Why “Sexist Capoeirista” is an Oxymoron

28 05 2008

Or: Why Sexist Capoeira Teachers Should Not Be Promoted

Capoeira is

A short while ago, my friend and I had a conversation about capoeira teachers who are sexist, who treat their female students as inferior to male students of the same level (and below…so to male students in general). One of the things that struck me about the conversation was when I heard that other (male) students and teachers had excused a contra-mestre’s behaviour by saying he just “didn’t know how to act” (being new from Brazil and all, since, you know, obviously treating students equally takes special skill and talent there compared to all other parts of the world). [On the off-chance that someone read that as being really offendingly politically incorrect, please note the dripping sarcasm!]

My friend’s (and my) response to that: How can you be a contra-mestre and “not know how to act” when it comes to teaching? Even leaving aside if you’re naturally inclined to be sexist, or genuinely hold sexist views, you’d think somewhere along the way you would’ve learned what’s acceptable and what’s not, especially in such a position of responsibility (and power). (Not that I think pretending to be not-sexist is great, but if that’s what it takes, then better than nothing.)

This is a perfect example of what Faisca mentioned in his post on teaching capoeira: “15 years does not [necessarily] a good instructor make.” However, let’s take this a little bit further:

Forget good instructors. Does 15 years a good contra-mestre make? Does 30 years a good mestre make?

To be a qualified teacher, one should know what it means to teach, and what teaching is about. More importantly, they should know what their subject is about, and know it through and through.

Being deemed and respected as a mestr(a/e), contra-mestr(a/e), or any of the nearby levels implies that you have what verges on a deep, profound knowledge of capoeira, and have at least a better than average notion of what capoeira is all about.

Well, what is the one thing that capoeira is MOST touted for being all about, by beginners and advanced capoeiristas, old guard and avant-garde alike?

Universality. All-inclusiveness. “For men, women, and children.” (-Mestre Pastinha, in case anyone forgot)

In that case, wouldn’t that mean that a capoeirista who is sexist (or racist, or in fact discriminatory in any rights-violating way), and lets it show in the capoeira environment, lacks true understanding of one of the most basic, fundamental concepts of capoeira?

And thus is not prepared to be granted the recognition and responsibility that comes with being deemed a “full”/”good”/”advanced”/”true” capoeirista in the way that today’s capoeira systems do?

I mean, think about it. Beginner and novice capoeiristas are expected to be well-rounded in terms of the “physical” aspects of capoeira in order to be promoted; they need to know both movements and music. Even if they have great floreios and great game, they won’t go anywhere if they can’t hold a berimbau or sing any songs.

As you progress in capoeira, this required all-roundedness expands to include the metaphysical—that is, capoeira philosophy. Well, a basic part of the philosophy of capoeira is that it’s for everyone: girls as well as boys, women as well as men. So, wouldn’t promoting a supposedly philosophically advanced capoeirista who doesn’t understand that concept be akin to promoting an esquiva-challenged beginner capoeirista to novice level?

Of course, none of that applies if a certain mestre or contra-mestre or so on really believes that capoeira is not for everyone, and that “true” capoeira philosophically does mean Brazilian Males Only.

But otherwise…just saying. If capoeira is truly universal, as we all love to say it is, then please hang up your bigotry, or abada. Because a sexist capoeirista is, arguably, no capoeirista at all.

Picture source:

Contours: A Short Story (Blog Meme)

25 05 2008

Once Upon a Bloggy NightThis is my first real attempt in recent history at creative writing, thanks to an imaginative blog meme called “Once Upon a Bloggy Night“. What are the rules? Basically: write a short story, and incorporate into it the names of all the blogs you read. So voilà, a peek into my daily reading list (I got 85-90% of them in) and some fun fiction, wrapped up in one. 😀 I hope you enjoy it!

p.s. If you’re a blogger reading this…consider yourself tagged!


by Joaninha

Parana e, parana e, parana—

The circle froze, momentarily suspended in time as people paused and found their bearings, making the always-abrupt transition from 16th century Brazil to 21st century Canada. Raia threw a private tantrum as the roda dissolved, as her teacher dissembled the berimbau she’d been crouching towards when the roda ended.

