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.

Latina Role Model on Tiki Tiki

January 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

Latina Role Model is on 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 responses!

Latina Role Model on Tiki Tiki

behind the scenes acciones plásticas purikura

January 13, 2010 § 1 Comment

The Latina HipsterThe Latina Role ModelThe Homegirl

Here are some behind the scenes images from the many Acciones Plásticas プリクラ photo shoots.

The Latina Hipster  (performance still)

The Latina Hipster

The Homegirl  (performance still)

The Homegirl

Becoming The Homegirl (performance still)

The Homegirl putting on fake nails (lovin’ the shabbos candlesticks and theory books in the background)

The Avodah Girl (performance still)

The Avodah Girl

The 612er  (performance still)

The 612er

———————————————————

Check out this inspiring write-up on Acciones Plásticas プリクラ on Truth and Healing Project.

excerpt below:

goodness.   I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersections between new media and traditional forms of knowledge and how these intersections can be ways of supporting tradition, innovation, resistance and liberation.  As a media-maker, I’ve thought a lot about non-traditional forms of telling stories and the value of stories to allow us as individuals and communities  to grow and remain in movement.  I want to both  honor our traditions and create space for challenge in order to support growth.   This is particularly challenging when, as indigenos, we are usually FORCED  into the frozen stance (as my sister Whisper says)  of the “American Imaginary”.    Born out of a flat analysis, the “American Imaginary”  boxes us into specific archetypes and narratives that,  though perhaps grounded in truth,  metaphorically and at times literally  “freeze” us and immobilize us from engaging in healthy movement and LIFE.  As a guatemalan-born/ mixed -id’d/ mayan-adoptee I’ve  dreamed about new and innovative ways to create forums and craft form that embodies the intersections of say,  mayan id, transracial queer, working class, single teen mama id.   For example, as a queerasfuck femme I’ve LITERALLY dreamed of beginning a series of corsets created out of huipil’s with stories attached to each… though I have yet to begin work on that.  I am so excited by the thoughts of spaces for dialogue, beauty, challenge & examination of the COMPLEX identities embodies by the our contemporary indigena communities. .  Fierce and phenomenal chicana and radical latina artists  have had HUGE impacts on me but I’ve been hungry to see this come from other guatemelan/ mayan artists.  Today, I got a taste of a  contemporary and GUATEMALAN artist who is  actively engaged in a similar examination!  I came across this blog (and art work)  and it was as if an answer was given to me in the form of possibilities.  A sweet affirmation that this form of mayan/guatemalan  art CAN and DOES exist.

Darja Bajagić

November 22, 2009 § Leave a comment

Darja sent me a beautiful email on YouTube earlier this week. Needless to say, I was quite taken by her.




Check out her website and YouTube


SHOMER NEGIAH PANTIES ON ESTY

October 25, 2009 § 1 Comment

Shomer Negiah Panties have finally arrived!!  Get a them on ShomerNegiahPanties.com and Etsy

Shomer Negiah is a concept in Jewish law halacha that prohibits any degree of physical contact with, or touching of, a member of the opposite sex, except for one’s spouse and immediate family. Shomer means “guards”, but due to its common use in phrases relating to religious practice, it has come to mean: “adhere to” as well. Negiah is the Hebrew word for “touch”, and thus Shomer Negiah is a term used to describe one who “guards the touch” or simply “adheres to restrictions of touch”. Although the feminine form of the term is technically Shomeret Negiah, it is almost always used in the masculine, even when in reference to women. Shomer Negiah Panties allow a woman to abide by the halacha, but still be individual and sexy at the same time.

Lady Gaga at the LGBT National Equality March

October 12, 2009 § Leave a comment

“Obama, I know you are listening… ARE YOU LISTENING… We will continue to push you and your administration to bring your words of promise to a reality.”

take a picture of me for my myspace

May 11, 2009 § 2 Comments

In October of 2006 my rabbi started blogging. While trying to comment on one of his posts, I accidentally registered my own blog. Within hours of posting a comment, my name began appearing in Google searches. I was now linked to the post I had commented on, previous posts my rabbi had written, comments left by other users and the posts they had written elsewhere within the blogosphere. The rapidity with which I was branded, not only by my own online activity, but also by the online activity of others, seemed incomprehensible.

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/140/407330068_cef67d7d48.jpg?v=0

I thought about this phenomenon in relationship to, the images that my friends and I had posted on Myspace throughout that year. I unknowingly went from being slightly annoyed and simultaneously amused by the phrase “take a picture of me for my Myspace”, to it becoming completely natural and almost organic to document every moment, every outing, every time my friends and I put on make up, and to take pictures for Myspace. I saw this behavior even further exaggerated in the high school students I was student teaching. Their conversations were dominated with events that had transpired on Myspace, and when they were not talking about Myspace they were taking pictures for Myspace.

