Friday, February 29, 2008

Listening to the Feminist Blogosphere

My last post Fertility and Invisibility seems to be right in time for the latest debacle in the feminist blogosphere. Once again, I am convinced that neither pro-choice or pro-life is where I want to set up camp.

Here's the story:

Once upon a time, BlackAmazon writes one of her brilliant pieces that centralize attention on Soutthall Black Sisters, a non-profit in peril of closing and in desperate need of help. In her powerful probing, she writes

It's not like Planned Parenthood isn't formed on the basis of one of the
most VIOLENTLY racist eugencists who literally compared Aboriginal peoples to
apes, and flaunted this fact and EVERY DAMN TIME people damn near wet themselves over her little to no mention is made of it under the apallling guise and with real straight faces under BUT LOOK AT WHAT SHE'S DONE FOR WOMEN.

For those who don't know, she is speaking of Margaret Sanger.

Then, Apostate, a self-declared important person to Planned Parenthood writes, "Inexcusable Attack on PP - Is the Feminist Blogosphere Without Conscience?" and blasts BA for "stupid" comments and paints BA as "someone [who] uses her status as the Voice of Women of Color to spread a canard."

Dude, I don't even know what a CANARD is, but I do know from history that BA NEVER CLAIMS TO BE THE VOICE OF WOMYN OF COLOR.

::arms flailing::

I want everyone to form a line who think that one blogger, writer, activist speak for "all women of color..." Like one black womyn speaks for all black womyn. Like I speak for all Filipino Americans. Like how you speak for an entire community. I don't think so. I'm SO sick of hearing this line and I'm even more tired of BA being accused of things she doesn't even say or implicate.

So, for the millionth time in the feminist blogosphere, the usual equation rolls:

Step 1
A powerful womyn of color with knowledge of and experience with life history and a keyboard writes a moving post about a significant issue taking place someone in the world that is affecting poor womyn of color; in that post she references a FACT that sends a blast toward a successful organization.

Step 2
Someone from aforementioned organization or who has ties or who has worked on its behalf sees blood in the water and defends (attacks).

Step 3
People respond. With facts.

Step 4
An open thread invites womyn of color to educate on what should be done follows

:: sighs that last 4 minutes long::

Alright, look, I'm not an expert on Rep Rights. I'm not an expert on PP. I don't even engage in these attacks anymore on other's blogs because it always leads to the same place - nowhere. But I do know a few things about feminism, voice, and criticism. Here's what I know from the feminist blogosphere:

1) I know that anytime a person of unusual reflecting power is offering words of perspective, I should listen. I don't have to agree, but I take the cue that it's time to quiet myself and take in another person's life for a moment and try to understand where they are writing from (both literally and metaphorically)

2) I know that I, a womyn of color, have knowledge that is beyond quantifiable dates, stats, and publication houses. It's called life observation. I'm not trying to write a book or crack a whip with it, but I do have an opinion from it. Others are afforded the same, I'm pretty sure. And if I disagree (which, by the way, I do disagree with others about 98% of the time), I refrain from name calling, even in the name of defense. Maybe it's me, I just think it discredits an argument.

3) Planned Parenthood has done incredible work and I know several people who work there that continue its noble mission. However, just like any organization, Planned Parenthood is capable of problematic histories, dark practices, and even racism. And while the charge to move past history and focus on "now" is tempting, it's outright dangerous to discard the power of memory, lesson, and the revolving door of oppression. History is Always relevant to contemporary issues. Always.

As brilliant Sylvia writes, focusing on the "now" and excluding the power of history is dangerous tactic proven by politicians, policy makers, and writers.

What is the point of having history if we don’t try to learn from it? There is a key difference in learning from history and learning history. Learning from history requires more active engagement, more questioning of motive, and more analysis. Learning history simply leads to the passive indifference, incapacitation, and hasty retreats that pervert our current progressive discourse.

So, this has led to a place where I conteplate, for the 783028 time this month, the futility of feminist blogs. Should I bother engaging with others when I *know* I'll just get shut down because of my mouthy manners? Should I bother even trying to make my voice heard or make myself known? It's so dark out there. And then I am led to Aaminah.

A few days ago, Aaminah asked a great question of bloggers - do you think that your readers "know" you from your blog, your writer's voice?

