyattackin¿, wcmustaska¿ain. lsthcfcmaIc
¿cndcr of hcr myths-wcak, cmotionaI, non-
a¿¿rcssivc, non-mathcmaticaI, dcpcndcnt, ir-
ritabIc and nc¿Ii¿iblc aftcr mcnopausc-a
univcrsaI fcmaIc, or is shc thc constructcd
fcmaIc ofWcstcrncuIturc? Andtowhatcxtcnt
docs this construction appIy to aII womcn,
rc¿ardIcss ofcuIturc and cIass?
Thosc whofoIIowlausto-StcrIin¿'sinitiativc
must probc into how myths of ¿cndcr diffcr
across cuIturcs. Shc has providcd us with tooIs
to chaIIcn¿c scicncc and how it is currcntIy
donc. By makin¿ thc mcthods and rcsuIts of
scicntificstudicsacccssibIc, shcinvitcscvcryonc
to takc a morc activc hand in scicncc, not
hoIdin¿ itat adistancctobcrcvcrcdorrcviIcd.
Thc activitics of scicntists arc prcscntcd as
human pro|ccts, fIawcd and usuaIIy uphoIdin¿
thc status quo in thc way most cstabIishmcnt-
fundcd cntcrpriscs do.
3 1
The making ofCongo rilla, Zaire, 1930.
¡OO1NO1Lb
1 . The same argument is made by the recent Kinsey In­
stitute study, Alan Bell and Martin Weinberg, Homosex­
ualities: A Study of Diversity Among Men and Women
(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1 978).
2. See Nici Nelson, African Women and the Development
Process (London: Frank Cass and Co. ) and Ester Boserup,
Women's Role in Economic Development (London:
George Allen and Unwin, 1970).
3. See, Anne Fausto-Sterling and Lydia L. English,
"Women and Minorities in Science: An Interdisciplinary
Course, " Radical Teacher 30 (January 1986).
4. Sander L. Gilman, "Black Bodies White Bodies: Toward
an Iconography of Female Sexuality in Late Nineteenth­
Century Art, Medicine and Literature, " Critical Inquiry,
Volume 1 2, No. 1 (Autumn, 1985).
5. Donna Haraway, "Primatology is politics by other
means, " Ruth Bleier, ed. , Feminist Approaches to Science
(Elmsford, NY: Pergamon, 1986).
6. See, e. g. , Angela Davis, Women, Race, and Class (New
York: Random House, 1 983) and bell hooks, Ain 't I A
Woman: Black Women and Feminism (Boston: South End
Press, 1 981 ) .
32
Fran White teaches history at Hampshire Cc)/lege
and is working on a book, Transformati ons: Race,
Gender, and Sexual ity. Ann Woodhul l -McNeal
teaches biology at Hampshire College and is part
ofthe Womel/ in Science program.
VOL. ¡9,
lcaturi n¿ BAMAMAS, BASLS AMO
PATRlARCHY. Somc lcminist Qucstions
AboutthcMìIitarizationofCcntraIAmcricaby
Cynthia Lnloc; AT ARM' S LLMGTH.
lcminism and SociaIism in Luropc by Maric
Kcnncdy and Chr i s Ti I I y; THL
BROTHLRHOOO Ol TlMBLR WORKLRS
AMO THL SOLTHLRM LLMBLR TRLST.
Lc¿aIRcprcssionandWorkcrRcsponscbyJcff
lcrrcII and Kcvin Ryan.
YLÏ. IV.
PL. I
lcaturin¿ ClVlL OlSOBLOlLMCL BLGlMS
AT HOML. THL MLCLLAR lRLL CAM-
BRlOGL CAMPAlGM by Susan Lcvcnc;
AlTLR CRLlSL. THL VlLW lROM
LLROPL by Oan Smìth; CRACKS lM THL
WLSTLRM WORLOVlLW. QLLSTlOMS
lOR THL LS AMO LLROPL by LqbaI
Ahmad; lMTLRVLMTlOM lM VlLTMAM
AMO CLMTRAL AMLRlCA. PARALILLS
AMO OlllLRLMCLS by Moam Chomsky.
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VOL. ¡9, No.5
SPECIAL ISSUE ON WEST GERMANY
TODAY. lcaturin¿ articIcs on Bitbur¿;
lassbìndcr; Anti-Scmìtism and thc Lcft ; Crìsìs
of thc Grccns. AIso, a rcport on thc
GuatcmaI an cIcct ì on, i nt crvi cws wi th
Micara¿uan coffcc workcrs .
The Last Supper

BREAKING THE
BLOCKADE:
A Conversation with Cuban Filmmaker
Tomas Alea
I nterview by Dan Georgakas
Aside from some documentaries made by the Communist Party and occasional films by
intellectuals, virtually no flms were made in Cuba prior to the triumph of the revolution led
by Fidel Castro. The creation of ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and In­
dustry) in 1 960 which addressed this cultural underdevelopment was partly due to
ideological concerns and partly to circumstances . It was ideological in the sense that Castro
had always considered the development of a revolutionary culture and essential element of
socialist change. Radio Rebelde had played a major role in the insurrectionary process and
Castro thought a Cuban film industry was necessary to break the cultural hegemony of the
United States as well as serving as a component of mass communication. The emphasis on
film was circumstantial in that one of Castro' s long time political associates was Alfredo
Guevara (no relation to Che), who had studied filmmaking in Italy and had long dreamed of
a national flm industry.
The goals set for ICAIC were striking. Just assembling the needed equipment and learning
to make films without any previous experience was ambitious enough, but ICAIC strove for
much more. On a national level the goal was not only to report on the revolution but to be
part of the cutting edge of change by creating films that were deliberately provocative in
Photos courtesy ofNew Yorker Films and The Cinema Guild.
35

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form and contcnt. On an intcrnationaI IcvcI ,
thcstiII infantindustrywas toprovidcas much
support as possibIc for radicaI fiImmakcrs
throu¿hout Latin Amcrica.
lCAlCprovcdtobcanastonishin¿Iysucccss-
fuIinitiativc. Bothitsdocumcntaryandfcaturc
fiImmakcrs crcatcd works that addrcsscd rcvo-
Iutionary thcmcs with innovativc forms. Thc
styIistic and idcoIo¿icaI foundations for thcsc
fiIms wcrc spcIIcd outininHucntiaI cssays that
appcarcd in Cine Cubano, an lCAlC pubIica-
tion which cn|oycd widc rcadcrship amon¿
Latin Amcrican fiImmakcrs and critics .
AIthou¿h Cuban fiIms bc¿an to win intcr-
nationaI prizcs as carIy as thc mid-I º60s, thc
Amcrican pubIic was Iar¿cIy unawarc of its
achicvcmcnts untiI thc I ºT3 rcIcasc of Tomas
Guiticrrcz AIca's Memories oj Underdevelop­
ment, a I º6BfiIm thathad aIrcadycarncdintcr-
nationaI rcknown as a mastcrpiccc.
lcw of thc Amcrican critics who praiscd
Memories informcd thcir pubIic that thc LS
¿ovcrnmcnt had systcmaticaIIydiscoura¿cdthc
cxhibition of Cuban fiIms in thc Lnitcd Statcs
or that AIca had madc ci¿ht prcvious fiIms.
AIca, a Icadin¿ fi¿urc in thc nasccnt fiIm
cuIturc ofprc-rcvoIutionary Cuba, hadstudicd
fiImmakin¿ in ltaIy |ust as Gucvara had.
Amcrican critics oftcn spccuIatcd that AIca,
onc of thc foundcrs of lCAlC and ¿cncraIIy
considcrcd its most intcIIcctuaI dircctor, was
bcin¿ ccnsorcd or was in troubIc with thc
authoritics. This whoIIycrroncousnotionstcm-
mcd from thc assumption that thc vaciIIatin¿
intcIIcctuaIinMemories wasasurro¿atcforthc
dircctor. ln thc intcrvicw which foIIows, AIca
dcaIswiththcdiffcrcntrcsponscstohisfiImsaì
homc and abroad. Hc procccds to a discussion
of ncw idcoIo¿icaI and industriaI trcnds in
Cuban cincma, and concIudcs with obscrva-
tions on thc cmcr¿in¿ Latin Amcrican cincma,
a movcmcnt Cuba has had no smaII part in
shapin¿.
Thc ma| or intcrnationaI showcascfor Latin
Amcrican fiIms, in fact, has bccn an annuaI
fiIm fcstivaI Iaunchcd by Cuba in I ºTº. Aftcr
humbIc bc¿innin¿s, thc fcstivaI has maturcd to
bccomc a ma|or intcrnationaI cvcnt, thc onc
pIacc whcrc distributors, critics, cxhibitors,
produccrs, and IiImmakcrs can scc aII thc
cincma madc in Latin Amcrica in thc prcvious
ycar. WhiIc prizcs arc awardcd in somc
catc¿orics, thcfcstivaIscrccns aII fiIms submit-
tcd, cvcn if thcy arc works-in-pro¿rcss. Thc
cvcnt has bccomc so prcsti¿ious that it has
bc¿un to draw HoIIywood-associatcd pcr-
sonaIitics. ln l ºB5and l ºB6thcscincIudcdJack
Lcmmon, SidncyPoIIack, JuIicChristic, Harry
BcIafontc, Robcrt Oc Miro, Grc¿ory Pcck, and
lrancis lord CoppoIa. Thc I ºB6fcstivaIscrvcd
asthcofficiaI opcnin¿ ofafiIm schooI in Cuba
which is to scrvc aII of Latin Amcrica. Quitc