I came here to play!, she seethed. So focused was Raia on her frustration that she succumbed to Palavra’s sneak attack and, surprised out of her mood, laughed as she jolted into retaliation.

“The gringa strikes again!” her friend triumphed.
“You’re shameless, you know that?”
“This, from someone named ‘line’ just so she’d remember to stop crossing it?”
“Hey! It happened once—”

“Uh-oh…uhm, salve, Mestra. Como está?”
“Don’t give me any of that skelliewag, you berimbau duties shirker. Just were where you during Mestre Angoleiro’s roda last week? And the one before that?”
“I’m sorry, Mestra. But my sister got really sick, and then our house got broken into, and…”

Now those are what I call fast fictions, Raia grinned as she packed up and left the academy. If only she knew he’d skipped because of a few unfortunately placed paper cuts. I wonder if there’s anything on The Capoeira Blog about buying into mosh pit-like rodas?

The 22-year-old news intern had a month before returning to the political grind known as Parliament Hill, where she harvested fodder for the CNN Political Ticker. With the extra time and some inspiration, she’d decided to try practicing The Art of Nonconformity. So far, this meant having her mind, body, and soul capoeira-infused, openly converting to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, enrolling in a neuroanthropology course, becoming a freelance copyblogger, and turning her bedroom into a paradise of flowers and fruit. Sophocle’s Antigone was her most recent heroine.

As she cut through the park, Raia noticed a teenage girl drifting among the flowerbeds, stooping every few feet to search absent-mindedly through the fluttering palettes of colour. She appeared to be talking to herself.

“Are you alright? Do you want any help?” Raia approached the girl.
…in the search…
“What are you searching for?”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“…create a way to state…
“A way to state what? Look, I’d like to help, but I can’t if I don’t understand you.”

Suddenly, the girl turned and stared straight into Raia’s eyes. Only now did Raia notice her garments: a glittery white cutoff shirt, a thin, dark green vest, and khaki short shorts. A procession of small, jagged stones wound around her neck, and a leafy twig held up her hair. What is she, EnviroWoman?

“Create a way to State,” the girl repeated.
“To state what?” Raia asked, exasperated now.
“Not to state, a state. Your state. Here.” And she held out a tattered piece of old parchment.

Raia accepted, and the scent of pine and rainforest soil rose to greet her. She unfolded the paper to find an old-fashioned compass inked in by hand. Above it, squiggly lines had been dashed off in seemingly random order. Underneath it was written:


“North by East? I don’t understand.” Raia was getting real tired of not understanding.

“Who are you? How do you live?”

Despite the strangeness of their encounter, something about the girl compelled Raia to answer, rather than walk away. And did she hear wind chimes?

“Well…I have a pretty normal life. I work, I go out, I go to school…the daily slog. I love to write. I’m feminist, and just started, finally, a Feminism 101 blog. I want to work for Publisher’s Weekly, or be the next Andrew Coyne. I have a weakness for men with pens. I like traveling, indie music, theatre…,” Raia suddenly laughed at herself as she recalled a website her friend had forwarded the other day, adding ironically, “you know, ‘stuff white people like‘. And capoeira, of course; I can’t wait until my trip next year to see the Bahia capoeira scene firsthand. I try to live by my own values, morals, ethics, etc. I could do better, I suppose. Sometimes I feel like I could do something great, like write a series of revolutionizing broadsides for CBC Top Stories News, or uncover some amazing lifehack that would solve all our problems…”

Why am I telling her all of this?

“Because you are lost.”

Raia blanched. “Excuse me?

“Look at the paper again.”

Raia looked, and wondered if she were hallucinating. The hand-drawn compass needle had started to quiver on the page, rotating slightly towards North, and the writing underneath had changed. It now read:


Before Raia could fully process what she was seeing, the girl began to speak.