When we talked about the factors that contributed to the construction of their individual and collective identities, my students were quick to bring up their style of dress, group of friends, the neighborhood they lived in, and the way they spoke. Yet not a single student referenced their online activity, the pictures they posted, the groups they joined, the comments they left on each others pages. I wondered why it was, that they were so aware of and adept at reflecting upon their experiences in the material offline world, but failed to mention the social network that played such a major role in their day-to-day lives.

DECONSTRUCTING PERSONAL IDENTITY

the chach

(today) I am referring to myself as a performance artist, Internet curator, and editor.  I create and (concurrently) perform multiple online identities, by sampling from different representations of existing cultural discourses. I fragment my personal experiences and invite  others to join in, and modify and regroup those fragments. By doing this I hope to share the process through which I  deconstruct and reconstruct my individual conception of self, so that others can do the same in their lives.

In the series Acciones Plásticas I performed representations of five constructed characters: a religious Jewish woman, a spoiled Jewish girl, a ghetto Latina, a sexy Latina professor, and a Mayan woman. I created low quality YouTube video blogs for four of the characters, the Mayan woman did not have a video, as she would not have had access to YouTube technologies. The videos were strategically placed on popular social networking sites, including YouTube and MySpace. The layout of YouTube contextualized the videos and framed them with user comments and similarly tagged user content. Jewish Girls was picked up by a popular left-wing Jewish blogging site Jewschool, and soon entered the Jewish Blogosphere where it was referred to as the JAP. This repositioning shifted the focus from the portrayal of multiple interwoven identities to a depiction of the Jewish American Princess. The JAP became how people knew my work, validating me while simultaneously conflating my identity with that of this particular character.

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3362/3521552366_98c65eccfe.jpg?v=0

One of the strategies that I employed to counteract idea of “me as The JAP was to group videos from the series  Acciones Plásticas together with three other Youtube videos in a video reel of my work. The first video in the reel,  el es frida kahlo is me dressed as Frida Kahlo where I violently scream I am Frida Kahlo! In second video Be Wife, I wear a bright red bikini top in front of an image of a Mayan temple in Tikal. Traditional Guatemalan marimba music plays in the background, while red text scrolls across the top reading Guatemala’s finest export. The third video Que Sencilla, features me as a little girl, who is being coaxed by an off-camera male voice to perform a dance for the camera.

Someone who is expecting to see a Jewish American Princess, is instead greeted with an enragedel es frida kahlo Latina artist, trying to fight the stigma of being associated with Frida Kahlo. My inclusion of these additional videos was to show the multidimensionality of the five characters initially presented in Acciones Plásticas. The Mayan women does not have her own YouTube video, but with the addition of the Be Wife video, her absence is felt even greater. The face of Guatemala in these videos, is the chest of a mail order bride. Another example can be seen within the four original videos themselves. With the grouping of the ghetto latina with the sexy latina professor, vast cultural and class difference can be seen between the two representations of Latina women. Put together with el es frida kahlo and Be Wife, there are suddenly five Latina performers all acting on one stage.

Jewish Girls Youtube Comments

May 3, 2009 § Leave a comment

Jewish Girls from the series Acciones Plásticas


Responses to Jewish Girls

Sarah Jones on TED 2 loves combined

April 30, 2009 § 1 Comment

My friend Jamie Aguirre  who you can visit here and here posted this wonderful  Sarah Jones video for TED on my facebook page.

Jones asks to what extent do we self construct?

I feel like a little kid in a candy store, really, I do.

Here is another Sarah Jones video.

Have I mentioned how amazing I think she is?

Thanks Jamie!

Frida Kahlo at the synagogue: Maya Escobar

April 6, 2009 § 6 Comments

Frida Kahlo at the synagogue: Maya Escobar and the young Jewish-American Creation

by David Sperber in Ma’arav Israeli Arts and Culture Magazine.
translation by Shlomit Nehorai

ARTICLE IN SPANISH & HEBREW

Maya Escobar is no doubt one of the ‘hottest’ things developing in the Jewish-American art scene. Escobar defines herself “dyslexic internet artist”. And in order to view her work you need not wander far.

Her work is mostly created in familiar internet format, and is most often displayed on Youtube. Escobar, daughter to a Jewish mother and Guatemalan father, defines her art work as ongoing personal anthropological-sociological research into the narrative language that uses contemporary media.

The “Acciones Plasticas” work includes short films that present a series of convincing characters and monologues that deal with identity questions. In the first short film in the series she appears dressed up as the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo who became an icon within the feminist discourse. it is commonly argued that Kahlo had some Jewish roots. Escobar is dressed and made up as is famously attributed to Kahlo – the uni brow – while screaming “I am Frida Kahlo, you are Frida Kahlo, we are Frida Kahlo”. In agitation or in ecstasy she tears her custom, messes up her hair, wipes her make up off of her face and returns to being herself. In another short film in the series she carries on with a monologue of a jewish orthodox woman. The text here is so exact that for a minute the line between irony and slapstick to deep seriousness is blurred. In another short film the stereotypical Latin female as a sexual sensual object is presented, when here too the subject is moving between embracing the stereotypes and breaking them. Escobar is presenting different episodes that she had experienced herself and that deal with her hybrid identity as a woman, as a Jew and as a Latin American.

