Three dark-haired women with my daughter’s eyes. Two gaze out from magazines. One has no face. All three were “performing gender,” a devious phrase —“Performing” – but not for them. Being themselves. Being women. Being targets. Being in the spotlight.
Don’t trust the media. They may get the facts right, but in their rush to sell jeeps and whiskey they miss the story. Are they managing my emotions? Stirring up fear to put me in my place? These magazines are owned by men aren’t they? And men are the shooters, the rapists, the monsters. Aren’t they?
Dark-haired girls in a Happy New Year, Happy new feminine epoch for Mayans, brown-eyed, all of them.
The nameless one, same age as my daughter, Sometimes a medical student, sometimes physiotherapy, nameless faceless victim who got on a bus in India and died in Singapore, her intestines destroyed by a metal rod. Why Singapore? Why not Queen Hospital? Someone’s beautiful daughter, a lingering atrocity.
The youngest one we all know now. Malala, reading English, speaking Urdu. Malala. When the monster shot you his bullet sent waves of shock and rage through the air. We want to strangle him. Every single one of him. We’ll do it for you (and for us). But later, away from the media babble, tempers cool and our gaze expands. Imagine the monster, a 19 year old boy sent to silence a 15 year old girl. A 19-year old boy with a machine gun thrust into his hands by the man who feeds him, warms him, calls him a hero. What would his mother say? Where is his sister now?
The oldest one, Chavela Vargas, pictured at 20 gazing forlorn, with black velvet hair and pouting red lips. Chavela, leaving home for the streets of Mexico when you were only fourteen. To sing. To sing wherever you could. Were you really Frida’s lover? Chavela, singing in the 50s with a gun at your hip and your arms flung wide, a lo macho. Belting out the rancheras. That ain’t “performing.” That’s being. And you didn’t die at 60. You went into hiding to battle your demons, to write your life (Y si quieres saber de mi pasado). You came back to sing with a broken voice, 83 years old at Carnegie Hall. Chavela, your poncho draped over the coffin. Chavela. Hacia La Vida.