I've been thinking about that a lot lately and I have to admit, when I read Apostate's post, I wasn't moved by her defense of PP, listing of its great works, or her interesting history as a Pakistani immigrant, I was turned off by this all too familiar feeling when someone isn't *listening* to what another person is offering.

For as little as we bloggers know one another (and I agree with Aaminah - no one *knows* me strictly from my blog), the only bloggers I trust are the ones with the most engaging questions. It's not about tone, it's not about resume, or where you've been. I don't form "enemies," or at least, I don't seek to form enemies. Nor do I view anyone as "the enemy." (That rhetoric is a bit too George W. for me) It's the deep, profound questioning blogs that I swim toward. Apostate's back to back questions were, "Is the Feminist Blogosphere Without Conscience?" followed by "What Do You Want Planned Parenthood to Do?" reinstate my fear that we, as womyn, have not come very far in the simple but instrumental feat in learning how to listen. 

And so, I reply to a fellow blogger's question, "Is the Feminist Blogosphere Without Conscience?"
I speak from my own voice and say, "I have a conscience, yes, but I listen first."

-En lucha.

Invisibility, Fertility, and the Pro-Life/Pro-Choice Camps

I rarely write about abortion.  I barely write about reproductive rights.  

(Oh, FYI, the article that I am linking to is to one of the most powerful and important posts on sexuality, fertility, and Rep Rights I have read in a long time.)

Probably because I myself have fertility problems.  At age 20, I had tumors and partial ovarian removal.  This came after a lifetime of irregular menstrual cycles, one that even last 40 straight days.  Yes, that is a true fact. I have had hormone deficiencies, struggled with weight balance and blood sugar levels, and am at risk for high blood pressure.  Everyday, I struggle with health, its implications for impending motherhood, and my stubborn ovaries.

So, when my concerns about having children surface, my immediate thoughts concern themselves with how well I know my own body.  Not how loud I can be or how many people I have shared a bed with.  My reproductive rights are a right of intimacy with my own skin and organs, knowledge about health, wellness, and empowerment.  It's not just about access to medical procedures and doctors.  It's about womyn, ALL womyn, truly understanding our cycles, our gifted bodies.  Perhaps Rep Rights are realizing that the most radical and authentic control we can exercise is not about ensuring that a doctor can perform a procedure in our womb, but about the very ability to independently read and understand our own bodies.

The Ivory Tower is the Assassin's Hiding Place

I am beginning a series with this title: The Ivory Tower is the Assassin's Hiding Place because of recent events at U of M.  Get this: Andrea Smith was denied tenure.

Before anything, she was nominated for the Nobel freaking Prize.

For those who are new to my blog, you may not know this about me.  Because I worked and studied for so in the academy, I take the honor (and fun) of trying to dismantle (smear) the political patriarchy that bolsters its teaching (war zoned) buildings.

When I was an undergrad at Jesuit institution, one of the prayer petitions offered during mass was for "all the professors up for tenure. " A few weeks later, one of the most brilliant and gifted professors was denied.  A flurry of outrage from students and the community captivated the campus.  I was one of his students, familiar with is passion and light, but knew nothing about the tenure process, and very little about the other side (business, administration, faculty) of academic life in general.  The administration issued a statement that the tenure granting process has, really, "nothing to do with students" and I agreed.  Who I am to speak up for a professor?  What do I know about what goes on in the shadows of an ivory tower?  I'm just a student who loves a professor's work, but I reasoned to myself, "I'm sure there's more to it that I just don't and can't know about. IT'S NOT MY PLACE."

That's exactly what they wanted me to think.

Getting vocal about ANDREA freaking SMITH not getting tenure is one of these opportunities to speak up.   I do know something about the academic world.  I've been there, seen it, and recognize its oppressive ways.   For those unfamiliar with the academic world, know this for now:  it can be, depending on the institution, one of the most dangerous places or womyn of color.  I mean, think about it - here is womyn of color scholar who has dedicated her entire life to researching and teaching racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia; she matriculated from some of the most prestigious universities in the world, authored and published ground-breaking work in contentious or unknown fields, and presses young minds forward to think progressively, radically, and independently - and she is denied tenure.  

Institutions are supported (funded) by donors (rich White people) who grant (bestow) tenure (protection) and is one of the few (only) ways for scholars (true thinkers) and activists like Andrea Smith (pioneering feminist) to do their creative (brilliant) work (mission).

::sarcasm::  I wonder what this is about. 

