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29 September 2010

Kendall College and gender roles in education

I got this in the mail today.

I get a lot of educational direct mail. I dunno if it's me or the fact that Chicago has so many schools. Either way, I usually just toss the mailers in the recycling box. But the kiddie drawing caught my eye. Congrats marketing artist! Then I did a double take...WTF?

Yup, Kendall College, an institution of higher education was trying to convince me to give them $250 a credit by using gender stereotypes. Um, yeah. Not so much.

28 September 2010

Senator Durbin I'm betting that most witches are Democrats

And clearly you haven't had any conversations with witches about witchcraft. We've met a few times, but I've usually kept my comments to policy. The fact that I'm a tree-hugging-Goddess-worshipper never seemed to be of importance. Of course now I wish I had pointed out my Goddess amulet that I wear every single day, that I do consider myself a witch and that I vote for you every chance I can.

So imagine my surprise when I opened my inbox to a note from you equating witches (my people) with wingnuts (so NOT my people), who are usually radical right-wingers.See the yellow box to your left for the quote.

Here are a few pointers for you:

1) Read Starhawk. She's kinda our Pope, except we don't have one leader, but she's in the news a lot and wrote a lot of books. She's amazing. Starhawk explains what it means to be a witch AND defends Christine O'Donnell. Defending O'Donnell means that Starhawk really takes the whole "love your fellow human being" to the core. 

2) Read through Witchvox's FAQ. They have been around since 1997, so they are pretty much as ancient (internet-wise) as paganism itself.

3) We even have our own emblem for veteran's headstones! (scroll down to 37)

For me, being a witch/pagan is believing in the power of nature, of the Earth and believing that we're all connected. A few weeks ago I was burnt at work. Tapped out of energy. No amount of chocolate or coffee was going to bring me back. Instead, I took a walk and settled under a tree. Sounds hokey, but it works for me. My feminism is connected to the Goddess and she to my feminism. And my feminism is what grounds my politics and thus why I usually like you a lot.

I'm sure that there must be Republican witches (I think the Wicked Witch was one) out there, but for the most part, the witches/pagans/wiccans I have met are all open-minded liberals if not radically lefty. We might not be the biggest religious group out there, but we do take offense to being liken to something to be defeated, especially, for me, to radical right wingers who don't believe in women's rights, evolution or caring for their fellow human being.

Give me a call if you wanna grab a cuppa coffee to talk about witches. It is that time of year!

27 September 2010

Guest Post:: Anti-Choice Blogger Cruelly Mocks Women's Experiences by Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America

NARAL Pro-Choice America is made up of pro-choice women and men across the United States who come together to protect a woman's right to choose. These individuals are our backbone, and their stories remind us of why we do this work. Behind every statistic or heated argument about abortion is a real woman's experience. 

On our website, ProChoiceAmerica.org, we offer a safe space for people to share their stories because sharing stories is a way for our supporters to connect. Our Women's Stories page gives powerful and heart-felt accounts of women's personal lives and the difficult decisions they've made. As someone who talks with women about what it means to be pro-choice, I understand the courage it takes to share a story with us and the world. 

That's why I was deeply disgusted and outraged when I discovered that an anti-choice blogger mocked these personal stories through a series of "Parody Testimonials" blogs

The blogger crudely and cruelly mocks the circumstances behind these women's stories, even in situations where women's lives and health were in danger. 

Dawn, 40

I got pregnant in the summer of 2008. My husband and I were thrilled. We had been trying for about 6 months and it finally happened.

At 11 weeks of gestation we found out that our son/daughter had anencephaly. We were devastated. We thought we wanted this child. We murdered our son/daughter two days later in a building which looked like a hospital (but where they murdered people instead of cared for them). A spineless, life-hating, unprotective man who had a Medical Doctorate in gynecology dilated my cervix and proceeded to cut my son/daughter up into several pieces. After this, the nurse informed him that all of my son's/daughter's body parts were present and accounted for. The "doctor" considered this a "condition not compatible with life" AND WHO WOULD after being cut up into so many pieces?!


I have worked for groups which favor the murder of unborn babies for the worst part of my life doing a variety of volunteer activities (lying, deceiving, coaxing, betraying my fellow woman, hating men and the babies that they helped us conceive... did I mention lying?) as well as giving money to spill more blood. I support murdering unborn babies in all circumstances (yes, especially those which are forced in China and other countries since they have more melanin than I do).

