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Mexican Indigenous Moms Pushed, Pulled by Fertility #Vaw #Womenrights

By Vania Smith-Oka

WeNews guest author

Mexican Indigenous women

 

Credit: Shawna Nelles on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0).

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(WOMENSENEWS)–Most women in Amatlan consider themselves, their neighbors and their friends to be good mothers.

Almost all the women in the community labor in the domestic sphere–they cook the food, wash the clothes and generally look after the house and children. Making lonches — lunches for the men in the fields and for the school-age children — is an integral part of their mothering. A good mother frets about what she is feeding her children. Though the terms the women use to talk about each other’s mothering are similar to the good-bad dichotomy used by the main­stream, their interpretations and the reasons behind their interpretations are more nuanced.

For the state, good mothers follow the rules, have few children and invest in them emotionally; they are also expected to live in a nuclear family. For the women I met, good motherhood entailed a significant amount of investment, but also drawing from one’s extended-kin network to achieve a child’s success; abuelas and ahuis (grandmothers and aunts) were frequently key to the socialization process of any child . . .

Not Suffering in Silence

In Amatlan, many mothers suffer alongside, or because of, their children. While marianismo – -the all-suffering, passive motherhood epitomized in the Virgin Mary — is very present in many corners of Latin America, it is not much in evidence in this region. The mothers who do struggle with their children neither view themselves as martyrs nor do they suffer in silence.

Esperanza often despaired at the laziness of her son Adrian, one day exclaiming, “He is no use to me here. He should go away to work but he doesn’t want to. I don’t know what to do with him.” I suggested, “You should stop feeding him.” She replied, laughing, “That’s true, then he’ll go away. . . . [If he is here] I worry when he doesn’t get back [or] whether he has been beaten or something. But when he is far away I don’t worry. My head can rest.”

All the mothers I spoke with worried about their children’s future. Emma said, regarding one of her sons who was attending university in the city of Morelia, “A student is a lot of money. My son always asks me for money, 70 pesos, or 50, and it is a lot of money. As he doesn’t work. . . . And when there is money we can [help] but often there is none. I tell [my husband] to go to Mexico and to work in a house, or as a bricklayer, to make some money.” She added with a smile, “But he says he is too old.”

Women in Amatlan were the primary caregivers to children, whether their own or their extended kin; their main duties were domestic. Emma’s eldest daughter, Cristina, irritably pointed out that mothers, and women, had to do everything with never any rest.

Exhausting Anxieties

She constantly worried about her children and hoped that they would be able to make something of their lives. But her anxiety was exhausting, as she said, extending her emotion to all aspects of motherhood:

“It’s just that as women we have to do everything, get pregnant and be nauseated for the first few months and when everything makes you feel sick. And [cleaning] the pigsty made me feel so sick. And then in the last [months] it is difficult to stand up and do everything. It is so much trouble. And then the pain of the birth, and to breastfeed, and to get up to change the baby in the middle of the night. Your husband is happily asleep but not you. And then to have to control yourself so you don’t get pregnant. We [women] have to do everything. There is only the condom and the vasectomy for men, but they don’t want them. We have to do it if we don’t want to get pregnant. And well, one has to satisfy the husband and also not have so many children.”

This centrality of women as caregivers and men as providers is echoed in the structure of Oportunidades, a federal social assistance program in Mexico. When some of the men of the village on occasion asked to receive the money alongside the women, they were scolded by the authorities and told that it was only for the women. They were told that they should work, not be lazy and support their families. This response somehow implied that women’s natural job at the home could be rewarded and encouraged with money, but men needed to be out in the public sphere without complaint.

Excerpted from the new book, “Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico,” by Vania Smith-Oka, published by Vanderbilt University Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission. For more information:www.VanderbiltUniversityPress.com.

 

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#India- Sex Education is Effective for Unschooled Teens

By Swapna Majumdar

WeNews correspondent

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

And that can be life-saving in a place such as Gujarat, India, where 40 percent of brides are under 20 and anemia is a major threat. A three-year awareness campaign shows how much can be changed by education and information.

