From mass to crass
I had a very interesting Saturday night recently. It was all about mass phenomena …. half past seven Mass in a chapel, then a televised programme for the masses!
The first performance took place in a lovely church dedicated to San Sebastián, Mártir, right after Mass (attended only to get a seat for the concert) and the second was the last half hour of the televised Grammy Latinos.
Although apparently very different, I found similarities in both. The live concert of classical música sacra by the wonderful Choir and Chamber Orchestra on the altar of a church and the pop, música profana concert in Las Vegas on a commercial station were two ex pressions of the same old song: the sacred and the profane.
From grannyfest to fannyfest
Despite their fantastic singing voices, the women in both events personified the male-assigned roles of Maria or Magdalena, the Virgin/Mother or the Whore. In both lo femenino was accessory, and lo masculino, dead centre.
A young priest urged his motherly, middle-aged and granny flock, past their child-bearing days, to invite the Señor into their homes this Christmas. This was against a central backdrop dominated by a huge crucifix depicting the almost naked Christ´s suffering and the equally nude and bloody sacrifice of Saint Sebastian, Martyr.
Victims of male violence – and eye candy for sadomasochistic, homosexual priests – their sacrifice is presented as exemplary, while the daily sacrifice of women to bring up their children in cultures full of male violence – fifty eight Spanish women have been murdered by their partners this year – was invisible.
Maybe we should be inviting the Señora to our Christmas tables rather than another male.
The glorious classical music concert which followed (all-male composers, of course) continued with the exaltation of the male. There was a Gloria, but it turned out to be an exhortation and not a girl´s name. Carl Orff entitled his fantastic work Carmina Burana and I thought for a second it might be about some talented woman, since there is a mention of the pagan Queen Hecuba. But she´s vilified for putting out folks´ eyes and barking like a bitch and the other female presence, the Roman goddess of Fortune, is blamed for all of life´s woes.
The outstanding choir sopranos, in their long, decorous skirts, essentially evoked the Maria flank of the Virgin/Whore dichotomy. My daughter, young and impressionable, was singularly unimpressed and bored to death. I thought she might fall asleep.
From snoring to whoring
Over at the Las Vegas Latin Grammys, the female role model was Magdalena, la puta. Male performers in outerwear draped Her, disrobed, around themselves, bought and paid for, just like the crass, materialistic bling on their necks and wrists.
My daughter, young and yada, yada, yada adored it.
In this temple of the subjugation of the female to male sexual desire, fired by the ostentation of unlimited wealth, prostitution was glorified to a frenzied and positively gynocological climax with Marc Anthony´s Rain Over Me “feat” with the vicious Pitbull. It was definitely not raining men, here, but hot, wet bitches in wild animal print bikinis, doing the predictable, spreadleg, strip-club business over chairs. The audience positively yelped in heat.
No wonder they call it show business. It was almost all on display.
It seems that Marc Anthony, fresh from his ball-breaking divorce from bump, grind and what a behind, J. Lo., needs his self-esteem shoring up, particularly given Jenny from the block´s “dancing for Papi” vedettery at the American Music Awards with none other than the great pimp himself, Pitbull. Well, he says it in the song: next thing you know, we were playing with three…
There were a lot more than three raining down. It seems Pitbull doesn´t read the newspapers or watch the Mexican station, Televisa, or he´d know that there´s no glamour in the coercive sex trade and that most pros would rather piss on their clients than rain on them. Prostitution is an “industry” run by men for men and one requiring male violence to function – a point he does seem to get, given his choice of “artistic” name, epitomising the dog´s need to control its bitches through fear.
Are these the values that Pitbull wants Latinos to take to the White House when he raps that, “Latin is the new majority, ya tu sabes, next step la Casa Blanca?”
I hear César Chávez, a lifelong activist for Latino civil rights, turning in his tumba along with the silence of the still active Chicana feminist, Dolores Huerta, not getting a soundbite.
Arguably, lo femenino was occasionally centre stage at the Grammys since Shakira won the Female Pop Vocal Album for the Spanish-language Sale El Sol. Yet her performance was essentially the embodiment of the animalistic, shimmy shaking Whore. Last year she sold us the pussy-parading shewolf, la loba, and now we have her relamiéndose (drooling) over her tigre, all wrapped up in the locura of crazy, unbridled, female desire.
Just what Daddy wants.
There was a brief moment in which Shakira´s motherly, caring role with deprived children was highlighted to much whooping approval. And let´s face it, the most famous hips in Latindom have certainly got child-bearing potential, especially after all that fornication. But then it was back to Babylon.
Or oblivion. Even the epic song, Latinoamérica, by Grammy winners, Calle 13, replete with Latino social values is a paean to patriarchy: Soy lo que me enseñó mi padre. El que no quiera a su patria no quiere a su madre. I am what my father taught me. He who does not love his fatherland, does not love his mother.
If this wasn´t so tragic it would be funny. If it wasn´t for Latina women, Latino men, with their armies, revolutions, golpes de estado, drug-trafficking, sicario murderers, corruption, Uncle Samism, totalitarian governments, gangs, private fiefdoms and guerrilla groups would all have murdered each other by now and most of the women and children as well.
From maternalismo to machismo
While the events of that Saturday night may appear chaotic, they´re not. They are aspects of a binary value system that has endured for millenia and will continue to do so unless we do something about it.
Happily, some people were doing something about it. There was one real feat going on and it was the Choir of literally stand-up singers, gals and guys, on the church altar. They had rehearsed for months to gift us with two hours of their supposedly “amateur” talent and outshone the mamonería of “professional,” barely literate, millionaire rap gangsters in their Vegas brothel.
It´s easy to say that these female roles, virgin, mother and whore, are archetypes, deeply embedded in the human psyche. I disagree. They´re stereotypes, deeply embedded in an unequal sociocultural structure, whether this be Anglo or Latin or, as is most probable, a new fusion of American materialism with Latino machismo.
Yet they´re not immutable and women and men can – and will – eventually be recognized as complex, talented individuals.