I got pregnant in the summer of 2008. My husband and I were thrilled. We had been trying for about 6 months and it finally happened.

At 11 weeks of gestation we found out that the fetus had anencephaly. We were devastated. This was a very wanted child. We terminated the pregnancy two days later in a hospital. My OB performed the D&C. The doctor considered this a "condition not compatible with life."


I have worked for pro-choice causes for the better part of my life doing a variety of volunteer activities as well as donating money. I support choice in all circumstances.

We can't let the actions of an anti-choice blogger intimidate or shame women into silence. Please take a moment to support the women who bravely shared their stories with us. Read some of our Women's Stories and pick the story that you find most compelling. Share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social media you use. Share it here at BlogForChoice and on other blogs you visit. When you post the story, please say, "I stand with [NAME] and here is her/his story."

Together, we can stand up for these brave women and against hate.  

24 September 2010

Summer of Feminista: A woman is a womb

Written by Minerva

I was raised in a woman only household.

What does it mean to be a woman?

A woman is a womb.

My father wasn’t there when I was born

he was disappointed with my mom

cause “she” gave him a daughter and not a son.

Two years later my sister was born

he left

it was just too much to bear.

A woman is a womb?

Abuelo passed away

he was talking a shower and his heart just stopped.

The oldest sister Aunt Amelia took care of all of us.

Abuela prayed and cooked.


a brilliant scientist was never recognized

she even helped clone a sheep, but drove a cab by nights.

What does it mean to be a woman?

We girls played the piano, washed the dishes, sing with mezzo-soprano voices and wrote some sort of poetry. We read Simone de Beauvoir.

A woman is the origin of life.

Summer of Feminista is a project where Latinas are sharing what feminism means to them. Positive. Negative. Academic statements. Personal stories. Learn more or how you can join the Summer of Feminista. This is a project of Viva la Feminista. Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

22 September 2010

A blizzard of elections

Yes, I'm already looking past the mid-term elections to Chicago municipal elections in early 2011. I've been slightly obsessed with who will for Mayor. Not my alderman has decided that he's not retiring, as many of us had hoped, but will run for office again. This of course means that I need to decide post-haste who to support among two challengers, that I know of! Because really he's got to go. 

19 September 2010

In regards to Alice & Rebecca Walker...take 300

Apparently because I write and talk about feminist motherhood, I get asked about Alice & Rebecca Walker. A lot. So when the latest piece about their falling out went public, I was asked my opinion again.

First, I'm not entirely sure if Rebecca brought up her mother in a recent interview or it was asked. I think it's important to know if she keeps bringing this up or if people keep bringing it up. Are we all hoping that we'll open up a magazine or our internet browser to see a a story about how the two of them will be reuniting on Oprah? Honestly, I do.

I want to see these two amazing women kiss & make-up. And as much as I hate Dr. Phil, I couldn't care less if he makes it happen either. Challenge to you, Dr. Phil! Why? Because this mother-daughter fight has been awful to watch. It's been awful to watch as a feminist, as a feminist mother, as a daughter and as a human being. It's just plain awful.

And I can't begin to imagine what each of them are actually going through.

I've reviewed two of Rebecca's books. I've read zero of Alice's. Yes, a total demerit on my feminist card. I've even weighed in on this fiasco before. I still concede that being a feminist and a mother in the 1970s was a far different experience than it is today. It does not excuse the way that motherhood was thought of, written about and spoken of back then. Yes, having a child takes away the freedom one had just a year before. But hey, for the most part, we chose to live our life with a child. I ran into that reality while I was pregnant and the Iraq War was ready to be launched. How does one balance protesting an unjust war in an attempt to save the lives of countless women, men and children with the well-being of the life inside your belly? Even the cover of Feminist Mothering tries to ask that question.

Thus in the end, I see the Alice & Rebecca Walker soap opera (and it is people, we're watching every step!) as an exercise in "What is feminist mothering?" And ironically, Annie at PhD in Parenting was also pondering this question.

So what do I really think about the Alice & Rebecca falling out? Let me start by saying that I believe Rebecca Walker...to an extent. I'm sure there are some exaggerations or mis-remembering going on. But the heart of the issue is there.