Just a Few of Her Publications:

o Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide 

o Native Americans and the Christian Right: The Gendered Politics of Unlikely 


o Sacred Sites, Sacred Rites 

• Smith is editor and/or co-editor of the following anthologies:  

o Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology 

o The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial 


o Native Feminisms Without Apology 

o Forthcoming on theorizing Indigenous Studies

::dry::  Here's my question - why isn't this womyn more active?

She has published 15 peer reviewed articles in widely circulated academic journals

including American Quarterly, Feminist Studies, National Women’s Studies

Association Journal, Hypatia, Meridians, and the Journal of Feminist Studies in


• Smith is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards from organizations such as the

Lannan Foundation, University of Illinois, Gustavus Myers Foundation, Ford


• Smith was cited in the U.S. Non-Governmental Organization Consolidated Shadow

Report to the United Nations

• A co-founder of Incite! Women of Color Against Violence and the Chicago chapter

of Women of All Red Nations, she has been a key thinker behind large-scale national

and international efforts to develop remedies for ending violence against women

beyond the criminal justice system.  As a result of her work, scholars, social service

providers, and community-based organizations throughout the United States have

shifted from state-focused efforts to more systemic approaches for addressing


To Support Professor Andrea Smith:  The Provost must hear our responses!  Write letters in

support of Andrea Smith’s tenure case.  Address email letters to ALL of the following: 

• Teresa Sullivan, Provost and Executive VP for Academic Affairs, LSA,

• Lester Monts, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, LSA,

• Mary Sue Coleman, President, 



The Ivory Tower is the Assassin's Hiding Place

 *--Please Distribute Widely and Join Our Local Action Campaign!--   *


*Native Feminism Without Apology!*

                  *February 25, 2008 
*Statement of University of Michigan Students and Faculty in Support of 
Andrea Smith's Tenure Case* 

On February 22nd, 2008, University of Michigan's College of Literature, 
Science and the Arts (LSA) issued a negative tenure recommendation for 
Assistant Professor Andrea Lee Smith. Jointly appointed in the Program in 
American Culture and the Department of Women's Studies, Dr. Smith's body of 
scholarship exemplifies scholarly excellence with widely circulated articles 
in peer-reviewed journals and numerous books in both university and 
independent presses including *Native Americans and the Christian 
Right *published 
this year by Duke University Press.  Dr. Smith is one of the greatest 
indigenous feminist intellectuals of our time. A nominee for the 2005 Nobel 
Peace Prize, Dr. Smith has an outstanding academic and community record of 
service that is internationally and nationally recognized. She is a 
dedicated professor and mentor and she is an integral member of the 
University of Michigan (UM) intellectual community. Her reputation and 
pedagogical practices draw undergraduate and graduate students from all over 
campus and the nation.

Dr. Smith received the news about her tenure case while participating in the 
United States' hearings before the Convention on the Elimination of Racial 
Discrimination at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Ironically, 
during those very same hearings, the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decisions that 
restricted affirmative action policies at UM specifically were cited as 
violations of international law. At the same time, there is an undeniable 
link between the Department of Women's Studies and LSA's current tenure 
recommendations and the long history of institutional restrictions against 
faculty of color. In 2008, students of color are coming together to protest 
the way UM's administration has fostered an environment wherein faculty of 
color are few and far between, Ethnic Studies course offerings have little 
financial and institutional support, and student services for students of 
color are decreasing each year.

*To Support Professor Andrea Smith: * The Provost must hear our 
responses!  Write 
letters in support of Andrea Smith's tenure case.  Address email letters to 
ALL of the following:

   - Teresa Sullivan, Provost and Executive VP for Academic Affairs, LSA, 
   - Lester Monts, Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, LSA,> 
   - Mary Sue Coleman, President, 

Voice your ideas on the web forum at

*To Support Women of Color at Michigan and the Crisis of Women's Studies and 
Ethnic Studies: * Attend the student organized March 15th Conference at 
UM!!!! *Campus Lockdown: Women of Color Negotiating the Academic Industrial 
Complex* is free and open to the public.  Speakers include renowned 
activists and scholars Piya Chatterjee, Angela Davis, Rosa Linda Fregoso, 
Ruthie Gilmore, Fred Moten, Clarissa Rojas, and Haunani-Kay Trask.   For 
more information and to register, visit:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Happy Birthday To Me

Today is my birthday!

