Monday, January 31, 2011

The Explicación

This started from a paper I wrote a year ago, has been expanded since.

The Explicación

Every semester the first day opens up with ice breakers, yeah? One of the most common: Where are you from?

That question always throws me off. The reason being I’m from lots of places.

When I open my mouth to answer that question, I always stutter because I never really know what I’m going to say. I feel like no matter what I say, an explanation is always needed because being “mixed” is never simple. 

Same thing happens when I speak Spanish in front of anglos, when I blurt out Chilenisimos in front of my Chicana friends, when I translate something differently to my Mexican-American coworkers, when some TexMex slang slips out in Chile, etc. etc. etc.

I love being mixed, it’s amazingly normal and strange to me. I’m my own unique venn diagram that always has to be mapped out to those who would never think of merging those circles and categories. 

For some reason I try to make things easy for others, so I refer to myself as a pale Latina. I can get more specific: I identify as a (Chilean) Latina, as white (Texan), and as biracially both. Heritage-wise? I can break it down. Mapuche + Italians + Spaniards + French + Irish = all of me.

And just to note, “Examining samples of mitochondrial DNA, passed down only from mother to daughters, allowed researchers to come up with the ‘Eve theory,’ that although we also have many other ancestors, all human beings have at least one common female ancestor, part of a small band of several thousand humans from whom we evolved, living in sub-Saharan Africa, about 200,000 years ago” (Aurora Levins Morales, Remedios, 3).

The only time I’ve ever struggled with my identity or being mixed was when people gave me crap for it, presented it to me as if it were some big curse I was truly experiencing but never was aware of.

Like I didn’t realize growing up bilingual was "actually a problem, and not a benefit."

Like I didn’t realize growing up exposed to different cultures was "actually a problem, and not a benefit."

Like I didn’t realize growing up without prejudice to different races was "actually a problem, and not a benefit."


Let’s turn one thing around. I refuse to be upset and bothered because they can’t understand. I never have and never will find anything wrong or confusing about me. If anything there’s something wrong with the premise of their questions.

For example.

Knowing I’m bilingual, the very next question is, guaranteed, what was your first language? The asker has conditioned me to only be allowed one language to be first. When, as I said before, the reality is I grew up speaking Spanish and English at the same time. I would go days thinking/speaking only in Spanish, days thinking/speaking only in English, and then days thinking/speaking in Spanglish. This branches into more confusion because other Spanish speakers will pick up on my Chilean slang, and English speakers will pick up on my Texan slang. Y’all are fixin’ to be so confused, porque no cacha ni uno, que fome.

Let’s move on to the bicultural bit.
This was normal for me, to see differences and accept them. I am sad that for some people it was not normal to see differences, and thus differences were strange and creepy and wrong and had a “quick somebody’s different let’s beat them up!” kind of mentality in the air. I’ve gotten in trouble and told to step back in line many times. Yeah, I’ve learned the rules, just like my mother had to when she immigrated. But hey, since when do writers play by the rules? Of all the clashes I’ve had, the most I can do is talk about it, and explain why I’m not bending my ways. There’s no reason for me to. The most common cultural difference I experience every day has to deal with time. I play by ear, I don’t own a watch, and I stay happy. To other anglos? This is a control issue, or it’s lazy, or it’s irresponsible and of all those it’s inexcusable. Time is money and we do not waste it. The more Americans jerk it to a fast-paced life of multitasking and idolizing employees who work themselves into an early grave the more I count in, as it’s called, “Mexican Minutes.” *

I think one of the most prevalent features that sparks confusion is the issue of color. We’ve come to divide and associate race/ethnicity by skin color. Because of this, I don’t even pass as a stereotypical European Spaniard. My brother’s favorite joke is to gasp when he sees me in the hallway, “Oh my bad, I thought I saw a ghost” or “Casper!!” Yeah, I’m pale. Milky. Never experienced a tan, only a burn. Go ahead, count the veins you can clearly see.  Our society perpetuates the image that any real Spanish speaker is a certain shade that I will never fit. As irritating as status quo’s are, I enjoy bursting the bubble of some, being proof that pale Latinas exist.

To give a real world example, I was in a group of 3 other girls in class one day. They looked Latina (by stereotypical standards – and to clarify, nothing wrong with that, just painting the picture). One of them asked, “Do you two speak Spanish?” I looked up about to answer, then realized she wasn’t talking to me (Duh, should have realized by the “two”). I was genuinely sad for a moment. One said no, she forgot. The other said yes. Dammit, I was having a candid moment, so I said “Yeah I do too.” She then asked, “Oh you learned it in school?” Insert bigger sad face here. “No, my mother’s Chilean, I grew up-” (You know the rest). All our faces got red, realizing how awkward interesting it is when stereotypes are so prevalent we’re shocked when they’re broken.

Another benefit that’s come of this is, as mentioned before, seeing “differences” as normal, appreciating them but not freaking out about them. I grew up next to an African American family, and their four daughters. It wasn’t until around fourth grade did we realize that our hair was different. We put grease in my hair, and it wasn’t having the same effect as it did on them. I like to say I grew up semi-color blind. A lot of things were pointed out to me, like when I was hanging out with the latinos in my elementary school who were taking English as a Second Language, then other English speaking white kids “informed me” about what I now recognize as slurs and stereotypes. I also experienced a reenactment of when Babe separated the chickens by color by those same kids. Like I said – confusion came about when I was told to be confused, and differences came about when I was told to treat them like a bad, separating feature. 

Every day it is always there and always marked: My skin in relation to my language at the moment, my language in relation to the place I am in, and my accent in relation to an assumed history. All of this causes nothing but confusion from an outsider, and it is astounding how many outsiders there are, who cannot begin to debunk my identity and my history and how I came to be such a bundle of trilingual, cross cultural characteristics.

Society enjoys boxes and labels and nothing fluid crossing in and out. It is hard for people to wrap their mind around a person who can travel in and out of a giant Venn diagram, and the sentiment towards it is that it is a very messy, confusing thing to be.

There is a Chinese saying that women are like water, and I believe that exemplifies how mixed people are. I am a confusing fluidity, and if society takes that negatively then so be it. Embracing that otherness and being branded as an outsider in a negative fashion? No, I take that in a reverse fashion.

Those who imply my identity should be confusing are the confused ones, and those who do not understand and see this as an impediment are the ones who should reevaluate their preconceived and preset notions. I have concluded that I will never be confused about my identity.

My language has made me and brought me across countries and cultures and continues to move me, and hand in hand with that, my physical traits do not add or diminish anything to my true self or my language. With this conviction I will force the security out of pre-set simple ideals and of uncomplicated and pre-defined boxes with which our language and identity is forced into. Ultimately, I have one personal language, Chilean[sometimes Mexican]Spanish-[Texan]English-Spanglish, because it defines my own personhood, which is never confusing to me.

* See, the world tends to see all Hispanics/Latinos as being Mexican, and alliterations are easy.


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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Female to Male to Female

I made a video about gender fluidity. There should be annotations popping up throughout the video, but the writing is in the description as well, and I'll just post them here for good measure. I think it's pretty self explanatory, so there we go :)

Here's the video
Or watch it here

This video is a combination of me always wanting to know and being curious about what i'd look like with a beard, and wanting to express gender fluidity.

Sex =/= Gender =/= Sexuality

Gender is a social construct.

Gender is a performance and we are ALWAYS performing.

About behaviors, roles and ideas relating to someone's sex.

Our society creates a binary where two categories are mutually exclusive.
(Think masculinity and femininity.)

"One is not born a woman, one becomes one."
Simone de Beauvoir

Gender, however, like Sex and Sexuality is fluid, and has a wide range on a spectrum.

People should have the freedom to chose without hatred or discrimination simply because they don't fit certain expectations.

"This is my body. Worry about your own body.
To the people that are looking at other people
and judging them?
Get a life.
It's not your place to say anything
about how anyone is living their life
unless they ask you.
If they don't ask you? Zip it."
- Andrea's C

Music: Black Eyed Peas Don't Phunk with my heart
Jessie J Do it like a dude

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Victim (versus) Survivor

One of my Kines professors said that she didn’t believe in “rape victims” only “rape survivors.” I have read a lot about this sentiment and I have to disagree.

When you take away the rhetoric of being a victim, you take away the possibility of there being a perpetrator, a crime committed, and something done wrong to that person. Being a survivor and being a victim, I think, are intrinsically linked. Hopefully, if you are a victim, you will survive and rise up against the wrong doing. If you are a survivor, you have to have survived from something, and that is where I feel identifying as a survivor and identifying as a victim are not mutually exclusive. Saying there are no rape victims implies that agency is stripped from all rapists, that they might as well not even be in the picture.

I was a victim, but I am a survivor. I have no shame in saying I was a victim; there is nothing wrong with admitting that.

We associate the victim identification with being weak, and being weak is a bad thing in our culture. We should learn to separate the two and realize, especially when discussing rape, that if you continue to have a negative connotation with being a victim, then you are only furthering victim-blaming and victim-shame.

The spectrum of being a victim and a survivor is something fluid and upwardly progressive, and if someone is struggling with being a victim, then we cannot look at them with shame and harsh judgment because they are “too weak to be a survivor.” Someone struggling with this needs help and support, and then they can move on to survive and help others as well.

After all, who are you to judge who is a "real victim," acting as if their identity in that term is beneath them (you, a stranger to them), and thus "should be a real survivor?" If you are so bent on people being survivors, then it would do you well to respect where they are coming from, (that they do feel like a victim and not to make them feel bad because of it), and help them.

How do you help them? First step: Stop shaming them because you don't believe that there are "rape victims."

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Outside my circle: A guide to love (Interracial love)

[I created a series of FAQ we often encounter regarding different types of love in this world, titled "Outside my circle: A guide to love." This section is about interracial love.]

How can they be in love, or any kind of relationship? They are different races! 

People like and/or love other people. They are able to embrace different races and ethnicities and find beauty in and past skin color. 

Mixing is bad, they’re doing wrong by their race.

The entire concept of race and it’s hierarchy was made up by (racist) people; “mixing” isn’t wrong.


They’re just stealing guys/girls from my race and I don’t like it.

You don’t own everybody in your racial group. If you don’t like it, try to consider why.

We need to preserve the cleanliness of our race; this is all kinds of wrong for our civilization.

You like the privilege you have, calling yourself pure? The concept of purity that you have is prejudiced and racist. You are not better than someone else because your mother fucked some man of the same race. Not only do you propose us to be separate, but you don’t even think of us as equal? That’s the main problem. Additionally, unless humans all stop having babies completely, I don’t think you have to worry about the human race dying out any time soon. 

Two or more different cultures can’t meet and be stable though.

With a closed mind, racist attitude and superiority complex, I imagine it would be difficult. Luckily that’s not the case for many interracial couples and multiracial children of these couples. If there’s not a racist family member breathing fire down their throats, usually it turns into a beautiful experience and a richer view of the world and an amazing part of people’s identity. At the end of the day, a culture should rely on more than just the shade of someone’s skin and the pedestal that certain skin tones get to sit on because of their power throughout history. 

How is it a good thing though? What benefit comes from it?

You can’t say that any real negative thing comes from interracial relationships without a very racist, privileged mentality. In most relationships, if they’re healthy and consensual and loving, then that enough is a good thing. A (new) population that embraces differences is better than one that is built on hate. Even if you ignore that point, interracial love simply is. It’s love, and it’s not your place to decide who gets to love whom. 

Think of the children!
♥ I happen to be one of those children, and a more personal blog about that will come later :)

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Monday, January 3, 2011

A smooth, rich, creamy, intense dose of sexism

So I want to talk about a few commercials I’ve seen recently. Typically in advertisements, women are displayed as being sexual and/or objectified, or it's usually as a nagging partner, the naive partner, or very strict motherhood (cleaning, caring) roles. This can also shift and change when you intersect race and size and the product, but those tend to be the general images.

The commercials I want to talk about are the Ghirardelli chocolate and York Peppermint Patty. Here is a link to the Ghirardelli and here is a link to an older York Peppermint Patty commercial  , and here is a link to the newest one that I saw (it’s not on YouTube).

I have quite a few issues to point out in these commercials. Firstly, it’s women being portrayed as having a sexual experience from eating. This sexual experience comes from food. It puts women hand in hand with an object, something that you pick off a menu and enjoy, creating that image by association. This also plays off of the "XYZ object inserted into woman's mouth is something she will enjoy and induce an orgasm. You don't need to discuss what this woman likes sexually, just any (literal) thing will do."

Additionally, despite the fact they're usually alone (the only person in the ad) these women need something else to make them sexual (the food), and that is something inserted into them. We might consider the whole "Oh, women love chocolate!" mentality when you look at multiple chocolate advertisements. "Let me buy her some chocolate, it'll get her in the mood, and then I'll give it to her, obviously."

These ads also prescribe a specific type of look regarding a sexual or orgasmic experience. Fingers in the mouth (as opposed to chewing or eating), licking the lips, goose bumps, open mouthed (again, as opposed to eating), arched back, shocked expression, heavy breathing, big eyes, hair flying back, etc. So, not only is this not what happens when you eat a simple piece of chocolate, it's neither what might happen when you orgasm or are aroused.

This is a typical occurrence, but it’s important to note that the types of women being displayed (sexually) are incredibly thin and incredibly white. (And always with luscious lips.) I highly doubt that if a woman who wasn't very thin was in this commercial, because of how our society mistakenly views health and body fat percentage and beauty, the commercial would have been received the same way. "It's okay to enjoy chocolate because you're thin, in the same way that it's okay to be sexual when you're thin. Otherwise? Not wanted.” 

It's also important to note that these advertisements usually involve commands. This is obvious considering it's supposed to get you to buy something, but because it is displaying women in this specific way, the message changes from "everybody should enjoy this chocolate" to a direct order towards women or how people are supposed to understand women. "Women, you need to get this sensation" / "Men, women want to receive this sensation" or "Women, you want an intense [chocolate] experience? An intense, slow melting, rich, smooth, silky one? Enjoy it slowly… So don't enjoy it quickly, and when you do eat it, you should enjoy it for the reasons we mentioned."

We are told that, as women, enjoying food is supposed to be a sexual experience. We are told that in order to be sexual, we need some help, we can’t do it alone. We are told that in order to enjoy food and/or be sexual we need to look and act a specific way. With all these problems in mind, I find it an even bigger problem that this sexism is being openly displayed under the guise of “just an innocent food commercial.” At the end of the day, they’re using women’s bodies in a specific way not only to prescribe specific things about our bodies and women as people, but to also sell their product. What does that say about the company and the product? Like that popular image, if the product was so good, it wouldn’t need sexism to sell it. If this chocolate was so yummy for my tummy, it wouldn’t need to objectify women to sell it.

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

Outside my circle: A guide to love (Same-sex love)

[I created a series of FAQ we often encounter regarding different types of love in this world, titled "Outside my circle: A guide to love." This section is about same-sex love.]

What if I don’t like looking at two guys or two girls holding hands, kissing, and generally expressing affection or love?

You should consider whether you have a problem with PDA in general, or if the problem is with who exactly is expressing this in public. You cannot dictate what kind of kiss is allowed in public or in the media and then deny all the other types.

You should then consider the fact that people who surround you in this world do not exist for your judgment. Strangers in the mall are not in your eyesight to please or entertain you. At the end of the day, holding hands, hugging, kissing and light cuddling is the most PDA you’ll probably see, in average.

Realistically, your life isn’t truly affected if the people holding hands in your peripheral vision have the same genitalia or not. If you don’t like it, realize that nobody’s asking you to like it. They don’t want your opinion, nor do they want you to join in. So it would probably be best to mull over the idea that it’s none of your business, and they have a right to express their affection in the same way that others do all the time.

But it’s against my religion.

Are you sure about that? Might want to do some research. Additionally, it’s your faith, not theirs. Hating something under the guise of religion is a choice that you make, with an excuse that you chose. Love and equal rights are not something that can be made into a pageant, debating around the subjects where you’re the judge. 

But relationships lead to marriage, and marriage is between a man and a woman, for the purpose of procreating.

Some relationships lead to marriage. I know many hetero couples who live together but have no intention of getting married. What’s important is that marriage is a right that all should have. Also, marriage is a cross-cultural institution that exists in a different form for different people depending on their ideas, the time period, and many other factors.

There’s just not one way of practicing. You don’t need men and women to be getting married in order to procreate. That can happen outside of marriage. There are also many men and women getting married that chose not to have children, or who are unable to have children without additional help (if they chose it). 

It’s not natural.

Yeah, it is. It happens in nature all the time. I wouldn’t be so quick to throw around the word or idea of things being “natural” to begin with, either, as you sit here and read this on your computer. ;)

But it’s nasty!

Last time I checked, hating and discriminating against people and their rights is nastier than people loving one another.

Okay, so I respect same-sex relationships and the GLBTQ community. What more can I do to be a better ally? 

That will be addressed in a later post :)

Can you expand on the marriage issue?

♥That will also be addressed in a later post. This series is all about love, and marriage is just a part of that, not the entire issue of understanding different types of love. 


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