Do I blame Alice? Yes. I think that if she really did just take off without saying good-bye to Rebecca so often, that's sad. I enjoy my time away from home as much as any momma does, if not more to be honest, but I cherish my goodbyes, even if the kid has started to be super clingy at them.

But there is something about the way Alice raised Rebecca that also rings true to feminist mothering and that is what Andrea O'Reilly says is empowered mothering - putting yourself first. And obviously there is balance to be found there. Putting yourself first isn't empowering when it is harming the child. And clearly Rebecca was harmed.

Yet at the same time, I do wish that Rebecca would simply say "No comment. You can read my books," when asked about her mother. There is almost nothing new in the pieces I've read this past week about their relationship. Nothing that would make me feel worse or better for either of them. I know she's hurting and if I could, I would give her a big ass hug.

As for me and my daughter...Being a feminist mom means raising the kid in an empowering way. I try to give her power or not to douse the power already in her. I don't belittle her observations about the world, especially since she's making sure awesome ones. She's pretty fearless and I push her to maintain it. I do worry that the same power she gets from jumping from 5 steps up onto concrete will be the same place that empowers her to make some dumb choices as a teen, but I'm more hopeful that if I empower her to trust her judgment that she'll be the one that says, "Dudes....No."

Being a feminist mom isn't just about banning Barbies and all things pink. It's about raising a strong, intelligent and caring child who says fuck you to gender roles. Of course she still loves wearing pink, but it's not the only color in her closet. Of course she still loves watching Disney movies, but she also likes watching sports.

Being a feminist mom means that I must continue to live my life to show her that being a mom isn't the only role women were born to do. She knows that I love her without limits, but she also knows that mommy travels for work.

Being a feminist mom means finding that weird middle ground between having my daughter be the center of my life, but not my entire life.

Being a feminist mom means raising her to not think she has to take care of me when I'm old. And then for me to act on that when the time comes. To prepare her for going out into the world and kicking her out the door to actually do it.

Being a feminist mom also means doing all of this and preparing for the day when she tells me that she hated it all. When she tells me that she wishes I had just stayed home and made cookies. Then telling her, sorry baby, but that wasn't and isn't who I am. And hoping that she'll still love me more than I love her...as she likes to remind me.

18 September 2010

Summer of Feminista: My Abuelita's Most Cherished Gift

Written by Alisa Gilbert, who writes on the topics of bachelors degree. She welcomes your comments at her email.

As this blog has shown, feminism comes in all shapes and sizes. It isn't an "ism" as other "isms" are. It has no specific tenets, it doesn't prescribe a specific course of action. All it does is pronounce and strive for a truth-- that women (and men) are more than a set of social roles, and that each individual woman has a right to develop her own person as she herself chooses.

While I've read a lot about feminism, I've often wondered how a person becomes a feminist in the first place. What goes into the process? What environment nurtures women who believe in themselves and their ability to make substantive changes in this world? I firmly believe this sort of confidence grows out of knowledge and experience. Experience comes from living, and knowledge grows at least partially from reading.

My own love of reading was developed by an unlikely source. I didn't catch the disease from a teacher, nor from any sort of traditional "leader". My love of reading I got from my grandmother, a woman who was never educated beyond the eighth grade, who married when she was 18 and raised her children on a farm in Mexico.

While my abuelita was perfectly content to raise children, help my grandfather with running the farm, and to lead a pretty quiet life, she had a remarkable thirst for knowledge. When I was a little girl, my family and I would spend summers on the farm, deep in the heart of La Huesteca Potosina, a rural, semi-tropical area in Mexico known for its fertile farmland.

I often dreaded going to the farm, simply because it was so different from what I was accustomed to--there was no television, no air conditioning, and, except for the constant buzz of giant mosquitos, the silence was so overwhelming as to make you feel uncomfortably restless. But my grandmother loved living there. I never understood it.

That is, until she showed me her library, and invited me to taste the best that it had to offer. Her library was vast in scope--she had everything from harlequin paperbacks to history tomes about the Mayan civilization to classic novels like War and Peace. When I complained to her once that I was bored, she suggested that I read a book. And that's how it all began. The peacefulness of being somewhere quiet, away from all the noise and distraction of city life, and being so fully absorbed in a book that you feel actually transported to another world is a moment that I have not been able to recreate in any other situation.

