Justicia and Cultura

I’ll Have The Culture, Hold the Humanity

Today is November 1st aka the day every year Latinx women are reminded just how much we’re worth which – 47 percent less than white men and 31 percent less than white women aka not a lot. That’s right, on average Latinx women have to work an extra 10 months and a day to earn as much money as white men made in just 2017.

While these numbers are heartbreaking, let’s be honest: 2018 has been a difficult year for more than just the growing wage gap (yeah, we lost a penny this year with last year’s wage gap at 54 cents to the white man’s dollars and this year’s versus this year’s 53 cents). From spring to August of 2018, around 6,000 Latinx people (including at least 3,000 children) were separated from their families at the border. The media presented Americans with pictures of terrified families, as immigrants pleaded for their humanity to be recognized and respected.

And in the last two weeks, conveniently just before the midterm election, Donald Trump has created a racist narrative about a group of 4,000 migrants from Central America heading towards the border. “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy.” (yes that’s not a spelling error he said “emergy”)

Not only did the President paint a group of people trying to make a better life for themselves as criminals, he definitively declared Middle Easterners to be terrorists and not to be trusted. A reminder that not only is our President racist but generally lacks a comprehensive understanding of spelling and grammar.

And to finish it all off on Sunday this week, Donald Trump announced he wants to sign an executive order ending “birthright citizenship” for babies of non-citizens born on U.S. soil. We all know he’s targeting the Latinx community with that one. Questioning our right to citizenship combined with the horrible overtly racist coverage of migrants from Central Americans seeking refuge in the U.S., made the last two weeks pretty rough for the Latinx community.

So when I see cempasúchil flowers in window displays, or Instagram posts of people with a skeleton painted on their faces, or the overall increase in Frida Kahlo paraphernalia, I am reminded of our country’s hypocrisy. White America may love the “fun” pieces of Latinx culture, but they sure as hell don’t embrace actual Latinx people.

Latinx women are worth more than merely 53 cents for every dollar a white man makes. Our ancestors and traditions have given America the diversity and depth that make it was it is today. So when you see hip interpretations of calaveras de azúcar or wander down the salsa aisle at the grocery store or hell, EAT A TACO, remember the families separated at the border, and the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients trying to convince their neighbors of their right to stay in the U.S. and the women toiling away to make our families and our country work despite making pennies on the dollar. Today is a great place to start. Start paying Latinx women what we’re worth – consider it reparations for the official, Corona-sponsored U.S. holiday of Cinco de Mayo.

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On Teenage Witch Reboots: “Sabrina” vs “Charmed”

Witches are having a moment. And not just because it’s Halloween. The witch trope is everywhere as female power is being reimagined, reclaimed, and re-vilified in the media, religion, and of course politics. We have a  President who has reporters running around investigating which is really the “greatest witch hunt in history.” Then, there was the mass hexing of Brett Kavanaugh, which is hopefully taking further effect on Tuesday. Brujas even appear in our very own tagline here at Mujeres Problemáticas.

So it’s no wonder the media has delivered us not one, but two teenage witch reboots this October. Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina premiered on October 26 and follows Kiernan Shipka of Mad Men fame as Sabrina, the new and improved teenage witch. You remember the original with Melissa Joan Hart, Caroline Rhea, and Beth Broderick as three blonde witches living with their black, talking cat. Meanwhile, the CW premiered their Charmed reboot on October 14 writing all three of the witch sisters as Latinx (although not managing to cast three, actual Latinas). The original brunette trio was Shannen Doherty, Alyssa Milano, and Holly Marie Combs in what they argue was a feminist show in its day.

Today, the The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the Charmed reboot position themselves as feminist TV, centering women, our power, and its consequences – aka they both have things to say. Yet, strangely, one of these shows is getting a lot more attention than the other. Any guesses as to which? Yes, you are correct, the blonds are getting 725 TIMES MORE ARTICLES. I did the math. Try it yourself. Do a Google News search for both shows and get some variation on what I got: a staggering 10.8 million pieces written about Sabrina and a much smaller 14,900 on Charmed. What gives?

Perhaps it’s that Netflix is a much more prestigious channel than CW. Netflix has won two Oscars, ten Emmys and five Golden Globes for shows such as House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Master of None, and The Crown. Meanwhile, CW gets passed over so much, it’s become a running joke with critical darlings like Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend continuing to get snubbed by most awards shows. But why? Maybe it’s not the quality of the shows but rather the gatekeepers who dole out awards don’t take seriously programming who’s intended audiences are young people, young women, and the oh-so-misunderstood young women of color? As mainstream an outlet as TV Guide said that if Jane the Virgin “aired on ABC, maybe it would’ve already gotten an Emmy nod.”

