30 July 2013

Summer of Feminista: Learning from the Gray



Michelle is a crunchy, Xicana, feminist, mama, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who writes at xishellwords.blogspot.com when she’s done wrangling a toddler, a puppy, and five chickens, seeing patients, and renovating her house- which is to say, almost never.


I struggle with mentoring. Not as a concept, I happen to think it’s a great idea. My struggle is more in my personal experience. I haven’t had the type of mentors I expected or imagined I would. And I definitely haven’t had the kind I’ve read about or seen in movies.

When I look back at my life, I know I would not be where I am today without the guidance and support of some very key people. People like my cousin Ramon, who inspired this little Mexican girl to look beyond our agricultural town. He encouraged me to write stories, read books, and by being the first person in our family to attend college, planted the seed that my life could be more than getting married after high school and finding a good factory job.

There were others, too: teachers and professors who encouraged me, elders who imparted their wisdom, friends and colleagues who shared the same challenges. With this mish mash of people and a little self-determination, I made it through college and began a professional career. All the while longing for, but never feeling like, I had a mentor to my call my own.

To me, a mentor was someone who had achieved what I aspired to and would serve as my go-to person when facing life’s major decisions. Providing feedback and guidance, steering me in the “right” direction, giving me insights into how to succeed as they had. They would lead by example, be a moral compass. Sit me down for a talk when I strayed and give me step-by-step instructions for both my personal and professional life. And while I had all of those things from a variety of people throughout my life, there wasn’t the one person, like I imagined it would be.

A while back, I was lamenting to an older friend about how I had never found that mentor I was seeking. His response was that perhaps my expectations were unrealistic and had I come across a potential mentor, I probably didn’t recognize it. His words stung, but rang true. I was quick to dismiss people I considered flawed (and let’s face it, that’s everyone) as possible mentors. I also found it difficult to find someone who could meet everything that was important to me, all the conflicting and complex aspects of my personality and aspirations. If there was such as thing as being un-mentorable, I was sure I was it.

So you could imagine my surprise when I took a leadership position and was introduced as the “mentee” of a former supervisor. My impulse was to dismiss it, to say, “Yes, this person trained and supervised me, and taught me a great deal, but I wouldn’t call him a mentor.” That was a serious title, one I hadn’t been willing to give out, much less have assigned for me. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that perhaps I had been mentored all along.

Like this supervisor, he had a lot of faith in me; sometimes he put me in situations where I was in over my head because he wanted to show me what I was capable of- and it worked. And the older friend I wrote of, he kept me grounded. Whenever I would go too far up the Ivory Tower, he would remind me where the real work happened in a community. And another supervisor, she held my hand as I “walked through the fire” (her words) to find my way as a woman of color in a leadership position; she was kind but held me accountable with the gentle firmness that I needed. When I open up my thinking, I can name more mentors than I have space to write about here.

As a leader, I made a lot of mistakes; I hurt people, spoke without thinking, and did things that came back to haunt me. Those mistakes taught me to look at myself differently, and to be open to learning from those around me who had been where I was. People who, like me, had faults and weaknesses and had lived to share their hard earned wisdom. Instead of looking for that one perfect person who could fulfill all of my expectations and was living the life and had the career I aspired to, I looked to the different “mentors” already around me; a collection of personalities, characteristics, and skills that reflected my unique identity. Some were people I knew in real life and some were people I admired from a distance. Without a doubt, I learned the most from those I could engage with and whose faults and gray areas I could experience directly.

Although I didn’t find that perfect one-on-one mentor relationship I imagined, what I got was better. I learned from the gray. I learned from and struggled with people who were flawed and real and who I continue to respect and admire, despite it all. They taught me I could make mistakes, make amends, have strengths, weaknesses, and faults. And that what was important, wasn’t being perfect, but having the self-awareness to know I wasn’t and to seek out people who could help fill in my gaps.


Summer of Feminista 2013 is a project of Viva la Feminista where Latinas are discussing mentoring and what it means to them. Read how you can join Summer of Feminista.  Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

29 July 2013

Stuff I've written that's been posted elsewhere...

Just a quick note to point out two pieces that I wrote for other sites that perhaps you missed...

1) I interviewed US Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius while she was in town for Blogher '13:
This week a little boy was born in London. One day he will grow up to be the King of England. This week a little boy was born in Chicago. Who knows what he will grow up to be. One thing we do know is that the future king’s birth most likely cost half as much as baby boy Chicago. 
 
The state and cost of health care in the USA is why the Affordable Care Act is an important piece of legislation. I am unsure if the cost of health care will go down under Obamacare (I hear it won’t), but we do know that everyone will be mandated to have insurance. This, hopefully, should put health care in the affordable category for most of us. But will it help minimize health disparities in the US? This is what I asked Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

 To read the rest, visit The Broad Side.

2) Latina Lista asked me to write a short summary of the MALCS 2013 Summer Institute that I attended and presented at:
Columbus, Ohio is not the first place you would guess for an academic gathering focused on Chicana/Latina and Native American women studies with a feminist heart. But last week it was!

The MALCS 2013 Summer Institute is an annual gathering of Chicana and Native American scholars. This was my first time attending. I have failed to attend in the past mostly because I have not felt that my academic work had focused on Latinas enough. But after learning that MALCS also had a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) track, I knew I needed to go to present my work and hopefully learn from other attendees.

Within the STEM track, there were presentations on the low number of Chicanas/Latinas in STEM at all levels, from undergraduate students to faculty members.

Jean Rockford Aguilar-Valedz, PhD, used Gloria Anzalduan’s writing to frame her solution of the decolonizing science education. “Why are the advances that the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans made not discussed in the same manner as European civilizations?” I could not help but hear Edward James Olmos as Jaime Escalante saying, “You burros have math in your blood!” 
Read the rest at Latina Lista

25 July 2013

Summer of Feminista: Building a Circle of Mentors


Rosie Molinary is the author of Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina and Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about mentors lately.

I am turning 40 this year and it has me reflecting about the people who have had an impact on my life. In fact, as part of that reflection process, I am writing thank you notes to all those people, many of whom were mentors to me when I was young.