Love“Have you ever seen Arabic calligraphy? It’s breathtaking. You take ordinary words, put them on canvas, and suddenly, they’re art. The words turn and coil, twist and bloom, moving in ways they never have before. What was once ruled lines and minced strokes becomes luxurious curves, indulgent elongation, voluptuous images and shapes. They become words without borders. Yet, what gave them the sudden capability to be this way? The seductive contours, the mesmerizing patterns; where did they come from? In actual fact…nothing did, and from nowhere.

“These qualities were an inherent part of each word all along; the only difference between love stated and love STATED was a simple decision on the part of s/he who controls the brush. Will this word be passive, and match all the rest? Or will it scream, shout, get attention, be remembered, and make its mark? Once this decision is made, the rest is simple: a little less ink here, a little more pressure on the brush there. All it takes is the choice. With that, any word easily bursts into the blinding glory of its full meaning and potential—into its true State.”

Raia opened her mouth, and a squeak came out. She tried again, “Who are you?”

The girl gave a half-smile, and shrugged. “Just a girl in short shorts talking about whatever. Would you like me to continue?”

“That piece of paper you’re holding depicts an open secret, one that is so open that people have forgotten it exists. You humans (yes, you have guessed correctly), you constantly speak of direction, of going the right way, of finding your path. Your north stars, you might say. But you become distracted, oh, so easily distracted. And so you end up veering east, and west, and sometimes even turning south—all the while thinking you are still pushing due north.

“In fact, you are already doing better than most. North by East, the compass said you were going, and further north after you began talking to me, and were forced to review your own life as a whole. It is always better to review a restaurant by sampling the whole menu, rather than focusing excessively on the daily dish. You are an economic woman, so you will appreciate knowing that at this point, it will take less work for you than it would for many others.”

“Less work for what?” Raia was slowly starting to wake up again.

“Why, to find your true State, of course. To do all the great things you say you want to do. To create a way to live your life that will lead to the fulfillment of your greatest potential. For you, that’s a mere adjustment of 22.5 degrees. Of course, it’s not even a quarter-turn in direction, but when one starts at the South Pole, go far enough and that less-than-quarter-turn becomes the difference between Greenland and Africa.

“That, incidentally, is the secret: Find where north is, then simply stay the course. Your north star represents your proper State—the full, complete, best you. Those who realize that, we call postsecret—the state of knowing in all certainty that life is worth living to the best of your passions and abilities, not to the best of traps and waylaying gnomes, not to the best of peer pressure, best of familial expectations, best of personal insecurities, or the best of false obligations. Do you understand what I’m saying, Raia?”

Raia nodded, trance-like, still staring at the dark sepia tinted compass that gauged her very life’s direction. Where to go from here? When she looked up, the girl was gone.


Artwork: Love by Hassan Massoudy

Photoblog: Capoeira Goodies

23 05 2008

I just found these photos of some cupcakes I made last year, and thought you guys would get a kick out of them. 😀 Enjoy!

(Obsessed?? Who, me???)

Capoeira cupcakes!

Berimbau and Brasil

Brazil flag and Axé

Capoeira na beira do mar!

On Ideas, Inspiration, & Innovation

21 05 2008

Innovation = putting things together in a way that no one ever thought of before

I just finished one of the most inspiring articles I’ve ever read.

(I will connect it to capoeira at the end, but the main point of this post is mainly to tell you about the article, which is amazing.)

It’s called “In the Air”, by Malcom Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point and Blink), and in it he writes about how famous, revolutionary, groundbreaking ideas…are out there for anyone to come up with.

DiscoveriesYou know the ones: evolution, the telephone, calculus, colour photography…and at least 144 other “major scientific discoveries” were all “discovered”/”invented” by more than one person, in different periods of time as well as within days of each other, without the other(s) even knowing.

The conclusion from this is that it doesn’t take our traditional idea of a “genius” to come up with such ideas—that is, Darwin and Alexander Graham Bell and many of the rest weren’t geniuses in the sense that they and only they could have been the ones to come up with their respective theories/discoveries/inventions. If any of them had met an untimely death, someone else could and would have eventually discovered/realized the same thing, perhaps taking a different or longer path (or not even), but ultimately reaching the same destination.

