Today is the birthday of Chicana activist Martha P. Cotera. I have to admit that I didn’t know anything about the Chicana feminist, educator, and librarian before I noticed that her birthday was listed in my planner. So I decided to do some research and I’m glad I did. Cotera, born in Chihuahua, Mexico and educated primarily in the U.S. was a founding member of the Raza Unida Party in Texas. Her work, including two books, Diosa y Hembra and Chicana Feminist (which I look forward to reading), has centered on the history and role of women inside Chicano culture, including activism. While the core of this work was written in the 1970’s, it is very relevant today as we look at the space given to women within many activist movements.
I personally struggle with the word feminist, especially given how it has been used by so many, including white women, as a way to further push intersecting issues that Latin@s face under the rug. So I am especially fascinated by how that word is adopted by others. Check out this clip from Chicana por Mi Raza, where Cotera talks specifically about that word and how it was received.
As many of you know, I have contributed occasionally to the website, Feminist Review. Basically, Feminist Review is a website that does reviews on everything from books to zines to clothes. I never thought to even look at the website before I was approached by one of the editors, Mandy Van Deven, to write up a few reviews for them. It’s a feminist site, and well, I don’t call myself a feminist.
But since then, I’ve been reading the site regularly–they always have interesting reviews up and lots of times they promote items from sellers at Etsy (a website that hosts individuals looking to sell items they crafted themselves). Because I know so many women who could *only* sell their product by marketing it themselves, I really appreciate that a bigger feminist website is willing to treat Etsy sellers like legitimate businesses with a product to sell.
So, when I found out that FR was going to be holding a fundraiser to help raise money for the site–I decided to ask Mandy to do an interview for VL.
The following is that interview! 1. Can you talk about what Feminist Review is and how it works?
I started Feminist Review three and a half years ago because I’d
gotten really invested in indie media through my work with Altar
Magazine and Clamor. When the latter closed its doors, I still had this overwhelming desire to make media, but I knew print media was out of the question. Blogging was something I was aware of, but I had never been a part of the scene directly. Actually, at the time I was working at the same nonprofit as one of the founders of a very popular feminist blog, so I heard about a lot of the stuff that would go down in the feminist blogosphere from her, and although I was intrigued by the idea of forming a community online, I was enormously skeptical of it as well. I didn’t want to create a blog that lacked a holistic perspective on the spaces where women and politics collide, and it was important to me to figure out a way to create a site that was inclusive of multiple perspectives (as opposed to my own ego stroking), particularly ones that were not necessarily in agreement. Also, in coming from a grassroots organizing background, I know the importance of representation at the start of a project because the reality is that very, very few projects become truly representative if they fail to start out that way. Publishing reviews of books, film, music, plays, etc. written by a number of writers seemed to fit the bill, as it allowed for diversity (including geographic diversity since our blog isn’t US-centric) in both the content being produced and the content producer.
I can’t read most of the mainstream feminist websites. As in I can’t because doing so will likely make me really really angry and I’m angry enough about shit to purposely piss myself off. It’s the same reason I don’t watch Fox news or read the National Review. It’s an act of self-care and a decision to move my words and thoughts forward. Amiga Blackamazon reminded me how in the context of the Sonia Sotomayor nomination, mainstream feminist icons have been largely silent.
From Racism Review:
Funny how I haven’t heard any statements from these women castigating G. Gordon Liddy, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, or Michael Steele for their repugnant, sexist, and racist remarks about Judge Sotomayor. Funny how they haven’t jumped out in front of this issue the same way they did when Hillary Clinton was the one on the receiving end of a barrage of sexist statements. Funny how the PUMAs (Party Unity My Ass) who were so outraged at the way the Democratic Party ostensibly treated Hillary Clinton now don’t seem to see this as a worthy cause of their efforts, and aren’t outraged by Democratic politicians’ unwillingness to call these abhorrent statements the blatant misogyny that they are.
What’s not funny are the implications this has for women of all races. When white feminists look the other way when Michelle Obama is callously referred to as “Obama’s Baby Mama,” when Sonia Sotomayor is savaged by right wing conservatives who engage in the basest types of sexism, or more broadly, when women of color across the country face higher rates of abuse, incarceration, and poverty than white women, it sends a clear message about their lack of respect for and interest in the ways sexism impacts women of other racial groups and class positions. It reinforces the idea that white women feminists are interested in maintaining their white privilege while undermining sexism, a process that keeps women of color oppressed but broadens the category of whites who have access to and are able to wield power over others. It perpetuates the (erroneous) message that feminism has nothing to offer women of color, even though they too suffer from the gender wage gap, sexual violence, and all the other manifestations of gender inequality.
I do not understand why white feminists like Steinem, Ferraro, Burk, and others still don’t seem to get this message that intersections of race and gender matter and that the feminist movement cannot succeed without the influence and involvement of ALL women.
This point has been made for years, by many progressive white women (playwright Eve Ensler, sociologist Margaret Andersen) and feminists of color (sociologist Patricia Hill Collins, activist Pauli Murray, writer Alice Walker). It would be really nice if the rampant sexism being directed towards Sonia Sotomayor finally served as an overdue wake-up call about the importance of both race and gender.
