Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This week I visited Ramapo College of New Jersey to give a presentation on Latina Feminist Thought for their Latino Heritage Month activities. My contacts at the Women’s Center had saw me speak at the CLPP Conference earlier this year, and when they contacted me earlier this semester I was really excited at working with them and their students.

When I think about a lecture/presentation/workshop on the topic of theories it kind of makes me anxious. Theory is something that can be so dense and boring, that I was happy to hear they would love for me to incorporate some aspect of popular culture in my presentation. When I first came to theory I was really intimidated! It was like learning another language to me and I felt dumb, especially when I didn’t know what some of the phrases or terms meant. It was a huge culture shock for me, but something that I was able to overcome and am now a part of creating and building theories and practices.

I had decided to discuss the evolution of Latina Feminist Thought over the past 5 decades in the United States for the purposes of time. Yet, I was struggling with how to incorporate the popular culture aspects. Finally, I decided that I would do two things: 1. Find films for each decade that were important to me in creating my own understanding and identity as a Latina and with a gendered lens, and 2. Include theorists who utilize various forms of media and art to create their theories and move the field of women, gender, Latin@, and ethnic studies forward.

I spent several weeks putting my thoughts together, and spent a good amount of time thinking about my own trajectory as a Latina “feminist” thinker. To be very honest, it was a difficult yet rewarding exercise. Sometimes we don’t often document why or how we come to a particular level of consciousness because when we shift our thinking or widen our lens we get distracted with the new knowledge. Reminding myself to write things down and spend time outlining how I came to certain ideas and understandings is something I still need to do (and encourage the rest of you to do the same especially if you are thinking of graduate school as it will help out a lot!).

Some of the media that I included in the presentation was poetry and how many Latin@s theorize their existence and experiences through poetry and other forms of creative writing. Also included were cartoons and artwork that have been created to share ideas and to make some theories and ideas more accessible in different ways for various communities. Then, of course I had more “traditional” forms of media such as films and the Internet.

What I created was a PowerPoint presentation that I’m really proud of completing. Not only was I proud to complete this in a PowerPoint format, since I’m such a dinosaur I rarely ever use this format, but I also had the opportunity to highlight amazing people in my community and whom I know personally and introduce their work to folks who have yet to hear of them. I included folks who are some of the foremothers of Latina Feminist thought (or using a gendered lens to examine and theorize about our lives and experiences), such as Gloria AnzaldĂșa, and Maxine Baca Zinn. I also introduced some of my amazing friends and media makers such as Erika Lopez, Sofia Quintero, and Ivan Velez, Jr. (interviews with them for the Media Makers Salon coming soon!). And yes, that’s right I had a whole discussion of including Latino men as being important to theorizing using a gendered lens. What I’m most proud of is to have had the opportunity to include youth media makers in the 2010 decade. I put Espie Hernandez, who was the first person I interviewed for the Media Makers Salon, and her documentary MARIPOSA. Espie’s film makes a really important connection between the topics that we are still discussing and needing to change as a community: gender roles and expectations, sexual orientation, gender expression, and Latino identity. Espie’s documentary and AnzaldĂșa’s work are in conversation with one another in amazing ways.

Prior to finishing my presentation, I outlined areas that I think Latina Feminist Thought will move towards and some areas that we still need to create spaces to discuss. Several of the conversations that I believe we need to be having and for whatever reason we are not, is including youth in theorizing their own experiences without having to have an adult “approve” or deem appropriate their narrative/testimonio. There was one theorist who I discussed that examines the Internet and how it is used to create activism and community (several reasons to support Net Neutrality), but who also sees several flaws in using the Internet for such work. I shared that this is one area that I find young people’s work being isolated and seen as less than exceptional which is not creating a space for future discussions with them. I also discussed including trans people of Color and examining how we create an atmosphere and environment that makes it difficult for trans people to live safely, share their ideas and experiences, and have the same rights we expect to have for ourselves.

Finally, I discussed how we could theorize about silence. I find that silence is something we are told is bad and negative and as Audre Lorde wrote “your silence will not protect you.” Yet, how is silence something that is very important and that represents us doing some really important and hard work? Let’s admit that thinking is hard work sometimes! Also, how can silence save some of our lives? Silence is very complicated and I think it needs to be examined more seriously and in a comprehensive way.

Below is the slide show that I compiled that you can check out and share if you’d like. I created a Latina Feminist Thought Tumblr page for folks to manage and submit anything they like to the page and encourage you to do the same!

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