Archives for October 2009

Uganda is … A plea, a prayer, a demand, an invitation

An anti-homosexuality bill has been tabled before the Parliament of Uganda. Many have risen to denounce and oppose it, many others have risen to support it. Remember that in Uganda, homosexuality is already a criminal offense. This `homosexuality’ is defined as engaging in same- sex sexual relations or being identified as such. The new proposed legislation adds a possible death sentence, and other niceties.

Sexual Minorities Uganda, SMUG, and Freedom and Roam Uganda, FAR-UGANDA, have issued A CALL TO ACTION. It reads, in part:


Dear Partners, Allies and Friends,

As you already know, the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.” was recently tabled before the Parliament of Uganda. The Bill’s provisions are draconian and among them are;

• Any person alleged to be homosexual would be at risk of life imprisonment or in some circumstances the death penalty;

• Any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities would face fines of $ 2,650.00 or three years in prison;

• Any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil to the authorities within 24 hours would face the same penalties;

• And any landlord or landlady who happens to give housing to a suspected homosexual would risk 7 years of imprisonment.

• Similarly, the Bill threatens to punish or ruin the reputation of anyone who works with the gay or lesbian population, such as medical doctors working on HIV/AIDS, civil society leaders active in the fields of sexual
and reproductive health, hence further undermining public health efforts
to combat the spread of HIV;

• All of the offences covered by the Bill as drafted can be applied to a Ugandan citizen who allegedly commits them – even outside Uganda!

The existing law has already been employed in an arbitrary way, and the Bill will just exacerbate that effect. There is a continued increase in campaigns of violence and unwarranted arrests of homosexuals. There are
eight ongoing cases in various courts. Four accused persons are unable to meet the harsh bail conditions set against them. As a result, Brian Pande died in Mbale Hospital on 13th September, 2009 as he awaited trial.

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) calls upon you our partner, ally and/or friend to action. Denounce this bill through a protest at a Ugandan Diplomatic Mission in your country on November 9th 2009, where applicable.
Urge the Government of Uganda to reject this Bill in its entirety….

Thank you for standing in solidarity with the Uganda LGBTI community.

For more information, please contact:

Frank Mugisha Tel: + 256 772 616 062

Valetine Kalende                  Tel: +256 752 324 249”

Any person alleged to be homosexual, any parent, any teacher, any landlord or landlady, any doctor or nurse or caregiver, any neighbor, any stranger.  Everyone, everywhere. Anyone, anywhere. A landscape of allegations, a horizon of torture and death.

Freedom and Roam Uganda, FAR-UG, says its vision “is to build an organization, which will strive for the attainment of full equal rights of lesbians, bisexuals, Transgender and Intersexual (LBTI) women as well as the removal of all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and Empower LBTI women.” Its mission is “to empower, lobby and press for the recognition of same sex relationships, especially lesbians in Uganda and thereby attain full equal rights and freedom in all aspects of life.”

Its aims and objectives include the following: “To integrate a legal, ethical and human rights dimension into the response to discrimination based on sexual orientation and also to equip them for full participation in the political, social, economical and health set up of Uganda. To create, raise and promote awareness of discriminated causes and effects in regards to LGBTI (lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and Intersexuals) persons especially LBTI (lesbian bisexual, transgender and Intersexual) women in Uganda….To raise self-esteem among LBTI women in our society. To provide education, homes, jobs as well as health resources to the needy in this cause….To bring LBTI women in Uganda and those outside our borders together in order to build one great family. To advocate for the establishment of a legal framework to reach those in society that are legally and socially marginalized. To educate the general public on issues of human rights within the context of sexual orientation.”

Freedom and Roam Uganda is “the only all Lesbian, Bisexual Women, Transgender  and Intersex women’s organization in Uganda.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda has a vision, “a liberated LGBTI people of Uganda.” Its mission “is to oversee and support member organizations to achieve their objectives aimed at LGBTI liberation.” SMUG has five objectives: “1. To advocate and lobby through coordinating efforts with local and international partners for the equality of all Ugandan irrespective of gender, age, sexual orientation, social status or creed. 2. To build and strengthen visibility through media and literature. 3. To fight against HIV and AIDS in LGBTI, MSM and WSW community. 4. To speak out on gender-based violence e.g: Homophobia 5. Empower activists through trainings on leadership, social entrepreneurship etc.” SMUG breaks its activities into five categories: “1. Litigation. 2. Research and Documentation. 3. Media Campaigns and debates. 4. Awareness and Outreach. 5. Mainstreaming with civil society and NGOs with similar goals.” Sexual Minorities Uganda concludes its introduction of itself to the world with this:


Is it a plea or is it a prayer, a demand or an invitation? Yes to each, yes to all, together.




