In Between My Brain and Other Pinays' Brains

I am increasingly feeling this need to move my writing outside myself. I’ve been writing these “she” and “we” personae which are way too rooted in my own brain. I am feeling the limitations of my own imagination, my direct experience and what I know of my family’s, and reading of others’ voices and experiences, such that my next “she”/”we” project needs to incorporate the words and lives and souls of other Pinays who are not myself and not my world. So I am in the process of compiling a list of “questions,” perhaps along a similar vein to Bhanu Kapil’s The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers.

I am interested in expanding and plumbing the depths of the Pinay voice in my work, creating a remixed Pinay narrative in the form of a long poem. I am interested in debunking what assumptions I am certain I have made over time, and I am especially interested in the kind of exceptionalism which other Pinays over the years have constantly bestowed upon me, my work ethic, my gender relationships. This has led to another kind of othering and distancing with which I have been terribly unhappy and disturbed. This is an othering I would like to think I have been trying to undo, though as I continue to work at my work with the kind of bluntness and grit that are terribly improper for a Filipina lady, I am sure I have been doing a really shitty job of undoing the othering. I am sure I am reinforcing it.

One more consideration is this concept and/or movement called “Pinayism,” (Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales was right when she decided she needed to examine critically and write about why Pinays “dog” each other) which was outlined well enough in 2005 by Wei Ming Dariotis’s students here, in which they read Gravities of Center through a Pinayist filter.

Pinayism is a movement. A movement to “promote discussion and debate of F/Pilipinos in America,” as well as improve and discuss community issues. Although, simply bringing the community together, as well as poets and artists together, is a daunting task. “Sniping,” generating inner quarrels, and the label of being a “traitor” to the community for bringing up issues that are hard to face are common problems when the ultimate goal is just to solve them. Pinayism is meant to expose issues that would normally not be discussed in the community, or “fly under the radar,” and to encourage debate and resolution of such problems.

How to accomplish the above and not be othered by our own communities. This is where I’ve been stuck for a few years. I speak critically and this becomes hurt feelings and reactionary backlash. I try to open dialogues and am met with silence. I try to listen. I try to change my language, and am unsatisfied with the results of my changed language. I try to soften my tone and I think other Pinays are not fooled by my affected softness.

I try then, to keep looking for other Pinay, API, women of color artists, the more ferocious and ambitious the better the fit. Still, I also find myself simply avoiding much Pinay contact because I am already pessimistic about the outcome of my encounters. Not the best situation. Additionally, female enmity is by no means specific to Pinays. Some other more confrontational questions I wrote after reading Marilyn Hacker’s essay on Adrienne Rich’s poem, “Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law” are here.

So now I am back to listening, this time without interjecting. In effect, I have to assume the position of silence, with which I have never been comfortable. I will simply present open ended and more gentle questions to a groups of Pinays, and then quietly write from those questions. If you are reading this, and if you identify as Pinay, and are interested in responding to my questions, please email me: bjanepr at gmail dot com.

[Addendum: Ongoing thoughts on the project and its progression here and here.]

Share/Bookmark

Barbara Jane Reyes

Author of Gravities of Center, Poeta en San Francisco, and Diwata. Adjunct professor in Philippine Studies at University of San Francisco.

4 Comments

  1. Interesting project. I will give it serious thought and get back to you.
    Fellow Pinay poet.
    Manolita

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *