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30 August 2013

When Feminists Attack...Each Other (Yes, another post kinda about Miley Cyrus)

I seriously wanted to ignore the Miley Cyrus VMA thing. But no, my good friend, Joanne Bamberger had to go and write a piece connecting the sexualization of girls to rape culture and then to the horrifying 30-day sentence for that rapist teacher in Montana. That's what friends do, read their friends' writing.

I then shared it on Facebook (more what friends do) and one friend made an excellent point. Joanne had stretched just a bit too far (my FB friend thought, really far) by using Miley as an example of the sexualization of girls. See, I totally followed Joanne's logic as stated here:
Even though she is 20, many of us still see her as the tween/teen star of Disney's Hannah Montana, and maintain a mental image of her as that more wholesome child, even as she struts on stage today, inviting sexual attention.
Yes, Miley is 20, but the collective we still do see her as a child. That could be one reason why she's trying too damn hard to be "sexy" and "edgy," to cast off the Disney-child-actor image. And let's remember that while 20-year-old Miley twerked, 17-year-old Miley danced on a stripper pole at the Teen Choice Awards. She's been trying to de-Disney-fy herself for years. Joanne then goes on to cite research that says, Yes, girls in the media are increasingly sexualized:
The increased media sexualization of young girls isn't just anecdotal. A recent study by The Parents Television Council found a "very real problem" of teen girls being shown in sexually exploitive ways that are often presented as humorous.
My 10-year-old watched Hannah Montana on occasion, so I don't know if Hannah was ever shown in sexually exploitive way. And if the fact that the PTC is a conservative group makes you question their finding, you can look at the work of the American Psychological Association's report on the sexualization of girls. They pretty much say the same thing -- girls in the media are increasingly being sexualized. I know there are those who would immediately dismiss anything that cites the PTC.

Joanne then goes on to cite the sad stats on rape:
Whether there is a connection between these images and teen sexual abuse isn't clear, but according to the Department of Justice, one-third of sexual assaults victims are ages 12-17, and those ages 16-19 are three-and-a-half times more likely to be sexually assaulted or become victims of rape than the general population.
 She is not saying that because girls are wearing short skirts, wearing make-up or anything like that and thus getting raped. She is merely stating the facts about the rate of rape.

She ends by asking us to consider the possibility that the fact that girls are highly sexualized in the media could be seeping into the judgement of authority figures like the judge in Montana:
In light of these statistics and the Parents Television Council's study, it doesn't seem to be a huge leap to suggest that with young girls increasingly sexualized in the media, teen victims of sexual assault may be judged more harshly because too many see a child as being "in control."
Let's recap...Joanne points to Miley Cyrus' poor sexy dance as evidence of the sexualization of girls in mass media...Coupled with the fact that teens are raped and then asks us to consider how media is impacting our decision making (NYTimes blaming an 11-year-old girl for her rape, a judge in Montana saying a 14-year-old was older than her chronological age, etc) when it comes to who to blame for a teen's rape.
I wondered: have today's sexually-charged images of young girls and women warped how judges, and others, view real life victims of rape and sexual assault?
No where do I see Joanne blaming teens for wearing sexy outfits, trying on sexy personas. Somehow Amanda Marcotte has interpreted Joanne's op-ed as blaming Miley for rape. She first puts Joanne in the same pot with the NYTimes blaming an 11-year-old by stating, "Look, teenage girls are going to experiment with trying on a bunch of sexual persona to figure out what works for them." Again, I want to point out that Joanne's op-ed is NOT about girls, but about how our media is warping how we see girls.

Amanda goes on to further misread Joanne's piece by stating:
As Bamberger notes, a huge percentage of rape victims, about one-third, are under 17 at the time of the crime. The reason for this isn't because teenage girls are awkwardly trying to see if they can work a miniskirt or are imitating their favorite pop stars' sexualized dance moves. It is because younger women are more pliable and therefore more easily victimized. 
 HUH? No where does Joanne link the rape statistics with girls, miniskirts or imitating pop stars. She does link the stats to MEDIA IMAGES. If we can "blame" advertisers for glorifying violence against women without blaming the models, but the advertisers/brands/photographers, why can't we critique the machines that are sexualizing childhood?

As I said at the start, (waaaay up there^) Joanne's op-ed would be better suited for post-stripper pole Miley than twerking Miley due to her age. But her main point is to ask us to consider how media is warping the way we see teen girls, especially teen girls who have been sexually abused or raped. It is this view of teen girls that leads others to judge that they "dress too skanky," "asked for it," "knew what she was doing," on and on. Where does that view come from? Many places, including media's depiction of girls.

And if you want something smart to read on the Miley thing, go read "How to Talk With Your Sons About Robin Thicke."

27 August 2013

Summer of Feminista: The Antidote to the Mentoring Poison

Francesca Escoto, Founder & CEO of the Innovators Institute and author of “Divorce Your Drama: Courage To Make The Tough Choices That Are Worth Every Tear”, is a startup coach, helping people turn their ideas into money.

I don’t want to lean in, lean forward, stand up, stand out, be assertive. I don’t want to show up, show off, toot my horn or speak up. I also don’t want to stay quiet, nor play the game, pay my dues, climb the ladder, or get off the ladder.

I want to be me. Is that too much to ask?

I am just sick and tired of people – both men and women – treating women as if there is something wrong with us and we need to get fixed.

When you add to the mix that I am Latina, well, I might as well get paid for breathing: I am a walking human experiment. The problem with Latin women are endless – health, education, social justice, economic access, biculturalism, ambiculturalism (WTF?), not enough Spanish, not enough English, asthma, diabetes, and apparently, a higher incidence of gall bladder disease after the age of 30. Who knew?

All the statistics, “the movement”, “la causa”, leave me feeling invisible and exposed at the same time, like a cadaver undergoing an autopsy: she’s dead anyway, we’re just trying to find out why.

Mentoring will certainly help Latinas play the corporate game and climb the ladder. It is something related to knowing the right people, having the right people sponsor you, and increasing your likeability and credibility factors for promotion. But I don’t want to talk about the corporate game. I play a different game altogether, and so for me, mentoring is not the answer. At least not mentoring as we typically describe it.

I’m not dead. So please let’s not go through the autopsy, trying to find out why I’m dead or dying. So, if I’m not trying to climb a ladder, I’m not trying to be the richest or most famous or most accomplished, there is nothing wrong with me. I am competitive, yet the rules of the game I compete in are different. I am on a race to make room for more winners, to make “the top” bigger by redefining it altogether.

And so it is with all of this as a backdrop that I finally approach the topic of mentoring. Mentoring is awesome, but not as a solution to any of the above conditions of the female species. Nothing cures a nonexistent illness. Mentoring can do absolutely nothing to resolve problems that don’t exist.

When mentoring is treated as solution to the problem of being female, it becomes part of the problem.

When mentoring is used as a tool to promote or even defend being a woman, it continues to be part of the problem because it is engaging in the same conversation, where being a woman is the topic, as if that was the real issue.

I believe the content of our conversation is skewed, focused on “the problem with women”, and not nearly enough emphasis is placed on the problem with humanity.

Here is my very bold observation: Men and women, equally, have yet to learn to get along and work together.

Our workplace relationships only mimic our social relationships – and they might even be a bit more civilized thanks to laws against sexual harassment. Women are part of the problem as much as men, but neither gender is inherently defective or in need of fixing. Both genders are humans, and humanity is the issue we are dealing with. So long as there is the capacity for greed, martyrdom, domestic violence (against men, women and/or children), envy, jealousy, abuse (sexual, mental, emotional, economic, etc.), women will be at risk. And boys. And girls. And men. We tend to forget that women are raising boys, and that women are passing on the very skewed values that they resent living by. This is not an oversimplification of the problem. On the contrary, I’m about to cry here with overwhelm when I consider the depravity of the human condition. Here are some of the issues that plague our species:

Personality disorders
I have to name this one first, because we seem to talk about issues in the workplace and at home and in the world, without taking into account that many humans are mentally unfit (and undiagnosed) not only for leadership, but also for basic human relations. Period. But it is their very personality disorder that makes them more attractive. Narcissists can be so charming! And bipolars are so creative (on the high side), and histrionics can be just so entertaining… Borderlines can be such great sales people. And on we go with the kinds of madness we must learn to live with. (Because we really do have to learn with it).

Character issues
Some people are not ambitious, they are unscrupulous. Some others have a hard time apologizing, and others take responsibility for stuff they didn’t do. Some people are pessimistic, and others are unrealistic. A few people are unreasonably happy all the time, and you wonder when the nervous breakdown is gonna hit. Some people are undisciplined and disorganized, and others are easily angered. Others are controlling about everything. Every human I know, males and female, including myself, has character flaws. Big ones.

Animal instincts
There is part of humans that is not so intellectual, orderly, or even rational. Chemistry is strong, but instincts can be stronger. Humans do more to avoid pain than to seek enjoyment. I would argue that addictions have more to do with avoiding the reality of pain than it does with the intent to feel good all day. Sometimes our instincts get the best of us in the worst of situations. And vice versa.

Until further notice, men cannot become physically pregnant nor breastfeed. Furthermore, breastfeeding releases into the body the same hormone that is released after sexual intercourse, which makes a person feel more attached and “cuddly”. Until men can breastfeed, they will rely on sex to feel something that women can feel without intercourse. Then again, not all women choose to breastfeed, and when they do, they do so for different lengths of time. In a similar manner, until further notice, men are not in control of having children. They are (truly, regardless of the law) completely powerless when it comes to procreation. They can impregnate a woman, but they can do very little after that. And what they can do, they have to do with her consent. Being a woman, I empathize with the pain of many men who want their children and the women either choose to abort them or limit his parental involvement. (C’mon ladies, you know this is true!). The burden and the blessing is in both sides.

Now, I’m not defending sexism, nor am I knocking mentoring. And I do consider myself a feminist – a defender of being feminine. I am a life coach for goodness’ sake! I believe in this stuff. Its just that mentoring cannot fix personality disorders, character flaws, nor biology. Here is what I would love to see in a mentoring relationship: an honest-to-goodness conversation about character flaws, a celebration of strengths, and genuine caring for people, going both ways, between mentor and mentee.

When mentoring focuses on anything other than the human experience, it loses its power to be transformative. And don’t get me started on paid mentoring. If you are paying for mentoring, what you are getting is a sub-standard coach who didn’t want to get certified or doesn’t genuinely care enough for you to help you, for free. If they don't have time for you, they should not make time for money. If a mentor wants to charge you, ask them for a coach certification or a therapist license. The last time I paid for friends was in college, when I joined a sorority, and while it was worth the fun, I'm too old for that.

But I digress.

The antidote to mentoring is relationship. I want to see Latinas being who they are, and allowing themselves to forge relationships with others, at any level of professional or personal development, based on a genuine interest in who the person is and in their story. There is no intimidation, no insecurity, no artificial distance between mentor and mentee.

This looks like an invitation for coffee, a daring phone call to someone that you don’t know but wish to know, a happy-birthday card to someone that you barely know but believe is adding something to the planet by being alive. Relationships look like tough conversations with people we disagree with, in an effort to understand them, not necessarily to change minds. Relationships look like an effort to meet people who are living the lives we want to be living (or so we think), and asking them questions about that life. Relationship looks like wanting more for the world we live in, and nurturing one, two, ten leaders in our lifetime because we believe in their dream and vision for this planet.Some of these relationships will become friendships, even sisters. Some will become co-workers, bosses, employees, and others will die right after “hello”. After all, we are dealing with the human condition (see the list above).

In a world of strata, asking a question has gotten expensive and complicated, and it has been labeled “mentoring”. But that’s their game, not mine. In my game, asking questions is free, it is simple, and you just do it. And you approach people who have the answers to your questions. And you answer the questions that are asked of you, to the best of your ability.

Yes, this game has fewer players. True, not everybody plays by these rules. My response is “So what? How is that working for me?” This is my game. These are my rules. And in my game, there are no losers. So when someone turns down my offer for coffee, or a phone call, or a visit, or advice, I just keep playing my game. In my game, the one who always asks questions and helps others, wins.

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.

26 August 2013

Staples has a new teacher benefit program

Today is the first day of classes for Chicago Public Schools!

The joy of this day is a shared joy. Ella could not wait to get back to her friends. Reminder, here in Chicago, we've practically abandoned neighborhood schools, so her BFFs are scattered across the city and not around the corner like when I was a kid. Anywho...

I went to an event for Staples the day before Blogher and learned about their new reward program for teachers & classrooms. I shop at Staples a lot, so promoting this reward program wasn't a big deal for me.

As I said, Staples is my choice for my office supply habit. Because of that, I have a Staples Rewards card. It's free to get.

Now all I need is for Ella's teacher to have her own Rewards Card and after I link mine to hers, she gets rewards from what I buy!

Here’s what teachers get when parents shop:
  • 2% back in rewards on everything, excluding postage, phone/gift cards and savings passes
  • 5% back in rewards on every Copy & Print purchase
Teachers can earn up to $50 from as many as 40 parents each year. That’s as much as $2,000 back in rewards every year.

While we are done with our back to school shopping, I know there will be more items we will need to buy for school. Especially given the budget cuts that just keep on coming! Good luck!

Disclaimer: While I did not get paid to promote this, I did win a pair of ear buds at the Staples event and got a swag bag of back to school items. I did decline their free lunch.

22 August 2013

Summer of Feminista: On Mentoring: La Luzma, La Pixie and Me

Linda Garcia Merchant founded Voces Primeras, LLC, a production company dedicated to creating and distributing documentary-style features of pioneering Latinas to the educational, political and retail markets in 2006.

It began with a Facebook post asking the two of us to work on putting together some presentations for her in Chicago.

It began with her excitement at connecting with a generation of young people at SUNY Binghampton and their enthusiasm toward what she had known all along—that to fight injustice one needs the passionate songs of the poets. Words sung as wisdom, as fuel, as beacon and lightpost both illuminating the way towards change and as sentry against resistance.

It began with a question. ‘I don’t know if you know each other, but I would like to present at a few venues, sell some books, spend some time in Chicago—it’s been too long’. “She” is Dr. Luzma Umpierre Herrera, iconic second wave profa from Bryn Mawr—veterana of too many battles, too much challenge, and too many wars between the sexes. “We two” included myself and Sandra “La Pixie” Santiago, creator of the Butterfly Poetry Project.

We knew each other, “La Pixie” and I. Sandra is a wonderful example of the large range of talent and ability packaged in equal parts whimsy and beauty that is Latina performance art in Chicago. Sandra belongs to a flourishing community of women writers, poets and performance artists housed in variety of collectives around Chicago. The Butterfly Poetry Project is her ‘arts incubator’ where Latina performers of all types and levels of ability can perform in front of an eager and generous audience.

Sandra and I didn’t know each other well, but in the lifetimes that can pass as seconds in art years, we were almost old friends. I had once performed at the Butterfly Poetry Project, where I was allowed to ‘howl’ with La Dulce Palabra Spoken Word Ensemble. We’d made a film that she appears in called ‘Yo Soy Eva’; that counts as an instantly long history.

Sandra and I worked well together I think. We met all challenges head on, talked a lot, strategized even more and in the end, accomplished a pretty good weekend of events. We were able to count on one another, navigating all that is required of producing not one but three events over one weekend.

We shared something else we would discover in the hurried moments between our introduction and those presentations—that neither had ever met our mentor, Dr. Luzma Umpierre Herrera. I’m sure we both thought the other had some great extensive history with La Luzma. We laughed when we discovered our shared reality. Ah, the power of Facebook—a world filled with the virtual lives of overbooked people.

Luzma had mentored me before we had ever spoken. When I was a teenager, she had taught of my mother’s political campaign for Congress in her courses at Bryn Mawr. The teenage challenge of my life was being presented to young women that only knew of Gloria and Bella and Betty as the architects of feminism. Luzma introduced these young women to the possibilities of Betita, Martha, Anna and Rhea, expanding their understanding to include women of color in the collective construction of the women’s movement. I wonder how many of those students left those courses open to, and seeking out, the possibilities of future collaborations with women of color.

The book she was selling, ‘I’m Still Standing’ was self published. I was in awe of this fact because all my mentors were self published. During the Chicano and Feminist movements, Martha Cotera, Rosemary Roybal, Dorinda Moreno, Felicitas Nunez and Anna Nieto Gomez had self published seminal works. This was at a time when all women of color could do was to self publish and sell their work at conferences.