Another work of Escobar is  “my shtreimel” – a video-blog that is also presented on Youtube.
In that piece appears a young man in his twentieths who sits in his room in front of a computer and talk about his Shabbat rituals. The monologue describes an amorphous jewish world in which jewishness lives and materializes without obligation to its institutions and mostly in personal frameworks. A central part in this world is self deprecation: The young man shows his beloved shtreimel and mentions that the shtreimel which looks like the traditional  is actually a women’s hat purchased at a thrift store.

names

In the work “eruv”  (intermingling)  Escobar relates to the fact that in Berlin there is no eruv even though there exists a vibrant jewish community. In a series of photographed interviews with the city’s citizens she transforms the notion eruv – from a halachic-legal notion that creates a conversion of the public space into the private space, into a blending – the creation of a multiple of characters and worlds. The blending (eruv)transforms into a cultural concept that celebrates the different and the unique. The individuals create a splendid mosaic that assembles anew the “collective” as a social concept. The way Escobar deals with the subject is typical to the jewish-american art world that tends to transfer concepts from the practical halachic and transfer them to another world, and so they transform into a metaphor of the personal or social condition. The personal experience is significant to Escobar: ” Like other jewish rituals, the Shabbat encompasses practicalities that materialize private condition in a private space. Except that the understanding of the private space and the public space is fluid and changes at all times. I think that it is very important that people celebrate their Shabbat as a pleasant experience, defined and personal. The Shabbat rituals evolve all the time  – not as an unbending obligation that is transferred from generation to generation, but as a result of a simple choice of the individual to create to him/herself nice and pleasant Shabbat customs. We all have these kind of customs.”

The intercontinental use of the Internet gave birth to a generation of individuals who create for creation’s sake, and the concept of art for art’s sake gets that way a new meaning. The Internet media connects individuals and contributes to mutual influences between people who work separately in far away places. The young work on the Internet challenges the old definitions in relation to what is considered art and what isn’t. Similarly, it adopts new presentation forms that are not the norm in the art world’s mainstream, and breathes new air into the art field.

The discussion into Escobar’s work leads into a wider discussion about the differences between the Jewish thinking in the Israeli discourse into the new understanding of the American world view. The Jewish-artistic engagement in the United States is influenced by the introduction of new-age ideas into the center of the conversation, and is integrating into the effort to create a connection between contemporary culture and the traditional Jewish identity. Within the American-Jewish community there are signs of a move from an organized institutional Jewish expression into a unique and personal expression of the very personal experience. These artists reorganizing the traditions on their own terms, and in this way contributing not insignificantly to the definition of Jewish-American Non-Orthodox Modern-orthodox anew. The link between Jewish culture and Jewish identity to art occupies a central role in this conversation.

The echoes of this tendency can be seen in Israel as well ( in the young Yiddish culture developing in Tel Aviv, for instance ), but generally there is still a deep disconnect between the dominant concepts in Israel and in the United States. In Israel it is common to connect between Judaism to an organized tradition and to a blood line that is based on a genetic continuity. On the other hand, many young Jewish-Americans marry outside their religion, but nevertheless see themselves as an integral part of the Jewish world and expect to not be expelled from it. As opposed to Israelis who experience their Jewishness in terms of disintegration that followed restoration, the Jewish-Americans create new branches where growth and rebirth metaphors fit them better.

The joining of contemporary culture and art to Jewish creativity expresses itself in fashionable characteristics like tattoos, hip-hop music, Internet art and the like, and is often understood as the disconnect with the accepted binary dichotomy between holly and the common. That is why conservative bodies see these art forms as a dangerous provocation. These new cultural concepts interconnect during confrontational discussions with the old cultural concepts. Philologically speaking it can be said that borrowing symbols from one discipline to another interferes with the semiotic systems. In the Kabalistic vernacular it is said that the energy that is released during the friction that is created by the disintegration of the usual vessels – creates  “new light”.

Talented Female Artists: Eleanor Dubinsky

June 19, 2008 § Leave a comment

Eleanor Dubinsky is a musician, choreographer, video and visual artist whose performances and installations create the experience of travel and a sense of immersion in the unknown. Eleanor’s work embraces and inspires imagination and explores our connections to our bodies and to one another. She is interested in expanding who gets to participate in art-making and wants to engage audience members in a sense of wonder, questioning and creativity about their everyday lives. To this end, she rehearses, installs and performs her pieces in public spaces such as train and subway stations, parks and storefront windows. Eleanor’s artistic roots are in music, beginning with classical cello at the age of three. Based in New York since 1999, she has performed and created in France, Poland, the Czech Republic, Argentina and throughout the United States.

be sure check out her myspace page to hear her awesome music…

Get on the Guagua

coming soon….

