“As a woman my country is the whole world.” This is a quote from Adrienne Rich’s essay “Notes toward a Politics of Location.” Rich in her essay was noting that where our bodies are matters. She was also commenting on what she characterizes as “nation-states [being] pretexts used by multinational conglomerates to serve their interest”  and the amorphous, borderlessness of corporate bodies of oppression.
For Adrienne Rich, it is incumbent upon women to be aware of “how a place on the map is also a place in history.” Women marking their territory as guardians for peace with their bodies in context, a specific place and time, matters.
She was writing in 1984. She was alluding to what it means to have a seat at the table and bodies in the streets. Over three decades later, women are still making the case about how integral our role has been in both shaping and making history. Part of making that case is allowing for a more complex discussion about how women locate themselves adjacent to love and lovers.
"...Allowing for a more complex discussion about how women locate themselves adjacent to love and lovers..."
In reading about Gala Salvador Dalí’s new exhibition in Barcelona, I noticed much of the focus was on her romantic relationships, her varied voyages and the controversies that trailed behind her. The exhibition “Gala Salvador Dalí. A Room of One’s Own in Púbol,” which runs through October 14th, highlights that as Dalí’s wife, she was “more than a model and muse” . The article, “Gala Dalí’s Life Wasn’t Quite Surreal, but It Was Pretty Strange,” on one side, presents the Russian-born Gala as the multi-faceted person that she was. Yet, on the other side, it almost salaciously enumerates her various love affairs with surrealist writers and painters, colored against the background of luxurious travels. Let it be emphasized, Gala was an agent, an advocate for artists and one of the founding forces of the surrealist movement. She moved freely about the globe. Those are the things of note for me.
Her lovers, while beautiful human beings, map not so much her scandals but what it means to think and live with and in the whole body. What philosophies did she debate with her first husband and father of her daughter--Paul Éluard, a French poet whom she married in 1917 and one of the founders of the surrealist movement? What did her posture bespeak in her love affair with Max Ernst that made him want to paint her? What information or artistic processes did she share during her 1929 travels to Spain to visit “a budding artist named Salvador Dalí...in his fisherman’s house outside the town of Cadaqués” . Her love was fuel and philosophy.
"Gala was an agent, an advocate for artists...She moved freely about the globe. Those are the things of note for me."
Women’s central role in moving society toward love as a political reality has been long documented in the lives and work of trailblazers like--Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, Katharine Hepburn, Angela Davis, Michelle Obama and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Let that be the highlighted story. By love, I mean the kind of love including but not limited to the sentimental--as scholar and essayist bell hooks describes in “Love as the Practice of Freedom.”
For hooks, “our capacity to care about the oppression and exploitation of others” is determined by how much we are willing to love . Citing Dr. King, she said that he “decided to love” because that decision is “the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality” . We, myself included, have to critically examine our blind spots. In challenging domination we have to be aware, as bell hooks points out, that “women and men who spend a lifetime working to resist and oppose one form of domination can be systematically supporting another” . She calls for a “love ethic” to intervene.
That ultimate love-based reality is to what women have been pointing in our calls for peace in the home, in our schools and in our politics. Most recently, women’s contributions to political movements most recently have been crystalized in the largest political gathering in U.S. history--the 2017 Women’s March on D.C. By some estimates, between 3,000,000 to 5,000,000 people gathered to voice their opposition to an administration who has been, in its language and policies, destructive to women’s well-being and livelihoods .
That march was a map. It mapped and marked a place in history. That march was an expression of love, pink pussy hats and all. Real revolution is doing what you love. For the women--and men--in Washington D.C. that day, marching meant visibly loving and showing respect for the sanctity of the feminine body, so that body could go on loving other bodies. Allowing others to go on loving, to do what they love, is how we fully realize a sustainable path forward. .