36



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simpIy, Cuba now proposcs to do for aII of
Latin Amcrica what it had donc for itscIf.
crcatc criticaI, production and distribution
faciIitics cntircIy frcc of controI by non-Latin
Amcricanintcrcsts.
The material which follows is an edited ver­
sion of an interview which was videotaped on
the back porch ofA lea 's home in the Marianao
section of Havana during the ÌVÖ3 Latin
American Film Festival. RA Associate Editor
Dan Georgakas, who is currently working on a
book with A lea, conducted the interview.
Pierre Desir and Scott Cooper, who respective­
ly directed the tape and engineered the sound,
. are both connected with the UCLA film school.
DG: ln thc Lnitcd Statcs, Scr¿io, thc ma|or
charactcrinMemories of Underdevelopment, is
somconcthcaudicnccidcntifics with. Wasthat
thc casc in Cuba?
1A. l can undcrstand why it was vcry casy to
idcntifywithScr¿iointhcLnitcd Statcs. Hcfits
pcrfcctIy into thc IibcraI conccption. Hcrc, it
wasdiffcrcnt.HcrcwcnoticcdthatpcopIcwcnt
to scc thc fiIm morc than oncc, pcrhaps as
many as fivc timcs. Wc havcn't sccn much of
that phcnomcnon. Wc havc had othcr fiIms
that wcrc morc popuIar, that wcrc morc cx-
pIosivc with thc popuIar audicncc, but pcopIc
onIy wcnt to scc thosc fiIms oncc. Thcy didn't
fccIthcnccdto¿oback.WithMemories pcopIc
camc out of thc cincma vcry upsct. Thcy stiII
had many qucstions. Thcy had torcturn to scc
if thcy mi¿ht find an answcr. l think that was
thcbcst rcsuIt ofthat fiIm. lt bccamc asort of
critic of thc audicncc, incIudin¿ thc fiIm-
makcrs. Wc stimuIatcd rcHcction about our
rcaIity, and l think that is vcry ¿ood. Whcn l
makc a fiIm, l not onIy want to makc a
bcautifuI thin¿, l want to makc somcthin¿
uscfuI. Cincma providcs contact with rcaIity,
whcthcr wc Iikc cvcrythin¿ in that rcaIity or
not.
DG: That's a naturaI Icad to Death of a
Bureaucrat. Lvcryonc in thc worId Ioathcs
burcaucracy, butwhcnthatfiImwasrcIcascdin
thcLS, thcfccIin¿ amon¿ somc rcvicwcrs was .
wcII, AIcaisonthcwayout. Soon hcwiIIIcavc
Cubaorhc'IIncvcrbcaIIowcdtomakcanothcr
fiIm.
1A. My rcsponsc to that is, Death of a
Bureaucrat wasmadcin l º66! ltwasnotrcIcas-
cdinthcLSuntiIthcIatc l ºT0s,sothatconfus-
cd rcvicwcrs who don't know much about
Cuba. lor us, it is vcry obvious that
burcaucracy is not thc invcntion of sociaIism.
Burcaucratsarccvcrywhcrc.Atthctimclmadc
that fiIm, thcrc was a sort of proIifcration of
thc worst burcaucracy and thcrc was a vcry
37
'
·
December 1985 interview with Tomas A/ea in his home. Left to right: Pierre Desir, Dan Georgakas, Tomas A/ea. Photo:
Judy Janda.
stron¿ rcaction a¿ainst that; and my fiIm
rcflccts that situation and rcaction. Wc
undcrstood that wc had to fi¿ht burcacracy at
aII lcvcIs. Wc continuc that fi¿ht. l think thc
filmhcIpcdthatstru¿¿Icbccauscit¿avcthcau-
dicnccthcconfidcncctofi¿htback.ThcycouId
scc that burcaucracy was not somcthin¿ you
had to acccptbut somcthin¿you had to rcsist.
DG: Whatwasthcrcsponscofthcburcaucrats?
1A:ThcirrcsponschasaIwaysbccnvcryupsct-
tin¿ for mc, bccausc thc burcaucrats don't
rcco¿nizc thcmscIvcs ! Thcyrcco¿nizc thcothcr
burcaucrats onIy. Anyway, l can tcII you that
fiIm was vcry popuIar in Cuba. Thc fiIm was
nota¿ainstthcrcvoIutionorthc¿ovcrnmcntor
socialism. lfwcwanttoimprovcourcondition,
to maturc as a socicty, wc nccd to criticizc
ourscIvcs. That's fundamcntaI. Wccriticizcnot
to dcstroy somcthin¿ but to improvc it. l im-
a¿inc our cncmics wouId Iikc it if wc did not
criticizc our rcaIity. Thcn wc wouId bccomc
sta¿nant. ThatwouIdbc¿oodforourcncmics .
lf wc sta¿natc, thcy couId say wc had faIIcn
bchind, and thcy couId whispcr. that' s such an
opprcssivc rc¿imc, a rc¿imc with no intcrnaI
38
criticism. Sowcmust criticizc. MaturaIIy somc
pcopIcarcvcryscnstivcaboutthis. ThcyfccIin-
|urcd. But wc havc to ovcrcomc that obstacIc
throu¿h discussion.
DG: ls yourvicwwidclysharcdin Cuba?
1A: OcfinitcIy.
DG: Anothcr aspcct ofDeath of a Bureaucrat
thatintri¿ucduswasthcmanyquotations from
Amcrican films. Oid Cubans undcrstand thosc
rcfcrcnccs?
1A:That' shardtorcspondtocxactIy.OurfiIm
criticsrcco¿nizcdwhatl had doncimmcdiatcly.
Thcy arc insidc thc fìIm worId. lnthcirwritin¿
and spcakin¿, thcy communicatcd thcir
undcrstandin¿ to a Iar¿cr audicncc. l don't
thinkaIlofthc rcfcrcnccswcrcrcco¿nizcd, but
many of thcm wcrc too obvious to miss. AII
Cubans, forcxampIc, knowthcfiImsofHaroId
LIoyd. Thcy arc shown on tcIcvision oftcn.
Thosc fiIms ncvcr sccm to ¿ct oId.
DG: Thcthcatcrad|accnttolCAlC[thcCuban
liIm lnstitutc] is namcdaftcrCharIic ChapIin.
1A: WcIl, ChapIin. Lvcryonc knows ChapIin.
DG: Memories was an cnormous succcss inthc
LS as wcllas Cuba.Death of a Bureaucrat was
farmorcsucccssfulinCubathaninthcLS. Arc
thcrc any cxamplcs of films morc succcssful
abroad than at homc?
TA: The Last Supper issuchafilm, andl havc
ncvcr undcrstood why it was not succcssful
hcrc. Whcn it first opcncd, thc film playcd at
six cincmas as always, our first circuit. Onc
cincma in thcccntcr ofthccitywasovcrcrowd-
cd with lon¿ qucucs outsidc. A trulyincrcdiblc
rcccption. Jud¿in¿ from that cincma, you
would think The Last Supper wasthcmost suc-
ccssful film of thc ycar. But thc othcr fivc
cincmaswcrccmpty!That|ustncvcrhappcns.l
don't know thc causc. Thc film was rctircd
from thosc othcr cincmas and scnt to thc sc-
cond circuit of about half a dozcn cincmas.
Somctimcs l thinkthcfilmwas|ustbadlypro-
motcd. Many Cubans thou¿ht it was an old
ñlm.Onthcothcrhand,outsidcofCuba,ithas
bccnoncofthcfilmsthatopcncddoorsforus.
The Last Supper wasbou¿htbyChilc.Canyou
ima¿inc? Pinochct allowcd a Cuban film to bc
shownofficially.That'sincrcdiblc! lbclicvcit's
thc onlyCuban film cvcr shown commcrcially
durin¿ that rc¿imc. lor ccrtain, it is thc only
Cuban film shown commcrcially in Brazil.
And in Vcnczucla, The Last Supper was
sclcctcd by critics from amon¿ T00 films and
shown for a full ycar as thc bcst film of thc
ycar. That was incrcdiblc for Vcnczucla whcrc
thcy don't show vcry many Cuban films.
DG: Promotion of a film in Cuba is prctty
much standardizcd, isn't it? Rcvicw in thc ma-
|or mcdia, printcd postcrs, and spccial walls
paintcd with thc titlc and pcrhaps thc star's or
dircctor' snamc?
TA: Ycs, that's how it is donc. Most fcaturcs
archandlcdincxactlythcsamcway. Onlywhcn
wc havc somc rcason to think wc havc
somcthin¿ spccial is morc attcntion putto it. ln
thccascof The Last Supper, cvcrythin¿ sccmcd
to work a¿ainst thc film. Somctimcs ñlm
postcrs arc not commcrcial . Thcy can bc
bcautiful as art picccs but fail as promotion.
DG: Whataboutmcdia rcvicwin¿?
TA: At that timc thcrc was no tclcvision
covcra¿c. Mow, tclcvision is most important.
Tclcvision promotcs not only our films but
cvcry important film bcin¿ cxhibitcd. Thcy
showclipsandmakcacommcntarythatoricnts
thcaudicncctowhatkindoffilmthcyarc¿oin¿
toscc. lilmsopcnonthcfirstcircuitinHavana
and thcn movc to othcr citics and thc sccond
circuit dcpcndin¿onrcsponsc. Thc onlycxccp-
tion is whcn a film is cxtraordinarily popular.
An cxamplc is Los Pajaros Tirandoles a la
Escopeta [rclcascdinthcLSas The Tables Are
Tured] . That's arcccnt comcdy that has bccn
thc most succcssful film in our history. At onc
ti mc it was playi n¿ in tcn ci ncmas
simultancously.
DG: Anothcrvcrysucccssful film hcrcthat¿ot
limitcdplayinthcLSisSe Perm uta [rclcascdin
thcLSasHouse For Swap] . l thou¿htitmi¿ht
work wcll in Mcw York, sincc wc also havc a
housin¿ shorta¿c, thc problcm dcpictcd in Se
Perm uta. That film, likc Los Pajaros, is a
broad comcdy. ls this a ncw ¿cnrc. socialist
situation comcdy?
TA: l think cvcrythin¿ can bc said or
undcrstoodwithhumor.Humorcanalsobcad-
vicc. Whcnyoulau¿hat somcthin¿,youmock,
youcriticizc. Whcnyoulau¿h with somcthin¿,
you idcntify. l think humor is somcthin¿ wc
nccd todcvclopmorc of. Thc housin¿problcm
can bc vcry rcvcalin¿ and, put into a comcdy,
allows us to rcacha lar¿c audicncc. Thosctwo
filmswcrcincrcdiblypopular in Cuba.
DG: lbclicvcSe Perm uta wasaplaybcforcbc-
in¿ adaptcd for thc scrccn. ls that a common
practicc?
TA: Mo. Wc do not adapt many plays for thc
scrccn, and that particular film has an unusual
history. Juan Carlos Tabio had dircctcd a
numbcr of documcntarics, but hc had ncvcr
madc a fcaturc. Whcn hc first proposcd thc
idca that bccamc Se Perm u ta, l discusscd it
with him; but whcn hc submittcd a script to
lCAlC, it was not acccptcd. l thou¿ht wc wcrc
wron¿. lthinksomcwcrcconccrncd bccausc hc
did not havc cxpcricncc in fcaturcs. Pcrhaps
thcrc was somc sort of burcaucratic formalist
thinkin¿. Wcll, Tabio was vcry an¿ry and
dccidcd to adapt his idca for thc thcatcr. Thc
play hc wrotc bccamca spcctacular hit. Pcoplc
wcnttothcthcatcrthcdaybcforcandslcptout-
sidc to ¿ct a tickct. Thc play was so popular
lCAlC was forccdtorcconsidcr. Sowcmadca
39
mistakc,butatthcsamctimc,thin¿s turncdout
bcttcr bccausc Tabio didnotrcturn tothc ñrst
film script. Hc madc anothcr, usin¿ thc cx-
pcricncc hc had ¿aincd from thc play vcrsion.
DG: Was your bchind-thc-sccncs rolc in this
proccss somcthin¿ that is common in Cuban
ñlmmakin¿?
TA: Wc do nothavca film school,bccauscwc
cannot afford onc. Wc also fccl that thcrc
should bca¿radual lcarnin¿ proccss. Wcthink
fìlmmakcrs should ¿ct a univcrsity cducation
and thcn should ¿ain on-thc-|ob trainin¿ in
various aspccts of thc craft. Wc oldcr film-
makcrs havc to assist in that proccss. Somc of
us havc ¿ivcn considcrablctimctothiskindof
work, cvcn at thc cxpcnsc of dcvclopin¿ our
own pro|ccts.
DG: You wcrc thc ma|or advisor to Sarah
Gomcz?
TA: Ycs, l hclpcdhcr fromthc bc¿innin¿. Shc
was ancxtraordinarilytalcntcdpcrson. Wcstill
fccl hcr abscncc [Gomcz dicd of acutc asthma
in l ºT4 at thc a¿c of3 l , |ust short ofcomplc-
tion of hcr first fcaturc] . Shc was |ust so
brilliant. Mo onc has bccn quitc likc hcr.
DG: Shcuscdvcrysophisticatcdstylistictcchni-
qucsinhcrwork,butinwaythatwasacccssiblc
to a popular audicncc.
TA: Shcwasvcryor¿anicinhcrthinkin¿. That
was not an intcllcctual proccss . lt was pas-
sionatc. l scrvcd as a kind ofbalancc for hcr,
bccausclammorcintcllcctual . lthasbccnwrit-
tcnthat l complctcdDa Cierta Manera [rclcas-
cd in thc LS as One Way or Another] , but
that's not truc. Sarah had finishcd all thc
shootin¿andalmost allthccditin¿. Shchadthc
music. l |ust finishcditoffasshchadplanncd.
All that was lcft to complctc was thc cndin¿.
But l kncw what shc wantcd. l did not put
anythin¿ ofmysclfin it.
DG: Your most rcccnt ñlm, Up To A Certain
Point, ¿ot mixcd noticcs hcrc and in thc LS.
Thc film dcals with a¿roup offilmmakcrs do-
in¿ a film about dock workcrs. What struck
manyofuswasthcinclusion ofvidcosc¿mcnts
withinthc film, vidcos supposcdly doncbythc
fìlmmakcrs shown in thc film. What was thc
idca bchind this?
T A: Wc wantcd to put oursclvcs in thc samc
4
Sara Gomez on location for "De Cierta Manera.
positionas that ofthccharactcrswcwcrcdcal-
in¿withinthcfilm.Wcdidthcthin¿sthcy had
to do. Wc didthatto cnrichourundcrstandin¿
ofthc charactcrs and thc docks. Wc took thc
vidcocamcrasandmadcintcrvicwstoknowthc
problcmsthcrc,thc n.·turc ofthatlifc,thcrcla-
tions with thc administration, thc intcractions
with co-workcrs and thc oppositc scx. Wc had
allthismatcrialtohclpuswiththcscriptwhich
rcmaincd skctchy and continucd to chan¿c as
wcwcrcshootin¿. Wc ñnallydccidcdtoincludc
thcvidcos wc haddoncas rcscarch. lilm has a
photo¿raphic ima¿c but vidco is rou¿h. Wc
wcrc ablc to show thc diffcrcncc bctwccn
documcntary and fiction by mixin¿ vidco and
film. Our audicnccs hcrc likcd that bccausc it
¿avc our work authcnticity. l only rc¿rct that
wc could not havcdcvclopcdthatmorc. lrank-
ly, l had problcms with thc actor who playcd
thcdircctor ofthcfilmwithinthcfilm. Hcwas
not convincin¿.
DG: Was thata problcm ofimprovisation?
TA: Mo, l madc a mistakc in castin¿. Hc will
ncvcrdoacharactcrlikcthatwcll. Hcisa¿ood
actor for othcr kinds ofrolcs, buthccouldnot
fit that particular conccpt. lt was my mistakc,
nothis. Hc is a ¿ood actor who was miscast.
DG: Amcrican audicnccs obscrvcd that thc
dock workcrs wcrc mainIy bIack and thc
fiImakcrs whitc. Was this an intcntionaI com-
mcntonCuban rcaIitics?
1A:That'sadcIicatcqucstion. Whathappcncd
is that whcn thc dock workcrs ¿o to dancc,
thcrc is a vcry popuIar orchcstra pIayin¿ and
thcma|orityofdanccrsarcbIack. Butthcdock
workcrs arc about thc samc mixturc as our
socicty. ln that scnsc, thc dancc scqucncc is
misIcadìn¿, butwccouIdnotaffordtorcshoot
thcsccnc and for our own audicnccs thcrc was
no probIcm. That thc intcIIcctuaIs arc mostIy
whitcisnotmisIcadin¿,cvcnthou¿hthatisnot
somcthin¿wc'rcsatisficdwith.Thatisthccon-
scqucncc of a compIcxhistoricaIproccss. Prc-
rcvoIutionary cuIturaI factors stiII distort our
socicty. But our ñImwas notdcaIin¿with that
particuIar issuc. Wc wcrc Iookin¿ at thc dif-
fcrcnccsbctwccnworkcrsandintcIIcctuaIs,dif-
fcrcnccs that somctimcs provcd to bc a mattcr
ofstyIc and candor.
One Way or Another (De Cierta Manera)
DG: Se Perm uta has apIaywithinthc fiIm and
U¡ To A Certain Point has a fiIm within thc
ñIm and vidcos. This is mcdia commcntin¿ on
mcdia. lsthispart ofatrcnd towardthcuscof
morc distancin¿ dcviccs in Cubancincma?
1A: Thcrc is a Iot ofdo¿maticism conccrnin¿
tìlm tcchniqucs. Thcrc arc pcopIc who bcIicvc
in Brcchtian distancin¿ or distantiation and
turnitinto a do¿ma. Thcy don'taIIow thcau-
dicnccto ìdcntify with thc charactcrs. Thcrc is
anothcr kind of do¿maticism too. Liscnstcin
¯¯"'¯^~
workcd to achicvc an intcIIcctuaI cincma
throu¿hpathosandidcntifìcation. SomcpcopIc
havc takcn that as anothcr absoIutc do¿ma. l
think it is important to usc both tcchniqucs to
cstabIishthcrcIationshipofaudicncctofiIm. lf
youdonotidcntifywiththccharactcrs,youwiII
Ioscintcrcstin thc story. lf you idcntify in an
absoIutc way, you wiII Iosc your criticaI at-
titudc. That'swhylIikcto¿obackandforth. l
strivc to makc an idcntification and thcn to
brcakthatidcntificationin ordcrto¿ctback to
scIf-criticism. That'sthcrichcst andmostcom-
pIcx and positivc thin¿ to do. But you cannot
uscformuIastoachicvcthis. Youhavctocrcatc
ncwdcviccs. lor us, documcntaryvidco within
thcfiIm,thcrcscarchsccnasrcscarch,wasncw.
That was anothcrIcvcIofundcrstandin¿ rcaIi-
ty. Thc vidco took you from thc fiction and
thcn you wcnt back to thc fiction with a
rcfcrcnccin actuaIity. lnMemories wcuscddif-
fcrcnt points ofvicw for thcsamc sccnc. What
thc audicncc saw was sccn from diffcrcnt
charactcrs, from diffcrcnt points of vicw.
DG: l' mstiIInotcIcarhowmuchofatrcndthis
indicatcs.
1A: Wc'vc taIkcd about thcsc thin¿s a Iot.
Thcrc arc pcopIc who think as l do and thcrc
arc othcrs who arc vcry do¿matic and stiII
othcrs who arcnotintcrcstcd. Youhavc aII thc
variations. l think thcrc is a ¿cncraI con-
sciousncssaboutthcscdcviccs, pcrhapsnotfuI-
Iy, dcvcIopcd but far from uninformcd. Wc
aIso hadsomcfiImsthatwcnotvcrysucccssfuI,
bccausc thcy wcrc not vcry intcrcstin¿. Thcy
wcrcmadcwithsomuchdistancin¿ thatthcau-
dicncc was Icft bchind. Thcy distanccd thc au-
dicncc out thc door.
DG: Arc thcrc simiIar discussions amon¿
documcntary fìImmakcrs?
1A: l donotknowthatarcasowcII. But l find
- and l maybc wron¿ and l wouId Iikc to bc
wron¿ - but l find that thcrc is a sort of
sta¿nation in our documcntarics. Wc had a
briIIiantpcriodwhcnthcrcwasrcaImovcmcnt,
fiIms that wcrc vcry stron¿ and vcry ncw,
dynamicfiImswithrcaIpcrsonaIity.Mowl find
that thcy arc rcpcatin¿ formuIas. Wc nccd a
shock. Wc nccd to brcak that mood.
DG: What othcr discussions arc prcvaIcnt in
fiIm circIcs?
4l
Flm posters, Havana, Cuba. From JumpCut.
TA: Somcthin¿ wc havcn't touchcd on.
Prcscntlyourproductionisrcstrictcdtoamax-
imum oftwcIvcfcaturcsandapproximatcIyfif-
ty documcntarics pcr ycar. Wc havc cnou¿h
dircctors to handlc that Ioad. Wc do not want
tocrcatcmorcdircctors ifwc cannot¿ivcthcm
work. So, atthistimc, wchavcadoptcdapoIicy
of puttin¿ thc cmphasis on thc industrial
aspccts offiImmakin¿. That takcs a Iot ofour
timc and attcntion. Thc contrast is this. LntiI
rcccntIyournccdwastodcvcIopasfiImmakcrs,
notonIyasdircctors butaII aspccts. Wcdidn't
carc how many fiIms wc madcas Ion¿as thcy
wcrc ¿ood. Mowwc havcadiffcrcntchaIIcn¿c.
Wc havc to dcvcIop an infrastructurc that
alIows usto makc fiIms morc chcaply, in morc
quantity, and at a hi¿hcr tcchnicaI IcvcI. That
conccrn has bccomc paramount.
DG: Oocs that incIudc co-productions?
42
TA: Ycs, co-productioniscxtrcmcIyimportant
to us. Wc arc currcntIy co-producin¿ with
VcnczucIa, CoIombia, Mcxico, and Micara¿ua.
ln thc past wc havc donc co-productions with
Spain and lrancc. Wc wiII do co-productions
with othcr Latin Amcrican countrics and l am
nc¿otiatin¿ for an Ln¿Iish co-production. Thc
most fantastic aspcct ofthis proccss is that wc
arc ovcrcomin¿ our isoIation. lor aII thcsc
ycarswchavcbccnaIittIcisIand withapoIiticaI
systcm vcry diffcrcnt from thc rcst of our
hcmisphcrc. Mowwccan showthatthis systcm
is not what thc LS has bccn sayin¿ it is. Wc
don't takc thc first worId-Luropc and thc
Lnitcd Statcs-as a point of rcfcrcncc for our
dcvcIopmcnt. Wc takc thc rcst of Latin
Amcrica. Thcrcyoucansccthcbi¿diffcrcnccs.
Morc and morc LatinAmcricans Iook to us as
havin¿ somcthin¿ thcy want to bc in contact
with.
DG: As a modcI in somc arcas?
TA: AbsoIutcIy. And l am proud as a fiIm-
makcr to find that fiIms arc abIc to show off
our country, to communicatc with othcr na-
tions, to ¿ct us cIoscr to othcr pcopIcs.
Co-productions wiII acccIcratc that proccss. l
think wc can bcvcry optimistic. Lct's takcthis
LatinAmcricanliImlcstivaIwcarchostin¿. lt
has ¿rown sofast. Whcn wc bc¿an scvcn ycars
a¿o, thc fcstivaI was modcst. Mow it is
somcthin¿ vcry briIIiant. AII of Latin Amcrica
is intcrcstcd inwhat is happcnin¿ hcrc bccausc
thc fcstivaI is so important to our mutuaI
knowIcd¿c. l think what wc arc doin¿dcscrvcs
thcattcntionofthcwhoIcworId. Cubancincma
has cast a vcry Ion¿ shadow in Latin Amcrica.
Bccausc of us, othcrs can conccivc ofa Pcru-
viancincmaor anLru¿uayan cincma. Ccrtain-
Iy thcrc is a BraziIian cincma and an Ar¿cnti-
nian cincma. But most Latin Amcrican coun-
trics arc |ust bc¿innin¿. Thcir dcvcIopmcnt is
muchmorcIikcCuba'sthanLuropc's. Thcyscc
Cubaas intc¿raI to thcwhoIcmovcmcnt for a
ncw Latin Amcrican cincma. This cincma is a
ncw proposaI. l think worId cincma is in a
crisis. WorId cincmaisrcpcatin¿ itscIf. lnLatin
Amcrica, wc havc somcthin¿ ncw. l think thc
ncw Latin Amcrican cincma wiII ¿row and
dcvcIop stron¿Iy.
DG: ln that rc¿ard thcrc is thc unprcccdcntcd
attcndancc of ma|or Amcrican movic stars at
this fcstivaI. Jack Lcmmon, Robcrt Oc Miro,
Trcat WiIIiams, Harry BcIafontc, Christophcr
WaIkcn. Havc you bccn abIc to do morc than
|ustshakchandsanddrinkrumto¿cthcr?Havc
youbccnabIctosay, 'Look, OcMiro, The Deer
Hunter has tcrriblc poIitics? ' Havc you bccn
abIcto probcthcprospcct ofAmcricansactin¿
in fiIms dircctcd by Cubans?
TA: lirstwcmustbrcak thispcrmancnt thrcat
a¿ainst our ¿ovcrnmcnt. That is so stupid, so
chiIdish. lt isincrcdibIcthatwc arcstiIIinthis
situation aftcr morc than a quartcr of a ccn-
tury. Thcrc arc many pcopIc in thc Lnitcd
Statcs who must bcvcry i¿norant about Cuba.
ThcybcIicvcthcmisinformationfcdtothcmon
tcIcvision. ThcprcscnccofthcscfamousMorth
Amcricans hcrc canradiatcinformation about
ourrcaIity. ThatcanbcvcryuscfuI. l hopcthat
somc day wcwiII bcabIcto work on| oint pro-
|ccts. Thcrcarcmany obstacIcs bccausc ofLS
Iawsbut wcmusttryto ovcrcomcthcm, and if
wc try, l think wcwiIIsuccccd.
DG: Most Amcricans wouId bc astoundcd by
aII thc HolIywood fiIms on your tcIcvision.
Jack Lcmmon was mobbcd whcncvcr hc wcnt
into thc strcct andOc Miro was trcatcd as ifhc
wcrc thc most important fiIm actor in thc
worId. Lcmmonsaid hccxpcctcdMissing tobc
known hcrc, but hc ws surpriscd that Some
Like It Hot is aIon¿-standin¿Cuban favoritc.
T A: Thc bi¿ diffcrcncc now is that wc scc thc
fiIms wc want to scc, not thc fiIms thc
monopoIics imposc on us. Bcforc thc rcvoIu-
tion thc Morth Amcricans did as thcy stiII do
whcrcvcrthcyrctainthcircontroIofcxhibition
anddistribution. ThcywouIdonIyscIIusavcry
popuIar fiIm ifwcpurchascda¿roup ofothcrs
that wcrc awfuI . Wc had to buy thc whoIc
packa¿c. Somc B0-B5 pcr ccnt of aII thc fiIms
sccn in Cuba uscd to bc from thc LS. Mow,
bccausc your¿ovcrnmcnt wiII not aIIow us to
buyfiIms, wctakcwhatwcwant. l don'tknow
cxactIy howitis donc, but wc onIy show what
Memories of Underdevelopment
43
wc want. l thinkthc old systcmwas dcstructivc
bccauscpcopIconIyhadthcima¿cofoncsocic-
ty.
DG: Whatcountricsmadcthc l 5-20pcrccntof
thcnon-AmcricanfiImsthatuscdtobcshown?
TA: A vcryfcwcamc from ltaIy, lrancc, and
Ar¿cntina. Thc mostwcrcfromMcxico. Thcsc
wcrcaimcdat pcoplc who couId notrcad sub-
titlcs. Oncc thc MorthAmcricans - l think it
was MGM -tricd totakc thatmarkcttoo, by
dubbin¿thcfiImsinSpanish.Butthcpcoplcrc-
|cctcddubbin¿. Thcsituationnowisthat50pcr
ccnt of our fiIms arc from sociaIist countrics
and 50 pcr ccnt from capitaIist countrics. Wc
havc our own fiIms for thc first timc, and wc
show many fiIms from thc third world. Wc
havcbrokcnthcAmcricancuIturalmonopoly.l
bclicvc our audicnccs arc morc dcvclopcd than
anywhcrc cIsc in thc worId. Thcy havc aII im-
a¿cs to considcr. Thcy cn|oy films from
cvcrywhcrc. lor thc first timc a fiIm madc in
Cuba or anothcr dcvcIopin¿ nation canbc|ust
as succcssfuI or morc succcssfuI than a Morth
Amcrican fiIm. Thcrc was a bcIicfthat Morth
Amcricans kncwalIthcfactorstomakcacom-
mcrcial fiIm andthat audicnccs hadbccn com-
pIctcIyconditioncdtothattastc.Thatprovcdto
bc a myth. You can put Cuban films a¿ainst
vcrycommcrcialMorthAmcrican fiImsandthc
Cuban fìIms can outdraw thcm. Se Permuta
andLos Pajaros arccxampIcsofthat. Atatimc
whcn filmmakcrs inLuropc compIainthatthcy
arcbcin¿stran¿lcdbythcmonopolics,wchavc
lcarncd to cxprcss ourscIvcs morc cffcctivcly
andtorcach morc andmorc ofour pcoplc and
pcoplc innci¿hborin¿ nations.
Hc80utcc8!
Se Permuta and Los Pajaros Tirandoles a la
Escopeta are available through Cinema Guild, 1 697
Broadway, NYC, 1019, (21 2) 246-5522. One Way
Or Another and the films of Alea from: New Yorker
Films, 16 W. 61 St. , NYC, 1 023, (212) 247-61 10.
Other Cuban films and film information: Center for
Cuban Studies, 1 24 W. 23 St. , NYC, 1001 1 , (212)
242-0559. A complete filmography and essays by
Alea is available in Up To This Point: Films and
Essays oj Tomas Gutierrez A lea, Smyrna Press
(1 987), Box 1 803-GPO, Brooklyn, NY, 1 1 202.
+
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"Technology: The Tarnished Promise" with R�ta
Arditti , Reproductive Engineering and the Social
Control of Women; Paul Edwards, Border Wars: The
Science and Pol i tics of Artificial Intelligence; Linda
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also Ji m Hoberman on Hol lywood's ' Rambo' Coa­
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Pol itics of Forgetting.
MRb YtÎH bÎÜ ÎAÎÎHÎÜÎ
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10/20/ 1986 I U7OOOO
BOB ASHLEY
2 ATHERTON ÍÌ
MANDELA, MA 02119
ThccircIcd numbcr is thc last datcofyourcur-
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P
ucIcar A¿c'-Thc ChaIIcn¿c of thc lcminist
cacc
.
Movcmcnt in !taIy by LIisabctta Add
and �:coI
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c�ta TiIiacos, and, HcrStoryofWa·�
OcmiIitanzin¿ Litcraturc and Lt
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The Í0ÍlOfS
45
LUN1¡N1¡NL 1ML
HLYUI11¡UN
Fr. Edicio dela Torre talks about
Democracy, Coalitions and the Left
. Today's Phili ppines
M
I n
I nterview by Mi chael Bedford
With the recently completed vote on the Philippine constitution, the approaching one year
anniversary of Corazon Aquino' s "People' s Power" victory over the US-backed dictator
Ferdinand Marcos, and legislative elections this Spring, the reconstituted Philippine
democracy faces a year of intense political activity. Despite the large victory for Cory
Aquino in the constitutional plebiscite, the situation remains very much in flux. Her margin
of victory in the February 2nd vote has bought her time, provided a semblance of political
momentum, and offered further democratic trappings to her government . But, as events in
the days around the plebiscite demonstrated, it is clear that 1 987 will offer a critical test for
the Philippines after Marcos .
Father Edicio dela Torre is a Catholic priest in the Society of the Divine Word. Father
Ed's involvement in the social and political developments in the Philippines have included
being the chaplain of the Federation of Free Farmers in the period before martial law was
declared by Marcos in September, 1 972, and the founding chairman of the Christians for
National Liberation (CNL). After martial law was declared, Father dela Torre went
underground, only to be arrested two years later by the Marcos police. The charge against
him was conspiracy for heading the Preparatory Committee of the National Democratic
Front (NDF). Father dela Torre never faced trial, and spent five years in prison until in 1 980,
the Vatican intervened and negotiated his release.
47


