Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

26 September 2012

Review: Karoo

The one thing I really miss from when the kid was in daycare is reading the teacher's notes about what she did that day. Teachers don't do things like that, nor should they. But I miss learning what milestones she reached, who she played with and all the cute stuff. I don't kid myself that they may have not noted some milestones like her first steps. What are the chances her first steps were taken at home, on a weekend and in front of the camera? But I appreciated the daycare's consideration of our feelings.

Care.com has launched an app, Karoo, that zips you right to the daily report, while you are still at work.

I know, I know, like we need one more thing to check during our day. For some of us, it may only exasperate our longing for being at home with our kids. For some of us, it may give us just that peek in our kids that we need to get through the rest of the day. Who wouldn't like to know that lil Alex just started on a craft project giving us 15 more minutes in the office?

I got to play around with it and it works pretty well. Right now it's just for Apple products, so I played with it on an iTouch, I also used it's web platform. And I like it. I like it more for being a great app to jot down milestones. "Scored 2 goals today," "Moved up in gymnastics class," "Finished Harry Potter," things like that. It would also be a great way to share kid updates with family members who you either don't want friending you on Facebook or reading your blog. We don't all aspire to have Grandma reading this, nor do they want to wade through all the updates just to get to the kid stuff. And it's all super private as you invite people and approve them. No public feed to worry about!

I assume this might be a hit for parents who have nannies as I know that it would be almost impossible for a daycare to use Karoo. But I do think it would be a great way to get updates to family. Not to mention using for the babysitter, but hey, it's only a few hours. Relax!

This post was inspired by my participation in a compensated program initiated by Women Online/TheMission List. All commentary and opinions are, of course, my own.

20 September 2012

Summer of Feminista: Organized Coraje

To close out Summer of Feminista, we welcome Linda Garcia Merchant. 

Linda is a documentary film maker and founder of Voces Primeras. She is currently working on "Chicana por mi Raza: Uncovering the Hidden History of Chicana Feminism (1965‐1985)," a public humanities project centered on the collection and digital preservation of archival materials, ephemera, and oral histories that document the development of Chicana feminist thought during the civil rights era.

This last June we interviewed two iconic figures of Latina activism from the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago, Teresa Fraga and Raquel Guerrero as a part of an oral history project on Chicana Feminists entitled, Chicana Por Mi Raza. These women were a part of a group of incredible women making history in Chicago at a time when Latinos across the country were making history. Mrs. Fraga and Mrs. Guerrero, along with a number of organizations, spearheaded the movement that ultimately got the first Latino high school built in Chicago, Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen. One of the tactics used to get the attention of the Chicago Board of Education and its leader (at the time Joseph P. Hannon) was to stage a boycott—a school walkout not unlike the walkouts of East Los Angeles made famous by Paula Criostomo and the Brown Berets and Diana Soliz and the Partido Raza Unida in Crystal City Texas. In the early 1970s 90 percent of the student body of nine local elementary schools stayed home for three days. On the third day Mr. Hannon contacted the group spearheading the boycott, Pilsen Neighborhood Alliance, to have a meeting about building a new  high school in Pilsen.

Until that moment, all the protesting and meetings at City Hall, had done little to sway the opinion of Mr. Hannon and the board. What these women joined together to do was create a coalition of organizers to  make a very large statement. These women understood that by keeping their children out of school those schools could be in jeopardy of losing funding because of a lack of daily enrollment. It was a simple, non  violent and effective way to make their point.

As long as I work on the Chicana Por Mi Raza project, I never get tired of hearing all the different ways  women got together to tackle an issue. How these mothers, fought the long struggle to get their children the education they knew they deserved. How these mothers organized and collaborated with groups with very  different ideologies and missions, to create strength in numbers for this and other big fights. A woman we will be interviewing soon, Mary Gonzales Koenig, coined the phrase ‘organized coraje’ to describe how this  kind of collective strategy could work for so many issues. Mary talks about the general ‘coraje’, or anger that people felt about the economic, educational, and political oppression they were experiencing in Pilsen during this time. Latinos couldn’t get jobs with the public utilities, hospitals or retail chains, were denied  quality education in the local school system and certainly didn’t have a voice within government as the Latino voting group was considered a ‘captive vote’.

The beauty of Pilsen is and remains, the number of Latina activists engaging in this ‘organized coraje’ to make change happen. How women like Teresa Fraga and Raquel Guerrero, (Pilsen Neighborhood  Alliance), Mary Gonzales Koenig (Spanish Coalition for Jobs), Carmen Velasquez (Alivio Medical Center), Guadalupe Reyes (El Valor), Maria Mangual (Mujeres Latinas en Accion), and others found ways to work  together and with the community, to make change happen. The result of their work includes employment for Latinos at all public utilities, hospitals and retail chains and of course, the building of a number of Latino high  schools and grade schools beginning with Benito Juarez in the late 1970s. These women’s contributions are  not just the success of these movements. Their legacy is in the names of the aforementioned community organizations each one of them started in a storefront in Pilsen. Organizations that have grown to become nationally recognized institutions, employing hundreds of people moving those original missions forward.

What I find most encouraging about today’s movements is that I see the idea of ‘organized coraje’ is alive and thriving within this generation of Latina activists. I see Tania Urzueta (Chicago) and Dulce Juarez (Arizona) as quiet and humble leaders in the brilliant strategies of the immigration movement. I’ve asked each of them, if the women of the movements past, have had any influence on their ideologies. I told them about  ‘organized coraje’ which they both agreed was the only way to successfully create change.

As I write about these activist women, I do so on the anniversary of the Occupy Movement; the latest spark in the evolution of revolution. However we feel about the ideologies of the Occupy Movement we cannot  and should not ignore the two important elements that initially made it successful and has in many ways encouraged the rest of us. The first element was the organization around a collective emotion, in this case anger and frustration, about the oppressive nature of the status quo. The second element is the understanding that the ‘power of the people’ really does lie in those people taking a stand to exercise that power. I hope that in this election season, we take a cue from these women and this movement. I hope that we can step out from the comfort of our homes and apartments and become active in the process of defining government.  We each have a single power, a vote. The collective power that could look like 80 or 90% turnout, would certainly send a strong and clear message to the powers that we elect.

It doesn’t end there. Once we do elect this new season of representatives, we have to hold them  accountable for what they are supposed to be doing—representing! An email, tweet or Facebook entry to your State Representative or Senator, your city Alderman, the Mayor of your town or the Governor of your state, will let them know that we are each paying attention.

We are the landlord of this republic, and we should be angry. Let’s all be angry together and engage in an act of ‘organized coraje’, together, like Teresa and Raquel and Tania and Dulce. Let’s all make the next election and subsequent elected season about paying attention.


Summer of Feminista 2012 is a project where Latinas are sharing their thoughts about Election 2012. Viewpoints can be liberal, moderate or conservative. Academic statements. Personal stories. Learn more about Summer of Feminista. This is a project of Viva la Feminista. Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

17 September 2012

Checking in...Here's what's up

As one can tell by the radio silence on this blog, the fall semester has begun.

I started blogging as a way to get all the thoughts in my head out into the universe. Now that I'm back in class, the kid's in school (well, not right now, but soon I hope!), soccer season has begun (we won the first game 6-0, second game 5-0) and a zillion other things, not to mention work, I just don't have the time to always get here to let the words out. It doesn't mean I don't have them. I swear I'm thinking up blog posts all day long. Eleven years of this and you start to think in blog posts. I wonder if columnists do the same thing? I just don't have the time to sit down and write the way I want.

Derby Lite in BitchSummer was quite productive for my writing though. I did find time to write up a short piece for the Bitch List on Derby Lite. It's in the current issue, Elemental.

I also reviewed Jessica Valenti's book, Why Have Kids?, for Ms. Magazine and that issue should be out soon. I'll write more about my thoughts once the review is out.

Lastly, I reviewed Practicing Feminist Motherhood for the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement journal. Once that is published, I'll link here and at Goodreads.

I also read some great background stuff for my PhD program.

I did take some time for vacation, but as I enter week four of the semester, vacation seems a million years ago. Oh, the peace of the Northwest, why did you leave me so quickly?
Well back to the grind.

10 September 2012

CFP: Indigenous Mothering

CALL FOR PAPERS
Demeter Press is seeking submissions for an edited collection entitled
Indigenous Mothering, Family and
Community: International Perspectives
Editors: Dr. D. Memee Lavell-Harvard and Dr. Kim Anderson
DEADLINE FOR ABSTRACTS: January 7, 2013
The voices of Indigenous women worldwide have long been silenced by colonial oppression and institutions of patriarchal dominance. Recent generations of powerful Indigenous women have begun speaking out so that their positions of respect within their families and communities might be reclaimed. As part of this process of reinvigorating our spirits we are compiling a volume exploring the issues surrounding and impacting Indigenous mothering, family and community in a variety of contexts internationally. We welcome submissions from Indigenous mothers, scholars, students, activists, workers, artists, and any others interested in the experiences and knowledges of Indigenous mothering, families and communities in either historical or contemporary societies.

Topics can include (but are not limited to):
Explorations of the personal experience of becoming an Indigenous mother (including Grandmothers, Other mothers, LGBTQ or Two-spirited mothers, bi-racial or mixed race mothers, adoptive mothers, etc.); Indigenous mothering and the law-the impacts of legislation and the justice system on the experience of Indigenous mothers and families; conversations on varying aspects of identity, ethnicity, and race as they inform the experience of Indigenous mothers and families; the reconceptualization and/or performance of gender roles as they relate to traditional or contemporary Indigenous mothering practices and experiences; Indigenous mothering and the land, activism, politics, academics, religion or spirituality, mentoring, community mobilization, marginalization, poverty, crime and incarceration, teen mothering, addictions and rehabilitation, sex work; traditional mothering and parenting practices.

We welcome perspectives from Indigenous peoples worldwide. Cross-cultural, historical and comparative work is encouraged.
 Submission Guidelines:

Abstracts: 300 words.
Please include a 50-word biography (if Indigenous, include nation/affiliation)
Deadline for Abstracts is January 7, 2013
Please send submissions and inquiries directly to: Dr. Dawn Harvard mharvard@sympatico.ca
or Dr. Kim Anderson, kanderson@wlu.ca 

Disclosure: I am getting a complementary membership to MIRCI and subscription to the journal in return for posting these updates. It is, however, something I would have agreed to do for free because I think their work is so wonderful.

07 September 2012

Our Bodies, Our Votes

My submission to the Our Bodies, Our Votes tumblr


Get your own bumpersticker!

06 September 2012

What's missing from the DNC? Talk of repealing the ban on abortions for women in uniform

My Twitter stream has been a flutter this week with feminist joy at how often speakers have mentioned women's rights and 'choice' at the Democratic National Convention. Sandra Fluke knocked it out of the park with her speech, but we still have a lot of work to do if in six months our President does have our back.

One area where I want to see President Obama have our collective backs is the issue of military women and abortion. Current law bans servicewomen from using their own insurance to pay for abortion services if they become pregnant as the result of rape. According to Stand Up for Servicewomen:
Current law forbids military hospitals from providing abortion care except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment— even if the woman pays with her own funds. Because physicians on military bases are prohibited from providing abortion care, servicewomen are often forced to choose between taking leave and traveling far distances to an American provider, seeking services from a local, unfamiliar health care facility (if abortion is legal and they are not in a combat zone), having an unsafe procedure, or attempting to self-induce an abortion.
 While their ads are powerful (see below), I want more than just the Shaheen Amendment. I want every woman who serves this country to have their legal right to abortion met in every military hospital. Not just in case of rape, but when a woman decides she cannot carry a pregnancy to term. I will accept that we need to take small steps sometimes, but I fear that this small step will be all that we will get.






05 September 2012

Mijas, Baseball and the White House Need You!

I gave birth to one daughter, but I do consider every girl in the world a daughter. It's a cheesy thought, yes, but it is true. When I fight for women's rights, I am not just fighting for myself or my daughter, but for all the girls around the world.

