Latina Reproductive Justice Round Up


Last week was Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice sponsored by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice and the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights. The week encouraged women to get active in reproductive justice by (1) demanding inclusive best practices at reproductive centers in their area, (2) writing their own stories about contraception, (3) fundraising for Latina specific reproductive rights and/or justice agencies, and (4) participating in events in the communities that sponsored the event. The commitment to talking more about reproductive justice openly and honestly is particularly important in light of the National Women’s Law Center findings that pregnancy and parenting responsibilities significantly limit Latinas’ educational success and 52% of Latinas will become pregnant before they reach the age of 20.

Due to endless over-commitment, I did not have time to post about the issue last week; I regret that because I am a Catholic girl from Catholic school who knew very little about contraception and even less about safer lesbian sex and yet helped ensure that the my closest friends in high school were taking responsibility for their own safety and the safety of their partners. I don’t think my story is one that you are likely to see on other blogs and yet, I do think that I represent a group of young women who continue to be taught abstinence while living in a hypersexualized world. So maybe I’ll weigh in later.

For now, several amazing Latina bloggers did participate. They wrote on the import of cultural competence in the reproductive justice movement and their own experiences and identities around sexuality and reproductive rights. Here are some of the highlights (use the links to read their posts in full):

Bianca Laureano weighs in on access and knowledge about safer sex through the lens of hip hop and correct condom usage at Vivir Latino:

Although some of us think condoms are all around us, accessible, and an important part of decreasing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) including HIV, the reality is there’s limited dialogue and even less proper use of them that centers our community.

There are so many people I’ve met who don’t know how to properly put on condoms that it’s distressing at times. Even my potential partners, when I watch them put a condom on their body or a toy, I’m kind of surprised at the misuse of the condom. So, today for you Vivir Latino readers I’ve done some research and found some videos in Spanish that discuss condom use, including the female condom, and that discuss how to properly put them on. (more here)

Lucy Panza weighs in on stereotypes about Latina’s and Catholicism that get in the way of Latinas and others recognizing how dedicated to reproductive rights and choice the community actually is:

I found myself surprised at the findings of the study.  I realized that had been persuaded by the “persistent myth” that Latinas are predominantly Catholic, and as such they carry strongly anti-choice views (“choice” meaning the wide array of reproductive health decisions that a person can make).  But then I realized something else: wait a minute, I’m a Catholic Latina who is pro-choice. (more here)

AFY-Sarah tells a personal story about supporting girls in her classrooms and the connections between reproductive justice, race, class, and rural-urban divides:

Every week I’d have girls coming to my classroom, asking to go to the nurse so they could go home because they “stained” their pants.  They weren’t taught enough about their menstrual cycle, so they weren’t sure when to expect their period and come prepared with either a pads or tampons. Sometimes they had irregular periods, but their parents didn’t know about the pill to regulate periods, couldn’t afford it, or didn’t want their daughters on it.  There wasn’t a teen clinic nearby, and transportation was incredibly difficult because the area I taught in was both rural and poor. There was little to no public transportation. (more here)

Rita Martinez points to the need for comprehensive reform in school based curriculum and how the lack of it enforces silence amongst Latinas, and other young girls, who must need to know how to be safe:

Normally, I too would be silent on this issue, I mean, it’s a private matter right? Like many young Latinas, I never really felt comfortable talking about contraception with my parents; god forbid they think I was “active,” (shudder). This subject matter was only really appropriate among girlfriends and the like, where it was easier to share such experiences. To exacerbate the problem, aside from a couple days of Sex Ed in 6th grade and that dreadful quarter in Freshman Studies, I don’t recall ever having a real opportunity to discuss contraception options. (more here)

Susana Sanchez compares her comprehensive women’s health care coverage in Latin America to the utter lack of it in the U.S. exposing the disconnect between long held beliefs about women’s health in the “third world” by western feminism and depictions of U.S. health care vis-a-vis “the third world” in the U.S. (and I use “third world” here to doubly underline the beliefs about backwardness that permeate these discourses rather than a commitment to the term or its meanings): 

My experience with health care had led me to take health insurance for granted and consider health care as a human right. What a shocking experience it has been to come to the U.S. as a penniless international student! It never occurred to me that the world’s most powerful country had a health care system that excludes the most vulnerable populations. (more here)

Sylvia Henriquez continues the discussion about lack of access to affordable reproductive health for Latinas in the U.S. at HuffPo

Despite health care reform, many Latinas are still without access to birth control even when they have health insurance. The country is mired in stigmatizing, sensationalized debates about Latinas and reproduction (Latina teens have twice the birth rate of white teens! Latinas are having babies so they can become citizens!). Yet scant attention is paid to the financial, regulatory and social barriers that stop many Latinas from accessing the birth control they seek. (more here)

While all of these pieces help tell important stories about Latina Reproductive Justice and I am proud to highlight them here on the blog, one of the concerns doing this round up raised for me was the absence of testimonios by Latina lesbians, bi-women, and transgender women of any sexual persuasion or at least about their needs. Our conversations not only need to be more public, they need to be more inclusive. The absence of queer stories is as much an indictment of myself, remember when I said I was too busy to write, as anyone else. So I am encouraging you all to write your own stories for your blogs, publication, or even just for yourselves even though the week is over the struggle certainly is not.