As I look at my thank you note list, I am struck by all the people who cared for me and offered me their wisdom and spirit as I came of age and grew into a young professional. They are women and men from all walks of life who saw something in me and took the time to help me be better so I could radiate out. That people invested their finite amount of energy into me, that I was part of how they lived their purpose in this world, is humbling and it makes me infinitely aware that I have that same responsibility.

Five years ago, my first book, Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina, was published by Seal Press. In it, I explored what it is like for Latinas to come of age in the United States while balancing what was expected from them in their homes with what was expected of them out in the world. As I traveled to share the amazing stories from Hijas Americanas (over 500 women shared their experiences for the book!), I stopped in at high schools and middle schools to share the stories. At every school, I met young Latinas with big dreams but who did not necessarily have the guidance available to them to bring those dreams to fruition. It wasn’t that their families didn’t support them—they were greatly supported at home. It was that their families didn’t know the educational systems in the US and, without someone to share that knowledge with them, the girls were at an incredible disadvantage.

Within months, a group of women coalesced around these issues. We were from all walks of life but we all held the common belief that resources matter and that empowered girls can profoundly change communities. Together, we founded Circle de Luz, a nonprofit with a mission to radically empower young Latinas by supporting their transformation through extensive mentoring, holistic programming and scholarship funds for further education. Our six year model welcomes members into our program in seventh grade and follows them to high school graduation while blending extensive mentoring with holistic programming and offering the girls a scholarship for further education when they graduate from high school.

In many ways, Circle de Luz operates as a typical non-profit. We write grants and host fundraisers to provide our transformative programming and cover our administrative expenses, but what makes Circle de Luz really special is our giving circles. The promise we make to our girls is a minimum of a $5,000 scholarship when they each graduate. In order to secure those funds, every single Circle de Luz class has a giving circle to support it. A giving circle is a group of like-minded women who want to be a part of making this dramatic difference and thus commit to giving $100 a year to each of the 6 years that their class of girls is in the program. That money goes directly to the scholarship fund and then each giving circle member, we call them mijas, can be as involved as they would like. Some of our mijas are local to Charlotte and can be involved in programs but our mijas come from over 25 states and countries and so many are engaged from a distance. We keep them up to date with our program through emails, videos, newsletters, and other connections.

Our oldest hijas, what we call our members, are entering twelfth grade now. They are radiant and confident, outspoken and funny, clear-eyed and ready. Watching them grow has been our greatest honor. When I think of what I have learned as a mentor in this amazing program, I realize that it is this: that the greatest impact you can have on a life is not by what you say but by always showing up, by being there even when it is hard for you or a stretch, by showing someone how much her life matters- to you, yes, but to the world most of all, by reflecting her radiance back to her. When you are a mentor, the gift you offer isn’t your stories so much as it is the opportunity for the person with whom you are connected to see her dimensionality and her possibility, to see you standing up for her truth so that she understands that it is worth it for her to stand up for it, too.

Circle de Luz is recruiting its newest class of hijas this fall and to welcome 5 more girls into the circle, we need to recruit a class of mijas to support them. If you are interested, please go learn more. It is our goal to have 50 mijas by August 1st (no financial commitment is due at this time) and we’re 15 amazing women away from that goal. Help us make it happen!


Book links are affiliate links that help support Viva la Feminista


Summer of Feminista 2013 is a project of Viva la Feminista where Latinas are discussing mentoring and what it means to them. Read how you can join Summer of Feminista.  Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

23 July 2013

#NineforIX Interview with Christine Brennan

This summer espnW is celebrating Title IX, the federal law that has provided girls and women access to athletic programs, with nine films. One film, "Let Them Wear Towels," which premiered July 16, documented the rise of the woman sports journalist and their biggest hurdle to success -- the locker room.

Today we don't bat an eye to see journalists, like NBC Chicago's Peggy Kusinski, grab an athlete right after the game and pepper them with questions. Sometimes she's in the locker room, sometimes she's on the sideline. She goes where she needs to get the story. And that is exactly why in the 1970s and '80s women sports journalists fought to gain access to the sweatiest and grossest place in sports. Earlier this year, WBEZ's Cheryl Raye Stout proclaimed her gratitude to former Chicago Bear Jim Harbaugh for questioning the policy to not let women into locker rooms. If we had to rank the feminist battles of the 20th Century, and some people like to do that, this might not be in the top 10. But it no less important than other glass ceilings that continue to be shattered.

I had the honor to speak to award-winning journalist Christine Brennan about the early part of her career, what the future holds for women sports journalists and how young women can take inspiration from her generation's battle.

VLF: I have to say that I watched what your generation had to endure in the locker rooms and am in awe. The poise you had in the face of some awful treatment and harassment is inspiring.

CB: Thanks, there were times when I would be the only woman in the press box. But most of the women in the film were ahead of me by a few years, five to seven years. They opened a lot of doors for me. I personally do not have any horror stories, at least not like what the other women went through. I was pretty lucky. In fact, I often I didn't notice I was the only woman. I wasn't looking for it. I was honestly blissfully ignorant that I might be the only woman in the press box. I was so focused on my job, that nothing was getting in my way. It was the men who would usually be the ones who pointed it out to me.

VLF: "Let Them Wear Towels" is set in the 1970s and '80s, yet there are still fields where women still feel as one of the few women. What message could today's young women in those fields, especially science and engineering, take away from this documentary to help them with their lives?

CB: I feel that if you have naivete and gumption, if you can combine those two then you got what you need. You can't always sweat the small stuff. Continue to do your job and hopefully do it very well. The women in the film were my mentors. You can see that they had great spirit and that nothing was going to stop them. This film is about winning. We won! If you can persevere, you will be fine. You are on the correct side of the issue. Inclusion will always win.

VLF: Yes, this film is about a huge win. BUT... to what extent are the highest echelons of sports journalism still a boys' club?

CB: I was just at the Association of Women in Sports Media conference. It was the 25th anniversary conference and had the largest turnout. That said, it certainly would be wonderful to have more women as sports editors and directors. Billie Jean King likes to remind us that we need to be charge. I do want to point out that the largest circulated sports section is at USA Today and our editor is Mary Byrne! But we can still do better. With that in mind, we need to remember that budget constraints are hindering the hiring of women sports journalists. We will get there, but it will take time.

VLF: What responsibility do you believe women sports journalists have to women's sports?

CB: For me, I cover far more men's sports than women's sports. But I did calculate my work for 2012, 25% columns were about women and that was in 2012 an Olympic year. Olympic years always see an upswing in reporting on women's sports. I do see myself as being aware of what is happening, alerting editors and writing about it. But I am not a promoter of only the good news. No one was more critical of Tonya Harding or Marion Jones than I was. I do not promote women's sports, but I do cover them. When I was at the Washington Post, every year they covered the men's US Open, but not the women's US Open. I went to my editor, pointed this out and he agreed that we should cover it, so I went. Over the year, eventually the golf writer took over the coverage, which was a good thing. When they're not writing glowing pieces, but covering the event.

I did express my disappointment in men coaching women's sports, especially when US Soccer hired a man as a head coach. He's a great guy, but his hiring sends the wrong message. The US women's soccer team is the most visible team and to have a man as head coach, when we have plenty of qualified woman after a generation of them playing and coaching soccer, it is just the wrong message. Girls who look up to players like Alex Morgan should see her being coached by a woman.

VLF: It is clear that there is a strong sense that one needs to be beautiful to get a broadcast job, even in sports. I was watching a sports talk show and half of the men were very schleppy looking -- wrinkled polos, beer guts, not clean shaven. When will we get women on sports shows that look like that?

CB: I hope we don't, cause that's gross! I have to say that we're closer than people think to seeing parity in sports talk shows, including having women who are not traditionally beautiful. Yes, we see beautiful women on the sidelines and I root for them. And I am especially rooting that when they are 50, that they are doing as much TV as they are now. I do not have beauty pageant looks, but I am doing more TV now in my 50s than ever before.

I know that I am getting all this TV not because of looks, but talent, brains, and opinions. Looks come and go, but you can't lose your brains, smarts, talent. We have been blinded by some hiring -- but I still root for them -- but I really think we are almost there at parity. Just look at all the veteran women who are thriving on air. I think you need to be smart to be on TV. Sure, we still love good-looking people, male or female, but sports is welcoming of veterans too, the not-so and good-looking.

Tune on Tuesday, July 23rd for the next installment of the #NineoforIX  series with "No Limits," the story of Audrey Mestre who died on Oct. 12, 2002 while attempting a world-record free-dive off the coast of the Dominican Republic.

Cross-posted at Gapers Block Tail Gate

22 July 2013

Summer of Feminista: A Good Mentor Is Nurturing, Tough and Lets You Have a Good Cry


Elisa Batista is a campaign associate with MomsRising.org, a national family advocacy organization with over a million members. She is proud to say that she has not cried on the job in at least two years.

I dedicate this blog post to the best mentors anyone could ask for: Markos Moulitsas, Yawu Miller, Jack Sullivan, and Mary Olivella.

I was 20 years old and sleeping in my then-boyfriend, now-husband Markos’s apartment in Boston. Like the SWAT team, he entered the bedroom, dropped a stack of weekly newspapers onto the bed, and said the following: “If you want to be a journalist, then write.”

Over the last 16 years, he has proven to be not only the best life partner anyone could ask for, but also one of the best professional mentors I have ever had. He has offered his brutal honesty of my skills – even if it caused me to shed some tears! – edited my resumes, cheered me on as I attained prestigious writing positions, and let me flounder until I found my way again.

An example of the latter is when I re-entered the paid workforce after some time as a stay-at-home mother. Even though he publishes a highly trafficked website, he would not consider me for a job there. “If I do that, people will say that you only got the job because of me, not because you earned it.” He was right.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to be mentored by a few good people. While I have had at least a dozen editors and supervisors, good mentors are far and few between. Being able to strike a balance between nurturing someone else’s talents while also offering honest but fair criticism is a talent!

At my first paid job as a reporter for a weekly Black newspaper in Boston called the Bay State Banner, I learned pretty much all aspects of the newsroom: how to report and write stories; how to proofread and lay out articles; and equally as important, how to handle criticism whether from editors or readers. My editor, Yawu Miller, was that perfect combination of showing genuine interest in developing my abilities, and providing honest feedback – which, at times, was hard to hear.

I remember after he re-wrote one of my stories, he called me into this office and gave me a copy of a grammar and writing stylebook. He let me know that while he thought I was a promising writer of color who would be snapped up by a daily newspaper, no way would any paper hire me for some of the basic grammatical errors that I made. “Some of this doesn’t make sense!” he scolded me.

I forced a smile and graciously accepted the grammar book. Then I went to the office’s dingy bathroom to cry. As a woman who prides herself with ambition and a stiff upper lip, I am embarrassed by the countless number of times I have cried on the job. No shame, ladies. Studies show that we live longer!

As Yawu predicted, I would leave the Bay State Banner and land a coveted paid internship at the daily Boston Herald. There, under the tutelage of a chain-smoking, old-school journalist named Jack Sullivan, I was able to get at least four stories published on the front page.

Like Yawu, Jack knew which stories I could competently cover and receive good placement in the paper. He also offered me that all-important constructive criticism, making me sit right next to him as he edited my stories. Want to experience a cringe-worthy moment? Have someone read out loud your bum sentences. Yikes. This was in the summer of 1999.

It’s been 14 years since I’ve seen Jack or even lived in Boston. I have changed a lot, professionally and personally. I am now married (to Markos), have two children and we live in Berkeley, California.

Professionally, I changed with the media landscape, first working online as a reporter in San Francisco then re-inventing myself as an online organizer. I was able to make the switch thanks to the mentorship of one Mary Olivella, the Chief Strategy Officer of my current employer, MomsRising.org. MomsRising is a non-profit organization with more than a million members in all 50 states advocating for family economic security. Our staff is as diverse as the members we represent. Mary happens to be the first woman and Latina mentor I’ve had my entire career!

I have worked closely with Mary for at least four years to utilize my writing skills in ways I never had before: in helping our members tell their stories by ghost-writing blogs or letters to the editors for them; crafting OpEds as a concerned citizen rather than objective reporter; soliciting stories from other writers; describing our accomplishments for grant proposals; and writing online action alerts, which admittedly, was not as easy as I once thought.