That cheesy notion became all too real last night. Francesca Escoto wrote a quick post about a conversation she had with her daughters last night:
As we are making arroz-con-leche, my oldest asks: “Why are the major league sports male dominated?” Gulp. My middle child responds: “What? Baseball is only for boys?” I think I’m gonna cry.

Without me being able to answer coherently, my middle child goes on: “Why is everything for boys? Even my teacher says she prefers boys.” My oldest: “Mom, has there ever been a woman president?” My answer: “Not in the United States.” Middle child: “Even the president of the U.S. is a male-dominated sport?”

I wanted to get my virtual friend Veronica Arreola and put her on speaker phone. Veronica, aka @Veronicaeye is a Latina, a feminist, a mom, an activist. I’m sure she would know what to say in this kind of situation. I, however, really, could only ask myself when did my girls grow up to be so inquisitive, why is this world a male-dominated sport, and how can I help my daughters right now fight to take this load of their back? Where is Veronica when you need her???
This is not a new position for me, I get asked questions like this quite frequently. But never framed like this before. I feel like I need to get in the car and head on over to Francesca's house!

So how to handle these questions...It's tough and it's simple.

Let's start with history.

The United States was born in 1776. 144 years later, women's right to vote was written into the Constitution. 189 years after the USA was born the Voting Rights Act allowed for full suffrage for citizens of color. That brings us up to 1965. That's only 47 years ago.

In those 47 years, women have done a hell of a lot. (Yes, times like this requires a bit of swearing, even when talking to the kids.) We have gone from going to college to find a husband to out numbering men in college. We have gone from hoping that we don't get pregnant to being able to decide when and if we have babies (no girl is too young to know they control their bodies.). We have seen newspaper want ads go from containing "Men Only" sections to only being categorized by types of job.

We have made a lot of progress, girls, but we still have a long way to go.

As for baseball itself...That's complicated. On one hand, we did play baseball! Maria Pepe became the first girl to play Little League in 1972. That should be enough time for enough girls to grow up playing baseball and make it to the Major Leagues. On the other hand, according to research from the Women's Sports Foundation, quoted in the ad below, by age 14 girls drop out of sports at twice the rate as boys.



Then we add to the equation that girls are most often then not, funneled into playing softball at younger and younger ages. When I was a girl (many moons ago) girls played baseball until we hit high school. In my opinion, they are different games, not a girl or boy version of ball. And quite honestly, some people still think girls don't belong in baseball. Seriously.

As for the White House...I guess we have to say the same. Some people still think women shouldn't play politics. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ran for President four years ago, the things people said about her were awful and a lot of it was just about her being a woman. The USA took a huge step when it elected President Obama, but just a peek at the language used against him shows we also have a long way to go in terms of race too.

I don't have a good answer as to why other countries have had women presidents and the USA hasn't. Are we that sexist here? Or as the women in the other countries more compelled to seek out leadership of the country? We got close with Clinton and hope that we can actually elect a woman in the near future. The fact is that women, far too often, need to be asked to run for office, while men just do. But when women run, women win, especially if it is an open seat. So don't ask people if you are ready, just do it. Seriously, have you seen some of the people, men and women, who are elected officials? Go visit your elected officials. Your mayor, alder/councilwoman, state representatives, Congresspeople...Some will inspire you to support them. Some will inspire you to run. We have to stop wondering if we can get elected and just do it.

My hope is that by the time I die (a very old woman living in Hawaii) we will have stopped counting women. No more first this, first that. Just presidents and baseball players. Just governors and First Gentlemen.

To Francesca's mijas...Don't despair if you don't see a woman or a Latina doing what your heart compels you to imagine. If you don't have a role model in that exact job, imagine yourself. Draw yourself behind the plate or podium. Tape it to your bedroom wall and never stop working towards that goal. Don't let the naysayers bring you down. Never stop believing in yourself. Someone always has to be first. Perhaps you will be...And if so, don't shut the door behind you, kick it open, reach out and bring another girl with you.

That way you're not the only one. Cause what's the use of being the first, if you don't bring a friend to the party?