If you have a story to tell, send us a link and we will highlight it and tweet it.

CFP: Hip Hop Feminism

Rosa Clemente/former VP Candidate for Green Party/unattributed

There have been strong women of color at the center of Hip Hop theorizing since its inception. Many of these women have never received the recognition they deserve for their artistry or their profound critical feminist eye focused clearly on the experience of women of color at the margins and intersections of multiple identities. These artists have struggled to have their voices heard in and outside of Hip Hop even as they inspire, mentor, and help provide strength to face any number of gendered oppressions. Many of them have worked just as diligently at empowering young women and providing critical analysis of engendered experiences as they have at being the best at their craft. Often these things are inseparable. And yet, these women’s work has been overshadowed by the racist and racialized sexist discourses that only want to focus on the “video ho” until recently. (see my posts on Hip Hop for AfAm herstory and LGBT history month for more thorough posts and links to Hip Hop feminism and Hip Hop feminists.)


While this shift has been important, I think currently there is far too much mainstream attention to Hip Hop feminism as the *only* form of feminism(s) of color. On the one hand, the emphasis represents a needed intervention into mainstream discourse about the “video-ho” in which black men are seen as the most misogynist men in the world and women of color are internalized sexists needing rescue from their “culture of violence, sex, and drugs.” On the other, the slowly won recognition of feminists for whom Hip Hop and B Girls have been critical forms of expression, solidarity, and empowerment has come at the price of the recognition by mainstream of feminists of color outside of these stereotyped (tho not stereotypical) scenes. This is not the fault of Hip Hop feminists or people doing needed documenting work on their movements but rather the ongoing problem of tokenizing woc feminist contributions by mainstream academic theorists and educators. In the last few years, scholars like myself who work on race and gender have been introduced as or referred to verbally and in print as “hip hop feminists” or asked what we think or will we write an article about Hip Hop feminism in the same way we were referred to as Womanists when Alice Walker coined the term and still have to fight for the right to define ourselves and our affiliations. My concern then is that there are at least two camps here: (1) those who want to embrace, document, and explore the meaning, history, and empowerment behind Hip Hop feminism and (2) those who see it as just a new word for “black feminists over there”. One way to posit a counter-narrative to the latter is to keep writing, keep filming, keep talking about what Hip Hop feminism is and about all of the feminisms engaged in by women of color in which Hip Hop feminism is only one iteration.

La Bruja/unattributed

So I am publishing this call for papers on Hip Hop feminism to encourage the continued struggle to talk about feminisms by women of color in arena that often posits us as both singular (ie one kind of feminism) and perpetual victims (in this case the video-ho) in need of feminism. I do so out of solidarity with the project of naming, claiming, and documenting our feminisms and our activism but also with the caution to take on the task of clarity and specificity in your writing so that you lend to both the needed discussion of the specific feminism under discussion and to the larger discourse about the longstanding presence of women of color in activist, feminist, circles.

melange Lavonne/David Laffe Photography

Also I would encourage readers to consider some of the queer and/or differently-abled black and Latina Hip Hop artists highlighted on this blog or even in this post for your potential papers/presentations. Just as interventions need to be made in the way mainstream feminist academics are approaching Hip Hop feminism as the new Womanism, interventions need to be made into the ways scholars have often shied away from discussions of queer sexualities or assumed able-bodiedness or cis gender. There are sub-topics in the call specifically open to making this challenge, where you could take the advantage.

Please find the CFP below:

Black and Brown Feminisms in Hip Hop Media

University of Texas at San Antonio – March 4-5, 2011

Submission: 500 word abstract to Kinitra Brooks and/or Marco Cervantes on or before November 15, 2010.


Black and Latina feminist scholars offer multiple ways of understanding feminist cultures that transcend ideological borders and patriarchal conventions. More recently, Black and Latina feminists have negotiated the positionality of the woman of color in the ever-changing world of Hip Hop since its inception.  The Black and Brown Feminisms in Hip Hop Media Conference situates Black and Latina feminist theory in the context of Hip Hop representation to discuss ways Hip Hop music, film, and club industries fetishize, exploit, celebrate, empower and/or disempower Black and Brown women.

This interdisciplinary conference will feature unpublished work on women in
Hip Hop to exchange ideas, share research, and initiate a sustained conversation by and about Black and Brown women in Hip Hop media.  Vital to this discussion is attention to the blurring lines between Black and Latina feminist studies and a dialogue that attempts to understand an interweaving history of objectification, struggle, and potential for agency. How do we read Black and Brown women in Hip Hop culture? What readings of Black and Brown women other than conventional black feminist readings and Latina feminist analyses are cogent? What theories enable those readings? Finally, what would an investigation into autobiographical stories of video models yield? How would those narratives differ from that of more conventional readings?