Rather, Darwin et al. were geniuses because they had the capacity to spend the time, put in the effort, and think in the lateral, creative, out-of-the-box ways required to come up with their ideas. So, it’s reasoned that if you got many slightly less remarkable people together and had them brainstorm crazily for long periods of time, something would come out of that. Lo and behold:

“So Edward took his people out, plus me,” Wood said. “And the eight of us sat down at a table and the attorney said, ‘Do you mind if I record the evening?’ And we all said no, of course not. We sat there. It was a long dinner. I thought we were lightly chewing the rag. But the next day the attorney comes up with eight single-spaced pages flagging thirty-six different inventions from dinner. Dinner.”

I should note here that those eight people at dinner included a law degree-holding electrical engineer, and a biologist who once walked across Texas with nothing but a sleeping bag, flashlight, and rifle. (I really meant it when I said only “slightly” less remarkable.) Still, these men have come up with real ways to do things like filtering cancer cells out of someone’s blood, or literally harnessing the power of ocean waves to stop hurricanes.

GeniusAccording to the article, someone is a genius not just because they thought of a particular idea that would never have been discovered otherwise, but because they were able to do it all on their own. The important thing to note from that is: the idea is out there. It’s not locked up within any one particular person, never to make an entrance into history if that person suddenly disappears. Maybe it takes a team of eight almost-geniuses to discover what one genius could discover on their own, but the discovery is still able to be made. All it takes is enough looking and thinking.

One reason the team above, Intellectual Ventures, is so successful is because of the crazily varied backgrounds, experience, and expertise of each member. You look at a problem in enough number of different ways, and eventually a spectacular solution will be found. For instance, the cancer cell filter came out of introducing a doctor to a physicist; one had the problem, the other had the solution, but they never would’ve known it without criscrossing the two fields together.

So theoretically…any one of us could do this. Just using capoeira as an example, what if you could get a group of eight novice to advanced capoeiristas together, who all had completely different specialities (e.g. photographer, academic, tradesperson, stay-at-home mom, financial expert, advertising director, journalist, musician), and just discussed capoeira for a few hours, keeping innovation in mind the whole time? What kind of new ideas, creative strategies, philosophical twists, interesting moves might come out of that?

I got so excited after reading this article, I opened my browser and started writing up this post right away. I hope it got you thinking too, about ideas, and solutions, and innovation, and where it all comes from, and the idea that it can come from one of us. Just imagine the possibilities!

Picture source: http://www.salsaspirit.co.za/images/capoeira.jpg

Be a GOOD Bystander: Preventing Sexual Assault

16 05 2008

If you saw someone being attacked—a man being mugged on the street, a woman being raped in an alley—would you do something? Would you intervene, call for help, phone the police…or avert your gaze, speed up your footsteps, and pretend it never happened?

I want to focus on one particular aspect of the incident I wrote about on Sunday, when a woman was sexually assaulted on-stage by a comedian (“comedian”) as part of his “act”. I’m not talking about the comedian himself, certainly not the woman (unless you’re the victim-blaming type), and not even the culture that allowed it to happen—but the audience. The audience who sat there and watched it happen—and let it happen. As written in The Guardian:

How on earth can these people solemnly preach to us all about the terrible trauma his poor victim must have felt when they all sat in the audience and watched without lifting a finger, then went home and sat in front of their laptops sanctimoniously tapping away at a self-righteous denouncement of his actions which they had just sat and allowed to happen?

You know what the saddest part is? I can understand it.

The bystander effect is one of the most well-known psychological studies in examining how our social consciences work, and what it says is:

When there is an attack or crime being committed, the more bystanders there are, the less likely it is that any of them will actually help.

In other words, if you see a man or woman being attacked in an empty street, and no one else is around, you are much, much more likely to help them or call the police; and you will almost certainly not help them or do anything if they were being attacked in broad daylight, on the busiest street in your city, during rush hour. Unless, of course, you’re genuinely good and brave and valiant like that—which, let’s be honest, many of us aren’t. (Although, if someone would like to do a study on the effects of exposure to capoeira music on a given group of bystanders while witnessing an attack, I’m open to suggestions!)

