The Filling, the Overflowing, and the Emptiness

On November 23rd of this year, I had the honor of being appointed to the Young Women’s Initiative Cabinet of Minnesota.

The Young Women’s Initiative Cabinet brings together nonprofits, businesses, and government to improve equity in outcomes for young women in Minnesota who experience the greatest disparities.

This cabinet has been a work in progress for years, but nowhere would approve it until Minnesota. It wasn’t approved until Minnesota because no government officials were on board until Governor Dayton. As soon as the idea was pitched to him, he was on board!

If our action plan works, this cabinet will be starting in many other states as well and for those of us in the cabinet, we will be a part of history.

There are about twenty five women on this cabinet, ranging from ages of 16 to 24 who are working with me to create an action plan to strengthen services and areas that are already working for women in Minnesota.

It is seldom I feel proud of myself but being appointed to this cabinet is one of those moments. My voice didn’t seem important until now.

But getting appointed to this cabinet a few short weeks after the election was conflicting for me in many ways.

Being a part of this cabinet was the hope that I needed in humanity and in the world I live in.

There’s a phrase that says ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’ and the election had me feeling as if my cup had run permanently dry.

After a few weeks of feeling absolutely empty post-election and then getting to be a part of this cabinet, it felt like the cup I pour from was overflowing.

But how does one keep faith in the work they’re doing when the world at large is actively working against them?

I have always believed in people and that they hold the power.

To maintain my full cup, I needed to be a part of this cabinet working to create change in a world that so desperately needs it.

At the first cabinet meeting, we each spoke about what made us decide to apply for a position on the cabinet. As each woman went around the room sharing what brought them to this cabinet, I had hope in the people around me and faith in the fact that people still care.

Each woman that spoke has known various forms of struggles and disparities. Each of the women has the desire to create a better world for all the people in it. Their passions ranged from healthcare disparities to racial profiling and beyond. Even though we all had different issues that brought us to this cabinet, we were a room full of people who cared. The amount of empathy and passion in that room was enough to empower anyone.

It was everything I needed to hear. Being in a room so filled with passion, I felt my cup overflow.

And I recommend becoming a part of something to everyone who is feeling their cup has run dry.

Be engaged.

Surround yourself with people who care and have passion to create change like you do because you are not alone. You are not the only one who feels empathy for others or has a desire to change the way that our world is going. And there is nothing more than to fill your cup up with hope.

Hope in the people around you.

There are more of us out here fighting for good than you think.

So my advice is to do whatever you can to find people like this because they do exist.

And people have the power.

We just forget that.

 

 

grace-espinozas-blog-pictureGrace Espinoza is a junior undergraduate student at SCSU, majoring in Social Work. Grace works at the Women’s Center and the American Indian Center on campus. Grace is a straight, Mexican Portuguese/white woman with a passion for social justice, feminism, and poetry. She has been a published poet several times beginning in the seventh grade and is honored to contribute to Collective Feminism. 

 

The Concert of Fiction and Feminism

I always wanted to make a career out of writing but never journalism. Writing things in a way that I had to completely detach myself was never appealing. It never made sense. I see writing as something intrinsically personal, to the person writing and to the person reading. Something that always seemed exempt from that level of importance is fiction.

The stories that have any semblance of meaning are those that are rooted in experience, rooted in the Truth that the author has found for themselves. There’s always a call, especially, for marginalized groups to tell their stories.  The call almost becomes an obligation when your people (be it people of color, of the LGBTQIA+ community, etc.) are all but absent in the sphere of literature. These stories become sources of inspiration, and I never got my hands on a memoir or something that could be comparable to my lived experience until I read The Joy Luck Club my sophomore year of high school. I didn’t feel a strong connection to the stories and even resented them and their depictions of Asian Americans. Of course, my feelings changed with age and understanding. However, from the beginning of my jaunt into literature I found I could always rely on the inspiration in fiction.

Fiction acted as what I call a gateway into the vast world of feminism instead of what some people may seem as escapism from the harsh reality of violence. Harry of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter arguably endured an abusive home life with his aunt and uncle forcing him to cook meals, only giving him the burnt scraps to eat while his cousin relentlessly bullied him. This is the reality that many children face in their daily lives and while reading about how Harry is then whisked away to a magical boarding school may seem like the very definition of escapism, the reader is simultaneously thrust into a world where there is a registry for witches and wizards based on their bloodline and a powerful figure is fighting for the eradication of those who aren’t pureblood. The series is fraught with corrupt politicians, an underground resistance movement, and culminates in a battle for freedom from this oppressive power. These young students take it upon themselves to lead the charge against what they know to be wrong, an example diffused to many children who are now old enough to lead the charge against the oppressive regimes seen in today’s society.

In children’s’ and YA fantasy novels, there is also always a clear celebration of the different. The different, in the world of reality, is a distinction that leads to ridicule and danger. Rick Riordan noticed this in his son who was constantly bullied for his ADHD and Dyslexia. Riordan started to tell his son stories of how this difference was a strength. His famous Percy Jackson and the Olympians series shows those very attributes as the marks of demigods. Heroes. Riordan doesn’t stop there. He has written openly gay, black, latina, Asian, Muslim and, lately, a transgender character. These representations have opened conversations on diversity in YA literature.

Living with ADHD, Dyslexia, and abuse in the home are realities that feed into the lived Truth that is so important to feminist work and feminist writing. The setting of these truths, in a magical boarding school or Greek monster infested Manhattan, do not diminish the effect that they have in empowerment and beginning conversations of the celebration and power of difference. In fact, it puts these discussions in language that act as good introductions to feminist thought and language that may be missing from common discourse.

The validity of fiction as a source of inspiration and feminist thought is on the same level as that of stories that are truer to reality. In childhood and adolescence, they teach moral nuances and often start to help develop an understanding of the surrounding world; its injustices, its diversity, how they interact and how they influence each other. It is fantastical case study with the potential to reach past the pages. The concert of fiction and feminism is the concert of theory and practice.

 

 

thumbnail_147Mariam Bagadion is a second year student at SCSU double majoring in Women’s Studies and English. She has a passion for writing and social justice and thinks the coolest thing in the world is when the two can be combined. In her free time, she writes fiction, watches Netflix, and plays one of the three songs she knows on the ukulele. 

Self-Care Over Spring Break

Spring Break is nearly here! While you’re using next week to catch up on schoolwork, add more cash to your paycheck, or play a new video game (or like me, a tasteful blend of all three!) self-care is extremely important as we move into the final half of the semester.

What is self-care? Broadly, self-care is anything that allows you to take a deep breath, to center (sometimes, re-center) yourself in your own life. Doing intersectional feminist work is just as exhausting as it is rewarding, and it is essential to make room for yourself. Self-care includes everything from hugging a cat to staying off Facebook for a week to going to the doctor. Try answering the question, “What do I need?”

This awesome article talks about self-care, especially its importance to black women, and aptly quotes Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” That is, making time for yourself is not selfish–it’s connected to survival, which for some marginalized groups is an act of defiance.

Find more self-care strategies here:

Self Care Resources for Days When the World is Terrible

Self Care Strategies to Reduce Stress

Even Non-Artists Use Art Journaling to Relieve Stress

How to Avoid Burnout and Still Help Others

Self-Care Tips for Activists–‘Cause Being Woke Shouldn’t Mean Your Spirit’s Broke

Enjoy break!

–Collective Feminism

Hand in Hand

If she holds his hand

She’s an itch, a bitch

Independent, she can’t

Not without a man

And if she is, she’s considered a lesbian

A goddess for one to gawk

With a head for one to mock

Not of worth

Unless naked

Or adorning a short, short skirt

Can’t she dress the ways she desires

With more than man that she aspires

Too much does her body inspire

The wrong things—what the man wants—the liar

If he holds his hand

Is he still a man?

Has he lost what makes him a brother

If he gives into the arms of another?

A being that must be strong

For anything but strong is wrong

He must not cry, he must not sob

He must not wear the woman’s garb

Beaten for being like her

Being awarded for beating her

Forced to live with tightened bounds

But his cries for help lack resound

Can he not live free from the whip that cracks?

From the voices that praise and despise his sex?

If they hold their hand

They are feared, abandoned

The letter overlooked

In the alphabetic set of oppressed crooks

A confusion to pick apart

A problem—an issue not for the faint of heart

For those who have lived with the chains of bi

That punished anyone that dared to try

Those that believed we could be more

More than what we and they have built at the core

Can they not choose what to feel?

Must we comply to the chains; must we kneel?

If we hold each other’s hands

And forget about if one is darker or lighter than

Perhaps then we will realize

That we are living short, piteous lives

Must we be unsatisfied

If we cannot lower one or hate before we die?

There comes a time when we must perceive

That we are not alone on this land or across the sea

Unified we can be better—together

Not in agreement, but with respect, with understanding, for one another

 

 

 

chuaya-loChuaya Lo transferred to St. Cloud as a third year undergraduate. She greatly appreciates the diversity and emphasis on heading towards the goal of a better world of equal treatment and respect. In her free time, Chuaya enjoys writing fiction, watching anime, TV shows, playing video games, and drawing/writing graphic novels. She’s majoring in linguistics with a TESL minor, with the goal of teaching English in Japan.

(Feminist) Thoughts on the March

Just after the Women’s March on Washington, Carly Puch (one of our own!) wrote on her own blog about her experience participating in the march.

She brings together a thoughtful perspective on the empowering heart of the march, critiques of its unmistakable whiteness, and what both of those things mean for the kind of work we have, as feminists, ahead of us.

Here’s an excerpt…

There are improvements to be made, and particularly we white feminists can do better but what these marches symbolized was that recognition. More women are mobilized because for many it is the first time their rights are truly being threatened, whether that be attributed to their race, their class, their age or any other factor that has allowed them to turn a blind eye to injustice. Human rights campaigns in this country have been built on the backs of people of color, do not silence them, but listen and learn to those who have been fighting before you.

Continue reading here!

The kind of work we have ahead of us must not be forgotten or ignored: it must be thoughtful. We must strive to love each other, build bridges between those of us with vastly different experiances, and act beyond our fear to achieve things which may seem impossible.

What do you think?  Let us know here on the blog or write us at collectivefeminism@stcloudstate.edu

Be Afraid

The power in the room
Reverberates off the walls
A steady shared heartbeat
A collective consciousness
Pulsing behind our skin

It has been ingrained
That silence is synonymous
For woman
But our voices
Could shake the foundation
On which they stand

Tell me,
Does that scare you?
For we should

Taught to be timid
Conditioned to give in
To squeeze into spaces
We are wrongfully put in

But in this room full of women
Who have discovered
They are too big
To fit in these boxes
We’ve been given
 

I can finally breathe again

 

grace-espinozas-blog-pictureGrace Espinoza is a junior undergraduate student at SCSU, majoring in Social Work. Grace works at the Women’s Center and the American Indian Center on campus. Grace is a straight, Mexican Portuguese/white woman with a passion for social justice, feminism, and poetry. She has been a published poet several times beginning in the seventh grade and is honored to contribute to Collective Feminism. 

Black Representations in Film

Crunk Feminist Collective recently published an insightful post on their blog titled, “Moonlight Musings & Motherhood: On Paula, Teresa and the Complicated Role of (Bad) Black Mamas in Film.”

They present an intriguing critique of the new film, Moonlight, and in particular, how the black female and male characters are problematically represented.

Here is an excerpt…

As an autoethnographer, I am invested in the importance and significance of black folk telling our own stories and telling our own truths, and telling them even if and when they may be stereotypical or troubling.  But representation matters.  So, I find myself wrestling with what it means when filmic depictions of black men and women imply that progressive black masculinity, and positive black womanhood, cannot co-exist.  In many ways, these images suggest that in order for fluid black masculinity to be possible, black women and black women’s bodies must be somehow sacrificed.

Continue reading here!

Have you seen the film?  What did you think?  Let us know here on the blog or write us at collectivefeminism@stcloudstate.edu

Image: http://www.crunkfeministcollective.com/2016/10/28/moonlight-musings-motherhood-on-paula-teresa-and-the-complicated-role-of-bad-black-mamas-in-film/moonlight_2016_film/

What Race You are Might Affect Your Water Access

Most people know that there are places in the world where water access and quality are bad.  And I’m sure if you have been watching the news, you have also been reading about the quality of water in places like Flint, Michigan.  While I knew issues with water quality existed, I was astonished to learn that these problems affect the United States in enormous ways.  I also didn’t see the connections between race and water access. I thought issues of race didn’t run so deeply, but I was wrong.

According to The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World, “Over one billion people do not have access to improved water supply sources and more than two billion people do not have access to any type of improved sanitation facility.”  This lack of water and sanitation contain a lot of repercussions for women and men, but as with other things in our patriarchal society, women bear the brunt of these issues.  Bearing children becomes much more dangerous without sanitation.  Girls and women are less likely to participate in school once they reach ages of menstruation, due to the cultural unacceptance and lack of sanitation.  Women and girls are also the “collectors” of water in many countries, and on average a woman walks six kilometers a day in order to get water for their family (Link).  Most of the people that live in these conditions are people of color.  Norleen Heyzer, the director of UNIFEM stated, “Women constitute 70% of the world’s…absolute poor.”  This fact means that not only are the people living in these conditions people of color, they are women of color!

Enter Flint, Michigan.  This predominately African-American city is located northwest of Detroit, and most of the residents in this city live below lines of poverty.  In 2014, the city changed its water system in order to get water from the nearby Flint River, because it saved money.  Since 2014 there have been warnings sent to public officials, who haven’t taken any of the warnings seriously (Link). I certainly can’t give reasons why someone in public office would ignore EPA warnings, but it seems as though Governor Rick Snyder didn’t care about the lives of people that wouldn’t be backing him in upcoming elections, as he gave tax cuts to big businesses by about 1.7 billion dollars, while raising individual taxes, and cutting programs in education!  (Link).  And this is the same man that “respectfully declined” to testify at the hearings for the crisis last spring (Link).

Celebrities have been helping provide water and housing to the thousands of residents that can’t afford to leave the city.  Aretha Franklin, resident of Detroit, donated money to pay for hotel rooms; Eminem, Wiz Khalifa, Sean “Puffy” Combs, and Mark Wahlberg have donated a million bottles of water (Link); and filmmaker Michael Moore created “10 Things They Won’t Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy” (Link).

It seems that even in the U.S., water security is something that we afford to those people who have money, instead of providing safe and clean water to all of our citizens, even when we can afford it!  Surely something can be done to shine a spotlight on the corruption that is obviously happening within the political climate of Michigan. Corruption that is still happening, because Flint STILL doesn’t have clean water.

I’m sure the residents of Flint would agree!

 

 

melissa-anne-frankMelissa Anne Frank is majoring in both Women’s Studies and English Rhetoric at St Cloud State University.  She plans on continuing her education with a Master’s degree and then a Doctorate.  Melissa is a white, cisgender, pansexual who is proud to be part of the Social Media team at the St. Cloud State Women’s Center.  Melissa also writes a personal blog called Musing with Melly on WordPress. Melissa loves reading, writing, video games, spending time with her partner and two children, and crushing the patriarchy! 

 

The Picture Perfect Trans American Family: Mainstream Media’s Representation of Trans Relationships

When you’re looking for representation of marginalized groups in mainstream media, you’ll likely be disappointed by the lack thereof. And whatever little representation you find tends to lack diversity and intersectionality and overtly attempts to homogenize an entire group or subcultural phenomenon. One such phenomenon is the abundance of intra-transgender romantic relationships; or put simply, when two or more trans people are engaged in romantic relationships (trans cisgender people). I find these relationships beautiful and interesting, showing that even though we’re constantly made to believe that we’re not beautiful, desirable, or loveable, we are in fact all of these things; we are enough for one another. And when we’re looking at romantic relationships between trans binary folks (trans men and trans women), another interesting characteristic is that, from my personal experience/observation, it is much more common to find trans men dating other trans men and trans women dating other trans women. But when we look to corporate media networks to mirror the reality and commonality of intra-trans relationships, what you will find are relationships between trans men and trans women.

Let’s take a gander at an example, shall we? The popular, online, British newspaper, Daily Mail, published an article titled, Trans or not we would make great parents’: Married couple who are BOTH transgender share their dream of starting a family as they desperately search for a child to adopt” this year containing a video produced by Mode.com from their My Life series, with this video titled, My Life: We’re A Trans Couple. In said video, we are introduced to Clair Farley (a trans woman) and James Howley (a trans man), who are a married couple living in San Francisco. Right from the get go, it’s easy to tell why Clair and James were selected, to be the public face of the trans community and represent what a trans couple looks like. They’re white, straight, middle to upper class and professional, monogamous and married, adhere to traditional gender expressions of manhood and womanhood, and want to have children. They’re practically the picture perfect American couple, complete with heteronormativity, with the only thing setting them apart from the American ideal is their failure to adhere to cisnormativity. I call this: transnormativity. They even want to recreate the cookie cutter nuclear family! How respectable and wholesome they must be! You think the editors at the Daily Mail should have titled the article “Trans People: They’re Just Like Us!” or “Trans People Can Assimilate Too!”.

And while this is but one couple’s story and narrative, it fits within a larger scheme of very similar representations being regurgitated to straight, cisgender audiences in hopes that these similarity politics will help cishets be a little less horrible to their fellow non-cis human beings. And while I wish these couples the best and feel no ill will toward them, I’m sick of the role that respectability politics and palatability plays into this broader narrative that erases the existence of trans couples who aren’t straight, who aren’t white, who aren’t rich, or who don’t want children, just to make cishets feel more comfortable. This type of thinking is along the lines of, “Well, if you can’t be cisnormative, then you can AT LEAST be heteronormative! Being a decent and open minded human being is hard, so let’s not add too much queerness or complexity in the mix so that it’s an easier pill for cishets to swallow! Let us get used to you one identity at a time! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!”

And while I understand the neoliberal politics behind presenting the most respectable and ”normal” faces of trans couples, my radical and punk leniencies let me know that this form of slow, incremental change is hog wash, and it’s not enough to achieve trans and queer liberation. I want to see trans lesbians, trans gay men, trans bisexuals and pansexuals, trans people of color, poor and working class trans folks, polyamorous trans folks, non-binary people and genderqueers; basically trans couples of varying intersecting identities and marginalizations instead of almost the exact same story recycled over and over again until it cannot be recycled any more. Not all of our love looks exactly the same; and a lot of times it’s super fucking queer, and cishets need to get over the misconception that the dynamics of all forms of romantic love must perfectly model their own or it’s somehow invalid, strange, or illegitimate. I’m here to tell you that our love is diverse, unique, and sacred, despite the fact that we almost never get to see our romantic realities reflected in mainstream and corporate media. It takes place all around you, despite the fact that some would rather have us be invisible. We’re too creative and imaginative to follow society’s scripts, so we write our own. We know it makes a lot of people scared and uncomfortable, but they’ll just have to learn to accept it.

