Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bodies of Power

Five years ago a group of women in Nigeria shut down an oil refinery by threatening to take off their clothes.

"Our weapon is our nakedness," Helen Odeworitse, a leader of 600 women who peacefully seized control of an oil terminal in Escravos, Nigeria, told the Associated Press. Odeworitse and other women held 700 western oil workers hostage and shut down a facility that exports half a million barrels of oil a day. link
(also, the search originated from a roundup in the oil drum)

Their complaint was simple -- the villagers were extremely poor, the oil companies were very rich -- people working for the oil refineries were treated better than everyone else. The women demanded that ChevronTexaco employ some of their sons and invest in the community.

There, women taking off their clothes is a traditional shaming gesture. Can you imagine? Here there is certainly some power in that action, but it's a little different... though maybe there is a sameness in that the subject of women's bodies is always political if men are in charge.

Triumphs like this, learned years later, are subject more to history and less to the beauty of the moment. Five years later Nigeria is in great upheaval -- and much protest is not non-violent -- as I'm sure is not the reaction from the oil companies. In May an American-owned Chevron plant was shut down by protesters -- armed with sticks and machetes.

I'm picturing all of this -- sticks and machetes and naked breasts. Oil giants. Arms v. arms.

Old news. What we are taking and from whom...
So I think, this morning, as I turn on the lights, turn on the stove, get ready to warm up the car -- about women in Nigeria.

My oil, my country, my children's lives.
Their sons, their bodies, their lack of power.

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