(Click here for the Spanish version titled "Nina, la feminista bandolera" published in today's El Diario/La Prensa, Wednesday, June 20.)
Nina, the feminist bandolera
In last week’s column, I was wondering about the pleasures many women are deriving from reggaeton’s sexual aggressiveness.
Nina La Bandolera, one of my favorite reggaetonic bloggers, gives us a few clues in “The Death of Reggaeton”: “We LOVE when a man wants us and doesnt croon at us but comes at us full-force, cockdiesel and aggressive as all hell. Maybe not in the office or at school, but thats what music is for. We can safely experience that.”
Obviously, Nina likes the agresivo approach. But hold up! She’s not into agressiveness 24-7. She’s not into algarete agressiveness. What’s appropriate on the dance-floor, is not necessarily appropriate at school or at work.
According to Nina, music and dance are spaces for pleasure and play where masculine aggressiveness is an aphrodisiac, where women celebrate that aggressiveness as part of sexual fantasy. In that case, aggressiveness is a consensual performance, an improvised theater piece that can only take place in a “safe space” and in a context of mutual respect.
“Of course we dont want to be seen as mere objects,” writes Nina. One thing is to celebrate yourself as a “sexual creature,” and another is to be reduced to a mere sexual object.
Our society frequently has demanded that women behave “decently” and “with decorum” as pre-conditions for being respected. Pues no, argues Nina. Respect should not be dependent on how lascivious on the dance-floor or promiscuous in bed a woman is.
Nina is in illustrious company in making those arguments; author Joan Morgan who popularized the term “hip-hop feminism” is the most prominent example. She proposed a “feminism brave enough to fuck with the grays,” brave enough to explore internal contradictions, brave enough to acknowledge how women in general (and each of us as individuals) are often complicit with patriarchy partly because we are unwilling to give up its benefits.
And, speaking about feminism, Nina can certainly be considered part of what Jillian M. Báez describes as “reggaeton feminism” in an article titled “‘En mi imperio’: Competing Discourses of Agency in Ivy Queen’s Reggaeton” published last year in the Center for Puerto Rican Studies Journal.
I hope Nina will forgive me if, like many other women, she doesn’t like being called a feminist. I’m using the label, among other reasons, because I find it to be useful shorthand. But in the end, the label has much less importance than the ideas. And at the level of ideas, I see in Nina a desire to grapple with gender dynamics in all their complexity, a desire not to blame but to transform. I see in her a playful, much-needed reggaetonic feminism.