I took the day off work. The city, the world, is mine for the day.

Of course you can leave me unlimited messages of love and imaginary balloons to help me celebrate!

Happy Birthday to me!

2008 State of the Self Address

It is my birthday today and my second annual State of the Self address. I began this last year, on my birthday, to declare who I am, what I am, where, and why I am to the world. Last year, I delivered it to a living room full of loved ones who cheered and applauded me. This year, I write it only my Self and for the 29 years of ballooning experiences I stash under my raincoat.

I am 29 years old.

This world I have grown up in, the country of the United States has brainwashed me to grow and cultivate an addictive dependency on numbers. Compasses, equations, menus, percentages, age, numbers, numbers, numbers everywhere exist to provide direction, comfort, reason, and a measuring stick. Nearly everyone comments on this being my last year of the 20s, a year away from 30. As if there is some pattern of life that I am destined to follow because of 29 being a step before 30. Ech. What if I’m not 1 before 30 and I’m just 29, a life complete as is without wondering what 30 will bring or what 28 left unsigned.

There is nothing “-un” about my life. Everything is finished, everything has closure. A sliver of an opening in a ring is not incomplete, it’s in the state of its destined permanency. The moon is full every night, regardless of what the sun reflects.

John making out with my friend sophomore year in high school while he was my homecoming date.

That reimbursement check in 2002 that my employer was delayed in processing which dented my personal savings.

The package that the mail deliverer said he lost contained irreplaceable photos and videos of childhood moments and priceless pieces of my family and life are gone.

1996 scarred me with a thoughtlessness that would overflow a river.

What we think “should” happen often leaves us in a psychological limbo. What we mark as the hinge that allows the door to swing close is nothing more than an illusion, a helpless, relentless, frantic irrationality that wants control over the ending; the dark side of us that need for it to end the way we need it to end.

There is no control over the ending, only the role we are given in the unfolding. That’s the warped beauty of numbers, of my 10, 592 days. It lets us measure what we think should happen, what shouldn’t happen, and what should have happened. Age is the common pebble to throw in this pond game.

How wasteful are we when we become fixated on what we thought our lives were supposed to be? It was supposed to end with his explanation and my telling him off. I was supposed to receive my check in the mail. The sweaty but smiling mailman was supposed to at my door, offering a shoebox wrapped in brown grocery bags.

The full moon, whether I saw it or not, was that John made out with Tara because he was a horny bastard and I was a shy 15 year old. Evelyn was a motivated but disorganized supervisor who forgot to process my check. That package is never arriving. Ever. Not every wrong finds a humble apologetic.

At 29, I’m supposed to live out one last hoorah, try to find closure with my 20s, sink into my skin before I lean back into the 30s and prepare for a February 2009 trip to Vegas where I’ll wear glittery tank tops and nuzzle my way into a VIP table at a red-lit, red-painted wall bar on the main strip. At 29, I’m supposed to have one more go around the world, steal a kiss from a 21 year old body builder, and learn how to cook a flourless chocolate cake from scratch. The classic novels need my bent elbow, my sex life is to be at full throttle, and my shoe collection is due for a shot of ipecac so I can justify a refreshed podiatric wardrobe.

At 29, I am to be lamenting the gravity and reality of my boobs and hips and spend more time perusing rugs and perfume counters. 29 is the time to cash in my frequent flier miles, find cheap hostels, drain tablets of Dramamine to go whale watching, and connect with old ruins of Europe, kneel on mats in Bali, or kiss the sands of Fiji. Better do it now before kids come.

Ah yes, children.

29 - the dangerously close age to passing primo childbearing years. Enthusiasts for Children talk to me like my organs have their own personalities and minds. Like my ovaries are going to take in a collective sigh and grumble why they haven’t seen the womb fruits of their monthly labor and then just decide to die. The ever competing for attention Uterus will begin talking smack with the ovaries, wondering approximately when Uterus will ever be of use, if at all! As usual, the Fallopian tubes are the peacemakers, the liaison, calming the Ovaries and Uterus, “The time is coming soon, friends. We’re almost past childbearing years! She must know that. No worries!”

(Side note: Don’t think for a moment that I don’t realize timing and planning, in many ways, is a privilege. It stains the asses of those like me who can choose from a variety of lives to lead. I have been afforded choice. Momentarily putting aside the political meaning of the term, my life is one billboard for Pro-Choice, there’s nothing in my life where I did not have at least 3 other options to consider.)