Indian girl with hands behind her back

 

Credit: Kara Newhouse on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

NEW DELHI (WOMENSENEWS)–When Nandi Jhala got married eight years ago at the age of 11 she didn’t know the man she married.

She’d left her village school in the western part of Gujarat state at 8, after a couple of years of schooling, and understood nothing about pregnancy or reproductive and sexual health.

All she knew was that, like her elder sister, she would soon have to produce children.

So far, though, she’s defied the odds. She has no children yet.

“I am only 19 and I know I should not have children until my body is capable of childbearing,” Jhala toldWomen’s eNews. “Also, I want to plan my family, unlike my older sister who already has three children. I have conveyed this to my husband.”

Jhala added that she has also started looking after her health. “I know now how to maintain menstrual hygiene,” she said.

That information can be life-saving for a young woman such as Jhala, who lives in the Indian state of Gujarat, where about 40 percent of brides are under the age of 20.

Six thousand adolescent mothers die each year in India, according to the latest National Family Health Survey (2005-06). At present, the maternal mortality rate in India is 212 per 100,000 live births, whereas the country’s target is to reduce it to 109 per 100,000 live births by 2015.

Jhala has benefited from a government program called Mamta Taruni (Adolescent Girls), which is run by the state government in conjunction with the Center for Health Education Training and Awareness, an advocacy group based in Gujarat.

The program provides information and services on reproductive and sexual health and nutrition to out-of-school female adolescents between 10 and 19 years old.

Three-Year Trial

The center was asked to implement its “sustained awareness” program in 53 villages with a high number of out-of-school young women in a district of Gujarat. The program ran for three years, between 2009 and 2012.

Jhala’s village was among those selected and now she belongs to a group of out-of-school female adolescents trained as peer educators by the center. The peer educators share information about nutrition and reproductive and sexual health to other out-of-school young women to help combat the challenges of early marriage, early pregnancy, diseases related to risky behavior and sexual exploitation.

When the center carried out a study to measure the impact of their intervention on 256 young women, they found that the percentage of out-of-school female adolescents who were aware of HIV-AIDS, condoms and the importance of nutrition almost doubled after they were linked to related information and services.

The center, which released its study in New Delhi last month, found that knowledge of anemia rose to almost 100 percent among the young women surveyed, from 73 percent three years earlier.

This is significant, as over 56 percent of female adolescents in India are anemic, according to the government’s most recent survey. The World Health Organization says the disorder–which remains the biggest indirect cause of maternal mortality– weakens the blood’s ability to clot, increasing the risk of postpartum hemorrhage.

The center’s study also found that respondents’ awareness of reproductive tract infections and the importance of using condoms all rose significantly. Participants in the survey were also seeking medical care more frequently.

“Health challenges can be overcome if adolescents are able to access information and services,” said Pallavi Patel, director-in-charge of the Center for Health Education Training and Awareness.

Swapna Majumdar is based in New Delhi and writes on gender, development and politics.

 

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‘States’ Rights’ Is Also Code for Keeping Women Down #Vaw #reproductiverights

By Doris Weatherford

Monday, March 25, 2013, http://womensenews.org

The term has served as a legal code for racism. Today, historian Doris Weatherford writes that state lawmakers have also long imposed legal restrictions on U.S. women. Now it’s the framework for the shrinkage of access to reproductive health care and medical privacy.

Little girl carrying protest sign

 

Credit: keithreed01 on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

 

(WOMENSENEWS)–Throughout U.S. history, “states’ rights” was a convenient code for racism.

Conservative politicians railed that legal changes in favor of African Americans were a violation of “states’ rights.” Southerners especially contended that their state legislatures had a right to laws that discriminated against people born with the wrong skin color.

Yet rarely is the phrase states’ rights seen also as a code to legitimize the violation of women’s rights, even though every woman gains or loses the right to make decisions about her own body when she crosses state lines.

