We’ll also always have Seth MacFarlane singing “Angelina Jolie, we saw your boobs.”
Mother’s Day in Ecuador is a magical day for Ecuadorian men. It’s the day when they can pull off one grand gesture that will atone for all the bullshit they put their mom (and all the other women in their lives, let’s face it) through, constantly, during the entire year. It’s their Passover, basically.
The grand gesture isn’t even that grand. The gesture is: a public declamation via song of how great a mother their mother is. How much loving devotion she inspires in her offspring. How selfless and pure and perfect she is, and how full of virtue.
Some sons (those needing to impress with mom with their financial stability perhaps) will hire a full Mariachi band to strike up a chorus on the street outside the mother’s home. Some sons (those with the heaviest burden of penance) will lead the serenade themselves, in their own broken and hideous voice, just to show her how much they care. The sons who can’t face their moms, so shittily have they behaved, will sing to their mom cradling their tenth beer, at the top of their lungs, crying, but they will be nowhere near her ears, and she will not hear them. They will yowl into the night nonetheless.
Mother’s Day is a magical day for Ecuadorian men. But for everyone else—those interested in sleeping tonight, for example—Mother’s Day is a pain in the ass.
NBC sends Ann Curry to Ecuador
It’s inaccurate and laughable to say that all Amazon tribesmen are “sharpening their spears” and readying blowguns to fight oil extraction bulldozers. Many indigenous work for the oil companies, and are interested in the profit that oil companies can provide for them. The number of indigenous who are purely interested in living in pristine rainforest and having no purchasing power is dwindling. Especially in the Huaorani tribe! The tribe pictured with the spears and the blowguns.
It’s also supremely irresponsible to represent the front that opposes the oil extraction as purely armed by spears and blowguns. Many mestizo and indigenous members of Ecuadorian civil society are organizing against the auctioning of the Amazon. Many foreigners are organizing opposition, in the U.S., in China, in Europe and beyond. Ecuador can’t exploit the oil fields without foreign companies buying the land, so why doesn’t NBC talk about that, instead of scaremongering about the Ecuadorian government’s likelihood to use force against “blowguns and spears”?
So: the conflict about oil extraction in the Amazon is as micro as one Huaorani family’s desire to have an outboard motor to put in their canoe, and as macro as world capitalism and economic colonialism. BUT. If you want a teeny, tiny, red-tinted window into something happening in Ecuador, here’s a typically-TV story about it, I suppose.
That women—with all they have to lose in this world, having to struggle to secure the kind of things that the other half of the world takes for granted (the body, for instance)—would be particularly discerning about such a decision, that they would wait until accumulating some amount of power, financial and otherwise, seems logical. The dynamics of power—societal and personal—are inseparable from marriage. Those of us who’ve, thus far, managed to navigate those dynamics should probably be more thankful than boastful. May our days ever be thus.
Why do I love this place?
It never changes. Everything else I’ve ever known already has. But here, the sun will always set right there—it always did, always will. The sand will always sink just so under my steps. The shelters will always stand—wind-battered palm branches draped haphazardly over a solid bamboo frame. If the shelters change, it’s ok: I could build one just like them. Bamboo or driftwood pillars, a metre of stick hidden under the sand—like an idea just below the surface—essential to the whole structure.
The wood will always wash up and litter the shore. So will the plastic bottles, dead blow fish and strange yellow foam that seem to keep the tourist crowds at bay. I love the debris, too, because it makes this beach mine. Good to those who love it, a stranger to the rest.
What I love about this place is that my toes will always trace the same same symbols in the same sand. My hands will push it into piles. Make a pillow. Make a hole. The sun will always set right there.
One thing about the beach might change: there are new walls around it. New houses and hotels blocking off their claims in the corners of your sight. But where the sand starts, the time stops. Walls stop.
My beach will never change. The people will. There, that’s a new dog. A new kid. Haven’t met you before. But so will I: I will change. This place will stay the same.
The wind will always make that sound. The waves will always roar and their same white crest will chase along the shore like a white dog bounding, racing up the beach with joy.
