Friday, November 1, 2013

A Testimony On Fat Shaming

North Dakota woman, in an attempt to "take a stand against obesity" handed out "fat letters" to children who don't fit her ideal of what bodies should look like. She might have thought her intentions were good, but in reality they were cruel and demeaning. I have always struggled with my weight and never reach the ideal image of what people wanted me to look like. I was always either too skinny or too fat. I got sick with gallstones, was hospitalized and eventually needed surgery to remove my gallbladder, which led to a significant amount of weight loss. But no one cared about my health because I had finally reached the "perfect size." I was congratulated by my weight loss, and some even felt it was appropriate to warn me of future gain weight. And even though I have always felt uncomfortably with my body there are those who have it much worse, like my friend Veronica. Below is a statement she made after reading about the "fat letters" handed to children on Halloween. She gave me permission to share it because she is tired of being fat shamed.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A note to readers...

In the world of blogging you will never be able to satisfy everyone.

Someone will always be pissed because you spoke openly on an issue. Others will be pissed because you didn't. No matter how hard you try you won't be able to speak for all people, and even when you try you will be deemed not an expert on others' experiences (because it's impossible to be.)

My blog is my personal space to write about my life-- the good, the bad, and the ugly. When I want to talk about feminism in the context of the United States I seek out other platforms.

My life is not beautiful, free of violence, and cookie-cutter. My family members have been victims, and sometimes the perpetrators. The only way I can address that is by writing honestly about it.

Does that make me an expert on all Latino issues? No. I am only an expert of my life.

As a woman in science, a Latina born with light skin, an immigrant, and a heterosexual woman, my life is an amalgamation of all those titles. Sometimes they give me the platform to shine, sometimes they relegate me to the status of almost nothing.

I write about what matters to me, knowing very well that I won't and can't make everyone happy. When I mess up, I try to learn from it and move forward. And I work hard every single day of my life to be genuine and empathetic, to acknowledge my privilege, to speak up for myself, to work on my faults, and to remember to tell myself how much I love ME.  If I don't love myself and my achievements no one else will do it for me.

I welcome and listen to all critique, but it doesn't come at the expense of insulting me. If I say something that pisses you off so much you want to call me a whore and a bitch, you've lost the opportunity for dialogue.

If you don't find me interesting, radical, exciting, or worthy of praise...don't. Really, I am not looking for fans. If I wanted to excel at something I would be testing building materials in a lab, because I was really darn good at it! I don't aim to be amazing, I aim to be me.

If my life story speaks to you, I am here for you. If you can't relate to my life, that's ok! My feminism is not about "kumbaya, we are all sisters." We really aren't the same and if I attempt to equalize all women I would fail at the most important part of my feminism: acknowledging women's varied and complicated lives.

Friday, October 25, 2013

On Feminism and Faith

Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t call me a “radical feminist” and accuse me of trying to destroy religion and traditional values.
People on the Internet are both my biggest critics and my most enthusiastic supporters. But because of them, I have been forced to truly question my own beliefs on the compatibility of feminism and religion.
I think that they can coexist. Here’s why.
The thing about feminism is that it’s about empowering women — and that means all women – regardless of differences. And while I may personally find most religions inherently misogynist and oppressive, that does not give me the right to deter any other woman from finding spiritual nourishment in a religious community.
If feminism becomes synonymous with anti-religion, we risk alienating the women we seek to uplift and support.
If anything, feminism and religion are deeply connected because our views on gender are very much based in religious doctrines. And we cannot fight for equal rights by disenfranchising those who reconcile their religious beliefs with feminism.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Conference on Latin American and Caribbean Women Spotlights the Use of Technology for Gender Equity

This week the XII Regional Conference on Latin American and Caribbean Women (XII Conferencia Regional sobre la Mujer de América Latina y el Caribe) took place in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The conference was put together by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe: CEPAL) in order to promote gender equity in the region.

The event was a great success in bringing together influential women such as Alicia Bárcena, Executive Director of CEPAL, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, and Alejandrina Germán, Head of the Ministry of Women in the Dominican Republic.

Monday, October 14, 2013

No, I Will Not Celebrate "Bartolomé Day"

This week The Oatmeal created a cartoon giving some insight into the bloody history of Christopher Columbus and how he captured the Americas and enslaved the inhabitants. It's all great information that I believe is not taught well enough. In fact, we know (or care) so little about the violent genocide of Indigenous peoples by colonizers that we have a federal holiday in honor of Christopher Columbus veiled as an Italian-American heritage celebration.

The second half of the cartoon suggests that instead of celebrating Columbus Day we celebrate Bartolomé Day.

Bartolomé de las Casas was a Spanish historian and one of the earliest European settlers in the Americas. He owned indigenous peoples and had an encomienda. An encomienda is a system in which European settlers were given indigenous peoples as slaves in return for their "protection" and with the understanding that they would be taught Spanish and immersed into the Catholic faith.

What differentiates Christopher Columbus from Bartolomé de las Casas is that Bartolomé had a change of heart.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Name is My Cultural Identity

When I read Jill Filipovic’s “Why should married women change their names? Let men change theirs,” I immediately felt that she was not talking to women like me. As much I embrace feminism and support dialogue that expands cultures, traditions, and races, once again some women were left out of the conversation. Had Jill Filipovic asked me what I think about a woman changing her last name upon marriage, she would have learned that as a fellow feminist, I have a completely different mindset on what a name means.Since I got engaged the question I get asked the most after “when is the wedding?” is “will you change your last name?” I know this is a question most women get when they announce an engagement, and it doesn’t bother me much. I do however feel that the conversation is very Anglo-centric. I am a Latina woman marrying an Arab man, and in both our cultures women do not change their names when they get married.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Interview for Nicole Clark Consulting's Women Making Moves Series

I was interviewed by Nicole Clark Consulting and wanted to share what I said to her. This interview was original posted on Nicole's website.
"There are plenty of girls in need of encouragement and eager to find a familiar face. Just seeing one Latina in a non-traditional field is enough to spark a light in a girl’s mind; a girl that perhaps never knew her potential." ~ Patricia
Women Making Moves highlights how women and girls of color are raising their voices to improve the health and lives of many in the areas of sexual/reproductive health, holistic wellness, feminism, activism, entrepreneurship, the arts and sciences, and more.
Meet Patricia Valoy, Women Making Moves spotlight for January 2013. Patricia Valoy is a Civil Engineer and an Assistant Project Manager at STV Inc., an architectural, engineering, planning, environmental and construction management firm based in New York City. She is an advocate for women and girls who wish to enter careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM.) Patricia is also a co-host of a weekly radio show called, Let Your Voice Be Heard! Radio. She has her own blog on feminist issues, Womanisms, and is an avid Tweeter under the handle Besito86.
What I enjoy most about Patricia is how she is succeeding in the traditionally male-dominated field of engineering and is showing young women that they too can step outside of the traditionally held belief that only men can dominate in the maths and sciences. Patricia is busting down the “math is for boys” stereotype, and is inspiring young women to feed their curiosities when it comes to non-traditional career fields, despite what their community may think.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How To Navigate A Multicultural Relationship

When I read articles about interracial or multicultural relationships, I never feel like they’re speaking about my relationship, even though my fiancé and I do not share a culture.
So much of the conversation around multicultural relationships in the United States is about marriages between Black and White individuals – which is great, except for that we’re neither.
I was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New York, and my fiancé was born and raised in Egypt.

I have always been a city girl, and he was raised in a farming village.
My first language is Spanish, and his first language is Arabic.
I am the eldest of three girls, and he is the second youngest out of seven siblings.
I was raised a strict Catholic, and he was raised a Coptic Christian.
I drink coffee; he drinks tea (this one was almost a deal breaker).
We’re like the real life version of the book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


So, I got an email saying that I have been nominated for a Social Media Award to be presented by the Women’s Media Center. 
Below is my reaction!

 I think I'm going to faint.

Is this for real?

Maybe I was wrong. There is a god.

(prayer circle)

Just kidding!

OMG! I need to call my mom! No, my fiance! NO! My mom, yes, definitely my mom.

Let's celebrate! AAAHHHH.