Back to my point:

Yes, at 29, I’m supposed to be “trying” for a baby.

29 has been presented to me as a giant farewell; an act, a year motivated by good-byes. 29 is one giant frill, a forced pep rally for 30. A convincing performance that leaves little doubt that I am ready for maternal responsibility now that I have left no stone unturned in my journey. I am to convince the world (and my Self) that doing these things, pursuing such feats, potteries and achievements, I am bidding adieu to something that has inevitably run its course. The finale, the greatest inaugural sign of the dirty thirties – a baby – is the red exit sign at the door of the decade, symbolizing woman. A belly bump is the most graceful exiting of my 20s. “Expecting” takes the lead from “exploring.”

Once again, the Ought To Theory surfaces with scores of alleys, boulevards and avenues. I do not deny that I want a few of those things; I’m not a wallflower in an abandoned warehouse of society. I seek adventure, travel, love, orgasms, freedom, rarity, and children in my life, too. The difference is how I want them to arrive. I resent the artificial notions of what it means to mathematically mature, to gain one more year, to live life in reaction to an arbitrary number.

The question of time and numbers haunts my 29th birthday. There is a particular verse in the bible that spiritually chases me. I often run in fear of its searing truths. “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…A time to be born, a time to die…”

“To everything there is a season.” Everything has a season – jobs, lovers, CD players. Everything has a destined timelines of function and meaning and I am the receiver, observer of these fates. Every relationship, conversation, and moment is temporary; a resounding laugh that eventually fades. Its lasting effect is only as profound as my ability to recognize the significance of its brevity.

I am left to ponder the lesson of time, purpose, agenda, should, and expectation. Who am I after I acknowledge that I do not want Europe or ruins or tea? What is left of me after I proclaim that my perfect partner is all the love I could ever need or dream and no other kiss could steal my heart? Today, I recognize that I am the 29 year old resplendent freak who hates everything 30 minus 1 stands for. I refuse to believe in ridiculous notions of valor and experientially based milestones. I remember the moon is always full whether I see it or not. It’s complete. As is.

There is no shame in me anymore or any regret that would fuel a series of contrived expeditions. Whatever the 20s did, it has stripped it from me. In its place, a phoenix Venus, a trembling certainty, a stirring smoky volcano keeps repeating, “I am enough.”

There will be no Vegas (I don’t think) or alcoholic mosh pits of emotional destruction. There is no “one last” anything or systematic charting my progression.

There is only canvas and color. Aperture and camera. Skin and blankets. Soothe and wind. Resignation and redemption. Acceptance and altruism. Light and forgiveness.

I refute everything I was taught and embrace everything I have learned.

This is my life at 29.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Who Needs "Filipino" or Tagalog Bloggers?

Thanks to Tigera Consciente who gave me a heads up that Blogger is now offering the feature to blog "IN FILIPINO."


I wonder if they mean to blog "in Tagalog," which is the the official language of the Philippines, among the several dialects of the Islands.

There's been discussion as to whether Filipinos "need this," considering that English is taught and spoken in the Philippines. I thought that the question as to whether it's "needed" is somewhat ridiculous. Not ALL Filipinos are bi/multi-linguial and/or know English. I see Blogger making an effort to extend blogging opportunities to the people of the Philippines, regardless if you know English or not. The blogging world should not reign supreme for English speakers.

Last time I checked, blogging one's way into existence is not a luxury limited to English speaking writers.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Now We Know that 'Blogger' Doesn't Read Feminist Blogs

So, now there is this new feature in Blogger - CALL ME FOR FREE! where bloggers can receive voicemail messages right from our blog. And post them! What better way to start my day off than to wake up and hear my little nephew calling, "Tita, I miss you!"

Followed by a, "Listen you self-righteous b*#$@, you're the f#*@ing reason why this world is going to hell in a handbasket with your bull$*&t feminist posts on your g^&d@#$ blog! I hope you f*#$ing die!"


Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Monologue that Should be a Dialogue

The Vagina Monologues, written by Eve Ensler, is a popular conversation topic in February.It is a production that has sparked a larger movement: Vday.  Every year, February 14 is V-Day, a day marked to end violence against women, and thousands of productions take place across the world.  All proceeds benefit local sexual assault services and community organizations.