The sunset is always different. Sometimes it’s pink cotton candy stretched over the roof of the sky. Sometimes purple tints the bellies of the clouds for just a minute when the angle is right, just before the sun drops out of sight. Yesterday it was the fire of the red flare throwing out lavender plumes—wide stripes of slight clouds winding from behind you, tapering into wisps of smoke at the horizon. But the ball of fire will always sink behind that endless curve of ocean. It’s a constant that anchors me to this shore.
Feminists do not want you to lose custody of your children. The assumption that women are naturally better caregivers is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not like commercials in which bumbling dads mess up the laundry and competent wives have to bustle in and fix it. The assumption that women are naturally better housekeepers is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to have to make alimony payments. Alimony is set up to combat the fact that women have been historically expected to prioritize domestic duties over professional goals, thus minimizing their earning potential if their “traditional” marriages end. The assumption that wives should make babies instead of money is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want anyone to get raped in prison. Permissiveness and jokes about prison rape are part of rape culture, which is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want anyone to be falsely accused of rape. False rape accusations discredit rape victims, which reinforces rape culture, which is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to be lonely and we do not hate “nice guys.” The idea that certain people are inherently more valuable than other people because of superficial physical attributes is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to have to pay for dinner. We want the opportunity to achieve financial success on par with men in any field we choose (and are qualified for), and the fact that we currently don’t is part of patriarchy. The idea that men should coddle and provide for women, and/or purchase their affections in romantic contexts, is condescending and damaging and part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to be maimed or killed in industrial accidents, or toil in coal mines while we do cushy secretarial work and various yarn-themed activities. The fact that women have long been shut out of dangerous industrial jobs (by men, by the way) is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to commit suicide. Any pressures and expectations that lower the quality of life of either gender are part of patriarchy. The fact that depression is characterized as an effeminate weakness, making men less likely to seek treatment, is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to be viewed with suspicion when you take your child to the park (men frequently insist that this is a serious issue, so I will take them at their word). The assumption that men are insatiable sexual animals, combined with the idea that it’s unnatural for men to care for children, is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to be drafted and then die in a war while we stay home and iron stuff. The idea that women are too weak to fight or too delicate to function in a military setting is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want women to escape prosecution on legitimate domestic violence charges, nor do we want men to be ridiculed for being raped or abused. The idea that women are naturally gentle and compliant and that victimhood is inherently feminine is part of patriarchy.
Feminists hate patriarchy. We do not hate you.
If you really care about those issues as passionately as you say you do, you should be thanking feminists, because feminism is a social movement actively dedicated to dismantling every single one of them. The fact that you blame feminists—your allies—for problems against which they have been struggling for decades suggests that supporting men isn’t nearly as important to you as resenting women. We care about your problems a lot. Could you try caring about ours?
Bedouin nomads in the Empty Quarter desert. (Wild Arabia - BBC)
“Here’s a particular example of our society’s overweening respect for religion, one that really matters. By far the easiest grounds for gaining conscientious objector status in wartime are religious. You can be a brilliant moral philosopher with a prizewinning doctoral thesis expounding the evils of war, and still be given a hard time by a draft board evaluating your claim. Yet if you can say that one of your parents is a Quaker you sail through like a breeze, no matter how inarticulate you may be on the theory of pacifism or, indeed, Quakerism itself.” - Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion
I’ve been thinking about the privileging of religion lately.
To earn the right to stay in Ecuador as a worker, I need a work visa.
For that, I need a specific permits from a government agency. For that, I have to prove first that someone wants to hire me and has gone so far as to offer me a contract as well as notarized copies of many of the corporate documents they need to operate as a business (permits, tax status, etc).
Once I’ve hooked a job offer from an employer committed to the complicated process, I have to prove that not only am I wanted by an employer, but I am qualified for the job. To prove this, I need paperwork verifying at least 300 hours of study in the specific field (even if that field is training a Peruvian Paso horse—this was an actual example given to me by the Ministry lawyer assisting me). I also need “proof of experience” which goes above and beyond the usual phone numbers of work references: you need papers. Contracts. Certificates. I also have to do a battery of blood and fluid tests, x-rays and psyc exams for the employer to make sure I’m physically able to do the job required of me. I need a bank account, and for a bank account I need three Ecuadorians to write me letters of reference and attach photocopies of their government issued I.D.
