An Open Letter to Academia

I quit.

I am done.

You have exhausted me beyond my own abilities. It’s not that I can’t do it; not that I can’t play the game. It’s just that I have decided, today, to stop playing your game. Your game is totally and utterly rigged. I dug deep and put my cards out on the table, putting to paper what I felt was important–vital–to creating a new space for all. Not only did you ignore my ideas, my stories, my experiences, but you trashed them and came up with your own interpretation which has me wondering every day, what was the point of me even putting my ideas out there? They didn’t matter in the end because it wasn’t the message you wanted to hear.

Seems utterly useless to even try anymore. You will not get any more of my ideas any more. I will take them elsewhere. Give them only to those who will listen, understand, appreciate, and take to heart what I think is important. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be disagreed with; all I ask(ed) is to be HEARD.

 

The Game

It’s that time of the year again
I read in the blogosphere
The time when men in suits
decide interest rates for the year

They will gather in one room
Piles of papers in their hands
Determined to make change
Oblivious to any of our demands

Their lives will go on, unaffected
By the very regulations passed
With the rest panicked and stressed
Reform feels like a curse that has been cast

All this debating and negotiating but
The looming dollars over my head
feel like hundreds of thousands of pounds
that 
I will never be able to shed

You see I had every intention of
Making my parents so very proud
But the promise of a life without 
financial hardship is yet to be found

“Mija, go to school, get an education,
don’t toil and stress like your parents”
While knowledge is what I paid for,
Insurmountable debt is my true inheritance

The daughter of a poor and working
class family I truly believed it
The American Dream; mine with a 
little hard work! Turns out to be utter bullshit

My dream is anxiety and sleepless
nights tossing and turning awake
Worried and scared of tomorrow 
I keep hoping I will catch a break

I stayed in school, another degree so 
I could defer instead of forbade
I couldn’t afford it up front but to be
perfectly honest, I was absolutely afraid

I had read the stories,
How even with my credentials, 
the best job I could hope for 
was busing soiled, eating utensils 

Instead of studying business or 
combined business and finance
I opted to study the humanities, 
which meant I didn’t stand a chance

I could teach, of course but at the 
collegiate level the option is adjunct
Which means little to no job security
the terms of employment always subject

To increased tuition and payment bonus
paid directly to all administration, the 
thought of full time tenured status is 
but a mere figment of the imagination

The university is merely a country 
club for the wealthiest of our nation
Untouched by the burdens of debt, it’s
their children who are allowed to be brazen

The rest of us are chained to our debt
Fists in the air, trembling for a future
promised but yet to be delivered, we
will never know what it’s like to be secure

We walk together on the same campus
yet we do not speak to one another
The shame and guilt cripple our thoughts
so that we cannot recognize each other

We, too, have been made into products
The broken system benefits from our silence
Our participation in these classrooms 
is our unspoken and quiet compliance

I do not have the answers, merely 
the suggestions for what I think is best
To say that the education of our people
is something worthy of a large invest

The generations before us have 
seen great progress and world war
The contradictions still looming in 
the air, social justice still seems so far

We cannot continue down this path
of destruction, we are in need of a reboot
But until then, many of us are content 
to let it be handled by the folks in suits 

I know because at times I close my
eyes and ignore all the sadness 
Try to disappear in other tasks to distract
my mind from all this utter madness

We did not ask to be born to this life
and not all of us are so heartless
In fact, many roll up our sleeves
taking to the revolution of progress

But the media would rather have you
believe that we are lazy and spoiled
A generation of texting, tweeting, 
and facebooking, self-described royals

We are hungry for meaning, thirsty
for the truth at the end of the day
Longing for the community that has
been replaced with social decay

This is so much bigger than the
sum of my personal debts, it’s a 
culture that breeds an unfair game
of chess that is already set

I refuse to play anymore, instead
raise my voice to those who will listen
Knock the pieces to the floor because I
am much more than a pawn in the system

With a heart that beats for others,
for the family I have yet to make,
I will continue to disagree
because there is so much at stake

I am only one citizen on this
planet, I cannot save the world
I can build a life that breeds love
in my little corner of the globe

Hope that my life creates a spark
in others to fuel their own flame
And in time, hopefully we can build
together a better, all inclusive game

Where everyone wins

© 2014

How the History of Art and Media Aren’t So Different for Women

Video

Women having a chance to speak up and be heard goes far deeper than media representation; it runs as intimately as our classrooms.

I didn’t get too public with this story but I feel like this is an appropriate analog to offer in the context of this video compiled by the Miss Representation team.

Monday I presented a paper I did for my Renaissance class which examined imagery that was popular for wedding related gifts (panel paintings and chests to store clothing, etc in). Part of contextualizing the popularity of these objects (that were typically commissioned by the groom or his male relatives) was to examine the gender dynamics of the time which led into the discussion of the existence of rape culture in the Renaissance (though I didn’t call it that explicitly as it is a contemporary term).

After my presentation there was a student who insisted on reminding me that not all men are bad (which I never claimed to argue in my presentation) and to reassure me that HE was a gentleman.

While his concerns are not unfounded, they felt to be out of context for the nature of my presentation. I was very clear in contextualizing it and very clear to not make sweeping generalizations (there was an example I stumbled upon in my research in which the male member of a painting couple gave up his career to encourage the development of his wife’s so it’s not like there weren’t great men even then despite heavy emphasis in moralist texts/behavioral guides for men/women).

When I expounded on my thoughts and tried to address his concerns, I was met with a, “Well, I’m still confused,” or “I don’t understand.”

Granted, maybe I wasn’t explaining it correctly but I had the sneaking suspicion that he just refused to hear what I was saying.

This brings me to my point: in my field, I’ve been presented with numerous images of women depicted in a myriad of situations. And the percentage of images produced BY women OF women is a relatively NEW concept in the time line of art, so when it comes to the criticism of images of women commissioned and financed by men from the past, you better believe I’m going to “go there” and address the absurd imbalance of power between the sexes.

Furthermore, when I present FACTS that can be checked and proved from OTHER primary, academic sources (I’m not just ‘making up things’ because I hate men or some other absurd accusation . . . which by the way why is it SO EASY to assume I hate men but it’s next to impossible to hear that men have the capacity to hate women), why do you feel it’s necessary to come to the defense? Can we agree that the Renaissance was a time when some women were merely property to be exchanged and bartered in economic ventures between some male citizens? Furthermore, can you accept that just because some men of the past fucked up, this in no way is an attempt to hold YOU responsible. I’m merely asking you to listen and hear the context. It’s not the time for you to reassure me (and the class) that you’re ‘one of the good guys.’

If you are, great! Then be as upset by the information as I am and realize that there contemporary manifestations and work WITH ME to eliminate them! Don’t look for moments to find a ‘silver lining’ or ‘explain away’ the problem because you’re ‘confused’. Just because you don’t experience the problem being described doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. That’s like telling people of color that racial profiling isn’t a ‘thing’ because you, as a white person, haven’t experienced it in your life. Give me a break.

Skin Policing

It has recently come to my attention that I’m not brown enough.

Can we please talk about how this assumption that if you identify as Latin@ in any capacity that you must also fit into some shade test . . . ?

I’m sorry (not sorry) that I don’t fit into your neatly little pre-constructed ideal of what a Latin@ should/should not look like. 
No, I don’t “need more sun”. I’m quite content with my farmer’s tan, thank you very much. My family is representative of a variety of ethnic/cultural backgrounds with varying shades of lightness and darkness.

I know that my lighter complected skin means that I may “pass” as white and therefore not face the same kind of experiences as those darker than I (so I don’t claim, in any way, to make this an attempt to undermine those struggles).
However, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t heard the “what are you?” question hurled at me from time to time (and that shit is obnoxious). I don’t know? Human? A woman? A martian? Inevitably, when I do respond with my background, there is always someone who makes the off handed comment: “Huh, you’re not that dark.”

-__-

This completely robs me of my childhood experiences; the memories of sitting at a table watching relatives dance under pretty lights at a baile, the memories of hearing people speak Spanish so fast I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to keep up or make sense of what was happening. The memory of Mom finally sharing with me why I couldn’t speak Spanish. Because  a preschool teacher didn’t want learning Spanish at home to “confuse” us while we were in school and so Mom stopped teaching it (she, to this day, resents ever listening to that teacher). 

I don’t think my Latin@ identity should be hinging upon whether or not my skin is dark enough (for other people). If you ever find yourself staring at someone, trying to figure out “what they are”, just stop. You’re already Othering that person. I understand a certain level of human curiosity is inevitable but there are much more productive ways to find out about a person’s background and identity that don’t reduce them down to a mystery for you to solve. Furthermore, if you find yourself surprised by their background, do not make the same off handed comment that I’ve heard. It’s no different than policing the gender of a person by saying things like, “Oh, but you’re too [           ],” or “But you’re not that [            ].”

I sometimes feel these moments of insecurity when I look in the mirror; like I’m not allowed to claim my identity because I, too, have let myself internalize that, THIS is what a Latin@ looks like (whatever “THIS” is). I don’t have the J-Lo behind, I don’t have the Shakira hips, and I don’t have the Eva Longoria hair . . . but I do have their light complexions (which I know in a white supremacist media world is what rules). Yet no one would deny these women their cultural backgrounds (or would they)? Again, I feel so lost sometimes because I’m content with my bronze arms (at least up to my elbows) that don’t match my lighter legs. I’m content (most days) that my weight doesn’t distribute itself through my thighs, hips and behind and that my waist is high (and not so tiny). 

So, what’s it to you if I’m not dark enough (whatever “enough” is)?