Eve Ensler has had her share of controversy and fame.  She is a well-known playwright who focuses on human rights and feminism on the global stage.  The Vagina Monologues, the biggest boom in her canon, catapulted her and V-day into the global spotlight as she coaxed hundreds of women to talk about their Vaginas and then turned it into a play based off of their testimony. As one can imagine, the play is not just about the anatomical gift of Vaginas, but about sexuality, relationships, violence, Self, and wonder.  The VMs also intermittingly spotlights an area of the world where Ensler eyes a particularly troubling trend of violence toward womyn.  Past spotlights have been on Juarez, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  Ten years have past since the first VM production and thousands of performances and millions of donated dollars later, it still raises as many eyebrows and questions as it does money.

The Filipina Women's Network is producing a Filipina version of the Vagina Monologues in New York City in April.  The show is intended to channel attention to the Filipina community which suffers from domestic and sexual violence through marriages (according to the Philippine government census, 9 out of 10 women who are battered also experience marital rape), relationships, global sex trafficking, and the perpetuating  of the docile, sex toy image that is seemingly branded to the term 'filipina.' (More about challenging this image in future posts.)

While there is so much empowerment surrounding this particular movement, it's also interesting to note its criticisms and concerns.  Every year, this time of year, I think of the VMs and contemplate its power, imperfections, and purpose.  I have participated in the Vagina Monologues twice; once to perform, the second as a director.  However, with more time and more Vdays to observe, I am once again brought to that unavoidable question that every activist, every feminist, every anti-violence human being must ask: What must be done to transform a rape culture to end violence against women?  

I'm not just talking about Filipinas.  I'm talking about everyBODY.  I'm talking about the New York womyn, to transfolks in Cambodia, to little girls in Argentina, to the womyn of New Orleans.  I'm talking everyBODY.  What needs to happen?  My answer comes from one of the questions that Eve Ensler asked every women interviewed for the Vagina Monologues, "If your vagina could speak, what would it say?"

Mine would say, "Considering the fact that the overwhelming majority of rapes come from men assaulting womyn, considering that womyn can do everything to in the name of prevention, education, and defense, considering that despite all these efforts to not live in fear and our resolve to live in a mentality of freedom...considering all these things, still today, nothing will stop my sisters from being raped except the men who rape them and the culture that feeds them."

My largest criticism of the Vagina Monologues, in regard to its efforts to end violence against women, is it fails to ask the bleeding question of how MEN will stop the violence against womyn. (While I do want to acknowledge same sex violence and assault, the primary assaults are men violating womyn.)  Why is it ALWAYS the Vagina Monologues and not the Vagina and Penis Dialogues Against Violence?  

I remain convinced that this global culture does more than permit the rape of womyn, it blankets the cries of incest and sexual violence in every corner of every country with its own politics, corruption, and silence.  Cue: Eve Ensler and Vday come marching in the door to trumpet its resolve to END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN VIA VDAY!  Solidarity with womyn in other countries have led to media profiling international activists as saviors instead of recognizing local antidotes.  

The truth is that no one can walk through the doors of Juarez and transform its community except the womyn and men and children of Juarez.  No one will effectively teach any community from the outside of what needs to heal on the inside.  Every community needs resources, models, and hope, but as activists, we must, MUST, end the notion that solidarity across the globe for womyn alone will heal this epidemic.  (Prepare yourself for the following.) We need - gasp - men!  We need everyone if we are to truly rid ourselves of this disease that we routinely baste ourselves in when we forge alliances across oceans but stamp a V on our foreheads and then holler at the stars when only a handful of men join the movement.

Violence against women must (m)en/d. 

And so I ask, "What would your vagina or penis say if it could talk?"

Friday, February 15, 2008

The State of Brownhood

When I was younger, I hated when my dad pinched my nose. Out of nowhere, in the middle of trying to wield permission to attend a weekend slumber party, his face would grow into a big smile and I'd watch his long brown fingers extend to pinch my little Filipino nose. Hard.

In pain, I'd jerk back, "DAD!" He had problems with gentleness at times. I often wondered if he remembered I was not my brothers, but a smaller framed girl, a very impressionable young girl.

"Your nose is flat," he smiled as if to justify the pinch.

"Yeah, I know. So's yours, " I would retort, rubbing my sore nose.