Wait? People actually listen to what I have to say?

Yes they do! I'm brilliant.

Yup, yup...I'm fabulous.

Ya'll better vote!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Why Feminism Can Be Scary for Some Women

This post was originally published for Everyday Feminism.

Feminism is a polarizing term.

You either fully embrace it as a way of life or want nothing to do with it.

Personally, I’ve always led a feminist lifestyle. But until recently, I would often start conversations about women’s right with the dreaded phrase “I’m not a feminist, but…”

Why was I so hesitant about calling myself a feminist?

The truth is: I simply didn’t understand what feminism was about, let alone how freeing it could be.

I had misconceptions that feminism was about usurping men’s power and dominating them. I truly believed that being a girl required protection from harm, and that I should be content to have men that could offer me that security.

But more importantly, I didn’t think that I, as a woman, was oppressed.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Our Body Hair Dilemma

If you don’t know me personally you should know that I’m a sassy, liberal, Dominican, engineer, raised in New York City who is supposed to be planning a wedding with my Egyptian fiancé. We haven’t gotten to the actual planning a wedding part yet, but I have a Pinterest board (yay, progress!) Since most of his relatives live in Egypt and won’t be able to make it to the wedding we decided to visit them and have an engagement party there.
Admittedly, I was a little afraid of having an engagement party in Egypt. I’m not into events where everyone is paying attention to me, and my idea of primping for a special event consists of tweezing a couple stray hairs between my eyebrows, a grooming habit that I foolishly thought was good enough.


It all started the day before my engagement party, when a female relative made a casual remark about the need to buy a depilatory cream for me. I looked at her with a confused face and asked “why?!”, truly not understanding what she meant. She said that I needed to remove my body hair, especially the soft, almost nonexistent hairs on my arms and face. I told her I didn’t think it was so noticeable I had to remove it, and that I would prefer not to, but she insisted that it wouldn’t look appropriate for the engagement party.
I won’t lie, I was offended. I felt criticized and ugly, and wondered if everyone in the family wBas thinking the same thing. I left the room in a fit of pent up frustration and did what I do best, started to cry.
It got worse the day of the engagement party. I was scrutinized by every hair stylist and woman in the hair salon. They all asked (via my friend/Arabic interpreter) if I wanted to remove my body hair. When we said “no” I was looked at with pity, she was told that maybe I had not understood the question. A woman even asked if my dress was long and had sleeves, and as I replied that it was a sleeveless dress, I immediately knew why she was asking me that question.
Latinas, like all other women, have body hair. As an art teacher in high school told me once “if you have thick, dark, wavy hair on your head, it’s probably the same everywhere else in your body.” And indeed, it is, but it’s also soft and baby-like, and until I was a teenager I never felt ashamed of my body hair.


Growing up I was encouraged to never shave or wax, and was constantly told how beautiful my thick eyebrows were. Admittedly, I never had a humongous unibrow, but the reason why we consider soft, unshaven body hair to be beautiful is because it’s reminiscent of adolescence and youth. Little girls don’t have waxed upper lips and perfectly arched eyebrows, and we think they are the prettiest humans that have ever walked this earth. That notion, however, does not exist for adult women in our society.
As a Dominican immigrant living in the United States I had to find the middle ground between two completely different and opposing beauty standards. This middle ground is a common theme in my life, because it shapes every single one of my actions. When it came to the removal or appreciation of body hair, it was the same story. As a teen I badly wanted to shave my legs and shape my unruly eyebrows so that I can look like the women I saw on magazines and TV. My mother refused, even confessing that she had never removed a single hair in her body to show me that if I could just endure my teen years I would learn to appreciate my body. But I relented, and shaved my legs and waxed my eyebrows.
Long story short, I regretted that decision almost immediately. Not only did I find that I am incredibly sensitive to wax, but I am now a slave to the razor. Years later I have to shave my legs at least every other day because it grows prickly and feels uncomfortable. I let go of wax and now only tweez a few stray hairs, and trust me, I look fine.
The removal of body hair in Middle Eastern societies is considered proper hygiene. I don’t attempt to change centuries old traditions, and I don’t want to. What I do expect is to be accepted the way I am. I firmly believe that every culture considers its practices and customs the norm and everyone else is just, “different.” When I tell my Dominican family that women in Egypt remove all their body hair, the response is astonishment, and so is the opposite, as evident in my experience in Egypt.


