Ie viva meu Mestra, Part 9: Contra-Mestra Cristina

3 03 2008

Like with Mestra Suelly, I unfortunately wasn’t able to find very much biographical information on Contra-Mestra Cristina (unlike a lot of mestres or some regional mestras, angola mestras don’t seem very good at tooting their own horns 😛 ), but I will make up for it with something extra at the end! 

Contra-mestra Cristina of Grupo Capoeira Angola Ypiranga de PastinhaCristina Nascimento, or Contra-Mestra Cristina, first encountered capoeira in an unusual way: through a type of therapy she was undergoing called “Somatherapy”, part of which involved temporarily joining a capoeira angola class.  Soon enough, however, she realized that she didn’t need anything more than the latter: “I finished the therapy and disligated myself completely from it, realizing it was in fact Capoeira which brought the profound transformation I was looking for in my life.”

Her first class took place in Rio de Janiero, in 1993 when she was 28 years old.  The future contra-mestra trained under GCAP’s Mestre Neco, then became a student of Mestre Manõel the next year, whose oldest student she remains to this day.  Cristina helped Mestre Manõel in the founding of Grupo Capoeira Angola Ypiranga de Pastinha (GCAYP), and in 2003 she received her contra-mestra’s corda.  Today, she teaches children and runs the Rio de Janiero branch of GCAYP.

Now, here it is: an in-depth interview with Contra-Mestra Cristina, from Chamada de Mandinga in 1999.  I hesitated about putting it up at first, because a large part of the second half made me feel the same way I feel when popular female celebrities give feminism a bad name and take us back a few decades (you’ll see), and some parts seem to focus more on Mestre Manõel than on Contra-Mestra Cristina, but ultimately still wanted the interview to be available to you guys.  Click on the link to read it!
Interview with Contra-Mestra Cristina [pdf]

Sources:
http://icameheretoplay.blogspot.com/2008/01/treinel-andrea-fica-oakland.html
http://www.chamadademandinga.de/04frauentreffen/04_info/bio_en.htm
http://www.chamadademandinga.de/07gutetexte/pdf/Interview_Cristina_Ypiranga_Rio_Eng.pdf

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12 responses

4 03 2008
Shayna

a large part of the second half made me feel the same way I feel when popular female celebrities give feminism a bad name and take us back a few decades (you’ll see)

I didn’t catch this. Can you elaborate? The main idea I took away from her comments was summed up in the following: “The feminine world has a different expression than the masculine, it is neither better nor worse.” – i.e. a woman doesn’t/shouldn’t have to turn into a man in order to play capoeira (or do anything else) well. Rather, she can be a good capoeirista (or lawyer or politician or firefighter or whatever) as a woman.

4 03 2008
hera

I am glad that you decided to post the interview. I dont understand why you would be conflicted about posting it—-it would have been the main reason TO post his blog post!

CM Cristina is speaking from a non-American perspective ((something that more people in the US would be benefit learning from))—mySelf included! Race, Gender and the inequalities that continue to exist in that are definitely very Real. I find it wonderful that Capoeira opens the door for people—Something that the creator of Somatherapy recognized—to the hard work of self-discovery.

And yes—-it seems that once again, it is quite beautiful to see the differences explored. Women ARE different than men. And like Shayna pointed out, it’s wonderful how CM Cristina discusses how to demonstrate the strengths that exist within femininity instead of trying to turn that into some boringhorrible man-like soup. That notquitegrey notquitebrown again.

5 03 2008
Joaninha

Hi Shayna,

I didn’t mean that I thought anything Contra-mestra Cristina said gave feminism a bad name, because there was nothing like that, but that I felt like a lot of that part of the interview was…well, “counterproductive” is the best word I can think for it right now (looking from a feminist point of view).

Hera,

Heh yes I’m glad I posted it too. You’re right that she’s speaking from a non-North American perspective, though race/gender inequalities are actually prevalent everywhere, not just outside of North America, but I think it depends on what kind of perspective you’re looking at to learn from, or what part of it you’re learning.

To both of you,

What I didn’t really like about the interview was how much of it focused on “what is feminine” and “femininity is this” and “doing that shows femininity”. It’s actually the exact same issue I discussed in my “The Feminine in Capoeira” posts, regarding the labelling of malicia as feminine because it’s this and that.