Eleanor’s pieces Fast Body (2007) and Get on the Guagua: a film about getting on the bus and around in general in Havana, Cuba (2006) were selected for the Danca em Foco International Videodance Showing in 2008, which will take place from August 7-24th at Oi Futuro, Rua Dois de Dezembro, 63/4º andar – Flamengo – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
www.dancaemfoco.com.br

Eleanor will be in Turkey from July 12-29 participating in a week-long intensive workshop in music and dance improvisation with master teachers Julyen Hamilton and Barre Phillips, followed by a week-long performance residency in Cappadocia with the Paris-based dance and music collective Emma Jupe, of which she is a member. They will be developing and performing new work and performing daily for the local residents in public spaces.


video reel

April 14, 2008 § 3 Comments


The Cuentos Foundation

February 28, 2008 § Leave a comment

I just submitted the work of Michele Feder-Nadoff, to the magazine I work for Zeek. Michele is a dear friend and a phenomenal artist, activist and educator. I thought it would be a good idea to share some information about Michele and to promote her organization the cuentos foundation.

Artistic Director, Michele Feder-Nadoff, who is Jewish, founded Cuentos in 1998 with the humanist vision and commitment to tikkun haolam, a Jewish principal expressing each person’s responsibility to play a part in “healing the world.” Cuentos members believe art is a transformative catalyst for effecting positive social change. Our work combats prejudice and discrimination through artistic and educational intergenerational projects and programs promoting mutual understanding.

The abundance of cultural wealth living doorstep to doorstep in our neighborhoods provide all of us an opportunity to engage with and learn about each others’ backgrounds. What connects us and how can live in peace together, connected by mutual understanding and appreciation of different cultures from around the globe?

 

CUENTOS PROGRAM OBJECTIVES:

To design programs that promote strong personal and cultural identity, as well as cultivate the ability to positively engage and communicate across cultures. We believe these are the keys for empowering youth, families, and communities with the capacity for participating in positive social change and mutual understanding.

To provide reciprocal learning/ educating of artistic strategies and art-making practices, techniques, traditions, such as copper-smithing, poetry writing & publishing, performance, curating.

To provide a safe, nurturing, extremely creative environment to test out ideas, performance, theater, music, a poem, or an exhibition idea in Cuentos’ storefront windows or space.

To empower through collective practices: A place to collaborate with others from similar and different backgrounds.

To make cross-cultural links and networks between groups.

To use art across disciplines to give projects a holistic and contextualized vision.

To develop the acquisition of transferable skills and knowledge: artistic, social, and cultural.

To provide an opportunity to express differences in cultural heritage, history, and traditions.

To act as an incubator for creating community connections and fellowship.

check out their new book: Ritmo de Fuego

Ritmo del Fuego / Rhythm of Fire is a unique achievement, telling the story of the deep-seated copperworking tradition of Santa Clara del Cobre, an ancient community in the forested mountains of Michoacán, Mexico. What is often seen as “folk art” is shown to stem from early workshops established in Michoacán during the 8th-9th centuries AD, by coastal traders and artisans from the Andean Region of South America. Since then, the manufactures have included utilitarian and ornamental objects. Many have been recovered at archaeological sites, most notably from the 15th century Tarascan Kingdom. Others embrace forms of Spanish origin after the 16th century conquest. Today in the expanding international market, Santa Clara copperwares include a wide range of sophisticated decorative vases, pitchers, trays, dinner wares and related forms. A vital community has evolved with this ongoing tradition, portrayed with affection and care by the project organizer Michele Feder-Nadoff, and the many other authors in this remarkable, well written contribution to the cultural history of the Americas.

click here to purchase

Bitch Magazine

December 20, 2007 § 3 Comments

Acciones Plásticas was discussed in current issue of Bitch Magazine Lost and Found #38. The article is entitled The Princess Diaries: In an Age of Ostentation the J.A.P. is Back written by Julia Appel, a rabbinical student at Hebrew College.

To view the full article (pdf version) click here

bitch

One blogger on Jewschool questioned the artistic success of a new piece by a performance artist named Maya Escobar entitled Acciones Plasticas (Plastic Dolls), in which the artist impersonates in short video segments various stereotypes that make up her identity. Her send-up of the J.A.P. was familiar to me from my years spent in a heavily Jewish, upper-middle-class suburb of Boston. Escobar’s J.A.P. flips her straight dark hair and fiddles with her silver jewelry as she talks insipidly about her high-school popularity and rejection of male suitors. The blogger wrote by way of illustration, “She…nails the J.A.P. with a monologue so infuriatingly vapid and unaware it’s as excruciating as the real-life experience.”

Bitch Magazine Photo

[...]Using the Jewish American Princess in a deadpan manner can result in a sophisticated social critique that reveals how ridiculous the stereotype itself. The key is absurdity: Take Sarah Silverman, who frequently conjures the J.A.P. in her comedy, with mixed results [...] Maya Escobar’s piece also falls in this category: by contextualizing the character in her video as a “doll” she reveals how ridiculous it is to take the character seriously.