There are a lot of role models for hairless beauties out there, so I understand not wanting to feel ostracized for refusing to submit to a socially accepted beaty standard. But if you are looking for inspiration, look at Frida Kahlo, a Mexican painter who took the world by storm with her gut wrenching and perfectly honest self portraits in the 1920s. She had a unibrow, a little peach fuzz over her upper lip, and her arms were covered with soft hairs that perfectly blend in with her caramel skin. I can only assume that she also never shaved her legs or underarms, yet Frida was considered a beautiful woman with sex appeal, rumored to have had female and male lovers.
Throughout the years I have had to readjust my own idea of beauty. The level of comfort I feel with my body was hard earned and I fight daily to not relinquish that. I just hope one day we can all feel comfortable to show our own idea of beauty– to release our inner Frida Kahlo.

*This post was written by me and originally posted on Sex and Fessenjoon.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sorry Catholicism, I'm Pro-Choice!

I was raised in a strictly Catholic household, and while my mother was fairly liberal, and my father had no particular attachment to the Church, we lived with the implicit knowledge that we were Catholic and that everyone else was practicing the wrong religion.

It was not my parents who instilled Catholicism into my upbringing, it was just the way things were. We had no choice and we knew nothing else. My family was very open to talking about sexuality, but only using euphemisms. The women would sit around the kitchen table sipping coffee and giggling over which one of them ate carne cruda, which translates to raw meat, but means to give oral sex. I could hear them talk about other people's daughters and how they saw the girls wearing a mini skirt or showing off her mid-riff, kissing a boy a few blocks away, or with a condom in her purse. And much later at night, when they thought all the children were sleeping they would gossip about the women they knew who had abortions. They never used the word abortion, but it was obvious. They would say things like "she bought the pills that make your period come back" or "she made her husband punch her in the stomach" or "her mom sent her a special tea from the Dominican Republic" and sometimes it went to the extreme, "she punctured herself with a knitting needle" or "she used a coca-cola bottle."

At the time I was not allowed to questions, but I was a curious child and my mother always tried to answer anything to the best of her abilities. When I realized that what the women in my family were talking about was abortion I felt disdain for the women they gossiped about. My mother would rarely talk about other girls, in fact, she would warn my aunts and cousins about comparing their daughters to others. Her favorite saying was "nunca digas 'de esa agua no beberé'" which translates to "don't ever say you won't drink from that glass of water" but means that you should not assume you will never be in a certain situation.  When I asked her about abortion she just said that I should never feel that I cannot talk to her. From early on it was clear that my reputation as a good girl was tied to my sexuality, and although my mother did not want that to be my reality, she knew it was how my culture would value me.

Whenever I was asked what I thought about abortion I would bravely defend the potential for life. For a high school project I stood in front of the classroom and spoke about the way an embryo has tiny fingers and a heartbeat, how the mother could become depressed after an abortion, and to bolster the sentimentality of a pregnancy I showed a lot of pictures of beautiful babies with their caring mothers. I truly believed that a pregnancy was a miracle and that no person in their right mind would want to hurt their baby, but while my intentions were in the right place I was very naive.

At the time I was not sexually active and I had every expectation to save myself for marriage. I considered my virginity the most valuable asset I held. I imagined with disdain having to tell my husband I had been with another man and feeling sorrow for his dissatisfaction; the thought that he was probably not saving himself for me did not even cross my mind. I had never heard of a man being valued for his virginity, in fact, it seemed that men who were sexually inexperienced were mocked by society. My father had a child when he married my mother, but he boasted about my mother being a virgin on their wedding night. I was under the impression that saving oneself for marriage was the morality quick-fix, but only for women. This left me feeling guilty for being curious about my sexuality and terrified at the possibility of getting pregnant before I was married.