Despite years in fast-paced work settings with hard-nosed newsmen like Yawu and Jack, the first few online action alerts I wrote to our members on behalf of MomsRising had been completely re-written for me. The “e-outreach” – getting people to take action on something you’ve written – is an art form that I am beginning to figure out. But there’s a learning curve.

I’m at the point in campaign organizing I was in journalism almost 20 years ago when Yawu sent me to my first town hall meeting and gave me the grammar book. (Yes, I read it.) I am working hard, learning and finding my way in my new career. The good news is I have a mentor who is confident in my abilities and offering her feedback and support every step of the way.


Book link is an affiliate link that supports Viva la Feminista.

Summer of Feminista 2013 is a project of Viva la Feminista where Latinas are discussing mentoring and what it means to them. Read how you can join Summer of Feminista.  Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

20 July 2013

EVENT: Viva la Feminista on COLD News

There's a new show in Chicago! COLD News is a new show premiering its first season this July. The show will run July 20th, 27th, and August 3rd Saturdays at 10pm at Studio BE (3110 N Sheffield).

I'll be on the July 27th show!

And to help encourage you to come out and attend, use the code "Veronica" to get half off your ticket! Make sure to select July 27th.

This should be a fun event. And I hope some Blogher folks will decide to take an adventure off campus to see more of Chicago!

More about the show:
The show is the first of its kind in Chicago, a local live news show all about what's happening here in Chicago with interviews from some of the most informed people in town.

It will feature three reporters (comedians) doing independent segments about local events and what's happening around town!

Due to FCC regulations, they cannot divulge the extent of our lovely sponsor's generosity, but Powell Brew House will be in attendance for every show and will be generous to every audience member.

19 July 2013

What minors need to know about Illinois' Parental Notification law regarding abortion services

Starting August 15, 2013, minors seeking abortion services will need to either notify their parents/guardians or obtain a judicial bypass. And there is help for this!


Young women in need of their sevices can contact them:
  • Call toll free: 877.44BYPASS
  • Call or text: 312.560.6607
  • Email: judicialbypass@aclu-il.org 
Additional resources can be found on their website too. Y en Espanol, tambien!

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS LAW IS NOT IN EFFECT UNTIL AUGUST 15, 2013!

16 July 2013

Review: "Let Them Wear Towels" a film by #NineforIX


This week's installment of espnW's Nine for IX documentary series is, "Let Them Wear Towels," the story of a small group of pioneering women sports reporters who dared to enter the locker room.

How bad was it when women decided they too wanted to report on the goings on in sports? My childhood hero, Dave Kingman once threw buckets of water on Jane Gross and cussed her out. Hey, I wasn't even four when he came to Chicago to play for my Cubbies, so I forgive myself. Then there was a time when a hockey player lifted & escorted out another woman reporter.

The old boys club was still located in the locker room, so most men in sports did what they could to maintain that power differential.

Consider what a sports reporter has to accomplish in their daily reports and you can see where the power struggle fits in. If a player blows a save in the ninth inning (something us Cubs fans are far too familiar with), you have to ask what happened. And that asking usually happens in the locker room.

In "Let Them Wear Towels," we hear tale after tale of women trying to just do their job, but being told to stand in the hallway. Sometimes the team's press person would bring a player to the door for an interview. Other times, she would send her questions with a sympathetic male reporter. Melissa  Ludtke outlines how difficult it was for her to do her job without being in the locker room. Often guys would get to her in the hallway exhausted and would apologize, then go home.

Some felt it was easier for women to ask questions of the sport as they did not have to appear as if they knew it all, as men needed to do.They also felt they changed the way questions were asked. Instead of just asking, "What happened when you threw that curve ball that went for a homerun?" the women would ask, "How did you feel when you gave up the winning home run?"

Despite the hostility that these women faced, they did have some strong allies. Tommy John was fine with women reporters and even helped to gain one reporter access to the locker room but once Major League Baseball's commissioner heard about it, he rescinded permission. He claimed he needed to get permission from players' wives.*EPIC EYE ROLL*

Claire Smith had a super-ally in Steve Garvey. Once he came out into the hall and stayed there as long as she needed. But that's not all. He filed a grievance with team as to how they treated her. Garvey saw it as an issue as to how they communicate to baseball fans. Smith was his conduit to the fans, so why exclude her from doing that?

The women sports journalists quickly learned that access is not enough. Once inside, women were harassed. They mostly assumed that access would result in respect for the job and for them.

I highly recommend this for everyone to see. The battles fought were huge and done on an individual basis. It is also a huge testament to the need to engage men in feminist issues.

Tune in tonight at 8 pm ET/7 pm CT (seriously, you really want to watch the All-Star game!?).


12 July 2013

Summer of Feminista: On second thought, Latinas have a lot to learn from Sheryl Sandberg

Amanda Reyes is a reproductive justice activist and a History of Consciousness doctoral student at the University of California Santa Cruz. 

When I first saw Sheryl Sandberg’s TEDWomen talk, “Why we have too few women leaders,” I wasn’t very impressed. It felt like the same kind of talk I’d heard from successful white heterosexual cisgender women a thousand times before. You know, the kind of advice that’s useful if you don’t have to battle systemic racism, heterosexism, classism, transphobia, ableism, or any type of discrimination other than that based on sex. However, Sandberg’s book, which offers an extension of the advice she gives in her talk, ended up teaching me more than I ever thought it would. Though the advice is based on what Sandberg has learned in the corporate world, I believe that it has much to teach Latina leaders.

I don’t have to rehearse statistics for you to know that there are very few women leaders in the world and that the number of American Latina leaders is even smaller. Yes, we have Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, but there are less than a handful of Latina CEOs of Fortune 1000 companies and all 9 current Latina Congresswomen serve in the House of Representatives. While it is true that one does not have to be a CEO or high ranking government official to qualify as a leader, the small number of Latinas in these offices makes me sure that those Latinas who may have the skills and desire to become great leaders do not have many high-ranking senior Latinas to serve as role models.

While Sandberg acknowledges that systemic discrimination impedes many women from reaching leadership positions in many fields, she argues there are some “internal barriers” to success that some women might be able to address themselves. These include low self-confidence and unrealistic personal expectations (wanting to be the Superwoman). Sandberg also details barriers that are more relevant to those Latinas who desire to marry and/or raise children: not expecting our partners to contribute equally to housework and childcare and mentally removing ourselves from leadership tracks in anticipation of future, potentially non-existent, work-life conflicts.

In addition to self-work, effective mentors would go a long way in helping Latina leaders overcome these and other potential internal barriers. To mentor is to make actual the potential you sense in another. It is to care deeply about that person’s professional well being enough to be honest, constructively frank, and supportive. A mentor needs to be a good listener. It is also important for a mentor to be able to empathize with the values, experiences, and knowledges of those they mentor. For this reason, I believe that Latinas, like many of those who have been underrepresented in positions of power (government, academia, business, etc.), need mentoring, and we need it from those who understand and respect where we’re coming from.

This is complicated by the fact that in any given sector, Latinas are unlikely to find other senior-ranking Latinas or any women of color. If there are any, they may not have the time, energy, or desire to start a(nother) mentoring relationship. Because of this reality, I think that Latinas in the workforce, in academia, and in government (and all other places we lead) need to focus on mentoring each other.

Sandberg says that peers “at the same stage of their careers may actually provide more current and useful counsel” than an older mentor or a formally assigned mentor with whom you have little connection. “Peers are in the trenches and may understand problems that superiors do not, especially when those problems are generated by superiors in the first place.”

A senior professor at my university suggested that I take advantage of an opportunity to study in a doctoral program without any guarantee of funding, because I could always take out student loans. A fellow graduate student was told by another professor that she should just use credit cards to pay the thousands of dollars it could cost to attend academic conferences. The problem that these professors did not understand is that my colleague and I didn’t have the financial ability or desire to rack up debt. Each of us privately felt ashamed about our lack of means and willingness to take big financial risks, but, discussing the issue, we came to the conclusion that our professors’ economic backgrounds and their generation’s relationship to debt were different than ours. Talking to each other helped us to realize that our decisions to avoid excessive debt were not going to ruin our careers. We also felt better knowing that we weren’t the only ones whose families couldn't financially support us.

Because many Latinas (including the queer, disabled, trans*-identified, immigrant, not college-educated, and uncoupled ones) might not have access to mentors in senior positions, we need to reach out to each other to be the mentors that we don’t/won’t have. Each of us has valuable skills and experiences that can be shared, and we all have something that we'd benefit from learning. We're also aware of the various types of discrimination and difficulties that Latina leaders face.

These mentoring relationships, as Sandberg says, need not take large amounts of time out of our schedules. Mentoring can be as simple as answering a quick question every so often or meeting up for coffee every few months. The other side to this is that we don’t need to be afraid to ask questions or advice from our peers. Wanting honest guidance or a quick sounding board for an idea does not make one seem less brilliant or unsure of oneself.

Overall, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was a valuable reading experience. It taught me how to recognize my own strengths and shortcomings. (I’m confident in my own abilities, but I tend to be afraid of asking questions for fear of being perceived as less capable.) It also taught me that Latina leaders need to be there for each other, as peer and senior mentors, in addition to challenging the multiple forms of systemic discrimination that keep Latinas out of leadership positions. If we can surround ourselves with a diverse network of mentors and help grow each other’s successes, Latina leaders, our causes, and our communities will thrive.

Support Viva la Feminista by getting your copy of "Lean In" through Powells or Indiebound.


Summer of Feminista 2013 is a project of Viva la Feminista where Latinas are discussing mentoring and what it means to them. Read how you can join Summer of Feminista.  Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

11 July 2013

Soledad O'Brien wants you at #OfficeHours

Viva la Feminista is happy to participate in today's Office Hours event with broadcast pro, Soledad O'Brien at 2pm ET/11am PT.

This is your chance to ask Soledad a question about your career! She'll be sharing her own career advice.  And you can watch it all right here at Viva la Feminista. I thought this would fit right in with our Summer of Feminista theme!  So what are you going to ask?

About Soledad O'Brien, Award Winning Journalist, Documentarian, News Anchor and Producer

Soledad O'Brien is an award winning journalist, documentarian, news anchor and producer. O’Brien was the originator of “Black in America” and “Latino in America”. In June she launched Starfish Media Group, a multiplatform media production and distribution company, dedicated to uncovering and producing empowering stories that take a challenging look at the often divisive issues of race, class, wealth, poverty and opportunity through personal stories. Starfish Media Group continues to produce “Black in America” and “Latino in America” and other programming for CNN. In June 2013, O’Brien joined HBO and ‘Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’ as a correspondent.

O'Brien has reported on breaking news from around the globe. In 2011 she won an Emmy for "Crisis in Haiti Report" on Haitian orphanages, following the massive earthquake. Her coverage of Hurricane Katrina earned her and CNN a George Foster Peabody award. She also received another Peabody award for her coverage of the BP Gulf coast Oil Spill. Her reporting on the Southeast Asia tsunami garnered CNN an Alfred I DuPont award.

O'Brien's critically acclaimed documentary series, Black in America and it's follow-up "Latino in America" are among CNN's most successful domestic and international franchises. In 2013 "Latino in America 2", the story of a Latina boxer who dreams of Olympic glory, won the celebrated Cine Award for documentaries. Her documentary "Gay in America: Gary and Tony have a baby," and "Unwelcome, the Muslims Next Door" also won numerous journalism awards. O'Brien was named journalist of the year by the National Association of Black Journalists and one of Newsweek Magazines "15 People Who Make America Great." In 2013, O'Brien joined Harvard University as a Distinguished Fellow and was appointed to the Board of Directors of the foundation for The National Archives.

O’Brien is also the Moderator and Executive Producer of the National Geographic Bee. In the wake of hurricane Katrina, O'Brien and her husband Brad created a foundation to help disadvantaged young women get to and through college. This year they will award scholarships to 25 deserving young women. O'Brien lives in Manhattan with her husband and four children.

About Office Hours

Office Hours is a weekly, 30-minute video chat with extraordinary leaders. The live Q&A session grants you an exclusive inside look into the career path, lessons learned and personal advice from top leaders and experts - right from the comfort of their office.

09 July 2013

Summer of Feminista: Looking back at my mentors

Dianna Manjarrez is a working mom and public health professional.  She works in Chicago in HIV prevention with Latino communities.

Who has been your most helpful mentor?
I’ve had many mentors throughout my life, for different parts of my life. Some of them didn’t know they were my mentors because I didn’t refer to them with that title. They might have been friends, or teachers, or counselors, or just an interested staff at school. The earliest memory I have of a mentor is a teacher in middle school who took some time out of her schedule to connect with me and give me some dating advice, I didn’t date in middle school, I just had a crush on one of the students. I was in an ESL class at that time and my teacher was not Latina, but I welcomed her concern for me.

Later on in high school my mentors were usually my teachers, that one teacher that took the time to get to know me better, and encourage me, and believed in me. One of them was my English teacher, Mr. Barry Grimes. Mr. Grimes was a tough teacher, because he could see right through you, past the bad boy/girl act, the uninterested students act, and he pulled something out of you. He tried hard to teach us about life while getting us to read books and stories (like the Braided Lives Anthology). He was a quirky teacher, who always carried three moleskin notebooks in his back pocket; he used chalkboards and often wrote in the classroom brick walls to capture some of the quotes students said that he thought were worthwhile. He had a picture of a girl and a boy walking into the unknown next to the classroom clock and would often point it out to us, telling the class that was us, going out into the real world.

We wrote many stories and plays in his class, he would have us read them aloud for extra credit. Not many students read, I tried hard to read mine, and he would always comment that I needed to “slow down, read louder, and make eye contact”. Only once did he give me the full extra credit points for reading aloud, I was very proud of myself that day. When we submitted our stories, he always did a close reading of them; I always looked forward to his comments. One time I wrote a follow up story to “The Iguana Killer” by Alberto Alvaro Rios, Mr. Grimes thought it was so good; he wanted me to send it to the author. Mr. Grimes thought me the power of literature and stories. He nurtured my love of reading and writing.

Why is mentoring important for Latinas?
Mentoring is important for every young professional, but it might be more important for Latinas and women in general since we grow up in a culture and society that does not foster leadership skills in young girls. I’m sure there are some Latinas out there who had wonderful, strong women in their lives, but most probably grew up around quiet, submissive mothers and aunts. I’m not trying to say that our moms and tias can’t inspire us and guide us like a mentor can, what I am saying is that if you can’t find a role model or a guide in the women or men in your family, there is nothing wrong with looking outside.

Do you think Latinas need Latina mentors? Do you think women need women mentors?
A Latina mentor for a Latina would be ideal, however, sometimes mentors show up as people of different genders and ethnicities, I think what is more important is for the mentor to be genuinely interested in helping her mentee out, and is willing to know that because of the difference in gender or age or ethnicity there will be experiences that the mentor might not understand or be able to relate to, but he/she is still willing to and humble enough to be there.

Lately mentoring has become more popular and people are actively looking for mentors, which is a good thing because you can be more intentional in your relationship with your mentor. On the other hand, if you are looking for a mentor, and are feeling a little desperate because everyone says having a mentor is the thing to do, you might settle for a mentoring relationship that is not helpful and affirming. Instead of falling for this, I recommend that you be patient and look to the relationships you already have, and take stock of who those people that encourage, motivate, and support you are. They are ripe for becoming your mentor. You might not even have to ask them to be your mentor, but having a conversation with them and letting them know if they can be more intentional about guiding you and supporting you might not be a bad idea.


Summer of Feminista 2013 is a project of Viva la Feminista where Latinas are discussing mentoring and what it means to them. Read how you can join Summer of Feminista.  Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

08 July 2013

Interview with Tylan of Girlyman

Did you know that Tylan of Girlyman has a solo CD, One True Thing? Well, you probably do because her Kickstarter was a smashing success! I was lucky to chat with Tylan about this and much more.

Viva la Feminista: You were recently in Chicago to play at Space (actually in Evanson). How was the show?

Tylan: The show was amazing. It was honestly one of the best shows on the tour. The place was packed with love and support.

VLF: Who are your musical influences?

Tylan: I like really great songwriters. Paul Simon was the first one I obsessed over. Springsteen, Patty Giffin, Indigo Girls....and a lot of my peers who are not famous, but are playing shows and writing great music.

VLF: So...pick one act who most of us don't know about, but should?

Tylan: Oh, don't make me choose! (long pause...Jeopardy music....). Coyote Grace is a trio, and yea, my partner is in the act. But really, they are so talented. Their songwriting is so good and performances are so exciting.

VLF: Do you have a dream collaborator? Or have you already achieved that?

Tylan: I have gotten to work with a lot of my heroes. But so far never Patty Griffin or Ani. They are two huge influences and I would love to work/tour/collaborate with them in some way.

VLF: When did you write your first song?

Tylan: I was 14-years-old and wrote it for my English class. Our assignment was to write something, anything based on the book "Of Mice Men." I submitted a tape & lyric sheet. When I got it back it had A++++ on it. I already knew that music was important to me, but had never really tried my hand at songwriting. That teacher and her feedback really encouraged me.

VLF: You address the Pandora/Spotify phenomena on your website. Can you say more as to how these sites (which I admit I use) endanger musicians livelihoods?

Tylan:  I don't want to vilify any site. I think they are a bridge to the next way of doing things for musicians. The problem is that they aren't really compensating artists. I use Pandora every day. I like how it helps people discover new artists. It's a really different way than radio. This is an evolving industry. We have no idea what will fill that gap. Is it artists making money through airplay/album sales? How do we sustain this? How much do these music sites have a responsibility to sustain the artists that they build their business on? It's all pretty exciting. Musicians need to demand that we get compensated.

VLF: What was the Kickstarter experience like? Who should never Kickstart a project?

