Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

22 July 2014

Summer of Feminista: When amigas become familia


Today Summer of Feminista welcomes Lilian Coral, a novice at blogging, who wants to more actively dialogue with colleagues on specific issues around technology and improving the American social safety net. She comes to this work as a Colombian immigrant, raised and educated in the United States and deeply committed to social justice issues.

It’s only fitting that I write about girlfriends a day after the death of the mother of one of my oldest girlfriends.

In my home, my parents always encouraged my sister and I to prioritize family over friends. It was always about keeping everything in the family. Don’t tell your friends anything about what goes on in our home; don’t over share your dreams and desires... porque la envidia mata. It never seemed like a judgment on my girlfriends, as much as it was the Latin in us, llenos de agueros, that said that family is always more important than friends, and no one can have your best interests in mind.

But growing up in the U.S., where BFFs are so critical to growing up, I always felt a tension between the cultures, because I was surrounded by the sense that friends really can become like sisters, often as close to, if not closer than. And, in my journey I’ve ended up being surrounded by a great number of girlfriends; more than I can count on my two hands. They are women I’ve grown up with, women I’ve worked with, and those that others have said “you’ve got to be her friend.” We may drift in and out of each other’s lives for periods of time, but it always feels good to get back to them, like no time has passed.

Friendship and sisterhood has been a great source of strength, encouragement and validation. It has been girlfriends that have helped me to shape the path of what’s possible. As an immigrant child, and the daughter of a single mother, my family encouraged and supported my professional ambitions, but it was my girlfriends who helped me chart and strategize the pathway. My Mother has wished nothing but the best for me in my personal relationships, but it’s been from girlfriends, and their relationships, that I’ve learned what successful marriage looks like, or not, which compromises are needed to sustain a relationship, how to co-parent, the importance of Daddy in building up his daughter’s self-esteem as a jewel not to be messed with, etc. The strength of these women has emboldened and shaped my own strength and resolve as a feminist that views feminism broadly to be, the legitimate opportunity to choose to live the life I desire, without impediment because of my gender.

Thinking about feminism and girlfriends, in this very (sur)real moment in life, the death of a mother, and my struggle to figure out what kind of a girlfriend I need to be to support my friend, brings me to notion of strength in vulnerability. It often feels like the most authentic expression of the feminist ideal requires strength, constant strength and struggle. Some of us feminists often fight the perception of frailty and weakness when we fight for our feminist ideals, however we define them. Yet, as I think about one of my closest friends, a very strong woman, and the pain that she must be feeling in losing her mother, or the moments of heart ache that other strong girlfriends, myself included, have gone through, I think that it is in these moments of frailty, when we try to provide strength to each other, that we become the strongest. So, perhaps the beauty of girlfriends and feminism to me is that is as much about strength as it is about vulnerability. The strength required to move towards our dreams, or even just a more peaceful state, requires a vulnerable heart from where to pull that strength from; and for me this has been constantly modeled by the women I call girlfriends.

When we sit together and talk to, learn from, each other we discuss and re-discuss every aspect of our lives. In fact, we often have different girlfriends for different topics. Sex, work, men, husbands, children, health, and death are all a part of it. And even if we don’t define ourselves as feminists, or our ideas as feminist theories, we are my true depiction of Feminists, in that we all struggle together to ensure that we have a legitimate opportunity to choose to live the life we desire, for ourselves and for the children we are giving birth to, the women we are raising and the boys that will grow to love those women. The gatherings reflect the support and encouragement we need to keep going forward! Time and time again, when we talk about what’s missing in the women’s movement, I think we are ignoring the value and foundation that circles of girlfriends provide. These communities are the foundation upon which each of us can launch ourselves to dream big, hurt big, and live the life we desire. So let’s recognize the importance of these circles and encourage, facilitate and support communities of girlfriends getting together and moving forward along the journey. It’s not easy being a woman and life isn’t always fair, but it wouldn’t be as great as it is, if it wasn’t for the girlfriends we gather along the way.


Summer of Feminista 2014 is a project of Viva la Feminista where Latinas are discussing girlfriends.  Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission. Read how you can join Summer of Feminista.

12 July 2014

Janelle Monae at the Taste of Chicago

I will admit that I was not a huge fan of Janelle Monae before I found myself at her free-ish (lawn free, pavilion seats cost money) concert as part of the Illinois Lottery Anything's Possible Music Series at the Taste of Chicago on Thursday. I had heard of her (who really hasn't, right?) and all that jazz, but I never went out of my way to truly discover her. Well I discovered her on Thursday as if I had discovered chocolate by falling into a vat of fudge. It was that delicious.

