Feb 25 2007

Chicks-running-for-high-officewatch ’07

Unrelated Live Music Capitol of the World photo of the day: the alley behind the Continental Club, South Austin, February 2007.

This isn’t the kind of post that drives traffic to the blog since it’s not about blow jobs, but it is nevertheless of some relevance to the patriarchy-blaming community that Mayan Quiché leftist/feminist/Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchú is running for president in Guatemala.

You all read A Wrinkle in Time when you were kids. It was pretty godbaggy with all that “Let them give glory unto the Lord” crap on Uriel, and the Bible-quoting Aunt Beast, and the holy trinity aspects of the three Mrs Ws, but you gave that part a pass at the time because the Tesseract was so cool and the hero was actually a girl (although she naturally got saddled with a male bodyguard/love interest).

Anyway, remember the part where Mrs Who is telling Meg about Famous Fighters of the Black Thing Through the Ages? And she rattles off the names of a bunch of famous dudes, Einstein and Mozart and Jesus and so forth? Well, if Madeleine L’Engle had written her book some 20 years later, and if it had occurred to her to maybe put some goddam women on that list, Rigoberta Menchú would not have been a bad choice. Surviving right-wing massacres that included the murders of her parents and brother, she has been actively insurgenting for indigenous Mayans against overwhelming racist military oppression since the 70s, and won the Anti-Black-Thing Prize in 1992.

I probably don’t need to mention that in Guatemala, as in every country in the known universe, power is held by a rich, corrupt elite with drug connections and other nefarious features, and the lives of the oppressed aren’t worth a fig. A civil war which lasted over 30 years and included the genocide of over 200,000 citizens (mostly indigenous Mayans) was precipitated by — surprise — an American-engineered coup.

If Menchú were to prevail in the September election — an apparent long shot, since she represents a fledgling party (called Winaq, a word that seems to mean, depending on who you ask, “humanity,” “balance,” “integrity” or “Cool Whip”) with no electoral experience, and since anti-Mayan racism remains abundant, and since her insurgent past will make the good old boys queasy — she would be the first indigenous president of Guatemala.

It goes without saying that she’d be the first woman to hold that office. So far reports in English have failed to speculate on whether she exhibits too much unladylike “ambition,” and we still don’t know who designs her clothes.

[thanks ungoliant]


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  1. yankee transplant

    I just never know which spoke of the Blaming Wheel will be dominant when I come over here. All I do know is that you are brilliant and unrelenting. Have a great Sunday.

  2. Sara

    Very cool. And thank you especially for that last sentence.

  3. cycles

    I know what you mean about this being one of those posts that may garner few responses. I’d love to have something relevant to say, other than “hot damn, I hope she wins”, but I lack adequate knowledge of the Guatemala/corruption/Mayan situation. Jeepers, if I’d only read more military history. By the way, I love how McSchmuckley of the NYTBR assumes that battles are the only way to frame history.

    I will say that last month I got an email from a relative who’s temporarily stationed in Bolivia, in which she says her neighbors are disturbed that President Evo Morales held Satanic rituals before being sworn in last year. She refers, of course, to a ceremony attended by thousands of Aymara and Quechua Indians honoring Morales as the nation’s first indigenous leader. Apparently this stirred up a lot of shit. It really drove home the point in my mind that to Christian cultists, anything “other” is by definition “Satanic” (look! Satan!). And that racism cloaks itself in religious belief all the damn time.

  4. Lipstick-and-Birk-Wearing Momma

    I have some familiarity with the situation in Guatemala, and a Mayan woman running for public office is an extremely dangerous endeavor. This is a very brave woman! I sincerely hope that she remains safe.

    Maybe this is not a “hot topic” issue, but it’s important because it inspires me and gives me hope. Blame-on!!!

  5. miscellanneous

    Damn! I am the fifth commentator, and there is still no description of the clothes that will ensure that Ms. Menchú reverses the patriarchal/classist/racist tide. I’ll check back later.

  6. miscellanneous

    (and how do you get the blasted ethno-centric browser to recognize spelling from other than this little country?)