The following is literally the textbook case of the bystander effect—it’s what started the whole study of this phenomenon in the first place (emphasis mine):

Forty years ago, Kitty Genovese was attacked and murdered outside her New York City apartment building. Thirty-eight people heard her calls for help as they watched from behind their apartment windows. The attack lasted more than half an hour. After it was over, someone called the police, who arrived within two minutes.

Pretty astounding, don’t you think? And I’ve touched on the bystander effect personally here, describing how on my way home one night I wasn’t sure whether I was witnessing a woman being attacked or not, and didn’t know how to react. That led to a discussion in which a very important question was raised:

How do we overcome the bystander effect?

After all, nobody wants to be the insecure, self-justifying, crowd-mentality loser who let a woman get knifed or a man suffer hate crime in front of their very eyes, right?

Although I am the last person who has any concrete solutions to this problem, I firmly believe that the more you know about something, the more you’ll be capable of fighting against it when you need to. So first, I’ll list some things that I’ve picked up along the way. If you witness an attack:

Use your cellphone (or any phone). It’s relatively risk-free, you can do it at a distance from the attack, and you can probably remain anonymous if you’re that concerned about it. The important thing is: just pick up and dial! 9-1-1 [or whatever the emergency number is in your region]. It’s not hard; or it is hard, but not so hard that you can’t force yourself to do it in order to save somebody’s life.

Follow your gut instinct. If you think something’s not right, it probably isn’t. If your stomache, chest, throat, and blood pulse are telling you something’s not right, then it almost definitely isn’t.

Suppress your “What if I’m wrong/What if I embarrass myself?” inside voice. After all, what’s worse: the effects of a little embarassment on you, or the effects of a sexual and/or violent attack on the victim?

Empathize. Studies show that a bystander is more likely to intervene if they see themselves as being a part of the same social group as the victim, or if they have a connection with them in some way. That is, white bystanders are more likely to help if the victim is white, women are more likely to help (than not help) if the victim is a woman, and so on.

The interesting thing is that apparently, this perception can be expanded to include larger and larger groups. So if you see someone being attacked or assaulted, maybe instead of seeing them as a stranger who doesn’t look, think, or live like you, make yourself realize that it’s another student being assaulted there, or another <insert job title>, or another <insert nationality>, or another brother/sister/father/mother, or, in fact, another human being…just like you.

Get training. As capoeiristas, we arguably have a slight advantage over the average non-martial artist when it comes to attacks and self-defense. However, this doesn’t matter if you believe you can’t use capoeira in “real-life” situations. Why? One major reason that bystanders don’t intervene in emergency situations is, quite simply, they don’t know how.

They know they should do something, but have no idea what course of action to take, and are scared they’ll do something wrong, or make things worse. So, if you are serious about wanting to be able to prevent sexual assault when you see it, research ways to identify and stop such situations, so that you’ll be prepared and have confidence in what you’re doing when the necessary time comes.

Know your help will help, no matter what. Having suggested “get training” above, just a reminder that training is not AT ALL necessary in preventing sexual assault or any attack. You don’t need special training in order to shout outloud, yell for help, or call the police. In a study, assault perpetrators said they were able to succeed with their crimes because they knew people would let them. They counted on the bystander effect! Prove them wrong.

Learn how it works. Finally, what I said earlier: the more you know about something, the more capable you will be of fighting it. If you can tell yourself in a situation that your discomfort in helping is due purely to this phenomenon that is distorting your judgement, then you are more likely to overcome it and take action. In that vein, I’m linking to several articles below that are definitely worth a read to find out more about being a good (or bad) bystander, so please take the time to read them.

  • Stepping up to stop sexual assault – A really informative article that discusses the bystander effect in the comedian/assaulted woman case and talks about bystander training (what it can do and how it works).
  • Failing to Fight the Good Fight – It’s not just sexual assault that the bystander effect applies to. This article describes how the author was the only one to stand up against racism in a crowded London metro.
  • As individuals, we help. As a corporate whole, we don’t. – An article about the bystander effect, inspired by a recent incident where cars in traffic swerved around a woman lying in the middle of the road with her head bleeding. Just read the first page (it kind of goes off-track after that).