And it was from these experiences, spent with my abuelita on the farm, that I began my pursuit of knowledge. This joy of reading was what directly inspired my desire to learn about the world and everything in it, and for that, I thank my abuelita, a short little Latina woman who lived on that farm and died on it, but nonetheless accessed the world outside her small village through books.

Thoughts of those summers on the farm bring me back to the conclusion that feminism springs forth from a variety of sources. Formal education was not something strongly encouraged in my grandmother's world, so she instead took matters into her own hands and educated herself, inspiring the next generation to strive for an independence of mind that is absolutely essential in creating strong, confident women. Women like my grandmother are the unsung heroes of feminism, the ones who have made the furthering of our goals possible.

Summer of Feminista is a project where Latinas are sharing what feminism means to them. Positive. Negative. Academic statements. Personal stories. Learn more or how you can join the Summer of Feminista. This is a project of Viva la Feminista. Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

16 September 2010

Summer of Feminista: Mama Feminista and Son

Written by Gabriela Lazzaro @supersonicgaba

“You know who the biggest machistas are? Mothers!” I’m reminded of that familiar saying as I sit here and try to grasp how being a feminista has changed for me now that I’m somebody’s mommy. This beautiful, perfect, smiley three-month old little piece of sunshine looks up at me and I melt. And I am at once terrified at the level of responsibility that parenthood brings and the promise and excitement of getting to know and raising this wonderful little boy.

I grew up in Dominican Republic, surrounded by men, who were --- the typical Latin men. The type of men with una muela (sweet talking) to make you feel like the only woman in the world. The type of men who will dance all night with you and make you fall head over heels, only to then drop you off in time to go cheat on you with someone else. Men who were often, still “babied” by their own mothers well into their adulthood. Men who understood they were in charge, who didn’t owe anyone any explanations, and women just had to get with the program in order to be with them.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they’re all like that. Once I moved to the states I swore off Latin men for a while, only to end up marrying a Dominican. When I got older, I definitely got better at picking them. I made conscious the qualities that I admire in my father, my brother and of course, my husband. Stand up men who are men enough to be with strong women – with their own interests, ideas, ambitions and opinions. Stand up men who don’t feel intimidated by having a partner be their equal. Stand up men who can do the dishes and the laundry and never feel like it’s a poor reflection on their manliness. Stand up men who admire and love us feministas for all we have to offer.

Something tells me my little boy is gonna be just fine. What he’ll see in our home is an example that is so much more powerful than anything I could ever say. He’ll know how to treat and value women as equals. He’ll be confused when he learns about traditional gender roles and hopefully find them ridiculous. He’ll know inherently that all people are valuable, and all people deserve respect. He’ll know that living this truth will make him more of a man than anything else ever could. He’ll be a damn good feminista, and I’ll continue to be incredibly proud.

Summer of Feminista is a project where Latinas are sharing what feminism means to them. Positive. Negative. Academic statements. Personal stories. Learn more or how you can join the Summer of Feminista. This is a project of Viva la Feminista. Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

14 September 2010

Summer of Feminista: We are the feministas

Written by Juana Hernandez of "I Am the Woman of Myth and Bullshit"

we are the women your mother feared you would fall for, lest we refuse the family heirlooms, or fail to master the secret art of her famous caldo de res.  we are the kind of women that your mother finds suspect, the kind she would not choose to take her place as the leading lady in your life. and dearest, we don't mind the diss. we do not care to feed and coddle you, grown man that you are. we have no interest in being your mother, nor your lover-child-pet.

your mother and her comadres are of another generation. they who believe the home is the natural place for a woman, who believe in phrases like maternal instincts and male provider. yes, they respect our warmth and beauty, but they recoil at our audacity. we who claim heart and mind and body, we who speak frankly of need and female desire, we who blur the lines of feminine and masculine. and who seek a partnership of equals.

but despite what they say, we are not cruel, bra-burning feministas unsuitable for marriage. on the contrary, we give good love and occasionally bust out the fancy lingerie to boot. we are the kind of women that will push you when you start to settle, the kind that will sustain your belief in yourself when it wavers, the women who will inspire you with our own example of flint and frailty. we are the women that smart men want to make happy out of something other than a sense of manhood, honor, or duty. and we demand a reciprocity that you better be prepared to offer.

we are the feministas, the women your mother feared you'd fall for, lest we refused to give her grandchildren. (and to be frank, dearest, your mother has no business setting claim to anyone's womb.) we are the feministas, the women who can change you.