Tylan: It was life changing. It was my first big project on my own, as a solo artist. The response was quick. I had a $20,000 goal - the bear minimum for recording a professional album and within 36 hours I hit the goal. The Kickstarter ended with donations totally more than double! It was a clear mandate to make this album. I learned that what I do, personally, matters. It matters to people enough that they will put their money behind it. Kickstarter is starting to fill the gap. Kickstarter still has an assumption of ethics. You have to go into it asking yourself, "Do I need this money? Will I be able to deliver? Do I need this money for this project?"There is no one big rule, rather a self-administered ethical test. There is a sacred trust and no accounting for how money is spent. trust. quality control. ethical agreement?

VLF: What is your goal with your music?

Tylan:  It's a calling. It is something I've always been called to do. It also makes no sense! It makes more sense to get a 'job,' but I've always been called to create music. It is healing and a way to connect more deeply with the world & other people.

VLF: What is the kindest thing someone have done for you lately?

Tylan: Oh, so many things! It blows my mind. Just yesterday my partner & I were looking for a place to live in the Bay area. As we were looking at houses, my phone dings..it's a paypal notification of donation…Just out of the blue. The note attached said, "If you ever had any doubt, if you what you do is worthwhile & have a talent, here is something to remind you." This like this have been happening more so since I took this solo journey; Emails, cards, and physical notes of encouragement. So much love comes to you when you are following your path.

Tylan One True Thing-08-Love Then by Effective Immediately PR

06 July 2013

What does your handwriting say about you?

I get a lot of infographics to share with all of you. Mostly women's rights one that link back to some totally unrelated business. But this infographic is neither! As someone who is obsessed with finding the perfect pen, it's a lot of fun.


05 July 2013

Summer of Feminista: The Importance of Multiple Mentors

Raquel is a Latina feminist, multimedia journalist, social media strategist and soon-to-be NYU MA student, where she'll be studying new media and women's studies. 

Mentoring is important for any young woman trying to build her name in the professional world; but with language barriers and cultural differences, the need and difficulty in finding a suitable mentor for Latinas is often greater.

Can this non-Latino professor offer me the insight I need as a woman of color? Can the sole Latina academic adviser provide me with the specialized information I need for my discipline? Chances are, neither of these people will wholly fill the role.

As a 22-year-old Latina trying to make my way into news media, finding a mentor has been rough. According to a study by ASNE, Latinos made up 4 percent of newsroom personnel at all daily English-language newspapers in 2004, while a study from RTDNA shows that they secured just 6 percent of all staff positions at English-language TV news outlets in 2011.

Has my search been grim because there are so few Latina journalists out there? Probably.

But I come from a highly populated Latino area.

In fact, Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine ranked the University of Central Florida, my alma mater, as one of the top 10 colleges for Hispanic students in the U.S.

Considering that Orlando’s Latino population has more than doubled since 2000, making it the nation’s fourth fastest-growing Latino city in the U.S., UCF’s placement doesn’t come to much surprise.

But even in the city that some folk call “the other Puerto Rico,” there still wasn’t one Latin@ teaching in my journalism program.

With no journalists, or professionals, in my contact list, I needed to accept the fact that my mentor would have to be someone at my university, which meant he or she wasn’t going to look like me or share my cultural experiences.

And two years after I made that decision, I have to say, it hasn’t been that bad.

Actually, it’s worked out pretty well.

During my undergraduate years, I had two mentors, both of whom played a unique and crucial role in my life and career.

My first mentor, who I’ll call my professional mentor, was a white woman.

She was, and continues to be, the only female professor in my journalism program. I never sat in one of her classrooms, but I did make an effort to sit in her office. Often. In every chat we had, I learned a new statistic, fact or perspective on women in journalism, women in academia or just female professionals, which ultimately sparked my intellectual and academic interests and goals.

She was the catalyst to my feminist identity.

The amazing stories she shared with me about forgotten, or ignored, women journalists made me take my degree, my skills and my aspirations much more seriously. She was always honest and told me when I needed to step up and not be so shy, especially in this field. She helped me realize the importance of graduate school (and wrote an amazing letter of recommendation that helped get me accepted into every graduate program I applied to).

Once, while talking with my nephew about Spider-Man, she told him that I was a superhero for women. Her words of encouragement always helped instill a confidence in me that I, like most women, struggle with regularly. My professional mentor wasn’t Latina, and I wouldn’t change that.

My second mentor, however, was Latina.

Though, as my supervisor, she helped in my professional development, she mentored me in a much more emotional and intimate way. She is a caring woman who puts the needs of students above all else. Her joy truly comes from seeing her students succeed academically and professionally. She’s also one of the most honest and diligent women I know, which doesn’t sit well with a lot of folk. Rude, condescending, uncooperative colleagues make for uncomfortable working conditions that would leave anyone frustrated. But out of fear of perpetuating the angry, spicy Latina stereotype, a lot of Latinas stay quiet and take the insidious, professional punches being thrown their way.

Not her.

She stands with the underdog and calls out the big shots.

She showed me how to be respectfully assertive, and she let me know that doing so is OK.

She helped me understand that the sexist, classist and racist discriminations we face help shape us, and we mustn’t forget that in our professional lives.

She told me it’s OK if slang, which is a significant part of my vernacular, slips up during work hours, and that the disapproving eyes I receive when my ride picks me up with hip-hop music blasting from the car speakers are a reflection of others’ characters, not mine.

She taught me to not be ashamed of where I come from, even if my colleagues try to make me seem like I’m less than.
____
Latinas, like all women, are multidimensional. Our culture, experiences and goals create different layers; one mentor will not be able to fulfill all of our professional, intellectual and emotional needs.

Thus, I believe, it’s important for us to have multiple mentors. And, as Latinas, I also think it’s critical for at least one of those mentors to be Latina. Having a mentor who can understand your culture and your struggles fosters open dialogue and a sense of unity.

For those reasons, organizations like Circle de Luz in North Carolina, which empowers young Latinas through mentoring, classes and scholarships, are indispensible. They teach Latinas things that most professional mentors won’t, like how to pronounce words they’ve likely never used when speaking with their family or how to be media literate in such a racist, sexist society.

But that doesn’t mean that other non-Latino women and men can’t act as mentors, too. As my experience demonstrates, non-Latino mentors can offer a wealth of knowledge and can be equally inspiring and life-changing.

My advice, regardless of the ethnicity or gender of your mentor, is to reveal yourself. This has always been my biggest hurdle. As the first member of my family to attend college and pursue a professional career, I’ve always feared asking “silly” questions or stating concerns that would potentially make me appear “ignorant.” But mentors help us grow. And if we’re not transparent, then we’ll never reap all of the advantages available to us.

So, my final words: Open yourself up to criticism, and work with different mentors who are passionate about your professional, intellectual or personal growth, regardless of their ethnicities.


Summer of Feminista 2013 is a project of Viva la Feminista where Latinas are discussing mentoring and what it means to them. Read how you can join Summer of Feminista.  Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.

02 July 2013

Book Review: New Girl Law by Anne Elizabeth Moore

Have you ever read a book that when you finish you can still feel it swishing around in your brain? Yeah, New Girl Law: Drafting a Future for Cambodia by Anne Elizabeth Moore is that type of book. 

In the annals of Western feminists traveling to developing countries in an effort to empower, few tales are as truly feminist as Moore’s work in Cambodia. And while I say that as a friend of hers, I would say otherwise if I thought she was being imperialistic, as she is just as quick to critique friends’ work as a complete stranger. She would expect the same in return. This time, it is not the case.

In New Girl Law, the follow-up to Cambodian Grrrl, Moore is working with her Cambodian roommates to rewrite, Chbap Srei, a book that has set up expectations for girls for generations. Considering that Moore was living with some of the first Cambodian young women to live in a college dormitory there were traditional expectations  constantly being broken.

“Empowering non-Western women” is an easy trap for Western feminists to fall into. Most of us have probably fallen into it at least once. Pre-2001 terrorist attacks, I sold 1-inch squares of burqua material for the Feminist Majority to bring awareness to what was happening to the women of Afghanistan. It gave me the ability to say, “I told you!” when the rest of the world discovered the Taliban. But it gave me little knowledge of how “we” could “save” the women repressed under their regime.

So it would had been easy for Moore to land in Cambodia, whip out a copy of any pop culture feminist book and start teaching the young women she was living with about how feminism would save them. Rather, armed with feminist theory in her heart, Moore takes the time to investigate what it means to the women to be a woman in Cambodia. From hearing their complaints and where their draw their lines (Family approval is still an important factor in any marriage), Moore is far more a moderator than an empowering force.

The young women and Moore debate not just modern day women’s roles, but also the exact words on how to state it. This is not an easy task as Cambodians as a whole, not just women, have not been raised to question society, much less gender roles. So much of their lives are unspoken.

This is exhibited in two moving parts of the book where Moore gets the women to talk first about menstruation and then the genocide under Pol Pot. The first topic is one that is simply unacknowledged. Moore notes that despite living in a women's dormitory, one would never see a sanitary napkin or tampon anywhere. The latter is one that has been willfully untaught to young generations. For some of the women, Moore is the one to tell them that genocide happened in Cambodia.

Yet there are parts of their lives where the Cambodian women are vocal in supporting. While they see the “progress” that comes from globalization, they see the downside to importing Western culture. At the same time, Moore struggles with the women’s acceptance of Nicholas Kristof-like solutions such as more garment factories.

Moore’s irreverent writing style allows for you to be crying and laughing at the same time. And not that “I’m laughing so hard that I’m crying” either. So yes, have tissues at hand. It is a deceptively short book, but there will be times when you will want to put it down and walk away. You may even need a bit of chocolate before picking it back up.

If you have ever thought, "How can I, as a privileged woman/man/feminist/person from the United States/Western world, help the women of [choose a developing country] achieve freedom and be empowered?" you need to read this book. Because the answer to that question may be to first sit back and listen to them.

Please enjoy an excerpt from the book, chapter 3!

Support Viva la Feminista by getting your copy through Powells or Indiebooks.

Disclaimer:  I received this book via a publicist.

* Book links are affiliate links. If you buy your book here I could make a very small amount of money that goes towards this blog by helping me purchase books for school. Thanks!  

01 July 2013

Review: Venus Vs. - A #NineforIX Film by Ava DuVernay

Venus Vs. Premiere Date | July 2nd at 8:00PM ET on ESPN

People, pop the popcorn, grab your sodas and get comfy because "Venus Vs." is a must watch film. And no, you don't have to be a sports fan. Let me tell you why.

I love tennis, but I don't follow it very closely. When the Williams sisters arrived on the tennis scene, I fell in love. They were brassy and definitely not "country club" players. In Serena William's memoir, she discussed some of the racism that the sisters have experienced at the professional level. In "Venus Vs." this racism is addressed via the infamous "hair bead" situation and other incidents.

But most of this film focuses on Venus' decision to take on the decades long battle to obtain equal prize money for women players at Wimbledon. When Billie Jean King won Wimboldon in 1968, her prize money was equal to 37% of the men's pay package. In 2005, Venus joins the off-and-on fight for equal money. And in 2007 when women finally go equal pay, Venus is the one who wins the championship.

What truly had me glued to my screen was the fact that Billie Jean King kept going back to the idea that women's tennis needed that "one voice" to bring about this equality. Chris Evert is shown saying that the unequal prize money wasn't really a big issue for her, showing that even a superstar like her went along with the inequality. And when Venus came along and took the issue up as her cause, stuff got done.

Perhaps it was all Venus. She is definitely a superstar who did command attention to the issue. So much that the women of Parliament joined her. There's one amazing scene where the power of the red jacket is shown and now I need to get myself one. But do things really get done because of one person? Was it the right voice at the right time? Was it the right catalyst to get others moving on the issue? Who knows. But it's an amazing path to watch.

So if you are a tennis fan, sports fan, fan of women's equality or hell, even the political process, you are going to love this film. After the film, leave comments here or head over to the "I Pledge to Attend a Women's Sports Event" Facebook Page to discuss.



Venus Vs. Premiere Date | July 2nd at 8:00PM ET on ESPN

Director | Ava DuVernay
Producers | Ava DuVernay, Howard Barish, Tilane Jones, Libby Geist, Deirdre Fenton
Cast | Venus Williams, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe


Disclaimer

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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