Open Veins of Latin America: Galeano in Review

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Is everything forbidden us except to fold our arms? Poverty is not written in the stars; under development is not one of God’s mysterious designs. Redemptive years of revolution pass; the ruling classes wait and meanwhile pronounce hellfire anathema on everybody. In a sense the right wing is correct in identifying itself with tranquility and order: it is an order of daily humiliation for the majority, but an order nonetheless; it is a tranquility in which injustice continues to be unjust and hunger to be hungry.
- Open Veins Of Latin America, Eduardo Galeano

I recently finished reading this brilliant social and cultural narrative written by one of my favorite authors, Eduardo Galeano. In the 1960′s, Galeano was forced out of his home in Uruguay by a US supported Right-Wing Military Dictatorship. He writes from the perspective of an exile giving an honest account of the history of the Americas, the annihilation of far too many culture’s, and the vile wrath of slavery and colonialism.

What makes Galeano such an exceptional writer is the magnitude of his poetic syntax, and how he can speak on behalf of the “invisible souls” with such reverence and grace. With rich imagery, Galeano illustrates the Americas as a body – with coffee, fruit, gold, silver, cacao, cotton, rubber, hides, wool, petroleum, iron, nickel, manganese, copper, aluminum ore, nitrates, and tin as the veins. Five centuries of exploitation, violation, and overwhelming suffering drained the veins to create the wealthy capitalistic society we know in the United States as well as Europe.

“Poor History had stopped breathing; betrayed in academic texts, lied about in classrooms, drowned in dates, they had imprisoned her in museums and buried her, with floral wreaths, beneath statuary bronze and monumental marble.” – Galeano

Between his own personal accounts, exceptional research and original documentation, and the untold stories of the people who suffered endlessly as slaves to facilitate the construction of our economy, this book can at times be too much to handle. I distinctly remember the feeling of being both enraged and embarrassed by my lack of knowledge of such atrocities, and the fact I belong to a culture who so successfully swept it under the rug.

The wealth confiscation is hardly over, and with the enforcement of perpetual poverty from the latifundo system, those who were tormented and used as mere pawns the people never get to see the fruits of their labor. Poverty is the silent killer in Latin America, with death tolls extending beyond that of three Hiroshima bombs. Galeano writes, “This systematic violence is not apparent but is real and constantly increasing: its holocausts are not made known in the sensational press but in Food and Agricultural Organization statistics.”

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, anthropology major, or someone looking to expand their multicultural knowledge, I strongly suggest this poetic and artfully crafted piece by Eduardo Galeano. I assure you that you will never be able to look at the US in the same light again.

You can read Open Veins of Latin America here

- written by Meaghan Lis

Feminist on Feminist Bullying: Theories on Interpersonal Conflict

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Here at the Lesley University Women’s Center, our fantastic supervisor Jenn O’Neil is in the process of doing fascinating research on feminist vs. feminist bullying, an issue I believe is causing a rift in the achievement of progress within the feminist community. The phrase seems contradictory in itself; feminist on feminist bullying? Isn’t feminism a movement aimed at eliminating discrimination? At the heart of feminism, that point is fact, however with so many goals and varying lens’s/perspectives, things can easily become messy and misconstrued.

Have you ever played the game telephone? A message is created, and as it gets passed down the line, certain parts of the message ultimately change based on what each individual believes they’ve heard. I believe that one way conflict arises between feminists in the community is that interpretation of certain concepts can be seemingly contradictory. When strong emotions come into play with heated perspectives on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. the need to “stick to your guns” can play a role in the ability to hear another’s point fully. When considering the power of words, diction, and the presentation of one’s view, many feminists may feel they are being attacked for expressing their views if it does not directly match another feminists point. This can lead to severe conflict, and with the use of the internet, and argument between two individuals can escalate to larger than life battles. All it takes is a few minutes scrolling through facebook, twitter, and/or tumblr to witness this in practice.

Furthermore, it has come to my attention that intersectionality has become a double-edged sword. When regarding strong personality’s paired with dedicated and committed views, the beauty of embracing the experience of multiple marginalized groups may shift into an inclusive semantic war about is more oppressed. This ultimately leads to devolving in the conversation, and many feminists no longer feel their perspective and experiences are valued, thus leaving them feeling silenced within their own community.

In many ways, this conflicts relates back to the telephone game metaphor: the idea that in order to be an effective activist in the feminist community, you need to have lived the experience of marginalized people, and if not, your voice does not matter. This twist replaces concepts of empathy and curiosity of another’s experience with the fallacy that people can only understand what they have direct experience of.

Intersectionality was never meant to be a breeding ground for competition, hatred, and ultimately assuming the role of a bully. The core of intersectionality is to highlight awareness of multiple marginalized groups, and to encourage the consideration of such within the feminist community. So what gives? How can we be intersectional feminists in a way that does not punish other feminists for their experience?

Attentive listening is first and foremost. It’s really easy to say you’re listening to someone when you’ve picked apart their statement to only hear the parts that fit into your opposing argument. Listen. And I mean really listen. Let another speak fully and really take in what they are saying. You’d be surprised what happens when you hear the full story as opposed to the selective abbreviated version. Second, take a moment to consider their experience as unique and individual, and not as a representative for a specific group or form of privilege. A person may not share the experience of being discriminated for the color of their skin, but does that mean that they don’t understand the pain of discrimination entirely? That they’ve never known what it means to be identified by a particular marginalized group? That they’ve never internalized that and felt worthless or somehow less than?

The third point is validation. Okay, so this person has not experienced the same forms of oppression you have. Their pain is still very real regardless, so let them know you understand. Tell them you recognize their pain, their struggle, and that you intend to support them. When arguments lack validation, the conversation quickly turns into a battle of “you have no idea what it’s like” and someone who was once your companion is the community is now your enemy. Hear them, validate them, and express your views as your own, not as a known fact that is above theirs.

The feminist community is full of wonderful people with devoted hearts, personal experiences, and strong wills. If we want this movement to keep progressing, we need to honestly listen to each other. Intersectional feminism isn’t about policing, it’s about unionizing and actively seeking ways to eliminate oppression. Show a little love to your fellow feminists, even if they’re lives look different than yours.

- written by Meaghan Lis

Power, Privilege, and Oppression: An Empath’s Perspective On Understanding Suffering

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Browsing through my news feed yesterday, I came across an interesting Buzzfeed quiz titled “How Privileged Are You? Check(list) Your Privilege.” While Buzzfeed is hardly known for professional research and validity, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give the quiz a shot.

I received a 42/100 with the label “Not Privileged.” I had to sit with this for a long time. What does that even mean, not privileged? I reflected on my answers for a while, and noted the areas in which the test would dock “privilege points.” Based on my reflection and highlighted experience, such points would be class, gender, sexual orientation identity, and religious oppression. The blanket statement of “Not Privileged” still didn’t settle well. Privilege is a massive umbrella with a number of factors stemming from it, right alongside of an equally massive umbrella of oppression with just as many factors imbedded as well. With that in mind, how can one determine who is privileged and who is not? Furthermore, what does that mean to the person taking the quiz?

Naturally with my terrible habit of reading the comments section, I saw outrage from all too many folks who received the result “Most Privileged” or simply “Privileged.” That term has become increasingly dirty over the past decade or so, and in many ways has created a sense of an enemy.

As opposed to sharing in the vitriol, I choose to look at those results in another way. Rather than being outraged that one would label you “Privileged,” why not view it as an opportunity to better understand your life experience? Furthermore, view it as a means of gratitude that you were so blessed to have lived with these privileges, and open a healthy discussion on the differences of your experience to another?

As a white woman, I know that I will never have the experience of facing oppression based on my race and skin color. While I can read all the articles accessible to me about the oppression of race, I will never know that experience firsthand. I realize that in terms of my privilege, I am lucky to never experience that suffering first hand. I also have the privilege of having both of my parents in my life, happily married. I graduated high school, went on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, and currently have the benefit of attending graduate school. I can recognize that these are areas of my privilege, and that far too many people in this world are not so lucky to have those opportunities. Just as I can recognize the areas of privilege in my life, I am aware of the areas in which I have experienced oppression. My gender has frequently been something that I have been harassed for, and perceived as an object rather than a human being. My sexual identity and choice of partners left me subject to insults, threats, spit in my face, and bottles tossed at me. Furthermore my spiritual beliefs have been mocked and used as a means to demean me. Class has been a consistent struggle, and I experienced severe bullying as a child and even through adulthood for my socio-economic status. With all of these factors and experiences under my belt, it is my belief that I am neither a “privileged” person, nor a “non privileged” person. I am a human being with experiences in both.

My undergraduate training was in Holistic Psychology, educating and influencing a humanistic and holistic perspective towards lived experiences and the therapeutic process. This perspective has become a lifestyle for me, and I view most everything through that lens. When considering a more holistic approach to the constructs of privilege and oppression, it is my understanding that suffering is not a pissing contest. There is no scale or chart to define one’s experiences. The privileges of one person vary from the privileges of another, just as one’s experiences with oppression vary from another’s. There is no price tag on suffering. Pain may present itself differently in each person, but it doesn’t mean that the lived experience is somehow less than or greater than another’s.

Consider Elizabeth Lesser’s Ted Talk, “Take ‘The Other’ To Lunch.” In this video, Lesser explores our human nature and encourages us to open up kind an honest dialogue by going to lunch with someone who does not agree with you (or in many ways, someone who’s experiences appear to be opposite of yours). In a civil manner, asking each other three core questions to illustrate what is truly in one another’s hearts is an excellent way to begin bridging the gap of understanding each other’s lived experiences.

Imagine what could happen if the feminist and the misogynist could have an open dialogue about where each other is coming from. Imagine the possibilities if a person with racial discriminatory views could speak with a person of color. Imagine if a person of wealth could speak with a person living in poverty. If we chose to allow another to share their story, and at least made the attempt to understand their experience, what are the chances that we could view the “other” in a different light? If we chose to use empathy towards each other’s pain, towards each other’s joy, do you think we might be less inclined to attack each other with such vitriol?

I understand that there are many who do not share in this approach, and that is completely understandable. I am by no means trying to force my perspective on anyone. My intention is simply to ask that you try it out, and see what you find.

- written by Meaghan Lis

Love Does Not Exist in a Vacuum – Thoughts on Self Love Learning

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The other day I was scrolling through one of my favorite blogs when I came across a quote that read: “You can’t love another person until you learn to love yourself.” While I understand the intention of this statement, I was troubled by how limiting it seemed. When there are countless things in the media and our every day environments telling us we’re not smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough, curvy enough, and overall good enough, it’s no easy task to love yourself.

Love does not exist in a vacuum. Love is something we learn through family, friends, mentors, through novels and films. We gain our concept of love through outside forces. When a person is never expressed love and affection from others, how can they learn love? In many ways, these outside forces teach us how to love others, but rarely how to love ourselves.

Let’s look on the flip side for a little perspective. How do we learn to hate ourselves? We learn it through television, movies, and magazines that advertise for products “to make you better.” We learn it in grade school when your peers make it evidently clear that the shirt you thought looked so good on you is horribly ugly. We learn through experiencing shame through other outlets.

That being said, it takes more than words to really begin the process of self love. The mother that tells her daughter that she is beautiful, and then steps on the scale and sighs teaches through example that weight matters. The father that tells his son that he’s a cool kid even if he’s on the smaller side, and then spends hours lifting weights and drinking protein shakes teaches through example that being cool means building up muscles to show off just how much of a man you are.

We learn this by observing others. We learn this through example.

The parents are not to blame. They too are products of an environment that teaches them they are not good enough unless they achieve certain things. Just as we learn to hate ourselves through these outlets, we can learn to love ourselves just the same. It lies not only in verbal assertion of self esteem, but leading by example. When we see people in the media as well as our personal lives loving themselves, we can learn to adopt that too. Positive role models who ditch the scale, wear what makes them feel good, and advocate for a positive self image both verbally and through their actions are the key to shifting the dynamic of self hate in self appreciation and love.
- written by Meaghan Lis

Girlhood Then & Now: Activism

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In our weekly girls’ group this past week, we had a huge moment — our girls came together to discuss how they can start a movement. After an in depth discussion about how women are portrayed in the media, I posed the question, “So, what do we do?”

We concluded that there’s no way we could possibly ignore the media — it heavily saturates our society. But what we did decide is that we can begin small; creating a blog to be shared with other girls to spread awareness about these issues.

I was floored by their excitement and creativity about this plan. They came up with a name for our “movement,” and discussed what we can begin to speak about to share with other girls outside of our small group.

As of late, I have been inundated with messages from people talking ill of “Tumblr social justice.” After my night with our girls, I am sincerely offended and confused by these statements.

At what point did it become inappropriate for activists to utilize technology to share ideas?

At what point did it become deplorable for like-minded individuals to gather as a collective, whether in person or via the Internet, to exchange ideas about how to further their activist agenda?

At what point did the Internet become a space that does not allow thoughtful dialogue, criticism, and sharing of experiences and stories?

Young, budding activists, like the girls in our groups, have every right to take to the Internet to begin their activism. They have every right to use any means they can to speak out about the injustices they are experiencing.

“Tumblr social justice” exists because people have not been listening to us in our families, our schools, our churches, and our government. If our voices are consistently silenced in person and through more “formal” means of activism, what is left for us? What is left for our girls who are trying to change the world — which I know they can, given the right means to do so.

Criticizing social media activists does not make the issues they are speaking about disappear — it makes it easier to pick out the people who want to keep the status quo in place.

 

by Emily Kindschy 

Girlhood Then & Now: Social Media

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Girlhood now is unarguably significantly more technology-based than any girlhood before this one. There is such a diverse range of media that can be seen by girls on a daily basis, second-by-second, through so many different sites, that it’s important to understand what kind of media they’re consuming.

Since delving into my interest in women and girl’s activism, I’ve begun to do my best to consciously understand the articles, photos, and messages that I am posting on my numerous social media sites. “Is this something I would want my 10-year old sister to see? Are these messages that are helpful to her development? If she read this, would I want her to mirror the behavior?”

And, to be frank, there are enough people in my social media feeds that should really start taking this into account. 

Let’s look at an example of an article that has been furiously circling on my newsfeed the past week. Now, I’m not talking just men sharing this. I’m talking about grown women that I know in some capacity sharing this on every social media platform they can. 

I’m going to get nonacademic for a second and just say that I am worried, people. If this is the type of message that people think is critical and important to share with others, how do boys and girls stand a chance at having fulfilling lives? YES! I said BOYS, too!

For starters, the title: “50 Things Every Woman Should Realize About Men.” Ah, yes, all men are the same, think the same way, experience the same things, etc etc etc etc so no need to look any further, here’s everything you’ve ever needed to know about any man, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, or religion! All-inclusive!

While the entire article is problematic, I’m really the most horrified by the introduction.

“You’re all looking very pretty today, maybe we can go grab a drink sometime—no, shit. I promised I wouldn’t do that. Sorry. Habit.”

…”Habit.” Habit? What a great “habit” that we insinuate boys should have and one that girls should assume they need to deal with. Of course men are going to hit on you, but it’s okay, boys will be boys, right? Tell that to all of the women and girls that have experienced sexual assault and was told by someone “boys will be boys!” Also tell that to the man who is falsely convicted of rape (though I’d like to make clear that the prevalence of this is very low) because of course he raped her, boys will be boys, they can’t control themselves.

So stop expecting us to understand the intricate mystery that is the feminine psyche and just accept the fact that it’s never going to happen. However…there is hope. Once you stop over-thinking men and realize that they are much less complex than you are, you can take charge, keep them content and get what you want at the same time.

Let me translate this: “Stop expecting men to make any attempt to get to know you as any more than just an object because that’s all us men can understand — we’re much less complex than you are, meaning we just cannot cognitively express any emotions or complicated thoughts, so don’t try to get to know us on a deeper level because we certainly don’t want to know you in that way!”

This is offensive to men and women. This is problematic for boys and girls. We are telling our girls that men do not want to know them as anything other than a sexual partner and we tell our boys that they cannot be emotional or intellectually complex.

Now to the list. I am not going to include each one, but here are some highlights:

          2. You Can’t Change Him

I know that you know this intellectually, but on some level, you may still think you can pull it off. You can’t. And if you do manage to get it done, he’ll figure it out and resent you for it. Love him the way he is or not at all.

          40. You Need To Be His Moral Compass

He looks to his woman to keep him in check. Make sure he always does the right thing.

Wait. What if he’s complex? What if he’s emotional? Do I have permission to change him then? He won’t resent that, right? If I turn him into a bumbling fool that exclusively swims on the surface level of conversation and thought, he’ll be grateful? Is that what this means? But I’m supposed to keep him morally in check? Yes, because all men are morally corrupt by nature, I forgot.

          12. He Wants To Bang Your Friends

I’m not saying he’ll do it, but he wants to. Don’t take it personally—he’s wanted to bang 90% of all the women he’s ever met. It’s really not that big a deal. Let him know you know and watch how red he gets.

 

          30. You Should Never Flirt With His Friend

I know I said earlier that he wants to bang your friends, so this might seem like a double standard, but it’s true. He’ll think you’re fucking with him—or worse, that you’re actually attracted to one of his buddies. Don’t risk ruining his friendships or there will be bad times ahead.

Oh, right. Men have license to express their sexuality and no one should judge it because it’s just “how it is.” Listen girls, we know you have “urges” too, but could you keep those to yourself, maybe? It’s making the men feel badly. Didn’t you know boys aren’t capable of liking one person? You should always be suspicious because they can’t control themselves

          17. You’ve Got To Watch Your Weight

Oh shit, did I really say that? Well, it’s true.  Just because you landed him doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want and stop going to the gym (and to be fair, neither can he).

Well, at least it’s the same expectation for men, too…? Or like, you know, we could follow the advice from an earlier point, “Love [anyone] the way [they are] or not at all.” There, I fixed it for you!

          8. You Can’t Bombard Him The Second He Walks In The Door

He knows you want to talk about what that bitch said to you at work today or your plans to redecorate the bedroom, but for god’s sake, let him have a beer and stare at the TV for at least half an hour first.

 

         16. He Wants You To Need Him

Sure, you’re an independent lady and he likes that. But he also wants to feel useful. So let him change a light bulb and open pickle jars for you. It boosts his self-esteem.

Okay, noted. I almost forgot how men are so significantly less complex than women that in order to make them feel needed, the farthest we can go is asking for help with the pickle jar. Any conversations that go beyond grunting is too much, so just wait until he’s got a few beers in him so he can pretend to understand.

          19. Ultimatums Do NOT Work

Any time you try to force a guy to do anything, he WILL resent you for it. Try an honest talk about how you feel and what you want out of the relationship before you give him an “either/or.”

“How I feel?” Isn’t that off limits? I was so convinced at this point that the only way to get through to men was through dichotomous choices only because it was the only way they’d comprehend what was going on? Wait…could it be…that some men…respond to different things…differently…? 

          25. You Should Always Take His Side

Within reason. But if he’s involved in some kind of debate and you take sides against him in public, he will never forgive you.

GIRLS! Take note! Your opinion is second to his when in public, so just zip it, okay? No one wants to hear you anyway. Don’t be bossy or aggressive. It’s not cute.

          33. He Needs To Lean On You Sometimes

Most of us are pretty good at shouldering our burdens, but every so often, they get too heavy. But don’t sit him down and make him talk about his feelings—that’s YOUR thing. Just do some little things for him to pick up his slack when he’s overwhelmed.

Noted. Next time my boyfriend begins a sentence with “I feel…” I’ll just leave and empty the dishwasher. 

          35. Don’t EVER Emasculate Him

Even if you’re just joking. I promise you, he won’t think it’s funny. And if you do it during a fight, your relationship might never recover.

BOYS! Now it’s your turn to take notes. Anything that insinuates that you are acting in a way that is more attributable to the opposite gender, this should absolutely and totally destroy your sense of identity and self-esteem. If you hadn’t heard yet, being equated to the woman is the worst thing that someone can do to you. Girls have cooties, remember? You don’t want to be like one of those cootie-queens.

           48. He’s Not Your Dad

For all you princesses out there. Yes, he’s supposed to take care of you, but it’s not in the same way. You’re a grown woman, for Christ’s sake. Learn the difference between a father and a partner.

“He’s supposed to take care of you.” Listen, boys, if you make less money than the girl in your life in the future, you should definitely feel like scum. Like, you’re supposed to provide for her since she needs to be taken care of. Not you, though, you’ve got this on your own — no need for emotional support since you’re not complex enough for that kind of thing. Have you started bottling up your feelings yet? Yes? Keep up the good work!

          42. If You Make Him Watch A Chick Flick, At Least Give Him A Blowjob Afterwards

Seriously, those things are painful. You have no idea how much we hate them. If he made it through the whole thing without complaining, reward him. And if it was one of the SEX & THE CITY movies, you owe him either anal or a threesome. Your choice.

But…what if I turned this into an ultimatum? Those are off limits. Guess this deal is off the table.

          9. Withholding Sex Is A Dangerous Game

I don’t care how mad you are at him, if you cut him off for an extended period of time, what happens next is on you.

“What happens next is on you.” So like, rape? That’s on me? Thanks for perpetuating rape culture in the most clear and undeniable way. Neato!

I could have gone through each of these and made some sort of comments about how they perpetuate gender roles, our patriarchal heteronormative oppressive systems, and rape culture. These concepts are not new, they are not made up, and they are not issues to gloss over. They are very real and they hurt our girls and our boys and jeapardize their abilities to fulfill the identity that feels true to them, have a strong voice and advocate for themselves (whether that’s through sharing their opinion or expressing emotion), and have meaningful and equal partnerships.

 

by Emily Kindschy

Girlhood Then & Now: Recognizing Privilege

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Since starting The Girlhood Project, I’ve had the privilege of delving into literature regarding girls’ and girlhood studies. While I’ve become deeply educated about racism, sexism, classism, ableism, etc during my time at Lesley, I’m realizing that I am well-versed in these subjects in a purely academic manner.

Knowing concepts and being able to discuss them in academic discourse is hugely important. While I am comfortable with my ability to reiterate what I’ve learned in the literature, it’s a completely different experience to see these -isms played out in front of you through middle school aged girls.

What is going on in our institutions, that a 6th grade girl of color can look me in the eye and say, “People think black people are uneducated…they think we won’t ever do anything with our lives. I hate it”?

What is going on in our  institutions that a 6th grade girl of color can look me in the eye and say, “If you’re not educated, you end up on the streets…if you end up on the streets, you could get beaten, raped…it’s not jail, but you’re not free“?

Looking back on myself as a 6th grade white girl, I cannot remember a single moment where I was fearful of ending up on the streets or worried that people thought that I would not amount to anything in my life.

What are we doing to our girls of color, our girls from low-income communities, our disabled girls, our LGBTQA+ identifying girls, when as young as 11 years old they are fearful for their life, their ability to access basic resources, and having their aspirations invalidated just because they are not a member of the dominant community?

Oppressed and marginalized groups are well aware of their oppression and marginalization — when members of the dominant community try to deny the existence of institutionalized oppression, they are invalidating experiences that they would likely never have to experience.

As one of the middle school girls said to us, “I know we’re supposed to be colorblind…but racism is real to me.” If it’s real to her, it needs to be real to us, too.

by Emily Kindschy