Latinxs to Watch in the 2016 Election

Young Americans are not only engaged in the political process this election cycle, in large part they are helping to shape it. As Ryan Casey from Rolling Stone puts it: “What’s really remarkable about the 2016 election isn’t how disengaged young people are, but how profoundly they’re shaping it: from the outside, as activists; from the inside,…

via Latinxs to Watch: Election 2016 — Career Social Network for Latinxs | Bevisible

Why Feminist Relationships Could Benefit Men.  

A Little Contextualization:

I decided to write this post because relationships, at any stage in an individual’s life, are difficult to navigate. As a heterosexual, cis-gendered woman, I acknowledge that my sexuality and gender identification are more easily understood. However, I feel that my identification as a feminist throws up caution flags for possible suitors who may not fully understand feminism, or fear that because of it I will feel a compulsive need to emasculate them and dominate my relationships. The following is a brief explanation for why heterosexual men may benefit from including feminisms into their relationships.

(DISCLAIMER: Although this article is aimed at explaining a phenomenon as it pertains to heterosexual relationships, I, in no way aim to insinuate that exclusive, heterosexual relationships are “normal” or “more-normal” than other types of relationships)

Feminist Relationships Allow for:

1. Increased Communication

  • Implications: Feminine-presenting individuals will be empowered to ask for what they want, removing some of the guess-work their partners may do when trying to figure out how to pique the interest of their counterparts, plan dates, or even establish the boundaries and expectations those involved have of each other.

2. Renegotiation of Expectations

  • At different points in an individuals life, and due to various factors- religious, cultural, gender expression, orientation etc. people seek out different kinds of relationships. Due to the fact that patriarchal societies have expectations that delineate that relationships SHOULD be exclusive, SHOULD be heterosexual, SHOULD end in marriage (and when marriages are ideal), that their aim SHOULD be to procreate and a whole host of others, it is even more difficult to navigate the relationship-scene. Certain lifestyles, and personalities prefer alternate types of relationships (WHICH IS TOTALLY NORMAL AND OKAY), and feminist relationships allow for both partners to explicitly explain what they expect to get out of their relationships.
  • Implication: When expectations are clear, from the beginning, and are up for renegotiation between partners, the success of relationships are heightened, because expectations are clear.

3. Sexual Freedom

  • Implication: Men may benefit from denouncing the slut-virgin dichotomy by allowing their partners to feel more free in expressing their sexual desires, and more comfortable having them as sexual partners.

4. More Room for Individuality

  • Feminists acknowledge how repressive the rigid, patriarchal, expectations of masculinity can be for the men, and male-presenting individuals in their lives. On her blog Presence of Mind, Shawn Meghan Burn published “Men Need Have No Fear That Feminists Are Near“. In this article, she wrote “Aspects of traditional masculinity are not a good fit for many men. Some aspects are unhealthy (like the emphasis on emotional control, aggression, and risk-taking), and some masculine ideals (like physical size and strength, high earnings, etc.) are out of reach for many men. This creates a great deal of distress”.
  • Implications: By including feminisms into relationships, the pressure that many men have to out-earn their partners,infinitely assert their masculinity through sometimes-dangerous or impulsive actions is alleviated. In addition, men will be more free to express their emotions to their partners without fear of being seen as weak, or less-attractive. Feminist relationships will allow for men to have more room to express their humanity without the pressure of constantly reasserting their masculinity.

Feminists relationships benefit men. (Not that feminism must benefit men for them to value it, but it certainly is a plus!)

Latinas Takeover Tuesday Elections

sauers gonzalez

As the 2016 presidential campaign season ramps up, there’s a lot of talk about the “Latino vote” and the Latinas behind the 2016 presidential candidates. This relatively new focus on the Latino vote – together with the inclusion of Latinos in campaigns – is a promising sign that Latinos will be taken into account when public policy is shaped. However, Latinas are already making history as candidates in their own right. In fact, Latinas have won seats across the country, and many made history on Tuesday. Even more, many of these Latinas were advocates and champions for their communities even before they decided to run.

Take Judith García for example. At the age of 24, she serves as a bilingual counselor at Health Care for All, where she advocates for members of her community to gain access to health care services. She also volunteers in several capacities to improve housing and living conditions, sustainable waste disposal, and educational success in Chelsea, Massachusetts, where she was born and raised. García was elected to represent her community as a Chelsea City Councilor for District 5.

In Colorado, Jordan Sauers joined Judith in becoming an elected Latina Millennial. Jordan however, made history by becoming the first Latina to hold her seat. No stranger to forging a path where there isn’t yet one, she is a founding board member of Latino Young Philanthropists and ACCESSO. When interviewed by LatinasRepresent about why she chose to run, Sauers was quoted saying, “I understood if I wanted things to change, I had to do them myself.” Now that she has been elected to Northglenn’s City Council to represent Ward 1, she will be able to do just that.

Lorena González also made history when she was elected to Seattle’s City Council Position 9. As a candidate, she has built her platform around affordable housing and social inequality, grounded in her past experience with these issues – and there’s a lot of it. In fact, González has been recognized by several national organizations for her work with civil rights law. During her time as legal counsel for Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, she has also helped draft legislation to overcome institutional inequality. This includes helping to introduce and pass a paid parental leave policy for city employees. There is no doubt that her commitment to upholding civil rights and fighting injustice will serve her well in her new role.

In Yakima, Washington, two Latinas have made history as well in a different way. Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union won a case against the City of Yakima because of the suppression of the Latino vote in City Council races. This case, involving the Voting Rights Act, changed the Yakima City Council districts. In the wake of this re-districting, Dulce Gutierrez and Avina Gutierrez ran and won seats on the Yakima City Council. They became the first Latinas elected to Yakima’s City Council – simultaneously. Dulce, only 26 years old, was elected to represent Yakima City Council, District 1. She was raised in Yakima and chose to return home after attending college at the University of Washington. She works at a local business, and has served as State Committeewoman for Yakima County. Avina will represent Yakima City Council, District 2. At the age of 35, Avina runs her own consulting firm, joining the growing ranks of Latina entrepreneurs. On the council, she hopes to improve Yakima’s infrastructure and strengthen neighborhood associations to improve overall public safety.

What do these women have in common? They are all a part of a movement of Latinas getting involved in politics. Moreover, most of these women are the first Latinas to serve in the positions to which they were elected. And consider this: Latinas currently hold a mere 1.7% of the total seats in state legislatures and 1.2% of the total seats in Congress – despite the fact that Latinos make up 17% of the total population. This means that there are 9 Latinas in the 114th Congress, all of which are in the House of Representatives, since the United States has yet to elect a Latina to the Senate. This is not surprising, considering the first Latina congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, was first elected in 1989. But as Judith, Jordan, Lorena, Dulce, and Avina have proven, lack of precedent won’t stop Latinas from running for office.

The Perfect Night: Parents, Running Start and Women in Politics

Last night, I had the honor of going to Running Start’s Young Women to Watch Awards. Running Start is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that trains young women to run for office. I first got involved with Running Start last fall, as an intern. In that role, I was not only able to learn the inside workings of a political non-profit in DC, but I was also exposed to a plethora of passionate, young, successful women in politics. This exposure, as well as the fact that I was working at an organization whose mission is dedicated to getting more women involved in politics heavily influenced my decision to run for office. I was invited to speak at the Young Women to Watch Awards, alongside Jessica Smith and Allyson Carpenter; both of which are Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners as well. Being able to share my story, and hearing how other women reflect on their own experience getting involved in politics was incredibly powerful.

On a more personal note, both of my parents flew in from Miami, Fl to be there for me at this event. This was my first time be acknowledged at an event for being a DC elected and I was so appreciative that they were able to share that with me. I have always had unconditional love and support from my family, and I truly believe that my drive to succeed stems from my desire to give back to them. This event was a fundraiser, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. DC politicos, elected officials, donors and young professionals alike were in attendance. My family is not politically active, and we have never gone to fundraising events unless they were PTA fundraisers at the school were my mom works. As a family, we were a little out of our element. However, I knew we belonged where we were- after all, I was being honored as a woman to watch! Being able to share experiences like these with my parents, who have always unconditionally supported and loved me was the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I’m so grateful both to Running Start for opening up the door to the world of politics for me and my family for making me confident enough to walk through it.

What is true political representation? Is representative democracy failing us?

What is political representation?

There are many definitions of political representation, each highlight different aspects of representation. In the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Hanna Pitkin’s definition is used as a starting point. It reads:

“Political representation is the activity of making citizens’ voices, opinions, and perspectives “present” in the public policy making processes.”

I will use this definition as a starting point as well. In the context of my blog, I will be focusing on political representation in civil society, institutional politics, policy-making and other formal political avenues. This definition highlights the role of political representation in the inclusion of “citizens’ voices” in policy making processes. In the United States, we have a representative democracy, which means that citizens elect people to represent their interests in at their state houses, in Congress, as President etc. Urbani points out that in this system, it is important to problematize the “citizens’ ‘opportunity’ ‘to practice direct democracy'”. Most citizens are able to vote, and represent elected officials. However, the pool citizens have to chose from are often quite limited in terms of diversity.

In 2015:

  • Women make up 19.4% of Congress.
  • Women of color make up 6.2% of Congress.
  • LGBTQ people make up 1.4% of Congress.

The demographic break up of Congresspeople does not “represent” or reflect the demographic break up of the United State. When we consider this idea of “representation”, however, we are not talking about Pitkin’s definition. We are discussing a definition of representation that echoes Ella Shohat’s definition of representation. Her definition, which is wider in scope, in that it discusses representation in popular culture, states:

“The denial of aesthetic representation to the subaltern has historically formed a corollary to the literal denial of economic, legal, and political representation. The struggle to ‘speak for oneself’ cannot be separated from a history of being spoken for, from the struggle to speak and be heard.”

This definition calls into question power dynamics as they relate to representation. Shohat points out that the voices that are not “represented” or “heard” are often spoken for, and have histories of not being listened to. When thinking about women, people of color, LGBT people and other politically marginalized people, the history of being silenced, spoken for and ignored is evident. People of Color, women and people who were not land-owners got had to fight for suffrage much longer than the rich, land owning White men who declared that in the United States, all “men were created equal” (with an emphasis on men, not people). Suffrage rights have been extended to almost all citizens at this point in time, however, voter suppression, voter disenfranchisement and other ways of denying people (particularly, people of color) of their right to vote are prevalent today.

Taking both of these definitions into account, I believe that true representation calls for more than just elections. True representation calls for people of diverse identities holding office, making political decisions and being involved in the implementation of those policies. Due social processes which teach some they are more suited for office than others, and situations which favor the political ambition of some over others, something has to be done. People whose identities are marginalized need to be sought after as candidates, elected officials, as party leaders, as decision makers. That, will lead to representation that gives all people the “opportunity” to “practice direct democracy”.

Dovi, Suzanne, “Political Representation”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/political-representation/&gt;.

Urbinati, Nadia. Representative Democracy : Principles And Genealogy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 6 Apr. 2015.