But what about the less-successful attempts at deploying the term? The reason “J.A. P.” is ripe for reclamation is because it stands at the border between resonantly hateful and outdated. Although not as widely used as it once was, it still packs a punch. Therefore, if the context is not skillfully executed, the attempt serves not to interrogate or reclaim, but rather only to perpetuate the myth[...]

Nuevos Compañeros 2

June 11, 2007 § 1 Comment

Please Check for updates, as I continue to add more to this post.

Dianna Montano

Dianna Montano is currently finishing her BFA in sculpture/ installation/ new media art at Colorado State Univeristy in Albuquerque, NM.

When I found her Ay Chico (Lengua Afuera) Music Video, on youtube I immediately contacted her and asked her if she would be interested in collaborating. She gladly agreed, so I am introducing her work as continuation to the
Nuevos Compañeros post.

Dianna says:

Critiquing the onslaught of perversion, and obsession of Latina women. This video subverts the stereotype, by overtly portraying what is all too prevalent in mainstream culture. Latina women are poised as nothing more than sex objects. With this, the woman literally becomes the “spicy latina” everyone desires. It also relates to how Latina women deal with the stereotypes and expectations that are imposed by sources such as family, religion, and the media. For Latinas, sexual power is in constant conflict.


Below is an installation shot of her piece:


My “Spicy Latina” piece in its full glory. It doesn’t get any better than chili pepper lights, Mexican sarape blankets, a traditional Virgin de Guadalupe, and a gold dangly. ay ay ay!!

Check out this post Identity Issues Affecting Puerto Rican Girls: An Artist Speaks to hear more on the Spicy Latina.

I have been told “Oh you just look like you like to have sex” (by both men and women.) I have come to expect this as the norm: being called a spicy latina, hot tamale, firecracker and other such fiery terms. Cofer states that “advertisers have designated “sizzling” and “smoldering” as the adjectives of choice for describing not only the foods but the women of Latin America.”

Maya Escobar isn’t even Jewish

June 8, 2007 § 17 Comments

UPDATE: PHOTOS

2005

On an almost daily basis, I receive emails from people asking if I am in fact actually Jewish. Although I do find it somewhat bizarre that they find satisfaction in my acknowledgment of what I have already stated numerous times, I usually respond. Come to think of it, the occasions where I have been accepted as a Jew (without further questioning) have been few and far between.

  • “ No you can’t be Jewish you are Hispanic”
  • “You don’t look Jewish”
  • “Escobar… is that a Sephardic name?”

Recently I discovered that without our knowledge, the validity of my own and my brother Gonzalo’s Jewishness has come into question (to the point where documentation has been requested) from people that we are now very close with.

Below are some of the examples of comments (not emails, I do not share the content of emails without permission) from youtube:

roundedwhtcollar Am I the only one who thinks this reprobate Turd is NOT in fact a Jew?

Rafaelpicc But is her las name jewish? or converted?

ReptorY her last name isnt jewish.

xruchy you are not jewish i guess… tus videos= cero aporte

raquelita40 she’s half Jewish/ half Guatemalan.

nakedjanet i am also suspicious. for one thing, escobar is not a typical Jewish name. For another, Jewish girls are usually a whole lot smarter, and have a whole lot more substance, than this girl has

(from chaptzem blogspot) There is no way she is Jewish- there may be a small chance her family are anusim or something.

But what gets even more bizarre is that interspersed with in those comments are horrible anti-semitic statements:

johnnycastle86xx all the jews have to die, stupid jewish puta de mierda. Que mierda que Hitler no mato a tu familia, asi tu no hubieras nacido. muerte a los judios y muerte a israel.

mocrostyle3600 AnotherJewish nasty bitch

mrrimfire She’s an ugly cockroach

filet there’s a nice Jewishcrew- club… Its re-open and called Auschwitz. the drinks are on the house!!! but only for jewish people

roshanpinto13 i want to put you in a concentration camp bitch if your people want israel so bad why don’t you go there and rid the world from your hideous jewish ways

So in light of my sarcasric sense of humor I entitled this post : Maya Escobar isn’t even Jewish I wonder what will come of that statement… From Judaism 101: Who Is a Jew?

First, traditional Judaism maintains that a person is a Jew if his mother is a Jew, regardless of who his father is. The liberal movements, on the other hand, consider a person to be Jewish if either of his parents was Jewish and the child was raised Jewish. Thus, if the child of a Jewish father and a Christian mother is raised Jewish, the child is a Jew according to the Reform movement, but not according to the Orthodox movement. On the other hand, if the child of a Christian father and a Jewish mother is not raised Jewish, the child is a Jew according to the Orthodox movement, but not according to the Reform movement! The matter becomes even more complicated, because the status of that children’s children also comes into question.

In my case my mother is Jewish and my father is not. Yet it is my father that pushed me to go to Hebrew school until I was 16. Rain or shine my parents have been attending Shabbat services at JRC for almost 20 years. I remember being so mad as a child that my friends got to go out on Friday nights, and I was stuck with my family not even allowed to watch TV when we got home from services. Vickie Korey left the nicest comment on my Rabbi Brant Rosen’s blog:

I remember Maya at Friday night services at JRC, sometimes listening intently, sometimes reading, but always being present. When one of the children of our extended spiritual family grows to be such a fine, thoughtful and accomplished young woman we are all proud. Gonzolo and Tina have worked hard to set a strong foundation for Maya and I am so pleased for her and her family.

