article on the womens encuentro

February 20, 2008 at 10:41 pm (anti-racism, anti-sexism, chiapas, women of color)

so john ross wrote the first article i read about the zapatista womens encuentro that we attended.

The Zapatista companeras’ struggle for inclusion and parity with their male counterparts grates against separatist politics that some militant first-world feminists who journeyed to the jungle espouse. Lesbian couples and collectives seemed a substantial faction in the first-world feminist delegations. Although no Zapatista women has publicly come out, the EZLN has been zealous in its inclusion of Lesbians and Gays and incorporate their struggles in the rainbow of marginated constitutioncies with whose cause they align themselves.

i didnt see alot of lesbian couples.  a smattering.  nor did i encounter alot of ‘seperatist politics’.  yeah i saw zines (mainly in spanish frankly) and tshirts with a woman with a fist in the air or some symbolism of female biology, but there is a difference between being seperatist and being pro-woman.

Sadly, the Encuentro of the Women of the World with the Zapatista Women did not provoke much formal interchange between the rebel companeras and first-world feminists – who were limited to five-minute presentations on the final day of the event. Nonetheless, a surprise Zapatista womens’ theater piece did imply a critique: in the skit, a planeload of first-world feminists with funny hair (played by the companeras) lands in the jungle to deliver the poor Indian women from oppression.

this was a really cute play.  but it is irresponsible for mr.  ross to emphasize this critique of zapatista women as part of disparaging first world women.  this play was also and much more so a critique of men’s role in the movement: zapatista, indigenous, and international.  and yet no where in this article does ross speak to the critiques that zapatista women had of international (read international men) role in the movement.  instead he makes it seem as if the zapatista women tolerated having these ‘militant seperatist lesbians’ (o000h scary lesbians) at the encuentro.

Among international delegations in attendance were women representatives from agrarian movements as far removed from Chiapas as Brazil and Senegal, organized by Via Campesina, an alliance that represents millions of poor farmers in the third world, and a group of militant women from Venice, Italy who have been battling expansion of a U.S. military base in that historic city. Political prisoners were represented by Trinidad Ramirez, partner of imprisoned Ignacio del Valle (67 year sentence), leader of the farmers of Atenco. A message from “Colonel Aurora” (Gloria Arenas), a jailed leader of the Popular Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI), who now supports the EZLN, was read. Although he reputedly lives only a few villages away, Subcomandante Marcos (or his penis) did not put in an appearance at the womens’ gathering.

okay.  the reference to marcos’s penis is just one more attack on international women’s presence at an encuentro which was entitled: zapatista women meet the women of the world.  why doesnt he have a critique of his presence at the encuentro?  what i hear is a great resentment that in this encuentro it was not only expected that zap men take a back seat but that he does as well.  for instance there was a constant reminder from the zap women leaders that there were spaces that were women only and i saw lots of international men.  so many that plenty of times i couldnt find a seat.

Ladling out chicken soup at her makeshift food stand, Dona Laura told La Jornada chronicler Hermann Bellinghausen that once the womens’ “Encuentro” had concluded, everything would return to normal – “only normal would be different now.”

Although the Encounter amply demonstrated the increasing empowerment of the Zapatista companeras, how much of what was said actually rubbed off on those who came from the outside is open to question. “I didn’t really get a lot of it,” confided one young non-Spanish-speaking activist on her way home to northern California to report back on the womens’ gathering to her Zapatista solidarity group.

and this is the linchpin.  this is the only international woman (mujer del mundo) who gets a direct quote.  even though the vast majority of women there (international mexican indigenous) could understand spanish. and it is one of the last lines that he writes in this article.  oh this poor little girl who doesnt understand zapatista women like he the zap women expert does.  and so he can minimize and ridicule the participation of women from his part of the world (he too is from northern california) , by making her representative (and those evil seperatist lesbians) of international women at the encuentro, he can make this encuentro really about zap women meeting international men.

look i got my own critiques of the way that white women co-opt the movements of indigenous women and lump the lives of women together with little to no acknowledgement of the price of white women’s liberation to indigenous women and women of color.  but i am also really critical of the ways that white men denigrate white women by using women of color and indigenous women as props.  like the big white man is going to save and protect these little zap women from the evil separatist (vagina dentata)man-hating women.  it is denigrating to all of us.

maybe rather than him working on this article he should have done what the zap women asked him to do on all those infamous signs posted around la garrucha: take care of the kids, bring firewood, cook some food.


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