lathcr dcIa Torrc was rcarrcstcd i n ApriI,
I ºBZ on thc char¿c of rcbcIIion, and spcnt
anothcr fourycars in prison. Hc was rcIcascd
onIyaftcrthc faII ofMarcosin lcbruary, I ºB6
undcrthc¿cncraIamncstydccIarcdbyCorazon
Aquino.
TodaydcIaTorrcworks with VoIuntccrs for
Ocmocracy and l nstitutc for PopuIar
Ocmocracy, both or¿anizations committcd to
¿rassroots invoIvcmcnt in thcpoIiticaI proccss,
and to dcvcIopi n¿ ¿rass:oots acti vi st
Icadcrship. Today, lathcr LdtoId us, hcdocs
not spcnd morc than onc ni¿ht in any sin¿Ic
Iocation.
Father Edicio de/a Torre.
lathcr dcIa Torrc is onc of thc criticaI
thinkcrs on thc Icft in thc PhiIippincs. Thc
foIIowin¿ intcrvicw rcfIccts somc of thc
thinkin¿ that has occurrcd with thc PhiIippinc
Lcft sincc thc faII of Marcos. lurthcrmorc,
lathcr Ld has shown an uncanny accuracy in
prcdictin¿ thc coursc ofcvcnts sinccthis intcr-
vicw. As lathcr dcIa Torrc forccast, Ocfcnsc
Ministcr LmiIc was forccd out of thc Aquino
¿ovcrnmcnt, thc ¿ovcrnmcnt had takcn a shift
to thc ri¿ht, and thc ccascfirc rcmains shaky.
Thc intcrvicwwasconductcdonOct. Zº, l ºB6.
The Political Challenges
Q. Thc Aquino ¿ovcrnmcnt has bccn criticizcd
particuIarIy harshIy by Ministcr of Ocfcnsc
[formcr-cd. ] LmiIc and Vicc Prcsidcnt
LaurcI . Why is this chaIIcn¿c occurin¿ at this
timc?
48
A. WcIIthcrcarcmanyrcasons. Onc, whichis
strictIy intcrnaI , is whcnyou taIkofconscrva-
tivc supportforPrcsidcntAquinoyouarcrcaI-
Iythinkin¿ ofatIcastthrccbIocs.hcr own,vcry
distinct bIoc of conscrvativcs who wcrc
committcd to hcr from thc bc¿innin¿-hcr
brothcr and ccrtain busincss pcopIc; Vicc-
Prcsidcnt LaurcI's ¿roup, which was rcaIIy a
Iast-minutc addition and was in a vcry shaky
coaIition with Cory Aquino. Hc wouId havc
prcfcrrcd to havc bccn thc prcsidcntiaI
candidatchimscIf;andfinaIIyOcfcnscMinistcr
LmiIc's ¿roup as a distinct ¿roup which was
vcry cIoscIy associatcd with Marcos and |ust
switchcd ovcrat thcIastminutc.
Thc intcrnaI rcason l rcfcrrcd to is that, in
thc proccss of consoIidatin¿ powcr, thc con-
scrvativcs ofPrcsidcntAquinoarcproposin¿a
ncw poIiticaI party-which shc has so far
rc|cctcd, so hcr supportcrs arc caIIine it a
poIiticaI 'movcmcnt. 'CIcarIy, ncithcr LaurcI
nor LmiIc havc a pIacc in any ncw Aquino
poIiticaIor¿anization. So thc division ishardIy
idcoIo¿icaI or on thc IcvcI of principIc. lt's
simpIyaqucstionofbcin¿shutoutofapro|cct
that thcyfccIwiII rcsuIt ina consoIidatcd hoId
onpowcr bythc prcsidcnt.
This stru¿¿Ic must bc sccn as distinct from
thcir criticism of thc IibcraIs and pro¿rcssivcs
and thc prcsidcnt's poIicics thcmscIvcs. This is
|ustafaIIin¿outamon¿conscrvativcs. Bccausc
of that, a sccond cIcmcnt comcs in, thc
qucstionin¿ of poIicy. And thc basic criticism
ofMinistcrLmiIcinchaIIcn¿in¿thcprcsidcnt's
poIicy is first in dcaIin¿ with thc insur¿cncy.
Thcprcsidcnt,onthisparticuIarissuc, cIcarIyis
takin¿ a IibcraI approach, sayin¿, 'Lct's taIk
first. ' And cvcn somc pcopIc in thc miIitary,
Iikcthoscwhointcrro¿atcdmc, dobcIicvcthat
a poIiticaI approach is bcttcr than a miIitary
onc. Thcy fccI thc miIitary didn't succccd [in
stoppin¿thcinsur¿cncy] . ButOcfcnscMinistcr
LmiIc scriousIy bcIicvcs it whcn hc says, 'Wc
ncvcr rcaIIy tricd thc miIitary option. Thc
miIitaryis stiII corrupt. Marcos did notusc thc
miIitary cfficicntIy. ' And l 'm afraid that hc
|ustmi¿htrcaIIybcIicvchccanstiIIwipcoutthc
MPA[McwPcopIc'sArmy]miIitariIyandwants
thc prcsidcnt to makc it ofñciaI poIicy. Hc
docsn't rcaIIy nccd thc prcsidcnt's ¿o ahcad.
Thcy aIrcady arc pursuin¿ thc miIitary poIicy.
lt's|ust that thcydo not sccthc ¿ovcrnmcnt as
unificd on it .
Mow intcrcstin¿ly, thc brothcr of thc
Prcsidcnt Aquino, Josc Con|uan¿co, has told
pcoplcopcnlythat, whcncvcrEnrilcandIaurcl
spcak on policy, hc hcars thc LS. Hc bclicvcs
that thcrc arc thin¿s that thc LS ¿ovcrnmcnt
docsnotyct finditpoliticallypossiblctotcllthc
prcsidcnt dircctly, bccausc shc' s too popular
and shc' s sayin¿ thc ri¿ht thin¿s , cvcn from a
rclativcly conscrvativc point of vicw. And so
thcy'rcdclivcrin¿ thc mcssa¿c throu¿h anothcr
channcl, and that is Ministcr Enrilc and Vicc
Prcsidcnt Iaurcl .
Finally, othcr than thcir own pcrsonal
fortuncs in this dcbatc on insurgcncy, I think
thc rcason for thc rcaction of thc Ri¿ht in thc
Philippincs is a¿cnuincfcarofthc Icftcomin¿
topowcr. ButI don' tthinkthcythinkolthat¡
tcrms of thc armcd insur¿cncy. No onc in his
ri¿ht mind, cvcn with all thc mathcmatics
cxa¿¿cratcd, bclicvcs that thc Icft is about to
scizc powcr militarily. What thcy arc afraid of
is that thc Icft mi¿ht takc dcmocracy scriously
andfi¿htopcnlyinthcpoliticalarcna. Infact, I
thinkthc main attackonthclc¿al formationsof
thc Icft-Partido An¿ Bayyan |a political
partyformcdbyformcrpoliticalprisoncrswho

had bccn frccd by Aquino] and KML |thc lcft
tradc union movcmcnt , Kilusan¿ Mayo Lno or
May First Movcmcnt] has happcncd for two
rcasons. thcy arc rcally in a position to win
somc scats, cspccially in local ¿ovcrnmcnt, but
Í think morc importantly, thcy mi¿ht brcak
throu¿h thc historical pattcrn of lc¿al cxcom-
munication ofthc Icft. Whilc thc Icft has its
own hcrocs, martyrs and romantic ima¿c, so
lon¿ as you arc cxcludcd from thc lc¿al dis-
coursc that is a wcakncss, bccausc who likcs
illc¿al politics? In thc cnd wc all want to bc
lc¿aland lc¿itimatc and for a lon¿, lon¿ whilc
thcrc was no such lc¿itimatc lc¿al lcft voicc.
And it ' sclcarthcIcfthasbccnholdin¿itsown
inthispublicdcbatc andthc Ri¿ht would likcto
dcprivc thc Icft ofthat forum. Thcrcforc thcy
accusc Cory, thc libcrals and othcrs of bcin¿
too soft and ofcoddlin¿ thc Icft . Thcy arc not
coddlin¿. Thcy simply arc committcd to
¿cnuinc dcmocracy, sayin¿, 'Ict ' s allow spacc
is that thc conscrvativcs, and cspccially Vicc-
Prcsidcnt Iaurcl, havc bccn lcft out or bccn
shortchan¿cd in thc division of spoils . Tradi-
tional patrona¿c politics in thc Philippincs
mcansthatthctoplcadcrmustbcablctosatisfy
his or hcr followcrs, sayin¿ 'Wc havc our own
sharc. ' And Iaurcl has ¿ot vcry littlc. For
Ocfcnsc Ministcr Enrilc, i t' s not as much ofa
problcm, as hc has his own powcr basc in thc
northcrn provincc ofCa¿ayan.
A kcy qucstion now is how lar¿c arc Enrilc' s
ambitions . Pcoplc arc cvcnly dividcd i n thc
Philippincs on that . Somc say his appctitc has
¿rown and hc thinks that bcforc hc ¿ocs hc
should makcabid forpowcrbccauscifhcwaits
until aftcr sixycars hc' llbc too old. Thc othcrs
say, no, hc' sbasicallyan insccurc pcrson. Hc' s
not rcally out for powcr assuch, but hc' s|ust
doin¿all thcscthin¿sbccausc hc fccls hc mi¿ht
losc cvcn thc limitcd powcr hc' s¿ot-which is
not at all a fantasy, bccausc somc libcrals in
¿ovcrnmcnt rcally want him out. In fact, thc
prcsidcnt wantcd him out . I mcan as faras wc
know, as carlyas thrccmonthsaftcrFcbruarya
vcry closc confidant of thc Malacananv [thc
L~
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for
all kinds of voiccs . '
-
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Thc
sccond rcason for this ¿rowin¿ division ~ ��
8 E &
W
49
Prcsidcntial Palacc] officials told us that thcrc
arc two pcoplc whom thc prcsidcnt pcrsonally
dislikcs. Ministcr Lnrilc and Vicc Prcsidcnt
Laurcl.
So it's not a simply onc answcr. This is also
thcincvitablc shakin¿ up ofany coalition. Thc
coalition is too broad, ¿ivcn thc lcbruary
cvcnts [thc military rcbcllion and cvcntual
dcparturc of Marcos from thc prcsidcncy] . lt
cannot hold to¿cthcr from a vcry thinly dis-
¿uiscdri¿htto lcft-libcral. Thatis too broada
coalition.lorittobcstablc,youwouldnccdto
havc cithcr only ultra-ri¿ht and conscrvativcs
and tokcn libcrals; or libcrals, conscrvativcs
loyal to Cory and maybc a tokcn Lcft. But to
havc this broad spcctrum, it's incvitablc that
somcthin¿'s ¿ot to ¿ivc. Thc crisis could
pcrhaps bc postponcd by cffcctivc diplomacy,
political skills, and maybc a broadcr political
outlook of various partncrs, but our clitc
politicians havc ncvcr bccn known to bc
stratc¿ic thinkcrs. Thcy look out for thcir
immcdiatc intcrcst and to hcll with thc rulin¿
systcm.
Q. So thcrc's nothin¿ si¿nificant happcnin¿
now? WithLaurclsayin¿hcwillnotbackCory
in a ncw clcction and Ministcr Lnrilc standin¿
in front of Marcos supportcrs at Luncta Park
[in thc ccntcr of Manila, a favoritc political
rallyin¿ spot]?
A. lt is si¿nificant bccausc thc lc¿al and
or¿anizational consolidation ofCory's rulcwill
happcndccisivclyncxtycarwiththcratification
ofthcconstitutionandthcclcctions. Mowisthc
pcriod whcrcthin¿s arc stillinfluxlc¿allyand
cvcn or¿anizationally. So if thcy want to
challcn¿c, thcy must challcn¿c now.
Thcnthcrcis thcastrolo¿y factor. Youncvcr
know. ln thc Philippincs, Lnrilc mi¿ht rcally
takc astrolo¿ical advicc scriously. Hc has a
pcrsonal astrolo¿y. And hc rcads that anothcr
astrolo¿cr, whohasrcadthcstarsandsaidthat
aftcr Movcmbcr Lnrilc is astrolo¿ically insi¿ni-
ficant. Thosc irrational factors in history
somctimcsmakc thc bi¿¿cstdiffcrcncc.
Human Rights Day, December 10, 1985. 15, 000 gathered to protest human rights violations.
50
¨ ¨´¨¯ ¯�¯¯¯ ¨¯ �~ =~ �· -�~¬--
The Left's Response
Q.Thcrcsccms cquaI divisions amon¿thcLcft
about how to rcspond to Aquino.
A. WcII, l think wc shouId dividc it into two
sta¿cs. lmmcdiatcIy aftcr lcbruary thcrc was a
dc¿rcc of confusion with this suddcn opcnin¿
of dcmocratic spacc, and thc boycott dccision
[thc Lcft optcd to boycott thc Marcos-caIIcd
cIcctions in January, I ºB5] which mar¿inaIizcd
abi¿ portion ofthc Lcft fromthcpost-Marcos
poIiticaI dcbatc. Thcdcbatcwas thus primariIy
amon¿ thc Ic¿aI Lcft onIy, usin¿ thc ncw
dcmocratic spacc to stakc out an oppositionist
roIc. ThisroIcmcantnotbcin¿hostiIcbytryin¿
to ovcrthrowthc¿ovcrnmcnt orchaIIcn¿in¿its
Ic¿itimacy, but simpIy stakin¿ out an indcpcn-
dcntpro¿ram to say, 'Hcy, Iook, ifyou want
to continuc thc rcvoIution this is whcrc wc
shouId ¿o. '
Thc qucstion stiII rcmains. ShouId thc Lcft
takc a position (which l pcrsonaIIy aIso ad-
vocatc) of criticaI support-mcanin¿ you stiII
chaIIcn¿c thc ¿ovcrnmcnt but you cntcr into a
unity rcIationship, not onIy for psychoIo¿icaI
impact, butaIso bccauscthc¿ovcrnmcnt, orat
Icast its pro¿rcssivcIcadcrship, nccd a poIiticaI
bascwhichitisinnopositiontobuiIdovcrni¿ht
and which thc Lcft has buiIt ovcr many Ion¿
ycars ofor¿anizin¿?
ThatdcbatcwasbasicaIIyfinishcdaftcrthrcc
months. Thc whoIc Lcft, cxccpt a vcry, vcry
smaII minority said, 'Surc, Ict's havc criticaI
support. 'CIcarIythc Lcft was not¿oin¿ to bc
in an oppositionist roIc. So thc oppositionist
forcc turncd out to bc thc uItra-ri¿ht, Marcos
andothcrs.
Mow, thc sccond round of discussions arc
morccompIcx, bccauscthcccascfircissuccamc
up. Manythou¿ht, 'Hcy, Iook, Ict thc undcr-
¿round,thciIIc¿aIandarmcdstru¿¿Icqucstion
scttIcitscIfaccordin¿toitsownpacc, 'bccausc
thcrc you arc not dcaIin¿ with a coaIition
¿ovcrnmcnt strictIy. You arc dcaIin¿ with thc
samc miIitary [as undcr Marcos] runnin¿ aftcr
thc MPA, thcrc arc vcry fcw IibcraI ¿ovcrnors
or mayors to monitor any ccascfirc, and thc
prcsidcnthcrscIfwasnotincffcctivccommand
of thc ¿ovcrnmcnt's insur¿cncy poIicy. So l
said, 'Lct thcm continuc fi¿htin¿. Wc worry
aboutthcIc¿aIsphcrc. 'Butofcourscthatcan-
W
¯¬
not bc maintaincd forcvcr. And so whcn thc
Prcsidcnt announccdthc poIicy ofnc¿otiations
toward a ccascfirc and thc MOl rcspondcd
quickIy, thc onIy intcrnaI dcbatc within thc
MationaI Ocmocratic lront was whcthcr thcy
couId rcach apoIiticaI scttIcmcnt, or whcthcr a
ccascfirc wouId |ust hoId for an initiaI short
pcriod.
Rally to support left boycott ofpresidential elections,
December 10, 1985.
Whcn thc ccascfircoptionwas prcscntcd, thc
dcbatc shiftcdtoamorc fundamcntaIqucstion,
'Whcrcdocsthcmaindan¿crIicin PhiIippinc
poIitics?' Oocs itIicinthc fact thatifthc Lcft
continucs its support, it mi¿ht |ust bccomc a
popuIar basc for what is csscntiaIIy a conscr-
vativc consoIidation by Aquino's conscr-
vativcs? This wouId bc unacccptabIc to thc
Lcft, but wouId bc acccptabIctcmporariIyifit
had to bc donc to prcscrvc thc ncwIy won
dcmocraticspaccfromanur¿cntandimmincnt
thrcattoCory'sIcadcrshipfromthcuItra-ri¿ht.
And that is stiII a ra¿in¿ dcbatc-whcrc docs
thcdan¿crIic?lromthcuItra-ri¿htorfromthc
conscrvativcs? And l rcaIIy find it difficuIt to
|ud¿cthatinabsoIutctcrms .BcforclIcft,lwas
bcin¿ swaycd to thc position that most IikcIy
thcrcwiIIbcamorcandmorcconscrvativccon-
soIidation. But l stiIIbcIicvcthatthcrcwiIInot
bc an absoIutcIy conscrvativc consoIidation so
Ion¿asCoryrctainsthcIibcraIsin¿ovcrnmcnt,
5 1



and that wc shouId providc thcsc libcraIs and
pro¿rcssivcs with a mass basc bccausc thcy
don't havc ß party basc. Thcy havc a Iimitcd
burcaucraticbasc. AndwccanIivcwiththatfor
a transition. Othcrs say 'Mo, wc shouId | ust
uncriticalIy commit ourscIvcs to Cory bccausc
wcshouIdnotundcrcstimatcthcirrationaIityof
thc uItra-ri¿ht, ' whiIc othcrs say 'WcII, this
thin¿ wiII coIlapsc onc way or thc othcr, by
cithcr thc uItra-ri¿ht or thc conscrvativcs. So
whydon'twcnowprcparcour forccsforcithcr
rcprcssionoranoppositionistroIc? ' Pcoplcon
thcLcftl havctaIkcd to, mainIy in ManiIa and
othcr urban ccntcrs, think thcy shouId stiII
adopt thc sccond position, which isto providc
pro¿rcssivc support to IibcraIs in thc ¿ovcrn-
mcnt and to Cory hcrsclf for two rcasons. to
fcnd off a morc immincnt chaIIcn¿c from thc
Ri¿ht, and to providc aIcvcra¿c inthcproccss
ofconsolidation sothatthc Lcftcanprcvcnta
totaIIy conscrvativc ¿ovcrnmcnt. Thatis avcry
caIcuIatcd position and in thc PhiIippincs it's
idcntificd as thc position of thc PopuIar
Ocmocrats-which is idcntificd with mc and a
fcw othcrs. At this sta¿c itis a pIatform of thc
Lcft in tactical unity with Cory Aquino and
IibcraIs in ¿ovcrnmcnt. But tactical unity can
last thrccmonths, or it can bcthrccycars . AII
you arc sayin¿ is this wiII not bc forcvcr. Who
said that? Kcyncs? ' ln thc Ion¿ run wc'rc aII
dcad anyway. '
Stratc¿ic aItcrnativcs continuct ocxist i nthc
PhiIippincs with thc MationaI Ocmocracy or
SociaI Ocmocracy or cvcn SociaIism, but l
think thc maximum pro¿rcssivc possibiIity of
this currcnt situation wouId bc a coaIition
¿ovcrnmcnt that would incIudc thc Lcft in a
minority capacity and thcrc's nothin¿ wron¿
with that.
Where Does Aquino Stand?
Q. ln rcadin¿ about Prcsidcnt Aquino's pro-
¿rams, it soundsvcrymuchIikc shc'stryin¿to
kccp aII sidcs happy. Shc's taIkin¿ about Iand
rcform, and at thc samc timc caIIin¿ in morc
a¿ribusincss. Shc'staIkin¿aboutprofit-sharin¿
with thc workcrs and at thc samc timc caIIin¿
forincrcascdforci¿ninvcstmcntinthccountry.
What is happcnin¿ pro¿rammaticaIly within
hcr administration?
A. To put it bIuntly-l wcnt dircct to thc top
(wclI, not to Cory hcrsclf, but to hcr kcy
Iicutcnants), andputitinlcftIan¿ua¿c-l said,
'What is Cory's poIiticaI linc? ' Thcy said
. . . thcy couIdn't cvcn spcak. Thcy hcmmcd
and hawcd. So l said, 'OK, who's tryin¿ to
dcfinc it for hcr?' lf a Icadcr docs not havc
thin¿s clcar in hcr hcad, at Icast staff should
prcscnt mcmoranda in compctin¿ positions.
And thcy mcntioncd a wholcran¿c ofpcopIc.
Shcsays, 'WhatcvcrthcpcopIcask. 'Butwho
arcthcpcopIc? ltsccmsaIlkinds-frompcoplc
who arc cIosc to hcr, to thc unor¿anizcd, to
or¿anizcd¿roups.
Ri¿ht now thc onlythin¿thatis clcar about
Cory is that shc's dctcrmincd to bc what shc
promiscd durin¿ hcr campai¿n-thc cxact op-
posìtcoI marcos. Thathasìts ¿oou sìdc, it has
its bad sidc. Thc ¿ood sidc is that shcwiIl not
compromisc, l think, on thc qucstion of dic-
tatorship andauthoritarianism. That'swhythc
brcakwithLnriIcisincvitablc. Shc wiIl notac-
comodatc that far. Thc wcak point ofit is shc
L
" "M'NO' í >he Ph;pp" "" 1898-190, c"'�,' m;'"y mo,,",,,, !mm ,he US ", � ÜH ,he Ph;pp" "'_
�¯¯`¯�¯�¯ •
W Y
. ..
¯ ¨
docsnotwanttocxcrciscpowcrvi¿orousIycvcn
thou¿h pcopIc want hcrto.
Lct mc ¿ivc you an cxampIc, on thc Iand
rcform codc. Onpapcr thcrcis aIrcady a draft
that is morc pro¿rcssivc than anythin¿ cvcr
draItcd bcforc by¿ovcrnmcnt. ShccouId simp-
Iyissucthatasadccrcc.Butshcdocsn'twantto
issuc prcsidcntiaI dccrccs, bccausc that is what
Marcos did. So shc says, 'l 'lI cxcrcisc my
powcronIywhcnthcconstraints arcthcrc-thc
constitution is writtcn and thc Ic¿isIaturc is in
placc. ' Can you ima¿inc that? How can you
havc a pro¿rcssivc Iand rcform codc with a
lc¿isIaturc fiIIcd with IandIords? PcopIc mi¿ht
caIIhcr naivc onthat point, but l canima¿inc
thc trauma shc mi¿ht havc had to usin¿ an
authoritariancxcrcisclikcMarcosdid.ButIand
rcform is onc issuc whcrc thc staff work has
bccn donc. Andwc'vcrcad thcdrafts. Jhcy'rc
¿ood. Mot|ustthcbi¿pro¿ram,butaIsothcin-
crcmcntaI stcp-by-stcp cxpansion ofarcas.
CoryAquino did not comctothcprcsidcncy
witha clcar pro¿ram andthcrc arcmany com-
pctin¿ voiccs for thc ¿ovcrnmcnt's pro¿rams.
Îorthc conscrvativcs, thcpro¿ramismainIy a
powcr a¿cnda of how to consoIidatc party
patrona¿c. Îor thc IibcraIs and pro¿rcssivcs,
thc powcr a¿cnda andthcpro¿rammatic a¿cn-
daarcnotvcrycIcar,bccauscifyouIookatthc
ran¿c of hcr cabinct thcrc is no sin¿Ic
dcvcIopmcnt-oricntcd pcrson thcrc. Jhcrc arc
IawycrsandpoIiticians. Jhisisoncofthoscac-
cidcntal factors whcrc pcrsonaIitics do pIay a
kcy roIc. And pcopIc and various popuIar
or¿anizations havc ¿ivcn proposaIs, but ob-
viously thc kcy staff work wouId havc to bc
donc by ¿ovcrnmcnt Iawycrs cIosc to Aquino
M
^´�¯
Þ
m


Model oj nuclear power plant constructed by anti-nuclear
activists who halted construction just prior to plant
opening.
hcrscIf. ln thc kcyministrics you scc a lack of
anypro¿ram.
ln csscncc, thc problcm i s what thcy said:
'Wccamctopowcrunprcparcd. 'Jhatistruc.
Prcparcdncss is not thc abiIity simpIy to takc
powcr and hoId officc. Jhcy havc donc that.
Butit is also to havc apro¿ramand pcrsonncI
to implcmcnt thosc pro¿rams. O thosc two
points, l think what you arc ¿oin¿ to ¿ct this
ncxt ycar wiII aIways bc an approximation, ad
hoctypcof¿ovcrnmcnt,rcspondin¿towhocvcr
hasthcIoudcstvoicc. Jhisistoobadbccauscl
think Aquino stiIl rctains cnou¿h moraI
authority and thcrc' s stiII cnou¿h popuIar cx-
pcctations for hcr to takc bold initiativcs. But
thcrc is this stran¿c uncasincss about wicIdin¿
powcr in a dccisivc way, which l think is a
han¿ovcr of thcMarcos cra. lt docs notdcrivc
from hcrbcin¿a woman orhcrbcin¿a libcraI.
lt'snotthat; it's| ustthatshcrcalIywantstobc
oppositc to Marcos. l wantto say, 'Mot that
oppositc!'
53
Aoc|oocs
W

|o
me
d|c.
]
||evecr
(o
omco Ü
Q. And wiII thc ncw constituion chan¿c that?
A. Mo. lora IotofpoIiticiansthcconstitution
is simpIy thc startin¿ ¿un so thcy can run for
cIcctions. And aIso thcrc is thc Ic¿acy of thc
Marcos rc¿imc. l was surpriscd at thc rcIativc
apathyofcvcnactivist¿roupsovcrthcconstitu-
tion. l cantraccittotwofactors:TraditionaIIy
thc constitution uscd to bc a vcry wci¿htcd
documcnt. Govcrnmcnts usuaIIy chan¿c thc
constitution rarcIy, so whcn you movc for an
amcndmcnt, it causcs cxtcnsivc dcbatc. But
Marcos uscdto amcnd it so oI|cn, hcdcvaIucd
thc whoIc idca of a constitution. So a Iot of
pcopIc say, 'Oh wcII, with thc ncxt prcsidcnt
thcy can | ust chan¿c thc constitution a¿ain. '
Sothcrcisa Icsscnin¿of itsimportancci npco-
pIc's mind. WhiIc thc constitution and Iaw in
54
¿cncraIisthcbasicpoIiticaIcuIturcofourcIitc,
for thc middIc and thc Iowcr cIasscs, poIitics
hasbccomc-aIIbccauscofthcMarcosycars¬
morc cIoscIy ticd to morc concrctc and morc
spccific issucs. ConstitutionaI Ian¿ua¿c an�
issucs arc framcd in such abstract tcrms that ìt
docs not cxcitc us much.
ThcrcisadcbatcinthcPhiIippincsaboutthc
importanccofthcconstitutioninrcIationtothc
consoIidationofpowcr. lfitissupcrimportant,
thc fact that it has somc vcry bad provisions
[thc proposcd constitution faiIs to addrcss thc
criticaI probIcms of Iand rcform, industriaI
poIicy, or thc LS bascs in thc PhiIippincs. lt
aIso contains anti-fcminist and wcak minority
ri¿hts provisions. ]shouIdmakcanyIcftpcrson
opposcit.Butothcrsarcsayin¿, 'Comcon,wc
arc faIIin¿intothccuIturcofthccIitc. 'Andin
O¡¡t·t/c /'it·¡· Ol| HUllCl|I'CIN il| thcIhi
[
i
[
i¡it|c··. Iv0`
a scnsc it is a kind of an idcaIist sayin¿: 'lt's
notthcpapcr thatwiII dctcrminc anythin¿, but
ìtisthcspaccsandthcrcIativcstabiIitythccon-
stitution crcatcs, so that at Icast wc wiII know
whcrctofi¿ht. 'Andthat'swhyitsratification
is¿cncraIIy¿oin¿tobcprcscntcdbythcLcftin
thosc tcrms. do you want to stabiIizc Cory's
Icadcrship or not?
A dominant scction ofthc Lcft said, 'OK,
wc work for its ratification without any iIIu-
sìons. 'But somcothcrs onthcLcftarc sayinz
'Surc, it wiII bc ratificd, but shouIdn't somc
voìccsbccIcarinthcproccss, bysimpIysayin¿,
'Wcarcnot¿oin¿toforccyoutovotcourway,
butourconscicncctcIIsusthatthisconstitution
ìs bad in thcscprovisions. ' '
SoyouwiIIhavca 'votc no'campai¿nwa¿-
cd, not vi¿orousIy cnou¿h to makc too many
pcopIcvotcno, butsimpIyasaconscicnccvotc.
Í thìnk onc ofthcIcssons ofthc Lcft's dcci-
sìon to boycott thc Marcos-caIIcd [lcbruary,
IºB6] cIcctìon is that princìpIcs, stratc¿ics and
aIIarcfinc,butyoumustundcrstandconcrctcIy
thc IcvcI of poIiticaI conscicncc of pcopIc, and
thcy may considcr somcthin¿ morc important
than thcsc broad principIcs . That is , thcir
pcrccption of Cory's stabiIity. This wiII bc a
Ion¿ dcbatc, mcanin¿ it's not so much im-
mcdiatcIyaqucstionofwhcthcryouvotc ''ycs'
or 'no, ' but rathcr 'why. ' Marcos' pcopIc
arc¿oin¿tovotc 'no'|usttodcstabiIizcCory.
lt's vcry diffìcuIt for a Icft pcrson to say,
'Mow, votc no' and bc idcntificd with thcm.
Onthcothcr hand,tosimpIyvotcycs and say,
'Rah, rah, Cory' wouIdmcanabdicatin¿any
rcsponsibiIity. SoÍ thinkthcrcwiIIbcancduca-
tionaI discussion, and thcn pcopIc wiII simpIy
votcthcìrconscicncc, sayin¿, 'l votcthisbutÍ
undcrstandyouforvotin¿that . 'Thatishow it
has bccomc.
Lookin¿ at thc bri¿ht sidc of it, thcrc arc
somc provisions in thc constitution that arc
vcry¿ood.lorcxampIc, fromthcpointofvicw
of popuIar dcmocracy, thc constitution for-
maIizcs popuIar intcrvcntion in¿ovcrnmcntaf-
fairsthrou¿hrccaIIinitiativcsandrcfcrcndums,
aIthou¿hit'ssupposcdtohappcnonIyaftcrthc
firstfivcycars. AIsothcnucIcar-frccprovision,
aIthou¿h it has a quaIification in thc intcrna-
tionaI intcrcst, is pro¿rcssìvc cnou¿h. [This

quaIification, a ma|or IoophoIc, statcs thc
FhiIippincs wiII bc a nucIcar-frcc statc 'con-
sistcnt with nationaI intcrcst. '] At Icast thc
nc¿ativc rcaction ofsomc scnators hcrc in thc
LS shouId tcII us that. lt' snot so bad.
The Philippines and EI Salvador
Q. At timcs, Sccrctary of Statc ShuItz and
Scnator Robcrt OoIc havc sccn thc LI
SaIvadoran-OuartcmodcIasidcaIinthcFhiIip-
pincs, with a wcakcncd prcsidcnt and a vcry
stron¿ miIitary scckin¿ a miIitary soIution to
thcinsur¿cncy.
A. Thcrc was a fairIy wcII-circuIatcd study in
thc FhiIippincs of thc paraIIcI bctwccn thc
FhiIippincsandLISaIvador. ltwasdoncundcr
a pscudonym, bythcchairmanofthcMationaI
Ocmocratic lront on thc southcrn isIand of
Mindanao. lt said onc finds in thc FhiIippincs
today somcthin¿ va¿ucIy approximatc to thc
IibcraI situation in l ºTº in LI SaIvador whcrc
aftcr rcmovin¿ thc dictatoriaI ¿cncraI, thcy
wcrcabIctobrin¿inatIcasttwoscctionsofthc
oppositionist party-thc Christian Ocmocrats,
rcprcscntcd by Ouartc, anda scction ofSociaI
Ocmocracy, rcprcscntcdby Ln¿o. Thcn, cvcn-
tuaIIy, thc coaIition brokc up. Ouartc now is
thcprcsidcnt ofa basicaIIymiIitaryrc¿imcand
Ln¿o has bccomc thc dcmocratic pcrsonaIity
hcadin¿ an aIIiancc of dcmocrats and rcvoIu-
tionarics. And thc rcport askcd at thc cnd,
'WiII Corybca Ouartc or an Ln¿o?'
Of coursc thcrc arc no strict paraIIcIs. But
rathcr than simpIy a Ouartc, you shouId scc
both possibiIitics. Of coursc, Cory wiII simpIy
bc Cory. That's anothcr thin¿ aIto¿cthcr. But
wiII shc accomodatc tothc point whcrccvcnif
LnriIc wcrc to ¿o, basicaIIy hc wiII havc suc-
cccdcdinmakin¿hcradoptapoIicythatiscon-
scrvativc, hard Iinc-maybc rcprcscntcd by
morc profcssionaI pcopIc, such as Armcd
lorccs chicf Ramos-and wiII | ust rcIcasc thc
miIitary on thc insur¿cncy but aIso scnd out
dcath squadstocIiminatcthcIc¿aIopposition.
Thcrc arc variations in bcin¿ a Ouartc of
coursc, butthat wouId bcthc cxtrcmc.
OrthcothcrqucstioniswhcthcrshccouIdbc
anLn¿oinpowcroranLn¿ooutofpowcr?As
anLn¿oin powcr, shcwouIdcxcIudcthcuItra-
Ri¿ht from thccoaIition andbrin¿ in a scction
56
of thc Lcft. And it wouId mcan a continuin¿
roIc forthcpopuIar movcmcnt whcrc MationaI
Ocmocrats can pIay a ¿rcatcr roIc. Or wiII shc
simpIy havc to stcp down, bc cascd out in thc
facc of anothcr-a wouId-bc Ouartc-typc
miIitary rc¿imc-and shc bccomcs an opposi-
tionistIcadcrofa broadcrcoaIitionofIcft and
ccntcr, thc Ln¿o.
l, obviousIy from thc point of vicw of thc
Lcft, scc Ln¿o as thc bcttcr option, and
prcfcrabIyinpowcr.lmcan, whowantstobcin
oppositionforcvcr?Andlrcmcmbcrthisdiscus-
sion l had with th¡s Mcw FcopIc's Army ¿ucr-
riIIa,who said, 'Ycah,whynot? lfwccntcrin-
to a ccasc firc and shc starts nc¿otiatin¿-cvcn
if wc havcn't for¿cd an a¿rccmcnt-and thc
ri¿ht rcaIIy panics, vioIatcs thc Iaw, makcs a
prcmaturc movc a¿ainst Aquino, thcn to¿cthcr
with thc IoyaI troops of thc Armcd lorccs of
thc FhiIippincs opposin¿ a coup, thc MFA
couIdIcnditshand. lna succcssfuIfcndin¿off
of thc uItra-ri¿ht attack, thc ncw ¿ovcrnmcnt
wouId bcrcconstitutcd and thcn wc wiII havc a
ncw coaIition of thc ccntcr and a bit of thc
Ri¿htandabit ofthcLcft.' lmcanwhatanin-
tcrcstin¿ fantasy! But l wouId say ifthathap-
pcns, thcFhiIippincs wiIIrcaIIybIow thc mind
ofaIIpoIiticaIanaIysts.
CIcarIy Cory, with aII hcr Iimitations, is a
distinct poIiticaI assct and forcc. ln tcrms of
scIf-intcrcst, thatíswhyncithcr thc LSnorthc
buIk of thc conscrvativcs in thc FhiIippincs
miIitarywiII support a simpIc bid for powcrby
LnriIc to knock out Cory. Thc prcfcrrcd ar-
ran¿cmcntisforAquinotoadoptthcmiIitary's
poIicy but rcmain prcsidcnt and Icnd hcr
pouIarity to that anti-popuIar movc.
But cvcn if shc ncvcr opcns to thc Lcft
bcyond hcr prcscnt IibcraI tcndcncics, any
maturcLcft forcc inthcFhiIippincsshouIdnot
undcrcstimatc thc pro¿rcssivc potcntiaI of a
coaIition. Mot Lcft-Icd at aII, morc dominantIy
Icd by a combination of IibcraIs and conscr-
vativcs, but which wouId incIudc and accom-
modatc thc Lcft. LspcciaIIy durin¿ this pcriod
ofrccovcry, with thccarcfuIdcvcIopmcnt ofa
Ic¿aI pro¿rcssivc movcmcnt, that wouId bc of
trcmcndous importancc.
And that's why l' m stiII committcd to that
pubIicIy, and in thcintcrnaI dcbatcs l 'vc said,
'Lct's support Cory, but not|ustsupporthcr
Symbolic coffins used to protest state terrorism and the mass murders in Escalante.
forsupportin¿'s sakc but sothatwccontinucto
offcra morc pro¿rcssivcbasc, anaItcrnativc so
thathcroptions rcmain morc fIcxibIc. 'l think
that's cruciaI .
The Left's Political Vision
Q. ThcrcwasaIotofpIay¿ivcninthiscountry,
andlundcrstandaIsointhcPhiIippincs, onthc
Ross Munroc articIc in Commentary
(Occcmbcr, l ºB5)caIIin¿ thcMcw PcopIc' sAr-
mvthcncw Khmcr Rou¿c ofAsia. HowwouId
you dcscribc thc vision of thc futurc of thc
FhiIippincs from a Lcftpcrspcctivc?
A· A short or a mcdium tcrm vicw of thin¿s
wouId havc at thc maximum, on thc ¿ovcrn-
mcnt IcvcI , a coaIition ¿ovcrnmcntthat hasthc
Lchas asi¿nificantpartncr,butnotthcLcftas
thcdominantpartncr.Thisisavicwsharcdbya
substantiaI numbcr of Icft thinkcrs and
Û¿htcrs. This is caIcuIatin¿ not mcrcly thc
¿rowth of thc Lcft in abstract, but aIso
W
cvaIuatin¿ pcopIc' s consciousncss about thc
Lcft, liIipinofcars ofcommunism,andthcroIc
ofthc Lnitcd Statcs.
Soatthc¿ovcrnmcntIcvcIthcburdcnofpro-
offordcsi¿nin¿thiscoaIitionrcIationshipison
us bccausc coaIitions rarcIy havc workcd in
history. Wc simpIyhavcto work at it and not
bc burdcncd by this Ic¿acy that aII coaIitions
tcnd to bc fractious and brcak upanyway. Wc
havc to Icarn how to dcvcIop a coaIition
¿ovcrnmcnt and, morc important, how to bc
abIctoworkinacoaIitionthatwcdonotdomi-
natc-which l thinkis thc bcst prcparation for
Icadin¿ acoaIitionIatcr. lt' saIwayscasytotaIk
of a coaIition but whcn you Icad you havc thc
tcmptation to |ust cIcan it up and simpIify it.
But ifyou havc bccn on thc rcccivin¿ cnd of
anothcr Icadcr in a coaIition maybcyouknow
bcttcr howthcscthin¿swork.
So that is a kcy factor, of knowin¿ how to
workinacoaIition,whiIcbcin¿aminorityina
coaIition. ln thc short-tcrm, this is thc onIy
57
.
rcaIistic ¿ovcrnmcnt wc can havc that is pro-
¿rcssivc. Ofcourscifthc¿ovcrnmcntpoIarizcs
into an authoritarian rc¿imc, thc onIy aItcrna-
tivcaftcraproIon¿cdwarfarcwiIIbcaIcft-Icd,
but stiII hopcfuIIy a coaIition ¿ovcrnmcnt in
rcaIity.
That'swhyonc ofthc approachcs hcrcatthc
currcnt IcvcI is|ust to ¿ct pcopIc from various
tradi ti ons -Mati onaI Ocmocrat , Soci aI
Ocmocrat, SociaIist, LibcraI-to havc somc
form of workin¿ rcIationship. lt's not somc-
thin¿ you can succccd in buiIdin¿ ovcrni¿ht,
but ¿ivcn thc Ic¿acy of scctarianism and un-
ncccssaryconfIictslthinkwhatwchavcachicv-
cd thcsc past scvcn or ci¿ht months is ¿ood. l
mcan thc ¿ood wiII, pcrsonaI contacts and aII
that.
Andthat'sthcwhoIcrcasonwhy l wantthis
dcmocraticspacc to continuc. lt's vcryhardto
buiIdthatwhiIcinthcundcr¿round.Thcundcr-
¿round providcs tcnsion. lt's vcry difficuIt to
¿ctpcopIctaIkin¿,cspcciaIIywhcnthcystiIIdis-
a¿rcc on many thin¿s. But opcnIyand Ic¿aIIy,
you havc timc and spacc. Wc can quarrcI ,
dcbatc and stiII comc back a¿ain.
At thc sociaI pro¿ram IcvcI thcrc is a much
broadcrconscnsuswithinthcLcftandthcmid-
dIc than on thc whoIc qucstion of powcr-
sharin¿andformsofruIc. Ona¿rarianrcform,
ri¿ht down thc Iinc cvcryonc a¿rccs. And
cvcryonca¿rccsthat it isfirstofaIIprimariIy a
qucstion of psychoIo¿icaI, sociaI and poIiticaI
Iibcration of thc pcasant, mcanin¿ 'or¿anizc
thcm first. ' Mot a ¿ovcrnmcnt sayin¿, 'l wiII
Iibcratc you' and transfcrrin¿ thc Iand to thc
pcasants , who wiII thcn transfcr thcir
dcpcndcncc from thc IandIord to thc ¿ovcrn-
mcnt. SccondIy, a¿rarian rcform cannot bc
pursucd as a pro¿ram scparatcIy from somc
form ofindustriaIizationpoIicy, bccauscifyou
want to rchabiIitatc a bi¿ portion of your
IandIordcIass, or atIcasttransfcrthcir capitaI,
you wiII havcto providcaItcrnativc cntcrpriscs
whcrc thcy can transfcr thcir skiII and thcir
capitaI . ln a morc sociaIist modcI, cIcarIy thcy
wouId not bc thc dominant industriaI powcr,
but in our capitaIist modcI thcy mi¿ht bc. But
that is sccondary to thc point that a¿rarian
rcform wiII not succccd without somc in-
dustriaIization pro¿ram.
Escalating protests against nuclear weapons basing in the Philippines.

58
Sothosc two factors arccIcar. ThcncIcarIya
dc¿rcc of controI orIimitationofmuItinationaI
capitaIwiIIhavctocomcin. Buta¿ain, thathas
a whoIc ran¿c of modcIs, from strictIy buyin¿
out corporations to rcstrictin¿ arcas ofopcra-
tion. Givcn ourstartin¿ point, wccouIdhardIy
do worsc with somc dc¿rcc ofcontroI. That is
atthccconomicpoIicyIcvcI, witha mixturc of
pIannin¿andmarkct. Lvcryonckindofacccpts
that-somc a bit morcpIannin¿, othcrs Icss.
ln forci¿n poIicy-l hatc to say this, but
thcorcticaIIyatIcastMarcoshadabroadcrcon-
ccption of forci¿n poIicy than Cory, bccausc
Marcos, for his own rcasons, tricd a muIti-
IatcraI poIicy. ln practicc, thou¿h, it was
stron¿Iy dcpcndcnt on thc LS. Thc probIcm l
fccI with thc prcsidcnt now, or hcr advisors
morc propcrIy-and cspcciaIIy Vicc Prcsidcnt
LaurcIwhoisaIsothcÎorci¿nMinistcr-isthat
thcy havc a vcry stron¿ biIatcraI rcIationship
withthcLSand, sccondariIy,withJapan. Thcy
havc not rcaIIy cxpIorcd anothcr path. . . . l
Iikc vcry much to quotc-l don't know who
said it but it was from thc Micara¿uans-that
thc way to indcpcndcncc from this cxcIusivc
biIatcraI dcpcndcncc is throu¿h thc 'divcrsi-
tication of dcpcndcncc. ' l Iikc that! You
know, thcy'rcaIIdcpcndcntrcIation, butifyou
can divcrsify it at Icast you havc not onIy thc
triIatcraI option ofJapan, thcLSandWcstcrn
Luropc, but aIso thc SociaIist bIoc. And thcn
somcdc¿rccofthc SouthtoSouthoption-but
whiIc it's nicc and romantic to taIk of that,
rcaIisticaIIy a Iot oftradc and invcstmcnt rcIa-
tionsthcrcwouId bcsccondaryto thc divcrsifi-
cation of dcpcndcncc intcrnationaIIy to thc
dcvcIopcd capitaIist nations and thc dcvcIopcd
sociaIist nations.
l thinkonthoscthrccpointsthcrcisabroad
conscnsus on thc Lcft. Îor thc rcst, my own
pcrsonaI vicw is that whcthcr dominantIy
capitaIist or sociaIist, l bcIicvc that popuIar
dcmocracy is¿oin¿ to bca kcycIcmcnta¿ainst
any attcmpts at burcaucratism and a onc-sidcd
cmphasis onparty pIatforms and ¿ovcrnmcnt.
1hc bi¿¿cst potcntiaI of any nation-and
csp
cciaIIyThirdWorIdnationsthatarccapitaI-
sta
rvcd ortcchnoIo¿icaIIystarvcd-arcits pco-
pIc. But it's casy to say pcopIc arc a rcsourcc.
1hcy'II not movc unIcss thcy'rc or¿anizcd.
1hcy
nccd to bc, to havc various dc¿rccs of
W
popuIarcducation. Thcynccd variousIcvcIs of
Icadcrship. Thcscthin¿s wiIInothappcn unIcss
you scc or¿anizin¿ as an cnd in itscIfand not
|ust a mcans. Thcsc arc pcrmancnt fcaturcs of
any futurc socicty, cvcnthou¿h thcy arc aIso
mcanstowardstransformin¿ socictics,andsup-
portin¿poIiticaI partics and ncw ¿ovcrnmcnts.
l fccIthcrcisavcrystron¿strcakofpopuIism
and anarchism in Christian radicaIism-whcn
Christians turn radicaI thcy aIso turn anarcho-
popuIist at thc bc¿innin¿. Mow you must
discipIincthat,bccauscthatpcrspcctivcwiIInot
succccd, butit docs notmcan you havcto¿ivc
upwhatisvaIidinthattradition,withitsstrcss
on thc roIc of smaIIcr ¿roups and popuIar
movcmcnts. That is a bit ofa pcrsonaI vision,
but a fcw morc othcrs sharcit.
Q. Thc whoIc causc-oricntcd ¿roups |scctoraI
¿roups that dcvcIopcd in opposition to thc
rcprcssion and cconomic probIcms ofthc Mar-
cos rc¿imc] sccma rcfIcction ofthis.
A. Ycs, thcrc is an uncvcnncss of undcrstan-
din¿. Somc ¿roups wiII think of disbandin¿
thcmscIvcs aftcr thc rcvoIution, sayin¿, 'Ah
wcII , wc'vc donc our work. Wc wiII ¿o homc
now. 'OrcIsc, 'Lct'srunthin¿sfromthcpoint
ofvicwof¿ovcrnmcntnow. Wc'rcinpowcr.' l
say, 'Mo, your bcst Icadcrs shouId bc
distributcd down thc Iinc. ' You don't put
thcmaIIatthcbasc. That'sananarchistvision.
You shouId put thcm aIso on top, but you
shouIdnotputthcmaIIontop. ThcrcshouIdbc
somc at thc basc, othcrwisc thcrc wiII bc, you
mi¿htcaIIit, aImostaninbuiItdynamicofIook-
in¿downordominatin¿.Adc¿rccoftcnsionis
l think thc pcrmancntconditionforpro¿rcss.
A Personal View
Q: Onc finaI qucstion about you pcrsonaIIy.
You had ninc ycars in prison anda numbcr of
pcopIc l taIkcd to thc othcr ni¿ht whcn you
wcrcspcakin¿wcrcstruckbyyourcIarity,your
vision, yourspiritandyourpoctry,youruscof
words. Howdidthatcxpcricnccofbcin¿inop-
position affcct thcwayyou arc today?
A: l think bcin¿ in prison bccamc a poIiticaI
capitaI, mcanin¿ nooncdoubtsmyradicaIism.
l can ¿ct away with appearing not radicaI. lf
59
�� æææææææææææææææææææææææææææææææææ �
youarcnotyctprovcntobcradicalyoutcndto
try to ovcrstrcss your bcin¿ a radicaI. And l
don't mcan that psychoIo¿icaIIy in tcrms of
nccd. PoIitics, youknow, is aIways communi-
cationandyou¿ctaffcctcdbyyouraudicncc.lf
thcy rcact, thcy may havc diffcrcnt cxpccta-
tions. Part ofmydistinct rolc l fccIhasbccnto
strcss many aspccts of radicaIism that havc
bccn stcrcotypcd as contrary to radicaIism-
crackin¿ |okcs, bcin¿ human, bcin¿ Hcxiblc.
Thcsc stcrcotypcs, unfortunatcly, tcnd to bc
rcinforccdbyccrtain radicaIscithcr bccausc of
thcir own pcrsonaI insccurity or bccausc thcy
think it is not thc corrcct timc to say thcsc
thin¿s.
SothatisoncrcsuItofbcin¿inprisonforso
Ion¿.lwouIdhavcprcfcrrcdthatl notcarnmy
crcdcntials this way. lma¿inc what a Iousy
poIiticaIcarccritistobcidcntificdprimariIyas
aformcrprisoncr. ltisbcttcrtobcsomconcin
thc undcr¿round, a fi¿htcr and aII that. But
anyway it's thcrc and l think l 'vctricd to turn
this cxpcricncc into an advanta¿c. PcopIc tcII
mclcan¿ctawaywith morcthin¿sthanothcrs.
But morc positivcIy l think prison did two
thin¿s to mc. lirst, it ¿avc mc timc, too much
timc, much morc timc than l nccdcd, but at
IcastcIcarIycnou¿h timctorcfIcctstratc¿icalIy
and indcpth, which thcrcforc aIlows for flcxi-
biIity. Sccond,it¿avcmctimctorcvicwmyIifc
and sort out thc compIcx strains that ¿o into
any radicaI commitmcnt. lt's not so simplc as
| ust onc factor or anothcr factor. lrom this, l
fccI l havc a morc scnsitivc undcrstandin¿ of
thc turmoiI and compIcxitics of othcr pcoplc
whcn thcy commit thcmscIvcs. l aIways worry
pcrsonaIIyaboutwhatlcaIIour 'timcbombs'
in pcopIc who makc quick poIiticaI dccisions,
didnotsortoutothcrthin¿s.ThcyrcachawaIl,
a confIict or dcfcat, a faiIurc or shortcomin¿,
and thcn a timc-bomb cxpIodcs insidc. ln a
situation Iikc thc PhiIippincs whcrc pcopIc arc
confrontcd byIitcral bombs-bcin¿kiIlcd, and
aII that-l wouIdrathcrthat thcy comctothat
witha basic scnscofwhoIcncss, whichwilInot
happcn if you don't cxaminc your Iifc and ac-
ccpt it in its compIcxity.
Vcry closcIy rcIatcd to that, it was my
priviIc¿c cvcn whiIc bcin¿ in prison to ncvcr
Iosc touch with a varicty ofpcopIc. Somc pco-
pIctcascmcthatitwasonIyinprisonthatthcy
60
couId rcachmc,bccauscwhcn l'moutofprison
thcydon't know whcrc to ¿ct hoId ofmc. But
prison is supposcd to isoIatcyou, narrow you
down, youwaIIowinscIf-pityorscIf-rcfIcction.
lnmycascl hadsomcpcriodsofisoIation, but
corrcspondcncc,|ustvcrbaIwords,somclcttcrs
and aII cntcrcd my Iifc in a sufficicnt richncss
that it hclpcd mc to prcscrvc not onIy my
whoIcncssandmybcarin¿,buthascvcncnrich-
cd my undcrstandin¿ of what it takcs to win
andtofi¿htandundcrstandthcwidcvarictyof
pcoplc.
ln a spcciaI way l first rcaIizcd thc impor-
tanccofthc intcrnationaI soIidarity movcmcnt
-l first rcaIizcd it in prison. You know whcn
you'rc outsidc prison you'rc stuck with your
work and in thc PhiIippincs this wholc undcr-
standin¿ ofthc intcrnationaIdimcnsionsinthc
stru¿¿Ic amon¿ activists rcalIy startcd ¿cttin¿
clcar onIy in l ºB0 or so. But in thc I ºT0s,
bccauscprisoncrsarcaIwaysbcncficiaricsofin-
tcrnationaI soIidarity, l¿otintouchwithmorc
and morc pcopIc from abroad. Thinkin¿ this
throu¿h and thcn durin¿ my first rcIcasc in
I ºB0, l startcd apprcciatin¿ thc two-way cx-
chan¿c. that l am both thc rccipicnt and aIso
offcr somcthin¿. So that l aIrcady Iook at
myscIf not mcrcIy as an activist for PhiIippinc
libcrationbutalsohcIpin¿inothcrmovcmcnts.
MichacI Bcdford works with Third World
Reports, and has lived in the Philippines for
over five years. Recently he led two fact-finding
missions to the Philippines to assess the changes
after the removal of Marcos and the rise of
Corazon Aquino.

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61
.........ææææææææææææææææ
Simone de Beauvoir in her room on Bucherie Street, 1948, behind her the reproduction oja Picasso painting.
BY HERSEL F:
Reflections on Simone de Beauvoi r
Dorothy Kaufmann
I first encountered the name Simone de Beauvoir when I was an adolescent in the
mid-1950s . Browsing through the local Queens bookstore, I came upon a volume
mysteriously titled 7heSeccudSex. As I looked through its pages, I found myself uncom­
fortable and vaguely threatened by the idea that someone could write so many pages just
about women, as i f they were a special problem. I remember thinking: I ' m not a "woman, "
I'm me. Perhaps it was precisely because I was feeling a constant bewil derment of sexual
identity that I would not read the book. The fact of its existence was troubling enough.
It took me over a decade to come to the astonishing recognition that "me" happens to be
a woman, an identity through which others define me, quite apart from my own sense of
myself. In 1 969 I was a Lecturer i n French at Cornell University, married and pregnant with
a
child I very much wanted to have. What I did not want was the sudden change I felt in
others' perceptions of me, the sense of being reified by male colleagues and their wives (there
Were few women faculty in 1 969) into the category of a proper woman. It was at that point,
during my seventh month of pregnancy, that I first read 7he SeccudSex.
, Bea
uvoir' s most famous and controversial postulate in 7heSeccudSex(first published in
.
63
lrancc in I º4º) that 'Onc is not born, but
rathcr bccomcs a woman' undcrIincs hcr vicw
of womcn's Othcrncss as fabricatcd, imposcd
by cuIturc rathcr than bioIo¿y. AIon¿ with so
many womcn comin¿ ofa¿c in thc fiftics and
sixtics , l bc¿an to bc awarc ofthat Othcrncss
throu¿h thc contradictions of thc civiI ri¿hts
and thc anti-war movcmcnts. lor thc womcn
participatin¿ in thosc stru¿¿Ics, it bccamc ap-
parcnt that our Icftist brothcrs, dcspitc thcir
rhctoricaI dcsirc to chan¿c socicty, wcrc not
chan¿in¿ thcir powcr rcIation to womcn.
RadicaI discoursc notwithstandin¿, thcy wcrc
mcrcIy actin¿ out ncw forms of thc oId scxuaI
division of Iabor and thc oId scxuaI cxpIoita-
tion.
lnlrancc,thcMouvement de Liberation des
Femmes (MLl) cmcr¿cd from an anaIo¿ous
pcrccption, foIIowin¿ thc rcvoIutionary
cuphoria of May l º6B. lrom thc outsct thcrc
was a fundamcntaI division in thc lrcnch
womcn's movcmcnt bctwccn divcrsc ¿roups of
feminists, whosc praxis took Bcauvoir's
idcoIo¿yofcquaIityasthcirpointofdcparturc,
and a ¿roupcaIIcdPsychoanalyse et Politique,
infIucnccd bythcorics of thc fcmininc and pro-
foundIy hostiIc to Bcauvoir. Thc fundamcntaI
opposition bctwccn thctwo idcoIo¿ics can bcst
bc undcrstood throu¿h thc opposin¿ vaIucs
cachassi¿nstothcnotionofdiffcrcncc. lorthc
fcminists,thcar¿umcntofbioIo¿icaIdiffcrcncc
is a poIiticaI tooI that has bccn uscd to mask
and |ustify a history of cxpIoitation in which
womcn, dcfincd as thc Othcr, havc bccn
prcvcntcd fromIcadin¿Iivcs as autonomousin-
dividuaIs. ln rcfutin¿ csscntiaIism and thc
dccrccs of patriarchaI history thc fcminists
ar¿uc, foIIowin¿ Bcauvoir, that womcn must
cIaim thcir ri¿ht to thc fuII ran¿c of human
possibiIitics, includin¿ thosc that until now
havc bccn considcrcd mascuIinc. lncontrast to
thc fcminists, thcorists of thc fcmininc in
lrancc scc woman's diffcrcncc as thc sourcc of
hcr potcntial Iibcration. Thcyarc Icss conccrn-
cd with thc historicaI opprcssion of womcn
than with thc miso¿ynist unconscious of
Simone de Beauvoir and Jean·Paul Sartre at Mrs. Morel 's house in Juan-It's-Pins, I ºJJ.
64
patriarchy that has successfully repressed the
feminine i n the l i bidinal economy of culture.
Within this controversy, Beauvoir hersel f has
often been attacked by the theorists of the
feminine as a collaborator of patriarchy and
even as a misogynist . Such accusations confuse
two issues : Beavoi r' s hostility to the maternal
and her commitment to women. The anti­
maternal bias of The Second Sex i s unmistak­
able but needs to be interpreted through the
mediations of both her hi storical and her per­
sonal sit uation. I n the late forties, France was
still emerging from the trauma of Occupation
and the Vichy regi me. Although French women
had finally obtained the right to vote ( 1 944),
legislated in part in reaction to the policies of
Vichy and in recognition of women' s active
participation i n the Resistance, male rej ection
of Vichy propaganda did not go so far as to
consider women' s right to control thei r bodies.
Not only di d abortion continue to be outlawed,
but even the sale of contraceptives remained i l ­
legal unti l 1967.
Another factor in Beauvoi r' s hostility to the
maternal i s her adoption of Sartrean existen­
tialism with its rej ection of the natural as im­
manence and anti-val ue, in opposition to the
transcendence of freely chosen proj ects.
Beauvoi r' s childhood history makes her attrac­
tion to Sartrean assumptions more comprehen­
sible. As a duti ful daughter in the early part of
the century, she grew up with the traditional
family structure and expectations of the ti me.
Her mother took care of her moral welfare and
day-to-day needs while her father was the
authority figure who embodied the Law and
worldly knowledge. Fran<oise de Beauvoi r, as
evoked by her daughter, was a pious woman
who accepted without question her prescribed
duties as wi fe and mother, renouncing any self­
expression outside those roles . She became for
her daughter a warning, the image of what she
wanted her own l i fe not to be. Maternity always
look
ed to Beauvoir l i ke a trap in which women
lose their autonomy and their happiness.
Beauvoi r' s commitment to women' s rights
co
mes out of that same history. To the extent
that any woman can be singled out as i nspiring
real changes in women' s si tuation i n the
decades , Beauvoir should be the one. The
Sex is where contemporary feminism
Heal/ voir at her desk at home, Paris, 1967.
begins . Its totalizing theory, however pro­
blemati c, allowed for translation into a political
praxis to which i t gave philosophical support.
Beauvoi r ' s u nderst andi ng of t he t erm
"femi nism" has always been political; she
therefore never considered The Second Sex a
feminist work. I t was only in 1972 that she
publicly declared she had "become a femi ni st "
according to her own definition: those women
fighting to change women' s condition, linked
to the class struggle but nevertheless outside i t .
65
ln I ºTI shc si¿ncd and coIIcctcd si¿naturcs for
thcManifcstoof343writcrsandccIcbriticswho
dccIarcd that thcy wcrc amon¿ thosc onc
miIIion lrcnch.womcncachycar who had bccn
forccdtohavcrccoursctodan¿crous andiIIc¿aI
abortions. Throu¿hout thc dccadc of miIitant
ac!ivismthatfoIIowcdMay '6B, fcministskncw
thcy couId count on Bcauvoir' s support. And
aftcr thc cIcction of Mittcrand in I ºB I , Yvcttc
Roudy' s Ministry of Womcn's Ri¿hts (now
dismantIcd by Mittcrrand' s ri¿ht-win¿ 'co-
habitor, ' PrimcMinistcr 1acqucs Chi rac)was
cxpIicitIy inspircd by Bcauvoir' s fcminism.
AIthou¿h Simonc dc Bcauvoir isbcstknown
for The Second Sex, hcrIitcraryproductionwas
aI s o c ons i dcr abI c . Hcr four - voI umc
autobi o¿raphy, Memoirs of a Dutiful
Daughter, The Prime of Lie, Force of Cir­
cumstance, and All Said and Done, is a ma|or
Beauvoir after her return froll1 China, 1955.
66
documcnt oflrcnch sociaIhistoryaswcIIasthc
story of an cxtraordinary Iifc. Shc wrotc a
numbcrofnovcIs, incIudin¿She Came to Stay,
thc fictionaIizcd narrativc of hcrdisastrous cx-
pcrimcnt Iivin¿ out Sartrc's idca ofthc 'trio';
The Blood of Others, anovcIof thcRcsistancc;
and The Mandarins, anaccountofthctortuous
rcIationship of Icft-win¿ Parisian intcIIcctuaIs
with thc Communists aftcr WorId War ll and
aIsoancvocationofBcauvoir'sIovcaffairwith
thc Amcrican novcIist McIson AI¿rcn. Hcr
phiIosophicaI cssays Pyrrhus and Cineas and
The Ethics of Ambiguity arc ar¿uabIy a bcttcr
and ccrtainIy a morc compIcx introduction to
cxistcntiaIism than Sartrc's muchbcttcrknown
Existentialism is a Humanism. In La Vieillesse,
misIcadin¿Iy transIatcd as Coming of Age,
Bcauvoir attcmpts, not quitc succcssfuIIy l
think,toconfrontthc issucsofoIda¿cthrou¿h
thc mcthodoIo¿y shc brou¿ht to The Second
Sex. Thc rcccntIy pubIishcd and controvcrsiaI
Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre ¿ivcs a cIinicaIIy
dctaiIcd account of hcr Iast tcn ycars with Sar-
trc, untiI hisdcath in I ºB0.
Bcauvoir's most movin¿ Iitcrary writin¿ can
bc found intwo short worksthat arc bc¿innin¿
to bc morc widcIy rcad in this country. In A
Very Easy Death, shc tcIIs of hcr mothcr' s dy-
in¿ of canccr, Icttin¿ ¿o, at Icast in a fcw
un¿uardcd spaccs , of thc rationaIist controI
that marks so much ofBcauvoir' s writin¿. The
Woman Destroyed is a novcIIa, thc fictionaI
diary of a middIc-a¿cd woman who has Iivcd
cntircIy throu¿h husband and chiIdrcn, Iikc so
manywomcnofaccrtaincIassand¿cncration,
onIy to find hcrscIf uttcrIy Iost whcn hcr hus-
band faIIs ín Iovc with anothcr woman.
Somcwhat to my surprisc, thc story has bccna
passionatc favoritc amon¿ my undcr¿raduatc
womcn studcnts, who findit not at aIIdatcd in
its pcrccptions.
Thc most paradoxicaI Ic¿acy of Símonc dc
Bcauvoir is thc doubIc symboI hcr namc
cvokcs. as thc author of The Second Sex, shc
stands asthcpionccrofwomcn` sIibcration; hcr
Iifc-Ion¿ rcIationship with 1can-PauI Sartrc has
bccomc a myth, for bcttcr and worsc, of thc
possibiIitics of thc hctcroscxuaI coupIc. Thcv
mct whcn Bcauvoir was twcnty-onc, Sartrc
twcnty-thrcc. Both wcrc compIctin¿ thcir
studics in phiIosohy and prcparin¿ for thc

^

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Interview with Che Guevara, in his office in Havana. Cuba trip, I ºóJ.
agregation (which Sartrc had failcd thc
prcviousycar). From thc outsct, thcrc sccms to
havc cxistcd bctwccn thcm thc mutual rcco¿ni-
tion ofa spccial kind of kinship. Thcy sharcd
bytcmpcramcntapassionatcnccdforabsolutcs
and an cqually passionatc disbclicf in thcm.
Sartrc's anarchistic dcnunciation of bour¿cois
socicty rcspondcdand¿avc valucto Bcauvoir' s

ccction ofthc dutiful dau¿htcr shcuscdtobc.
For fifty ycars, until Sartrc's dcath in I ºB0,
�hcy staycd to¿cthcr on thc basis of thc pact
proposcd carly in thcir rclationship.
did not havc thc vocation for
, ' Bcauvoir writcs in The Prime of
'Bctwccn us, ' hc cxplaincd to hcr with
hcadincss, 'thcrcis ancccssarylovc,wc
also cxpcricncc contin¿cnt lovcs. '
adds, 'Wc wcrc two of a kind, and
rclationship would cndurc as lon¿ as wc
did. but it could not takc thc placc of flcctin¿
richcstobchad from cncountcrs withdiffcrcnt
pcoplc. How could wc dclibcratcly forc¿o that
¿amut of cmotions - astonishmcnt, rc¿rct,
nostal¿ia, plcasurc - which wc wcrc also
capablc of fcclin¿? ' Thcy madc anothcr pact.
thcywouldncvcrlictooncanothcr,andncithcr
would conccal anythin¿ from thc othcr.
Althou¿hthcyusuallysawcachothcrcvcryday
thcy ncvcr livcd to¿cthcr. 'Why livc undcrthc
samc roof whcn thc world was our common
propcrty? ' Thc idcal was frccdom and a
pcrfcct transparcncy.
Bcauvoir' s rclation to Sartrc cmcr¿cs as a
complcx dialcctic of libcration and alicnation.
Fromthctimcthcy mct, shcfcltthatwhatSar-
trcvalucdinhcrwaswhatshcvalucdinhcrsclf.
hcr lovc ofpcrsonal frccdom, hcr passion for
lifc, hcrcuriosity,and hcrdctcrminationtobca
67
writcr. Whcn shc faiIcd to carry throu¿h hcr
dcsirc to writc in thc carIy ycars of thcir rcIa-
tionship, it si¿nificdaIoss ofcstccm notonlyin
hcrowncycsbutinSartrc'sas wcII. Ocscribin¿
cach ofhcr ma|or writin¿ pro|ccts, shc spcaks
ofSartrc'scncoura¿cmcnt and thccrcativc im-
pctus hc ¿ivcs to hcr thinkin¿. Thc mcmoirs,
howcvcr, cnact a confIict bctwccn thc tcxt of
Bcauvoir's impcrious nccd to asscrt hcr
autonomy and thc sub tcxt of an cqualIy im-
pcrious nccd to bc ovcrwhcImcd by Sartrc. In
The Second Sex, Bcauvoir radicaIIy qucstions
thccuIturaIIyimposcd vaIuc offcmininity that
has madc womcn into rcIativc bcin¿s. But shc
docs not submit Sartrc's cxistcntiaIism ¬ and
thc privatc obscssions that compIicatc it - to
Woman 5 Day colloquium in Brussels. NOI'ember II, I 9/.
68
thc samc qucstionin¿. As a rcsuIt, thcthrust of
Sartrc'smascuIinistidcaoffrccdomsomctimcs
thrcatcns to ovcrwhcIm Bcauvoir' s fcminist
pro|cct.
Bcauvoir' s Iast pubIication bcforchcr dcath
was thc Lettres au Castor ( I ºB3), two voIumcs
ofSartrc's lcttcrs to hcr (and to a fcw othcrs),
writtcnforthcmostpartcarIyinthcirrclation-
shipthrou¿hthcpcriodbctwccn I º3ºand I º4I
whcn Sartrc was draftcd and thcn takcn
prisoncr by thc Gcrmans. Thc Icttcrs confirm,
oftcn movin¿Iy, Sartrc's scnsc ofthcir lovc as
anabsoIutc. Atthcsamctimc, hiscompuIsivcIy
dctailcd scxual dcscriptions of affairs with
'contin¿cnt ' womcn in his lifc show us how
ambi¿uous in mcanin¿ truth-tcIIin¿ can bc.
��æææææææWWW� WWWæææææææææææææWWWWÆÆÆÆÆÆ���
A tricnd ot minc has said that Simonc dc
ßca
uvoir and Jcan-PauI Sartrc arcmy 'tamiIy
romancc. ' l' m inclincd to a¿rcc. CcrtainIy
ßcauvoirhasbccna kind otadoptcd mothcr in
my ima¿ination tor many ycars, aIthou¿h shc
wouId not likc my choicc otthat mctaphor. l
continuc to bc tascinatcd bythccontradictions
within and bctwccn hcr tcminism and hcr rcla-
tiOntoSartrc. lnthcconcIudin¿chaptcrotThe
Second Sex, ßcauvoir writcsotthcindcpcndcnt
woman as a dividcd sclt, cau¿ht bctwccn hcr
tcmininity and hcr vocation as a ' sovcrci¿n
sub)cct.' Almost aII thc novcIs prcscnt a
hcroinc who is similarIy torn bctwccn a dcsirc
tor autonomy and a dcsirc to ¿ivc hcrsclt to
anothcr. ßcauvoir hasasscrtcdthat shchcrscIt
was not dividcd, thanks to Sartrc and his in-
sistcncc uponhcr trccdom as wclI as his own.
Butthe iusctiptiou oí het liíe iu the Memoirs
andcvcnin The Second Sex ismuch morcprob-
lcmatic. lor many tcminists, cspccialIy thosc
0tus who stiIl tind ourscIvcs in intimatc rcIa-
tIons with mcn, thc cxampIc ot Simonc dc
ßcauvoir raiscs qucstions ot how to rcconcilc
ç
ut nccd tor trccdomand tor Iovcthat wc arc
tar trom bcin¿ abIc to rcsoIvc.
0DIDthy Kauíuauu teaches French at Clark
Universit in Worchester, Mass. She is the author
. o]The Theatet oíJean !aul Sattte (New York:
:
. Columbia Universit Press, 1969) and has written
about Simone de Beauvoir and comtemporar
French feminism.
¼
hat ' s the best men ' s
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men relate to each other, to women and
to ki ds; the one that ' s gay-affirmative
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¬ O80l0/0 b0/080,
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Sample copy of current issue $4.50
Issues in Gender, Sex & Politics
Jü0N. Brooks Madìson, W¡ 5JTI5
ôV
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How to Uncover and Tel l the Story of Your
Communi ty, Associ ati on or Uni on
by Jeremy ßrecher
This is a guide for people who are not professional
historians but who want to explore the history of
their own community, workplace, union, or local
organization. It will tell you how to design a project
you can do with the time and resources you have
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group and community.
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F\Lf SAOR,S
"She's Gutta Have It" di rected by Spike Lee, an
Island Pictures release, l 9hô.
Any film that starts out with a Zora Neale Hurston
quote grabs my attenti on right away. But, i f Spi ke
Lee's i ntent i n t he comedy "She' s Gatta Have I t "
was to create a strong-willed black woman li ke the
main character i n Hurst on's novel, Their Eyes Were
Watching God, he didn 't make i t .
Nola Darling i s sketchily depicted t o be arti sti c and
itically aware. I t ' s hard to take Nola or the
ures regarding her independence seriously since
doesn' t take her seriously himsel f: Nola doesn' t
much of a life beyond t he mat t ress . Her main
i s sleeping with each of her t hree male lovers
never she feels like it . She refuses t o make a com­
nt t o any one of them and t hi s, of course,
ves the men crazy. Needl ess to say, they don' t
much i nt erest i n her art or her politics.
h of t he humor i n the film derives from the
ng personal i t ies and values of the men and the
tempts of each t o win Nola for himself. There i s the
in and concei t ed model Greer Childs, t he oh-so­
serious and sel f-ri ghteous Jamie Overstreet, and the
unemployed , fast-talki ng, high-top sneaks-wearing
Mars Blackmon . (The names that Lee has chosen for
the characters represent the types they represent and
his attit udes t oward them. )
There is a lesbian character, Nola' s girlfriend Opal
Gilstrap Uockst rap?) . The one scene between t hem,
where Nola squelches Opal ' s advances , seems to have
no
point other than the rejecti on i t self (except
perhaps to cater to the homophobes i n the audience).
I t 's
more of a statement of Lee ' s at t i t udes about sex
between black women than a comment about Nola.
lI would not have been far-fetched for the supposed-
·vfree, sexually advent urous Nola to sleep with Opal
'
a
nd then say somet hi ng li ke, "Sorry, Í like you but
1m not into being t i ed down this year. "
.
Whi le the fi lm nomi nally revolves around Nol a
.
her escapades, t he actual heart and soul of the
is Mars Blackmon, played wi th wi t , charm and
energy that i s hard to resi st , by Lee himself.
kmon, as implied by his name, i s somethi ng of a
Everydayman: a for real , down-to-earth, take-
no-bull street brother. He plays the dozens on
everyone from Larry Bi rd and the Celtics to
egotistical men lamely tryi ng to get over on women.
As for Nola, by the end, you're st i ll not qui te sure
who she is or what she' s gotta have. When the men
proclaim that i t ' s sex she wants, you t hi nk, "There's
Got To Be More To It Than That . " Her big declara­
ti on of independence-that her body i s hers and she' s
not a "one-man-woman" i s flimsy. Especially com­
ing after the shocki ng, let's-puni sh-the-woman­
cause-that ' s-what-she-deserves scene, where Jamie
brutally "gives her what , " he says, "she wants . " The
reconciliation afterwards plays l i ke they were discuss­
ing rudeness rather than rape.
We need more films by and about black people.
Independent black filmmakers need support and
room to move. Yet , my overall reaction to Spi ke Lee
and his film remains. Why does thi s talented,
energet i c, charismati c, gutsy black man with access
to resources (however li mi ted compared t o
Hollywood producers) have to resort to gay put­
downs and woman abuse? Lee shouldn' t be expected
to make any film but his own, but he should be ex­
pected to do better. He should be expected to bring
all of his talents and comic sense to the women
characters i n his films without being ham-strung by
the perverse need to put them i n their place, puni sh
them or keep them confined within adolescent male
fantasies. Hopefully, in his fut ure films, Lee will
stick to what he knows best and, in the meantime
he'll find out the Real Deal about who black women
are and what i t i s we say we "gotta have. "
Kate Rushin
Kate Rushin is a poet and a member of the New
Words bookstore collective. She is a member of
Boston Women 's Community Radio. An earlier ver­
sion qf this review appeared in Gay Community
News and Black/Out .
Thc ci¿hth annual Bryant Spann McmoriaI
Prizcof$750wiII bcawardcd bythcLu¿cncV.
Ocbs loundation in I ºB7 for thc bcst articIc,
pubIishcd or unpubIishcd, writtcn in thc Ocb-
sian tradition ofsocial protcst andrcform. lor
furthcr dctails writc to thc Bryant Spann
McmoriaI Prizc Committcc, c/o Thc Ocpart-
mcnt of History, lndiana Statc Lnivcrsity,
Tcrrc Hautc, IM 47B0º. Plcasc cncIosc a
stampcd, addrcsscd cnvclopc.
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Critics hailed "Sun City" as a
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tures 54 artists, including Little Steven,
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