A select number of accepted papers will be included in a one-day, academic
conference at the University of Texas at San Antonio as a part of UTSA’s celebration of Women’s History Month on March 4, 2011 with a Hip Hop performance from local Texas as well as national hip hop artists on the evening of March 5, 2011.  This conference will be an opportunity for presenters to share views and concerns on the growing intersections between Black and Brown women in hip hop culture.  Possible Panel Topics Include:

  • Interdisciplinary Approaches to Gender and Race in Hip Hop
  • Colorism within Hip-Hop video culture
  • The New Female Entrepreneur
  • Negotiating Sexualities
  • Black and Latina Diasporas
  • Video Vixens or Video Models?
  • Female Rappers
  • Chicana/o Rap
  • Alternative Models of Black Femininity
  • Latinas in Video Model Culture
  • Intersections of Video Models with Youth Culture
  • Performing the Black Body/ Brown Body
  • Reggaeton
  • A Case Study of Karrine Steffans
  • Strip Club Culture
  • Confessions of Video Vixens
  • Eroticism vs. Pornography
  • Women as Exchange among a Male Economy

What a Difference Kindness Makes

I’ve been swamped with volunteer work in social justice organizations for the past few weeks since coming back from our seminar abroad. As my post have shown, the experience has not been the most positive one. Far too often I have seen young women taking advantage of other young women in the name of helping poor women, women of color, elder women, queer women, etc. As I said in a previous post, the idea is that “if you really care” you will foot the agency bill for an endless amount of labor and associated costs. And I have publicly questioned exactly who is served by this exploitation since neither the line staff nor the clients are able to function at their best under such demanding circumstances and scarcity models. Perhaps it is because it has been so much in my face lately, I have really begun to question the social service industry as an Industry or Institution rather than a helping agent for change. This, more than any other feminist conflict I have witnessed in the past 4 years of blogging has made me rethink what feminist activists involved in critical fields of women’s services are really contributing to the end of oppression of women, especially the most marginalized among us.

Then I read this post:

Hmmmm, I gave the cashier a $20. I looked in my rear view mirror and there were no more cars to pay for. So, $3.18 for my good deed of the day felt a little lack luster. …

When I make these gestures I rarely look back to see the reaction. … But this time? No such luck. I was stopped by two traffic lights in a row and she caught up with me by the second light. She rolled down her window. She searched my face for some recognition. She found none. “Thank you for this,” she said, “You don’t know what this means to me. I’m on my way to an interview. I lost my job a month ago and I HAVE to find work. I’d given these up,” and she raised her cup, “but I decided to splurge today for a little boost of confidence. Your kindness has done so much more.”

I could see that her eyes were brimming and she was fighting back tears. …

This woman’s act of kindness, done primarily out of guilt for not keeping a promise to herself to pay it forward regularly, profoundly changed one woman’s day for the cost of a cup of coffee. It may have helped change her life, by providing her the confidence in herself and in others that most of us lack these days in a world of selfishness and economic uncertainty. Who is to say?

The story reinforced my larger questions about social service agencies and their role in social justice and social change even as they dismantled them. On the one hand, this woman was able to do something I have not seen many line staff be able to do at some of the places I have been working with precisely because she was neither overworked nor underpaid to provide care to others. Her actions came from a desire to do good that was untainted by the fact doing good had become a job in which “there are only so many hours in a day” and a pittance of pay for them. And I do think that money and work are the major distinctions here because I hope that everyone that goes into social service work, especially feminists, are motivated by doing good (even when their definitions are not the best). But I think something happens when doing good is your job and not your calling; something ultimately switches off for you as you work and work and work some more for very little pay and even less institutionalized support. By creating a social service system that depends on your “commitment to the cause” and actively interprets your need for self-care, boundaries, and compensation for work done as a “lack of commitment” justice becomes part of an industrial complex in which funders get tax right offs and young, largely middle class and white, women get training and activist credibility.

At the same time, these agencies are not devoid of value to service seekers. Individual clients get an array of services that help them as individuals but do not actually challenge the system that made them seek out services in the first place. Thus, social service is self-perpetuating and it goes unquestioned in many ways because of the number of individuals whose lives have been profoundly changed (and even saved) through service. In this way, the woman who paid for the coffee and her amazing impact on the women who received it are still metaphors for the larger service industry. An individual woman did good with the limited resources she had available to her and an individual woman was moved in ways that may reverberate throughout the rest of her day or even her life. How do we quantify the impact? Should we? And if you answered we cannot and should not, then what does that mean for creating equitable work and value in social service for workers which as I argued before translates to better and more thorough service for service seekers?