  7. Meredith

    I am so excited! We read a lot of Menchu last month in my Latin American lit class (the prof is a total patriarchy-blamer) and this is so fantastic. I made a loud squealing noise when I read this post.

  8. edith

    You fight ignorance as well as patriarchy (although I suppose they’re two sides of the same coin). I did love Wrinkle. As a young Jew, all the Jesus stuff went straight over my head. Kind of like the way it did when I read C.S. Lewis. But even as a tiny thing, I remember feeling pissed that there were no women on that BlackThingFighters list. I also hate how Meg is portrayed in the later books, specifically Many Waters (the twins go back to Noah’s time! Noah of the Ark fame! OK, maybe I got the Bible imagery there), where she’s all pregnant and docile.

  9. edith

    Actually, she’s preggers in A Swiftly, Tilting Planet. Not Many Waters. Yeah.

  10. goblinbee

    I read Menchu’s autobiography “I, Rigoberta Menchu” back in the early 90’s, then found out she had embellished much of her story. Though her book may speak to a larger truth — that of the oppression of the indigenous people of Guatemala — I was disappointed that it was not the eyewitness account it pretended to be.

  11. Hawise

    Anyway that her story is told, she is a brave woman going up against dangerous enemies. I hope that her dress designer is a native Mayan and becomes all the rage in elite circles. A whole line of celebrities in Menchu-inspired gowns at the next Oscars would be way cool, especially the men.

  12. j

    I liked A Wrinkle in Time when I was in elementary school, and I didn’t understand the religious references at all. I started to read the later books of the series, and they just got worse and worse until I threw A Swiftly Tilting Planet on the floor because it was so dreadful.

  13. Metal Prophet

    I think it’s interesting that the Religious Right despises A Wrinkle in Time, because it allegedly endorses the occult.

  14. Maureen

    IIRC, Madame Curie was on the list of “people who fight Evil”.

  15. Maureen

    And I don’t recall Meg being particularly docile in A Swiftly Tilting Planet–she was pregnant, and so rather than physically time-traveling with Charles Wallace, she communicates with him telepathically.

    L’Engle’s religious, but I’d hesitate to call her a “godbag”–in Many Waters, Sandy and Dennys remember that Meg engages in some low-key patriarchy blaming regarding the omission of women’s names in the Bible, and in another one of her books (one dealing with Meg and Calvin’s daughter Polly) a supporting character is Max, a free-spirited older lesbian, and Polly has premarital sex without anything bad happening.

  16. Bean


    I too heard she had fabricated/exaggerated parts of her stories, depressing but like you said, probably to a larger purpose.

    I hope she remains safe, I don’t know if I will agree with her politics, but it would be good to have a women leader down south.

  17. redhead

    golblinbee and bean:

    I heard that she embellished as well; however, when you look up the details of these embellishments (see the wikipedia article on her) they are sometimes not so relevant.

    For example, wikipedia says that she “maintained that her family was actively involved in fighting against their subjugation by wealthy Guatemalans of European descent and the Guatemalan government” and that later research refuted this, as they were actually “relatively prosperous by local Mayan standards.” Those two statements are not necessarily contradictory to me.

    Another example: while Rigoberta “claimed that [her father] was an underground radical political organizer, he was at home in his village of Chimel working with U.S. Peace Corps volunteers.” Again, not necessarily contradictory.

    Some of the things do seem to be out-and-out fabrications; however, as a document of what was going on, whether or not these things happened to her, it is completely accurate.

    I think the criticism against her, while maybe factually accurate, is usually motivated by right-wing zealotry and hatred of anyone female and non-White achieving notoriety.

    See this article:


    He debunks her autobiography, and then laments that it will be placed in the canon alongside works by Aristotle, Dante and Shakespeare. Last time I checked, Dante and Shakespeare were not autobiographically accurate, but that doesn’t stop them from being included in the canon; so, if Rigoberta Menchu writes a book that is not from her life, but accurately represents the experience of many Quiche Mayans, why should her book not be right alongside the ‘classics’?

  18. redhead

    also, yes, I know that this a somewhat different situation than Dante and Shakespeare, because she labelled it an autobiography. Please do not reply to me by pointing out that fact.

  19. j

    Maureen, I think L’Engle is what some would call a “liberal Christian.”

  20. Lily Underwood

    Twisty, I like your photos.

  21. roamaround

    Let’s not forget the socialist woman president Michelle Bachelet down south in Chile. In another (surprise!) CIA-backed coup, she and her parents were imprisoned and tortured by the right-wing Pinochet regime. She is also a single mother and an open agnostic.

  22. sigh

    Thanks for the nice bit of good news. Wangaari Matthai is not currently running for office, but she is holds (appointed I believe not elected) office in Kenya.

  23. Joanna

    Do read the book! It is not an autobiography, it is a work of testimony, where one person says “I am telling the story of my people, not just my own.” This is writing whose purpose is to mobilize its readers against oppression. Some people might call this kind of writing “propaganda” –I’d call it “blaming.”

    My two cents: the campaign to discredit Menchu and her testimony were orchestrated by participants in the culture wars, including people like Dinesh D’Souza, who were pissed that an effective advocate for indigenous rights was gaining an audience in the US while our government was engaged in dirty wars there. I’m sorry to see that they apparently have done their work well if folks think RM’s account of the oppression and brutality in Guatemala was “embellished” or not factual. There has been an awful lot written about the accusations that she somehow was lying, and about the politics of writing in solidarity with political struggles in Latin America–this debate caused a huge uproar in the field of Latin American studies where I make a living, and I have had to slog through every angry article and book about it because it is something I include in my classes. I have also compared the English and Spanish translations, and the English version has chosen words that are less overtly political than the discourse she uses in the Spanish; the Spanish makes it clear that she is speaking from a politicized position. The title in Spanish is actually “Me llamo Rigoberta Menchu y asi me nacio la conciencia” (with appropriate accents I can’t make here). That translates as “My name is RM and this is how my consciousness was born (raised).

    So–I could go on at great length, but I guess I’d like folks to know that if they were to follow up on the story of how her credibility was attacked, they’d find a very interesting story about how a white male anthropologist decided that this uppity indigenous woman couldn’t really be allowed to be the expert about her own reality, and the Lynn Cheney (remember when she was running around in Washington?) and her gang rubbed their hands with glee. None of the rebuttals got the press that the accusationds did, of course.

  24. Joanna

    Redhead, by the way, that link leads to an article by David Horowitz, a notorious smear campaigner who makes a tidy living going around the country talking about how supposedly the universities have been taken over by loony lefties and those nasty feminists who are oppressing poor little conservatives. Michael Berube has written at great length about the specifics of the many untruths he has promoted. Just so you know.

  25. Jezebella

    Joanna, I love love LOVE that no matter what topic comes up around here, there’s a commenter nigh with actual expertise (medicine, law, Mayan politics, art history, biology, the construction trades, to name only a few).

    Thanks for your two cents. Now, I am off to bookmooch to see if I can get a copy of Menchu’s book for free.

  26. roamaround

    My post about Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s woman/socialist/agnostic president, went into moderation for some reason. In case it pops up later and seems out of place, it was a response to Bean’s comment upthread that it would be nice to have a woman leader down south.

    It would be nice to have woman leaders everywhere, I agree, though I think there are more in the global south than is sometimes assumed.

    Thanks to Joanna for the enlightening info about Menchu’s book. I’m not surprised about the smear campaign. It’s impossible to counter the power brokers without a backlash.

    Why do women leaders always have to be perfect, anyway?

  27. kate

    The criticism from the right is predictable enough, although misguided. When applying western cultural norms of individuation, that is from the “I” as centered exclusively on one’s own experience. But, like most indigenous peoples, the “I” in a story often translates to ‘we’ as speaking for the entire tribe or community. Thus, I’d posit that Menchu’s writing is the same; a saga of the experience of all her people collectively, not just herself.