Summer of Feminista is a project where Latinas are sharing what feminism means to them. Positive. Negative. Academic statements. Personal stories. Learn more or how you can join the Summer of Feminista. This is a project of Viva la Feminista. Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

12 September 2010

Summer of Feminista: Snobby feminists

Written by Carrie Ferguson Weir of Tiki Tiki Blog and Bilingual in the Boonies

I didn’t have too good a time in my college Women’s Studies class.

The energy was angry, a wall was up between “them’’ and “those of us who get it.’’

Back then, I mostly sat on the wall

You see, at that point no one had inappropriately grabbed my butt or made me feel less-than because I had a vagina.

And then I grew up. Got a job in an industry once known for crusty workaholics who told fabulously off-color jokes and thought the cops beat was only for dudes.

And well, I soon learned my big mouth and sharp brain weren’t enough to make anyone think me equal. My man-tailored pants and buttoned-up shirts were not enough to keep gross people from saying crude things to me, whether in front of colleagues, or at crime scenes.

But even more than unappreciated remarks, it was the immediate assumption that my gender and youth made me less game, less able, that chapped my ass most.

The bear of it: It wasn’t just the guys.

Here’s my best example:

I was in my early 30s when I finally landed a cush Features department position. I was writing for -- wait for it -- The Women’s Magazine! Yes, I was. I went from writing about shootings, state foster care and neighborhood bruhahas to interviewing women on fashion, fitness and business. It wasn’t an easy transition, but it was a welcome one after spending more than 10 years in hard (and often depressing) news.

So, I was in Features for a few months when a politically connected acquaintance invited me and my husband to a party at his home. When he introduced me to his wife as “the reporter who writes for the women’s section,’’ she snickered and Walked Away.

She, now a big shot politician in my area, didn’t say a word to me the entire evening. She judged me and tossed me out because *gasp* I Wrote For The Women’s Section. As if that is all I was, or as if I had single-handedly let down and regressed womanhood.

But, that section was something to be proud of. And any woman who picked it up found stories on women who took chances and changed their lives, tips from top business coaches and entrepreneurs. We were O before Oprah was O, let me tell you.

Yeah, there was lipstick and fall fashion, but whatever. Can’t we be smart and look good too?

The point of this for me is that I am a woman who supports women -- regardless of what they do.

You want to go to the moon? Go for it, mama.

You want to be a runway model? Go for it, sister.

You want to stay home and raise 16 babies? Well, why not?

For that same Features section, I did a story in which I asked young women, in their early 20s, whether they were “feminists.’’ Many of them didn’t even know what it meant. Combat boots and burned bras were often referenced.

But, feminist by definition is simply a person who believes women and men deserve the same rights. Simple. End of story.

That being the case, even men can be feminists. And hurrah, many are.

But anyway, I’m rounding out to a finish here....

I have a daughter who is nearly 7. I don’t want some snob -- man or woman -- to ever look down on her because she didn’t carry the flag the way they think it should be carried. I want her to grow up knowing that she, as a woman, as a person, as a precious child of God, can be and do whatever the damn-well she pleases.

I want her to learn from me, her Mami, that standing up and applauding a woman for making the choices that are right for her at that moment, is the best form of feminism.

I want her to learn that it is actions, not words, that make you an activist, an advocate, a role model.

I am not telling her she deserves equal chances, I am showing her she does. I walk straight toward what is mine, so that she will walk toward what is hers to claim whatever space and opportunity she desires.

Anyone can say they support women, that they support equality.But, when you snub or mock someone for making a choice you don’t agree with, well, that’s a totally different “ist,’’ isn’t it?

Summer of Feminista is a project where Latinas are sharing what feminism means to them. Positive. Negative. Academic statements. Personal stories. Learn more or how you can join the Summer of Feminista. This is a project of Viva la Feminista. Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

09 September 2010

Where to find me in the next 30 days....


What is the Goddess trying to tell me by having my professional calendar explode just as I start my PhD program? Or is it a test? One that I'm failing? We'll see. While we wait, why don't you come on out and see me in action:

September 17
20x2 "Who Knew?" 
8 pm at Martyrs' Restaurant and Pub

20 people get to interpret one question, "Who Knew?" I'm pretty nervous about this one. 

