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As Long as We’re Removing Statues, Will Somebody Please Get Rid Of This One

As Long as We’re Removing Statues, Will Somebody Please Get Rid Of This One

Oakland’s Sigame statue belongs in a museum of early 21st century political curiosities

Photo taken by Katya, emailed to Fuzzy

As the Great American War on Monuments is still raging, I would like to nominate a contender for removal. It’s not that I object to the sculpture on ideological grounds—I deplore the ideology behind socialist realism, for instance, but I admire some of the state-sponsored Soviet art despite it—but because the work in question does not transcend ideology . . .  and is exceptionally ugly.

My entry is the monument to the women of the East Bay Area in Union Point Park on Oakland Estuary. For some reason the monument is called Sigame, which means “follow me” in Spanish.  The artist Scott Donahue created it with the goal of celebrating the “strong women” of Oakland, and he somehow chose twenty women to represent the area.

Union Point Park is a wonder of East Bay urban planning.  Back before the 2016 Ghostship fire, in which 36 party-goers perished in an illegally converted warehouse space, we were all NIMBY’s here.  The tragedy was blamed on the housing shortage. The housing shortage was—and is—real, to be sure, largely because before 2016, Oakland political establishment was vehemently opposed to development, even though the market obviously demanded it.  At that time, swaths of land on the Oakland waterfront were converted into parks.

After Ghostship, Oakland, and California as a whole, panicked and got busy with new construction.  High rise condos are being erected all over the downtown area, but unfortunately, the infrastructure seems ill-equipped to handle this growth.

Union Point Park lies beside a small marina where a dozen or so houseboats are moored.  Although the park is nowhere near a residential area, it has a playground, neatly trimmed green grass, and the aforementioned Sigame statue.  Until recently, on a typical day the park has always been empty.

We’d discovered it by chance after leaving Pump-It-Up across the street and a block over, and we thought the location, with a cement factory in the background, was charmingly post-industrial.  A lovely place for a lonely playdate.

We set out exploring it, and ran into Sigame, which we renamed the “Multicultural Bride of Frankenstein.” That was before “intersectionality” became a household word, and I now see the error of our ways: intersectional fits better.

There are many local historical women worthy of celebrating. For instance, the writer Gertrude Stein, architect Julia Morgan, and ballerina Isadora Duncan were all native daughters, each worthy of her own monument.

Stein, who is not commemorated by Donahue, does have one, sort of. She is well known around here for saying of Oakland that “there is no there there”—few have read anything else by her.

That phrase she coined has become symbolic of the identity crisis of a city that desperately wants to be known for something, even if that something has to be high crime rate. And so, on Shuttack Avenue at the Berkeley/Oakland border, the city of Oakland has erected the word THERE in giant letters, and Berkeley had put HERE on its side. So there is that.

One of the Sigame womanparts is a Native American girl who, according to the inscription on the bottom, was the first person in her family to learn English. I have to admit that I’m jealous.  I’m not the first one in my family to learn English, so, I guess, I am not worthy of a statue, not even 1/20 of a statue.

A whole slew of grade school teachers are also represented.

Not sure on what criteria Isodora Duncan is qualified as a “strong woman.”  I mean, why did she marry that alcoholic she couldn’t talk to?  The alcoholic was the Russian poet Sergei Esenin, who spoke no foreign languages.  Duncan knew only a couple of words in Russian, and the marriage fell apart within a year.

In any event, Jack London, Oakland’s internationally renowned native son, not only has his own monument, and his hut preserved with White Fang’s iron likeness next to it, but the entire area, frequented by tourists and locals alike, is called Jack London Square. Must patriarchy win every single time?

Apparently so.Instead of celebrating exceptional women, the City of Oakland decided to save a few dollars and melted them into a single, generalized womanfolk statue.

Photo taken by Katya, emailed to Fuzzy

[Photo credit: Katya Rapoport Sedgwick]

This is identity politics personified. And, because intersectionaity was never really about women, but rather about power, the statue ended up shoved in a park never intended for human use.

The Frankenstein of Intersectionality is supposed to represent supposedly notable women of all races at once. A whole bunch of notables were selected; their names etched at the foundation. Then each of these historical figures has donated a thigh, a nose, a half a shoe, or maybe the hairline to the towering end product. These parts, in several colors and textures—because diversity?—are held together by the semblance of bulky factory clips.