The first article makes a really good point, that applies to this post as well: Nobody needs bystander training. None of you need to have read this post in order to increase the chances you will help someone you see being victimized, in the future. As I said, any person off the street, any one of us, has the power to intervene when we see someone doing something wrong to another person. More often than not, all it takes is a single word or gesture that shows the perpetrator that people notice. The only problem is overcoming the social forces and tiny voice in our head that says we can’t, for this or that or whatever (non-)reason.

In other words, don’t be a lemming, and don’t be insecure or afraid to take action. Yes, it might be difficult, and I’m not saying or even sure that I’ll be able to do something the next time it’s asked of me, but…someone’s life (which includes life as they know it, e.g. rape is a horrifically life-changing event) could depend on it.

The Brazil/Africa Capoeira Metaphor: Seeing Through Stereotypes

12 05 2008

Do you see through stereotypes?Before/while/after writing the “Is Brazil the Mother or Father of Capoeira?” post, I had some tiny, niggling misgivings about it at the back of my mind, but ignored them for the sake of the post and saying what I wanted to say about the metaphor. However, the more I thought about it, the less comfortable and the more, well, intellectually dishonest it seemed to just leave it, especially when what was bothering me stood out even more clearly with Xixarro’s first comment and then my own response to it. So, I’m going to distill all those thoughts out now.

In the post itself, I noted how the original metaphor and my rationale for its correction were based on stereotypes, something I’ve touched on before here. Thus, the first problem: was I reinforcing those stereotypes by bringing it all up, and basing my rationale on them? The second problem: I felt it was feminist to advocate for Brazil as the mother of capoeira rather than as the father (in addition to it being first and foremost logical, of course). But I was relying on (and so possibly reinforcing) gender stereotypes in order to make that advocation. So then wasn’t that counterproductive, and maybe even hypocritical, feminism-wise?

Okay, first things first. I think it was right to point out that Brazil seems more like the mother instead of the father of capoeira, because when I first realized why the comparison didn’t seem accurate, I felt like there was some hypocrisy going on: “Oh sure, pigeonhole women and femininity as the nurturing, childrearing, breeding-is-their-function ones, until it’s time to give them credit for it (i.e. parenting capoeira), then switch it all around.”

Then, there was the idea that capoeira is “masculine”, so therefore of course Brazil would be the “masculine” partner as well, and the idea that of course the country that’s the most majorly/obviously associated with or seemed to play the biggest part in something (in this case, capoeira) would be the “male”. So, my objection was in order to deconstruct the seeming hypocrisy and system of thought there.

As for reinforcing the stereotypes…I actually realized just how entrenched they were even as I started writing this post: “in addition to it being first and foremost logical”, I wrote, referring to my “correction”. Well, the only reason I found it “logical” in the first place was because my premises were the very stereotypes I was trying to deconstruct!

It all became even more obvious and more uncomfortable when Xixarro made his comment and I replied to it, and I realized I’d somehow gone from arguing against stereotypes to arguing for which stereotypes seemed more “right”! In truth, no stereotypes are right, let alone “logical”—by definition!

It’s not logical that woman = childrearer or = background/minor role*, and it’s not logical that man = leader/fountainhead/major role. Again, those are all purely social, (hu)man-made constructions. Somebody just upped and decided those things, with really no basis whatsoever except for his own inflated superiority complex.

So, in conclusion: While I relied on stereotypes to make my argument against one instance of (mis)use of stereotypes, at least I recognized that I was doing it, and then went on (in this post) to deconstruct those stereotypes themselves. And hopefully, this provided a good case study for you in the recognition and disconstruction of stereotypes, whether as obvious statements or as subtle underlying premises in yourself!

Picture source: http://thegreatconnect.wordpress.com/category/brasil/

Cultural Traditions: Sports, Humour, …Rape?