 

Sources/Points of Reference:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3618450/Trans-not-make-great-parents-Married-couple-transgender-share-dream-starting-family-desperately-search-child-adopt.html

http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/meet-bowsers-transgender-parents-raising-sons/story?id=28228493

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/23/transgender-teenage-couple-arin-andrews-katie-hill_n_3639220.html

Photo:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3618450/Trans-not-make-great-parents-Married-couple-transgender-share-dream-starting-family-desperately-search-child-adopt.html

 

 

andy-blog-photoRuth Sybil May is a junior undergraduate student at SCSU, studying Gender and Women’s Studies, Human Relations, and Film studies. Ruth is a transfeminine, non-binary person from a poor, working class background with a passion for feminism, fashion, film, and rad tunes. 

The Invisible Queer

Someone I know recently looked at me in surprise when I mentioned that I have decided to start using the word queer to describe my identity.  “But you aren’t a lesbian,” she said, “why would you want to identify as one?”  I can certainly understand her confusion.  After all, my partner is a man, and my pronouns are she/her; to the world I look like a cis-gender, straight, white, 42-year-old.  I am an invisible queer person.

I was 20 years old when I acknowledged that I was attracted to women, and I came out as bisexual.  Anyone who knows me is aware that I am a person who isn’t afraid to share her beliefs in loud and boisterous ways; some people even call me (gasp) confrontational.  I immediately came out to my friends and family, without really thinking about any of the consequences that could come with this revelation.  Surprisingly, (at the time) most people ignored it.  I thought I was being accepted for my bisexuality.  It took me a long time to realize that it was something completely different.

Bi-erasure has been a part of my life for the last twenty-two years.  And it isn’t just from straight people, even those in the LGBT community have looked at me and told me that I can’t be bisexual.  This is super confusing to me, since the B stands for BI-SEXUAL!  For some reason, the idea that I am attracted to people on any part of the spectrum seems to be scary to just about everyone.

In twenty-two years, I have heard every stereotypical response to bisexuality, and they always make me feel angry and hurt.  When I discovered the LGBT community in Minneapolis, I thought that I was finding the community that I belonged to, and instead there were many times when I didn’t feel as though I belonged in any community.  I’m in no way saying that every experience I’ve had with LGBT folks has yielded this pain, but there have been enough of them that it’s made an impression on me.

In 2014, even the LGBT Task Force made a mistake when the leadership program director wrote about saying “bye-bye to the word bisexuality.”   And, she made the statement on Bisexual Awareness Day.  The organization later apologized, but that statement shows that there is a real problem when it comes to the idea of bisexuality within the context of the LGBT community.

what-contributes-to-bi-erasure-bham

It’s as though, because I can “appear” to be straight I really don’t exist as a queer person.  But my queerness shouldn’t be tied to outward appearance.  I read a great blog once that talked about Queer Theory which said queerness is freedom from norms.  It used to be that “normal” was described as heterosexual.  Through the years homonormativity has become a way for the LGBT community to move into some of the laws that have given rights to an entire community, and I am definitely thankful for that.  But it doesn’t mean that it isn’t problematic and we shouldn’t look at it.

I definitely have some privilege that I have to take a hard look at because of this invisibility.  I don’t have to currently worry that someone is going to be negative towards me if I hold hands with, or kiss, my partner in public.  I don’t try to be, but I can be someone who can walk around with all of the privilege of heterosexual people.  But on the other hand, I have experienced all of the negative effects of heterosexism in my life.  That is the reason that I chose to identify as queer; I felt the need to step away from both heterosexuality and even homosexuality. After all, I am neither of those things, and I’m both of them.

 

Photos:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/bi-erasure-hurts/   

http://www.glaad.org/blog/dear-prudence-telling-bi-people-stay-closet-bad-advice 

 

 

melissa-anne-frankMelissa Anne Frank is majoring in both Women’s Studies and English Rhetoric at St Cloud State University.  She plans on continuing her education with a Master’s degree and then a Doctorate.  Melissa is a white, cisgender, pansexual who is proud to be part of the Social Media team at the St. Cloud State Women’s Center.  Melissa also writes a personal blog called Musing with Melly on WordPress. Melissa loves reading, writing, video games, spending time with her partner and two children, and crushing the patriarchy!