(Photo Credit: The Feminist Wire)


Transnational families: Challenging Notions

Transnational families can be found all over the world in many different forms – migration can come from many different sources.  Some families are forced to become transnational through refugee camps and war zones.  Others migrate to find work to abroad because they can make more money to raise the family that way.  However these families become transnational, their existence calls into question the notions of citizenship, domesticity, and public and private spaces.  For the purposes of this series, I look specifically at the transnational family where the mother has migrated to work as a domestic.

These migrant women do not fit into the typical notion of citizenship.  The ususal connotation of citizenship is one that implies that a person must belong to a nation, and must therefore be protected under its laws and according all the rights and privileges of that nation.  This is not the case – these women are often left as outsiders to the society and not given the same rights and privileges as the rest of the society.  While these women belong to the society and are necessary for the society to continue to function, they are seen as even below second-class citizens.

This idea of a second-class citizenship is seen in the case of marginalized citizens – in the case of women, LGBT, and non-white minorities.  It is the idea of someone who is a citizen (whether by birth or through naturalization) but is still restricted in terms of the rights and freedom one is accorded (Bosniak 2006).  The transnational domestic is not given that recognition.  She is a member of society without the rights of that society – she exists in a sort of “limbo” between citizenship in her home country (where she is rarely present) and citizenship in the host country.  She is contributing to both economies through her labor, yet cannot reap the benefits in her home country as she is not physically present and cannot reap the benefits in the host country because she is not a full citizen.

Often present in the country on a work visa or illegally (either or which designates a supposed transient situation where the domestic will be present in the nation for a limited time) the transnational domestic is meant to be invisible.  Praised for their caring, loving, and docile natures, transnational women from countries such as Mexico and the Philippines, are expected to do their care duties without bringing a lot of attention to themselves – they are to fade into the background.  Personal attendants for the physically disabled are expected to maintain the illusion of independence for their client by blending into the surroundings and not calling attention to themselves.

Part of this invisibility is a result of the need to keep the public and private spaces separate.  Domestic workers are let into the most private aspects of people lives, especially in the case of personal attendants.  By being invisible, the illusion is maintained that there still exists a private space – that one has not made the private public by hiring out household duties (Ehrenreich and Hochschild 2002).  The idea of domesticity is challenged.

This change in domesticity stems from the desire to resist the idea that one cannot do it all.  American women are expected to excel in the workforce and to retain all the duties of a household – she is supposed to be a superwoman.  The hiring of a domestic worker undermines that idea that she can do it all with grace – by hiring a domestic she is admitting failing in some sense.  Whether or not this is true is irrelevant; the fear of failure is planted in the minds of women.  By bringing someone into the private sphere and admitting that one needs help, the private becomes a professional space (hence the reason why women clean before the cleaning lady comes – leaving a dirty house for the cleaning lady to clean is admitting defeat and providing an unprofessional environment in which one can be judged for her ability to perform her gender).

As a foreigner, she brings a new perspective into the domestic world (Honig 2001).  She challenges the standards of thinking about such private, taken for granted issues such as citizenship and the public/private.  Her status as a transnational citizen challenges the status quo and the way we view domestic labor, and brings into the discussion the idea of a new universal citizen.  What should that look like, and what does it mean to bring the idea of citizenship into the household?  How does that transform the view of transnational domestic labor? And how do these challenges play out in the home country/family?


(Image Credit: COFACE Families Europe)

(Re)Producing Gender: Commodities of Desire

The identity of dagongmei, or little sisters, is faced with a number of ideological expectations of femininity fueled by desires of production and reproduction. However, it would be a mistake to assume that the desires are not always the women’s own yearning.  That migrating to the sweat shops of the export processing zones will require the exploitation of their bodies and their labor is public and popular knowledge. The dagongmei know what they are getting into when they begin their journey toward the modernity that has been denied to their village.

What, exactly, is this vague modernity that is so valuable? That’s hard to answer definitively, but whatever it is, it is the total opposite of what it means to be rural – the negative social reflection of what it is not. “The capitalist machine represents rural people as incomplete, as lacking, and they begin to see themselves as such.” They cannot separate this lack from their social presentation and their social location.