Living on my own and meeting people from other walks of life gave me a different perspective on sexuality and abortion. Our society sees sexuality as only acceptable within the rigid confines of heterosexual matrimony and for procreation. Sex for pleasure is offensive and irresponsible, unless you have signed a legal document with a partner of the opposite sex. Yet as much as socially conservative groups insist that the only safe sex is no sex, their ideals do not match our reality. Social conservatives reminist of times when good girls remained pure and waited for marriage, yet they forget that women had no other choice. Women in these scenarios were, and still are in many places, confined to the home, escorted to activities, and under constant watch. If we have to chaperone sexuality until the participants sign a legal marriage contract, what are we trying to prove? Our fascination with an intact hymen results in the demonization of sexuality and puts the entire worth of a girl dependent on whether a man has had sex with her or not. Furthermore, what message are we sending our boys and men? We tell them to value women based on their sexual history and speak of their genitals as if they had damaging powers.

Directly tied to sexuality is the ability, as women, to make decisions about our bodies. Sex is nothing new, people have been having it for generations. We can try as much as we want to say sex should only be acceptable within the confines of marriage, but that was not always the case. Traditional marriage was a simple declaration of intent. The only reason Churches were told of marriages and births was because they were the record keepers in any given city or village. Slaves in Latin America and the United States were not legally allowed to marry. There were no religious ceremonies and contract signing, two people were in love and decided to be with each other against all odds. Slave men would be separated from their families as punishment and the women were raped at their master's whim. We'd like to believe that we have moved on from this mindset, but we have kept the same ideals for women.

Women have had access to contraception and abortions throughout history. The Talmud mentions inserting a sponge soaked in lemon juice into the vagina as a spermicide. Hippocrates wrote about using the plant Queen Anne's Lace seeds as a sort of morning after pill. The need for women to control how and when they have children is imperative to equality, fairness, and limiting the amount of children that are abandoned and unwanted. No one wants to have an abortion, and in an ideal world no woman would need one. But in the world we live in women are sometimes raped and impregnated against their will. This is a world where we shun comprehensive sexual education in schools and in our homes and then blame a pregnant teenage girl for her suppose lack of morality. In this world, we posit motherhood as the single most important achievement for all women, without realizing that some women simply do not want to become mothers and some are not financially able to do so. If we truly care about motherhood we should want women to enjoy their sexuality and have children on their own terms. If we want to decrease the number of abortions then we should make motherhood easier for women. Fund daycare centers, ensure that parents get paid maternity and paternity leave, give young men and women the access to sexual education and contraception, and most importantly, let's value women as individuals, not potential baby makers.

Being pro-choice means that I get to decide what I want for my own body. I do not get to tell another woman that she should or should not have sex based on my beliefs. I do not get to judge women on how they lead their personal lives. Those who want to be bound by religious moral standards have every right to do so, but they do not have the right to force their stoic lifestyle on anyone else.

Putting science aside, those who passionately oppose abortion on the idea that the rights of a fertilized egg or an embryo trump the rights of a woman try to make me feel uncomfortable and dirty by calling me a "baby killer." They use words to attempt to dehumanize me and tug at my sentimentality, and for a long time those words hurt. But you know what hurts more? Crippling poverty, hunger, sex slavery, honor crimes, child brides, rape, human trafficking, and far too many other things. If you truly want a better world fight for social justice and human dignity.

Letter from Soraya Chemaly

About a week ago I chimed into a twitter conversation with @Tempibones on twitter. She was having a discussion with a homophobic "future priest" and I made a comment in jest about "hating when people pray on my behalf." It was a joke, though I would prefer someone ask me before praying for me. Soon after this "priest" that goes by the name of @Sacerdotus seemed extremely agitated that I was a Latina, and [gasp] a feminist. He continued sending me messages about how I was brainwashed by White women. Hilarious! I obviously am just a weak Latina who cannot formulate decisions for myself. He went on my blog and read every single one of my posts and commented on pretty much every one of them. He seems very invested in teaching me the history of his Church, which makes me wonder why he even cares. It's not as if I, a mere woman on twitter will dismantle the institution he holds so dear. Eventually I blocked him because his rants were getting really ridiculous and I really did not care...I started responding with sillyness because what else am I to do with a man hell-bent on making me feel like a daughter he's trying to punish? It was mostly very paternalistic and creepy. He seemed to have an obsession with the fact that I was a Latina, so I blocked him, but he continued to read my tweets and take screenshots of them. Eventually he wrote a dissertation, I mean, blog post about me. It was the ultimate "I'm not done being mad at you!" 

