365 Feminist Selfie

I am so very thankful for blogtitlan, a group of Latinx bloggers in the early 2000s.  It was lonesome being a Xicana in Ohio, not having Latinx friends, being raised in a white community and attending white institutions.  Blogtitlan understood me, helped me develop my ideas, questioned me in loving manner and created a community of thoughtful brown folk that I so desperately needed. Part of this community was Veronica Arreola of the blog Viva La Feminista and founder of The #365FeministSelfie. Veronica originally invited me to part of #365FeministSelfie a couple years ago and to their convention being conveniently held here in Columbus, Ohio. I didn’t go and I regret it.  It was a really rough time in my life with a horrible professional experience that left me feeling exhausted and hopeless–which is why I should’ve gone to the convention and why I regret so much not making it.  #365FeministSelfie is:

…a radical response to the theory that selfies are vain or plain right stupid. Many of the participants in #365FeministSelfie are using this challenge to create media that includes:

  • People of color
  • People with disabilities
  • People with chronic illness
  • Not-picture perfect parenting
  • Gender non-conforming bodies
  • Aging beautifully
  • People fighting mental illness
  • and the every day struggles of life itself…

So what is feminist about selfies? The people participating in this project are not seeking external validation through their photos. Rather they are creating media that includes people who do not fit the mainstream definition of beauty…although we have some of those too!

At the end of the day (or year), my hope is that people will feel more comfortable in front of a camera, more comfortable with their own image and hopefully see why others in their lives think they are beautiful.

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I have started now a couple years late but here I am.  I’ve been doing it on instagram (trying to merge with the Flickr and wordpress widget with not great success) and here are the things I’ve found myself thinking with a few weeks in, “selfies are good when I am feeling fugly, looking back on them days later—i am not as awful as i feel., Dayum, i work out more than I thought., Fuck that guy who told me my legs aren’t attractive., You can make anyone look big and small depending on the angle., I really like doing this for me.”

frightened

I tend to do decently well, in high stress emergency situations–like a stabbing (yes, I know this from experience).  I will act logically, somewhat clearly and then when the threat has subsided I’ll melt into a puddle of emotions.
I was most recently in a situation where my level of fear was heightened and I found myself surprised at my state of alertness, because I tend to get into a decent amount of risky situations. Or at least situations where I question if this is the safest execution of events, and I don’t think I’ve ever been as frightened by my own choices as I recently was.   When I say get into risky situations, I mean for example hiding in brothels from people searching for me, crossing borders with people with improper documentation–some seeking asylum, hanging out in prisons, traveling in areas forbidden to foreigners when I was one, dating men (yes, plural) with hits out on them, using authoritative government (is that redundant) regimes internet for non-sanctioned use, disseminating virtual proxies where it is verboten, assisting a friend escape institutional imprisonment–yet again I never felt the level of unease during those events as I did at dinner a couple of weeks ago.
I have friends who through dealings in their business and personal lives have been kidnapped, had family members murdered and take part in affairs I generally find intriguing from a far (here is some back ground on those friends, in an article titled Penitents, Pedophiles, Poets, Movie Stars, Silversmiths, and Drug Lords although the author very much lacks personal insight–she isn’t too far off in most of her accounts).   The thing, is when people like those in the article, gather in public they have the potential to be sitting ducks for those seeking retribution.  Usually, when we do gather, there is security in the perimeter, and a few better known people, kept arms length as security but disguised as part of the party.  Generally, things feel pretty safe– I think the closest I’ve had to an incident where I was present, was at a dance club, where some dude above me in the balcony almost dropped his bottle on me and security moved me out-of-the-way before the guy even dropped the bottle–so not big stuff.
Anyway, some how I ended up at dinner with the wives and children but without any security.  At dinner they discussed the changes since Chapo left the game, and how the fight for narco power didn’t respect women and children as it had in the past–I sat there thinking “So why the hell don’t we have any security tonight?”  Upon arrival, I’d surveyed our open air restaurant, with multiple entry and exit points, and a balcony above us with great prospect for sniper perches.  I felt like we were exposed and vulnerable, and while none of these ladies are super high-profile, their spouses and family members are–we were such easy prey.  I still don’t know why we didn’t have security and in fact none had come in armored car, which previously when hanging out with them–they would. I didn’t understand the lamenting of how it wasn’t so dangerous before but yet her we sat with less security than I have ever witnessed. I spent the night fearful, on high alert, and wondering why this felt more dangerous than ever. I am still processing.
In a related note, internally I laugh, when in the US and out with a man who wants to face the door for safety reasons. I invariable will surmise, they have no understanding how funny this is to me, and how much more practice I have of it than them.