I now see why she has such passionate fans. From where we were sitting, we could see them. My favorite was a boy about 12 who was there with his mom. Clearly this was an event that might be the best night of his year. He was dancing and singing along with her all night. He was also doing that fanboy thing where he has to occasionally shake out his excitement. ADORABLE! There was also a pair of young men in the front center row who were doing the same thing. But the winner was a little girl about 3 or 4-years-old whom I could barely see through the fence dancing the hell out of the songs. I went to the concert with Keidra, of The Learned Fangirl, so it was great to have a Janelle fan along with me. Janelle did a covers of a few music legends including Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Prince, and James Brown. The crowd went wild for these!  

At one point of the concert, Janelle brought out handmade signs that said "STOP THE VIOLENCE" and another that said, I believe, "STOP KILLING OUR BABIES...WE LOVE THEM." The signs were clearly quickly made and with a not very thick marker, so it was hard to read them from our vantage point. But she talked about the violence that is plaguing Chicago and asked us to sing along so loudly so the gangs could hear our love.

Overall is was a fab concert and I am so happy that I went because now I am a Janelle fan. I'm going to get some of her music and play it when I need something to kick my butt, ease my crankiness, or just want to get up and dance.

Created with flickr slideshow.


DISCLAIMER: A friend and I attended on the invitation from the Illinois Lottery. Our seats were located in the VIP section where we had access to food and drink (non-alcoholic) and an amazing view. The concert was my compensation in return for this post-event review.

11 July 2014

Summer of Feminista: For Valeria

Today Summer of Feminista welcomes April Lee. April is an anti-rape culture, sex positive activist located in Seattle. She is the founder of Modern Sex Culture blog. While April is not a Latina, SoF is welcoming her thoughts on this topic.  

Most people didn’t think living with my step children’s mother was going to be a good idea. It’s a little crazy, sure. Two moms under one roof will conceivably get ugly. We have different parenting styles and lead pretty different lives. We have completely different backgrounds. She’s Brazilian. I’m American. I’ve just turned 30 and she’s 15 years my senior. There is potential for combustion. But life happens and here she is living with her ex-husband, his new wife and three out of four of her children. It isn’t an idea situation and I was a bit nervous. I’m sure she was, too.

The children have tried to play the card of “Well mom said,” or “April said.” They’ve tried to take advantage of a parent not knowing something the other parent agreed or didn’t agree to. We’ve all had to wiggle around a little and find our spot with each other. I can’t say I expected things to be awful but there was a period of holding our breaths waiting to see how this would play out. I don’t know what I expected but I didn’t expect this. There was no need to be nervous because this situation brought out beautiful surprises. Happily, we discovered that not only would the other be cooperative but also that we had some things in common! Like, wine. Yes, we love wine and we love to share it. We trade cooking meals for the family, then pop the cork of the bottle open and share with each other. We serve each other. I tutor the kids, take care of the house and work as an anti-rape culture activist from home. You’d think working at home would be easier but I assure it is every bit as hectic and busy as working outside of the home. When I’ve had a long day, she does the dishes for me which is amazing because she does back breaking work. Because I know that she usually has a long day ahead of her, I like to pick up some coffee for her before she heads out for the day. We do little things like this for each other to show appreciation.

For quite some time, I’ve had trouble embracing my femininity. Then when I was happy with being a feminine person, I had trouble accepting my body. I KNOW. Can’t we just let this body thing go?? I’m sick of the issue. I never thought I had a body issue until I realized I didn’t feel comfortable in a swimsuit anymore. I noticed that when I go dancing, I’m constantly pulling the bottom of my shirt down. Inevitably, I end up comparing myself to the other women on the floor who all, in my eyes, have flawless bodies because they’re Brazilian. It’s my default perception. But spending time with my step-children’s mom and our mutual friends made me realize, actually their bodies are NOT perfect and they’re enjoying themselves anyway. It took me nearly a year to see that. Even without flat bellies they wear tiny bikinis. That was huge for me. I haven’t worn short shorts since I was a teenager but I was so inspired to join her in her confidence about the body she has I went out and bought a pair of my own. Finally, my thighs have seen the sun!

We’ve shared dating stories, dating advice and joked about my husband’s quirks. And the wine. Did I mention the wine?

But our friendship has become more than that. Not every mother would be able to welcome another mother of her children into her life. I’m not even sure I could do that myself. To me, that speaks volumes of her character.

We’ve cried when our son graduated from the 5th grade, when our 2nd grader finally decided to swim on her own, when she learned to play a song on the piano. We take turns throwing birthday parties and babysitting. We’ve recently cried together when the other suffered and stood up for each other through it. For there being a bit of a language barrier, we’ve made a good connection with each other. Really, I can’t ask for anything more. She inspired me and propelled me to deeper levels of connection. I’m so grateful we found ourselves in this precarious situation because we had a chance to get to know each other, to respect each other and to love each other. So this one is for you, Valeria. Saúde.