11 05 2008

While we’re talking about awful British comedians, I had to write about this incident I just read about—because it’s the closest I can get to screaming it from the rooftops. Basically, a comedian named Johnny Vegas brought a woman from the audience up on stage, sexually assaulted her as part of his “act” (and she wasn’t planted), and no one in the audience did anything (though some laughed). I’ll let the article speak for itself (note: the link goes to a blog post quoting the article because the article itself has been taken down due to, surprise, surprise, a libel suit by the comedian):

Once she was on stage, Vegas told her to lie very still. She couldn’t stop her nervous giggling; he threatened to kick her in the ribs. It didn’t come across to me as a joke – and near to where I was sitting, no one was laughing. Eventually Vegas crouched down beside the nervous girl and started stroking her breasts while repeatedly saying, “don’t fucking move”. Then he ran his hand up her leg and began pulling her skirt up. Every time he looked up to address the audience, she would reach down and pull her skirt back down, but he kept pulling it back up. According to Williams, who had a different view of the stage from me, Vegas ended up “fingering her through her clothes for a second or two”.

Although certain facts about the incident are currently in dispute—like whether there was actually, um, penetration, or not—there are still no words. Shame on headline writers posing the issue as a question (“Did he cross the line?” “Did he go too far?” PORRA, uh, YES!).

There are so many things wrong on so many levels with this issue that it seriously makes you want to cry or throw your hands up in the air and turn your back on humanity.

Things wrong with this issue:

1. The comedian thought this would make good comedy in the first place.
2. Members of the audience actually did find it good comedy.
3. The ones who didn’t did nothing to stop it.
4. There are people defending the comedian for his actions.
5. There are people trying to put it all on the victim. (e.g. “She should’ve known better than to sit in the front row.”)
6. Some people think if she didn’t actually get raped that somehow makes it more okay/acceptable.
7. There are debates focusing more on how violating it was (e.g. “It’s not like it was ‘real’ rape.”) and ignoring the fact that she was violated, period.
8. The comedian will face more or less no consequences whatsoever from his crime, let alone actually be charged; and in fact earned money off of it (from the original show), and may earn more in the future due to this spike in publicity or if he wins the lawsuit (god forbid). This speaks volumes about British authority, the press, public opinion, and modern-day culture and society in general.
9. The fact that this is now actually considered and being treated as an “issue”, as if there is another “side” to sexually assaulting someone or being sexually assaulted.

The whole entire thing, the original incident and its aftermath, is an epitomizing example of today’s rape culture. What is it? Wikipedia sums it up pretty comprehensively:

Rape culture [describes] a culture in which rape and other sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or encourage sexualized violence. Acts of harmless sexism are commonly employed to validate and rationalize normative misogynistic practices; for instance, sexist jokes…foster disrespect for women and an accompanying disregard for their well-being, which ultimately make their rape and abuse seem acceptable. Examples of behaviors said to typify rape culture include victim blaming, trivializing prison rape, and sexual objectification.

This is our culture. Just to make sure you really get it, a few concrete examples:

This is rape culture. [“College student sexually assaulted while crowd cheers”]

This is rape culture. [“U of O shuts down paper for misogyny”]

This is rape culture. [“At Jets Game, a Halftime Ritual of Harassment”]

This is rape culture. [“White Sox blew it by allowing sexist shrine”]

This is rape culture. [“Facebook application: It’s not rape, it’s surprise sex”]

Also, the jokes you and your friends make/laugh at, the comics you see, the hip-hop/rap lyrics you hear or listen to, the funny articles you read…all those ones that somehow endorse rape, make fun of rape, or use rape to make fun of something/someone? That is rape culture. And though they in themselves may not seem like such a big deal at the time (and I can attest to that), they’re still horrible in the ideas they promote and are based on, and more importantly they contribute to the bigger picture and general attitude (that is, the sexist/misogynistic one) of how women are seen.

So, unless you’ll find it just as funny if your friend, girlfriend, sister, or mother were to be raped for real…then, why is it so funny in imagination?

Say hello to www.mandingueira.com!

9 05 2008

Psst…look up at your URL address bar! Notice anything different?