So if the Television Academy doesn’t take young women seriously, who does? Normally, I’d say feminists. Feminists are always arguing that society needs to pay more attention to what young women are saying, doing, and thinking. Yet, I’m pretty disappointed here too. Jezebel ran a thoughtful critique of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Bitch dived into the show’s feminist arguments. Neither publication managed a thousand words on the feminist ideas in Charmed, despite both publications being aware of the show (Jezebel covered the build up the CW premiere and Bitch listed the show as one of 14 to watch this fall). I imagine they had to pick. They couldn’t write TWO stories on teenage witch reboots and they picked one.

They picked Sabrina. And so did everyone else. Maybe it’s because of Kiernan Shipka’s larger presence, compared to the three relatively unknowns in Charmed. Looking at the numbers, Kiernan has 838K followers on Instagram and 67.2K on Twitter. The Charmed stars have about 650K on Instagram and 82.7 on Twitter COMBINED, making their social media presence less than Kiernan’s. On the qualitative side, Mad Men was a groundbreaking and critical darling while the Charmed stars are coming from shows you’re less likely to have heard of or in parts you’re less likely to remembers. Of course, parts for women of color are much harder to come by – overall, women get just 40% of the speaking roles on television and only 33% were women of color or just 13% overall. None of the Charmed stars would have been even considered to play John Hamm’s daughter.

Sabrina vs Charmed

But I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s that Netflix’s PR machine is 725-time better than the team at the CW. I don’t think it’s that Sabrina came out all at once, allowing TV writers to binge watch the whole thing, while those wanting to write on Charmed have to wait for weekly installments. Those things may play a role. But the underlying reason can be found at the intersection of racism and sexism, clearly the extra penalty women of color pay for existing in this society.

Rarely do you get such a clear example. Here we have two eerily similar shows. They’re released weeks apart. They’re both reboots of early 00’s hits. They’re both about TEENAGE WITCHES. It’s pretty darn specific. Yet one show centers a white girl and her experiences while the other features Latinas. And that show gets taken more seriously. It takes up more space. It is deemed more “feminist.” There’s no getting around it. Race is the key difference. And that’s fucked up. As we say at Mujeres Problemáticas, it’s hard out here for a bruja.

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Founding Manifesto

It’s tough out here for a bruja. Everyday, we see amazing Latinas who are killing it at work, at home, at school, and in our communities, but that’s where it stops. We KNOW them, but we don’t SEE them. In politics, in the news, in films, and in books, our stories rarely get told and when they do, they often rely on played out stereotypes. It’s time we see ourselves as we want and deserve to be seen. (Where’s the summer blockbuster featuring la raza? Where are our new anchors? Can we get some more TV shows? What about some Grammy nods? They have like 100 categories!)

Before you disagree, let’s just say the facts are on our side:

Other communities of color had amazing, breakthrough moments of progress this last year from Black Panther to Crazy Rich Asians. Yet, we are still waiting to see even a glimmer of ourselves reflected in the mainstream. You know we love us some Oprah. We went and saw Crazy Rich Asians opening weekend. We recognize Beyonce as queen. This isn’t about begrudging another group its success. It’s not about some sort of oppression olympics. This is about rewriting the game.

And we do mean, literally, re-writing it. We want to READ OUR VOICES. As Latinas, we don’t see our voices, our experiences, our ideas reflected back to us. That just isn’t right, especially when you consider our market force. See above if you want to do some math about it.

The thing is, we Latinas have plenty to contribute. We’re not going to make a case for our exceptionalism or even our humanity here. If you don’t believe we’re fully human, interesting people, we aren’t going to try to convince you. But we are going to push back against the ways we’re being systematically erased, passed over, and ignored.

That’s why we founded Mujeres Problemáticas. We’re not the “good” women who do a bunch of work in the background and don’t get credit for it. We’re not super sexy ladies with accents a la Sofia Vergara in Modern Family (FYI we love Sofia. We just want Modern Family to get that there’s more to being Latina than being “spicy.” Also, accents aren’t funny, sorry, not sorry). And we’re not the “bad” women who care only about ourselves even if it means walking over our hermanas. We’re complicated. Our feelings are complicated. Our hot takes are complicated. Our very existence is complicated.

So expect to see some complicated, problematic, nuanced shit on these pages. We’re tackling media and culture, demanding better representation even as we fan-girl out over our favorites. It’s time we have a place to lift up the amazing Latinas who are doing the same work, doing it differently, and doing it better. We’re speaking out in all of our bruja glory and using all the power we have to rewrite the game so Latinas everywhere get our fair share. Come hang with us.

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