Like many subgenres within the Feminist blogosphere, online content from Latina feminists is growing by the day and reaching more people than ever. These writers, of various ages and backgrounds, are focusing on topics that, despite best intentions, don’t always make it into the spotlight of mainstream feminism: immigration, racism, violence and indigenous women, and more. In a roundtable with four Latina bloggers, we discussed what drew them into writing about feminism from a Latina perspective as well as where they see their role within the larger feminist discussion.
Name: Sara Inés Calderón
Location: Los Angeles
Blogging Since: 2009
When Not Blogging: Director of Social Media & Partner Development at MiTú Network (a Youtube network)
Twitter handle: @SaraChicaD
Post Pride: Why Latinas Aren’t Allowed to Get Angry
The Lone Star State’s Latina Congresswoman Deficit
In Mexico, Tech Used as Aid to Combat Narco Violence, Insecurity
Name: Annemarie Perez
Age: (Declined to state)
Location: Santa Monica
Blogging Since: 2004
When Not Blogging: university teacher, writing advisor
Twitter handle: @anneperez
Post Pride: Wondering About This Bridge Called My Back
MALCS Institue Paper: The Case of the Second Chicana
Name: Juliana Britto Schwartz
Location: San Francisco, Bay Area
Blogging Since: 2010
When Not Blogging: college student
Twitter handle: @JulianaBrittoS
Post Pride: Manifesto to That Guy on the Street
Domestic Violence and Indigenous Women in Brazil
From the Senzala to the Favela: Domestic Workers in Brazil
Name: Patricia Valoy
Blog: Womanisms (patriciavaloy.blogspot.com)
Location: New York City
Blogging Since: early 2012
When Not Blogging: civil engineer/radio host
Twitter handle: @Besito86
Post Pride: Math Isn’t Just For Boys: Fighting The Stereotype
Shaping a Latina Feminist Identity
Women, Harassment, and Construction Sites
The Femisphere: How did you come to find yourself blogging about feminism, and in particular the focus on Latina feminism?
Sara: Since I am a professional journalist/writer, writing about tech and politics, I constantly found myself face-to-face with sexism and it’s cousin, racism. So I write about feminist stuff because I know that if I–a college-educated, light-skinned, green-eyed Latina–am dealing with it, sexism must be even worse for other Latinas.
Juliana: I started blogging in 2010 as an experiment for a class I was taking. At first I blogged about whatever interested me, but as my studies became more focused and as I became more familiar with the feminist blogosphere, I realized that I had a lot to say about something that doesn’t get talked about enough. Though there are a lot of Latinos in social media, and a lot of Latina bloggers, it’s difficult to find Latinas who are talking about what it means to be a Latina feminist today. I loved reading about raising Latino children and cooking Latino food, but I also wanted to read about how immigration policy affects Latinas’ reproductive choice, or how stereotypes in the media hurt Latinas, or how feminist movements in Latin America are influencing or being influenced by our feminist movement in the United States. So I started to write about it.
Annemarie: I had toyed with blogging while I was in graduate school, both as part of my job and as an expression of several hobbies. Starting my own blog was a celebration of my completing my dissertation on Chicana editorship.
Patricia: It wasn’t until recently that I decided to identify as a feminist, mainly because I have never heard the term spoken in my household and did not feel that I could identify. As a Latina pursuing a degree in engineering and wanting to identify as feminist, I felt very alone. At home I felt too Americanized, but outside the home I was not American enough. Finding women who felt the same way I did was a struggle, and oftentimes I felt that perhaps we did not exist. In order to find a place to share my feelings when no one else was listening I started blogging. Initially I wanted to blog from a strictly feminist perspective, not necessarily as a Latina feminist, but I couldn’t identify as a feminist without acknowledging my heritage and culture and the history that has shaped the way I see myself and the world sees me. Little did I know that there are many women who feel the same way I do, and I can now connect with them through my blog posts.
Juliana mentioned the lack of Latina voices discussing feminism online: Why do you think that is? Do you personally find it challenging to reconcile your Latina identity with your feminist ideals?
Annemarie: I come to feminism through ethnic studies generally and Chicana/o studies specifically, so I’m not as aware as I probably should be about the general tenor of feminism, especially Anglo feminism on the ‘net. But I am very aware of the lack of voices of people of color generally on the web. Even in 2013, there is an assumption of whiteness unless otherwise declared. This is part of why, when I’ve taught Chicana/o studies classes, I’ve had my students create public blogs for our courses.
I don’t have a problem reconciling my feminism with being Chicana/Latina. I see my academic life as one that engages with feminisms of women of color and is inspired by Chicana feminist authors and activists. What I do find hard, however, is feeling frustrated that so many of the issues of 1983 about women of color and our treatment within our communities and by mainstream feminism generally are still relevant in 2013.
Patricia: I wish I could encourage more Latinas to discuss feminism online, but I feel that it has a lot to do with not feeling that the feminist blogsphere is for them. I was very apprehensive about being criticized for not knowing what I was talking about. I did not study feminist theory of any kind in high school or college, so most of my writings are based on personal experience. I have been criticized for refusing to believe feminism is a Western middle-class white women construct, which to me is just more reason to keep speaking up about my experiences. If I push feminism aside then I have accepted that I do not deserve the great things that come with being a feminist. My Latina identity has helped me find my own brand of feminism, a feminism that is based on my experiences as the daughter of immigrants and the life-long effects of living with a colonized mentality.