A few months ago I met with my Rabbi to discuss my (art) work. During our discussion I mentioned to him how my father is feeling really nervous about me having an orthodox wedding where he will not be included in the ceremony. Brant said something to me that really touched my heart. Your father is the essence of what a Jew is, he is a stranger in a strange land. I agree with him whole-heartedly, and if you ask most JRC members I am sure they would agree as well. However that does not change the fact that he is not considered to be Jewish by our neighbors, and even if he converted, to them it would not be halakhic unless he went through orthodox conversion.

So who is a Jew? Who determines this?

As I stated in a previous post I will be working as the art director this summer for Camp JRF. I am in the process of creating this summer’s curriculum that will be geared towards answering these very questions and challenging notions of Jewish Identity. Below is a very rough sketch of my plan…. (Please let me know if you have any suggestions, or would be interested in contributing any resources)

The Changing Face of Jewish Identity: an exploration of self and what it means to be a Jew in our contemporary society

To introduce the concept of a changing Jewish Identity will discuss the following:

  • How do we define ourselves/ how do others define us?
  • Who is a Jew?
  • Can someone be more or less Jewish/ who decides this?
  • What is our role in society?
  • What characteristics make up a Jew?

Mediums Mixed media sculpture

Art Exhibitions The Jewish Identity Project Too Jewish Challenging Tradition Identities

Written Works by Ilan Stavans Achy Obejas Rebecca Walker

Campers will produce mixed media sculptures that reflect their perception of what it means to be a Jew

Pre- Activities:

  • We will begin as an ice breaker/ intro to project identifying the characteristics that make up Jews.
  • Followed by a discussion on contemporary representations of Jews in Popular culture

Project Campers working in groups of 3-4 will have the option of creating either abstract or representational mixed media sculptures that to them represent Jewish identity. Prior to the construction of their piece students will need to create a (flexible) proposal that outlines their piece.

  • Will it be site specific (interact with a certain location)?
  • What form will it take?
  • Will it have a function?
  • What materials will be used based on the above?

If they end up going with more representational sculptures I thought it would be really cool to photograph the sculptures and to place them in various Jewish settings and non-Jewish settings (baseball stadium, temple, Shabbat dinner, work, school….)

Identity Issues Affecting Puerto Rican Girls: An Artist Speaks

May 23, 2007 § 19 Comments

In her essay The Myth of the Latina Woman/ Just Met a Girl Named Maria, Judith Ortiz Cofer describes her Puerto Rican upbringing in a strict Catholic home in New Jersey, where she was taught to behave like a proper señorita. Cofer explains that the conflicting messages she received as a child, were those commonly propagated by Puerto Rican mothers. “They encourage their daughters to look and act like women and to dress in clothes that our Anglo friends and their mothers found to mature for our age.”

When the mere notion of latinidad equates passion and sexuality to gringos, why is it that Latino men are the first ones to point finger and to call these same women suelta (loose) or facil (easy)? Wouldn’t they understand? Have they not been subjected to the same treatment? Perhaps it is comes down to the way they were raised.

In the Latino culture ideas of masculinity and femininity are delineated very early on. Author Evelyn P. Stevens, first introduced this concept know as machismo and marianismo in 1973. Machismo grants supreme authority of the man over the woman. Under this doctrine women, who are considered to be morally and spiritually superior to men are able to endure abuse. They grow up expected to follow the sexual code of marianismo, and are submissive to the man’s authority.

Puerto Rican culture places women into one of two categories the virgin or the whore; mujeres de la casa (women of the home) or mujeres de la calle (women of the street). Una mujer de la casa, is expected to be pure, giving and compassionate. While, una mujer de la calle is considered to be sluty, wild, and dangerous.

In Honor and the American Dream: Culture and Identity in a Chicano Community, author Ruth Horowitz says the following:

The very presence of a woman outside the household implicates them in promiscuity and/or sexual misconduct. Puerto Rican girls learn this good girl/bad girl dichotomy most clearly in the recruitment into reproductive labor… A good girl cooks, cleans, takes care of younger siblings, and helps her parents. In contrast una muchacha de la calle is a transgressive women who has gone beyond patriarchal control whose sexuality is unbounded and therefore dangerous.

While in Puerto Rico this January, I had the privilege of meeting the incredibly talented video artist, Tamara Liz Rivera Boria. Tamara and I instantly bonded, finding similarity in the content of our work, and decided that we needed to collaborate.

I conducted a short series of interviews with her (documented with the camera from my laptop), where she describes her work as it plays on the screen behind her…


click on above image to view video

Interview with Puerto Rican Artist Tamara Liz Rivera Boria

Maya: Tamara, what can you tell me about muchachas de la calle and muchachas de las casa?