I suspect that Luzma’s greatest gift as a mentor is in identifying like minded spirits and pointing them in each others direction, giving them some daunting task or moment to complete and then watching them shine. It is the only way I can explain how seamlessly Sandra and I were able to work together in fun and sisterhood. Sisterhood, La Luzma knew it in her teaching and in her living that concept to so many, for so long.

I saw this in Luzma’s face when we finally met at lunch before the first of her three presentations. It was the mischievous twinkle in her eye once we all sat down to eat. For the longest I couldn’t figure out what that meant, that all knowing slight grin she kept as we ate. Momma shared her growing up in Chicago, stories of her mother and grandmother—all foundational feminists. I just watched and wondered how I had gotten so lucky to live the life I’d been given, sitting at a table with three phenomenal Latinas.

Reading her book continues to be a challenge. She had sent a copy of her book to momma, signed with a lovely dedication. That book is still on my mother’s nightstand, read cover to cover, sometimes parked under the Spanish dictionary. “She has such a command of Spanish” momma would say. “I want to make sure I understand this”.

I still haven’t read the book.

I did however get to experience the book, come to life in Luzma’s performance of her work at DePaul. I said as much afterwards, when she and I had a moment alone. I sat down next to her and stumbled through my praise of her performance, not making eye contact. I was still processing what I had just witnessed; still reeling from the dimensions of prose in movement, in sound, pouring from the infinite depths of hurt and joy and triumph and tragic steps along a time line of defiant challenge. A lioness roared, and we all paid attention. I can say all these things now, much removed from the moment—safe in the distant comfort of memory. Then, all I could say was thank you. All I could do was look at my feet.

I was troubled by my inability to articulate in the moment, how thrilled I was to experience La Luzma and her work. This followed me to the MALCS Summer Institute at Ohio State University a few months later where we were both presenting. I was premiering a new film ‘Yo Soy Eva’ at the conference and she was in the audience.

I knew I would see her and wanted to clear that up, more for my own benefit—or so I thought. I didn’t get to go to her panel, but I saw her between sessions the next day where she introduced me to a colleague with a big smile and high praise for my work.

I realized at that moment how fragile the creative spirit can be, because in that simple compliment, I felt complete and nourished. When we acknowledge each others creative efforts, we cultivate the space where the essence of us lives. La Luzma understood and respected that in both Sandra and I in her request for assistance. We understood and accepted the task with the honor of being asked. We worked together and made it happen.

Maybe this is the road all journeys of mentoring should travel. We as women, as Latinas, as artists, as activists, need to find and cultivate the creative spirits in one another. We meet all battles, all challenges, and all wars with the same fearless energy. That energy has to be replenished and that fuel has to come from the cultivation and fulfillment of our creative spirit.

Mentoring, in its structured and unstructured forms, is about being open to shared experiences. It is about recognizing how we are being for one another as women. It is about having a perspective that acknowledges our collective connection to the human condition within each other. It is about reaching out in every moment to say, ‘I am here to tell you that you are great’. To know we live in a world where anyone of us can say to one another ‘I would like to present at a few venues, sell some books, spend some time in Chicago—it’s been too long’ and be honored to be a part of the acknowledgement and cultivation of another creative spirit that is far too often running low from too many battles, and too many wars.

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 August 2013

Congrats Ryno!

The familia & I took a short vacation last week (let's use that as the reason why this blog was so quiet, ok?) to the LA-Anaheim area. So it was sometime late in the day on Friday that I found out that my favorite baseball player, Ryne Sandberg, was named interim manager of the Phillies. It took until Sunday for him to notch his first win as a manager and Monday was win number 2!

As a Cubs fan, my heart broke when the Cubs didn't give Ryno a chance to manage. Heck, even seriously consider him as the manager! It broke even more when he was welcomed in Philadelphia and just knew that he would be manager one day. Am I a Phillies fan now? Nope. But I will be rooting for Ryno to turn the team around and a world of success. Now to get me some tickets for the homestand at Wrigley.

07 August 2013

Book Excerpt: Bi by Shiri Eisner

My summer reading has been lower than usual (thanks so much, PhD program!), so I can't review every book that's been sent to me lately. Instead of a review, I am bringing you an excerpt of Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution. I did read the introduction and have high hopes for the book. It's a discussion that is long overdue. I hope you enjoy!