Just last week, North Dakota lawmakers banned the termination of pregnancies that are beyond six weeks–when a woman barely knows whether or not she has missed her period.

Because men cannot get pregnant, such laws do not apply to them, and the conflict between women’s rights and states’ rights continues.

The legal point should have been resolved by the 14th and 15th Amendments in the 1860s, but a century passed before the majority of Americans agreed that the federal government should overrule racially discriminatory state laws. A hundred years after the Civil War ended in 1865, nonwhites finally saw the promise of true liberty with the passage of the 1965 Civil Rights Act.

While almost everyone today sees states’ rights as an antiqued philosophy, astonishingly few see that it also is key to understanding women’s rights. Historians don’t teach it that way, and so this vast aspect of U.S. history goes unacknowledged.

From the nation’s beginning, though, statehood meant a step backwards for most women. In the colonial era of the 1600s, women freely went to court and argued their own cases. But under new state governments, many women lost their right to sue.

In most states, a married woman literally had no rights. She could not file for divorce; only her husband could do that–and he rarely had any incentive to do so, as her inherited property became his. Even her earned income legally was his.

States also gave automatic child custody to fathers, another huge disincentive for divorce. Fathers could name someone other than the mother in their wills as custodians for children, empowering an outsider with decision-making authority for a child’s education or even residence.

Nor did staying unmarried entitle a woman to full citizenship, even while she was compelled to pay full taxes.

Protesting Violations

For decades, women protested against this violation of the principle of “no taxation without representation.” Lucy Stone allowed a New Jersey sheriff to sell her personal goods rather than pay taxes to a government that did not represent her, and other women did likewise.

In Connecticut, sisters Julia and Abby Smith refused to pay taxes on their Gastonbury farm because they could not vote. The court sold their cattle to a male neighbor and newspapers treated “the Gastonbury Cows” as laughable cartoon material.

Women always assumed that they had the right to petition, however, and after feminists organized petition drives in the 1850s, Northern legislatures began to change property laws. Southern states lagged, and in 20th century Louisiana, even a woman’s clothes legally belonged to her husband; she was not free to sell them.

State law also refused to recognize a woman as a witness. A New Orleans orphanage lost the bequest that a donor intended because only women had signed the document testifying to her intentions. Had those women brought an illiterate male janitor into the room to make his mark, the will would have been upheld.

Far into the 20th century, states routinely excluded women from tax-supported colleges and universities, especially law and medical schools. A Michigan woman had to go to court for the right to tend a bar, as state law forbade female bartenders. As late as 1972, Idaho gave men automatic status as executors of family estates; in Reed v. Reed, a woman had to go to the Supreme Court to be allowed to substitute for her mentally incompetent brother. Inheritance law in many farm states gave sons more power than widows who built the farm.

Female Jurors Forbidden

Most states long excluded women from juries, meaning that a female defendant was not tried by her peers–and imposing a real discouragement on female witnesses and lawyers. In 1961, The U.S. Supreme Courtupheld state law in Hoyt v. Florida, ruling that automatic exemption of women from jury lists was constitutional. Eighteen other states had similar laws that allowed women to serve, but only if they took special steps to volunteer. At least three states at the time barred women completely.

Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) often is cited today as the bulwark of personal privacy–something that conservatives claim to value–but the case really was about women, and specifically their right to birth control. Connecticut, with its large Catholic population, banned the sale of contraceptives, but after the married Estelle Griswold had the courage to pursue the case, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the state law.

Massachusetts lawmakers tried to get around the ruling by restricting sales to individuals who could prove they were married, but in Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), the Supreme Court allowed contraceptive purchase without regard to marital status.

Would state legislatures today approve laws that require nonwhites to give up the right to eat in public restaurants based on state borders? Would any man surrender any right because he moved from South toNorth Dakota?

That is the framework in which these important decisions should be made. And just as in the past, states’ rights is a code for fascism and legal terrorism, and for keeping the victim in her place.