To me, all of that felt like more baseless and pointless regurgitation of gender stereotypes, and my main thing, like with malicia, was I don’t see why there has to be such a focus in the first place on what is feminine and what is masculine. For example, regarding playing capoeira like a man or like a woman…why can’t each person just be playing capoeira (or practicing law, etc.) like their individual selves, without making generalizations using gender at all?

And I understand what you’re saying Hera about the grey and brown again, and I addressed that in my second “The Feminine in Capoeira” post, which said that I understood labelling things masculine and feminine is part of the tradition of capoeira, and to completely wipe that out would unfortunately mean losing part of what contributes to the richness of the art.

The reason that I took/take issue with this in particular, then, is because it’s this exact type of stereotyping and saying “this means feminine” vs. “this means masculine” that forms/has formed the basis of sexism, misogyny, etc., in the first place. So differences are good and beautiful, but not like this, when they’re pure generalizations and stereotypes, that have moreover been historically used to oppress people, not lift them up. But again, I still see the tradition/richness-of-capoeira side of it as well, especially since these “differences” aren’t being regularly used to oppress women in capoeira, like they were in general society. It’s all in those 2 posts I linked to, so you can check those out as well. I hope that all made sense!

5 03 2008
cenoura

Johaninha make sense, there was actually only a little bit of this interview that I personally found really bad. Like Shayna,(at least I think) I have to support the idea that “you play like a man” shouldn’t necessarily be what women aspire to. but at the same time, I kind of winced at the talking about setting up the environment at the women event, as if this is what’s obviously important to all women. but how do you get around the idea above without turning it into a conversation about what traits are masculine?

6 03 2008
Joaninha

Thanks, Cenoura. Actually, that was the main part that got me too. What exactly did you mean though, about getting around the idea without discussing what traits are masculine? Because to me, “getting around it” would mean transcending the whole “what is feminine or masculine” question in the first place!

6 03 2008
hera

hey Joaninha—your post definitely makes sense. Thanks for referring me to your previous posts as now i can see a little more clearly why parts of the article may have been troubling to you.

There has been a long history of division between genders—and i think the division starts with thinking of everything as a battle. Like White vs Black, Old vs Youth, Life vs Death and Male vs Female. Instead of viewing these things as separate from each other, perhaps it would make sense to look at them as poles of the same thing. Its White AND Black, Old AND Young, Life AND Death —-Male AND Female.

It is the dancing of opposites—to me, Capoeira has always been a beautiful representation of merging those things that we believe are divided, into the way they were meant to be ((and truly always have been))–a sliding between the extremes of the SAME thing.

It’s us humans that mess it up with our need to classify, divide and define it 😉

6 03 2008
cenoura

Well, part of my issue is that if you say nothing is particularly feminine or masculine, the default options tend to be male(at least, by and large in US culture, whatever you take that to mean), so I can see that becoming an issue-particularly the more capoeira spreads and adapts to the cultures/locations that it spreads to. an example I have is trying to do a queda de rin-it took me forever, and with lots of classmates trying to help me, to find the balance point. What brought that on-remembering hearing that women typically have a lower center of gravity and moving my arm position accordingly. While I realize that’s not particularly feminine, it’s an example of why like a man shouldn’t be the default option, which is really the issue I’m worried about.

7 03 2008
Joaninha

Hey Hera!

I’m glad you understand what I was getting at now 🙂 The only thing is that even with “man AND woman” instead of “man OR woman”, that still begs the question of “what is man and what is woman?” so maybe it should just be “PEOPLE” 😛 I think what you said would be getting down the right track though, at least as a starting point, because “and” is still better than “or”
or “not”!

Hi Cenoura,

Hm, I think there were two things you covered there. First, about the “like a man” option, I don’t think anyone here thinks it should be the default; on the contrary! However, the issue with “like a man” wasn’t so much practical reasons like that (although that’s definitely valid too, and another good way of looking at it), but in terms of “man = strong, fast, powerful = good” with the implication that women generally aren’t any of those.