Thanks to a particularly informative post by Raul at hummingbird604.com, I’ve managed to give Mandingueira its very own domain name! No more “.wordpress” clutter (as much as I do love WordPress!). 😀

The best part? No re-linking is involved! Everything is automatically redirected. So for everyone out there who has linked, favourited, bookmarked, or subscribed to me in one way or another (to those who have, please know you have my profuse thanks 🙂 ; to those who haven’t, there’s no time like the present 😉 ), you can relax and—do nothing!

That is, do nothing but from now on tell your friends: “Hey, you’ve gotta check out this brilliant capoeira blog I read. Just go to mandingueira.com!”

p.s. In case you missed it because of the close timing between them, there is another new post under this one!

Brazil: The Father of Capoeira—or the Mother?

8 05 2008

Despite the title, this post is not exactly about how capoeira originated. It’s about something I heard recently, and wanted to…question? Correct? Mostly because I didn’t say anything at the time I heard it, and slightly kind of regret it now; so I’m saying it here!

Capoeira, the child of Africa and Brazil

I was at an event when a mestre (well, okay, my mestre) started talking about capoeira, and partway through he said, “Africa is the mother of capoeira…and Brazil is the father.” At this point there was a rippling of “oohhhhs” and laughter among the students, and a self-satisfied pause at his own joke. But I just wondered…why was that funny/how was it a joke? I thought making the comparison was fine (though inaccurate, as I’ll discuss shortly), but were people laughing because of the idea that Brazil “overpowered” Africa, or seized its flower of capoeira, or something? Because in that case, it really wouldn’t have been funny at all.

As for the comparison itself, first I thought it was fine (without the supposed-to-be-funny part), but thinking upon it further, I realized it was actually wrong. Assuming that the way, way-back roots of capoeira are from Africa (safe general statement #1) and that the actual sport/art as we know it today came to flourish in Brazil (safe general statement #2), then…Africa is actually the father of capoeira, and Brazil is the mother.

Why? Think about it. (Note: This is going to be all based on stereotypes…since that’s how metaphors work.) Africa provided the seed of capoeira, but it was the environment in Brazil that nourished and raised capoeira (even if at one point Brazil actually tried to abort it, but you get what I mean…though even in that respect, to whom do abortions usually apply?). The genes and chromosomes of capoeira came from both Africa and Brazil, but it was inside Brazil where they actually combined and merged and grew into the fully-formed art of capoeira (or as fully-formed as a constantly changing and evolving art can get). The gestation period of capoeira took place in Brazil—that is, Brazil was the womb. And who has those?

So, with all due respect to the mestre…if one insists on making this particular comparison, it’d be more accurate to say that Africa was the father of capoeira, and Brazil the mother. Not the other way around. And that doesn’t mean Brazil is weaker than or has been subjugated by Africa. Just my two cents!

Picture source: http://masscapoeira.com/HistoryofCapoeira.html

Video: “Capoeira Girl” [CGI]

6 05 2008

Watch this video! I came across it the other week and am sharing here it for two reasons:

1. It features a mandingueira, playing a mandingueiro.

2. It’s beautiful!

The graphics are stunning, the capoeiristas themselves are “devastatingly fit” (to quote from the youtube description), the music is haunting, and their game is pure enjoyment to watch. Although it’s mostly kicks and acrobatics (as opposed to more elaborate dialogue, though that might have been hard to create well), Lena at Utopia Films did a really good job. Look out at 1:46 and 1:53 for examples of cintura desprezada!

Of course, I couldn’t help noticing their capoeira cordas as well…I’m assuming, based on the red and the white, that the woman is a contra-mestra and the man is a mestre. Why they couldn’t have both been mestres I don’t know, but I guess for the variety. (And better than a higher level woman being matched with a lower level man, I suppose?) Oh, and apparently the video is an ad for Diet Coke, though it’s subtle (well, kind of)…just ignore that part! 😛

Anyway, the best bit about this video is: It’s supposed to be part 1 of a trilogy! So I will definitely keep an eye out for the rest of the installments and feature them on here once they’re available. (Unless they just included that line in the video for “effect”.) At any rate, for now, press play, and breathe in the music, the motions, the scene…

Update: It has been brought to my attention that this video has actually earlier appeared on another well-known capoeira blog!  So if you like, you can now have the pleasure of watching it twice. 😉