Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

29 April 2010

Feminist Parenting: When to encourage

All year the kid has been talking about how she wants to join cheerleading. Yes, her school has a cheer program for grades 1-8. One of her BFFs is in it this year and the kid has told me time & again that she wants in too.

*sigh*

I tried out for cheerleading, so I'm not totally opposed to it. But cheerleading has gotten far more athletic than back in my day. Which is why I would let her try out. She's great at gymnastics! Plus the thought of cheerleading helping to get the kid to be more vocal in public, well, that's a bonus too. But then I think about how sexualized cheerleading has also become with all the sexy dances...I start to gag. I also don't want her to learn that girls cheer for boys and no one else.

I've tried to find out if the cheerleaders cheer for both boys and girls basketball, if the squad does routines appropriate for all 1st - 8th graders and if the coach is certified. I'm willing to try this out.

The thing is that the kid's tune has changed! She doesn't want to try out. I think she's fearful of the trying out aspect. I get that.

Now I wonder, should I be more encouraging, even thou I have no idea if this cheer thing is actually beneficial? What if I encourage her and I hate it? But do I really let her not try something out of fear? Ay!

I keep reminding myself that the kid is in gymnastics, soccer and theater. Does she really need one more thing? No. So that's where I land. I've ruled out cheerleading solely on the basis that she doesn't need one more thing to do. And I really don't want to ever push her to do anything.

So why I do I feel so damn guilty?

28 April 2010

Book Review: My Little Red Book *GIVEAWAY*


My Little Red Book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff is a cute book about first periods. It's not scholarly but nor is it a "Hey, you got your period? AWESOME!" book either. It's nicely in the middle.

I'm fairly certain that I would have killed for this book as I was awaiting the arrival of my period many, many, MANY moons ago. I know I sent away for one of those books that you could request from a tampon box. But the information was still just as technical as my medical encyclopedia. I wasn't one of those lucky gals who got to flip thru her mom's worn copy of Our Bodies Ourselves either. 

While my daughter will get to flip thru at least two copies of OBOS, have easy access to feminist health providers and well, I'm her mom, I'm so keeping this book on the bookshelf in the living room. I've already told the kid that within the next year, all the books in the living room will be free for the taking. No questions asked, grab one, read it. I'm keeping the more mature issue books in my home office. The stories in MLRB are funny, sad and sometimes both. Stories from women who experienced their first period decades ago and some young women who had theirs just a few years ago. So get yourself a copy!

And the fun part! GIVE-A-WAY!! You get a period book...You...and YOU!

Actually, the first ten people to comment here gets a copy for themselves. Just leave your email in your comment! It's that easy. No need to tell your tale...unless you want. Sorry...Only US and Canada addresses and NO PO Boxes. You'll be contacted by the book folks, so I won't get your info.

Want to buy your own copy? Send one to a young woman in your life? Please buy your copy at an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received was the copy of the book. 

22 April 2010

Book Review: Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Normally I put this at the end of my review, but I'm gonna get right to it:

BUY Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale at an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

I bought this book for my daughter after seeing it on the 2010 Amelia Bloomer list.  Since getting pregnant I've been on the hunt for feminist fairy tales. In the last month I've been a bit obsessed. I had to special order this from Women and Children First and I picked it up around 6 pm on Wednesday. By 11:30 I was done.

Yes this is a graphic novel and it's for kids, so not too hard right? I read it in one night not because it was easy to read, but because it was soooo damn good!

Hale takes an old tale and puts an amazing spin on it, gives Rapunzel brains and guts and WAM! We have ourselves an amazing adventure. I can't wait to read this to the kid. But we do have a few other books to get through first. It is a bit scary for a 6 1/2-year-old, but hey, she's reading The Sisters Grimm too.

And damn, there's a sequel to Rapunzel! Next time I'm in the bookstore, I'll have to order that one too. But really, they should stock this baby in their children's graphic novel section.

No disclaimer on this review since I bought this baby with my own money.

21 April 2010

Book Review: Waking Up in the Land of Glitter by Kathy Cano-Murillo

I love glitter! I love crafting with it. I love wearing it. I love it period!

Waking Up in the Land of Glitter: A Crafty Chica Novel by Kathy Cano-Murillo is like being in a tub of glitter. Pure fun. 


I'm not one to read a book just for fun. I'm not usually a summer book kinda gal. But this was good fun. Sure, there's a good debate about craft versus art, but it's far more a story about a couple of women trying to find their way in life and love. 


If you know Crafty Chica's arts and crafts, the book is the same fun. 


Did I mention that the book is fun? Cause it is. 