Second, that’s a really interesting point you made, about things defaulting as male if no one specifically says it’s one or the either. I don’t know how we could resolve this actually, as the ultimate goal would be to not feel a need to genderize anything unecessarily in the first place! Or, well…actually, could you give a specific example of something defaulting to male? Because I would think that without someone specifying, we could skip straight to the finish line and claim it for both, without going through the whole male/female tug-o-war first!

7 03 2008
Cenoura

defaulting to male in capoeira, or in culture?

7 03 2008
Joaninha

Both, if possible? 😀

7 03 2008
cenoura

Well-I’ll start with culture ones-I’d go with everything from language(mankind, to using he as a neutral pronoun, etc) to the fact that “women’s history” is a seperate college course to sexual health being “women’s health”. none of these are particularly new, but the pattern is that anything relating to men is just how it is, whereas women have to work to be anything other than faulty versions. Or, to say it another way, the male version is genderless, the female version admits a gender. admittedly, I guess many of the capoiera ones are things that you’ve come out against-for example, that playing hard, being tough, etc are what everyone should aspire to. This to me seems like a very stereotypically masculine style. It ends up being choppy and unpleasant to play with. This might be a more modern thing as people with background in other martial arts do capoeira(I know they tend to start out worst about that kind of thing in my group). as I write this, you might be right about not genderizing things as an ideal, and I just am too mistrustful. Also, traits might, and I’d say in most cases do, come from different experiences rather than actual real differences-i.e. “feminine” traits might come because people see signs that I am a woman and react to me accordingly, for a man, “masculine” traits come the same way. But, you can’t escape those reactions. My problem is much like why I do think women teacher only events are still necessary, problematic as they are-because when he vast majority of people teaching/in charge are and grew up male, it’s extremely unlikely and difficult, to impossible, to avoid failing to see that male experiences are not genderless, and trying to say that all traits are genderless will just make that worse. Was that long and convoluted enough for everyone ;P

8 03 2008
Joaninha

Thanks Cenoura—I know exactly what you mean now! That’s so true; it’s just like what I’ve studied in all my lit courses, how man is always the yardstick, the norm, and woman is always “the Other”.

One thing: I’m not against “playing hard/tough” as what everyone should aspire to. I might not advise it as a capoeirista as a sole goal excluding other styles, but in terms of gender issues aspiring to play hard and tough is perfectly fine. It’s when you aspire to play hard and tough and because of that say you aspire to “play like a man” that we have problems, because who’s to say women aren’t also hard and tough and that all men are? Right, it’s *stereotypically* a “man’s style” (emphasis on stereo, not typical!)—so it should just be considered a style.

And yes, lack of genderization of things *is* an ideal—so I’m for it, but I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon, either.

YES, that’s exactly it!!! Your traits come from who you are as a PERSON, not because you’re a man or a woman. And I’d be willing to argue that whatever traits people attribute to their own or anyone’s gender are because we are all products of society, so of course we’ve been raised according to gender norms, with the consequent results. Remember the Friends episode when Ross tries to take away his son’s Barbie and replace it with a G.I. Joe? Voila. 😄

And your thing about reactions is such a good point too—because stereotypes/belief in them is so strong/pervasive, people project them onto you even when it’s not the case at all, like you said, assuming you’re one way because of your gender and dismissing what experiences you might’ve had as an individual to make you that way, or at the least dimissing the power of your genetic make-up other than that x or y chromosome! (Just look at the three ring circus that has been mainstream media’s coverage of Clinton and her campaign. When was the last time you saw Obama made fun of or genuinely criticized because of his laugh or outfit; and SO many political leaders have teared up in their careers, but how many of them garnered as much coverage and commentary and “analysis” as Clinton’s New Hampshire moment, or were accused of faking it?)

And for your last part, that’s exactly what I went through when I started writing my mestra profile series. (Why Write About Female Mestres? The Feminist Catch-22). Because of this default desire to label everything male (actually for most people I’d say it’s not even an active desire; really it’s just laziness if you think about it!), we have to emphasize gender MORE to make people aware of all the issues, and bring everything/everyone up to speed for women, BEFORE we can transcend all of it and stop genderizing. So I can see how the same thing applies to women’s events, as well.

Basically, the world’s a mess! Happy International Women’s Day. 😛

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