Archive for the ‘women of color’ Category

An observation from an acquaintance. Many Filipino businessmen, he said, find that they already had an “in” with their counterparts from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. That young businessmen from the Middle East felt an affinity   with Filipinos. Magaan ang loob.

The reason? These businesspeople from the Middle East grew up with Filipina nannies. Because of their carework, said this acquaintance, Filipina women are in such positions of  influence over the next generation of businesspeople from the Middle East. Pinoy entrepreneurs, he said, could use trade on this predisposed goodwill as capital.

The gender dynamics of Filipino labor migration shifted around the 1980s. More women were recruited for domestic work, a trend that continues today. An estimated 70 percent of the 3,000 Filipinos who leave the country each day due to labor migration are women.

I had already known Filipina mothers work as nannies and caregivers, even as they leave their own children behind.  That these women’s labor feed the remittances that keep the Philippine economy afloat. And that all these benefits to the country, to the private sector, have come at great personal cost to women who spent years away from their own children.

But it still makes me sad and angry to note that decades later, long after their children had grown up without their presence, these women’s labor and sacrifice continues to generate wealth. But not for them.


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Last week, three young women from the Feminist Majority Foundation visited the large Intro to Women’s Studies class that I work as a TA. They did what I take to be a standard invitation:

FMF member: Okay! So who here is a feminist? Raise your hand!

(a smattering of hands go up)

FMF rep: Okay! So who here believes there should be equality between men and women?

(A lot more hands go up, but slowly.)

FMF rep: Okay  then!  That means you’re all feminists!

This is a group of young women and men, taking a Women’s Studies class. A large portion of the students were women of color. And they did not identify as feminist. If I was an FMF representative, I’d be curious to know why. Perhaps we could talk about their ideas about feminism. What was it about feminism, or perhaps just the term “feminist,” that they did not find relatable?

They FMF members smiled a lot, and seemed like nice enough young women. But they were also arrogant, and their blithe dismissal of any concerns the students had — oh yes you too are a feminist! — made me angry.

When I met with my students in discussion class, I asked them about why they didn’t raise their hands. Some said it was just because they were uncomfortable with the term.

A number were upset about FMF’s support for the invasion and continued occupation of Afghanistan. One student used the term “colonialist,” and another said it was attempt to “save brown women from brown men.” These were first- and second-year students, quoting Spivak. I almost cried.

Others took issue with the second question, the facile “equality between men and women.” One Chicana student recalled the racism leveled at her father, her brothers, and her boyfriend faced every single day. Another student brought up Devah Pager’s “The Mark of a Criminal Record,” a matched-pair experiment that showed how white men with criminal records still received higher job callback rates that Black applicants with similar work experience but no criminal record. What men were the FMF reps referring to?

In the end, we did get a good discussion out of the FMF visit. And I did learn a lot about and from my students. The FMF reps might have too, had they bothered to ask questions and listen.

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A good life

Last spring, I spent a lot (to me) of money on a mountain bike. I have spent the past few months happily developing my climbing legs and literally soaring to new heights.

bikeI’ve also spent a lot of time feeling guilty. That I, a woman of color grad student from the Third World, could possibly spend that money on a bicycle.

How do I justify that? And why do I feel like I have to?


I previously wrote about the dearth of people of color riders on the Los Angeles trails. I have since spoken to other people of color who have been thinking about riding, about spending money on a basic mountain bike, one with decent brakes and some kind of suspension. For many, it’s do-able if (like me) they cut wayyy back on other expenses. But oh the reluctance, since spending the money and actually devoting time to riding is often labeled as unproductive. A waste of time. And maybe, just a bit selfish.

What constitutes a “good life”? For many, the idea of a good life follows a linear progression of childhood, college, marriage, mortgage, kids, retirement. Judith Halberstam observes how this idea of a good life is built around accumulation. Those who live outside this logic of consumption and accumulation are pathologized and vilified.

This dominant idea of a good life already devalues activities like riding and running and  walking and being outside. Because these are pursuits that do not necessarily promote the productivity that “a good life” demands. Instead, they are often a refuge. They are opportunities to breathe, to reflect, and to feel joy outside the consumption-based logic of capitalism.

Perhaps this is a reason why such interruptive and “unproductive” activities are vilified and pathologized in the first place.



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In 2002, Elena Garcdoce Francisco, a 102-year-old Tumandok woman, journeyed to Iloilo City from her mountain home in Panay. She sang an ambahan, protesting the destruction wrought by militarization in her ancestral lands. These military incursions date back to at least 1962, under then President Diosdado Macapagal.

This practice of telling stories through poetry and chants remains an intrinsic part of the communal life of many indigenous villages. However, notes writer and poet Gelacio Guillermo, the traditional content of these poetic expressions have been giving way to expressing new ideas, feelings, and aspirations—ones related to militarization, logging, mining, land-grabbing, the destruction of forests. Indigenous women continue the practice of ulallems, agayams, and salidum-ay. These poetic expressions are intended as a collective experience, with no barrier between the performer and her audience.

Gardoce Francisco’s chant could have been a galvanizing moment, bringing a common understanding of how communities are being imperiled and immiserated by a confluence of multinational and local elite interests.

But we—urban and lowland dwellers, schooled in Western-style universities—are painfully unequipped to understand her words. We are unable to see ambahan, agayam, salidum-ay, ullalem, as knowledge production.


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Last semester, members of my grad cohort had dinner with a very cool queer theorist who was guest speaking at the university. We were thrilled to meet her and discuss her work. We were even more thrilled when advisors later told us, “Professor G loved you! She said you were so  [inset gaggle of compliments].” We beamed like kindergartners awarded gold stars.

Then our advisor added, “Professor G was so impressed that you were so uncompetitive with one another.”


That last comment threw me a little, because I’ve never seen myself as non-competitive. Was I losing my edge?

I later learned that Professor G felt the students at her R1 were competitive in a destructive way. They’d ask questions not out of genuine interest in one another’s work, but in an attempt to one-up one another by tearing each other’s work down. That’s competition?

I think back to the members of my cohort. F works on art activism in queer communities of color. C’s work is on trafficking of women. B is looking into transwomen of color in the diaspora. N studies how colonial legal systems have enshrined violence against women. Professor G was right. They’re each doing vital work, and I’ve no desire to try to tear that down.

* * *


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run2I used to think that I loved running because it made me free.

But lately, the runs have been harder. Not any less satisfying, just harder to get into. Harder to enjoy. It’s not that my runs have changed, but the purpose.

Lately, I’ve been running to get away from people. I’m not quite sure how this happened.


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(Late reflections for Mother’s Day)

Of all the made-up commercial holidays, Mother’s Day, for me, is the least irritating. After all, if I was going to be guilted into blowing money on cards, flowers, and the obligatory brunch, at least it was going to be for Mom. So to moms everywhere, y’all rock.

And this goes double for the moms we do not celebrate on Mother’s Day — the ones  who get painted as fiscally and sexually irresponsible, the deviant  mothers who are subjected to discipline and sanction.

For decades, the deviant mother has served as a convenient scapegoat for state ills. As Anna  Marie Smith has observed, “the State lays the blame for poverty at the door of the deviant mother who is ideologically constructed as black, heterosexual, unmarried, and sexually precocious.” These are the mothers who are somehow painted as undeserving.


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