The resulting effect can be considered feminist in the sense that it’s unsexy. Yet if feminism is meant to assert female agency, patriarchy has won because the sculptor has reduced the humanity and achievement of presumably extraordinary women to political correctness.

To photograph the statue was quite an ordeal. I knew that park, like much of the rest of the low-laying areas of Oakland, is now taken over by the homeless. We have the same homeless issues that are crippling other West Coast cities.

In Oakland, empty lots, parks, spaces under highways and BART tracks are all taken over by tents, shacks, and broken down cars. Formerly empty, Union Point Park is now teeming with the homeless.  Yelp reviews mention a female Coat Guard member abducted and raped there.  So, you see, the City of Oakland is cultivating shadow zones of extralegal housing developments, populated almost exclusively by men.  Those spaces are so hostile for women, I felt uneasy stopping my car nearby.  I had to take my husband with me, so the visit took us a month to plan.

And then they put a stone idol of a generic amalgam female in the middle of it.  For all we know, the homeless are peeing on her now.  I hope Oakland’s feminist mayor Libby Schaaf is proud of herself.

On reflection, I think somebody should remove it.  Or maybe take it off its podium and put it in a museum of early 21st century political curiosities, between the Occupy trashcan and AOC’s lipstick. The statue is ugly and dehumanizing.  And we shall not surrender her to the junkies.  It’s not normal.  #Resist!

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Comments

legacyrepublican | April 21, 2019 at 3:50 pm

You might also include the statue of Poncho Villa located in downtown Tucson? Ugh!!!

Ugly

amatuerwrangler | April 21, 2019 at 4:30 pm

A couple corrections/clarifications. 1)that “cement factory” is a concrete plant and has been there since the 1950’s by my experience; I even worked there for a while (as well as in the original operation’s other 6 plants). Two, what is now the park/homeless village was (25 or so years back) an open space adorned with abandoned or resting construction equipment. So the park was a needed improvement, until the homeless found it. And as a historical point, if it is still there, where the Embarcadero intersects with the bridge to the USCG base is what was the Cryer Boat Works that in the 80s was the last wooden boat building and repair facility on the coast.

Back in the late 70s-early 80s Oakland had replaced the “city limits” signs with something they thought classier– “Entering Oakland”. It didn’t take long for someone to decide that it sounded too much like a warning (apt as Oak-town was racking up 100+ homicides per year for a decade).

You probably would have liked Jack London Square better back before the the City redevelopment decided to “improve” it.

Good post.I liked it.

    Katya Rapoport Sedgwick in reply to amatuerwrangler. | April 21, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    Thanks for your comment.
    I think it was an odd location for a park, and not the best use of money that could have gone towards the infrastructure. And the space could be used for housing.

Regarding removal of the Kate Smith statue – actually it never existed. 1984 is here about 35 years late.

Or Margaret Sanger at the Smithsonian, and every Planned Parenthood Moleclinic.

Mister Natural | April 21, 2019 at 5:27 pm

have they gotten rid of ANYTHING dedicated to Kleagle Senator Byrd of W. Va.?

Seems that I recollect a song lyric, and counter-culture movie title, which went
“I love you Alice B. Toklas”…

Toklas was a Leftie, a writer, famous for a certain type of brownie and the love of Gertrude Stein’s life. And so the ditty continued:

“And so does Gertrude Stein.”

https://www.missedinhistory.com/podcasts/gertrude-stein-alice-b-toklas.htm

Song my Harper’s Bizarre (yeah, the song was so well ensconced in my brain that I had to look up what group sang it, and those two lines are all I remember of it)

If it concentrates where the homeless pee, then that is a good thing.

God that’s ugly

As long as we are dropping statues, can we get rid of the statue of the War Criminal who targeted United States Civilians who sits on his horse by the Capital steps?

So they distilled a bunch of women down to their body parts because… feminism?

Idiots.

It’s also a amateurish work of art. Did alexandra cortez do it?

Is the statue wearing a Mickey Mouse hat, or is that a beaver on her head, or what?

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