Once - The Eleventh CommandmentWednesday, November 21, 2018
|Lisa Taylor - Photograph by Helmut Newton - 1975|
Being a product of the 20th century and having been born in Argentina and having lived for years in Mexico I was exposed to a lot of machismo.
My father left home when I was 8 so I was raised by my mother and grandmother. I complained to my mother that I did not like the yolk of my fried eggs to be broken. She told me, “Alex if you don’t like how I fry your eggs fry them yourself.” And so I learned to fry eggs.
When I married my Rosemary I told her that I wanted her to sew some buttons and to hem my jeans. She told me to do that myself. And so I learned to sew.
In Mexico the culture of machismo taught men that a wife was the mother of your children and if you wanted to have fun you needed a mistress. At one time the Mexican Social Security system accommodated both.
As a person who was raised in the bosom of the Mother Church I learned that the Virgin Mary was a virgin and that I had to believe that under the pain of mortal sin and an eternity in hell.
With all that out of the way, I have to explain as best as can how I became a feminist.
My first glimpse into the idea of feminism happened when a photograph by Helmut Newton for Vogue US, May 1975 shot in Saint Tropez of model Lisa Taylor caught my eye. The photograph fundamentally changed how I saw women.
That photograph was my first inkling that there was no difference between women and men except for some organs here or there. The woman in this photograph was looking at the man in just the same way that men (or at least this one) look at women.
In 1975 when Rosemary decided that we should move to Vancouver from Mexico City, I really had no say. She was the one who made the decisions in our family. She particularly made all financial decisions. I remember that for our first daughter she told me, “I am going to work until Friday and then I will have the birth induced (in those days it was the way to go) and then I will go back to work on Monday." This she did.
In 1986 Rosemary told me, “I don’t want to live in Burnaby in a small house without a garden anymore. We are moving to this house we are going to buy in Kerrisdale." We moved and I remember that our monthly mortgage was $3500. She gave me a weekly allowance.
Perhaps it was some sort of feminism that made this man take our two daughters (at different times) to buy their first bra at Sears!
Through the years I have photographed many women in various stages of undress. In all those years I have discerned that women and men are not the same. I have found out that in photography, particularly of the erotic kind women have a far finer and elaborate imagination. I soon learned to take instructions.
Never have I put a woman in my studio in a situation that was not by her choice or in a position that I myself would not take. I think that I have always shown respect in my photography of women and taken into consideration their dignity as a human being.
With all that out of the way, imagine my glee at reading this short little essay by the Uruguayan Mario Benedetti (I will put the Spanish version and then translate it into English). It would seem that there are (were as they are both dead) two men, Newton and Benedetti who were feminists in their own time.
Once – Mario Benedetti
Ningún padre de la iglesia
ha sabido explicar
por qué no existe
un mandamiento once
que ordene a la mujer
no codiciar al hombre
de su prójima.
No father of the church
has been known to explain
why a commandment eleven
does not exist
that would order the woman
to not covet her neighbour’s man.