About Bi:

Depicted as duplicitous, traitorous, and promiscuous, bisexuality has long been suspected, marginalized, and rejected by both straight and gay communities alike.

Bi takes a long overdue, comprehensive look at bisexual politics—from the issues surrounding biphobia/monosexism, feminism, and transgenderism to the practice of labeling those who identify as bi as either “too bisexual” (promiscuous and incapable of fidelity) or “not bisexual enough” (not actively engaging romantically or sexually with people of at least two different genders). In this forward-thinking and eye-opening book, feminist bisexual and genderqueer activist Shiri Eisner takes readers on a journey through the many aspects of the meanings and politics of bisexuality, specifically highlighting how bisexuality can open up new and exciting ways of challenging social convention.

Informed by feminist, transgender, and queer theory, as well as politics and activism, Bi is a radical manifesto for a group that has been too frequently silenced, erased, and denied—and a starting point from which to launch a bisexual revolution.

Chapter 1:
Stereotypes are the immediate meanings attached to bisexuality and bisexual people. When people think about bisexuality, stereotypes are what they think about—this is what they “know.” These stereotypes comprise a body of (imagined) knowledge about bisexual people, about the meaning of bisexuality, and of the way it works. A reading of biphobic stereotypes can be enlightening for our understanding of the social and cultural meanings given to bisexuality. Afterward we could proceed to ask: How can we, as bisexuals, use these meanings to our benefit?

Here is a basic list of commonly cited stereotypes about bisexuality. If you’ve traveled through a patch of life carrying a bisexual identity, there’s a pretty good chance you’d find these familiar:

Bisexuality doesn’t exist
Perhaps the most popular belief about bisexuality. According to this stereotype, there is no such thing as bisexuality—and people who do claim to be bisexual are simply wrong or misguided. Needless to say, this notion both feeds and is fed by bisexual erasure. It creates the impression that bisexuality doesn’t appear in popular culture (or indeed anywhere) because it really doesn’t exist. This also causes people to ignore (erase) bisexuality where it does appear for that very same reason. (What you know is what you see.)

Bisexuals are confused, indecisive, or just going through a phase
A “natural” extension of the first one, this stereotype explains how it happens that some people actually do identify as bisexual—they simply have it all wrong. This stereotype also invokes the idea of alternating between partners of different genders, meaning: a perceived failure of consistency. If a “true choice” can only be defined as a single gender preference, then structurally, bisexuality is impossible by definition.

Bisexuals are slutty, promiscuous, and inherently unfaithful
If a single gender preference is the only choice imaginable, then any- thing exceeding that number would automatically be perceived as excess. The idea of excessive sexuality then naturally leads to a notion of promiscuity. According to this stereotype, by virtue of having more than one gender preference, bisexuals are indiscriminate about their choice of partners and are therefore slutty or promiscuous. The idea of inherent unfaithfulness comes from the widely held belief that bisexuals are incapable of being satisfied with only one partner (since, evidently, they can’t be satisfied with only one gender).

Bisexuals are carriers or vectors of HIV and other STIs
Relying on the previous stereotype, bisexuals are often thought to be more likely than monosexual people to carry and spread HIV and other STIs. Often combined together, this stereotype and the previous one both imagine bisexuals—bisexual men in particular—as people who engage in indiscriminate sex with multiple partners, collecting various STIs as they go along and spreading them on as they go. This stereotype, of course, leans heavily upon the assumption that having sex is infectious in and of itself, conveniently dismissing information about safer sex practices as well as other, nonsexual ways of contracting these diseases.

Another component of this stereotype is ableism, as it is heavily charged with negative views toward disabled and chronically ill people. It draws on severe social stigma working against people with HIV, AIDS, and other STIs, as well as the notion that STIs are in fact a punishment for promiscuity or for certain sexual practices.

Bisexuals are actually gay or actually straight
This stereotype draws upon the second cluster of stereotypes that I listed above, according to which bisexuals are confused—that we are actually anything other than bisexual. In hegemonic discourse, this “anything” is usually imagined as the narrow option of either gay or straight. Interestingly, for bisexual women the presumption is that we’re really straight, while bisexual men are often presumed to be really gay. This suggests a presumption that everyone is really into men— a phallocentric notion testifying to this stereotype’s basic reliance on sexism.