I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. In an ideal world, each of us would operate from a place of radical love with one another, sharing our resources, knowledge, and strength in a way that honored our interconnectedness rather than demeaned. We would recognize that need is relative and that individuals with abundance in some areas have need in others just like everyone else. In that world, there would be no need for social service because we would see someone stumble and collectively help them up without blame or shame or stigma or even self-interest. But we do not live in that world. We live in this one, where banks steal from mom and pop accounts to give to jet-setting CEOs, medical providers quantify the value of lives because insurers care less about whether you are healthy than how much you will cost them, poor people and indigenous people are asked or simply told to foot the cost of businesses environmental degradation,  and people move jobs and industries out of a country hurting for employment because they cannot exploit the labor, children, or reproductive and sexual rights of their workers or pollute the land unchecked, and they care more about profit than they do about people. In this world, where tv hosts and so-called journalists extol the rights of the rich to go on vacations, buy million dollar garbage cans, and everyone gawks at the latest celebrity craze, very few people care or help anyone so whole industries have grown up to do what we as a people have failed to do. And those industries require money to run. And that money is stretched so thin that the workers at the bottom work 80+ hour weeks, paying for phone bills, food, printing costs, etc. for the agencies for whom they work out of pocket for less money than the people at the top who get paid 3xs as much, work just as hard, but move on to middle class lives after a while never once thinking about the line staff who do not. And so we are back at the beginning.

I welcome your thoughts.



  1. unattributed/2009
  2. clipart
  3. “China Blue”/unattributed/
  4. “Women Gardening”/Deb Vest/2010

Hey Hollywood How About Some Female Superhero Movies?

A recent post on The Grio about black superheros and their absence or underfunding in the Hollywood Blockbuster cycle prompted me to point out that not only does Hollywood fail to produce summer blockbusters with black female super hero leads, but the Grio list largely left women out as well. As a result, I sent out links to two of my older posts about female superheroes who might make great Summer Blockbusters on my twitter account. A day or so later, SciFi Wire featured a post about female “superheroes” they would like to see in film; the bulk of these women were white and many of them were actually anti-heroes or villains. Since I don’t have a SciFi Wire account in order to comment on their pages, I found myself chanting “But Some of Us are Brave”. Brave enough to write and then re-post my summer query about why women are relegated to RomComs in the summer when a bevy of female superheros await expense trilogy success. More than that, why are the only women Blockbuster loving audience see seldom full-fledged characters or sexualized, including electronically enhanced (ie they make everything bigger in post-production, pad the outfits, or the actresses cast have strategic enhancements already that are accentuated by the suits they wears)? And why are the most fleshed out of these ones whose story lines fulfill expected roles: wife, girlfriend, or love interest.

Hollywood would like to believe that if they put a few emasculating phrases in these scantily clad side characters mouths we won’t notice their irrelevance to the main plot or that their dimensions rival Barbie. They peddle in soft-core pseudo-feminism that many young audience have come to think of as empowering precisely because they are not given alternative visions of strong women nor taught about them in schools thanks to the Texas School Board. But honestly, if your biggest aspiration is to be the center of attention because of the size of your breasts or butt padding and your occasional snark at leading men, you are selling yourself so short it is a wonder we can even see you so far away from the feminist finish line. So here are some women who had brains, strength, beauty and took center stage, and yes, in some cases they also did it in very revealing clothing but that is because most of the artists drawing them were not women.


Repost of “Hey Hollywood How About Some Women for the Summer?” May 16, 2009

The never ending discussion about the role of women in graphic novels and the depiction of women in adapted comics and novels for the summer blockbuster has begun. Rather than fight the good fight this summer, in which I remind people that ideas about women and the depiction of female characters can in fact be updated from the original without violating the basic plot I am just going to point to the myriad of female superheroes in classic comic books that could be staring  in movies this summer. In fact, a quick view of the films scheduled to be released this year has only one offering in which women have (as I recall) been seen as equal to their male counterparts: GI Joe. While Uhura in the new Star Trek isfemale-motorbike-transformer-arcee actually smarter than many of her male counterparts, she is completely undermined as I discuss in my Star Trek review, so she does not count. And the Director of Transformers II finally saw his way around putting women in, but the graphics show no update of the character; she is still an anorexic looking, neon pink thing, updated only slightly so she has actual headlights for breasts!!! I haven’t seen anything that sad since Tranzor Z’s Missile “Boobs”.

While I’d like to see the women below in more clothes, sans bum shots, if sent to the big screen, don’t tell me we don’t have options. This is what happens when Hollywood favors white heterosexual male producers, studio heads, and directors over the same diversity in Hollywood that we have in the country as a whole. All of these female characters, many of them poc and some differently-abled, fall out. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with having white, male, heterosexual directors (paging Bryan Singer) but I do think there is something wrong when year after year the plethora of big budget summer offerings can only offer me various plays on the same heteropatriarchal driven fantasy. (Not to mention racial narratives that perpetually imagine fantastical worlds without poc in them or poc who are so stereotypical they make me long for lines like “I ain’t birthin’ no babies”.)

the song in the background:

Isis, one of the first all-female rock bands signed in 1964 & homage to Mighty Isis

featured super heroes & villansIsis

  • Elektra Woman
  • Dyna Girl
  • Bionic Woman (the real one)
  • Wonder Woman
  • Wonder Girl
  • Princess Leia
  • Phoenix
  • She-Hulk
  • Misty Knight
  • The Huntress (Batman and Catwoman’s kid in an alternate universe, now there’s a blockbuster for you)
  • Miss Marvel
  • Red Sonja
  • Mighty Isis
  • Leiko Wu
  • mokf47-01

  • Vampirella (whose swimsuit I swear I saw at the shop last week while looking for my own)
  • Friday Foster (played in the film version by Pam Grier)
  • Thundra
  • Mary Marvel
  • Deadly Nightshade
  • The Black Canary
  • Tigra
  • Cat Woman
  • Rose and Thorn
  • Shanna
  • Big Barda
  • Storm

Other women, who might be great for blockbuster films are included in my other post on female super heroes/tv characters (which includes some Latinas from Latin American graphic novels sense the depiction of both Latinas and Asian American women is so poor here in the states).

Or how about a golden age come back like these women from the 1940s? Using 40s comics would open several genres that are popular right now like: Mysteries, Psychological Thrillers, Gangster Movies, etc. all with super heroes (see my explanation of this new combination in my Wolverine post)

Featured heroes & villans:

  • the domino ladlunamoth
  • fantoma
  • Red Tornado
  • Woman in Red (a detective who put hard boiled male detectives to shame)
  • Lady Luck
  • Miss Fury
  • Phantom Lady (not the anime ok)
  • Nelvana
  • Teen Wilcat
  • The Spider Queen
  • Silver Scorpion
  • Bullet Girl
  • Hawk Girl
  • Lady Fairplay
  • Americas Best  24 p14

  • Invisible Scarlet O’Neal
  • Miss America
  • Pat Patriot
  • Black Venus
  • International Girl Commandos
  • Bulletgirl
  • Hellcat/Patsy Walker
  • Miss Masque
  • Moon Girl
  • Miss Masque
  • Luna Moth (who one of my friends is named after)

What about gay representation? Wiccan and Hulking from the Young Avengers perhaps?

I suppose this might be a bit much?


But I did really want to see what “Juice Pig” looks like in part 2. And in QAF land, they did make it into a major motion picture at the end.

It seems that Showtime will be offering its own animated regular series starring “the world’s first gay superhero” hopefully in the Fall. It is set to be penned by Stan Lee and based on a novel about a gay superhero entitled simply: Hero. If the small screen can do it, so can the big screen.

Or how about:dust

  • Echo (Native American/also once thought to be differently-abled)
  • Moondragon (bisexual)OracleBrainiacVirus
  • Jubilee (Asian-American, X-Men)
  • Misty Knight (differently-abled)
  • Nightengale (Haitian)
  • Dust (Afghani, Muslim, woman X-Men)
  • Ranma 1/2 (Asian, transgendered)
  • Dark Angel (Latina)
  • Sudra Jones (African American, drawn and written by Af-Ams)
  • Joto (black, and so totally gay even if he is too young to know)
  • Chandi Gupta (S. Asian)
  • Mantis (Vietnamese)
  • md2

  • Batwoman (lesbian)
  • Araña (Latina)
  • Oracle (differently-abled)?
  • The Black furies (environmental feminist werewolves; af-am)
  • Ghost (most popular female character at Dark Horse. ie $$$)
  • Random 5 (african american written by african americans)
  • The Menagerie II (Latina)
  • Arachne (a single mother)


  • Silver Hawk (Asian; Michelle Yeoh rocked this part in low budge, let’s see it with big American studio backing)
  • the silencer (african american)
  • Darna (Asian)
  • Photon (African American)


  • Cecilia Reyes (Afra-Latina X Men)
  • Karita (Afra-Latina)
  • Farscape women (various non-white aliens, including older woman)
  • Swift (Asian, bi-sexual)
  • Witchblade
  • Pathway (African American, autistic)
  • Dawnstar (Native American)
  • Heather Hudson (African American)
  • Willow (lesbian)
  • Sashiko (Asian American)
  • Hack/Slash (Lesbians, questioning, and taking back the night)


  • Sister Superior (differently-abled)
  • Starlight (African American)
  • Firebird (Latina)
  • Rina Patel (S. Asian)echo1
  • Jonni Thunder (Genderqueer)
  • Vixen (African)

Obviously, some of these characters would need to be updated but the bottom line is that there are a number of strong women and poc that could be featured in the Summer Blockbuster cycle. Very few of them have been considered and still fewer have been centered. Several of the women on these lists actual appear in graphic novels about male heroes or in confederations containing male heroes, many of whom have already had multiple turns at the summer cinema. Despite this fact, most of these women are still absent. When they do appear, they are drained of much of their intellectual or physical powers, turned white when they were written as woc or bi-racial, or turned straight when they were originally bi-sexual or violently killed starlightwhen lesbian. While many graphic novels and comic books are riddled with misogyny, that is not an excuse to either omit women or fail to update them for modern audiences. Many of the women in this list would likely only need updated clothes and dialogue and very little else. Some of the more modern characters have already been written as feminist and most tackled issues regarding the oppression of women at one point or another. While still others, like Anesta Robins are hardboiled sci fi detectives that would appeal anyone who liked Blade Runner. Aaranas I’ve said before, Bryan Singer proved this when he did the X Men and Stan Lee has repeatedly said he wants to do better by women, people of color, and differently-abled characters.