Ironically, there is (or, at least recently, was) an entire industry of cultural tourism where the more affluent members of society would vacation in quaint rural villages to remind themselves of the simplicity of country life as compared to the trials of modern life. Of course the sights they desired to see had nothing to do with reality. There is no social value in actually existing within those conditions, only in being able to consume the commodified simulacrum. As Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari point out in Anti-Oedipus, “Capitalism institutes or restores all sorts of residual and artificial, imaginary, or symbolic territorialities, thereby attempting, as best it can, to recode, to rechannel persons who have been defined in terms of abstract quantities . . . The real is not impossible; it is simply more and more artificial.”

Dagongmei are always faced with the realities that they must work against the conceptions of their gender and their village. These realities serve as a point of discipline. Work just a little harder for a while, and this latest fashion will provide modernity. Be more feminine, and maybe the male supervisors will offer a job off the production line which pays more and hence hold greater possibilities for the modernity that is lacked. But, these “opportunities” are threatened by any perceived resurgence of ruralness, foreignness to the ways of modernity.

This ideology is prevalent in capitalist mythology. The Other from a place that is not modern, can achieve membership to the collective sense of Self if they work hard enough. But the thing is, they never can. No amount of nail polish or fashion can allow them to escape the stigma of their rough hands and rough feet. By the standards of those who already exist within the center, there will always be something that identifies them as not belonging to their social order. To be a subject, in capitalist mythology, is to be a consumer.

Migration into dagongmei might allow the women to consume certain commodities that they would have otherwise not have had access to, but it is nearly impossible for them to achieve the level of consumption needed to grant them full citizenship.

Beyond the personal consumption of a transformation into a more feminine consumer subject, they often also seek to augment their potential within the domestic sphere – some of the most frequently desired commodities are washing machines and rice cookers. These same commodities of desire are potentially produced by other dagongmei in different factories, each pursuing her own path toward modernity through the appropriation of seemingly feudal ideas of what it means to be “good” woman.

In this way, the reality is that gong ren, the ostensibly genderless working people, was always an illusion. Though their paid labor was not gendered, like most women, their labor within the home most certainly was. They know all to well what is expected of their gender back home, and they know what these same commodities of desire will mean to that reality. There are substantial cultural inertias which variously define what it means to be a “good” woman. Modernity, as it exists now, is a trade between choices of domesticity.

Either way, their labor (re)produces and consumes a commodified femininity that can then be consumed by others who hold even more capitalist subjectivity and citizenship.

This is another of the episodic and contradictory contradictions within capitalist logic. On the one hand, the women seek to liberate themselves from their lives of subsistence farming by inserting their bodies into the factory process. The memory of what awaits them, if they fail on their road to modernity, ensures that they will submit to the conditions of their labor. On the other hand, this submission requires an acceptance of conditions, ideologies, and regimens that they would not have been subjected to otherwise. They liberate themselves through a different oppression and they oppress themselves in the quest for liberation.  Moreover, they actively choose this path.

(Image Credit: China Hush)

Who are the plunderers, and who are the restorers?

In the Congo, who are the plunderers? Sokari Ekine posed this question earlier this week, after having seen Grand Theft Congo. It’s a good question.

Grand Theft Congo tells the story of cassiterite, a mineral that serves as the base for tin. The value of cassiterite skyrocketed when the European Union outlawed lead and replaced lead with tin. Europe rises, and the eastern Congo sinks, literally. As Ekine notes, the minerals are mined by slave labor, but they are transported and purchased by a free market of local comptoirs, or trading houses, and distant corporations. Everyone turns a blind eye. But does this identify the plunderers? Who are the plunderers?

A recent Global Witness report, Faced with a gun, what can you do?: War and the militarisation of mining in eastern Congo, identifies seven military and other armed groups as those who are `plundering minerals’. These groups are a Rwandan Hutu armed group; Tutsi-led rebels backed by Rwanda; another group that allies with different sides at different times; various mai-mai groups in North and South Kivu, organized largely along ethnic lines; a Tutsi cadre; the Congolese national army; and demobilized combatants, especially former mai-mai. The mai-mai were originally local resistance forces opposed to the Rwandan invading armies and militias.

