I have been hesitant in many ways to write about Netroots Nation 09. As always, I am grateful to have the opportunity to come to these spaces, even if it ends up being an isolating experience. Trust me, NN09 is not like the Allied Media Conference, where while yes I faced challenges, as an activist rwoc blogger I didn’t feel so completely alone, so compelled to render myself invisible and confront that invisibility all at the same time. That has been my experience here at NN09.
I won’t get into the more personal ways I have been marginalized and forced to make myself invisible. I will write about that over at Mamita Mala, pero I want to write about how in these so called progressive spaces, women of color, specifically radical women of color who dare to question the way feminism is framed and the way struggles done in our name are framed, are forced to make a statement by their absence.
Attacking the blogger, not the person
On the first day at Netroots Nation I encountered a fellow blogger, a male of color who has criticized me and this blog before. He specifically began attacking me prior to my going to the Democratic National Convention as a credentialed blogger. This person attacked my perspective as a Nuyorican/Puerto Rican woman, my use of language (specifically Spanglish), and clearly did not do his homework and stil hasn’t, because he claims that VivirLatino takes a conservative stance towards Latin American politics. This blogger does not claim the word Latino because he feels it erases/marginalized indigenous identity in Latin America, which is a position I can respect even if I disagree with it. It’s actually quite funny because the reason why this blogger and I started talking in the elevator here at NN09 was because I said something in Spanish. When he told me who he was, I reacted by telling him that I felt like he didn’t like me very much. This apparently was code for “take out your video camera and film mala”.
To be honest, at first the camera didn’t bother me. I am confident enough as a blogger and as a mujer. Additionally I was protected in some way by another person who filmed me being filmed. Pero the longer I stood in the gaze of his camera lens, which included a very obvious panning up and down over my body, the more it felt like a violation. The blogger was attempting to explain to me that his attacks were not of me, Maegan Ortiz but rather of Mamita Mala the blogger. In fact he pointed out that now that he had seen me, he had a different impression.
Here’s the problem, people that know Maegan la Mamita Mala Ortiz know that what you see is what you get. Mamita Mala isn’t just some cute sounding persona, it is chosen name that reflects my identity as mujer Rican mami and the muliple layers of that. I speak in Spanglish, I can code switch like no one’s fucking business, and look fierce while doing it. This blogger tried to separate my blogging identity from my “real? identity and failed porque they are continuing lines/pedazos de vida.
This blogger then thought it would be a great idea to make fun of my body language in a way that insinuated stereotypical Latinidad much in the same way that Jose Antonio Vargas referred my flailing Puerto Rican ponytail in a Washington Post interview during the DNC last year. Additionally, in a completely machista closing move, the blogger attempted to take credit for my writing on certain issues and ask why I wasn’t Mamita buena.
I don’t think the blogger in question has posted the video he took of me. Likely porque he looks like machista asshole attacking a mujer with his camera and words and I come off as fierce. Pero let there be no mistake. This experience set a tone for me that has left me feeling unsafe. I can remember when the encounter went down people were around watching pero were people doing anything other than observing? The next day, the blogger in question stood in front of me offering me chips at a movie screening. I and one other person told him to just stay out of my face. I haven’t seen him since pero honestly being here at Netroots Nation now feels in many ways physically unsafe and I don’t have a posse of radical women of color to protect me or a circle of sanity to retreat to the way I did during the DNC. What I do have is other pro-migrant bloggers who have done a hell of a job rendering me invisible and forcing myself to make a statement by making myself invisible. Pero that’s a whole different post that will come next.