While there are many male viewers and directors who like things just the way they are – men as super human and women as half-naked objects all tied together in a heterosexist bow – the reality is that women and men with a clue are alive and movie going in the summer months too. We don’t all want to watch quirky chick flicks (which do very little for the racial or ability integration of films either) or spend our parenting hours re-directing intentionally misdirected youth. We don’t want to fight with our significant others, less clear friends, and blog trolls about why black face, the absence of visible Latinos, the demonizing of the queer community, and women in spandex undies and stilletos is just not ok. I certainly do not enjoy being called “un-american” on wikipedia.

If basic decency cannot influence Hollywood, then let’s talk $$$. Sex and the City, which also had its woman hating real_power_batwomanmoments and saw the return of mammy, was female led and female centered. It was one of the major box office hits of the summer. And while part of its appeal was a successful tv run first, there were many shows with female superheroes and people of color who can say the same. If the attention the fictional comic book Rage got on QAF is any indication, the same could be said for gay superheroes if they’d actually be given a chance. And the re-release of Bat Woman, a lesbian, garnered so much buzz people were looking to buy copies before it even went to print. And seriously, do we really want to condone a film genre that seems to echo the wrongheaded warning of The Seduction of the Innocent?

Who would you like to see next summer?  (PS. No, I am not looking forward to Beyonce as Wonder Woman or Rose McGowen as Barbarella, but I do want to see both of those characters return to the screen.)



  • Transformers I, movie still. unattributed
  • Pink Transformer. unattributed
  • Mighty Isis. Steve Rude
  • Leiko Wu/Phantom Sand. unattributed
  • Luna Moth. unattributed
  • Phantom Lady. unattributed.
  • Dust. unattributed
  • Moon Dragon. Rubinstein
  • Cecilia Reyes. unattributed
  • Pathway. unattributed
  • Michelle Yeoh as Silver Hawk. unattributed.
  • Hack/Slash. unattributed
  • Echo. unattributed
  • Starlight. Milestone Comics part of DC Universe.
  • Arana. unattributed
  • Kathy Kane aka “Bat Woman.” unattributed

interested in more amazing images: see SwanShadow Blog


Imagine what summer would look like if instead of waiting for jingoistic, self-absorbed, womanizing Tony Stark to play penis, penis, whose got the penis, with some aging roid rager in a metal suit, you could watch an updated version of any of these women.

An Ode to Mothers …

Mom n The Mural/ Tinobear/2008

This image moved me not only because of the way her son situated her within a larger Latin@ herstory but also how the image was captioned:

My mom becomes one with the women in this mural. She’s my favorite Chicana hero.

While mothers are human and many some times seem to or actually fail us in various moments in our lives, I think it is important to remember that our mothers shape us in many ways, leading us toward or away from certain kinds of choices, activism, and consciousness. For many women of color, our mothers are our first feminist role models and the discourse of generational conflict serves to erase that or shame us for it when we should celebrate. For many queer youth, our mothers are our first heroes standing between us and the world, whether those mothers are biological moms who keep us safe in our homes and our communities as children or chosen mothers who look out for us when biology fails. These are the mothers who build nations and movements and whole people but whose names never make it into the textbooks or the canons. And I love that this image reminds us exactly who our mothers are and why we should honor them regardless of whether they are natal moms or mothers from families we choose.

Mom and Grandmom 1953/reihime

Sequioa Ambushes Mom/ S. Dreilinger

extended family/ Kidiro Sato

Our mothers represent our herstories from gandmothers to mothers, from culture to culture, from adoption to new birth, they presence is with us.

Unconditional Love/ Azfigs/2010


They teach us faith and rebellion, all in the name of being true to ourselves and making our way(s) in this world.

Mom N Me/ Malik Williams

Amazing Moms/ Lifeshadow/2008

They gave us strength in the face of oppressions.

Mom and Daughter Cooking/unattributed

welcome home/ quintin roux

Mother’s Day/ Oswaldo Zoom

And they give us comfort in the form of instruction, love, and home even when we think we are too cool, too young, too old, or too-too for their love.

So here is to you mama, Happy Mother’s Day.

You Can Help People of Color Alt Media Survive in Two Easy Steps

Step One: Donate to BrownFemiPower one of the most consistent voices of female empowerment from a working class woc perspective (what I’d call feminist if she’d let me) on the internet.

Every person who donates will receive a gift!

For those who donate between:

$5-25: You will get a personalized thank you note from yours truly!

$26-50: You will get the personalized thank you note and a newly published zine!

$51-100: You will get the personalized thank you note, and two newly published zines!

Over $100: You will get the personalized thank you note, two newly published zines, and a surprise gift (I will tell you once you order–I only have certain quantities of each, so I don’t want to list them online!).

The bad news: Because this computer breaking down has taken me by surprise, I am only in the planning stages for the zines. So it will be up to two months before those of you who order zines will get them. So that you know what stage I am at making the zines, I will be documenting the process I go through to make them here on the blog. This has the added bonus of hopefully helping other people–so many people I know have expressed interest in making zines, but have also expressed not having any damn clue how to.

So, that’s what is where things stand right now. I hope that you are excited–I sure am. I’m a bit apprehensive as I know it will be a lot of work–but I also am really excited for the motivation to get these new zines out! I love zine making, and I’m really excited to get back to the drawing board again–see how things flow out of the mind this time.

Please donate and/or spread the word–and THANK YOU so much for your continuous support!

Step Two: Bid on Nezua‘s Sheriff Joe painting which gives you both the chance to raise awareness about the blatant racism in Arizona and keep an amazing activist blogger and multimedia radical working/eating.

HARD TIMES HAVE FALLEN UPON US ALL! I know this for sure simply watching the donations I once received from readers—unsolicited aside from the buttons on the page—dry up over the past year or two. It’s tough out there, and it’s not just blog donations but even work online with graphics that has tapered off a lot. In fact, I was bumped offline for two weeks for not being able to pay all the bills this month. And to be honest, this is the first time since I’ve lived in this apartment that I don’t have all the rent this close to the first of next month. Ouch. That’s four days away.

I’m not trying to paint a doom n gloom scenario. … So I’m going to do something here I’ve not done in a while and humble myself to make the direct request to my philanthropist friends, or the ones who have a few to throw down to support their friendly neighborhood nezua: if you have a few, throw ‘em in the bucket!

Alternately, I have put one of my paintings up at eBay, and I invite you to bid, or spread the link around if you want. It’s an 18 x 24″ Lotería card of the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Times are tough for everyone, but with both activists asking for as little as $5 a person, we should all be able to come up with a little something to help them out. The coffee and pastry I bought today cost more than their minimum donation request. And if a distaste for “blegging” (a multi-directional derogatory term that conflates the use of online media and the desire to be paid for one’s writing, film, or activism work with the “undeserving poor”) is getting in your way,  just remember all the times you have talked about, worked on, or simply lamented in the front of a classroom, staff mtg, dinner party, etc. about the absence of radical, engaged, people of color at your events, jobs, or in the media and know that this is the tiniest of steps toward making the connection between words and action. For my POC readers, all I can say is, community means sharing the wealth even when you don’t have any; the wheel will turn and someone will have your back too.

Dixie Carter as Julia Sugarbaker

On the hypocrisy of and policing by neo-conservatives/politicians

On solidarity and infighting (via the pageant)

I’m sure it comes as no shock that we in the Susurro household loved Julia Sugarbaker as much as we loved Murphy Brown. And I have been told that Dixie Carter was no less fiery an advocate for women and civil rights or for the right of women and girls to speak their minds. As both the fictional character she played and the real woman she was, she inspired many to be passionate, strong, and stand up even when you had to stand alone. She did it with a Southern drawl many on the Left discount as some how less intelligent and as such embodied a feminist politic that we often fail to recognize and therefore help shove to the other side. Dixie Carter was a Republican and though I fundamentally disagree with Republican politics, I can’t help but wonder how it is such an outspoken, strong supporter of women, gay, and people of color’s rights and a woman who passed so easily as a liberal on our tvs so many nights ended up on the other side … There is a lesson, more than one, in that I think.

Dixie Carter died yesterday at age 70.

Wilma Mankiller

Wilma Mankiller was the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation and a prolific writer, speaker, and thinker. She was committed to decolonized tribal health care and education and spent her 10 years as Chief raising funds for both causes. Under her leadership, enrollment in schools rose to 3 times its original number for Cherokee youth. She was also a strong advocate for Indigenous equality in the eyes of the Federal Government; as such, she met with three separate U.S. Presidents advocating for Indigenous Rights and an end to discriminatory policies, land grabs and pollution, and laws negatively impacting the bodily integrity of women and girls. Her radical praxis led her to participate in the historic take over of Alcaltraz to force a national level discussion about discrimination against and marginalization of Indigenous peoples in N. America and to eschew big casino building and smoke shops for the building of schools and hospitals when she was tribal leader. In the early 80s she founded the Cherokee Nation Community Development Department to help members of the Cherokee Nation become self-sufficient in issues of housing and access to clean water. In the early 90s, her work alongside then-Navajo Nation President Zah, helped create the Office of Indian Justice in the Department of Justice in D.C. to better help address ongoing inequality of Indigenous peoples in the U.S.

She was also an inspiration to women and girls. Her first attempt to be elected as Chief of the Cherokee Nation was met with public sexism questioning her ability to lead. Sexist jokes about her last name dogged her campaign and her leadership. Yet she never faltered. Though she lost her original bid, she met the sexism head on and eventually became the first female leader. She used her own struggle to inspire her own two daughters and other Cherokee women to reach for whatever they wanted in life. In writing her biography, she hoped not only to address Indigenous identity but also to encourage other women and girls to take leadership roles and stand up for their rights. In speaking about her commitment to women and girls she said:

“I try to encourage young women to be willing to take risks, to stand up for the things they believe in, and to step up and accept the challenge of serving in leadership roles.”

She also wrote or co-authored two other books in the field of Women’s Studies: Every Day is a Good Day and The Reader’s Companion to the History of Women. The former edited volume included the accessible reflections by 19 Indigenous women activists about gender justice, spirituality, equality, sovereignty, etc. It hoped to weave Indigenous women’s voices back into feminist discourse as well as general discussion of identity without creating a space so steeped in theory as to be inaccessible. The latter, edited along with noted feminists like Barbara Smith, and mainstream feminists like Gloria Steinem, was a broad reader meant to be accessible to middle school through life long learners. The Companion centered both activism and multiculturalism, including stories from over 300 activists addressing issues as widespread as Asian picture brides, lynching activism, and the rise in Orthodox Jewish feminism. It also included a wide array of articles addressing feminism from multiple perspectives rather than simply offering up a watered down, hipster, or mainstream perspective to the exclusion of all of the dynamic definitions and praxis at play. The mammoth books is best as supplemental reading for middle and high school history books but definitely a starting point for people who have never received a more multicultural look at feminist history, or any feminist history (you know beyond 1990 w/ a few references to the 1970s) at all.

In 1987 she was Mrs Magazines Woman of the Year for her commitment and in 1998 then-President Clinton awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her longstanding activism on behalf of Indigenous people in U.S.

Like so many activist feminists of color, Wilma Mankiller died yesterday morning from complications related to cancer. Despite the occasional controversies related to her leadership (including the failure to include black Cherokees as full members of the nation), she will be sorely missed.

GirlTrek: A Call to Black Women and Girls

I was doing a little research on Tracey McQuirter’s new book By Any Greens Necessary, which I am hoping to buy, read, and review for the blog when her site sent me to GirlTrek. Both book and Trek are targeted to African American women/Girls and health but are separate people and/or organizations.

(for those worried abt fatphobia scroll to minute 5:24 but then watch whole thing)

The GirlTrek Challenge is an online community which requires a minimum commitment but offers any number of ways to become involved with other African American women around the United States who are participating in the challenge. The basic idea is to encourage African American women to reclaim public spaces and control over their bodies as healthy spaces by:

  • walking 30 minutes a day for 3 months starting on Easter Sunday (April 4)
  • The challenge can be completed on your own, with a group of friends, or by establishing a GirlTrek group in your community (which can be made up of young women or women of any age)
  • uploading pictures of your treks and/or your troupes to the website

The flexibility of the challenge is perfect for both people new to exercise or walking and those who have much more active lives. Many of the people featured and/or participating in the challenge have weight issues and from what I can see, the discourse of health on the site is body positive versus fatphobic. In other words, while the focus is on getting out and getting healthy, there are no judgments about body size or which bodies are healthy bodies. And while most people talking health these days are coming at it from a place of harsh judgment and stereotype (Susan Powter I am talking to you, espec since you tied your fatphobia up in a big racist bow w/ your NAFUAA madness) and their talk has created a lasting discourse of blame and shame, we can talk about being healthy without buying into that discourse.

More than that, the challenge also focuses on the mind, encouraging participants to see their commitment as “mini-adventures” or “mini-travels” in which they:

  • discover new areas of their town, new green spaces, or reclaim their own right to walk in their own neighborhoods
  • see mobility as a first step to activism – inspiring by doing & hopefully building the confidence to engage others as they walk
  • pool knowledge and triumphs with the online community and/or their own communities

For the more competitive among you, GirlTrek also has some competitions including:

  • $100 spa gift certificate for most minutes walked (requires syncing you ipod to Nike fit – which I personally have major concerns about b/c information about your physical activity and health are digitized and sent across a network beyond your control)
  • T-shirts for most dedicated Trekkers
  • $100 spa certificate for best victory story (the tale of your trek)
  • itunes gift certificates for best photos and/or trekking play lists

In many ways, GirlTrek is another basic fitness initiative that just wants to encourage people to get moving, like those you may have at work or your place of worship (if you have a communal place of worship). At the same time, unlike those initiatives, this one was created by and for women of color to address our specific needs. Its emphasis on black women and girls also provides a culturally specific supportive environment that is often lacking in other exercise efforts and may be particularly wanted and needed by black women living outside of cities with large black communities. It’s celebration of black female bodies in all their forms, through pics and stories, while focused on health and losing weight, is also encouraging to thick women who are often inundated with images of slovenly fat girls vs. happy thin ones. Not only is this fatphobia that impacts all women but it is especially out of touch with the visions of beauty and health that exist within communities of color. So, having a place that includes encouraging and positive images of thick women in the discourse of health seems like a great thing.

Once you sign up, there are several ways to keep connected with others online:

  • facebook (no I am not linking there)
  • twitter: @GirlTrek (no you don’t have to join twitter to follow them)
  • Girl Trek Blog (which focuses specifically on GirlTrek stories)
  • Our Health Blog (which talks about black female centered health news)

I am participating in the challenge myself and will be including my stories of walking on the blog each Friday as part of my new commitment to featuring “healthy Info” on Fridays, which will include my walking recaps, food porn (pics of veg recipes), and spiritual talk (yes that’s right I’m Catholic, you know this, and you still like me and read the feminist and social justice talk on this blog, don’t stop now).

My excitement about this project is mostly about how it seems to be the right thing at the right moment for me, and how it may inspire black women who want to get outside and get active with minimal or more interaction with others. Please feel free to weigh in here in the comments regardless of what you think about the project. And hear is to living healthy and happy lives in your own bodies and knowing that both they and you are beautiful no matter what size you are.