Comedian Bill Maher appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to plug his movie, Religulous. Although the segment was taped before the debates, Maher summed up what a lot of people were thinking. He called Obama the “Jackie Robinson of American politics” and said that much of the Republican pundits were couching their discussions in veiled racism, playing off his funny-sounding name or going so far as claiming Obama has a “big, black uncircumcised penis and it smells like curry.”
I hadn’t been aware of many of the examples listed–but now that I am, it makes me wonder if the proper assertion isn’t “It never would happen if it were a man” but rather instead, “It would never happen to a *white* man”?
brownfemipower, whose inimitable blog is the anchor of the pulsing women-of-color blogosphere, began posting three years ago. She writes emotionally and radiantly about gender violence, immigration raids, public housing demolition in New Orleans, sexuality (a recent post on this topic included a video of Aerosmith’s “Crying”), and other “out of bounds” issues, morphing feminism back into a force for social change—for everyone—rather than an “exclusive networking club.”
“Feminists can’t seem to figure out why their movement isn’t growing,” she wrote in June. “Could the fact that feminism uses universities as its major site of recruitment rather than jails, halfway houses, day care centers, churches, restaurants, the streets, mommy blog communities . . . have something to do with it?”
Other amigas and people who should be amigas after the jump…
More than a few Latinas in the blogosphere think not, based on some real (and recent- although what went down is nothing new)happenings. I myself have struggled with the term feminist, a label that has been put on me more than I have actually used it myself (hell, I even got an award for it once). But more and more across the Latina blogosphere, the term is being rejected, not because these mujeres don’t believe in the equality between the sexes, but rather because the feminist struggle has often been on the back of women of color with many a white woman failing to (rather not caring to) take notice.
La Sin Verguenza writes:
In the past 4 years on this campus I have learned that “Feminist” with a capital F means whining that you can’t recruit WOC faculty or graduate students while simultaneously denying them tenure and critiquing their work as “lacking in theoretical rigor.” It means using WOC faculty/graduate students to advertise and promote your departmental diversity (Ha!) while failing to support those same WOC with funding. It means wearing Frida Kahlo earrings and writing about poverty in Latin America (See? I care about “them”! I DO!) without ever interacting with an ACTUAL person of color outside of the university setting. Feminism is claiming to be working class when your parents were/are university professors. It’s claiming an ethnic-Other as a grandparent or great-grandparent so that—despite your apparent whiteness—you can claim to be marginalized (See? I’m oppressed too!). It means taking knowledge from us and from our communities for self-promotion without ever giving anything back in return. Andrea Smith has something to say about this type of knowledge gathering. She compares it to sexual assault. Feminism is a privilege that I just don’t have… or want.
Don’t even get me started on what Feminism means in the blogosphere. I want no part of that either.
Trying to show she’s more than just a pretty face, Rosanna Queirolo, won a seat on the Ecuadorian National Assembly on a platform promising to protect the environment and to provide a bridge to the Ecuadorian immigrant community in the United States. Once comfy in her seat of power however, she showed her true colors in positions about rape, abortion and the GLTB community.
For those non-Spanish dominant peeps, translation after the jump.
The Feminist Majority Foundation released a video, attempting to dispel some myths about feminism , including that feminists don’t shave their legs and that they’re all white women. Lending her face (and race cred) to the video, is Ugly Betty star, America Ferrara.
I’ve struggled with the mainstream feminist movement because exclusionary tactics and the label of feminist.
Every now and then VL gets tips from readers around quite controversial subjects. Many are hard to confirm and we choose not to publish them, but I found a tip I received today so disturbing that I felt it needed to be shared with readers.
Are the words “feminist” and “racist” always contradictory? Many women of color who considered themselves isolated from the women’s movement of the 1970s would probably say no. And if what we gather from the following tip is true, it would look as if racism is alive and well in the California chapter of N.O.W. not just in the form of exclusion, but in the form of ignorance.
VL is publishing the following information in good faith as the opinion of a VL reader, but we can’t prove or disprove the statements, so please read on with that caveat in mind. If anyone wants to counter the accusation or clarify any points, this is your forum as well. Here’s the letter in its entirety:
“I am a member of the California chapter of the National Organization for Women, and attended my first CA NOW Board meeting on February 24th this year. It was open to the public, so I see no problem in sharing statements that I heard there.
The California chapter president, Kimberly Salter, who was talking about visiting New Orleans during the National NOW State Presidents’ conference and talking to New Orleans residents, stated that the residents were all very appreciative of “the Mexicans” for coming to work there and live in tent cities, and she added that it was a cultural issue, because Mexicans were used to leaving their families and living in tent cities to send money home, and that other cultures wouldn’t do that.”
I, unfortunately, had not, but am glad to come out of my own ignorance and discover her work. Following La Mala’s theme of highlighting exceptional mujeres, I found this little gem on Regalado blog out of Cuba(thanks, special friend, for sharing your 14,000 obscure Latino feeds with me — you know who you are). Translated for your reading pleasure:
Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda was blocked from entering the Real Academia Española. She is considered a precursor to modern feminism, as much for her vibrant attitude as for the strength that she gave her female literary characters.
Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (1814-1873), a Cuban born writer that lived in Spain from age 22, is considered one othe most authentics voices of Latino romanticism.
Her life was a cumulus of tragedies comparable only to those of her characters. The death of her father and the rushed re-marriage of her mother drove her out of Cuba to Europe, where she came into contact with the romance literature of the time; Victor Hugo, Chateaubriand and Lord Byron.