    The voice of a community as a whole people united certainly must be unnerving to westerners, many who place much value (however overrated and also untrue among the poor) on the concept of the self against the world. Additionally, those who profit from the disunity and social alienation masses have every motive to discredit her voice as it not only silences her, but they hope, silences and discredits the whole community.

  28. sabotabby

    She’s been a hero of mine since I read her autobiography in second-year university.

    And I believe—though it’s a long time since I’ve read it—her clothes were made by another indigenous woman.

  29. redhead

    Thanks Joanna – I could tell from the article that David Horowitz was a basher of anything not related to the upholding the current order of things, but it’s good to know that others have already debunked/criticized him. I will definitely check out Michael Berube.

  30. Scratchy888

    “If there was any truth in the myth itself, the Guatemalan guerrillas would not have been wiped out in two or three years. “–David Horowitz.

    Interesting reasoning!

    If capitalism were meant to last, it would not be wiping itself out though global warming contradictions, after so few strong years on our planet.

  31. Nia

    I haven’t read Menchú’s autobiography but I think that the clearest sign of her purpose in writing it is the book’s complete Spanish title, translatable as “My name is Rigoberta Menchú and this is how my conscience was born”. It doesn’t matter much whether her parents were revolutionary heroes or not; what matters is to inform Westerns/Northerners about what is going on in her country. If too much attention was paid to the circumstances rather than to the facts, we know who’s to blame.

  32. Foilwoman

    I’ve got to agree with the more-advance-blamer-than-I who praised you, your writing, and especially the last sentence of this post. Let’s not forgot, Ms. Menchu also ran afoul of the patriarchy. The publishing world? Intellectuals? Something like that. with the shocking “discovery” that her memoir was not entirely factually verifiable — apparently with records in the country for lower caste human beings being sketchy at best and even worse after decades of civil war the lack of documents seemed offensive to many in charge.

    I can’t speak to the truth of her actual experiences, only she can, but I’m damn pleased that a non-primarily European women in Guatemala may well be leading that country. Tegucigalpa will never be the same.

  33. Jodie

    Something new to read!

    I am growing very weary of people who’ve never done anything of note trying to make all others as small as they are; Menchu sounds like an extraordinary person.

    I always associated L’Engle’s three Mrs Ws with the Fates (probably because I’d read Lloyd Alexander before I read L’Engle).

  34. Nick

    The only real question here is whether she’s a priss who’s put her career ahead of her family, or she’s willing to show her children and thus is exploiting them to get ahead.

    Sarcasm aside, sometimes I lament the loss of the me who could read books without noticing their antifeminist or racist undertones. I’d rather not be ignorant, but it’s just a tiny bit sad to lose that sense of wonder. I remember rewatching the Revenge of the Nerds as a sentient being, and becoming progressively more uncomfortable with a movie that I’d identified with as a child. I got to the sex scene in the moon room, and it suddenly hit me that I was watching a love-rape; I just felt sick.

    Firefox’s spell checker is telling me that “antifeminist” isn’t a word.

  35. Hattie

    Sure get tired of the right wing hatchet jobs. Horowitz is someone I especially loathe.

  36. ungoliant

    (edited version, apologize to all if this shows up twice!)

    Twisty, thanks so much for turning this news item into a flashbeam for the blaming community. It may not bring as much traffic as blow jobs and s/m costume debates, but you provided us once again with a rallying point for hope, a reminder of what we’re blaming toward and of the heroes we can can remember in what often seems a lonely struggle. All that, a place to share our delight and gain wisdom and knowledge from each other, and the sudden joyful tear from a striking bit of eloquence like that glorious last sentence. Everybody says it, but it’s just so true–you really do rock.

    I’m seriously tempted now to suggest a friendly contest to digg this story until some unsuspecting interviewer gets Ms. Menchu on the tube so they can *ask* her “Who She’s Wearing.” Who thinks they can convince Larry King? Anderson Cooper, anyone?