In this report, the term plunder is only used to describe the actions of regional military forces, Congolese or Rwandan. The report documents the comptoirs, or trading houses, that sell and export the minerals, through Rwanda and Burundi, to companies elsewhere, such as Thailand Smelting and Refining Corporation (THAISARCO), the world’s fifth-largest tin-producing company, owned by British metals giant Amalgamated Metal Corporation (AMC); British company Afrimex; and several Belgian companies such as Trademet and Traxys. These then sell their materials to electronics and other industries. These companies all contribute to the violence, but they are not described as plundering.  Why not?

The plunder of the Congo is presented as the Great Plunder, the Rape of the Congo. Some see the plundering as a system. Others argue that the plunder of natural resources can only take place in the context of super exploitation, forced labor, and carnage. For some, this carnage concerns sexual terrorism and militarized rape campaigns. Soldiers rape, commanders condone, women suffer, and the copper, diamonds, cassiterite, coltan keep on moving. And don’t forget the wood, the nickel, the land itself.

But what exactly does it mean, to plunder? “To rob (a place or person) of goods or valuables forcibly, typically in a time of war or civil disorder or in the course of a hostile incursion; to pillage, ransack; to rob systematically; to despoil.” Plunder is always military. In fact, it seems to have first appeared in English during either the Thirty Years’ War, when English soldiers were fighting in southern Germany, or earlier, when English soldiers were fighting in the Low Countries. It took root and effloresced in England during the English Civil War. Wars of empire or civil wars.

But the intricacies of plunder, and of the identity of the plunderers, go further. At its German or Dutch root, plunder meant “to rob of household furnishings.” Plundering involved the violent, militarized seizure of bed-clothes, clothing, baggage, rags, trash, everything. Plunder did not mean to take the most valuable but rather to ravage and ransack the most ordinary, the stuff of everyday life. Plundering is a violation of the most intimate, the trash and rags that comprise our days, that which we cherish most and which the market values least, and it always goes from house to house, from body to body.

The plunder of the Congo is the violent militarized seizure of the everyday, of the ordinary. Women. Men. Children. Forests. Land. Stuff. Even in the story of plunder, which should be their story, they have all been sacrificed to the story of markets, of mineral resources, armed forces, major corporations. They must be restored to the center of their own stories and the story of the Congo.

Who are the plunderers, and who are the restorers, the replenishers, the re-founders? There are the ones who are well known, such as conservationist René Ngongo who has worked with local growers to find ways of sustaining rather than devastating the rainforests of the Congo Basin and who has taken on the mining and logging industries. There’s Dr. Denis Mukwege, at Panzi Hospital of Bukavu, who has tended to survivors of sexual violence. Then there are the thousands, like the Director of Maison d’Écoute (Listening House), ‘whom I will call Rebecca Kamate”, local women and men whose names must be withheld, Congolese women and men who literally turn the swords that have been thrust into them into ploughshares. They are the ones “that have managed to maintain their integrity by not partaking in the plunder of the Congo”, and they too are numerous. Where is their story told, where is their documentary, where is their Congo?

(Photo Credit: International Committee of the Red Cross) (Image Credit: Panzi Hospital)

Baring the brunt

September, the song was, “Women hold up half the sky.” By the look of news reports this week, October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the tune might well be “Women and children bear the brunt”. From households and intimate relations to the armed forces to global poverty, women bear the brunt, children bear the brunt. This is not good news.

The new song began last Friday, with an article that centered on LeAnna M. Washington, Pennsylvania State Senator from the 4th District, which covers part of Philadelphia and Montgomery County. Senator Washington’s official Senate biography reports, “Washington has triumphed over many personal challenges in her life. She was a high school dropout, teen parent, and victim of domestic violence early in her marriage. Her tenacity, perseverance and faith in God allowed her to transform victimhood to victory. Washington, who earned a Master’s degree in Human Services from Lincoln University said of the road she has traveled: “I will go where there is no path and I will leave a trail for others to follow.””

In Friday’s article, Senator Washington is described as having been married at 18, and then living with the big secret of domestic violence, of spousal abuse. She is described as one of `many black women across the country….It’s about absorbing the reality that close to five in every 1,000 black women aged 12 and up are victims of domestic violence, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s understanding that among those abused aged 15 to 34, murder by a husband or boyfriend remains a leading cause of death. More importantly, it’s about actively working on changing those outcomes….Verbal, sexual and physical abuse are forms familiar to a large swath of black females. Historically so…. These are the scars of slavery, lack of education, discrimination, unemployment and other frustrations that have been exacerbated among African-Americans. Poverty tends to be an indicator for abuse, though violence is not confined to one social class. The difference is having options and resources to escape – options not always afforded by those struggling to survive day-to-day. Feeling trapped leads many women to stay put – and in peril.”