Summer of Feminista 2014 is a project of Viva la Feminista where Latinas are discussing girlfriends.  Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission. Read how you can join Summer of Feminista.

10 July 2014

VLF is 7 today! And I'm launching a new project...

Yes, ma'am, seven years ago I launched this lil ole blog and today I have decided to launch a new project. One that has been brewing for a few years now, but was put on the back burner due to other obligations that no longer exist. AHEM...I present to you:
The Feminist Princess Project:
How I vaccinated my daughter against the princess phase

Don't get me wrong, this is not an anti-princess project. In our home, we have a healthy princess culture. How we got there is what I want to share with all of you over a short series of videos. I hope to launch the first one in the next week.

This project stems from the countless conversations I have had with other parents, both moms and dads, who ask me how I was able to get through the princess phase (many assume it is about ages 3-5) without an actual princess phase. And I'm not one to hoard good information, so I want to share my thoughts and strategies with you!

Before I launch, I thought perhaps you have a question to ask me first. Do you have a question about raising a girl and princess culture? Email the project at feministprincess--at--vivalafeminista.com. No question is too small, silly, or stupid! OK, the only stupid question is the one not asked. You walked right into that, didn't ya?

I can't wait to hear your thoughts and address them during the course of this short project. 

Disclaimer: Just as the flu vaccine does not mean you won't get the flu, this vaccination against the princess phase does not guarantee your lil one won't go through a princess phase. I just hope it will be a healthier, shorter, and less painful phase. 

08 July 2014

Hermione heads to the UN

Really, J.K. Rowling couldn't have picked a better actor to play Hermione than Emma Watson. Not only did Emma bring to life the plucky and wise hero of the Harry Potter series, but it seems that Emma and Hermione share a passion for justice.

Emma has just been appointed as a UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador:
"Being asked to serve as UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador is truly humbling. The chance to make a real difference is not an opportunity that everyone is given and is one I have no intention of taking lightly. Women’s rights are something so inextricably linked with who I am, so deeply personal and rooted in my life that I can’t imagine an opportunity more exciting. I still have so much to learn, but as I progress I hope to bring more of my individual knowledge, experience and awareness to this role,” said Ms. Watson.
Emma will serve as an advocate for UN Women’s HeForShe campaign in promoting gender equality. This campaign is urging men to take a vocal role in advocating for gender equality.

I have some issues with international organizations to make true impacts on local issues, especially something as delicate as gender roles. At the same time, I truly believe that we won't make the progress that is needed without men getting involved. Will HeforShe solve patriarchy? No. Will it get some men talking and perhaps involved in not only working for change, but examining their own role in male privilege? I hope so. We do have magic on our side.

07 July 2014

Indra Nooyi & the Myth of "Having it All"

Recent comments made by Indra Nooyi, the current CEO of PepsiCo, has been making the rounds on my Twitter and Facebook feed. I poke my head up to read such things when stories like this seem to cross the borders of my feminist friends and my friends who are feminists, but don't share every feminist story. The gist is that Nooyi at Aspen Ideas Week said the not-so-radical statement:
I don't think women can have it all. I just don't think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all...every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother...
yet the media acts as if she is shattering a commandment. Mashable goes on to report that, "Nooyi says there's no way to square a high-pressure career with raising kids."

So let's take this one step at a time.

If anyone under 40 still believes in the "women can have it all" fairytale, STOP NOW. I truly believe the only women who really, really believe women can "have it all" are those who grew up in the 70s and 80s. Who saw women head out into the workforce with their linebacker shoulder pads, limp ties and "fried up the bacon they brought home."



But us younger GenXers who slacked our way through the 90s know better...or at least should. We saw Hillary Rodham get ripped to shreds for trying to have a career while her husband ran for President. Soon enough she was "Hillary Clinton"...We got the message loud and clear. Just as the media in the 1980s might have sold career women on being Superwomen, reality showed us otherwise through countless examples in our lives.

Of course it didn't stop us from trying. And some of us falling on our faces. I'm hoping this annual examination of why women can't have it all will die off when Gen X and Millennials are in enough leadership positions to say, "Yeah, I never had it all..at once." Because that's what the truth of the matter is. We can try to have it all, but only over the course of our lifetimes. Hell, even Nancy Pelosi waited until the kids were practically grown to run for Congress.

So please, please, PLEASE, let's bury this conversation and for gawd's sake, stop asking women in leadership this question.

When my students ask me "how I did it all," I tell them that I don't. I don't sleep as much as I should. I don't do all the motherly things I "should." I also am not always the best wife. Because there are so only so many hours in the day and some things have to wait. You have to make sacrifices just as Nooyi says at Aspen.

