2011 Graduate Student Proposal for a Critical Race & Ethnic Studies Department at UCSC

This grad student call for a CRES program followed a list of serious and radical demands (to be posted, fingers crossed) by undergrad activists.  It garnered the support of a large number of faculty.  However, the administration requested that the group redraft a proposal for a scaled-down CRES program.

Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Department Proposal


What animates this proposal is a collective vision years in the making, as well as a historical moment marked by a particular urgency. It proposes the creation of an institutional structure that UCSC students have sought, in one form or another, for decades—a department designed to cultivate a critical approach to the study of race and ethnicity. It attempts both to make a case for why such a structure is needed now more than ever and to demonstrate that, if made a campuswide priority , such a department is now uniquely possible. Our document draws inspiration from the tireless labor of UCSC undergraduate activists, who have been organizing on behalf of critical race and ethnic studies (CRES) in spite of the fact that many of them will not have the opportunity to benefit directly from their efforts. This proposal’s vision of a CRES department and its language of horizontal governance are therefore deeply indebted to the intellectual energy and ethical imagination generated by undergraduate activism.

This proposal does not claim to collect into a single, unified voice the intellectual visions of all the constituencies that have played a part in its formation. To attempt to do so would, in fact, settle and thereby erase the productive tensions that we believe make CRES an intellectually exciting and important project. But it does document a solidarity that is, we believe, all too rare in today’s academy.

We—the authors of this proposal—met through graduate seminars and protests, in research clusters and writing groups, in conflict and collaboration. We met, grew, and learned to challenge and trust each other in interdisciplinary spaces that gave us a shared language. For a range of reasons—stemming from the budget crisis, from the recent departure of a range of important faculty, and from the restructuring and elimination of academic departments—many of these spaces are no longer available on the UCSC campus. After attending the “Critical Ethnic Studies and the Future of Genocide” conference at UC Riverside this past March, and encountering the dynamic intercampus and transnational conversations that emerged through that space, we reconvened as a group to reflect on what we had learned. This statement is an outcome of those reflections.

Statement of Purpose:

We are proposing a Department of Critical Race & Ethnic Studies organized around a series of productive tensions—tensions between theories of oppression and praxes of resistance, between the critique of racism and the usefulness (even indispensability) of race as an analytical category, and between the university and the communities that have been historically and systematically marginalized from and by it. This model would move away not only from formations of ethnic studies that assume that identity is a historically stable phenomenon, but away too from disciplinary structures that reduce race and ethnicity to supplemental matters or topical content. Instead, the Department we propose would turn to race and ethnicity both as fundamental forces that structure society and as concepts that organize our knowledge of it.

What makes the intellectual project we are proposing distinctive is the way that it focuses the study of race and ethnicity around four intertwined rubrics: 1) social structure and formation; 2) knowledge production; 3) theories and praxes of justice; and 4) crosscutting axes of power and difference, such as gender, sexuality, and nation. It is through these questions that we are looking to centralize an engagement with the issues that, historically and contemporarily, ethnic studies has so pressingly engaged. These include economic, imperial, and colonial violence, and structural exploitation in local, national and transnational contexts. The curriculum centers the importance of interrogating knowledge production practices and the ways in which people have struggled historically to transform them.

We ask that the University administration and the Academic Senate consider the formation of a department rather than a program or major because of the stakes of the current historical moment. A department draws together the components of an institutional home, administrative staff, a departmental curriculum that reflects a cohesive intellectual project, and the labor of graduate students in supporting that curricular vision.

Statement of Need:

The formation of a Critical Race & Ethnic Studies Department is an urgent project that would signal the commitments of the campus to building an intellectual environment that at once recognizes the ongoing value of critical race studies, and takes seriously its attentiveness to questions of difference, histories of the present, and the necessity of responding to urgent contemporary questions. While faculty working in the departments of Feminist Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies, American Studies, Community Studies, and History of Consciousness have trained graduate and undergraduate students in the theories and practices of critical race studies, we believe that a curricular vacuum remains on our campus.

The past five years have presented somewhat of a crisis for ethnic studies on our campus, with the departure of a number of crucial faculty, the closing of Community Studies, and the slashing across the board of campus resources for the support of interdisciplinary scholarship. With the loss of these faculty and resources, what is threatened is the continuity of an intellectual dialogue on the necessity and institutional value of diversity.

