Women: Sit at the table. Not on side.

February 10, 2012 § Leave a comment


Excellent TED talk with Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.

Sandberg’s advice to women:
Sit at the table.
Make your partner a real partner.
Don’t leave before you leave.

el es frida kahlo in the Jewish Women’s Archive Blog

July 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

el es frida kahlo featured on Jewesses with Attitude in honor of Frida Kahlo’s 104th birthday.

A Latina “Jewess with attitude,” Maya Escobar plays with the web as a platform for engaging in community dialogue around identity and multiple identities–how they are socially and culturally constructed. She often assumes multiple identities in her performances, drawing from various existing representations.

About “el es frida kahlo,” she writes:

Frida Kahlo played with the identity that she wanted to project and the identity that was placed on her by others. Kahlo used her clothing, political affiliations, sexual escapades, and personal traumas, to create a character that informed her body of work. She inscribed her identity, painting her image over and over, constructing a mythology around her persona.

In el es frida kahlo I confront the ambivalence I experience as a result of my simultaneous obsession with Frida Kahlo and weariness towards her commodification.

What is your reaction to this confrontational piece? Do you identify with Escobar’s ambivalence towards Kahlo, her work, and her commodification in our culture?

Somos Ana

March 15, 2011 § Leave a comment


“Please die Ana, for as long as you’re here we’re not.”
-AM on  Are You My Other?

Wonder Women Residency: New News is Old News

January 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

2011 is going to be a good year.  I can feel it already.  In addition to our upcoming presentation at the 2011 PCA/ACA Conference this April, Andria and I were also accepted to the Wonder Woman Residency at the _gaia studio, in New Jersey. Curated by Maya Joseph-Goteiner and Doris Caçoilo, this year’s theme is: New News is Old News.

New News is Old News
In our society, the importance of news has shifted; some would argue that it has been elasticized or else devalued. As the blogosphere replaces the daily newspaper as the purveyor and distributor of breaking news, the reporting of events is no longer filtered by the journalist/editor. Instead the voice of news is replaced by a dynamic exchange of information.

Already, online, the same article that has appeared black on white in the early print edition has been updated, corrected or even replaced on the web. Newspaper stories no longer fit the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of news as “a report of recent events: previously unknown information.” In many respects, we have created an endless source of updated information online, a bottomless pit of patter. We cannot possibly consume all the news and commentary published online, and while few people have the time to read the entire newspaper, even fewer can keep up with the minute-to-minute updates via Twitter, blogs, online publications, and RSS feeds.

A residency that focuses on the ways in which news is presented, represented, distributed, and modified within the space of the web…  hmm…  can you think of anything more perfect for us?

So what are we doing?

I won’t spill all the beans yet, but here is an excerpt from our preliminary proposal:

Our project takes its cue from the recent Buy Life Digital Death campaign, where celebrities volunteered their virtual lives (activity on Twitter and Facebook) with the goal of raising $1 million for children and families in Africa and India affected by HIV/AIDS. We were fascinated by their use of highly stylized, seductive images of Kim Kardashian (and other participating celebrities) lying in a coffin, and the role these images play in the dissemination of news coverage surrounding this HIV/AIDS campaign.

People Hate Kim Kardashian's Tweets More Than AIDS

Almost immediately following Digital Death’s inception, images of  a “dead” Kardashian started appearing in news stories everywhere from CNN to Gawker. Now layered with multiple levels of  history and meaning, screenshots of the sultry Kardashian lying in a coffin, continue to be re-distributed on personal blogs, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter pages…

Stay tuned for more project updates here and on Are You My Other?


The Most Radical Thing A Woman Can Do Is Own Her Body

October 7, 2010 § 2 Comments


A recent tumblr find, led me to the remarkable work of Stacyann Chin.

Blurring Boundaries Between Jewish Denominations

July 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Excerpt from the Tzit Tzit: Fiber Art and Jewish Identity Exhibition Catalog, by curator Ben Schacter.

Maya Escobar is a Latina Jew who relishes her ability to blur the boundaries not only between cultures but Jewish denominations. Her Shomer Negiah Panites is an extreme example. The expression shomer negiah refers to the law that limits sexual relations. While a women is menstruating and for several days after, she is not allowed to touch her husband. At the end of this time, she takes a ritual bath called a mikvah.  This monthly ritual balances abstinence, cleanliness and intimacy.  It is said by those who follow this tradition that time together is made even more precious.

Shomer Negiah Panties
Shomer Negiah Panties, 2005

Escobar’s work seems to turn this custom on its ear.  First, sexuality in the Orthodox community is not publicly displayed.  Underwear or anything remotely like it would not be shown in public.  Second, part of the function of shomer negiah is one of modesty, not one to tease.  But in a twist of modernity, the “tease” can be a way of female control.  To exclaim, “Hands Off!” at precisely the moment of greatest vulnerability is exactly what Escobar’s underwear does.

Heckshered Tallis presents an air of transgression without doing so.  A hecksher is a stamp placed on food to certify that its ingredients and method of processing follows the dietary rules observed by many Jews, called Kashrut.  The symbols themselves have nothing to do with prayer and do not belong on a tallis, or prayer shawl, but the obsessive imprimatur suggests an over compensation on the part of the wearer. Women are not required to wear such garments but some congregants of more liberal egalitarian congregations do.  Is Escobar suggesting women’s insecurity by obsessively certifying this tallis as “Kosher?”

Maya Escobar Heckshered Tallis
Kosher Davening, 2006

The pattern of heckshers also creates a fashion akin to a Louis Vuitton print where the fabric is paradigmatic of luxury.  Hechshered Tallis brings high fashion and religion together in a satisfyingly truthful and critical way.  Even more interesting is the way Escobar’s work comments on different traditions and laws through fashion.  Escobar’s oeuvre highlights denominational fragmentation by drawing attention to certain details of Jewish life.  The traditional woman who follows shomer negiah would most likely not wear a tallis.  Identity is rarely mixed in this way.  For an artist to be able to make cross-denominational commentary such as found in Shomer Negiah Panties and Heckshered Tallis takes keen observation. Escobar does not exempt her own experience from such examination.

As she shared with me, her family chided her to make napkins for her future, now husband.  This traditional role, that is to make the home, chaffed her mildly.  She was resistant to such commonplace assumptions about gender so to exaggerate the request, she embroidered “napkin for my husband” across hand woven fabric.  Her actions as a wife would thus never be taken for granted.

Napkin For My Husband
Napkin For My Husband, 2007

Napkin has been given an additional function, as a challah cover.  One covers the challah, or bread made specifically to honor the Sabbath, before the blessing is said and the bread is cut.  To embellish a cover heightens the ritual by making the objects beautiful.  Napkin tethers together Jewish practice and the work of a relationship.  Through her demonstrated knowledge of Jewish custom in her work, one wonders if she also knows Eishet Hayil, a song sung in  praise of one’s wife.  “A good wife, who can find?  She is precious far beyond rubies.” Perhaps Escobar is not so passive aggressively demanding to be serenaded.

Latina Women Respond

February 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Recently Latina Role Model was featured on TikiTiki Blog: stories with cultura, color and sabor, in a post by Carrie Ferguson Weir called Smart Latina vs. Sexy Latina.  Carrie asked readers:

So, has your Smart Latina run up against the Sexy Latina? What do you see when you watch Maya’s video? What does it bring up for you? Why can’t we be both Smart and Sexy? Let’s talk about this, break it down, maybe shatter some stereotypes, and bust our own too.

Check out the PROFOUND difference in the nature of the comments left on this post (comments posted below) vs the ones left on YouTube.

my contribution to post on Tiki Tiki:

I perform over-the-top representations of different identities. I group together these representations (characters) as a means of challenging limited perspectives of what women are like, and in this case, what Latina women are like.

This character is supposed to be an intellectual, accomplished, socially conscious woman- who will forever be seen as the “Sexy Latina.” The low quality video blog is meant to mock scenes in movies, where the hot high school teacher walks down the hall and all the boys undress her in their minds.

But I am not taking a negative or positive stance either. I want to question the role Latinas play in perpetuating this persona, and question if that is even a bad thing? Are we limiting ourselves by continuing to have this same conversation, even though the behavior persists, are we enforcing it by bring more attention to it?

I haven’t always been so impartial. Out of all of the characters in Acciones Plásticas, The Latina Role Model is the one I identified with the most.  My original description of the way this character was perceived by others was much more reactionary and much angrier than it is now. (see below)

The Sexy Latina© from Acciones Plásticas free (stereotype) postcard, 2007

The Sexy Latina© is an educated woman who cares about important social and political issues. She wears suggestive provocative clothing to compensate for giving up her role as a homemaker. She uses her sexuality to obtain positions in the work world.


Latina Role Model from Acciones Plásticas プリクラ 2009

Over the last two years this character has really evolved. Here is the new description of The Latina Role Model, re-imagined as part of my Acciones Plásticas プリクラ collaboration with artist Rio Yañez:

The Latina Role Model is a diploma totin’ intellectual, sexy, social media goddess.

What do you think?  How does the earlier description of The Sexy Latina© differ from this new description of The Latina Role Model?  How do these two images relate to the Latina Role Model YouTube video?

  • This is an excellent post and an excellent video. It really does make you think.

    I am really not qualified to speak from a “Latina perspective” on this topic because I am Anglo. (If you read my blog, you’ll know I’m Sra. López only because I married a Salvadoran.)

    That being the case, I can’t speak from personal experience on Latina stereotypes, but I would like to contribute an opinion or two on topics that are pretty closely related.

    For example, it really bothers me that the Latinas picked as reporters and journalists on Univision and Telemundo seem to be more for the purposes of eye candy than to report the news and add intelligent commentary — not that they aren’t intelligent women, but I think the sexism by the head honchos over there is pretty evident, not just on the news, but on other programming as well… And English language channels aren’t always much better. I think Western women in general – no matter what their race, fight very hard to overcome the sense that we are valued more as objects of sex/beauty, than for what’s inside.

    It’s very frustrating and I don’t envy the difficult job many women have of raising daughters in this world. (I have 2 sons) … With my own self esteem issues, I can’t imagine what a challenge it would be to raise a girl who is confident in herself and who doesn’t let Hollywood, fashion magazines, men, or even other females, get her down.

    I don’t know the solution to achieving true equality, but I think talking about it all is a good start.

  • Very interesting…The role model I immediately identified with was the socially-conscious, smart role model, which made me realize how loaded that role is. Being an accomplished and educated Latina comes with so many expectations — the whole giving back to the community, serving your community, being a role model and mentor for others, etc. — that’s not something that an accomplished non-Latina woman has to worry about (or feel committed to).

    With regards to the sexy role model — I always say that there is no sexier woman than the one that exudes confidence in herself and who she is — the sexy clothes are just extras…

    Great conversation…

  • [...] Tiki Tiki: Stories with Cultura, Color and Sabor, thanks to post by Carrie Ferguson Weir entitled  Smart Latina vs Sexy Latina. Check out the post and be sure to leave your [...]

  • Ana Lilian says:

    I guess I just never even thought of myself as the Sexy Latina…but a cute one yes! LOL! But once I´m on the dance floor, then the sexy comes out and it´s all good.

    But,seriously, I guess I just lack the perceived-Latina sassy-ness as I´ve never felt that bias towards me.
    I will definitely agree with dear Sra. López that the media, especially the Hispanic media, is completely promoting the hot Latina stereotype, and not much of the smart Latina one. Why do their “news” anchors feel they need to have their breast augmented to be taken seriously?

  • Kikita says:

    I think it is inherent in our culture to be “hot” in every sense of the word because we are so passionate.

    I love what Maya was trying to accomplish and say with her video, but I found that she couldn’t hide or deny her Latin sensuality even when she was trying to play the part of an “intellectual, accomplished, socially conscious woman.”

    This DID make me stop and think, but what I realized is that I tend to shoot for a 3rd type. I go for “Classy Latina.” You know, the one that can wear the big hoops and sexy top with a pant suit. Someone like Ingrid Hoffman or Karla Martinez.

  • C. Morales says:

    My impression is that Latina women play into the stereotype because Latino men often expect them to, and they are threatened by a smart woman. It is not just non-Latino men who expect a mujer caliente and nothing more.

  • Liz says:

    How you project yourself, depends on you, no matter what. I, like Ana, never felt that I was looked at differently because I am Latina. I don’t see my self as a Sexy, Hot, Latina(I hope my husband does, though). Hell, I’m 33, been married for 12 years, and have 3 kids. I don’t get “chifles” anymore… ): LOL!

    This is directed towards the younger, single generation. How they present themselves as the future “Latina Generation”, depends on how they are raised. It’s up to us, as moms, to teach our daughters to go and be the BEST they can be. It’s up to me to raise my daughter to know what it right from wrong. Do guys really still think that girls are still destined to be “home/baby makers? Really??

    Forget Hollywood. Forget the Media. Heck, forget the evening news. If those ladies felt that they need to have their lady lumps hanging out in order to get the job, then I feel sorry for them. But, it is what it is.

    I will raise my daughter to know that education is the key to being classy and sexy! Not exposed Humps and Lady Lumps! Also, I will raise my boys to see women and they see themselves. Whether they marry a Latina or not.

    Ay, me pase de mas! he he!

  • SUZ says:

    A smart and fun video commentary on the stereotypes of women in general…the educated intellectual, the hot babe, the innocent women. I like that Maya uses humor to deflect the extremes. Also that she creates a fine line between integrating the different role types. This is interesting because everyone is never just one thing…but we may choose to identify one way.

  • I think it’s part of a male dominated culture. Many women have this problem of having to manage male expectations in their professional lives, whether it is living with objectification or men projecting their need for nurturing from any woman they meet. I’ve had jobs where men thought it was okay to flirt with me and expected me to fulfill some messed up hot secretary fantasy, and I’ve had jobs where men I worked with expected me to be maternal and when I was driven, I was labeled aggressive. I’m not a dog, I’m not a hooker, and I’m definitely not your mother, guys.

    I think we have to teach men when they’re children that women can fill many roles and to expect them to be as capable and androgynous as any man performing the same duties. By the same token, I don’t know how I feel about using gender or sexuality as an asset to get ahead, my feeling is that anything you do that is manipulative in nature, is skirting unethical, if not flat out crossing the line.

    Having a sense of humor about stereotypes though, I don’t know if I see a problem as long as you don’t go too far and reinforce them. If it’s clear it’s a joke and part of the joke is how ridiculous stereotypical behavior really is…

  • Carrie says:

    I love the feedback, ladies. All great points and fabulous reflection.

    I am left wondering this, after reading Ana and Liz’s comments: Is stereotype/perception felt/seen at a greater level when we don’t live in predominately Latino communities?

    This comes to mind because your comments made me realize I never thought too much of my Latina side and my American side until I lived in cities where there weren’t a bunch of Cubans running around me everywhere. My otherness was apparent and pointed out. It was almost like, wow, I am different?

    Interesting!

  • Marta says:

    I don’t fit into the Sexy or Brainy Latina mold at all. Probably because I look very Anglo – light skin, blue eyes. I blend pretty seamlessly into my So Cal suburban life.

    Except for the Latina “chispa.” That’s always the big giveaway right there. =D

  • Liz says:

    Carrie,

    I emailed your post to my niece, whose studying at Penn State, this is what she had to say:

    Well, I agree with her lol. A lot of people especially here in Pennsylvania, see me as exotic because I’m Hispanic. They expect me to speak Spanish all of the time and a lot of them expect me to be kinda stupid and slutty. But when people get to know me, they find out that I’m extremely smart. Smarter than most people they encounter. And it sucks because I’m always having to prove myself to people and to teachers. But in the end, I’m the one that’s dropping jaws for my intellect and not for my attractiveness =)

    The end haha. Hope that helps.

    I am one PROUD Tia!!! (:

  • Carrie says:

    Liz, aha! Thank you for sending the post to your niece and validating my theory. I love how your niece wrote to you and the “stupid and slutty” line made me bust out laughing — especially because she obviously is not.

    Gracias, proud Tia!

    (Maybe she needs to write for the Tiki Tiki? hmmmm?)

  • Veronica says:

    Great video and excellent points.

    I think that this expectation for Latinas to appear sexy is one reason why I reject the hot mom movement. I wish there was just as much social pressure to be smart Latinas, smart moms, smart women as there is to be hot, sexy, etc.

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