What gets my goat is that Nooyi frames this conversation as something for women of her stature (or at least the piece frames it that way) when she talks about high-pressure careers, aka C-level stuff. Well, my job is far from a CEO position and it's still a jig to do what I do. There's still pressure to make it to all the school concerts that are in the middle of the freaking day. At the end of this past year, I asked my daughter if it was ok if I missed a concert as I just attended a dance recital and was busy getting ready for a business trip. She was fine with it. Or at least says she was.

Maybe I'm a bit over the whole "I'm a terrible mom" thing that Nooyi still seems hung up on. I get it, she's really getting home at 10 pm, which I still do school pick up. I rarely miss soccer games. I even volunteer for Girl Scouts, but it's a lot of careful planning. There's something to be said about embracing the role of "terrible mom" because a lot of guilt washes away. A lot...not all, ok? Honestly, I think Nooyi thinks this too, but for media reasons can't say it. You can't get as far as she has and seriously be that wracked by mom guilt. Gawd, I hope she is over it!

Look, I know bad mom stuff all too well. I just got tossed from a PhD program after spending four years studying when my family was out running errands and having fun on the weekends. I took homework everywhere with me. I often rolled my eyes when my daughter asked for help on her homework, thus interrupting my study time (PROTIP: Don't even attempt to study your own stuff with your kid), so I logged some major terrible mom miles. But she still snuggles up with me on the couch. As terrible of a mom as I have been, I'd say I'm still on the winning end. I know that's because the time I have spent with her has been quality time.

I also am the one, who after my husband worries that there's no milk for the morning, thinks, "Hey, we'll have toaster waffles instead of cereal!" If there's a lesson I can pass on to new moms or women aspiring to be moms...The milk can wait.

03 July 2014

Summer of Feminista: There is no treasure like an honest friend


Elisa Batista co-publishes the MotherTalkers.com blog with her best friend Erika Bleszinski.

“Tiene el señor presidente

Un jardín con una fuente,

Y un tesoro en oro y trigo:

Tengo más, tengo un amigo.”


-Jose Marti, “Versos Sencillos”


My favorite poem in Spanish is “Versos Sencillos”, written by Cuban “apostle” and poet Jose Martí. I remember my father playing a narration of all 46 verses of Versos Sencillos, which is about friendship, on a record. I will forever associate that record – and that poem -- with my childhood home in Miami: my father in his stained blue jumper suit fixing his mustang while us four kids hooted and hollered with our friends.

Hence, two of the most valuable lessons I gained from my parents were that anyone could enjoy poetry… and an honest friend.

I am 37 years old, and I am still best friends with women I have known since I was 5. They were at my First Communion, and around to celebrate birthdays, graduations, weddings and baby showers. Over the years, I’ve been blessed to make other best friends in addition to – not in lieu of – my childhood friends from Miami. And since they are all sisters to me, I’ve introduced them to each other, and they’ve formed relationships with each other!

Please note: I have more than one best friend, but the list is still quite small. I was never a popular girl with a ton of friends and liked by everyone in the classroom. I have always enjoyed deep friendships with two or three other women, and then they’d stay with me for life.

Having grown up in an immigrant household, in which our extended family lived abroad or in faraway states, our friends were our community, our lifeline…our family. I live in Berkeley, California now, on the opposite coast of my blood relatives, and this is especially true for me today. The people that have helped me raise my children, attended my children’s birthday parties and family-style get-togethers have been…my friends. And they’re not just “friends.” They are hermanos and tios and tias as that is the role that they have played.

It isn’t a blood relative that recently taught my seven-year-old daughter how to sew. It was Tia Amy. Two of four of my children’s godparents aren’t blood relatives. My daughter’s godparents are Tio Will and Tia Nancy. And for every single one of my children’s birthdays, without fail, they receive phone calls from my college best friend or Tia Erika.

We go on vacations together, we are madrinas and honorary tias to each other’s children, and every time we get together – no matter how long it’s been – we start from where we left off, as if no time has passed. We are friends with each others’ friends and blood relatives on Facebook. We are one familia.

For me, there is no greater treasure.

Summer of Feminista 2014 is a project of Viva la Feminista where Latinas are discussing girlfriends.  Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission. Read how you can join Summer of Feminista.

01 July 2014

#365FeministSeflie Day 182 = HALF WAY POINT!

Today marks the half way point for this wacky idea called "#365FeministSelfie." I still think it was wacky for me to think I could get more than a handful of self-identified feminists to participate in a year-long selfie project. But OMG it happened!