The article is titled “Black women bear the brunt of domestic violence,” and it appeared in blackamericaweb. In every community, women bear the brunt of domestic violence. In every community, the language of that particular brunt, of that bearing, is silence.

And those communities are not only defined by race and ethne. For example, on Thursday we `learned’ that in the U.S. military “lesbians bear brunt of military discharges….Every military branch dismissed a disproportionate number of women in 2008 under the policy banning openly gay service members. But the discrepancy was particularly marked in the Air Force, where women were a majority of those let go under the policy, even though they made up only 20 percent of personnel.”

On the same day, Thursday, it was reported that in Lesotho, “children bear the brunt of the deepening economic crisis…”Adult frustration” translated into a grim reality of child abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation, with thousands left to fend for themselves, excluded from crucial services such as hospitals and schools.” The next day, the Africa Child Policy Forum sent out a press release, announcing a new publication, Child Poverty: African and International Perspectives. Here’s what they said in the release: “Poor children to bear the brunt of global economic crisis. New book looks at the brutal reality of child poverty….The book also includes analysis of the impact of the current financial crises on child poverty in the face of increased estimates of the actual number of newly poor and reduced economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa estimated to be down to 3.5 percent – implying a 7 percent increase in poverty in Africa, of which children will bear a huge brunt.”

From one community to another, what exactly is meant by “bearing the brunt”, and why is it always women and children who are endowed with that particular role and capacity? Can community exist without women and children bearing a, or the, brunt? A brunt is “An assault, charge, onset, violent attack….The shock, violence, or force (of an attack)…. The chief stress or violence; crisis.” To bear can mean so many things, from carry to bring forth fruit or offspring, but when it comes to bearing the brunt, it means “to suffer without succumbing, to sustain without giving way, to endure.” Bearing the brunt as an acceptable facet of everyday life, as an acceptable `neutral’ phrase, is a perversion of any vision of sustainability as articulated with wellbeing.

Domestic Violence Awareness must transform the language and the logic of the brunt. It’s time to stop talking about bearing the brunt and start talking and acting on baring the brunt. What is the attack, who and what are the assailants, what is the violence, the force, the stress, the crisis? All must be addressed as part of the same question and part of the same solution. And it begins and ends with women, not majestically holding up half the sky but rather ordinarily and daily populating and sustaining all the daily world. Bare the brunt now, today, and always.

(Photo credit: Precious Jones in NCKU)

Security of Sex: New Oklahoma Abortion Law

Yesterday, October 7, 2009, the Oklahoma legislature passed a law requiring that private and identifying information be published online for women who have had abortions in state in order to deter women from having abortions.  While this is only one of a plethora of restrictions on women’s right to choose in Oklahoma, it is a particularly dangerous one.  The law has no actual scientific purpose, the manner in which the data is collected is practically unusable for any objective research, instead it is meant to shame and endanger women who seek this medical procedure. It even goes so far as to ask women why they are getting the procedure and outlaws any sex-based abortions.  Though women’s names are not published, information such as their age, race, level of education, marital status, number of previous pregnancies, and the county in which the abortion was performed.  Such information could easily identify a woman living in a smaller town.  No woman should have her medical history judged in the public square and the idea that this will deter abortions shows an unfathomable misunderstanding of pregnancy and abortion in this country.  Abortions are not sought simply by promiscuous teenagers that the overly paternalistic legislature is trying to make “take responsibility”.  You have to be 18 or have parental consent in Oklahoma anyway.  Abortions are sought by women for a wide variety of reasons including incest, rape, health of the mother, viability of the fetus or inability to care for the child.  Irrelevant of the reason, it’s private.

Likewise, the paperwork is incredibly long and puts an additional burden on already overstretched doctors and nurses at the handful of clinics in the state.  The publication of this information is a potential violation of HIPPA and the Oklahoma Constitution and while there are likely to be suits to overturn the bill, they will not be able to have an effect for some time.  The law goes into effect on November 1st.