Funnily enough, it was the Church he holds so dear that led me to feminism. It was seeing the machismo and sexual shaming (of women) in my culture, led by the Catholic church that drove me to feminism. I won't post his blog post here, the blog post with the picture of me that he never asked permission to use, because it won't make any difference. I read it and it reminded me exactly the reasons I left the Catholic church, and all religions for that matter. It wasn't feminism that drove me away from a paternalistic, misogynist, sexist, and racist was that institution the drove me to feminism. 

Below is a letter I received from Soraya Chemaly, one of the most inspiring women I have ever met. I often chat with her because I feel that she understands where I came from and how I got here. I'm not sure why I knew that, we have never talked about our relationship with religion, but life has a way of putting the right people in your path, and the wrong ones to remind you of the amazing people in your life.

Thank God I'm a feminist!

Dear Patricia, I too am a “naïve,” “radical” feminist. Although, at 46, no longer young. I’m also a Georgetown University grad, ex Divinity school aspirant, mother, wife, daughter and in all things “colorful.” I “go by the name” that was given to me, Soraya Chemaly.  Feminism has helped me understand, per your writing, “freedom.” Recently, I saw that you were involved in an exchange with a priest named Sacerdotus, who suggested kindly and with paternalistic concern that women like you and I, as a result of our feminism, will hurt ourselves…by crashing into things.  

As a young woman, the building that I most often crashed into, apparently disoriented by “all kinds of sophism and relativism” was most always a Catholic church.  Like you I entered a university and was “brainwashed with ideas” – you know, classes taught by Jesuits about humanity, compassion, social justice, equality, liberty - Enlightmenty things.  It’s strange how they “seem to make sense and give hope,” even to women. So, it irks when the Church that professes to love us does everything within its power to make sure that we cannot achieve our hopes in these capacities.  When women do, it is only commensurate with the degree to which we accede to the demands of unilaterally male-defined gender roles of Church doctrine.  I'm not being flip and do not doubt in the least that this priest, or say, Cardinal Dolan and assorted bishops take their work with the utmost seriousness and compassion. But, their norms, ethics and deliberations are informed by their experience and millennia of misogyny.  No governing body that excludes women, but makes decisions on their behalves unilaterally has moral legitimacy.  As such, their conclusions and the consequences of those conclusions will remain fatally flawed and, literally fatally for women, unjust.

 While I do not measure my life against men’s, I do measure it against the standards that people, led almost entirely by all-male bodies, use to assess humanity and distribute rights.  In this way, I have found many men, women and institutions, wanting for the simple reason that they reject as fundamentally equally human female bodies, desires, experiences, insights and authority.  I, for example, do become  “overly sensitive” when the messages the Church sends about where I am to derive my sense of dignity are intertwined with sexually convoluted ideas about reproduction, purity, motherhood and restricted roles for women.  Ideas that find their origins in rifely sexist concepts of female baseness and moral incompetence.  I become “overly  sensitive” when men I don’t know profess to do things I don’t like or want in the name of protecting me from other men I don’t know who would hurt me or others of my gender, largely as a result of our not being male.  His post on you and your experience in life is the finest example of mansplaining, to use a rapidly being overused word, blather I have come across in a long time.

 But, it goes beyond that.  He explains that the Church “built the Dominican Republic,” but while he does this to highlight why you should be grateful to the Church he fails to note that it did this on the backs of people of color  – that includes, btw, women.  After the Church participated in the colonizing holocaust of an indigenous population.  The Church’s role in slavery is well documented.  “Our” “Western” “Civilization” is the basis for untold oppressions.  You should be ashamed of yourself for holding up this particular example of its success. Until the mid 20th century the Church accepted most kinds of slavery as simply the result of the human condition. That and a consequence of original sin. Sound familiar?  But, small things.  He goes on to say that you should acknowledge that the Church built “Western Civilization.” There is no denying that there is a lot of good in Western ideas and ideals. But, the Church did this while it burnt women at the stake, deprived the vast majority of them of education, consigned them to early death through compulsory pregnancy and childbirth, relegated them to third class status by the billions.  The ideas and ideals of his admiration have long excluded, as the Church continues to, women. 

