Inspired by a conversation on twitter, I am running a series of interviews with women about their feminism. I’m hoping that other women will find our various paths to feminism interesting and we might also take strength from and pride in our stories. If you would like to take part please leave a message here or send a direct message to @sueveneer on twitter.
Thanks to Katherine for sharing her story.
1. At what point in your life did you start to understand that you were a feminist?
I was born a feminist. Being that I was born on a mountain in Honduras and lived in a Chosa I was away from the pressures of society. It wasn’t until I moved to city area that I started to feel a resistance for an unknown force. The point that I always mark as the blossoming feminist in me was when I was five. I was living with my aunt and her husband. He was arriving from work one evening and sat down on the coach. She ordered me to get down on my knees, take off his shoes, and put on his slippers. As I was undoing the first shoe a burning heat buildup inside me. Until I got up to go to his lap so I could face him and slap him across the face. I didn’t know why it felt right but I was punished for it afterwards. I knew about feminism since I was in third grade. It was around the same time I was looking into philosophy and aliens. I was a weird kid. Something about the movement really fit me. It was one of those words that when I saw it I could identify myself with it. And I knew I had found a piece of me.
2. What is the focus of your feminism and how has this shifted over time?
It’s hard to focus on one. As someone who is a curvy Hispanic female I grew up with a constant pressure to fit a norm that didn’t look like me. Several of my focuses include racism, body image/eating disorders, and sexuality. Over the years my brand of feminism has evolved significantly. I went through a phase where I despised men for being oppressors. Then I went through another phase where I despised women for allowing it to happen, for playing along to the stereotypes, and competing for attentions and favors of men. Then I hated myself for allowing myself to be pulled in to the myths and lies that exist in western culture about women. Coming to the truth about who I was is hard in a country where I’m not equally represented, or worst – invisible. If there is one thing I learned here it’s that some lives matter more than others, and some voices are heard while others aren’t. Because of this I’m more vocal because I have to be. I have to put my voice out there or risk not being part of the conversation.
There is another transformation I have gone through this year. I used to be pro-porn when I was quiet about my beliefs and opinions. Both of these things have changed about me. I knew about sex trafficking at a very young age. But I didn’t make the connection between what some privileged women in porn and stripping were doing by choice and how it drove up demand for further exploitation for others in sex slavery and rape culture. I got into a fight with a famous porn star online and I was never so disgusted in my life. I thought surely she must understand some of the negative effects this has. I came away realizing that some women in the industry don’t care about anyone but themselves. They didn’t care that most women, and children, around the world didn’t have a choice. They wanted to ignore these issues and pretend they didn’t exist – pretend I didn’t exist. All so they could maintain their image for their clients. The industry was all a veneer.
Everywhere I look I’m faced with lies from the media that want to convince people that this is “empowering”. I find that when I want to have an honest conversation about it most people think I’m being biased when I expose the overwhelming number of people that it hurts. How is what I discuss bias but listening to woman who live in a rich country and had a choice to join the sex industry not bias? I realize most people would rather talk to the few women who managed to climb to the top of the industry and portray the happy picture of the sex industry. People haven’t connected the dots in the porn industry and how it relates to the slave industry, pedophilia, and the general justification of hatred and apathy for human life. People should be free to make choices but not if takes away other people’s right a life. If it’s not bias to claim that tanning and smoking is bad for you, why should the sex industry be any different? If most of what they contribute to is world suffering and what they produce is ultimately unnecessary to human sexuality? What other conclusion could someone come to?
3. How has feminism affected your life/relationships/career etc?
Feminism has given me power in a society that actively works to take away my humanity. It is what made me ignore the statistics that Hispanic women had the lowest test scores and many people concluded we must be inferior. People add and substrate things to statistics, they use them to come to crazy conclusions. Feminism has allowed me to ignore everyone who tries to define me, or tries to limit me, silence me, or stand in my way.
4. What are your hopes and fears for feminism?
I was afraid of the back lash feminism seems to be getting, but after speaking to people who are strongly against feminism I no longer fear. For some reason feminism is getting a bad name but no matter. It reminds me of what Mark Twain said: Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
I think people are afraid of change, or afraid of losing any perceived power. But it’s so silly. We would all benefit if we were more equal. My hope is that we can focus on our goals and achieve more equality for women! Forget what all the haters say, we’re moving toward process, and this movement is bigger than us.
5. Who inspires your feminism?
It’s really hard to narrow it down. I admire a lot of women, and my list always changes. Right now I’m loving Meghan Murphy, Gail Dines, Anita Sarkeesian, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Leanne Ratcliffe (Freelee). I’m in inspired by anyone who makes me think.
6. If you could recommend one book or film to a young woman what would it be and why?
I recommend Persepolis – it’s one of my favorite films. This movie really spoke to me. It’s set in 1970s Iran and is about a young girl named Marji who watched Iran being ruled by Islamic fundamentalists. Marji refused to stay silent about her daily oppression and her parents, fearing for her safety, send her abroad to Vienna to study. I really love how it captures war, cultural shock, and oppression.