Doris Weatherford is the author of a dozen books on American women. Her most recent work, “Women in American Politics: History and Milestones,” won a prize from the American Library Association as a 2013 Outstanding Reference Source.

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Maternity Leave Boost May Backfire in Turkey #Vaw #womenrights

By Jennifer Hattam

WeNews correspondent

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Amid calls for Turkish women to have more children, a proposal to lengthen the paid maternity leave allowance raises fears that it may actually hinder women’s work force participation.

 

 

A Turkish woman stands inside a mosque in Istanbul.
A Turkish woman stands inside a mosque in Istanbul.

 ISTANBUL, Turkey (WOMENSENEWS)–A government proposal to lengthen the duration of paid maternity leave from four months to six months is generating apprehension rather than applause from women in Turkey.

“It is a positive development in principle, but may become an obstacle for women to return to work,” Gulden Turktan, the Istanbul-based president of the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey (KAGIDER), toldWomen’s eNews.

Women already start facing barriers in working life once they get pregnant, added Nur Ger, the founder and CEO of the Istanbul-based SUTEKS Textiles and the chair of the Turkish Industry and Business Association’s gender equality working group.

“There is a tendency among employers to avoid hiring pregnant women since they will need to take their [maternity] leave soon,” she said.

The maternity leave discussion currently underway in the Turkish cabinet comes amid increasing pressure on Turkish women to have more children. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been calling since 2008 for women to have “at least three” children to revitalize the country’s slowing population growth.

Turkey’s fertility rate dropped to 2.02 in 2011, just below the replacement level of 2.1. Meanwhile, the median age of the country’s population inched above 30 last year for the first time.

This year, Erdogan has upped the ante, saying in January that “we need four to five [children per family] to carry the country forward,” assigning four government ministers to work on population policy and floating proposals for family-expanding incentives, such as free fertility treatments for low-income couples.

A Larger Goal

As with his outrage last year about abortions and Caesarean sections, which he characterized as “secret plots” to hinder the country’s growth, Erdogan has framed his push for a bigger, younger population as part of a larger goal: To make Turkey one of the world’s top 10 economies by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic. (It currently ranks 17th.)

That goal, though, would be better served by increasing women’s participation in the paid work force,KAGIDER’s Turktan told Women’s eNews.

“It is very basic arithmetic: If you leave half of the resources untapped, your growth potential remains limited,” she said. “Currently, the female employment rate is 26 percent, [meaning that] of around 26 million women of working age, only 6.9 million are employed. This is a huge wasted potential.”

Though the number of working women is slowly growing, Ger noted that the government’s aim for 2023 is only to have 35 percent female participation in the work force. “When compared to the current status, this does not seem like a very challenging target,” she said.

The quality of the country’s labor force is as important as its quantity, added economist Gokce Uysal, thevice director of the Bahcesehir University Center for Economic and Social Research.

“Monetary incentives to increase fertility rates work predominantly on the poorer segments of the population, who may not have the means to invest properly in the ‘human capital’ of their children,” Uysal told Women’s eNews.

She is calling for comprehensive education reform. The average person in Turkey gets just 6.5 years of schooling, and only half as many women as men attain a secondary or higher level of education, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

Child Care Subsidy Push

The lack of subsidized child care is another major barrier to Turkish women’s full participation in the work force.

“If the prime minister wants each Turkish family to have at least three children, then the government must create a sustainable, state-funded child care system. Otherwise this will not work,” Turktan said. “A working mother with three children can only be a reality with child-care help.”

A monthly child-care subsidy to working women would “pay back twice as much,” according to research conducted by KAGIDER and PricewaterhouseCoopers, in increased employment and the expansion and formalization of Turkey’s child-care sector, she said.

Under a current law that is also up for amendment, companies are responsible for providing child care if they employ more than 150 women.

“This acts as a disincentive for firms as it increases the relative cost of female workers,” Uysal said. “Maternity leave has a similar effect. We should have paternity leave for fathers as well, which should not be transferable.”