September 23

Celebrate Chicago Abortion Fund's 25th Anniversary.
Honoring Heather Booth and the Abortion Seven, of the Jane movement.
6pm until 8pm

111 N. State Street, Seventh Floor
Narcissus Room

Join us for an evening of cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and celebration of twenty five years of the important work of the Chicago Abortion Fund.

Tickets: $75 until September 15 or $100 after

I'm not speaking or anything, I just really want to see you there. :)

September 25
Facing Race
Media Plenary

Covering Race / Uncovering Racism: New Media Innovations for Revealing Realities.

While the mainstream media continues to ignore and dismiss the persistence of racism, the rapidly changing media landscape poses new challenges and opportunities for reshaping public awareness. How can we leverage the power of alternative media, social media and new media technologies to reveal not only the realities of racial inequality but also the routes to racial justice? Moderator: Latoya Peterson, Racialicious. Presenters: Kai Wright, Colorlines.com, Tracy Van Slyke, The Media Consortium, and ME!

Use my friends & family code 510 to save 50% on registration

September 28
Jeff Biggers is starting a monologue series, Talkin' Tuesdays, at the No Exit Cafe and he asked me to help launch it.We'll get started around 7:30 pm. Our theme is "Crime and Punishment: Alcatraz and Motherhood."

Upcoming Monologue Performers

October 9
Blogalicious Weekend - Miami, Florida

10:45 AM: General Session B with Kety Esquivel, Maura Hernandez, DeAnne Cuellar and Aurelia Flores

Oy...writing that all out makes me wonder how the hell I'm going to get all my work done. So if this blog gathers cobwebs, you know why!

06 September 2010

Summer of Feminista: Crispy Feminist Flan Cake

Written by Sandra Ramos O’Briant of Blood Mother Blog and The Sandoval Sisters

Crispy Feminist Flan Cake:

½ cup sexist daddy
1 cup manipulative Mexican mommy
¼ cup domineering grandmother
2 cups fiction, fantasy and lies
¼ tsp. poor impulse control (risk-taking can be substituted)
A dash of pachucas beating the crap out of you
Mix in Texan/New Mexican racism
Add 60’s protests
Add drugs and sex to taste
Toss in a sugar daddy
Sprinkle with Santa Fe art and bake in the sun blazing down on the Sangre de Cristos.

It’s ready when the center springs back no matter how many times it’s punched
Let it cool while watched by benevolent lesbians, compassionate crones and loving sons
Keep it in the fortress of its baking dish
Your reward will be a creamy tartsweet dessert edged with hard won brown crisp.

Summer of Feminista is a project where Latinas are sharing what feminism means to them. Positive. Negative. Academic statements. Personal stories. Learn more or how you can join the Summer of Feminista. This is a project of Viva la Feminista. Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

03 September 2010

Summer of Feminista: Born Feminista or Made Feminista?

Written by Silvia Martínez, Founder of bilingual blog Mamá Latina Tips / Partner and Editor in Chief of Spanish blog Disneylandia Al Dí

I’m the only daughter in my family, the oldest granddaughter on my mom’s side, and the youngest granddaughter on my dad’s side. All my childhood I felt my family expected big things from me.

None of the women on my mom’s side of the family went to college after high school, they all had to start working when they were young; my grandfather said they would get married and didn’t need studies.

And still, they valued education so much that two of them became teachers later in life and my mom got her high school diploma after getting married and still plays with the idea of becoming a psychologist. I was the first woman in my family to get a university degree, the first to get a master’s degree, and the only one who ventured out of Mexico to live in another country.

My grandmother was very traditional: It would be hard to call her a feminist. But having said that, the interesting thing is her daughters are. So maybe she was some sort of stealth feminist, secretly plotting the emancipation of her daughters from the “just learn to be a good housewife” mantra.

I was raised very independently, by Mexican standards, since from a very young age my mom taught me how to be in charge of my own needs; cooking, washing clothes, doing my own hair, being responsible for my homework. My mom and grandmother pushed me to always get higher grades, to be the best I could be, to speak my mind… a lot of pressure for a little girl, I was so afraid of disappointing them.

I wonder: if I had been raised in a family of not so strong women, would that have changed the woman I am today? Almost certainly, but maybe I would still be the same. Maybe I was born this way.

What do you think? Are you born feminista? Or are you made feminista?

