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This issue of Martha’s Quarterly explores ghosts from the perspective of archives, baseballs, and folklore. - Passenger Pigeon Press
Shapeshifting in the Minor Leagues was designed and edited by Tammy Nguyen and produced by Téa Chai Beer.
About the contributors:
Alicia Izharuddin is a gender studies scholar and author of the book, Gender and Islam in Indonesian Cinema.
Norm Paris is an artist, curator, and professor of drawing. He is interested in figures of American sports and music, flawed masculinity, and hypothetical monuments.
Sam Leander is a non-binary trans woman (pronouns: they/them) whose primary interests are feminism, trans studies, metaphysics, epistemology, Netflix originals, and the law.
Before Megan Rapinoe became immortal, she was focused on driving the ball into the goal. In the 2019 Women’s World Cup Final, her transformation happened at around the hour mark past halftime, after the US team was awarded a penalty kick. Rapinoe, serious and calm, sent a spot kick into the lower right side of the goal, putting team USA in the lead 1-0.
After the goal, the process of immortalization occurred. Rapinoe nodded and jogged towards the crowd, slowed her pace, turned around and spread her arms out like wings, slowly raising them halfway into the air. This posture has become iconic. In this moment, she became more than an athlete; she became a beacon of hope for the imagined aspirations of women, queer folks, athletes, Americans, and so much more. The media swarm said she ought to be president for a week, said that she redefined sports, said that she was “making America great again.”
In many ways, the presence of this particular US Women’s Soccer Team extended far beyond the sport of soccer. This past March, the team sued the US Soccer Federation for “institutionalized gender discrimination.” According to the NY Times, “The discrimination, the athletes said, affects not only their paychecks but also where they play and how often, how they train, the medical treatment and coaching they receive, and even how they travel to matches.” (1) After their World Cup Victory, the crowd chanted in exaltation, “EQUAL PAY! EQUAL PAY!” In the immediate post game interview, when Rapinoe was asked how these chants made her feel, she responded: “Pretty good, pretty good, we got the world behind us.” On YouTube, there were many folks who expressed their disdain for her. They called her a dyke; they said she was a national disgrace, and ungrateful.
There are a lot of topics and circumstances leveraging on one another in this World Cup Spectacle: gender equality, economic equality, LGBTQIA+ equality, racial equality, and more. All of this leveraging is particularly concentrated because we live in such a contentious time of visibility, but here it is all carried upon the weight of a singular ball that allowed Megan Rapinoe to shapeshift, to transform from human to idea. Whether you support what she stands for or not, had Rapinoe not won the 2019 Women’s World Cup Final with her team, these issues would not have reached the media limelight with such force in the US, shifting from intersectional conversations to nationwide protests for equality.
In other words, these simple pursuits of human dignity were given gusto because of a winning goal kick in coincidently the right circumstances that has ignited a public spirit completely unrelated to soccer. This Martha’s Quarterly, Issue 12, Summer 2019, Shapeshifting in the Minor Leagues, explores shapeshifting by those who never had a ball, never mind the right conditions to become immortalized. The yellow cover is grazed with lines from Norm Paris’ drawings of imagined monuments. In his practice, he excavcates former baseball players that most people know nothing about, men at the pinnacle of their masculinity and strength but never even close to the pinnacle of their sport to be remembered as Megan Rapinoe will be. Paris takes heaps of baseball cards and sands away at them, turning these perfect masculine poses into agitated abstractions that could mean a host of different things to the particular individual holding them. At the same time Paris makes enormous drawings of supposed monuments, figures of muscular men composed of thousands of lines, each line unsure of where it is going but collectively holding the others together like a web trying to keep together a hero who is a hero no more.
These masculine lines serve as the backdrop for Alicia Izharuddin’s text Untimely deaths: Women’s time and its horrors, where she tells us of a female vampiric spirit of Southeast Asia who sucks the blood of men. This spirit, or ghost, was pregnant when she died; since her life was cut short, she haunts the men in our realm in order to gain back the time that could have been her life. However, Izharuddin probes that perhaps these vampires stories are about more than just “scary women:” just as they contain the nightmares of men, they embody a twisted dream of feminine revenge and refusal to submit to a patriarchal, heteronormative world. As Izharuddin’s vampire’s teeth punctures the male’s skin in a reversal of traditional performances of sex, we present you with your own vampire tooth with which you can chip away at the monument of masculinity as presented in Paris’ baseball cards.
Sam Leander’s writing wraps around Paris’ baseball card and Izharuddin’s tooth, swathing them with images of transgender women: trans women, whose bodies and legitimacy simply to exist are so loudly debated in the media and society at large, whose stories are so rarely heard on the rare occasion they are not dismissed. These women’s faces emerge from Leander’s work with the transgender archive; as we exchange gazes with these women, these ghosts reaching out to us across time and history, Leander shifts the conversation about transgender identity away from theory and archives back to real women, real stories, real eyes looking back at us from the page.
– Tammy Nguyen, Editor-in-Chief