Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Reggaeton and Gender: We Keep Talking Past Each Other (Part 3: On Self-Respect)

Dear R.,

Are the reggaeton female fans, dancers and models who are getting naked and scandalously sexual on the club stage, dance floor and music videos being the tragic victims of their own self-hatred?

I agree with you that, when it comes to the decisions of reggaeton's gatas, low self-esteem needs to be taken into account as a factor. Self-esteem often plays as much a part as the pursuit of money, career, sex and/or love. But to that I have to add: Just like for everyone else.

Being a wild reggaeton gata is indeed a consolation for one too many women with low self-esteem. Just like being a wild reggaeton pitbull is a consolation for one too many men with low self-esteem.

Not to say all wild gatas and pitbulls suffer from self-esteem issues. Some do. Some don't. (Actually, don't we all have self-esteem issues?) People's reasons, experiences and pleasures are informed by way too many factors to reduce it all to low self-esteem.

For example: Is it possible that some (many?) of reggaeton's gatitas (whether they have self-esteem issues or not) are deriving great pleasure by being part of a social scene where they don't have to play coy and hard to get? Where they can pursue their lusty fantasies in ways usually reserved for men? Where they can be more honest about what they want?

Reggaeton has some distinctive dynamics: for example, it has stretched the boundaries of appropriate public sexual behavior for many people. But other dynamics, like the male/female power struggles are not reggaeton-specific. They are human issues.

Similar gender power dynamics exist among salsa, bomba and rumba fans, musicians and dancers (to take the example of some genres we both love). Women flaunt their beauty; men flaunt their power and wealth. As my Dad learned as a little boy in the 1950s in the mountain town of Naranjito: Las dos cosas mas terribles en la vida son una mujer fea y un hombre pelao. O sea: The two most terrible things in life are an ugly woman and a flat broke man.

So how to start defining ourselves and others beyond our material possessions? How to interact with each other in less utilitarian terms?

Much respect,

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