Shared parental leave is becoming increasingly common in Europe, where Sweden and Germany both mandate that at least two months of their generous paid leave be taken by fathers. Workers’ unions and women’s organizations in Turkey – including the women’s branch of Erdogan’s own ruling political party – have lobbied for similar measures since at least 2009, but without success.

Adopting a system of parental leave rather than maternity leave would “work toward equalizing the costs of female and male workers. Moreover, it would help tilt the household division of labor away from a traditional gender-based one,” Uysal told Women’s eNews.

Women in Turkey spend four more hours per day than men engaged in household and caregiving activities, compared to a difference of just over an hour in the Nordic countries, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Better Life Index.

“A traditional gender-based division of labor at home is one of the strongest barriers against female labor force participation,” Uysal said. “We need to acknowledge this and start fighting it.”

Jennifer Hattam is a freelance journalist based in Istanbul, where she writes about environmental, social and urban issues, as well as the arts, culture, and travel.

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Sloppy Mental-Health Talk Will Intensify Stigma

By Atima Omara-Alwala

WeNews commentator

Monday, February 18, 2013

The current gun-control debate could worsen the mental health stigma that already stops many women of color from seeking help, says Atima Omara-Alwala. It’s necessary to get the facts right on mental illness and those who commit violent acts.

 

Let's sweep Mental Illness out from Under the Rug

 

Credit: Geek2Nurse on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0)..

(WOMENSENEWS)–Well-meaning activists and elected officials do a huge disservice when they make assumptions about helping the mentally ill only in light of the extreme violence they are supposedly likely to commit.

For women in communities of color, already contending with higher rates of depression and other mental illness, this can be particularly harmful.

Who wants to come forward about your problems when National Rifle Association spokesperson Wayne La Pierre is saying you belong to a trigger-happy lunatic crowd whose names need to be kept on a registry?

Who wants to be lumped together with Adam Lanza?

The horrific massacre of school children and educators in Newtown, Conn., has spurred interest in mental health but the public discourse has spent very little time at the intersection of race and gender.

If we don’t address mental health reforms overall aggressively, the current gun-control debate could bolster a vicious stigma that already blocks many in underserved communities from seeking help.

Clicking through my Facebook and Twitter feeds that awful December day, I saw a torrent of pithy comments on the need to do something about mental illness and gun control in the United States.

It’s a tenuous link to make since an August 2006 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows only 4 percent of those considered mentally ill actually commit violent acts.

I grew up in a black immigrant family intimately affected by mental illness and disability. When I was a child, my favorite cousin, in her late 20s at the time, developed paranoid schizophrenia. Just before we knew she was ill, she came to stay with us, as she always had when visiting.

I was excited to see this cool big sister figure who took me shopping, to the movies and let me play with her makeup. I was shocked at what my pre-teen eyes saw. A healthy, vibrant full figured woman transformed into an emaciated, exhausted version of herself, her thick curly hair now rapidly thinning. Sores covered her once well-kept face.

Grappling With Illness

I will never forget watching my parents grapple with her diagnosis and try to get her help.

As I grew older I saw friends grapple with the byproducts of mental illness: eating disorders to alcoholism and self-injury. In spite of my knowledge and experiences, the national stats are still stunning.

About 26 percent (57.7 million) of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That number translates into a sobering 1-in-4 adults. Yes, 1-in-4.

Major depressive disorder, or depression, is a leading form of mental disability in people ages 15-44 in the United States and is more prevalent in women, with women suffering two-and-a-half times more likely than men from depression.

The disparity in those suffering from depression widens significantly when you zoom in on female demographics.

Fifty percent more African American women are diagnosed with depression than white women,

according to the National Association for Mental Illness. It’s raised such concern that at the 2007 Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference, mental illness and black women were discussed as a major topic because a study from Mental Health America showed a mere 7 percent of black women suffering from depression sought treatment, compared to 20 percent of white women.

The rate of suffering for Latinas is even higher than that of black or white women.