In Chicago, we're barely into spring, but it doesn't mean it's too early to grab this summer reading book for your beach bag. Or heck, get it now and pretend it's summer time. Buy your copy at an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received was the copy of the book. 

20 April 2010

Equal Pay Day 2010: Wage gap in science and engineering

Today is Blog for Equal Pay Day! 


This post isn't meant to be lazy, but I realized that the idea I had for today I already did over at Girl w/Pen. Yes, I've finally gotten to the point in my writing where I have forgotten what I've written about. It took a web search to remind me. Oh, so pathetic...but back to today's post....

One reason why I am passionate about piquing girls' interest in science and engineering as a career path is the money. Even in this recession, starting salaries for computer-related and engineering careers are on the rise. They are also usually higher than any other field. This can be quite a carrot for sticking out a second semester of Calculus or even organic chemistry.

But I also tell my students that there is a wage gap for scientists and engineers. Back in 1999, the National Science Foundation found that the wage gap for engineers was only 13 cents. Not bad. Overall for science, engineering and math, it looks like the wage gap in 2001 for starting salaries was 24 cents.

Some have theorized that the difference in the wage gap between science and engineering can be attributed to the market. Since there are less women in engineering, they can usually negotiate a better salary since they are more in demand. Some have also theorized that the biological sciences are facing dropping salaries since more women are entering...This is yet to be proven...salary wise anyway.

Bottom-line is that the wage gap impacts all women. Even in uber-women dominated careers like nursing, men out earn women.

And of course the gap widens for women of color as seen in these lovely graphics that the Feminist Looking Glass posted from NPR. Although considering the serious lack of people of color in science and engineering, I'd love to look at that wage gap.

Other Equal Pay Day links of note:

18 April 2010

Book Review: Karma by Nancy Deville

I didn't read the entire book...I couldn't. Karma by Nancy Deville is a detailed fictional account of an American doctor who is kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery. I was able to read thru Dr. Meredith Fitzgerald's breaking and transfer from Istanbul to Mumbai and then I had to skip chapters to see if Meredith was saved. When I saw detailed, I mean detailed.

Human trafficking is not a topic that I feel knowledgeable enough to speak about, but then again, I'm fairly certain I know more than the average person about the shear magnitude of the problem. And thus I think that added to my overwhelming feeling while reading the book. Perhaps someone unfamiliar with the problem might continue to read while thinking "I don't believe this." I kept reading thinking, "I know this, why am I reading this?"

The storytelling was great and too real for me.

My only qualm with the book is that I felt that it was stereotypical to set a story like this in Turkey and India. Human trafficking happens everywhere, including here in Chicago. Why not elsewhere? Deville addresses this at the conclusion of the book by telling readers that the story could happen anywhere. Was that enough for me? I'm still not sure.

But I can't say that I wasn't sucked into this book. I carried it around one weekend so much that my husband made a comment. Now, I read a lot and he rarely comments on how engulfed I am with a book.

If you do decide to pick it up, I ask you to do so at an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

The book will break your heart, but it also will be memorable. But I really hope it also moves you to learn more about human trafficking.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received was the copy of the book.

10 April 2010

Book Review: The Blue Orchard by Jackson Taylor

I can't remember the last time a tale of fiction grabbed me and wouldn't let me go. I finished The Blue Orchard by Jackson Taylor over a week ago and it still haunts me during those quiet moments of my day. What drew me in to say yes to reviewing this book was that it was a tale of a nurse in pre-Roe U.S.A. who is arrested for illegal abortions. On top of that, The Blue Orchard is a fictionalized tale of Taylor's own grandmother.

But I have to tell you that I forgot that last fact while reading. I was so consumed by the ups and far too many downs of Verna Krone, that I simply forgot that she really did walk this earth. The Blue Orchard is a painful tale of a young girl's hope to find her place in the world, only to have too many decisions made for her that ultimately result is heartbreak. I wish I could write more, but the story is far too delicate than I could ever express.

I would highly recommend this book for a book group. I will certainly be suggesting it the next time my book group needs to pick a title.Not only is the issue of abortion discussed, but also gender roles, race, class, motherhood and even a great dose of local politics. Oh, did I love the local politics angle!

Get a copy for yourself at an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

This was cross-posted at Feminist Review.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received was the copy of the book after the publisher contacted me.

09 April 2010

Guest Post: Interview with Julie Zeilinger, teenage editor of top feminist blog, the Fbomb

This is reposted from b-side chats with permission. I decided to repost this awesome interview because when the fbomb launched I was so damn busy that I didn't have time to help promote it. Plus it's awesome....


