This is a cross-post with Feministing.
On June 10th, 1963 the U.S. government passed an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act making it illegal to pay women less than men for the same work.
That was 50 years ago, and women are still paid less than men at all education levels, in almost every field. On average, women make 77 cents to every dollar a man makes per hour, translating to about $11,084 per year less than a man.
These are statistics that many of us know like the back of our hand. Since the implementation of this amendment, we have progressed 18 cents towards closing the wage gap, however that progress ended a decade ago. In the past ten years, women have earned a static 23 cents less than men per hour. These numbers continue to shock us as a very real and tangible example of why we need feminism.
However, what a lot of people are not familiar with is the way in which wages are segregated along race lines as much as gender. According to this report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Latinas are paid the least of any demographic, earning an average of $521 a week. That’s 54 cents for every dollar the average white man makes, and in California the numbers get worse, with Latinas earning 43.2 cents for every white man’s dollar. That’s thousands of dollars a year.
In addition to earning less than their male counterparts, Latinas are mostly found in our country’s lowest paying jobs, often in the informal sector where they are more likely to be exploited. If they are undocumented, these women can easily lose their jobs as a result of the Obama administration’s silent ICE raids.
Now, imagine trying to feed your kids with two minimum wage jobs, yet knowing that every day that by going to work, you risk being torn away from your family?
This is why Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) threw a luncheon last week, honoring those women struggling with unfair pay, celebrating the progress we have made in the past 50 years, and laying out the work still to be done. At the luncheon were some incredible presenters who spoke to their experience struggling for equal pay. Among them was Saru Jaramayan of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an organization that fights for fair pay and better working conditions for restaurant workers in the United States.
According to Jaramayan, the restaurant industry demonstrates some of our country’s worst disparities in wages, with a $4 wage gap between white workers and workers of color. Not only that, but the restaurant industry is the only industry in which it is almost legal to pay women less than men: women make up 70% of workers receiving the federally-mandated minimum wage of $2.13 per hour for tipped workers.
Restaurant servers suffer from three times the poverty rate of the rest of the U.S. workforce, and Latin@s and other workers of color earn some of the lowest wages in the industry.
According to Jaramayan, “Latino workers and all workers of color are segregated into the industry’s lowest-paying jobs, both by segment–meaning that they are working fast food restaurants as opposed to fine dining–and also by positions. People of color are relegated to lower-paid positions even when they make it to fine dining. They tend to be bussers instead of servers, dishwashers instead of cooks.”
In her book, “Behind the Kitchen Door,” Saramayan gives the example of Claudia Muñoz, a Mexican immigrant working as server at an IHOP in Houston, Texas. In order to put herself through graduation school, Claudia was receiving $2.13 per hour, with barely any tips to raise her wage to the federally mandated $7.25 per hour. Employers are required by law to make up the difference if workers do not receive it in tips, but her employer did not. Often times, Claudia received paychecks with a zero written on it, all her meager wages going to taxes.
Also at the luncheon was Lilly Ledbetter of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first act signed into legislation by Obama when he came into office in 2009. Ledbetter found out that she had been paid less than her male peers for years, yet went through many legal battles to be able file a lawsuit against her employer so long after the fact.
She is currently pushing for a new piece of legislation, the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would close existing loopholes that still allow employers to get away with wage inequalities.
Among other things, the billwould allow employees to discuss their pay with others workers without retaliation. This would let them know if they are being paid less than their peers for equal work, and give them the information to move forward and hold their employer accountable. According to Ledbetter, “Had the Paycheck Fairness Act been the law in my career days, I wouldn’t be here today. I would have had equal pay, because I would have found out. I was an aggressive employee and I would have found out and talked to my employer.”
At the luncheon, Ledbetter emphasized the point that wage equity is not only important for women, but for families. “To get people paid fairly is an economic stimulus too, because people turn their pay around on their families.” Considering that 40% of low-income families have women as their primary breadwinners, these women are the least able to afford the thousands of dollars that the wage gap costs women each year.
Fair pay is a cause that anyone should be able to get behind, yet Congress has rejected the Paycheck Fairness Act twice already. We can’t let this happen again. To take action, join ERA’s Close the Gap Campaign, sign ROC-United’s petition to raise the minimum wage for the first time in 21 years, or join The Welcome Table and learn how to support restaurants that are good for workers and the environments.
Ok, so I should maybe qualify the title to “The Past Few Weeks in Latina Feminism.” I’ve been in the middle of finals and finishing up my last month of my undergrad career (!!) so I’ve been a little slow on the uptake. Either way, here’s the news that’s fit to blog”
Beatriz is still pregnant, and still sick. Her government has denied her the life-saving abortion she needs, and her legal counsel cannot appeal the case any further. I’ve written about Beatriz before with Feministing, and still nothing has changed. If you want to support her, you can tweet #SaveBeatriz or donate to help her legal battle over at RH Reality Check.
The Brazilian government has recently published a report that 74,73% of quilombolas–descendants of runaway slaves–live in extreme poverty. According to the report, most quilombolas are barred from programs that support family farmers, because so few of them own the titles to their land. This is in spite of the fact that quilombolas make their living almost exclusively off of the land, through fishing, farming and other agricultural activities. Poverty also means that 25% of quilombolas are illiterate, and have severely reduced access to even basic necessities like water, electricity, etc.
It’s important to fit this into the larger context of land rights in Brazil. Like many other countries in Latin America, the majority of Brazil’s land (and therefore Brazil’s resources, farming, and money) lies in the hands of a small number of rich people, or latifundios. This is a crucial factor in why Brazil’s urban poor are constantly being shoved off of their land, why the indigenous in Brazil are suffering from development projects like the World Cup, and why Brazil’s Landless Movement (Movimento Sem Terra) is one of the best organized movements of its kind.
My latest piece over at Feministing about domestic workers in Latin America and the U.S., and which organizations you can support in getting care work valued and monetized.
Took them long enough!
“A federal judge in Arizona ruled on Friday that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies engage regularly in unconstitutional racial profiling against Latinos. The judge ordered the department to immediately stop targeting Latinos based on their race.
The suit is a victory for civil rights groups and for Phoenix Latinos in general whose lives have been marred by Arpaio’s local immigration enforcement activities. The ruling is in response to a class action suit brought by the ACLU and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund on behalf of Latino drivers who say they’re stopped, interrogated and detained because of their race.”
Never again will I listen to arguments that undocumented immigrants are a “drain on our system.” They fund our system with their money and their sweat!
“Conservative arguments against immigration reform took another blow yesterday with the release of a new study about immigrant contributions to the federal safety net. According to a new study published in the journal Health Affairs, immigrant communities contribute billions more to the Medicare Trust Fund than they use. And since the opposite is true of the U.S. born, immigrants are paying for everyone’s grandmother’s healthcare. According to the data, this will remain true for decades to come.”
What most people don’t know about the recent rape of an American tourist in Rio, was that the same men had recently raped a a Brazilian woman. When this woman reported her assault to local police, they did virtually nothing to apprehend her rapists. Only when a white tourist brought the issue to national attention were these men apprehended within days. What does it say about a country that it is more interested in protecting white tourists than its own citizens?
By this point, you may have heard of the Candie’s Foundation’s recent tasteless teen pregnancy prevention ads. They are filled with shiny celebrities staring into your eyes and making witty comments about how you probably hate school but you will also hate raising a baby. They shame teen parents without providing any acknowledgement of the context in which most teens become pregnant. Why doesn’t the Candie’s Foundation ask themselves who is falling through the teen pregnancy prevention cracks, and why?
Luckily the blogosphere has some incredible organizations out there calling them to do just that. The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the Strong Families Blog and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice are all coming together to start the #NoTeenShame Campaign, and requesting a meeting with Neil Cole, the founder of the Candie’s Foundation.
Marisol Franco, the director of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice is over at the Strong Families blog today talking about the campaign, and giving us a pretty good idea of what she might say to Neil Cole.
“Has CLRJ concluded that we must desist in supporting “teen pregnancy prevention” programs? To answer that, we ask: how did Desiree and Angelica fall through the prevention cracks? There are myriad reasons why adolescents become parents including wanting to be a parent, lack of access to contraceptives, lack of access to comprehensive sexuality education, and lack of opportunities.
Working with youth to delay childbearing and parenting is not inherently wrong, however viewing youth sexuality in a vacuum of “prevention” does not meet the needs of Latina/o youth. Similar to adults, half of youth pregnancies are unintended. In other words, half of youth pregnancies are planned. Acknowledging that youth sexuality is a normal part of development and that some youth will become sexually active as adolescents compels us to think beyond preventing pregnancy.
Providing Latina/o youth support and resources to parent does not enable them to become adolescent parents, it provides them with their legal right to the same educational and economic opportunities as their peers. Young parents are part of many Latina/o families’ reality, and they contribute to California’s socio-economic fabric. Pregnant and parenting youth must be treated with respect and dignity, recognizing that they too form part of our state’s future.
As attacks intensify on women, immigrants and anyone who is not a rich, white, heterosexual, conservative man, the vociferous response in defense of women’s autonomy and health has omitted any discussion about healthy sexuality, acquiescing to conservatives that sexuality is inherently bad. The same can be said in the case of adolescent childbearing and parenting. To many, discussing adolescent pregnancy and parenting among Latinas/os is often an unwanted reminder that youth have their own sexuality. By distorting this issue into a widely “palatable” public health prevention framework, we have undermined the conversation around healthy youth sexuality and pigeon-holed the approach to one that is punitive.”
So what are YOU going to do about this? Start tweeting your opinions using the hashtag #NoTeenShame and sign the petition to get Neil Cole to meet with activists. Start conversations with your friends and peers about why teens get pregnant, and how to support them in making the decisions that they deem right for their future, be that parenthood or otherwise. Take a moment to support young parents in your lives, because babysitting is worth more than a baby’s weight in gold.
Do you remember that series I started back when I was living in Rio, “Half in Brazil?” Living in Brazil for the first time, I was excited to start meeting people who were also half Brazilian and were navigating their identities similarly to mine. In my first post about the project I described it like this:
While growing up I rarely met people who were the same mixture as me. I certainly loved to talk about being mixed, but other than my sister, I felt pretty unique. But now, living in Brazil, I’ve been meeting a lot more mixed Brazilians, which is exciting! So exciting in fact, that I am launching a blog project, called “Half in Brazil.” I will be interviewing all the mixed people that I meet about their experiences being part Brazilian, part something else. Half in Brazil, half somewhere else.
So we’re back with another interview here. This is Daniela, and she is a bit different than my other interviewees. Both her parents were born in Brazil, in fact most of her grandparents were born there. However, her family is a patchwork of Jews, from Germany to Poland to Syria, and she’s really passionate about her family history.
I thought that her story still felt relevant because Daniela speaks to the diversity that Latinas can represent, and the diasporic nature of our communities. We are all made up of some kind of immigrant, whether first, second or tenth generation.
Earlier this week I had a post published with the Feminist Wire as part of their Race and Feminisms series. It was a hard post to write, since it was the beginning of me explaining exactly what I mean when I call myself a “Latina feminist.” Basically, it was a lot of explaining myself, which is scary sometimes. I thought I would share the piece over here too. I’d love any responses or comments you might have, defining and living out one’s feminism and anti-racism work is such a process, and I love having the support/guidance of the online community to help me through it.
“You Americans, why are you so obsessed with labels?”
The way my Brazilian cousin looks at me, she might as well replace the term “labels” with “chains,” or “torture.” And she’s not the first person to have asked me this during my stay in Brazil. Brazilian students always seem to find it strange when I describe myself with words like “Brazilian-American,” or a “feminist.” I say these things with pride, showing off aspects of myself that I treasure the most, but to them I am limiting myself, claiming just as much what I am not and cannot be, as that which I am.
I’ve always been a fan of labels. I like claiming my identity instead of letting others define it. I like owning my titles and shaping my language down to the little details. I collect words like a museum curator collects treasures, carefully choosing “United States,” not “America,” “Latina” not “Hispanic,” “undocumented” not “illegal.” And nowadays “Latina feminist,” not just “feminist.”
That wasn’t always true. For years now I’ve called myself a feminist, using it as a point of pride, my revolutionary statement for the day. But I’ve since met many inspiring and wise women who have influenced me to tweak my title just a little – though with potentially great consequence. Today I’m a Latina feminist, a feminist who concerns herself with and involves herself in struggles that are relevant to all women, particularly women of color. Particularly Latinas.
Part of me hates that I have to modify my feminism to make it clear just what I stand for. Why qualify something that already acknowledges the principles of intersectionality and transnationalism? But unfortunately, today’s modern, “mainstream” feminism has yet to prove its commitment to anti-racist projects and transnational movements. I’ve had too many conversations with Latinas who I would consider to be incredible feminists, and had them tell me that they feel excluded and out of place in the feminist movement. To these women, “feminist” does not represent them or the struggles their communities face. No #reprorights hashtag is going to address the way they have been demonized for reproducing, the fact that for many women of color, reproductive choice is just as much about the choice to have a child as it is about the choice to terminate a pregnancy. For so many Latinas, violence against women is so much more than intimate partner violence, it is embedded in the stories their mothers told them of military violence and of genocide, or the stop-and-frisk and anti-immigrant policies their communities faced on the street each day.
The same was true for so many of the women I met in rural towns in Brazil. I spoke with domestic workers, fisherwomen, and teachers, all of whom painted a picture of the struggles they faced being women in their professions, cities and homes. Seeing the patience and strength with which they faced each day, it was clear to me that they were feminists. But they would never call themselves that. To them, “feminists” were the women picketing in the capital, pushing to legalize abortion. Feminists were white women, wealthy women, educated women. Feminists yelled too much, didn’t shave, and pushed boundaries.
But the women I spoke to were just as revolutionary even without their signs and megaphones. These women are struggling with even more basic needs, and with fewer resources. Where the “feminists” they knew rejoiced at the passage of the Maria da Penha law to support victims of intimate partner violence, years later rural women are still struggling to get those resources implemented in their town. They are fighting to break down deeply rooted stereotypes about women’s role in the home and in the workplace. They are less concerned about legalizing abortion, and more concerned with having to drive an hour and a half for modern, maternal healthcare. They face much bigger obstacles, with little support, and are still changing the world.
And yet we don’t hear about their stories as much. I love reading about what Planned Parenthood is doing to challenge the new anti-abortion law in North Dakota, but I also want to know what undocumented women are doing to fight anti-immigrant laws in Arizona. I want to know about the Mapuche women struggling to protect their sacred lands from hydroelectric flooding, or Afro-descendent women in Brazil’s quilombos who are fighting for land rights. I want to read about Central American women challenging neoliberal policies that impoverish their countries, or the women that get pulled into migrating to support their families. That’s what my feminism looks like.
And yet I am a complicated Latina feminist. In my blood runs a history of the oppressed and the oppressors, of slaves and indigenous communities, and Portuguese colonizers and German farmers. As someone who is generally read as white, I benefit every day from white and economic privilege, even while my Latina culture is also a very real part of my identity. This means that I can often pass between both worlds unquestioned.
One of the hardest parts of this journey has been recognizing that maybe I do not belong in both, because I cannot speak to the experience of being oppressed like so many other Latinas. In light of this, I’ve often floundered to find my place in this movement, where I can help and not hinder. Part of this has meant talking less and listening more. Another part is in bridging national and language barriers, using my online platforms to amplify Latina voices, and my language skills to translate where needed. I’ve found that the best role I can play is in using my privilege to leverage the voices of women of color into “mainstream” feminism.
Through this, I’ve come to question why we call it “mainstream” feminism in the first place. Not because it represents the struggles of the majority. Not because we’ve voted these issues as priorities, but because those who support them are the loudest, the most visible, with the most resources and support.
Feminism in its different forms has existed for centuries, rural, indigenous and black women have been fighting for their lives for ages. And they still are. They just might not be on Twitter. Yet.
But maybe, if we start listening for their voices, supporting their activism, and integrating their needs into our movements, we can one day call ourselves “feminists” without qualifying whether we are feminists for all, or feminists for some
Here’s a quick round-up of what’s been happening out in the Latina Femisphere this week (and what I’ve been contributing to it).
I wrote about the Aldeia Maracanã’s fight to hold onto their home in Rio’s old Amerindian Museum earlier this week. The city government forced them out earlier this month with police and rubber bullets in order to remodel the building into a shopping mall for the upcoming World Cup, sending them to “provisory” housing. But today, a group of women returned to the building and were immediately surrounded by police forces. Not even journalists have been able to get in and document the situation, instead speaking to relatives of the protestors who stated:
“Unfortunately we have relatives who are in a precarious situation because they did not accept this pathetic handout by the government. We are fighting in this resistance. We need our building, we don’t need to live in containers.”
This video documents the peaceful protests by indigenous members of the Aldeia Maracanã, favela residents, soccer players and community members, bringing attention to the exclusion of indigenous people and low-income favela residents from the World Cup through displacement and land removals. They were attacked by a group of police using unnecessary force to disperse the crowds. The narration is in Portuguese, but you don’t need to speak the language to understand what is going on.
I met up with Favianna Rodriguez the other day here on the UCSC campus. If you know me at all, you know that I’m kind of her biggest fan. Just a little bit. I follow her Instagram pretty religiously, and you should too (oh, and come say hello to me too) I almost swooned when she came up to me and remembered my name! #bestmomentofmylife
This week on Feministing I posted about Beatriz, a 22 year-old mother in need of a life-saving abortion. Beatriz lives in El Salvador, one of the few countries in the world that bans abortion in any and all cases–including a threat to the mother’s life.
And Beatriz isn’t the only one. Let’s not forget that there are so many other Beatrizes out there. There are the Beatrizes that don’t have the resources or connections to get hospital care, and instead undergo one of the 35,000 unsafe clandestine abortions that happen in El Salvador per year. There are the Beatrizes that live in the rest of Latin America, where only four countries have legalized elective abortions (Cuba, Guyana, Puerto Rico and Uruguay) and the rest restrict it to some variation of “in cases of rape, incest or a threat to the mother’s health.”
And there are Beatrizes who live in the U.S., the women who live hours from their nearest abortion clinic, the women who can’t afford the costs of seeking out abortion care, or the women who live in states where their abortion rights are being threatened each day.
Beatriz might seem far away, but we are all Beatriz. Her fight is our fight.
Want to get involved? Sign RHReality Check’s petition, and tweet to the Supreme Court of El Salvador to give Beatriz the care she needs.
Help share! @CorteSupremaSV: Please #SaveBeatriz by granting her the life-saving abortion she needs! http://buff.ly/10QBB3C #latinafeminism
This piece over at the Grio talks about the hidden sexual abuse that happens within our country’s immigration system. Because of the large and decentralized nature of detention centers and deportation proceedings, the opportunities for abuse at the hands of immigration officials is high, and abuses are hard to trace.
The federal government has documented almost 200 sexual abuse allegations by migrants held in U.S. custody between 2007 and 2011, according to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) elaborated on these figures according to its records in an email to theGrio, stating that of 168 sexual abuse allegations made between 2010 and 2012, only seven were substantiated.
But human rights advocates fear neither account accurately reflects what may be occurring in a system with what they say has little oversight.
I’m over at Feminist Midwife today with a cross post of my piece on maternal health in Brazil. I’ve been following Stephanie forever, and love reading her “Birth” series on working as a midwife in a an urban health center. If you haven’t read the post, hop over to read it, and be sure to explore some of Feminist Midwife’s posts!