Not only are we tackling our insecurities and worked on our self love, but as Abby says we have become:
a member of a group of women from so many different walks of life (varying in age, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, etc.) also posting selfies. In doing so, the project has gone way beyond self-acceptance and crossed over into community.
Cara (my accidental partner-in-crime) puts it this way:
I have been amazed and proud to see members look past all of our differences, to simply and truly SEE the women in the photos, and offer acceptance and support to every member. We tell each other all about our lives, our struggles, our successes, our secrets, our shame, our wildly happy moments. We reach out for advice and support and receive it with nothing but loving, kind intentions. All of these strangers, come together.
The only negative feedback I have received from this project are from people who just don't get it...or don't want to get it. People who do not believe that mostly women & women-identified persons (I've only seen a few men or man-identified persons participate) can take a photo of themselves every day and not 1) be narcissistic and/or 2) want the world to tell them how beautiful they are. To that I say, "Check out the hashtag." 

But what I am sure is the biggest shock for those not participating is the fact we have a community of mostly women who are not catty to each other, who do not respond to selfies that are actual cries for help with snark, but with compassion, and who have become friends despite ever meeting in person. I have never had to ignore a post because of hate.

This experience has been so powerful and we're only half way done. I seriously can't wait to see what the next six months bring us.

30 June 2014

Summer of Feminista: The Other Women

Sandra Ramos O’Briant is the author of The Sandoval Sisters’ Secret of Old Blood, winner of Best Historical Fiction and Best First Book at the ILBA, 2013. Visit her on Facebook and Blood Mother Blog.

The Other Women

I almost called this piece Girlfriends, Slutdom and Mom because they’re all of a piece, a patchwork perhaps, that once assembled became me. Boys were always easier for me. We liked being outside and played rough, whereas I was never sure how to engage girls in anything beyond dolls, which didn’t interest me. They also tended to stay in the kitchen with their moms.

Mom proudly announced that she’d been a tomboy, too, and followed her twin brother in his rough and tumble play. As she grew older, mom embraced the “sexy” Latina image. I think it gave a boost to her self-esteem, but it meant that her goal was to get a man which invited competition from other females. At her core she embraced a 40’s cinematic femme fatale role model and distrusted all women . . . possibly even me. A girlfriend who is of my mother’s vintage recently gave me advice on how to deal with my husband over some petty argument. “Have great sex and then do what you want anyway.” Manipulative, I said. She expressed no distaste with that word. “There’s a long line of women just waiting to steal him from you,” she said.

She reminded me so much of my mom that I only felt affection and pity for her generation. And wonder. Could she be right? I’ve seen that look–threatened, possessive, and defensive–on other women’s faces when they’ve watched their husband’s reaction to a beautiful woman standing in front of them. No, the beauty wasn’t me. My preferred role is observer, and I love women, need them even. Women are the leads in The Sandoval Sisters’ Secret of Old Blood, and sisterhood is explored in all its contexts: childhood friends, lovers, girlfriends who think nothing of cheating with your husband, a sinister mother-in-law, witchy ex-girlfriends, daughters, blood sisters, maidens, mothers and crones.

I’ve written previously of the bullying I experienced in elementary and middle-school (Bullied: Diversity, Differentiation, Distinction). That experience effectively isolated me and I stopped trying to make girlfriends. I had a brief respite in 9th grade when I lived with my father and stepmother in East Texas. A few girls in my neighborhood actually seemed to like me and we rode the bus to school together. No one was really dating then, but there was adolescent flirtation.

Back to New Mexico for high school and the pressure was on to date. Fortunately, I liked nerdy boys with a sense of humor. An assortment of males liked me; the girl’s locker room became hazardous when a boy sought after by one of the “popular” girls asked me to prom. Sometime in the 10th grade I was labeled a slut and I don’t think the slur came from a boy. It was the girls who shunned me.

The irony is that even though I’m now an outspoken feminist and embrace my inner slut, I remained a virgin all through high school. I refused to French kiss until I’d cleared it with the nun who taught an after-school religion class. “No it’s not a mortal sin,” she said. I’m forever grateful that she didn’t follow up that statement with what it could lead to. Perhaps she didn’t know, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway because I wouldn’t allow my boyfriend to touch my emergent breasts because of the pimples on my chest.

The slut-shaming worked. I wasn’t sure what I’d done wrong, but in order to remedy the situation I let down all the hems on my skirts, stopped dating, and stayed home from school as much as possible. The problem with that was 1) my mother’s fear–not that I might not graduate– but that I might not get in enough practice to find my future husband. “You’ve got sex appeal,” she said, which only terrified me more. The second part of that phrase was fine, nothing wrong with appeal. But the “sex” part was a problem made all the more complicated by 2) my extreme horniness.

What to do?