Summer of Feminista is a project where Latinas are sharing what feminism means to them. Positive. Negative. Academic statements. Personal stories. Learn more or how you can join the Summer of Feminista. This is a project of Viva la Feminista. Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

02 September 2010

Summer of Feminista: Finding My Latina Feminism

Written by Ileana Jiménez, founder and sole blogger at Feminist Teacher

If it weren’t for some Irish white guy, I never would have become a feminist.

When I read James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man my senior year in high school, it changed my entire life.  Never before had I read a novel that spoke to me with such intensity. 

The main character, Stephen Dedalus, was repeatedly teased and picked on the playground.  I was teased and picked on the playground with names like spic and nigger.

Here was a boy who wrote poetry hidden underneath the covers. I wrote poetry with big words that no one in my family understood.

Here was a boy who questioned the Catholic Church and went off to college to proclaim non serviam, or “I will not serve” the church, and instead became an artist, a writer, and a thinker. At 18, I also questioned the Catholic Church and went off to Smith to proclaim my own destiny as a queer feminist writer and thinker.

But while I read Joyce, I kept asking: Why isn’t this character a Puerto Rican girl living on Long Island via the Bronx in 1993? And why haven’t I ever read a book with a Latina protagonist who shares my story?

When I finished reading the novel, I was on a mission.  I was determined to find books with female characters that would reflect me back to me.

Through my research, I discovered second wave feminism, and in particular, the literary criticism written by white feminist theorists during that time. I’ll never forget ransacking the public library bookshelves and finding Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics and Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s Madwoman in the Attic. Reaching across dusty books, I also encountered French feminism in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex.

Finding these books in my local library was like finding my own heaven.  I was so enamored with my discoveries, I was convinced I was the first person to read these works.

Through these critics, I learned about old school feminist novelists like Colette, Erica Jong, and Sylvia Plath. I devoured Judy Chicago’s memoir, Through the Flower, and cried when I saw images of her famous Dinner Party celebrating forgotten women in history.

Still though, these were all white women writers and artists.  Where were the Latinas?  Where were the women who could tell me how they reconciled their Latina identity with their burgeoning feminist ideals?

I couldn’t find them while I was in high school.  Instead, I wrote a 20 page paper in my AP English class comparing Joyce’s exploration of gender, sexuality, and his vocation to become a writer with women writers exploring their own gender, sexuality, and artistic vocations: Chicago’s Through the Flower, Jong’s Fear of Flying, and Plath’s The Bell Jar.  When I finished writing my paper, I promised myself that as soon I arrived at college, I would find not just Latina writers but in particular, Latina feminist writers.

That summer of 1993, I watched Ruth Bader Ginsberg get grilled and then confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. It was the first time I had seen a female justice get seated to the highest court.  I remember falling in love with Ginsberg, and it was her chutzpah that inspired me to go with my gut to transfer from Boston University to Smith when I arrived in Boston that fall.

As soon as I arrived at BU, I took a Peter Pan bus out to Smith and landed an interview.  By that January, I transferred to Smith and enrolled in Nancy Saporta Sternbach’s Latina and Latin American Women Writers class. I wasn’t supposed to be in that course, as it was only open to juniors and seniors.  I was so determined to get in though, that the night before the class started, I called the professor at home!  Dios mio, the things you do at 18!

It was in that class that I found Cherríe Moraga. I’ll never forget opening my very first course reader with its hot orange cover and black binder rings.  Inside were excerpts from Loving in the War Years. Reading Moraga’s words was magical. It felt like I was reading a journal I had written in my heart but never knew how to write. Her words, “My brother’s sex was white, mine was brown,” exploded off the pages.

Moraga gave me the strength to see myself in all the ways that I lived as a light-skinned Puerto Rican woman who was also brown, queer, and feminist. I recognized in her words my own struggles and doubts, my own anger and frustration.  I also found hope that through writing, we Latina feminists could not only find our own voices but also find each other’s, no matter what risks we took to find them.

I learned from her that we need to commit to each other as Latina feminists, not by shouting non serviam, but instead by lending a hand to one another and saying a tu servicio.

 Ileana Jiménez is an educator, activist, and blogger in New York. Readers can follow her tweets here.

Summer of Feminista is a project where Latinas are sharing what feminism means to them. Positive. Negative. Academic statements. Personal stories. Learn more or how you can join the Summer of Feminista. This is a project of Viva la Feminista. Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.


This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.

What I'm Currently Reading

I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame
The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

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