All this contrasts greatly with what I went through when I applied for a missionary visa more than 7 years ago.
Missionaries are not forced to produce paperwork that proves their frequent church attendance, nor their familiarity with their holy text. Missionaries do not have to get x-rays or blood tests to prove they aren’t carrying swine flu or AIDS. Missionaries do have to get a letter from their commending church in their home country, but they don’t have to prove that anyone in Ecuador actually wants them to come here to indoctrinate. Missionaries do not even have to prove that they are good in their chosen field (indoctrination) (I can think of a few missionaries I’ve known over the years who were actually terrible at being missionaries—but there’s no way to fire a “servant of God.” And no one to do the firing, what with The Big Guy being so passive about it all).
As I enter my third month of navigating the paperwork hell that is getting permission to work for a year in Ecuador, I yearn for the days when the privilege of working for an invisible friend in the sky brought me instant resident status in the country I love. Oh, to be an indoctrinator again!
I have a little ghost. A young man fresh out of a drug rehab clinic where he’d been locked up for five months landed on my doorstep a couple days ago, right before bedtime. He didn’t have anywhere to go. His alternative was bedding down at his stepmother’s coke den. There, surrounded by all that he hates in himself, he’d turn down his head and struggle to stay clean in the place where he’d touched bottom.
So he stayed here. I feared he’d slip out of my house during the night. But the next morning, there he was, wrapped in the pink sheet, sleeping in his only pair of jeans.
He drank black coffee and stared into space. “You spend your days all alone here?” he said to me. Two hours of silence and an Ecuadorian gets lonely. Before I moved to Canada to go to school, I used to be like that, too.
I realized he was looking to me for the day’s instructions. Freedom is a shock to the system. “I’m going out,” I said. “Feel free to use or eat anything in the house.”
“Can I come with you?” he said.
Off we went to the newspaper office where I’m in the process of getting a job. Typical of the local love affair with aimless paperwork, they sent me to a nearby health clinic to get a certificate. He came along. Then to a bank to deposit a $4 fee into the health clinic’s account (the line-up to make the deposit with a cashier lasted 2 hours). Then, to a market to buy fresh shrimp for supper. That was $2.50 a pound, peeled—half the price I’d get them for at the local grocery store—plus they were probably swimming shrimpy strokes around a shrimp pool just the day before.
During each leg of the trip, I dropped 50 cents in each bus driver’s hands … 25 for me, 25 for him.
Today, he shadowed me again: to the mall that contains my post office, and to get passport photos for some of those aimless forms (two different sizes of headshots to satisfy the requirements of three different forms).
Tomorrow I’ll go back to the health clinic to give them my blood (the second time I’ve given blood in this quest for a work permit, not to mention the other bodily discharges I’ve expended), or to an ophthalmologist to confirm for my soon-to-be employer’s medical officer that yes, I do need the glasses I’ve been wearing for 10 years. Eventually my contract will be ready and I’ll go in to sign it, then begins what they call “the complicated bit”: going to the Ministry of Work first to have it registered, then to have it legalized. Both processes happen on different floors and can take weeks, but the departments don’t talk to each other, so you kinda have to convince them to legalize your contract while the folks downstairs get around to registering it. At that point I’ll need, among other things, a copy of my university transcript, translated to Spanish, with the translation notarized, and the translator signing a sworn statement in front of an oaths commissioner that the translation is accurate. Fun, huh?
I’m glad I was able to contribute to this research by a former OpenFile employee looking into the different tales the company has been telling its different writers—and what OpenFile’s owner Wilf Dinnick still owes us.
Last updated February 13, 2013 (+$3,934).
The number above is the total, up-to-date amount of money that OpenFile’s contributors (the ones I’ve spoken to so far) say they’re owed for work they did before the online publication went “on pause” in September, 2012; why I’m…