Fortunately, I got to go to college in the late 60’s. The Second Wave ruled! Birth control was readily available and there were savvy girls from all over the world at UNM. What was even better, they knew nothing about me. Sure, I was a little weird, but weird was in. I could blend. Somewhat.

I’d always had opinions, but had feared speaking out. My task was to overcome that sense of powerlessness, to embrace outcast status and make it work for me. Learning to do that was huge and the women’s movement helped me. Not only were there plenty of outspoken women from whom to learn, but I recognized the other me, before emergence, in women who came to consciousness-raising meetings. I could help them.

In grad school, my girlfriends and I had brunch every Sunday and read women’s sexual fantasies out of Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden. Our laughter could be heard from down the street and we could have written our own book of sexual exploits, real and imagined. Peggy, one of the brunchers, met me recently in Venice Beach (A 70’s Redux).

Girlfriends are still not easy. More often that not, I let them pick me. When I started a business, almost all of my clients were male. Female friends were rare. If it hadn’t been for my friend Susan, I wouldn’t have had a baby shower for my first child or a partner in my new business.

More women entered the workforce. Now I had female employees and a new challenge balancing friendship and business: I didn’t always make the right decision. As often happens, friendships with women grew easier when I entered my 50’s. I’d relaxed, accepted that some women were not going to like me, and that it wouldn’t hold me back from expressing myself or reaching out to them. Older women have experience, both good and bad, and we all just want to have a good time. Here are some vintage thoughts from some of my girlfriends. They reflect my experience now. I’m so grateful to have arrived at this point, something I don’t think my mom ever achieved:

Susan: “My women friends have outlasted everything in this life: husbands, parents,
youth, and now . . . Even if we're not together, our laughter still rings in my ear.”

Bonnie: “No matter what I was slogging thru in terms of family stuff, work, life in general, girl friends sustained and supported me more than any other relationships.”

Melody: “Laughter; tears; support; brutal honesty; fun; sharing of wisdom; gossip; fashion help; basic survival; boy-friend hating; physical, mental & spiritual healing; having someone really listen to our story-telling without judgment; reminders that we are worth loving, even if we do not love ourselves at times!”

Summer of Feminista 2014 is a project of Viva la Feminista where Latinas are discussing girlfriends.  Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission. Read how you can join Summer of Feminista.

25 June 2014

#365FeministSelfie News: "Ohhhh, we're half way there!"



Oh yes, my dears, we're almost half way through #365FeministSelfie! Can you believe it?

To mark the occasion of the half way point on July 1, I wanted to ask everyone to post a half-selfie or maybe a selfie with "your better half." Just play up the half theme...Then a bunch of #365FeministSelfie'ers started asking...

"How can we all get together and take a mega-#365FeministSelfie?"

And of course, this came to mind:
Thus OPERATION ELLEN came into being.

For those of you who want to (no pressure), on July 1st - our half way point - include Ellen in your #365FeministSelfie:
Her show even is looking for people to send in funny photos including baby selfies, selfie fails, and most creative selfies. But know that once you send it in to the Ellen Show, they can use it however they want.
SAMPLE TWEET: #365FeministSelfie is at the half-way point, @TheEllenShow! Let's celebrate at your place! 
Then tag photo on Instagram, post to her Facebook page

Be creative! Remember that Ellen loves to dance (that's where Instagram video, YouTube & Vine can come in!), animals and is apparently vegan(ish). Let's see the vegan #365FeministSelfie'ers light this campaign on fire! Tell Ellen why you want us to get together in her TV studio. Why are you participating? What does it matter that you get to meet another #365FeministSelfie person in the flesh? Hell, there's even a cut-out Ellen head you can take a selfie with!

And spread the word...let other #365FeministSelfie folks know what is going down on July 1st.

If this isn't for you...that's fine. Tackle the half-selfie theme!

If you are in Chicago on July 1st, join me at the MCA for the Frida exhibit. She is our Patron Saint of Feminist Selfies. Comment/Tweet me/Facebook me to let me know you plan to join in the field trip. I am planning on being there at 10 am when the museum opens!

Lastly....Thank you once again to everyone who has been participating. Thanks that you have gotten so much out of this project that you want to get together! Whether you have posted every single day or missed a few, it means so much that you care about this wacky idea. If you fell behind, start again! If you're just hearing about the project, JOIN US!

20 June 2014

Book Review: Dear Sister: Letters From Survivors of Sexual Violence by Lisa Factora-Borchers (ed)

The feminist community has been in a battle over the use of trigger warnings on posts, books, movies, and even women's studies syllabi. But don't worry about that here because the title of today's book is TW enough: Dear Sister: Letters From Survivors of Sexual Violence edited by Lisa Factora-Borchers.

