"My response to the “I am not a feminist” internet phenomenon….
First of all, it’s clear you don’t know what feminism is. But I’m not going to explain it to you. You can google it. To quote an old friend, “I’m not the feminist babysitter.”
But here is what I think you should know.
You’re insulting every woman who was forcibly restrained in a jail cell with a feeding tube down her throat for your right to vote, less than 100 years ago.
You’re degrading every woman who has accessed a rape crisis center, which wouldn’t exist without the feminist movement.
You’re undermining every woman who fought to make marital rape a crime (it was legal until 1993).
You’re spitting on the legacy of every woman who fought for women to be allowed to own property (1848). For the abolition of slavery and the rise of the labor union. For the right to divorce. For women to be allowed to have access to birth control (Comstock laws). For middle and upper class women to be allowed to work outside the home (poor women have always worked outside the home). To make domestic violence a crime in the US (It is very much legal in many parts of the world). To make workplace sexual harassment a crime.
In short, you know not what you speak of. You reap the rewards of these women’s sacrifices every day of your life. When you grin with your cutsey sign about how you’re not a feminist, you ignorantly spit on the sacred struggle of the past 200 years. You bite the hand that has fed you freedom, safety, and a voice.
In short, kiss my ass, you ignorant little jerks.”
by Alex Knight Espinosa
For my 22nd birthday, I had a party that was a hit among my closest friends. I encouraged them to rock Cholo/Chola style for one night, and everyone showed up with fierce brows and flannel bottoned to the collar. It was great. A lot of people drew fake tattoos on themselves, myself included. Here are some photos for reference.
Am I racist? Was this an act of cultural appropriation?
When the photos surfaced on facebook a few days later, a friend of a friend commented that the photos were racist. I asked why, and she stated that we were appropriating culture for our own entertainment.
Now, I came up with the idea for the party on my own. Not once did it cross my mind that it could be considered racially insensitive – one, because “Cholo” is not a race and, two, because I myself am Latina and have been inspired by this style of makeup and dress since my early teens. In fact, many people in the public eye claim to have been inspired by this style as well, including Gwen Stefani (who, may I point out, is not Latina) and Kat Von D, among an array of other note-worthy people. Sure, in some of the photos we were sporting bottles of Jack Daniels and wads of cash. This part was probably a little offensive. But there are so many music videos in which this is part of the gig.
“I am Latina,” I responded, “and I did not think anyone would be offended by it.” The girl went on to say that my argument sounded familiar. She compared to a racially insensitive person claiming, “It’s okay. I have a black friend.” See, I do not see it this way, and I am still having trouble even trying to see it this way. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with Cholo style. Someone suggested we were poking fun at gang violence. To that I say, not every cholo is in a gang. You are the one stereotyping. The girl who first accused me and all of my party guests of racism is white, and all of those who had similar remarks were also white. That’s not to say that no Latino people, or other people who sport Cholo style, were offended in the making of this occasion, but they have yet to come to me with something to say. To any of them reading this, I am sorry. I am a feminist, liberal, queer woman, and I pride myself on trying not to offend anyone in my wake.
Would I ever have another party with this theme? Most likely not. It was fun, but the occasion need not be repeated. It hurt me deeply to know anyone was offended, but I am still confused as to why. My Latino friends found the entire thing hilarious, or at least the ones who had something to say.
Fast forward two years, I am on my computer and a friend of a friend is having a party with the same theme. No one in the photos appears to be of minority descent. In fact, many of my white friends who attended the party are making remarks like (no joke), “Idk why so many people have a problem with Mexicans. I love Mexicans. Burritos are good.” I couldn’t help but cringe. Now it was ME who was offended. I looked back to my 22nd birthday and I wondered if this was how I had made others feel. Yes, I am Latina, and yes, I loved many of the trends that come with the cholo/a fashion in my youth, but does that make it okay for me to encourage my friends to poke fun at it?
As for the comment made by the other party-goer, people who sport the cholo style are not always Mexican. And burritos are a quintessentially American food at this point in time. This comment was racially insensitive. Cholo is a style, not a race. It’s like having a “cybergoth” party in my opinion. Yes, many people who sport “cybergoth” style do drugs. That doesn’t mean they all do drugs, and it doesn’t mean you’re poking fun at drug use. I won’t even get into the racial context of poking fun at the cybergoth fad…
Long story short, this party was thrown with good intentions. I have a little more sympathy for people who practice cultural appropriation out of ignorance, and then become aware of the error of their ways after the fact. When we try to destroy a person’s career over one statement made out of ignorance, we forget the purpose of life – to learn and to grow. We halt their growth by showing them nothing but hatred and negativity in return.
I’d love for some healthy discussion to result from this. If you have an opinion on the matter, please feel free to share.