As for “radical feminism” not contributing anything to the Dominican Republic he himself proves this to be false: it has contributed you and I think you’re terrific! While he lauds your mother’s ability to struggle, and positively notes her not identifying as a feminist, he does absolutely nothing to reflect on how her life might have been less of a struggle if her access to work, money, food, control, or authority had not been necessarily mediated in every single meaningful dimension by men - economics, politics and, yes, faith. Good fathers in his terms.  It might interest him to know, by the way, that while you and I have both come to feminism,  my father is alive, well, married to my mother, loves and is proud of me. Oh, and he’s Catholic.  Some fathers are alive and maybe better fathers than others.  But, no father knows best just by virtue of being a man, which is the foundational premise of his argument and of the Church’s entire hierarchy. 

Women like you and I, both women of color, educated in the “West” of multi-ethnic heritage and, by happenstance, in possession of functioning brains, are not living in “ideological prisons created by white women.” We are living with actual constraints created by arrogant and entitled and condescending men like Sacerdotus.  That is the “shadow” we are living with.   I’m glad he thinks feminism, with his approved limits, is a good thing.  But, his commentary on feminism and its historical evolution demonstrates the degree to which he fails to understand two basic facts: 1) feminism is a planetary struggle to end sexism and the exploitation of women and, unfortunately, for all of the real good that the Church does, it is a sexist institution that exploits and bodily endangers women in vastly unequal measure to men and 2) men and women who are engaged as feminists understand that the divisions we encounter within the feminist movement only make us stronger.  His portrayal of feminism as simple a rich, white woman’s pet project is shallow at best and disingenuous at worst.  As a weary, age old, divide and conquer strategy, it fails. 

As for your “obsession” with his “masculinity and genitalia.”  Sorry to say, but no, I’m not obsessed and, tweets aside, neither I suspect, are you.   The Church, however, is and this is the frame for a lot of the debate about women and the Church.   I do not hate him or other men, I just abhor systems that entitle him to power so arbitrarily.  Systems that allow him to think it is his god-given right and job for you tell women what to do – because, in the end, they have a penises and one less x chromosome.  Every child comes to understand this exceedingly simple truth.  As we grow up it is layered, one sexist blanket after another sexist blanket of, as he says, “all kinds of sophism and relativism.” But, it’s really not more complicated than that.  Women can and do think for themselves and are perfectly capable of participating fully, if they chose, in ministerial leadership.    

Does all of this make me angry?  Yes.  If it didn’t I’d worry that I’d died and didn’t know it.  The question is, why doesn't it make him angry.   

By the way, cute photo! Which I’m assuming, despite all of his web pages disclaimers about getting his permission to use or cite text, he didn't ask if it was ok to use. 
 Thank you Soraya!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Kick Ass Latinas: A Collection of Quotes

Below is a collection of Latina women who inspire me with their words. I plan to continue adding quotes from kick ass Latina women that make me proud! So keep checking for updates.

Julia de Burgos (February 17, 1914 – July 6, 1953) was a Puerto Rican poet. She was a tireless advocate for the independence of Puerto Rico, women's rights, and African/Afro-Caribbean writers.

"Don't let the hand you hold, hold you down."

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (July 6, 1907 – July 13, 1954) was a Mexican painter. She is known for her self-portraits and being a fierce advocate for female sexuality and women's empowerment.

"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you."

Celia Cruz (October 21, 1925 – July 16, 2003) was a Cuban Salsa singer and performer. She is called the Queen of Salsa and is known for her vivacious personality, zeal for life and her trademark shout "¡Azúcar!" ("Sugar!" in Spanish.)

"When people hear me sing, I want them to be happy, happy, happy. I don't want them thinking about when there's not any money, or when there's fighting at home. My message is always felicidad - happiness."