Regardless of your feelings on the abortion debate, publishing women’s private medical history with information that could easily identify them is a gross abuse of power by the legislature.  It is not a matter of religion and scare tactics that drive women’s health procedures further underground are never for the public good.  Abortion will be reduced when the need for them is reduced through accessible and affordable contraceptives, education regarding contraceptive use and family planning as well as prevention of sexual abuse.  We need to let our legislators know that this is not acceptable.  Please look up your representatives here:  Write and call them immediately and let them know that you do not want this law.  Pass this information on to every Oklahoma voter that you know.  Below are several articles and the language of the law itself.

(Photo Credit: Michael Cross / KOSU / NPR)

(Re)Producing Gender: The paradox of China’s feminine labor

Last week, The People’s Republic of China celebrated the 60th anniversary of its successful revolution. To commemorate the occasion, the Empire State building was aglow with the red and yellow of markings of the Communist Party. This, in itself, is not overly spectacular, since the lights regularly highlight days of importance for other nations. What is more interesting, are the implicit subtleties.

It is no secret that the endeavors of the Empire have been made possible in whole by the efforts of the Chinese Communist Party, to the extent that they have paid heavily into the US Treasury in the wake of the “crisis” of globalized capitalism. It should equally be no secret that our era of insatiable consumerism has been built upon the low-cost Chinese labor force. And cheap labor is almost always gendered in the feminine.

Before the era of “reform,” there is no way that this could have been possible as there was no such thing as gendered labor. All workers were regarded as the genderless gongren, working people. Official rhetoric told women that they could hold up half the sky, and they were expected to do just that (often with disastrous results). But then, things began to change. The role of women (d)evolved from unspecified comrades to subordinates. They became dagongmei, little sisters who sell their labor. The new identity is not only gendered, but it also designates status, since a little sister is explicitly single and younger. Their employment is regarded as temporary, with the tacit understanding that the job is only designed to last until they found a husband. Like their labor, their lives are transient – most of the dagongmei are migrants from the rural reaches of China.

The individual reasons for migration are as diverse as the cultural bodies coming into the export processing zones, their migration patterns forming their own transnational communities within a singular border. Some are environmental refugees, others are looking for an escape from village life. Some are fleeing forced marriages. Others go to the factories to send back remittances so that their siblings can get an education that has potentially been denied to them, or to fund their own educations. Ultimately, the goal is the same. To produce. The result is also ultimately the same – the social and ideological conditions which led to their migration are reproduced by their labor for continuing generations.

While the factories are producing the various commodities, they are also (re)producing an equally commodified hyper-sexualized femininity. This commodified identity that seems to go hand in hand with the schizophrenic logic of capitalism, the logic of an episodic and contradictory existence that is required to be a good cog in the great social machine. This logic is particularly interesting, and contradictory, in China since the nation is still to some extent guided by Marxist principles.

In exchange for their time, migrant women receive discipline in submission and training in urban modernity so that they may change their social registration ironically, through marriage. Only this time the marriage is to a modern urbanite, rather than a village boy. This matters because social services and potential jobs derive from the locale in which an individual’s home is registered.

Dagongmei are encouraged by both their peers and aspirations to spend their salaries on make-up, clothes, and public socializing. The ideological subtext is that sexualization and modernization will allow them to escape the stigma of backwardness attached to a rural upbringing, cushou cujiao, (rough hands, rough feet), which is a decidedly unfeminine trait. Or so the ideologies say. To be free meant to become more feminine. “Gender became a means of discipline and self-discipline, invoked so that they (dagongmei) would learn to police themselves. The feminine was not only imagined and inscribed but also self-desired. Objectifying and self-subjectivizing became the same process.” These contradictions inherent to the identities of the dagongmei, are at the center of the dialectical nature of Chinese women’s labor under the schizophrenic logic of capitalism. Whereas social conditions encourage labor outside of the home, the only labor available is that which will ultimately result in a return to the “acceptable,” domesticized, labor of the home. The result is that the dagongmei become acculturated to the ideological demands of capitalism, that women’s labor be understood as temporary and of a lower standard.

The benefit of such contradictions are that they present the opportunities to organically develop a more liberated consciousness that cannot be enforced by the top-down methodology used by the Party in its past social experiments in revolutionary society. Is the Party creating the paradoxes so that the people will resist and resolve themselves in such a way as to be in line with the ultimate goals of their society? Maybe, but at what cost? Where will the long march of ideology from gongren down to dagongmei lead? Will they bring their rough hands and feet with them?

Regret haunts the world

Regret is in the air this week. You might say, regret is the name of the game and, even more, the game of the name. From Geneva to the Gushungo Dairy Estate, in Zimbabwe, to Guinea, it’s been a week of declarations of regret.