"The irony of mixed-heritage Filipinos not being accepted as Filipinos is exposed when one considers the pains that Filipinos in the Philippines and abroad take to maintain a standard of appearance that has its roots in colonization: for example, keeping out of the sun so as not to get 'too dark' or pinching the nose to make it less flat," writes Linda A. Rvilla in her article Filipino American Identity: Transcending the Crisis.

I grew up bicultured: in the US, but in a Filipino home raised by Filipino parents. In the long roads of sifting through identity and arriving to a loving appreciation for my culture, never did I anticipate the work of analyzing my own parents' upbringing or their learned inferiority. For every inquiring feminist, all questions begin and end with your family. What runs in their blood also runs in mine.

As I sprinted out to play outdoors, my mother would yell out the summer door, "Don't get too dark!" My father pinching my nose. My round curvy brown body was surrounded by white girls dying to be thin and dieting for attention. It's taken nearly three decades to purge the poison, especially when I read how skin whitening is now on the rise in the Philippines.

The pinched noses and cautions not to get "too dark" remained an unchecked part of my childhood until I began to read magazines and notice the high energy levels for conformity. Where did I fit in? Would I ever fit? The questions were cyclic and relentless. I considered my options. 1) Rearranging my face 2) Pretending I don't have thick straight jet black hair 3) Staying out of the sun for the rest of my life because I tan deeply in less than 10 minutes. I was left with no options but to begin accepting my state of Brownhood. I could spend a lifetime in shame or learn how to fight and love my skin, my color, my eyes, and hair.

In college, I found myself in an elevator with a few White women who kept glancing at me. Familiar with stranger gazes and rude stares, I looked back at them. One asked, "How do you keep your tan so even throughout the year?" It was winter at the time. I replied, "I spend a fortune at Jamaica-Me Tan," and walked out of the elevator.

I chose and continue to choose pride because I never wanted to be tall or White.

I choose Pinay. I choose me.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Happy Loving Feminist

As a feminist, having multi/interdisciplinary perspective is kinda like my thing. I see left, right, up, down, and through. I'm a feminist, that's what I do.

As a feminist of Valentine's Day, V-day, another day, any other day - I recognize that today, like any other day represents many things for different people. Today, I gave my sweetie a little pinch on the bum and soft kiss on the cheek and pulled on vibrant colored top. Today, I remember that LGBTQ relationships are not recognized, let alone celebrated in this heternormative, homogenous society. Today, I remember that I would be nowhere without the love and friendship of so many womyn who have lifted me out of the debts of depression, alienation, isolation, and writer's block. Today I see a world turn red and pink and know that many women turn black and blue from their "loved" ones and today, regardless of Hallmark, more womyn will be raped, beaten, cheated, killed, kidnapped, tortured, traded, molested, tricked, slapped, cheapened, silenced, and broken on a day written for"love."

I am a feminist, today and everyday. There is no price for my love, no appreciation found in a fold-out card, no funny shaped box to contain my generosity, no ribbons to tie up my forgiving heart, no t-shirt to match my joy.

I am a feminist, full of love.

And no, that is not a contradiction.

Blogging Recognition

Along with my feministically blogging radical sister bloggers, I have been nominated (thank you, MattBastard) for a lovely award - Best International Feminist Blog.

Now, I'm not even sure what an award like this means because I certainly honor SO many women who inspire me to write and blog that I feel funny saying YEAH GO VOTE FOR ME.

Instead, I say, YEAH GO READ THESE OTHER AWESOME BLOGS like Brownfemipower, No Snow Here, Problem Chylde, Ms. Crip Chick, among the many dazzlers in my blogroll.

I only want recognition if it's in the context of the amazing community of womyn who inspire me.

Thanks for the nomination - Happy V-day to you, too.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Top 10 Things on Being Filipino

Welcome to Filipino Friday where everything celebrated is Filipino.

Being Pinay, a Filipino American womyn, is a secret treasure that not many people know much about.   Often, Pinays get thrown in under the Asian American umbrella, as if China, Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, Sri Laka, India, and other fine countries can be swiftly held together with one flimsy string.

Welcome to Filipino Friday.


10.  My expandable stomach.  
You try eating rice everyday for three meals and see how wonderfully expansive your stomach can be.  Rice with breakfast food, rice for lunch, and of course, a hot steaming pot of rice with whatever is being served for dinner.