  37. Christopher

    What, all these comments and no mention of the fact that the evil planet in A Wrinkle In Time is named after a Quiche (I thought K’iche was used more often these days, incidentally) monster?

    When I started reading I figured that was going to be the connecting thread.

    Yeah, Camazotz was a kind of creature in the Popul Vuh. Apparently his name means “Sudden Blood-letter” and he “plucks off heads”.

    There’s a wikipedia article that says he might’ve been inspired by vampire bats, but what I heard was that he’s really a fruit-bat; he’ll pluck off your head like a fruit-bat picking a piece of fruit.

    He, together with other monsters named, charmingly, Gouger of Faces, Crunching Jaguar and Tearing Jaguar destroyed a civilization of wooden people back in the days before homo sapiens.

    Or maybe it was Camalotz. see, in one part of the book, it’s “Camalotz” and in another it’s “Camazotz”. All English sources I’ve read say that they’re two names for the same entity, though.

    I think we can all agree Camazotz is pretty badass, but I’m not really sure why L’Engle named that particular planet after him (Her? It?).

    I liked A Wrinkle in Time, but gave up in a latter book… I remember there was some kinda shrimp-monster thing and the author came down hard on him cause he didn’t play nice with others. Same thing happened in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

    I think that an antisocial acerbic, sarcastic person can be perfectly good, so I didn’t like the authors making them bad, and then when they become good they’re all sickeningly nice.

  38. Twisty

    What, all these comments and no mention of the fact that the evil planet in A Wrinkle In Time is named after a Quiche (I thought K’iche was used more often these days, incidentally) monster?

    When I started reading I figured that was going to be the connecting thread.

    Yeah, Camazotz was a kind of creature in the Popul Vuh. Apparently his name means “Sudden Blood-letter” and he “plucks off heads”.

    I love this blog.

  39. Paul

    Women leaders in latin america exhibit 1:


    Oh wait, her politics aren’t correct so she doesn’t count.

  40. Twisty

    Do I detect in your tone, Paul, some sort of disgruntledness that this post is not a List of Female Latin American Politicians?

  41. Frumious B

    Can any blamers recommend a book about Ms. Menchu which is written at a 6th grade level?

    Heck, books about any women of color, or any women, in politics written at a 6th grade level are of interest.

  42. Alecto

    I remember rewatching the Revenge of the Nerds as a sentient being, and becoming progressively more uncomfortable with a movie that I’d identified with as a child.

    Nick, I had the pleasure of watching the original M*A*S*H with my father — first time for me, and the first time for him since his childhood. Before it started, he was waxing poetic over how funny it was, such a classic. He grew progressively quieter as it wore on. (I quickly gave up on it and started reading a book. I couldn’t get past the misogyny enough to find it amusing.) At the end, he admitted sheepishly that it was much more misogynist than he recalled. Childhood impressions can be very misleading, but thankfully, most of us grow up.

  43. Twisty

    The TV series “M*A*S*H” is much the same; I saw half an episode the other day for the first time in years, and was amazed at how anti-woman and preachy this supposedly progessive liberal program was. The only female lead is called “Hot Lips,” and the rest of the dudes, when they aren’t being sensitive and grappling comedically with the dudely enormity of dudely war, are macking on entities known as “the nurses.” No wonder it’s still wildly popular and in syndication.

  44. Karen

    Nick, “love-rape”? Are you serious? What earthly purpose can it serve to hyphenate those two words?

  1. Literary Benefits & Hindrances of a Non-Religious Upbringing « Gangly Thoughts

    […] 26 Feb 2007 Literary Benefits & Hindrances of a Non-Religious Upbringing Posted by jolt under Patriarchy , Religion  A recent post by the superlativeTwisty discusses, among other things, various aspects of religion & Famous Fighters of the Black Thing  set forth in Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.   Reading her comments on the various religious allusions in the book reminded me of something I first noticed way back in college when taking a Survery of English Literature, which is that not having been raised in any religious tradition, the vast majority of religious allusions, metaphors and other literary devices went completely over my head. […]

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