The list of faculty, and especially faculty of color, who have left UCSC in recent years is stunning. These scholars, all of whom are widely known for their contributions to ethnic studies, include: Angela Davis (HistCon/FMST), Paul Ortiz (Community Studies), Neferti Tadiar (HistCon), George Lipsitz (Amst), Tricia Rose (Amst), Manuel Pastor (LALS), Louis ChudeSokei (Literature), Margo Hendricks (Literature), Sonia Alvarez (Politics), Nate Mackey (Literature), Judy Yung (Amst), A. Yvette Huginnie (Amst), and Phyllis Rogers. While these faculty left UCSC for a variety of reasons, many of them spoke openly about institutionalized racism on this campus, and cited the lack of support for the production of marginalized knowledges and interdisciplinary scholarship as an impetus for their decisions to leave. The shameful lack of attention given to replacing these irreplaceable faculty only affirms their critiques of the institution.

This mass departure must therefore be seen in relation to the university’s recent disinvestment in Community Studies and related interdisciplinary programs, the systemwide decline in enrollments for students of color, and the abandonment of administrative recruitment efforts a task that has unfairly fallen to students. The university periodically conducts Diversity Climate Studies, but there have been no systematic attempts to address the findings. We do not want UCSC to remain a campus that is perceived as hostile—whether actively or passively—to faculty and students of color. The way out of this is to create a campus environment and infrastructure that will attract, and retain, scholars trained in the pedagogies and methods of critical ethnic studies.

We are confident that our proposed initiative will work to create precisely this infrastructure. By providing a dedicated space for the nourishment and development of scholarship on race and ethnicity, the formation of a department of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies will make visible to the broader academic community the value our university places on intellectual contributions in this field. The creation of such a unit will bring a palpable energy to the study of race and ethnicity on our campus, centralizing the robust, though scattered, academic labors currently being performed in this area, as well as fostering new scholarly collaborations across disciplines and divisions. Moreover, the institutionalization of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies will promote a deepened commitment to the kind of socially engaged scholarship that has long made UC Santa Cruz a distinctive place to learn and teach.

What is Critical Race and Ethnic Studies:

The scholarly and intellectual project of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies assumes, as its primary objective, the study of the dynamic power relations resulting from the cultural and institutional productions of the idea of “race” on a global scale. Here, “race” is understood as a major ideological framework through which practices of power and domination, as well as struggles for liberation and self-determination, have been articulated and enacted throughout modern history and in the contemporary moment. The study of “race,” as such, is a rigorous subject of analysis, one which yields critical insights into the social, political, and economic processes that have defined and shaped the modern era—colonialism and slavery, conquest and displacement, genocide and warfare, and criminalization and imprisonment. Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, as we envision it, is therefore less a study of stable or unified racial “identities,” than an interrogation into how the production of knowledge about, and consequent disciplining of, racial “difference,” structures the organization of social affairs and the valuation of human life, and permeates the “common sense” of our current political worldings.

We conceptualize Critical Race and Ethnic Studies as a flexible and durable intellectual project, one characterized by its commitment to continual self-critique and redefinition in the face of constantly shifting economic and political arrangements of power. Integral to this project is, therefore, an ongoing interrogation of the ways in which Ethnic Studies paradigms, in their institutionalized manifestations, risk complicity with very liberal multiculturalist mandates they aspire to critique. To that end, the project of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies has two primary goals with respect to its disciplinary orientation to the university:

1. To explode the curricular formations of Ethnic Studies that replicate and reproduce epistemes of race wrought from the imperatives of white supremacy, settler colonialism, capitalism, heteropatriarchy, and US nationbuilding. This would require a shift away from the “four food groups model” of Ethnic Studies, which tends to flatten the complex histories behind the production of racial categorizations, leaving unexamined the entangled and uneven historical and discursive processes through which Native Americans, Latin@s, Asian Americans, and African Americans have been rendered as distinct “racial” communities. Instead, this department would insist upon the analysis of interconnected structures and histories to create a space for strategic alliances and collaborative knowledge.

2. To serve as a site in which the disciplinary formation of the university, in its entirety, becomes the object of critical investigation. Ethnic Studies is often called upon to do the work of “diversifying” a liberal arts curriculum which remains otherwise stable. This approach to institutional incorporation treats Ethnic Studies as a tool of “conflict management,” a means through which to “contain” the “threat” of discourses of race to the “integrity” of traditional canons and disciplines. Rather than limiting its scholarly impact to its institutionally circumscribed borders, a department of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies would provide an important location from which to examine, critique, and begin to transform, the imperialist relations shaping and undergirding the overall disciplinary categorization of knowledges within the university.

These goals beg the question of whether it would be more productive to work within current disciplines to develop a “racial lens” through which to reconstitute existing curricula, rather than create a new department which would run the risk of “ghettoizing” the study of race. In response to such concerns, we maintain our position that the creation of a department of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies would be the most effective means of redrawing the curricular and disciplinary contours of the university. Thus far, attempts to integrate Ethnic Studies into existing departments have largely followed an “additive” approach. Although there have been efforts made to hire faculty with training and research experience in Ethnic Studies, and to provide courses with Ethnic Studies content, these efforts have fallen short of transforming the fundamental paradigms, canons, and methods at the core of existing disciplinary formations. The “additive” approach, rather than circumventing the institutional “ghettoization” of Ethnic Studies, has merely created “ghettos” within established academic departments. The establishment of a department of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies would not confine the study of race and ethnicity to a particular university formation, but rather open up a wider space in which such dynamics could be pursued broadly, deeply, and rigorously.

Practical Implementation:

We contend that the creation of a Department of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies—governed collectively by faculty, staff, and students—is the only viable option for adequately addressing the curricular and epistemological shortcomings of the university in its current state. Given current tendencies in university labor practices that overutilize and overrely on the production and availability of casualized, “cheap,” and un/underrecognized labor—from adjunct workers, graduate, and even undergraduate students—we see a department as the only fitting institutional structure to do justice to a Critical Race and Ethnic Studies project. In other words, a degreegranting department is the only institutional form that will 1) ensure and secure the continuity of human resources and the availability of funding; 2) effectively integrate the work, efforts, and imagination that are the motivating forces behind Critical Race and Ethnic Studies into a dedicated campus space with a distinctive curriculum; and 3) combine, respect, and facilitate the labors of faculty, students, and staff. An adequatelyresourced department, then, is the only way to ensure that the particular methodological commitments of critical race and ethnic studies are both recognized as a viable course of study and implemented structurally into the everyday functioning of the UCSC campus.

In a campus environment where discussions about intellectual possibilities are often overwhelmed not only by real limitations in resources, but also by a normalized language and culture of scarcity, such a vision risks being disregarded as impractical, or dismissed as extravagant. To counter this, we are asking that Critical Race and Ethnic Studies become not simply one project among others but a campuswide priority for the allocation of FTE and the provisioning of resources. We anticipate and welcome the fact that faculty in other departments might be interested in transferring their FTEs fully or partly into such a department. We would also like to hold open the possibility that the department faculty could be partly constituted through transfers from other academic units. But a real campus commitment to a Department of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies will require a significant allocation of resources. No fewer than five FTE (three core, two crosslisted with other departments) in the next five years, as well as the resources necessary to conduct job searches, will be necessary in order to constitute such a department. In order to continue to expand and interconnect the base of intellectual discourse on Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, we also would like to advocate for a regular campus speaker series that will enable the campus community to engage with speakers whose work pushes critical race and ethnic studies in new directions.

In recent years, UC faculty have increasingly embraced the language and ideal of shared or horizontal governance, both in the spirit of protecting the democratic possibility of public higher education and to counter consumerbased models of education that place the power of university decisionmaking in the hands of administrators. In that same spirit, we believe that a thriving model of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies would necessitate the widening of the very sphere in which the governing body is imagined and constituted. A horizontal structure of governance would both recognize and continue to nurture the energy of the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies project, which was generated through the sustained collaborations and contributions of undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff over the past thirty years. We are advocating for a structure of departmental governance that keeps of all these parties at the table as a governing body. A horizontal structure would enable faculty and students to build a curriculum, identify scholars to teach, coteach, crosslist and/or transfer courses into Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, and select speaker series participants as part of a larger dialogue about the past, present, and future of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies on this campus. This would acknowledge the struggles and visions of students whose energies have opened up new possibilities at UC Santa Cruz and beyond. This formation recognizes existing strengths in terms of knowledge formations and governing structures, and pushes the campus to imagine a collaborative departmental structure that can both hold and resolve productive tensions–a structure that works through praxes of justice to interrogate western social structures and forms of power.

[Redacted last paragraph which provided the name of an outside faculty member who was willing to serve as director.]

Authors: An Interdisciplinary Group of Grad Students at UCSC

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We Refuse to Accept That Violence Against Us Is Necessary to the Sustenance of Our Education

April 17, 2014

Santa Cruz, California

We recognize that violence is not always a meeting between bullet and body — or baton and body — a bruising of the flesh, a scarring of skin. Criminalization is a form of violence. It is an expulsion from society, a removal of the protection of “us.” When Chancellor George Blumenthal wrote, in his email to the UCSC campus, that the administration’s decisions to arrest 22 students “were reasoned, balanced, and in support of the entire campus,” he was consciously excluding those students from the campus community, and thereby marking all of the students who struck in solidarity with them as outsiders: people somehow lesser than the rest of “us,” less worthy, less valuable.

We reject the administration’s characterization of the strike as a “public safety threat.” It is imperative that the militarized police response be understood for what it is: a form of structural and political violence that manifests along lines of race, gender, class, documentation status and sexual orientation. One UCSC student of color who was detained, speaking at a noontime rally on April 3rd noted that getting arrested should not be romanticized—this student has an older sibling incarcerated and is not sure how this latest event will affect their family. This was an important reminder of the ways in which police violence moves through our schools, communities, and families, especially in the case of low income students, students of color, transgender students, and undocumented students. In the past five years throughout the UC system, students, staff, and faculty of color have been increasingly under surveillance as post-9/11 processes of criminalization and securitization have intensified. This hypervigilance toward particular student bodies is part of broader historical patterns of producing suspect subjects through racial and neoliberal discourses and structures.

By framing the strikes as a movement antagonistic to the University rather than a movement within and of it, and by anticipating and inciting conflict through the importation of riot police, the UCSC administration trafficked in historical forms of surveillance and imprisonment to pathologize and preemptively “criminalize” its students and workers, even before arresting them. We write to say that WE, as students of this University, are the ones who decide who is among “us,” and we stand together with our criminalized friends, teachers, and colleagues in the shadows of an administration that, through the consistent privileging of profit over education, has come to stand for nothing but itself, its own gain and its own perpetuation. If it is criminal to demand a say in class sizes and to organize as laborers free from intimidation and retribution from UC administrators and police, then we are all criminals. We reject this way of thinking; we, as actual practitioners and beneficiaries of pedagogy, must be granted the right to say what are and are not acceptable conditions for learning and teaching, and to decide those conditions. We write here to say that we have read your emails, Chancellor Blumenthal and Executive Vice Chancellor Galloway, and we have witnessed the police actions. We live daily on this campus too, and we do not accept your exclusionary and divisive politics or your pointing fingers. If the students you proscribe are political “agitators,” as you seem desperate to paint them, we support their agitation, because it is in the service of the university we want, while your actions are violently disrupting it.

Moreover, the connection between neoliberal economic policies and state violence on and off campuses is not lost on us. The day after the strike at UCSC, 23 activists who called for an end to deportations and the reunification of families were themselves detained in San Francisco. Many similar deportations were overseen by the very ex-Secretary of Homeland Security who is now in charge of administering our public education at the UCs, Janet Napolitano. While the use of violence to silence dissent and manage labor is hardly a new phenomenon, Napolitano’s appointment as UC president is a clear sign that both the University and the state re-affirm its use in our schools and within our communities.

We stand against this trend and the structures and practices that support it and call others including our faculty and community members to publicly reject this violence too. We affirm that the students arrested and otherwise harassed and intimidated were not only peacefully, honorably, and justly standing up for their own rights, but acting in support of ours as well. We are in solidarity with the TA’s efforts to transform the university by increasing access to its most marginalized constituents. These include undocumented students (whose employment rights the university continues to deny), trans* and gender-non-conforming people (who need safe, wheelchair accessible gender-neutral bathrooms), black, latin@, Native, and other historically under-served students (who are especially negatively impacted by rising class sizes), student parents, and poor and working-class students (who are particularly badly hit by the university’s refusal to pay a living wage). We decry the neglect by the UC administration of its own mission and purpose — namely, public education — and we demand that they take it as seriously as we do, by acknowledging their wrongdoings and meeting the stipulations made by the teaching assistants union. We call for a campus free from the presence of police officers and the administration’s commitment to never again call for riot police in the event of a worker strike or student protest. We further demand that the UCSC administration pressure the DA to drop all charges against the 22, that it not pursue any university-level disciplinary actions related to strike and protest activity, and that it cease acts of intimidation and harassment of student-worker activists.

The Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Student Working Group

Steven Araujo, Politics, PhD
Neda Atanasoski, Assistant Professor, Feminist Studies
Giulia Centineo, Lecturer, Language Program (Italian)
Adlemy Garcia, Undergraduate
Erik Green, Education, PhD
Trio Harris, Undergraduate
Lesley-Reid Harrison, Undergraduate
Sandra Harvey, Politics, PhD
Christine Hong, Assistant Professor, Literature
Alexis Kargl, Sociology, PhD
Ben Mabie, Undergraduate
Magally Miranda, Undergraduate
Omid Mohamadi, Politics, PhD
Jessica Neasbitt, History of Consciousness, PhD
Sheeva Sabati, Education, PhD
Bern Samko, Linguistics, PhD
Jeff Sanceri, History, PhD
Felicity Amaya Schaeffer, Assistant Professor, Feminist Studies
SA Smythe, History of Consciousness, PhD
Max Tabatchnik, Politics, PhD
Megan Thomas, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Politics
Erin Toolis, Psychology, PhD
Delio Vasquez, History of Consciousness, PhD
Jessica Whatcott, Politics, PhD

Graduate Student Association, UCSC
African American Resource Center, UCSC

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Lecture: Roderick A. Ferguson: “Comparative Ethnic Studies: Retrieving, Redistributing, and Holding the Institution Under Erasure”

Please spread the word to anyone interested in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies!

Critical Race and Ethnic Studies presents:

Roderick A. Ferguson: “Comparative Ethnic Studies: Retrieving, Redistributing, and Holding the Institution Under Erasure”

Public lecture: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 • 4:00-5:30 PM • 210 Humanities Building 1 • Reception to follow • Free and open to the public
This talk looks at the question of comparative ethnic studies through the critique and the rearticulation of comparative projects. It goes on to ask the question of how one might institutionalize and let one’s institutional practice and project be shaped by the critique of institutionalization.
Seminar: Thursday, January 10, 2013 • 9:00-11:00 AM • Followed by a Program building discussion: 11:15 AM – 12:45 PM
Registration is free but required by contacting Courtney Mahaney, at cmahaney@ucsc.edu.  You will be then sent the readings Professor Ferguson has chosen for us.
Roderick A. Ferguson is professor of race and critical theory. He is the author of Aberrations in Black: Toward a Queer of Color Critique (2004) and The Reorder of Things: The University and Its Pedagogies of Minority Difference (2012). He is also the co-editor with Grace Hong of Strange Affinities: The Gender and Sexual Politics of Comparative Racialization (2011).


Listen to Rod Ferguson’s talk on SOUNDCLOUD


This event is organized and sponsored by the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Program. Cosponsored by the University of California Center for New Racial Studies, the Division of Humanities at UCSC, and the UC Presidential Chair in Feminist Race and Ethnic Studies. Staff support provided by the Institute for Humanities Research.
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CRES Community Gathering

Come out to this student-organized gathering!
We want to have a conversation about what we need from CRES, talk about recent developments, and envision future steps.

Hope to see you there!

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Upcoming Ethnic Studies Lectures at UCSC

Don’t miss this upcoming lecture series at UCSC!

“Visual Representations of the Chinese Diasporas” is a lecture series organized by Boreth Ly (History of Art and Visual Culture) with the assistance of Hrishekesh Kashyap. It is made possible by the Arts Dean’s Research Initiative Fund and co-sponsored by the HAVC Department and Merrill College. ”

On Tuesday October 25th from 4:00pm to 6:00pm at Humanities 1 room 210, Anthony W. Lee of Mount Holyoke College Department of Art History presents:

“In the Opium Den”:

“Photographs played a key role in sorting out the madness of cultural encounter at the beginning of the 20th century, when immigrants and migrants found themselves together in American port cities. This talk follows the tracks of one such photograph and the tense and sometimes comic encounter between Chinese and Mexicans in San Francisco. In a larger sense, it asks how the history of photography, border studies, and critical race studies might be put into productive dialogue and how photographs can be thought of as deposits of social relations.”

More information on Anthony W. Lee can be found here.

The series continues on Thursday, November 10th from 4:00pm to 6:00pm at the Charles E. Merrill Lounge at Merrill College with a lecture from Gema R. Guevara (Department of Languages and Literature, University of Utah):

“Visual Representations of the Chinese in Cuba: Racial Subjectivity and Triangulation”

“The decade of the 1840s marks the beginning of Chinese indentured servitude in Cuba. Chinese workers joined African slaves within a trans-national work force that contained indentured servants, slaves, and Iberian free laborers.  This talk examines the process in which contemporary visual culture rendered Chinese Cubans visible, preserving the intersection of immigration, slavery, gender, trans-national labor, and the multiple hybrid cultural formations that resulted from this experience. Visual materials considered in this talk include lithographs and photographs produced by Creole Cubans and visitors from Europe and North America to record the transition from colonialism to nationhood.”

More information on Gema R. Guevara can be found here.

For more information on the lecture series, please contact Boreth Ly (bjly@ucsc.edu) or Hrishyekesh Kashyap (hkashyap@ucsc.edu).

Please support the hard work of the UCSC faculty who organised this series and support Ethnic Studies at UCSC!


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UC Berkeley College Republicans “Increase Diversity” satirical bake sale… gone horribly wrong.

The Berkeley College Republicans have hosted a bake sale event called “Increase Diversity” set for September 27. The description of this event, as well as the campus wide response has stirred much controversy over the legitimacy of the event itself. The group proposes to host a bake sale and to satirically alter the prices according to race and ethnicity, in an attempt to “offer another view to this policy of considering race in university admissions. The pricing structure of the baked goods is meant to be satirical.” (SF Gate article).
I do not wish to impose my bias upon you, so please read the screen shot facebook event description which was so conveniently taken before the group removed the original and posted a slightly less racist version of the event on their facebook page.

Here is an article by the SF Gate about it: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=%2Fc%2Fa%2F2011%2F09%2F23%2FBATO1L8RLL.DTL

Here is the facebook event itself: 

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The “F” Word…. (Feminism)

As a person or an activist womyn or whatever daunting label I shall place on myself, I realized that I needed to learn more about feminism and what it means to be a feminist. How can I call “socially male identified feminists” out if I don’t really know what it means to be a feminist? I’m not going to lie this entry is partially about the hypocrisy within the radical activist community pertaining to the behavior that socially male identified feminists/activists perpetuate. They’re some of the smartest people I know in terms of politics; I looked up to many of them. However, what they preach and how they treat womyn are two completely different things, but this post isn’t just about them, more importantly- it is also about me. How can I grow as an activist, a womyn, a daughter, a sister, and a friend? How can I challenge society, yet continue to feel beautiful? Therefore, I decided to talk to some of the people I really look up to, because I wanted to understand how to be a feminist. I’ve realized in the past I have sometimes shaved my legs or my armpits in hopes of trying to impress someone or gain approval by society. But when I’m single and sluggin’ around, I challenge those gender norms by not giving a fuck about my hairy legs or appearance. I know feminism is beyond the physical appearance and I don’t want it to just be reduced to that, that is why I am eager to try to learn more about feminism through my friends who can teach me through their personal experience and through the authors they’ve read. I want to challenge myself, and explore the realms of feminism a bit more and figure out what it means to be a “feminist,” but not just from western points of views. For example, am I being hypocritical when I conform by dressing up and doing what society has taught us females to do? I often hear different perspectives on that point; I know many mujeres who feel alienated from certain activist cliques, because they feel criticized when they wear make up, straighten/curl their hair, and embrace their femininity.

As an activist womyn, am I being too harsh on activist men who claim to be feminists, but really just want to mess around with multiple partners? They stare you in the face and reassure that they like you, but when in actuality they are seeing other people… Should they be called out? When is calling someone out inappropriate, because after all no one is perfect including myself.  I clearly have to work on myself in so many ways! But despite our imperfections should we still continue to keep each other in check? Part of having a “consciousness,” whatever the fuck that means…(it sounded nice), but as I was saying part of being an activist is growing and challenging yourself and others. But it can be tough trying to carry this hat and role full time especially considering other exteriors conditions and forces that are working against us. Furthermore, it’s sometimes inevitable to partake in mainstream, capitalistic behavior. Therefore, can we excuse our manarchists’ friends’ behaviors or should we hold them up to higher expectations? And if we are trying to deconstruct labels, then why should we hold people accountable for being a hypocritical male feminist? Lastly, does the calling out vary on the severity of the person’s action or their race? Not that race should be a factor in this, but culturally machismo and patriarchy has historically played different roles that can be attributed to colonialism and oppression. As Gloria Anzaldúa eloquently explained in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, “His ‘machismo’ is an adaptation to oppression and poverty and low self-esteem. It is the result of hierarchical male dominance…In the Gringo world, the Chicano suffers from excessive humility and self-effacement, shame of self and self-deprecation. Around Latinos he suffers from a sense of language inadequacy and its accompanying discomfort; with Native Americans he suffers from a racial amnesia which ignores our common blood, and from guilt because the Spanish part of him took their land and oppressed them…”    

–Feminism is such an interesting topic; yet it’s surprising how little I know about it. People have many misconceptions about feminism and feminists, so here are some excerpts on how some friends described it to me:

  • “Honestly, I don’t know much about feminism…I can’t learn about my femininity through other women…I have to learn for myself…” -ED
  •  “Do you remember X & Y? The most intelligent guys, and it frustrated women so much that they couldn’t deal with them at all. Why? Because they always had an answer for one’s complaints or claims. Generally, the most intelligent and revered of the theoretical activist men are the most heartless womanizers you will ever meet. They are very comfortable talking to you about politics but try to talk to them about things beyond it… it gets awkward and then when you speak out or associate yourself with outspoken women you get shunned. X now doesn’t even look at me
    .…within the activist circle, they’re a whole new breed of men…or maybe they aren’t… maybe they’re just a more intelligent version of the typical douche bag.”- AS
  • “Feminism to me should require the end goal of liberation for all those who are oppressed, male or female. As a woman who is a daughter of moderately wealthy/middle class immigrants/intellectuals, I have suffered less than a male brought up in dire poverty in terms of material conditions, so I think it would be foolish of me to say that those men are subjugating me just because they happen to have a penis. That is not to say that men of all socioeconomic backgrounds can’t and don’t have sexist ideas, but the culture of sexism is itself a product of the capitalist system that we live in, and those who ultimately “benefit” from sexism aren’t everyday guys with machista ideas, but rather the capitalists who benefit from being able under the current system to pay women less than they do men and not have to suffer any consequences. Challenging sexism, thus, involves challenging capitalism, and the fight for women’s rights will have to arise from a fight against the system as a whole. There’s an IWW quote about an “injury to one is an injury to all.” I can’t be satisfied until ALL forms of oppression–homophobia, sexism, poverty, racism, etc–are eradicated. And I think that saying that men can’t be feminists or whatever is itself extremely problematic and confining oneself to gender norms; after all, what IS a man and what is a woman? What about intersex people or those who have a penises but consider themselves to be women? It would be very discriminatory to exclude them from the struggle from women’s emancipation. [Also, shaving your legs or wearing perfume isn’t anti-feminist in my view; many men shave their faces and wear cologne. Also, I imagine that some lesbian women shave their legs, too, and straight and bisexual women who shave don’t necessarily do so to be more sexually attractive to men.]” -NB

Furthermore, this is how some scholars have described feminism:

Suzanne MacNevin: “Materialist Feminism views gender as a social construct. Women are historically viewed as mere objects for reproduction of the species and their gender role in society has that role. That role in society, depending on the circumstance, really is that of an economically impoverished slave. That state of bondage is more metaphorical because women are not always bound by shackles but simply by societal restrictions. Women are not REQUIRED to be childbearers and fulfill childbearing duties. Society forces that upon women.” (Source 1)

Patricia Hill Collins: “Black feminist thought sees these distinctive systems of oppression as being part of one overarching structure of domination. Viewing relations of domination for Black women for any given sociohistorical context as being structured via a system of interlocking race, class, and gender oppression expands the focus of analysis from merely describing the similarities and differences distinguishing these systems of oppression and focuses greater attention on how they interconnect.” (Source 2)

Bell Hooks: As all advocates of feminist politics know most people do not understand sexism or if they do they think it is not a problem. Masses of people think that feminism is always and only about women seeking to be equal to men. And a huge majority of these folks think feminism is anti-male. Their misunderstanding of feminist politics reflects the reality that most folks learn about feminism from patriarchal mass media.”

“It is obvious that many women have appropriated feminism to serve their own ends, especially those white women who have been at the forefront of the movement; but rather than resigning myself to this appropriation I choose to re-appropriate the term “feminism,” to focus on the fact that to be “feminist” in any authentic sense of the term is to want for all people, female and male, liberation from sexist role patterns, domination, and oppression.” (Source 3)

Jessica Yee: “However we’re not really equal when we’re STILL supposed to uncritically and obediently cheer when white women are praised for winning “women’s rights,” and to painfully forget the Indigenous women and women of colour who were hurt in that same process. We are not equal when in the name of “feminism”, so-called “women’s only” spaces are created and get to police and regulate who is and isn’t a “woman” based on their interpretation of your body parts and gender presentation, not your own. We are not equal when initiatives to achieve gender equity have reverted yet again to “saving” people and making decisions for them, rather than supporting their right to self-determination, whether it’s engaging in sex work, or wearing a niqab. So when feminism itself has become its own form of oppression, what do we have to say about it? (Source 4)

The following is a piece that I really love that was recently written by a comrade:

This is our coming insurrection.

People claim to be many things,
yet they fail to define who they are.
Let me clarify a few things for you.
See it as a little touch of empathy.
The only emotion I will ever invest in thee.

Activists worship no one but themselves.

Radicals make a stage upon which to perform,
and sit in the audience to watch their own show.

And the self-proclaimed anti-partriarchical, and
anti-fancy shmancy politically enticing MEN
are nothing but the words that they speak,
and the speeches that they give.
They are full of the most intellectual garbage known to wo-man.
They can spit out a rhyme that would make Karl Marx drown
in his own tears of joy.
Yet they simply cannot respect a woman.

As you men deconstruct patriarchy….for us women,
we reconstruct our faces and bodies…. for you men.
Because you see, we are genetically and socially constructed
to be flexible.
We can twist and turn upon your very whim, to entice you
and have you finally lift your eyes off of “The Coming Insurrection.”
All in the name of Feminism… right girls?

We can stop shaving, stop taming, and stop flaming
just to pretend to believe
that we are feminists.

That’s where we come to a new set of individuals.
Women… or rather womyn.
The many times where us, feminists, have fought with the
auto-correct of the monopolized and capitalistic evil called Microsoft Word,
just so we can re-teach this very pixelated world that us vagina bearing
things, are not meant to be within any distance of those grimy little men.
Unless of course they are ‘allies’.
Another word for : He can confuse me with political theory… so he must be sensitive and smart.”
They both start with s… and so does stupid.
Of course, the majority of us approach feminism from a completely western
Heaven forbid we jump into that “race” and “cultures” pool.

I find it immensely hilarious that the most womanizing men I have ever met
are the ones who claim to be a pure form of a radical and progressive
ideological sect.

You play us and deconstruct our very bodies and souls, all in the name of
deconstructing what??

So go on and feminize your closet full of women.
Sort through the various colors and depths of the women who are hanging in there,
but remember this:

No matter how many times you have read every feminist book out there,
you will forever be a dummy to relationships and women.

We will start the coming insurrection.
And it will be coming right at you.


I hope you all learned something, I know I did. I may not understand the complexness and depth of feminism yet, but I am growing to understand myself. I am constantly changing, but I am at a point where I am learning to love myself so I can love others. I want to change myself, so I can grow to change the world. All I know is that I want to be a happy young mujer. Independence is what I want, equality among many other things. Freedom from oppression for all peoples and things. I’m not sure if what I just described would be considered feminism, but shit who cares? To me: its happiness, its growth!I may be naive and oblivious to many things, but I can’t imagine living without writing, learning, growing, and changing.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
-Maya Angelou

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