Sonia Sotomayor (born June 25, 1954) is a Puerto Rican Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving since August 2009. Sotomayor is the first Hispanic justice, and its third female justice.

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Zoë Saldaña (born June 19, 1979) is a half-Dominican, half-Puerto Rican actress. She is known for her roles in Pirates of the Caribbean and Avatar. As an Afro-Latina, she proudly represents our heritage and makes room for women like us in Hollywood.

"I've witnessed racism all my life. And of course there's racism and discrimination in Hollywood. You go for a part and they say, 'Oh, we really liked her, she's amazing, but we wanted to go with something more traditional'. As if I'm not a traditional American!"

Salma Hayek (born September 2, 1966) is a Mexican actress, producer, director and activist. Salma works on projects that draw on Latino themes or feature Latino talent for ABC Studios. She is also a spokesperson for UNICEF, Avon Foundation’s Speak Out Against Domestic Violence program, and Bono’s One campaign.

"You can be a thousand different women. It's your choice which one you want to be. It's about freedom and sovereignty. You celebrate who you are. You say, 'This is my kingdom.'"

Sandra Cisneros (born December 20, 1964) is a Chicana writer and feminist. She is also the founder of two foundations that serve writers and the organizer of the Latino McArthur Fellows. Her books deal with femininity and female sexuality within a patriarchal society.

"My feminism is humanism, with the weakest being those who I represent, and that includes many beings and life forms, including some men."

Julia Alvarez (born March 27, 1950) is a Dominican poet, novelist, and essayist. Her writings often deal with assimilation and identity and are heavily influenced by her Dominican-American heritage. Her works examine cultural expectations of women in the Dominican Republic and the United States, and for rigorous investigations of cultural stereotypes.

"Men often say that women change their minds too much. I say they sometimes don't change them enough. I mean changing their state of mind, their attitudes, their outlook, their expectations, their consciousness - most of all, about themselves and what is possible in their lives."

Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa (September 26, 1942 – May 15, 2004) was a scholar of Chicano cultural theory, feminist theory, and Queer theory. Her most well-known book is Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, which speaks of social and cultural marginalization.

“Until I am free to write bilingually and to switch codes without having always to translate, while I still have to speak English or Spanish when I would rather speak Spanglish, and as long as I have to accommodate the English speakers rather than having them accommodate me, my tongue will be illegitimate. I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent's tongue - my woman's voice, my sexual voice, my poet's voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence.”

Aurora Levins Morales (born January 24, 1954) is a Puerto Rican Jewish writer and poet. She is best known for her collection of essays Medicine Stories: History, Culture, and the Politics of Integrity. She is a tireless advocate for women's rights and is considered the voice of Feminism in Latin America.

“Solidarity is not a matter of altruism. Solidarity comes from the inability to tolerate the affront to our own integrity of passive or active collaboration in the oppression of others, and from the deep recognition that, like it or not, our liberation is bound up with that of every other being on the planet, and that politically, spiritually, in our heart of hearts we know anything else is unaffordable."

Ellen Ochoa (born May 10, 1958) is a former astronaut and current Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center of Mexican-American descent. She was the first Hispanic female astronaut, paving the way for women in the science fields.

"Usually, girls weren't encouraged to go to college and major in math and science. My high school calculus teacher, Ms. Paz Jensen, made math appealing and motivated me to continue studying it in college."

Comandante Ramona (died January 6, 2006) was the nom de guerre of an officer of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), a revolutionary indigenous autonomist organization based in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. As a member of the Zapatista leading council, the CCRI (Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee), she served as a symbol of equality and dignity for indigenous and impoverished women.

"Our hope is that one day our situation will change, that we women will be treated with respect, justice, and democracy."

Isabel Allende (born August 2, 1942) is a Chilean writer. Allende's works are noteworthy due to their elements of "magical realism" tradition that often represents Latin American literature. She is most famous for her novel The House of the Spirits.

"Giving women education, work, the ability to control their own income, inherit and own property, benefits the society. If a woman is empowered, her children and her family will be better off. If families prosper, the village prospers, and eventually so does the whole country."

And many more to come...