The Big Short

While doing homework today, I had the film The Big Short, playing in the background.  It reminded me a lot of my father. I’d like to reflect back to my childhood in this post.
I think I was about 12 years-old, but am not completely sure.  Our suburb in central Ohio had a weekly newspaper, usually not very interesting, there was a “police beat section” that dripped with the mundane of the suburbs, the self-congratulatory student honor rolls, marriage announcements, house purchases etc.
In this particular memory of my father, the newspaper had published data on the average education and income of an adult in the suburb, and household income. My father sat reading the article and let out a laugh, like a laugh I’d never heard, in my mind like one of an evil villain cartoon character. Smugly, he explained that he was earning more than the average household income and that they had two incomes and unlike him had college degrees. It was as if he had won against them, I saw insecurity and hubris.
The other laugh I remember distinctly was a few years later sometime in my mid-teens while I watched my father in a business suit put on his tie, he was on his way to court being charged with multiple counts of securities exchange fraud. I asked my father, vice president of the firm, if his boss ‘Red’ was going to go to prison.  My father laughed, quite a similar laugh to the one from a few years before and said “No, Elena, he is a very smart man.  No one is going to prison.”  He was right and just like the people in the film The Big Short , a bunch of white men thought themselves very smart, were fraudulent with the banking system, and never went to prison.  Just like those men even after being found out, my father continued on with the same and opened two more firms, until my father was finally shut down—unlike those men he was a comparatively very small fish.
I wonder what it is going to take for this system to finally stop and have a final crash…In 2007 it crashed and we the taxpayers bailed out the banks.  We have to have an educated society who stands up against fiduciary irresponsibility and I don’t see us there.  I don’t hear our collective, I only hear my fathers laughter, and that “No, Elena, he is a very smart man. No one is going to prison.”

I get by with a little help from my friends

 

Richard and Elenamary

Richard and Elenamary

My good friend Richard, an Australian national phoned me and asked if I would meet him at the North Gate entrance of our university to accompany him to get his haircut.  His argument was that my Chinese was better than his and that I could stop them if they started to do something horrendous.  My Chinese albeit at this point slightly better than Richard’s (his is now better) was also awful–but I’ve never been timid about trying.  I met-up with Richard and shortly after received a phone call from our friend Dee a Thai national.

Dee

Dee

Dee and I lived in the same building and he was feeling ill, could I please bring him back some anti-diarrhea medicine– no problem I was on it.  At this point we were finishing with Richard’s haircut when in walked Adlet our Kazakh friend.  Adlet asked what we are up to and laughed at the dubiousness of Richard relying on my Chinese to get his haircut.  I argued, “Well look at him, his hair is cut isn’t it? He looks good so my Chinese worked well enough.” Adlet still laughing questioned me inquiring “how are you going to get the medicine?”  That I figured was more manageable then a hair cut.  “I don’t know the word for diarrhea but I do know the words for poop and explosion.  I will use those words and then see what happens.”

Adlet and Elenamary

Adlet and Elenamary

Adlet always down to tease me, decided to join us and watch me attempt to purchase the medicine.  I used my limited vocabulary and when I used the word explosion pointed at my own butt.  It worked!  I was quite pleased with myself and Adlet enjoyed watching me act out “poop explosion”.
I have been thinking a lot about that day, as I have spent the last few days in Singapore.  I never spoke mandarin well but I am realizing that I did know way more than I gave myself credit for.  I have had a few, let’s call them conversations (barely conversations) the last few days that have ranged in topic from directions, ordering food, to finding an unoccupied bathroom.  I didn’t know I still had that vocabulary.  It has been good for the ego.  Interestingly, I feel more understood here in Singapore, in that I haven’t had to repeat a word trying to find the correct tone, as I did when in Hainan.  I am not sure why I am understood more readily here and need to think about it more.

I am not upset about the election results

As I watch people upset about the election results I keep asking myself why are they upset?
The main two candidates were overt racists…one was just called out for it less.
We’ve had W & Cheney before…those dudes were evil and we survived that.
People of color have been surviving shit (colonialism, overt oppression, systemic oppression, institutionalized oppression) for hundreds of years.

However, I am upset with white people who are blaming those who decided not to vote for a racist candidate, and searched elsewhere for representation.
I am upset that I am too emotionally scared to go to class today and have white people especially women tell me I should be more sad about Hillary…a woman who hates my people.
I am upset with white people who are asking why Trump won.  We, people of color, have been telling you we live in a racist country…and you only get shocked when it gets overt?

I am going to need white people to do more. To be more active, to know more, to reach other white people.  That is how white people can be an ally.  They can STFU about why did one racist over another get elected and instead work at understanding the historical contexts and the realities of racism.  Racism isn’t and usually won’t be this overt and easy  to grasp.  So, white people, you’ve got lots of work to do.

To my fam, to la raza, we have to know our history.  We have to be loud. We have to be active and keep on keepin’ on.  We got this.  “We gonna be alright!”

dress for success

I went to visit my grandmother in the hospital.  The hospital has a dress code for women but not for men (my male cousin went in a basketball shorts, and an oversized sleeveless underarmour shirt) .  Women must wear pants or a dress that goes past their knees. It is a hot dusky dry heat of about 100f (38c).  I am not putting on pants in this heat.  I went to the hospital in shorts and a t-shirt, with family scolding me that I wasn’t going to be allowed in.  I kept insisting not to worry “I got this and have a dress packed away”. We got off the combi outside of the hospital, I opened my drawstring bag and pulled out a dress and threw it on over my clothes.  It reached my knees.  Security stopped me and the officer explained that he might not be able to let me in with my mini-skirt as my legs were getting his attention. I think I made a face. Actually, I am pretty sure I made a face. I wanted to give a smart-ass response but I knew this wasn’t the time and I am not good at containing myself.  He let me go in. The moment we walked out of her room, I pulled my dress off and my cousin reacted “Ah the feminist is back now”.