We had the opportunity to talk to one of the busiest (and youngest) bloggers on the web, Julie Zeilinger, sole founder of the Fbomb, a feminist blog for teenagers. Let us rephrase: while the blog may be run by a teenager and posted from a teenage perspective, the content is relevant for any feminist young and old.  Zeilinger attracts an international array of young feminists while posting from Pepper Pike, Ohio. In this interview, she tells us how her feminist outlook was shaped,  juggling school, the blog and the way her peers and parents view her.

What made you start the Fbomb?
I started the FBomb after reading a lot of other feminist blogs, like Feministing and Jezebel. I loved those blogs but I thought that the teenage perspective on the issues was really missing. In addition, I really wanted to create a community for teenage feminists where we could come together, share our ideas and offer support and advice. It was important to me that this wasn’t created by an adult or a corporation, but that this was really a peer-driven group. I called this blog “the FBomb” for feminist - but the fact that the FBomb is also known as a swear word wasn’t a coincidence. I created the FBomb for girls who are socially aware and want to share their emotions and experiences with a greater community.

Do you run the blog yourself?
I am the only one running the blog in the sense that I created it and control all the mechanical aspects of it (posting, moderating comments, etc.), and I write about half of the posts. However, the other half of posts are written by people who submit their own writing and that really is a huge part of the FBomb. Even though I technically run it, I really don’t consider it my blog - it’s a community that’s largely composed of submissions and comments written by its visitors.

How do you manage being in high school and running the Fbomb?

The FBomb does take a lot of time to manage - between writing my own posts, moderating comments, organizing submissions and working on social networking it can be a lot. But doing all of those things are really enjoyable for me - working on the FBomb is pretty much my favorite thing to do- so it’s pretty easy to find the time between school, homework and other activities. I also drink a lot of coffee.

What has garnered your interest in feminism?
My parents had always raised me with feminist values, but I first became interested in calling myself a feminist in 8th grade when I had to give a speech to my entire middle school. I found an article about female feticide and infanticide (where parents kill their babies for the sole reason that they are female). I was so shocked that such a misogynistic practice existed. But mostly I was disturbed that such a thing was occurring that I didn’t know about and more people weren’t concerned. It made me wonder what other misogynistic things were happening without my knowing. That’s when I started to research women’s issues on my own and started to learn more about the feminist movement. When I got to high school, my advisor was also a young and active feminist. She gave me a bunch of feminist books to read, and we’ve had many feminist discussions since.

Do you get a lot of criticism? How do you handle that?
I don’t get much criticism about the FBomb itself - most people really like the idea and support its mission. I’ve gotten criticism on some of the posts I’ve published, which have varied from sexist comments attacking feminism in general to other feminists disagreeing with me. At the beginning it really did bother me because I took each negative comment as a personal attack. As I’ve continued to write, though, I’ve accepted that people are going to have different opinions than me and this is a good thing. A lot of good debates have come from commentators who disagree with me. I basically ignore the straight up sexist comments just because they’re often not worth wasting energy on. Overall though I’ve been really lucky as the majority of feedback I get is positive.

What do your parents think about it?
My parents have been completely supportive. They actually think it’s really cool and love to hear about the experiences I’ve had through the FBomb. They do read it and even like to talk about the posts with me. My mom always tells me when I’ve made spelling or grammatical errors and makes me go back in and change them.

Do your classmates read it?
I think a few do. My friends definitely do - they’ve even written for it. Many have thought that the concept of me running an internationally read blog is very cool but not as many have expressed actual interest in reading it. I live in Ohio, and while we’re more open minded here than some other places, feminism is more often than not a word that high school students here have little to no understanding of. I’m trying to change that though.

How do you think the web is shaping your generation?
I think it has completely changed the way we interact socially for the better and worse. While we’re able to effortlessly keep in contact with friends and able to find outlets through blogs or other web communities, we’re also bringing bullying to a new level and making it easier for ourselves to get in trouble by posting inappropriate pictures or talking with people we shouldn’t be. However, I can really only speak accurately about my experience with the web and that has definitely been a positive one. Because of the FBomb I have been able to reach teen feminists in 193 countries and have found a community of like-minded peers to share ideas and experiences with. Also, girls from countries where they’re not really allowed to have voices have been able to speak out through submitting to the FBomb. One girl from Jordan has submitted several articles about what it’s like to be a feminist in such a conservative country several times - she uses a fake name because she’s afraid of what will happen to her if her family finds out. This aspect of the web - the power it has to internationally connect like minded people so that they are able to better achieve a goal and find support - is one that is definitely shaping my generation for the better.

