Latina Feminism, Modernism & Tradition in “Imitadora” by Romeo Santos

I cannot place this analysis outside myself and it deals with issues primarily rooted in my identity as a Cuban-American woman, educated three times over in language, literature, and education.  The song touches on issues of female identity, narrated by a man (a lover with desires), and language between lovers.

Imitadora, Imitation Woman, is about a lover who sings to his woman, telling her, in essence that he misses her as she once was. My inner feminist and ontologist questions this essentialized self. Who was she ever and how can you determine that she is not that way anymore? Who are you to define who she was and who she is? But the lover in me swoons. Continue reading “Latina Feminism, Modernism & Tradition in “Imitadora” by Romeo Santos”

Rape, The Backseat Story: An Apology for Juanita in “Everybody’s Son” by Thrity Umrigar

This essay is a call to reflect on the person to whom we refuse to offer apology.

In “Everybody’s Son”, Umrigar tells the story of Anton, a mixed child with amber eyes, a young boy who captivates anyone who looks at him. He is sweet, devoted, well-mannered, and as torn between two worlds as his heritage. Every chapter of the book is a new chapter of his life: we watch Anton grow from Baby Boy, to Adopted Boy, to Harvard Young Man, to Attorney General, to finally, to Anton. But this essay is for Juanita. Continue reading “Rape, The Backseat Story: An Apology for Juanita in “Everybody’s Son” by Thrity Umrigar”

The Male Gaze of Disgust or, How to Destroy Self-Esteem

Essay submitted anonymously

At least this time I recovered more quickly than the first time; that time took an army of friends to help heal me, with curses, and pity. Sometimes their responses were short: “Leave him. Leave him now,” as if the weight of brevity was enough to signal how dangerous he was; sometimes their responses were impassioned outrage: “What the fuck? I cannot believe he told you that.  Girl, I have cellulite and stretch marks and it is his god damn privilege to worship it. You should feel the same.”

The first guy, Luca, cried. Tears. Actual Tears.  Actual tears forming in his eyes, crying and in his stupid blubbery whimpers he told me: “I wish sex wasn’t a factor …because I love you.” “I love you, but your body….” I said nothing at first, I was speechless. “My body…?” He responded: “It’s too… athletic…” Continue reading “The Male Gaze of Disgust or, How to Destroy Self-Esteem”

Man’s Coming-of-Age, For Girls

Essay written by Claudia Fernandez 

An essay on assumed universality and a brief review of Greta Gerwig’s Ladybird

We are told, as women, that Men means All people. For example when “God created Man in His image” we are supposed to pretend that Man, means Me, and I’m supposed to understand that God is sexless, that He is both She and He, that they mean the same, but they don’t. Womanhood is an afterthought. There are associations with “Woman” and “Her” that don’t FEEL or TRANSLATE in the brain the same as “Man” and “He”.

The problem: literary canon is mostly male: male authors writing about their experiences, their childhoods, their ideologies, their version of truth and value. They create characters from their understanding and write in a way that is sensible and clear, that is, sensible and clear as men define those terms. To be clear is to be “straight to the point”. This isn’t necessary for women; it isn’t necessary to be clear, coherent, rational, and emotionless. It is equally valid to be emotional and cognizant, bright-eyed and optimistic without being ignorant or naive.

The consequence: As a woman, I have to pretend and connect to the little boys and grown men that often play the protagonist in most major novels. We all pretend to be the hero, place ourselves in their shoes and live their story, but does that make me more man? Does not society punish me for behaving like a man? If we follow the virtues and values of the male protagonist, then we simulate male qualities and in turn, become “manly”, which society does not appreciate.

We know the common complaints: a direct woman is a bitch, a sexy woman is a slut, a decisive woman is bossy, a concerned woman is a nag. But a man is just direct, sexy, decisive, and a boss without any of the rest, if he didn’t want to be. There are male allies, and female trans allies, who refuse to accept masculine descriptors as the right to be. .

Continue reading “Man’s Coming-of-Age, For Girls”

“The truth will set you free, but first, it will piss you off.”— Gloria Steinem

N.E.R.D’s incredibly fun song “Lemon” (personal favorite, actually) with Rihanna is anything but your typical feminist chant. There’s hardly anything that rings with feminist association, the word “hate” tossed around 17 times, the n-word running amuck like a chicken with its head cut off, and repetitious allusions to bath salts. You know, super feminist.

But on closer look we might just see some radical cries for equality, both racial and gender.

His part pleads:

You keep askin’ me where I’m from
About the borders and, “Did I run?”
Keep askin’ how I feel ’bout guns
There’s a light and dark army, which side you choose? Oh
If not now then when?
And if not me then who?

His lyrics call to mind discriminate stop-and-frisk tactics and the profiling young men of color face daily. If every day, this young man was treated like a criminal, like a purveyor of violence, could he really believe in himself to succeed as anything else? #Timesup never felt more relevant.  But after Black Power, Women’s Liberation:

Rihanna jumps in:

I get it how I live it
I live it how I get it

Riri, thank you for your recursive reminder. These powerful verses pack in a depth of philosophy with attitude and ferocity that makes it palatable and fun to sing to (a work of sheer genius). She “tricks” us by the simplicity of the words but it reminds us that we must shape the way for what we want; we take action and accountability to work hard for our dreams and to not fall to victimhood. HOWEVER, she acknowledges there is a cycle the one is born to. If you’re not happy with what you’ve got, you’ve got to change how you live. She reminds us that our lives are shaped by what we were given from the start, and our actions thereafter with what we’ve got.

She raps a few more lines, flaunting her potency with business, fame, and power but after she reveals with bittersweet tenderness:

Woo! This beat tastes like lunch…
But everyday, hey, wasn’t lemonade
I was afraid, once a nigga graduate
Would I be okay?
So I prayed and I played
It’s Rihanna, nigga
My constellation in space

Firstly,  as of 2009, 30% of all college students drop out after their first year; Rihanna should be lauded for her optimism.  The inequality isn’t spread equally though. At four-year institutions, black men completed their degrees at the lowest rate (40 percent), reports Tate, writer for Insidehighered.com. Worse than that, unemployment for a Black/African-American person is at an all time high. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics this group suffers the highest rate at 8.4%, next Latinx at 5.8, White at 4.3%, and Asian at 3.6%. A reminder that the statistics for unemployment  are defined as “people who do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the past four weeks, and are currently available for work.”

“Would I be okay?” is an emotional and factual concern for her own future. Through faith and action, finally she can comfortably refer to herself in the third-person, a sure sign of success. Stars are pretty cool too.

But what about Gloria Steinem? Read more in my next post!

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