I don't have a big sister, but I read through the essays as if they came from her. The essays in this anthology are about sexual violence, but there is a gentleness and love to them. I did not read every essay. This is definitely the type of anthology that you read an essay, stop, cry, and return to a few days or weeks later. Or maybe you have been waiting to hear these words for so long you binge on them all in one sitting.

Lisa introduces the anthology by not only setting the stage, but also being transparent about how the anthology came to be. In a moment of brave honesty, she addresses the title’s use of “sister.” It can be a loaded word for many as it implies an idyllic sisterhood that allows for safe space that quite frankly not every woman has experienced. Lisa did think that the use of “sister” would create a bond, but after discussions with others and a lot of thinking, realized that it was not the sisterhood that would bind readers, but the shared experience of violence in our lives, including the burden of our shared trauma.

I would like to thank anonymous for “Letter 2.” I am not one for self-affirmations, but this one is contextually perfect. I did not realize how much I needed to read this letter until I was half way through and in tears.

The essays within are not just letters to a sister, but also contain a hard look at violence in our world. In the interview with Zoe Flowers, she points out that while we talk of sexual violence as intimate violence or domestic violence and make it a personal issue, it is actually rooted in historical contexts. We need to remember that persons of color and women have only recently become free. As she says, we have been free far shorter than we have been enslaved and controlled. I wholeheartedly agree that in order to move forward we must know our history.

What may be the most controversial essay in this collection is based on an essay that originally ran at XOJane. In it the author profoundly believes that survivors do not owe anyone to report an attack. We occasionally will read about a rape survivor who will be lauded for her courage to come forward, report and press for charges. All that a survivor owes to anyone is to heal. And for many survivors not reporting is one method. We must honor that.

We must also honor the courage it will take many survivors to read this book as Mary Zelinka takes the time to note. And we should. Yes, if you are a survivor this book will be tough to read. But I do hope you find solace inside the covers. Perhaps find that story that makes you feel less alone. Because that is why we tell our stories, not to share our life, but to connect with others.

And if you feel like you want or need to tell your story, "Dear Sister" wants to hear from you. 

Support Viva la Feminista by purchasing your book through Powells or Indiebound.

I received a review copy of this book through the publisher. 

12 June 2014

Obvious Child: The rom-com where someone has an abortion!

Obvious Child opened in NY and LA already, but I live in the rest of the country, so we get the movie on June 27th.

AND YOU SHOULD GO SEE THIS MOVIE!

I was lucky to get invited to a media screening and seriously, this is the feminist movie of the year. Hands down. There's no way this movie can be beat. Why? Because for too long we have been subjected to movies and TV shows where women have a pregnancy scare, maybe consider abortion and end up 1) getting their period late; 2) miscarry; or 3) changing their minds.

I have written before pondering why Hollywood can not imagine abortion being part of a love story. And thanks to director & writer, Gillian Robespierre, we have it! It is far more in line with quirky Juno and slapstick Knocked Up with its comedic genius.

There are a few political moments (Thank the goddess for Gaby Hoffmann), but overall it is a sweet movie about a young woman in crisis. Her boyfriend dumps her, she drunk dials him a zillion times, she meets a far too adorable guy, has a one night stand and gets pregnant. Oh yeah, she also finds out she is losing her job. There's no way to spoil this movie because well, she gets the abortion. The beauty of this movie is how it all unfolds. The question at the end is if love can blossom after an abortion? As I state at allParenting,
"This film shows that the decision to have an abortion is not frivolous in the manner that anti-choice forces would want the rest of the world to believe. Rather women choose abortion as their best option and some struggle with the ramifications (Donna's relationship with her mother, whether to tell Max). But in the end, it is their decision.
I do think this is a travel pack of tissue movie. You won't need a box, but will need a few tissues. Or maybe even some salt-free napkins.

To find out when "Obvious Child" hits your town (pssst...Chicago, June 13th!) check out the movie's ticket page.

11 June 2014

Musing on Maleficent (spoilers!)

The most anticipated movie in our house for the past forever was Angelina Jolie's "Maleficent." And while I did have some misgivings at the start of the movie, by the end I was a fan of this retelling.

A lot of pixels have been spent on how feminist this movie truly is and yes, I'm throwing my two pixels in to the fray.

We immediately meet the land of Sleeping Beauty as a bifurcated land where peace and love lives in the fairy forest called "The Moors" and hierarchy lives in human land. This is where I did a cartwheel in my head. I just knew it from the trailers (I didn't read a lot about the movie beforehand) that Maleficent would be painted as wronged by someone, propelling her into evil. And you can bet your bottom dollar that all the alarms went off in my head when it was clear that this was going to be another "woman scorned" story. Just really?

I admit that I got caught up in the evilness of Stefan to forgive the crappy story set up. Half way through the film I thought, "Aha! History is written by the victor." Because as a friend pointed out, we are never truly told why Stefan betrays Maleficent in the most cruel way, other than he is an orphan and seeks out power.