Tamara: De la casa and de la calle girls might as well be related. They exchange roles sometimes, de la casa girl wanting to be de la calle, and vice versa.

Maya: How has this affected you?

Tamara: I was raised in a catholic home, in a catholic school. I can tell you, I have been fucked up. I didn’t want to be told what to do, or what to believe in.How can you tell someone that using a condom is a sin? I had many issues over the years being raised like that. Even though my parents are not Catholic extremists. They were pretty easy going that’s how they could understand me or deal with me. Deep inside it made a mark, no matter how much I tried to live and understand the world. I became insane trying to understand other people lifestyle because indeed I might have been raised inside a bubble. I still am kind of in there, don’t wanting to look at how things really are.

Maya: What role does your cultural upbringing play in your work?

Tamara: Recently I made a video called él, baño de marîa. In this video I present various symbolism about religion, pecados (sins), sexuality, purity, faith among other things. Mainly because our culture has raised us thinking inside the box, controlling us with Christianity, especially Catholicism. Being pure, waiting till marriage although most don’t do it, is deep inside the mind. Like it is wrong to embrace sexuality.

Aglubium, is another video I made in collaboration with Ralph Vazquez and Rebecca Adorno. In this video I am drowning, or trying to kill myself by submerging my head in the water. It’s aggressive, and it’s beautiful. We just want to end, we don’t want to think. We don’t want to face fears. We don’t want to wait, we want to get it over. We want to drown our fears. We don’t want to face reality. Escape its what we do.

Maya: How do you escape?

Tamara: Most people (Puerto Ricans) use drugs. Puerto Ricans that do not use illegal drugs, use legal pills, alcohol or even coffee. Everyone has an addiction. It’s a shame but I have seen most of my friends doing drugs. I been there, I done that but I never had an addiction. My new boyfriend said I was an alcoholic, he didn’t believe me when I said I wasn’t. It wasn’t till he lived with me for over a moth when he saw that I didn’t drink for so long that he believed me, and with the cigarettes the same.

For some weird reason I can try things for as long as I want and not create any addiction. I wish it were the same with those that surround me. But in the arts almost all the people I know use some kind of drugs, are the ones that worry me the most are the most intelligent that keep using. I guess they are not that smart…

Maya: Is there an alternative to escape?

Tamara: I can see clearly that with true art I can make a difference, I can say what I understand to be real and important. I might help somebody. Other people just ignore what is going on (Puerto Rico). So many things had happen here, that demanded the people marching up the streets in protest, because our government is insane. But people don’t, they just “sit quietly”. They don’t want to get involved, they think they cannot change anything. They believe they have no power, when indeed I say, with all your power, what would you do? – I love that flaming lips song-

Maya: How does this affect Puerto Rican girls?

Tamara: Puerto Rican girls have many issues. Not only because of gringos (Americans) our identity issues extend into religion and the ways women are portrayed in the reggaeton culture. Girls want to be thin like gringas (American girls), they don’t like they’re beautiful curves, ass and tits. They always feel fat no matter how thin they are. I bet this happen everywhere, but these are issues we shouldn’t have.

Accepting ourselves, as we are its what we should do. Because we are not gringas! We are not blonde and white! But boys see these girls in TV, and everywhere and they expect girls like that. It’s the gringo media. I’ve forgotten all about this, but I also had these issues. I think I kind of still do, I just ignore most of the time.

Maya: You mentioned Reggaeton, what message do you think Reggaeton is sending to young women?

Tamara: Reggaeton is a part of that movement leads ladies to feeling less than the man, like he has to buy her. Girls learn to use their sexual power way to early with reggaeton. It is a confrontation for some, between what they like (reggaeton movement, lifestyle) and the religious foundation they might have. But since it probably was forced (religion) they escaped thru reggaeton. Ultimately ending in ugly situations.

Maya: Okay , I agree with you. But I am not going to lie, I love reggaeton… are you sure you don’t secretly like it?

Tamara: I don’t dig reggaeton; I see how girls embrace being just a piece of meat, especially high schools girls. How much is this necklace, like a million? Said a girl, the boy answered – no. The girl said – well then, work and buy me this necklace.

Yesterday I heard a senior girl say that to her boyfriend at a hotel, it was their prom. Girls parade in lil’ dresses, easily they could have been mistaken for high-class whores. I won’t even comment on the dancing. It has gotten worse, every time. Since parents are so young they allow they’re children to behave like this. I mean, I see a problem with these situations. Boys catch another boy,looking at their girls, no matter if its sexual or if they just passed and look because its simply there, they get all worked up and want to fight. What is that dumbass looking at? So basically, what, people cant look at each other now? Girls can’t stand if you look at them either. Puerto Rico was not like that; you went to the mall, smiled and people smiled back at you.

The reggaeton anger and sexual damage can be easily identified. Even kindergarten boys are sexually harassing little girls. My mom is a teacher and I have heard some stories. I haven’t analyzed reggaeton issues deeply; this is just for what I have seen.