On Monday, in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, thousands gathered in peaceful, and courageous, protest, to demonstrate their opposition to the military dictatorship of Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, who seized power in a military coup last December. Reports suggest that as many as 157 people were killed by soldiers who opened fire on them. Survivors and witnesses also reported, “A number of women taking part in the demonstration were stripped naked and sexually assaulted by security forces”. This has been described as “most shocking to the wearied citizens in this predominantly Muslim nation” who were “`profoundly traumatized’ by what had happened to the women in the stadium”.

The government of neighboring Liberia, a country that knows something about militarized sexual violence, issued a statement: ““The government of the Republic of Liberia has expressed grave concern at the events unfolding in neighboring Republic of Guinea, and has learned with profound regrets of the deaths of over 90 persons during a demonstration in Conakry on Monday, September 28, 2009”.

From Conakry, “Guinea’s military junta leader has expressed regret over the bloodshed in the clash between the opposition and security forces in the capital Conakry, Radio Senegal reported on Tuesday.” Death merits “merits” regret. Rape and sexual violence are clothed in silence, deep and profound.

In the same week, it was revealed that Nestlé had been purchasing dairy products from the Gushungo Dairy Estate, in the Mazowe Valley, about 20 kilometers north of Harare, a dairy farm recently taken over by Grace Mugabe. Once this was discovered, other connections were revealed. For example, DeLaval: “DeLaval, a leading equipment firm based in Sweden, is part of the giant Tetra Laval group owned by the Rausing dynasty”. They had sold a ton, actually tons, of equipment to Gushungo. Their response: “.Jörgen Haglind, a spokesman for Tetra Laval, said: “Tetra Laval was not previously aware of this transaction and we can only regret that the control functions within DeLaval have failed as this transaction should never have been approved.””  On Tuesday, “Delaval’s international spokesperson and vice-president of marketing and communications, Benoit Passard, said….”We regret that this has happened. We first made contact with the SA Dairy Association and then a long list of investors. The Mugabe name was never mentioned. This has come as a surprise to us and we would never have done business with them had we known this was who we were dealing with.””

Tuesday was a big day for expressions of regret. On Thursday, Nestlé Zimbabwe “ditched” Gushungo, without any expression of regret but rather an explanation of market forces. Perhaps those would include the threatened global boycott. We’ll never know. By Thursday, the government of Guinea was no longer expressing regret for anything, but rather claiming outside agitators and other nefarious forces were at work in Monday’s demonstration.

What is regret? “To remember, think of (something lost), with distress or longing; to feel (or express) sorrow for the loss of (a person or thing)…. To grieve at, feel mental distress on account of (some event, fact, action, etc.).” Regret is lamentation, grief, sorrow. Regret is loss.

In Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, Andrea Smith, Cherokee scholar, feminist, rape crisis counselor, activist, woman, tells a story of regret: “`Assimilation’ into white society …only increased Native women’s vulnerability to violence. For instance, when the Cherokee nation was forcibly relocated to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears in the nineteenth century, soldiers targeted for sexual violence Cherokee women who spoke English and had attended mission schools….They were routinely gang-raped causing one missionary to the Cherokee, Daniel Butrick, to regret that any Cherokee had ever been taught English.”

As Smith records for Native women in the United States, as the women of Guinea and Zimbabwe understand deeply, as women in Sweden and Switzerland might know as well when they consider DeLaval and Nestlé as elements of their own well being and comfort, sexual violence is a State policy. It is not an exceptional event, but rather is woven into the very fiber of State security and national development. Ask the Sudanese women refugees in eastern Chad, who have no place to hide from or escape the daily sexual violence.

The United Nations Security Council this week voted to request the appointment of a special representative to address sexual violence in armed conflict zones. After the vote, “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon … immediately following the text’s adoption…. expressed regret that previous responses to sexual violence had not been able to stem the scourge.”

Were the Security General to express regret, or the leader of Guinea, or the corporate representatives, or the clergy, or anyone in public office or private spaces, for sexual violence, it would have to be more than a simple pro forma apology. The one expressing regret must perform and demonstrate grief, lamentation, sorrow, must understand and teach a lesson of loss. Until then, regret haunts the world … profoundly.

(Photo Credit: Rhizome) (Video Credit: Yoko Ono, Maysles Films, Inc / YouTube)