Bisexuals can choose to be gay or straight
This stereotype envisions bisexuals as people who can choose between gay or straight identities and lifestyles. The stereotype couples bisexuality together with an idea of “privilege,” and in this way is used to decrease the legitimacy of unique bisexual identity as well as politics. It disqualifies bisexuals from participating in gay movements by imply- ing that bisexuals will always leave their gay or lesbian partners for an “opposite sex” relationship. (Relationships with nonbinary-gender people never seem to be part of this popular imagination).

All of these stereotypes are personalized, relating to particular people (who identify as bisexual), and are taken literally and at face value. They imagine bisexual people—and bisexuality itself—as inauthentic, unstable, predatory, infectious, and dangerous. Implicitly, these stereotypes also entail a demand for normalcy because they present bisexuality as a deviation from the norm, and therefore inherently perverse.

Support Viva la Feminista by purchasing a copy of Bi through Powells or Indiebound.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from a Seal Press publicist.  

05 August 2013

Summer of Feminista: A Responsibility

Brenda Hernandez is a law school diversity professional. She is also a feminist activist and blogger at boricuafeminist.com.

I am Latina. I am a feminist. I am a first generation college graduate. I am a first generation law graduate. I am a young professional. It is because of these identities that I feel a responsibility to my community, to all the communities in which I can be a mentor. I have always sought out opportunities whether formally or informally to be a mentor. Mentoring isn’t just helping people achieve their school or work goals, but also helping them discover who they want to be.

Mentorship is important because it gives people the opportunity to hope, to see themselves or who they want to be, as possible. When I lived in NY, I became a mentor to a Latina senior in high school through a mentorship program. Did we have everything in common? No. But for her to see a person who grew up with a similar socio-economic background, be able to successfully complete college was very important. Could she have developed a successful mentor relationship with someone completely different? Sure. However, I think understanding the pressure she felt from her community to succeed not only brought us closer but made her listen to what I had to say.

As I look around my own profession as a higher ed administrator, I do not see many people that look like me or have a similar background. My former boss at my previous job was a white woman however she had worked her way up in twenty years from a receptionist to Dean. Her knowledge in the field and also her experience as a young ambitious woman made her an amazing mentor. I learned so much from her, not only about my job but how to be a professional. Despite the lack of people of color, I do see many powerful women. I have found mentors in them and their advice has been invaluable. But knowing what it feels like to be the only [fill in the blank] keeps me motivated to reach out to those looking for direction and support.

I am never one identity at a time. Each identity factors into how I see the world. Being able to exist in an intersectional space allows me to support many different people. It lets me seek support from different spaces. Strengthening these networks through mentorship is a responsibility not because I fall into these labels but because I embrace them.

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 August 2013

Review: Elliptical Bicycle

It's already August! If you're like me, that means you're wondering where the heck summer went. If you're in Chicago, you know that not did summer fly by, but also failed to show up half of July. But you're also thinking, "What am I going to do with the rest this fleeting summer?"

One recommendation is to hop on an elliptical bike.

The family & I were given the opportunity to test drive one earlier this summer. And it was...different. We all had fun, but this machine gets some getting use to. We also only spent 30 minutes on them, so a longer test drive is still in order. It's quite the experience!

The weirdest thing is that there is no seat. See the picture to your right...Yup, so seat. So you need to stand up tall at all times. I tended to lean into the handlebars. And yes, it is an elliptical machine built into the bicycle, so your thighs are going to get a work out. Because you are standing, you are way higher off the ground than on a regular bike. They are also longer, so when I was riding behind my then-9-year-old daughter, I felt a mile away from her. Last quirk...dismounting is half-way between a fall and jump. It takes awhile to get use to that.

If you have the cash to buy one, go for it. For the rest of us, you can rent these babies from Fitness Experts on Clybourn (non-Chicagoans, just use your fave search engine for you local place). Pretty convenient location as they do have street parking and a garage. Plus it's just a few minutes to the lake front on the bike.

If you do try it out, let me know! And yes, you still have to wear a helmet.


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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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