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I sold Song of the Body Cartographer to Kenneth Yu of Philippine Genre Stories, which to me is a significant story because it represents a return to and a reclaiming of the body.

This week, I spoke with one of my nephews and he told me that my sister had printed out Decolonizing as an SF writer and was busy telling the students in her class as well as our younger cousins that this was an essay that they must read. What will they think when they read Song of the Body Cartographer?

I am thinking of how decolonizing allows us to break away from the dominant narrative wherein women's spaces and women's bodies have been subjugated and devalued.

Some things I have been thinking on as I continue to read history:

- there is a colonialist narrative that shames the body. The object of this shaming is more often than not the body of woman--specifically, the indigenous woman. As a point of illustration, one of the acts considered important by colonists coming into tribal areas was to cloth the women in "modest" apparel. Records of colonizers refer to the upper body nudity of indigenous women and call them immodest and lewd.

White missionaries coming into the mountains consider it imperative to clothe the woman's body. I find myself asking--"Why?"

In the indigenous narrative, woman's body is beauty. There is nothing lewd or immodest about the natural body and there is no reason for shame or malice. We all have bodies, we are all connected to the earth and to each other. If I look on my sister with malice, it is a malice that comes from myself and not from the earth. I am the contaminated one and must cleanse myself.

- in colonizing the body of woman, the colonizer expresses shock and disgust at the open attitude of the woman towards sex and pleasure. It is unthinkable for woman to demand pleasure from the act of sex. It is unthinkable that man should go to so much lengths as to pierce himself with a foreign object in his desire to please the woman. It is unthinkable and unacceptable that the woman should demand or expect equal pleasure. This behaviour of woman is considered lewd, unnatural and of the devil.

To what extent has this damaged the way we look at sex? Some of us can't even speak the word without being embarassed. There is a saying: to the pure, all things are pure. I believe that sex is a pure thing. It is meant for pleasure and enjoyment--it's not just for making babies and ensuring the next generation. Where does the stigma come from? ( I have my thoughts on this as well, but I won't post them just yet.)

- The indigenous woman's narrative is one wherein the circle of women, the connection to other women is essential. Woman's mind is directed towards community, towards communion with sisters, brothers, family, the earth and the universe. Woman's influence is extensive and woman holds a position of power whether it is in the household or in the community.

-While there is no explicit mention of gendering, I get the impression that gender and sexuality are fluid descriptors. For instance, I read of males who adapt women's apparel and who act out in a feminine way. There is no stigma to these actions and it is not treated as deviant. In fact, the men who do these are men who want to tap into the source of power.

What does nature tell us about gender and sexuality? I think of the Wrasse fish and how it is the female Wrasse who is capable of changing genders when there is a shortage of males. Lots of food for thought there.

I find it interesting that in a lot of published sf/f males are invested with powers to commune with the dead/speak with the spirits/perform magic. I find it interesting because in the indigenous tradition, these are functions that are given to women. So...I'm just saying...maybe we have to think about why we as women choose to put male characters in central roles of power in the narratives that we write.

I want to say that there is beauty in this narrative of women. That there is beauty in human relationships and that it is natural for women to be strong and weak and to be intuitive as well as logical. And that even in science, not everything is explainable.

There's still a lot more that I want to write about and a lot more that I want to post, but these are the things my mind has
been dwelling on the past few days and I thought I'd just get them down and see what others think about them.


May. 24th, 2012 06:10 am (UTC)
Thank you for writing this. I have been thinking about the post in my inbetween times since you posted it but now that I sit down to comment I'm not quite pulling the words down that I want. I keep thinking of 'Retrieving the Sacred Sexuality' chapter from 'Women Who Run With the Wolves' (LOL I know I'm always referring to that book but I can't help it!). But that book was written many years ago and I wish there were more of a feeling of progress in recovering the old ways since then.

On the other hand, the other thing that strikes me is how wonderfully 'Song of the Body Cartographer' addresses the subject of woman's body and also addresses SF as a medium. It's the kind of SF I want to be reading!

I made a mistake, though. When I read the story I thought it was going to be printed in the Philippines only--if it will be coming out on the link above then it will reach genre readers & that's a very good thing.
May. 27th, 2012 01:44 pm (UTC)
I think I should get a copy of that book. I keep hearing good things about it. My eye-opener book was Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth.

I was reading Kathryn Allen's thesis (which is really good btw) in which she mentions your work as well as Larissa Lai's and Nalo Hopkinson's work. I find myself unable to stop reading and wanting to read more and understand more.

I am looking forward to the Song of the Body Cartographer coming out. Thanks so much for your encouragement on it. I now face the challenge of resolving the mystery that I opened up in that story. Gosh, I didn't make it easy for myself, did I? I mean, how hard can it be to track a traitor or a spy? lol

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