Sara: I find mainstream feminism to often be lacking in substance for myself. I can’t relate to it, perhaps because to me feminism is often wrapped up with white privilege. I’m not sure why there aren’t more Latinas discussing feminism online. I think one major reason is that, since Latinos are historically not the dominant class and are often immigrants, there are other, more important things that occupy their time. I know that’s true for myself; I spend much more time talking about politics and structural issues in my blogging than just pure Latina feminism because I feel like, in the larger sense, it’s more important.
I think it can be hard to reconcile everything, but not any harder than it is just to be human and to reconcile the different parts of yourself otherwise. I am the oldest of my female cousins who isn’t married and having children, but on the other hand I haven’t been divorced and I can financially support myself and I have a career that is unlike anything anyone in my family has ever done. You give and take with different parts of your identity; I don’t think that’s different than non-Latin@s.
I have been really lucky, though, because my father has always been very supportive of my educational and professional goals and never pressured me to be a “traditional” Latina (marriage, children, etc.). So there’s that.
Juliana: My entry into Latina feminism is actually kind of the opposite of a lot of my peers. I am ethnically mixed: My dad is a white American and my mother is Brazilian. In many ways I was raised as “white,” most people perceive me to be white and in Brazil my mother identifies as white. I can really relate to Annemarie’s post “Mixed Daughter,” because I kind of became Latina through my own volition. I associated with other Latin@s at schoo, and chose to study Spanish, then chose to spend a year abroad in Brazil, then chose to study Latin American and Latino Studies in college.
And I became interested in feminism separately from my engagement with the Latin@ community. I would say that my feminism was based on white feminist interests and ideals for a really long time, and that only changed when I hit college and once I was able to live in Brazil for some time. Since then my blog posts have shifted to not just focusing on reproductive justice but also immigration policy and movements in Latin America, because I see all of those as deeply gendered issues that affect Latinas in the U.S. today.
TWe hear the term “intersectionality” brought up a lot within feminism and the need to have as many voices as possible at the table discussing issues that affect all women. Do you feel like this goal has been met? And if not, how can feminism as a whole better work toward providing a platform for those voices, specifically Latina ones?
Sara: I still feel like feminism is mostly a white discipline and Latina feminism is relegated to cultural studies/ethnic studies/whatever. I think that feminism, like other institutions/disciplines/industries is going to naturally evolve into a different version of itself as women’s studies students and scholars increasingly become non-white. I think “feminism,” like most institutions, is full of people who don’t want to give up power, and in this case power to non-white voices. That’s why, ultimately, I think that students/scholars of feminism who are not white are going to be the force that changes feminism, not anything artificially imposed.
Annemarie: I agree with Sara’s comment here and my feelings are reinforced by my experience teaching This Bridge Called My Back last year in a class on Chicana feminism. Students of color identified with the experience of the contributors as if the book were written last year rather than more than three decades ago.
My own experience is that white feminists are still very uncomfortable around issues of race and the privilege whiteness conveys. I think there’s an eagerness to see issues of race and feminism as something that was dealt with in the 1980s and 1990s and that we’re now in a post-racial moment. Until racial inequality can be discussed by feminists with the candor and comfort that gender inequality is, I don’t think we’ll be close to the idea of a multitude of voices.
Patricia: While I attempt to make space for women like myself in feminist spaces, and I am not afraid to call myself a feminist, I still find that feminism is a primarily white concept. We have not reached the point where we are comfortable discussing race and privilege. Feminists are very comfortable speaking about inequality between the sexes but not about racial inequality.
We need to better understand what drives women of color to feminism, and oftentimes they are not the same reasons that drive white women to feminism. When I advocate for reproductive justice for Latinas, it is not about having easier access to abortion clinics and contraception–it is about reducing the fear of a young girl being seen entering a Planned Parenthood and her community accusing her of immodesty. Feminism for Latinas is about our culture and how that shapes the way we feel about our bodies, religion, sex, relationships, motherhood, etc. Feminist spaces must embrace everything that shapes us as Latinas and individuals.
Juliana: I have to agree with what has been said before; I feel that the feminist movement is still a very white one and that the feminist blogosphere is even more so. Latina feminist issues are not being discussed on the mainstream feminist blogs that I read. I think that this is definitely a call for the feminist movement to make itself more inclusive, to bring forward and make space for Latina voices.
But Latinas’ absence from the feminist blogosphere doesn’t mean that there are no Latina feminists, or that there aren’t Latina women out there doing incredible things for their communities and women’s place within them. I’ve spoken to many Latinas who I would absolutely identify as feminists but don’t claim the word themselves. For them, the term feminist speaks to the white woman’s struggle, and they are not interested in conforming to fit that movement. They want to fight their battle on their own terms. I’ve met other Latinas who don’t identify as feminist simply because they don’t need to put a label on how they choose to live their lives. My mother is a great example (Patricia, your blog post “Shaping a Latina Feminist Identity” made me think of this). Even with me for a daughter, I doubt that she will ever call herself a “loud and proud” feminist. But she’s traveled the world on her own, studied hard to enter a male-dominated field, exercised her reproductive rights without shame and has always been the rock in our family. She’s the strongest feminist I know, and I have to accept that she may never call herself that.
So yes, the feminist movement does exclude Latinas, and I believe that it lacks a certain strength that can only be found in diversity. But that doesn’t mean that Latinas are fighting for their communities, for their rights, and to make a place for themselves within this world. My blog is my attempt to shine a light on those struggles.
In addition to the bloggers who took place in this roundtable, check out these other Latina Feminist bloggers–and, as always, please leave suggestions of others to read in the comments!
Veronica Arreola of Viva La Feminista
The Feminist Texican Reads
Bianca Laureano of Latino Sexuality
Libby Julia-Vazquez of Moments In My Head
Megan La Mala Ortiz from VivirLatino
Michelle of xishell words