Why is the impeachment of Brazil’s president a feminist issue?

A blog reflection by Women’s Center intern Mariana de Matos Medeiros Mariana De Matos Medeiros

On October 5th, 2014, I was finally able to cast my first vote for a Presidential election since moving to America. It was an incredible experience to head over into the Brazilian consulate event in Washington, DC, bright-eyed and ready to make a difference for my home country. As an immigrant who has not yet attained citizen status, I am not able to vote in America so voting to make a difference for my family and friends at home was empowering. As a feminist, I felt most thrilled about having the ability to vote for a leftist woman who had already done much to carry out social welfare programs. I voted for Dilma Rousseff based on how she had run her administration in her previous term: focusing on women and marginalized communities and continuing to carry out social welfare programs to address the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor.

During the past months Brazil’s political drama has reached its all-time high. With the most recent Olympic games being hosted in Rio, the entire world was watching as Brazil’s first woman-identified, leftist president was pushed out of office pending an investigation on alleged corrupt behavior.

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Dilma Rousseff // image credit: Wikipedia

Rousseff ran for president under the left-winged Worker’s Party of Brazil, yet she did not always bring solidarity among feminists, as some may assume. In fact, the Brazilian feminist movements were often split between those who supported her public policies and those who rejected her administration, demanding advances in issues of reproductive justice and education. However, Brazilian feminists tend to agree that Rousseff’s impeachment was a blatant act of sexism and discrimination.   Continue reading

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“Barely Black”

A blog reflection written by Women’s Center student staff member Meagé Clements. This post is an expansion of her statement in the UMBC Women’s Center and Women of Color Coalition’s “I’m Not” anti-stereotype campaign for the Telling Our Stories project, which we posted about here.

Meagé Profile PicIt’s been over a year since I first read recent UMBC alumna and former Women’s Center student staff member Bria Hamlet’s blog post Blackish: Telling My Story and her words continue to resonate with me. She described how she often felt that her blackness was invalidated by others because she didn’t fit the “stereotypical Black mold.” Her blog post made me recall my own experiences with microaggressions and respectability politics, even before I had words to describe what I was facing.

Upon thinking about my “favorite” microaggressions to include on my anti-stereotype poster for the Telling Our Stories Project, a million ideas popped in my head; several about my name, a few about my natural hair, but most were about me being — or not being — “Black enough,” and how other people often take it upon themselves to decide when I am capable of being associated with my blackness.

Growing up, I attended predominantly white schools, but I had always surrounded myself with a small yet diverse group of friends. I remember several times when my Black and non-Black friends alike would joke about how my “Black card should be revoked” or how I was “barely Black” for any number of reasons.

Most often, it came down to the fact that by being an introvert, I couldn’t possibly be Black. Because I wasn’t the stereotypical “loud Black woman,” I wasn’t Black enough. Because I grew up in a two-parent household, I couldn’t be Black. Because I “spoke like a white girl,” I wasn’t deemed Black enough.

Since when did each of these things become associated with Blackness and why were they the determinants? What exactly did it mean to be “Black enough?” Continue reading

How Did We Get Here: The Crisis in Flint

A reflection from Women’s Center staff member Daniel WilleyDaniel Profile Pic

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how disaster response and the concept of a snow day have social justice implications. This week, I am continuing the trend by looking at the disaster in Flint, Michigan. Many news outlets are examining the crisis from a “so how do we fix it” standpoint, but I want to look at this crisis through the lens of “how did we get here.” What structural imbalances led us to this point? What does this crisis say about the bigger picture? Before we get there, though, let’s look at what happened:

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(cnn.com)

In 2011, former acting mayor of Flint, Michigan Mike Brown was appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder as the city’s Emergency Financial Manager. The city was $15 million in debt, and it was the EFM’s job to cut the budget as much as possible to remedy the situation. As a major cost saving measure, Flint voted to stop buying water from Detroit, which pulls water from Lake Huron, and connect to Karegnondi Water Authority as a cheaper, more direct way of getting water from Lake Huron. This plan, voted on in 2013, would not be completed until 2016 and the city switched to water from the Flint River in the interim. Tests done on Flint River back in 2011 showed that the water from the river was corrosive and would need to be treated with phosphates before it could be used as a water source. This information was sent to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in 2013 when the decision was made to switch. It was the MDEQ’s job to address the corrosiveness of the water, which would cost about $100 per day. As a cost saving measure, they didn’t.

Fast forward to April 2014. Flint switches its water source. Residents report that the water is brown, smells, and has a bad taste. It was gross, but officials insisted it was fine. Continue reading

Let’s Get in Formation: Beyoncé and Black Hair

MJ Profile PicA reflection written by Women’s Center staff member, MJ Jalloh Jamboria

Beyoncé’s newest hit, “Formation” has been the topic of conversation everywhere. If you missed the video, here it is!

Since her Super Bowl performance on February 7th, Beyoncé has received mountains of praise and criticism for her performance and newest video. (Also, take a second to watch the Super Bowl performance here if you haven’t already. Ready? OK!)

While surfing Twitter during the Super Bowl performance (obviously not as Bey was singing), I came across a tweet that angered me to my very core. In efforts to find the original tweet, I came up empty handed, so instead I’ll summarize. The author of the tweet expressed anger at the hairstyle Beyoncé chose to rock for her Super Bowl performance, specifically the color and texture of her weave.

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Credit: Getty Images

Their ire was grounded in the fact that Beyoncé’s weave wasn’t aligned with the pro-blackness and importance of self-identity portrayed within her video.

Trying to isolate my frustration with the tweet, I found myself asking (and later dissecting) the following questions:

  • Why are people focusing on her hair style?
  • Why is wavy, blonde hair considered anti-black and indicative of self-hate?? 

Continue reading

“Are you judged by your name?” ­ On Raven­-Symoné and the Respectability Politics of “Black-Sounding” Names

Since becoming a co-host on the renowned talk show The View, Raven-Symoné has made her fair share of offensive comments, resulting in her receiving a lot of backlash on social media. From her comments about race to her jokes about not hiring “Watermelondrea,” let’s just say Raven has put her foot in her mouth far too many times.

While Raven-Symoné’s comments about “Watermelondrea” may have been for laughs and giggles, there is an unfortunate truth about names and racial biases.This is something that Black people with “Black-sounding” or “ethnic-sounding” names experience every day. According to Marianne Bertrand’s study,  Are Emily and Brendan More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal?”, applicants with “white-sounding” names were 50% more likely to be called back for an interview than applicants with “Black-sounding” names. Therefore, not only are Black people discriminated against in person, but we also face discrimination on paper.

This notion of racialized names and name discrimination is not only a form of internalized racism, but it has further perpetuated respectability politics. What Raven-Symoné and many others fail to realize is that these “ghetto” names are embedded with meanings and, most importantly, they are an essential part of one’s identity. Continue reading

Invisible, often liminal- Growing up as an Asian-American Immigrant Woman in the United States

Often when we talk about race in the United States, the classic picture is that race is polarized into two: black and white. Starting from a very young age, I had never truly understood these divisions, and felt confused as to where I fit in. If I was labeled into a color, it was always “yellow” and it was often said as an offensive joke.  I didn’t understand my place…I wasn’t white and I wasn’t black. I remember looking around the demographics of my classrooms noticing that I often felt alone. In history class, we talked about Columbus, the slave trade, and 9/11, but rarely did we ever engage in dialogues about asians, much less Koreans, except in passing when we note that North Korea is still radically separate from its southern counterpart, and the fact that the United States fought in the Korean War.  I remembered a clear moment in my U.S history class when we discussed apartheid in the United States, and I sat in the room wondering which restroom and school, if any, would I have been able to use and attend if we were still in that time? Was I a person of color?

The ever familiar sense of liminality and not quite fitting in was also manifested in my college life through my labeled identity as an “ undocumented” student, or from opposing side’s terms, an undocumented alien. Already, I had felt a sense of confusion growing up all my life in a country where I didn’t always find people who looked like me or understood me or my background. My identity as a Korean-American was treated as a novelty, an exquisite chance for somebody to stumble through the two or three Korean words and Korean people they knew, as well as informing me how much they loved Korean food. Of course, many of these statements were harmless and were not meant to create the sense of separation and isolation that often came as a consequence. Statements like, “So, where are you originally from?” have been scattered throughout my life, and I felt a sense of guilt or confusion as I always explained (much more thoroughly than someone expected) how I lived in Maryland most of my life, lived in Washington State for when I was young, and oh, yes, if this is what you were really asking- my family is from Korea and I was born there.

Overall, I am still exploring my multiple identities and it has been quite a journey. Through my work at the Women’s Center and beyond, where I am surrounded by people who are ready and willing to engage in thoughtful and critical dialogues, I am inspired and gradually feeling that I am worthy and do belong in this space equally.

A really awesome and affirming article from Time, brought a lot of my insecurities and feelings to light, explaining that, this idea that Asian Americans are “tech” oriented and know how to sit in front of a computer, overlooks the disproportionate amount of Asian American tech workers and those in leadership. In addition,  “What it says is this: Asians and Asian-Americans are smart and successful, so hiring or promoting them does not count as encouraging diversity. It says: there is no such thing as underrepresentation of Asians and Asian-Americans. The problem with this belief, historians and advocates assert, is that it not only obscures the sheer range of experiences within Asian and Asian-American populations, but also excludes them from conversations about diversity and inclusion in leadership and non-tech sectors.” This statement rang true in so many aspects as I have had students and faculty alike, assume me to be in a STEM field or that I would be “good at math”, etc. I look forward to bringing to light these cultural stereotypes, assumptions, as well as working to break them, to work to have representation of Asian Americans as the diverse and whole people that we, and everyone else, are.

White Out at the 65th Emmys

Last night, after I finished all of my homework, I heard my roommates change the channel. My background noise changed from the constant crowd fuzz of football to the sparkling laughter of celebrities. I heard my boyfriend and my roommate groan, and I heard them curse, and I heard Kerrin cry, “It’s not even a good show!”

Oh, the Emmys.

Normally, I love award shows. In high school, I loved the pageantry of fashion and celebrity and parading about on a glowing, interactive stage. The Emmys were a time to stay up late with my mom and talk about how much we admire Jon Hamm’s slick dark hair and despise Cameron Diaz’ dress. I would complain about the snubbing of my favorite shows, and stay silent at the schmaltzy memorials.

But now, with a couple years of critical feminist study under my belt, the floodgates are open, and my eyes and ears were assaulted with problematic materials. While a lot of the show was entertaining and innocent enough, there was a complete lack of diversity represented in this year’s nominees. Yeah, I’m complaining (much like Ellen Pompeo) about the giant lack of racial diversity, and yeah, I’m going to complain in even more depth further down in this post. Are you ready? Because I’m ready.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the 65th Emmys

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