Psychological, biological and environmental factors combine to culminate in mental illness. Traumatic and stressful events, such as a death in the family or divorce or job loss, or even a presumably happy event such as getting married, can contribute to depression.

Unfortunately, the number of those who seek treatment is low, and even lower in communities of color. Here seekers can be more prone to finding mental-health services too expensive; not covered by insurance; or hindered by language and cultural barriers; compounding a larger problem further.

A ‘Weakness’

As a black woman, I am all too familiar with the belief that depression in my community can be especially seen as a “weakness.”

Mental Health America’s 2007 survey found that over half–63 percent–of African Americans believe that depression is a personal weakness. Only 31 percent consider it a medical problem that can be treated. Additional research from the National Association of Mental Illness indicates similar sentiments pervading the Latino and Asian communities.

To be clear I understand why the need for better mental-health treatment has been raised in the context of the Newtown and Aurora, Colo., and other mass shootings. And it’s true that some are homing in on the particular problems of men, who commit up to 94 percent of murder-suicides, according to a 2006 study by the Violence Policy Center.

But we can’t allow the discussion to get sloppy when it comes to mental illness.

Discussing what shifted in the lives of Lanza or Aurora shooter James Holmes to make them killers makes more sense than generalizing about the mentally ill whose percentage of violent crimes against others is low.

Far more frequently, those with mental illness torture and harm themselves.

I would be remiss as a person who has made her living in politics and advocacy if I didn’t use this window, asPresident Barack Obama encouraged, to help “make access to mental health care at least as easy as access to a gun.”

But we must also do our part to not stigmatize those in need so much so that they will not seek the help they need.

Atima Omara-Alwala is a political strategist, progressive and activist of 10 years who has served as staff on eight political campaigns and other progressive causes with a particular focus on women’s political empowerment and leadership, reproductive justice, health care and communities of color. Her writings on the topics have also been featured at Ms. Magazine, RH Reality Check and Fem2pt0. Currently, she isnational vice president of theYoung Democrats of America and serves on the boards of DC Abortion Fund andPlanned Parenthood Metro Washington Action Fund.

 

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Cuban Hip-Hop Group Las Krudas Embraces Feminism

By Fari Nzinga

WeNews guest author

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Las Krudas is part of an art movement in Cuba created by black feminists, says Fari Nzinga in this essay in the anthology “Getting In is Not Enough.” But like female rappers in the U.S., they fight invisibility in the industry.

 

Cuban hip hop artists Las Krudas
Cuban hip hop artists Las Krudas perform at SXSW in Austin, Texas, 2012.

 

 

Credit: austin tx/Alan on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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(WOMENSENEWS)–Black Cubans have long been told by Cuban authorities that they do not need places to express the problems of race and class because there are no such problems: they have all been solved by the Revolution. Nevertheless, black Cubans do face all manner of discrimination in contemporary Cuba.

With few formal political outlets open to young black Cubans, hip hop has emerged on the island as a powerful form of political expression; a kind of “theater of the oppressed” that addresses the racial and economic problems encountered by black Cubans. The all-female group Las Krudas stands out as particularly courageous within this hip-hop scene.

My interviews with them, among 23 conducted with women of African descent, sketch a portrait of a striking phenomenon: the emergence of a strongly oppositional, black, feminist activist art in Cuba.

Although Las Krudas cannot represent the experiences of all black women on the island, they occupy a unique position within a growing black hip-hop intelligentsia. While their activities and lyrics point to specific issues of contemporary concern around the politics of race and gender in Cuba, they differ from U.S. black female rappers and their Cuban male contemporaries in that they unwaveringly advance a feminist agenda in which they seek to politicize the social and economic reality of being black and female in Cuba. Las Krudas therefore call attention to the situation of black women in a social and political context that denies the existence of racism, sexism, status and privilege.

Fighting Invisibility

Despite Las Krudas’ members’ increasingly important position as feminists within the Cuba hip-hop culture, they share with U.S. female rappers a frustrating invisibility. In both Cuba and in the United States, women as fans, advocates and artists in hip hop are virtually ignored in discussions of the phenomenon. Both in the United States and in Cuba, male artists have been touted for the political awareness and resistant nature of their rap lyrics. For example, male rappers in both the United States and Cuba protest and criticize the multiple ways the black male body and masculinity is policed and surveilled. By contrast, many themes dominant in black female rappers’ lyrics in both the United States and Cuba articulate and-or question hegemonic notions of femininity and black female sexuality.

Although in their lyrics many black U.S. female rappers defend women against sexist assumptions and misogynist assertions made by their black male counterparts, and they attempt to build their female audience’s self-esteem and raise consciousness levels in efforts to encourage solidarity among women, most perceive feminism to be a movement specifically related to white women. In solidarity with black men, many U.S. black female rappers refuse to identify or affiliate themselves with a movement that is perceived as speaking largely to heterosexual, white, upper middle-class women’s concerns.

Unlike their North American counterparts, Las Krudas readily identify themselves as feminists and refuse to relinquish their strong critiques of the nature and effects of Cuban patriarchy on the lives of marginalized women. Las Krudas’ lyrics encourage black women to reject the racism and sexism of patriarchal notions of femininity and they seek to raise the self-esteem of their female audiences. Many U.S. black female rappers do the same, but Las Krudas’ open embrace of feminist ideals makes them unique in the world of hip hop.

Overcoming Obstacles

This open embrace of feminism by Las Krudas has caused problems for them within the state-controlled music marketing entity. One example of the racially inflected sexism routinely experienced by the group occurred during the planning of the all-women’s concert where I first saw them perform. The hip-hop agency that organized the concert is state-subsidized and run by a white man and a black woman. The agency did not want to have to pay any of the groups or artists that they did not represent (which, in this case, included all the female rapera groups in this all-women’s concert).

In addition, the director of the theater where the concert was taking place pushed for the inclusion of men on the stage even though the concert was intended to feature female artists exclusively. For instance, he tried to force the female rappers to incorporate male dancers and rappers into their acts, something Las Krudas resisted.

Ultimately, Las Krudas prevailed and successfully performed their own original, pro-woman songs, without the “enhancement” of male dancers. Las Krudas member Odaymara, aka Pasa Kruda, notes that the hip-hop world in Cuba is very sexist: “the rap world is (hmmmmph!) tan fuerte, so strong. Muy machista, muy, muy, muy: Very sexist, very, very, very.”

Odaymara explained that she was annoyed and angered at the women’s concert not only because of the way the organizers treated the female rappers but also because while the men (of the hip-hop world) showed up, their presence was perceived as counterproductive; the men never lent any real support to the women’s cause according to Las Krudas. Also, regarding the other female rappers at the concert, Las Krudas memberOlivia, aka Pelusa, noted while the women were very good interpreters of text, los textos were not written by them but by men.

Las Krudas agreed that the feminist movement as well as the hip-hop movement in Cuba has a “long way to go. Long, long, long.”

 

From “Getting In is Not Enough,” edited by Colette Morrow and Terri Ann Fredrick. Copyright 2013 by The Johns Hopkins University Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.

Fari Nzinga is a Ph.D. candidate in cultural anthropology at Duke University. She currently works as an independent writer and research consultant. Colette Morrow sat on the editorial board of Feminist Formations from 2002 to 2012, served as president of the National Women’s Studies Association (U.S.) and is a Senior Fulbright Scholar. Terri Ann Fredrick is an associate professor of English at Eastern Illinois University. Proceeds from the book go to Feminist Formations, formerly The NWSA Journal, and are applied to publishing costs.

Jeanne Theoharis is a professor of political science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. She received her AB in Afro-American studies from Harvard College and a Ph.D. in American culture from the University of Michigan. She is the author or coauthor of six books and numerous articles on the black freedom struggle and the contemporary politics of race in the United States.

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