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  • Tenderness: A Mediator of Identity and Gender Construction in Politics
  • Ileana Rodríguez (bio)

The main purpose of my paper is to explain how romantic love between men and women is used to signal tensions and negotiation between heterosexual couples. Performance theories refer to compulsive heterosexuality encoded in nineteenth-century bourgeois epistemologies of man as tenderness. I intend to use the concepts of love and tenderness to show how and why radical guerrilla discourses of the twentieth century have defined love for the fatherland as a homosocial relationship among guerrilla men. 1 Considering how this is related to performance will bring us back to the identity construction of gender in politics; at the moment, identities are defined as multipositional in order to destabilize categories and to dissolve the metaphysics of substance. In this, I will also discuss tenderness as travesty.

Any discussion about tenderness could begin with an analysis of the conditions of discourse production, introducing notions of context and contextuality within the productive activities of what Gayatri Spivak calls “worldlings” (262) and Sylvia Wynter, “languaging” (“1942” 7). We all know, after Foucault, that discursive production has been transferred from the warehouse of epistemology to that of politics, and that discourses are not solely linguistic practices—they exist in the world [End Page 240] as one of the many pragmatics of the polis, in the form of policies, politics, and power.

Discussions about nineteenth-century bourgeois romantic love and tenderness as culture are very different from more contemporary discussions about love as politics, revolution, and misogyny. Writing about love and tenderness during revolutionary periods and inside the perimeters of the revolutionary states is a state matter; and gender troubles. Although women’s rights have always been constituted as nation’s rights and feminism has always been a double jeopardy—hermeneutically and politically, a theoretical condition at the service of the state (or proscribed)—in revolutionary states maleness itself, the eponymous figure of male leadership, is made to preside over the fullness of the space. Pictures of leaders hang on the walls of homes and sometimes at the centers of living rooms. Their images are constituted as authorities ruling over public and private as lovers, fathers, leaders, and even movie stars. The figure of Che Guevara, for instance, has occupied that place; he has become a lay saint, an auratic man presiding over private and public spheres, in homes, buses, and buildings. 2

In Women, Guerrillas, and Love, I disengage spheres and collapse categories to show how heterosexual love is used as a pretext or metaphor for homosocial love. By making a distinction between the erotic and the patriotic, the heterosexual from homosexual affect, and by merging borders and margins such as ethnicities, gender, and sexualities with symbols that represent the collectivity, I will show how socialism united homosocial affect and political narratives of representation with bureaucracies. It is within this working hypothesis that I read the testimonials of guerrilla fighters, such as Omar Cabezas and Che Guevara, and compare them to women’s narratives, where women did not represent loved ones but dead ones—women as corpses. I argue that the rigidity of the body that might constitute the tumescence of the sexual organs during the kind of compulsory heterosexual intercourse, which symbolizes the masculine act of creating the radical nation-state, in women just represents the death and stiffness of that project.

To collapse the representations of women with those of the collectivity—which is often referred to as “the people,” “the masses,” “the social classes,” “the political base,” or “the troops”—is to speak about the small voices of history, about the non-, about the counter-(practices), [End Page 241] and about the hetero-(geneous). My aim is to demonstrate that a position against women is antidemocratic. How can a political party promise to create an egalitarian society when its social policies are exclusionary? These are very simple questions, yet they remain unresolved.

Tenderness as Travesty

In her studies of Caribbean culture, more specifically, in her work on C. L. R. James and the events of 1492 as a discovery, Sylvia Wynter works with two epistemological spheres. One is an open, multiconceptual, nondogmatic cultural framework, where subjects are...

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