This is a little heavy. Because I have just spent a couple of hours reading very heavy things. First a very well-researched and written article about the recognition of systematic and wide-spread rape as a war crime through the tenacious journey of women refusing to forget or be forgotten. Then some not-that-revealing-after-all writings about technology and its evolving imprint on capitalism and society. Then into a small Angela Davis rabbit hole, first about the feminisation of the “working class”, then on racism and neo-liberalisation. And finally, a poem by June Jordan about race, gender, and everything that it entails by being seemingly always inhabiting the wrong body, the wrong skin.
And I emerge from all of this feeling suddenly, very tired.
First on race. When it is visible, I don’t really recognise myself in its language. Maybe I am reading the wrong things. Because whatever seem to be loudest and most voluminously written cleaves the world into three. Like the holy trinity: black, white, dan lain-lain. And maybe it’s about (un)shared history, and simultaneously bringing to mind the kind of history that also gets most airplay because of who owns the airwaves. Maybe it’s about the most radical of theorists|activists feeling obliged to mention “intersectionality” like some magic word, and adding a couple of examples trailing after it, but the singularity of analysis remains largely untouched. Because we too, are rooted in where we come from. Maybe it’s about the racism that is stitched on my skin the minute I learn language coming from Malaysia, where even the word “diversity” is balked at, preferring instead some kind of comfort in the distance of the word “tolerance,” and where you can’t speak about race, without speaking about religion, or about which direction your piece of Malay(a)(sia) you stand from. We have our own version of the holy trinity, and trails of examples for inclusion.
What’s useful though, is the reminder to ground race-analysis on institutions and the psychical, emotional, social and economic history that it lives on. Like some kind of bacteria or moss on the gutter-drains. So what is our history? And maybe this is another entry point for me into MDA – when I get anxious that even in our scarcity of everyday visual artefacts – which is disappearing and reappearing through nostalgic-nationalistic curatorial lenses – that it is only of one, two, maybe three stories. That that’s really besides the point. It’s not about constitution of identities, but about re/constructions of institutions that re/constructs history that embeds itself into our skin like bacteria, like moss. And that every single conversation of “race” obliterates even as it illuminates. But the conversation must continue.
Second on rape. Rape as everyday contained terror before you even learn the word “puki” or “cibai” or “vagina.” Rape as the violent expression of patriarchal power. Rape as weapon of war. Rape as metaphor. Rape as the hidden seed of experience in the bodies of people I know, I love. Rape as reduced to the unspeakable trauma just behind the skin that risks escape with a single “trigger.”
Rape as a word that gains its might through the conjuring of the sanctity of sex. When what we mean is the integrity of my body. The force of my autonomy.
I think first of all, I am really done with rape as a metaphor. No more poems about rape that moves from the body to institutions to words. No more shitty campaigns, articles or political satire that uses rape as a convenient way to rouse up the imagined horror of violation. No more tricks to talk about the utter active disregard of some kinds of bodies having the core of autonomy by summoning and reinforcing weird notions about sex as the worst thing you could do to another human being, while simultaneously obliterating the conversation because it’s too “sensitive/hard/disturbing to talk about.”
Because that just keeps the wheel turning.
And oddly, as I’m trying to find the title for this heavy post, which I may regret after having some sleep, I realise that the difference between race and rape, is a letter.