What is your plan after high school?
No matter what, I want the FBomb to continue long after I’m a teenager. I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to go about this - whether I’ll pass it on or edit it or what - but it will definitely continue.

Do you have any surprising attributes?
I’m obsessed with Indian culture. I’ve studied Hindi independently for 3 years and am almost fluent. I went to India alone when I was 15 and stayed at the Mahindra United World College in Pune and worked with local female entrepreneurs amongst other local organizations. I’m especially interested in Indian feminism and the way feminism intersects with Indian culture.

Want to write for the Fbomb? Send submissions to Julie at juliez@thefbomb.org.

Authors should be treated the same as companies

Lenore has a great post about the dos and don'ts of book blogging, you really should go and read it, of course after this one. But one theme bubbled up in the comments section...Should we be gentler with authors because they are real people?

I assume that people think this way because we can see companies are just that companies (well, except the USSC) and not as individuals. Authors, now there we know that some individual sat down, researched, wrote and toiled over a book. I've never done this myself, but I have plenty of friends, members of my chosen family, who have done this. I hope to do this myself one day. But I don't think that means as reviewers we need to treat them with kid gloves.

That said, I don't think that we need to rip someone because their book sucks unless it really, really sucks and it's being heralded as the best thing since Shakespeare....OR criticizes Shakespeare for writing the same story, when they do the same. That last one, I'm taking on faith since I've never read a Sparks novel.

And what makes an author more special than say an actor who picks a horrible role and sucks ass in it? I don't think we'd say we need to treat that with kid gloves. A real person spent years designing that crappy product we just bought at the store or got in the mail to review.

As book reviewers, we need to be honest with our readers. We should be critical, not slamming authors, but critical when we don't like something. Of course, most of the books I read are non-fiction so it's easier for me to be critical and like parts, but not others. I just finished a book for review that is fiction and I'm still figuring out how to write about it. I'm just not well versed in the creation of fiction to be a highly critical reviewer. Ditto if I had to review poetry or mystery. Heck, I love science fiction, but I'm not schooled enough in fiction to notice all those nuances others pick up on. That's hard shit for me.

In the end, I give two big thumbs up to Lenore for her post and making me stop to consider my own method for reviewing & communicating with authors. Now let's hit the books and point our readers in the direction of some good books. Which reminds me that I have 4 books to write reviews for...yikes!

05 April 2010

Gracias Senor Escalante

Last week Jaime Escalante died at the age of 79. We got to know him thru the movie "Stand and Deliver." He was such an inspiration to this Latina.

I owe a bit of my science career to Senor Escalate. See the movie came out in 1988 and I'm betting that I saw the movie in 1989. This means I saw it at that critical time as I was moving from middle school to high school. This is the point where many girls with mad math skills bail on math and science. There are a number of theories, but the most prevailing one is that the social pressures to be "not smart" overwhelm girls and well, we kinda fulfill that framework.

My freshmen year of high school my algebra teacher asked me to consider taking two math classes sophomore year so that I could finish calculus senior year. WHAT? Yup, I was being asked to take geometry plus algebra II with trig in one year. And I did it. Well, at least the two math classes and was on track for completing calc senior year, but I bailed due to a super rough junior spring semester with a crazy teacher who killed my math-esteem.

But while my teachers were super supportive, I kept hearing Senor Escalante's voice reminding me to have ganas. So while I didn't take 5 math classes in 4 years, I did do 4 in three.

What Senor Escalante really did for me is show me in no uncertain terms that as a Latina, I matter as much as anyone. The scene where he goes to see Ana's father at his restaurant...well, I can't even begin to express what that scene meant to me. While I was raised by my parents to believe that I could and would do anything I set my mind to, I was keenly aware that as a Latina, as a girl, there was a cultural indifference to my success.

Thus seeing in a movie, a Latino man stand up to another Latino man for the benefit of an up and coming Latina, gawd, I knew then that I couldn't let my gender or ethnic background hold me back. That despite this overwhelming feeling of dread, I could do it. Because no matter what his students looked like, how thick an accent they had, what kind of family they hailed from, he believed in them. And I was aware of my privilege, not as keenly as I should had been, but I knew I had advantages over the kids in the movie and the ones who lived doors down from me attending a different high school. For one, I knew calculus as offered in my high school. And if the kids in that movie could overcome their challenges, if Senor Escalante could believe in them and guide them to a new path, well, gosh darn it, I had nothing to complain about.

"Stand and Deliver" is often touted as a movie about Latino success, but many miss the explicit message that us girls can do it too. It may seem obvious with the gender make up of the class, but that one pivotal scene AND then Ana returns to class! Oh, hell...it marked a point where machismo was told to sit the fuck down and let us all thru.

I'll always know that a negative times a negative equals a positive, but I'll also always know that an educated daughter is worth more than a a couple of hands in the kitchen.

Gracias Senor.

Bowling for Abortions

Yup, I'm bowling for abortions folks!

My goal is to raise $500 and I'm at $410. Not too bad, eh?

I've been volunteering with the Chicago Abortion Fund since January 2006. I was drawn to them because the executive director is a woman of color. At that point in my life, it was very important for me to work with an organization being led by a woman of color. It matters...It really does. And what a difference it has made to my activism AND to my drive to fund raise.

I'm competitive. Plain and simple.

$500 is where I want to start all my fund raising efforts from now on. Thank you to everyone who has donated so far.

I know this is a national bowl-a-thon, so if you have already supported a bowler or are bowling yourself, you are exempt from this plea. BUT if you aren't bowling, I am asking you to please support the Chicago Abortion Fund today.

$10 will help pay for a public transit pass.

$30 is 10% of the average grant.

$100 is one-third of the average grant.

The women CAF assists are mostly low/no-income African-American women in their late teens to early 20s. But we get calls from the moms of young teens and calls from moms in their 30s for themselves. We get calls from rape survivors, women hoping to escape from a violent relationship and women just hoping to continue their education.

Your money makes a difference in a woman's life.

Rather support your local fund? No problem! Look at all the bowling events around the country.

And thank you.

01 April 2010

Happy Census Day! AKA Day of decision for Latinos...

I knew it was coming. I love the Census, I think it’s an amazing thing that our country takes to counting everyone every 10 years. I love that some of us, so far not my household, get to tell the government how we live by answering more than just “How many people live here.” But I was dreading this year’s form for one simple reason – Latinos are no longer a race.

This change happened in 1997 and thus was on the 2000 Census form. I was pissed about it then too, but back then I really believed that a Latino or Hispanic organization would rise up to fight to put us back in the race column. But it didn’t happen. Now the buzz in Latino & Hispanic circles is “What do I check?” I’m asking, I’m getting asked, but I haven’t a clue. You really should read that 1997 memo as it also covers the naming of all race and ethnic categories including our invisible Arab/Middle Eastern sisters & brothers.

The history seems a bit hazy to me. The government did a study about how we fill out ethnicity and race on forms in anticipation for the 2000 Census. One thing they realized is that you have to ask if someone is Hispanic or Latino as a separate question and first. But one thing that also realized is that most Latinos will check “White” if Latino isn’t an option.

Obviously I have an issue with that.

It’s not that I am offended to be considered white, I just don't consider myself white. It’s one of those “It just is,” things in life. Looking at the form, I check yes for Hispanic/Latino. But I’m not Black, I’m not Asian and I’m not White.

American Indian. I’ve considered checking this box and writing down Aztec for my tribe. I’ve also considered writing down one of the many tribes that did live in Texas. My maternal part of my family tree is Tejano, in other words, they were living in Texas when it was Mexico. If we go back far enough, we find a rebellious young woman who ran away from her family in Spain to follow her true love to Mexico. But they settled in what we now call Texas. And may I point out that those of Spanish descent are also under Hispanic/Latino? So that got us nowhere. Also, I feel that claiming American Indian is disingenuous, ya know?

Other. Someone on Twitter said to write human. I get that. I’ve heard it before. But we’re not at that stage of humanity where we can say “there’s no race except the human race…” I wish we were. I want to represent. So perhaps writing Latino/Hispanic/Mexican-American there?

Someone else on Twitter said that LA Mayor Villaregosa had marked white. Of course I can’t find a citation, but it led to ponder why. In a campaign to get more Latinos to fill out the Census – it’s money ya know – he said that Latinos were underreported in the 2000 census. Could it be because we didn’t know which freaking box to check? Maybe someone could have surveyed Latinos to find out why we didn’t fill out the census. I know, I know, immigration status plays a HUGE part in that aspect, but perhaps some of us just didn’t know how to respond and didn’t. Althou 47% of Hispanics/Latinos do consider themselves white.

Latinos have always been in this weird middle ground when it comes to race in the USA. We aren’t black, but we aren’t white. Race relations are often said to be about black versus white. Um, what about us?
 We share a lot of common history with our African-American brothers and sisters. Then again, because we’re not Black, sometimes we’ve gotten a pass. Sometimes we battle for what appears to be the same piece of pie.

I’ve decided that I’m writing in Mexican-American on the Census form. We need to straighten out this confusion before 2020. If we truly are the fastest growing ethnic community in the country, we need the numbers too.