9.  Mixed Identity
Filipinos have a beautifully complex history.  The Spaniard colonization and American militarization have influenced the culture, but nothing takes away from the beauty of the Filipino culture that celebrates hospitality, fiestas, and laughter.  I see parts of my culture in the Latino community, the African American community, and in my White/Euro communities as well.

8.  Relax!
Filipinos are all about relaxing.  It may be the fact that our mothership is a collection of tropical islands.  It may be al the rice we eat.  It may be the fact we'd rather talk and eat than do anything else.  I struggle with punctuality, procrastination, and organization, but I'm getting better.  Hey, there's always tomorrow.  Or next Wednesday.

7.  Belly Up Laughter
If Filipinos ever get headaches, it's because we've been laughing too hard.  And I'm not talking about the hahaha jokes at the table.  I'm talking about cave-wide open mouths with a sound coming out you wonder if a laughing whale is stuck in our bellies.  Filipino laughter is the clap and hands grasped, gasping for air and then say it one more time kind of enjoyment that most people do not enjoy.  I'm often the last person laughing because it takes a while to fully enjoy the throttle and then relive it again in my mind.

6. Cousins You Never Had
I have never met half my family.  They live on the other side of the planet.  However, that doesn't mean that I don't think about them or pray about them and hope someday that I will greet them or be greeted in an embrace.  Extended family also includes random filipinos who I've never met.  My parents' friends, their children, and any filipino family who end up gnawing on a piece of lechon at the Filipino summer picnics are considered family.  That's the hospitable, loving family way, so that's the Filipino way.

5.  Language
English is my first language and the Tagalog I do know mixes with the Spanish with which I am more familiar.  The Philippines has several languages of the Islands and while I do not know all of them, it brings me great pride that my parents can speak so many different dialects.  As a Fil-Am, I also have the comfort that I can navigate through my ancestry with my first language - English.  At times, I do still feel my waves of rage that I am not fluent in Tagalog.  Teaching their children English so they can easily assimilate is a commonly heard priority among Filipino immigrants who have children in the US.  A sad testimony, I believe, in losing our native tongue.

4. Parties that NEVER End
I mean this in the best way.  Not only do weddings go well over the time and not only do parties last until the wee hours of the next day, but they NEVER end because we keep talking about them and reliving them in memory.  "Remember when Uncle Shall took off his shirt during the dance off?"  "Did you see Kat doing the tinikling?"

3. Hospitality and Warmth
It may be the natural spirit of the people or the breeze of love that seems to endlessly blow in Filipino windows, but Filipinos are generally an extremely generous and warm community. Sure there are issues of pretenses, class, and general over the top gossip, but overall, being Filipino means understanding the spirit of giving to others.

2.  Passion and Temper
Faster than a microwave or a rising summer sun, Filipinos are emotional folks.  Often times, we don't make a lot of sense because we're too busy laughing, eating, or talking.  And if you interrupt us - even if it's with a plan to solve global warming - we'll wonder what could be more important than a good conversation and quality time with a beloved.  There's great passion and devotion to relationships, love, friendship, and understanding.  Filipinos are deeply feeling people and while that is not always the greatest quality to have, especially when we're pissed off, it generally emanates a welcoming atmosphere and genuine pleasure to spend time - hours - together.

1. Family and Culture
There's God.  Then Family.  Then Everything Else.  If you can learn that, you've got a lot under your belt.  It's not just church, mass, and prayer.  "GOD" encapsulates rosaries, novenas, altars in your living room, prayer groups, night prayers, prayers before meals, and all the sacraments throughout your life.  Then there's Scripture readings, contemplating what the Gospel meant and then we have to think about how that plays into our lives.  Then we have to watch "The Passion of the Christ" and then call our brother in California to talk about what he thought of it.  It's all spiritual.  It's all about God.  Don't mess with salvation.  Don't forget the meals afterward either.  Then there's family.  Family is central and God holds everything together.  Have trouble knowing what you want to study in college - family conversation.  Don't know what restaurant to choose - family conversation.  Who's paying for Lola's funeral expenses - family conversation.  Everything revolves around family and, like anything else that brings you pain, it is usually also the deliverer of most joys.
Everything else - anything else - comes in third, at best.

These are my Top Ten and by no means should assume that all Filipinos are just like me.  These are my observations of my own field study - my own life.  While many other Flips may see some truth in what I wrote, these are also like my fingerprints  -  absolutely my own.