Stefan's cowardice is shown in his assault of Maleficent and robbing of her wings. As the scene was unfolding, I was cringing. I knew what was happening and was not happy with it. Why couldn't her wings by stolen on the battlefield like the warrior she had proven herself to be? Not by foolishly falling for the lies of a man and being drugged! Yet, Stefan never stepped on the battlefield. He was too cowardly to even do that. Fine.

Another thorn in my side about the movie is its reliance on gender essentialism. Maleficent was a fairy from the nature-loving land and was essentially good...with that whole 20 years of evil in between. Stefan represented the world of man, not human, but man. Attempting to conquer the nature-loving world that Maleficent protects. Even as a goddess-loving-tree-worshipping-woman, I still don't like to see women presented as "one with nature."

What I did love is the softening of Maleficent. That love, yes even a maternal love, was what allowed her to open her heart again. I enjoyed watching her try to not care for Aurora, including saving her from starvation and falling off a cliff. I loved her banter with the Crow-Man.

I also love watching Jolie in a fight scene. She could play a mom from 1985 fighting over a Cabbage Patch doll and I'd pay money to see it.

I am also a sucker for all these re-imagined works of fairy tales. Because one, I love fairy tales. And two, the re-imagination is happening along feminist lines.

So let's revisit the "history is written by the victor" line I mentioned earlier. The vast majority of fairy tales involve evil witches or sorceresses. Yet we never know why they are evil. We are supposed to believe it without doubt. This is essentially what we are asked to do with Stefan. The story is told to us by Aurora, who obviously was told the story to by Maleficent. Would you care to justify why your boyfriend violated you? Nope. He violated her and to hell with an explanation.

I've been raving about this movie over social media, mostly because I think it is an excellent piece to have us discuss what is a feminist movie. Is a woman kicking ass all that is required? How does the use of motherhood play in? Why doesn't Aurora's mom do anything but die? Is it feminist to empower one woman, but not another? So yeah, I love this movie more because it makes me think, rather than for the movie itself. But don't get me wrong, I was cheering for Mal the whole time.

09 June 2014

Summer of Feminista: Friends During Hardships


Summer of Feminista kicks off with a provocative piece by Estela Delgado. Please share your respectful thoughts in the comments.

I have plenty of friends but few are or have been my close friends, fewer are or have been my best friends because for me the forever part has not worked out. I do not know if I should be sad because my childhood dream and desire of finding a BFF did not come to fruition or over coming to the realization that sometimes I outgrow people and others I have only needed in certain situations and or for certain periods of time. Unfortunately, after giving it some thought I have to admit that as I have grown older I have let go of some people.

With that being said, I suppose that as I have gotten older so has my personality and perspective have changed and with them so have my friends. I know we are all different and I value and appreciate it. I am open to learning from everyone, thus I am open to all people from all walks of life. But these differences do make a difference sometimes and it is then when I move on. Nonetheless, I still am in search of those people or that one person who embraces all of who I am, strengths and weaknesses, in my good days and bad days. More importantly someone with patience to understand my weaknesses and is not afraid to challenge them and vice versa.

I have also found myself having more guy friends than girls. Guys talk about everything and do not over think things; it is what it is with them. And I especially like the fact that I get a guy’s perspective on things, and they like getting my perspective too. Unfortunately, I’m not very fond of some women. For starters because I personally think some women are overdramatic. I get it that we are emotional but some overdo it. And secondly, I especially hate it when they speak badly of their bodies and constantly talk about dieting. And if that was not enough they compare themselves to other women and put them down. I do have girlfriends that do that but they do it subconsciously. They are not satisfied with their own body but do not put down others so they feel better about themselves. Regrettably, some women waste their time being in constant competition with each other instead of being friends.

Sadly, I have not been able to find a girl BFF who I can truly say is my partner in crime; someone who I can have girl talks with and who is a little crazy like me. However, I am grateful that there have been women in my life that I have been able to go to and have been there when I have faced life’s challenges. I have to admit that there are moments in life that feminism kicks-in in most all women and rise to the occasion. It is astonishing how when women face hardship differences are overridden and we get support from someone you least expect it from. It is very disappointing for me that I have outgrown or moved away from certain people because we are different. And I hope I can find the BFF of my dreams someday but if it does not happen I’m sure someone will be there for me when I most need them. Friends have always been there for me in their own way during my hardships and I am grateful for that.

Summer of Feminista 2014 is a project of Viva la Feminista where Latinas are discussing girlfriends.  Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission. Read how you can join Summer of Feminista.

02 June 2014

Summer of Feminista on Breaking Through with Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner