Elena picked me up from the Sex Conference on Friday and we went straight to the Heard Museum to hear a panel on art, gender, and sexuality. I was just really excited to hear women of Color speak on these topics, especially from after the last session I attended at the conference. I was also super excited to hear the Crafty Chica. Some of you may not know this but there are some folks who are just famous to me, she is one of them, so when I saw her walk in I got all uber nervous and chickened out on talking to her! For those of you who have received my gifts of candles, it was her book that inspired such art!
There was the gorgeous DJ Brazillia spinning great music prior to the talk. I saw my favorite Mexicans who I had not seen in years! And we took our seats for the presentation. I rather not hash out the specific discussion of the panel, but I do want to add that Crafty Chica was the best on the panel (of only 2 women of Color out of the 5 women). I asked a question about how women can control the gaze and make choices to engage their sexuality through performing their gender expression in a particular way and two outspoken panelists were very condescending in ways that I wish I could forget from my days as a graduate student in a Women’s Studies program.
They argued that women can not control the gaze when working in particular spaces. I found this ironic for second wave feminists to state since choice and agency are at the heart of that time period. They tried to “school” me, but what they really did was misunderstand what my question was. When I didn’t back down, and told them that I’m asking about “next steps” from the “not controlling the gaze” to a space where women have choice and agency, then what? Can they speak more about that? Only the Crafty Chica did.
What does it mean that in a space devoted to this topic, a field of which I’ve been an active part of for over a decade, two panelists can so comfortably tell me I’m wrong and do not know what I speak of? What does it say about them, as women, as artists, that they cannot allow themselves to imagine a space where women do and can have such choice and agency?
After the session my hermanos y hermanas said they “understood my question” and that it was a “good” question. As if I were a magnet, two White women approached me and said they agreed with what I had to say, that they appreciated it, and wanted to engage me more. I shared what I wrote above. I also wondered to myself why they hadn’t said these things within the group versus with just me on the side. To be fair, one woman had spoken briefly about her courtship practices, but at the time I could not see the connection to my query.
This always seems to happen to me. Folks approach me after the conversation is over to tell me they agree with me. They appreciate my comment. They like my perspective. Yet that support, encouragement, community is not there the moment shit hits the fan and I get all the backlash. Does it matter that people approach me after the verbal lashing?
Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.
This time it did.
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