Maya: Thank you for your insight Tamara, I can’t wait to see what you produce next. I hope we can collaborate together in the future.

Tamara: I know I could make more sense out of my ideas, since they’re not organized very well, but it doesn’t matter. This is just the beginning of many wonderful works to come, ideas to flow… I’m glad that I can collaborate with you.

“Everything that surrounds me, mi entorno, makes a part of who I am and what I say in my videos. Little by little its somehow implicated.”

As I begrudgingly stated in my interview with Tamara, I am a fan of reggaeton. Like most, I don’t even acknowledge the lyrics or really think too much beyond the beat of the music. Yet now I find myself wondering, are most girls conscious of the message? I guess to some extent they must be, after all as Tamara shared many sing the lyrics as they grind (rub up) on men.

In my research I found extensive commentary regarding the direction of Salsa and its implications on women in the Puerto Rican community. However, as it is relatively new form of music, the writing concerning Reggaeton seems to be incredibly limited.

So I turned to a more contemporary source and found a blog entitled REGGAETONICA, written by Raquel Z. Rivera; author of New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone. In a recent post: From White to Mulata: The Darkening Powers of Reggaetón, she shares an email addressing this very issue:

I think reggaeton has been raunchy & explicitly all along, but I think the lyrics have reverted back to the “Reggeaton Sex” days of Underground. I think that “raunchiness” & degradation have become more mainstream & therefore are seen as less scandalous & more acceptable to society, so I think it has questioned our value as a community. The fact that Reggaeton outright refers to sexual references & acts & is accepted as mainstream Puerto Rican culture posing an interesting cultural issue for me. Now you can go to Puerto Rico and see young girls singing “dame con el palo, ” & they’re parents paying no mind to it, which I think is crazy. In the beginning of Reggaeton I found the lyrics to be much more raunchy, violent, & drug-related. Then mainstream Reggaeton came along, switched the “sexo” to “amor” & the “nenas” to “gatas.” I think these subtle changes in language allowed Reggaeton to be more successful in the mainstream, but now a lot of artists are moving back to the original lyrics because they already have a stable fan base. I mean, look at someone like Tony Dize, if you translated some of his songs into English, they could put even 50 Cent to shame with the blatant sexual references & degradation of women.

Perhaps reggaeton is so widely accepted by mainstream and popular culture, because it provides a free ticket to promote these concepts in a non-threatening form. If Puerto Rican women and other Latinas are fine dancing to this music, then what harm is there in gringos doing the same.

This then becomes representative of Puerto Rican culture. When a gringa dances to reggaeton she can purse her lips and grind on men, but without an attached stigma. She is just acting like a Latina girl. The Puerto Rican girls participating in this scene are aiding in the further perpetuation of the stereotype of Latina’s being easy.

However, as Tamara explained a lot of this has to do with a search for independence. Wanting to rebel against the forced restrictions of being una mucha de la casa, girls go to the furthest extreme to break down those barriers. But to what cost?

I myself am unable to provide a concrete solution. Yet I do think that one of the primary steps to forward progress is conversation. Tamara and myself have opted to publish the text on the web so that others may join in the dialog…

another reason I love jewess

May 15, 2007 § 2 Comments

One of my all favorite blogs jewess has announced in their latest post A Biblically Oriented Week

Each Friday a different scholarly woman will offer some insight into the week’s Torah portion [parsha].

This Friday, look for a post on Bamidbar by the J-blogosphere’s own Velveteen Rabbi, Rachel Barenblat!
[If anyone out there wants to participate in this project and write their own parsha post, please send an email to jewess@canonist.com].

I love it.

Nuevos Compañeros

May 4, 2007 § 10 Comments

So here I am introducing the best of the best…

They will make you laugh, think, laugh some more and then go do something

Ricardo from U N L O A D E D

Ricardo is a Puerto Rican Jewish Playright. The first time I cam across his blog U N L O A D E D Ricardo had a post thanking a friend for describing him as a sexy Puerto Rican blooded beast .

link to his screenplays

  • There’s not many of us out there but we are a dedicated, determined few as far as Latino Jews go. You’re addressing some very real issues in acciones plasticas. These projection do exist and it can be a big waste of daily energy to push them back so they can finally get to the real you. If I sat down and thought about it, I could probably conjure up some characters that show the projections on to me as well. At least some that I experienced while growing up. I think we’ve made some big strides in shedding the stereotypes, but the work is never really done. Hence the need for work like yours. I’ve never been good at this type of performance work you’re doing however. I’ve always toyed with the idea of doing something similar to what your doing from a guys perspective, a one man show locally here, but I’m not there yet.

in another email

I came very close once to putting my picture up on Jdate but couldn’t do it. I could definitely see lots of guys, intoxicated by by the likes of Selma and Penelope or J-Lo, wanting to bring you home for a one night stand and brag to their friends about how they “took a dip in some salsa.” We men are terrible in this regard but I can imagine it would be very frustrating for you. You ought to be appreciated for what you’ve done artistically, academically and politically because those things are what create the whole person so to speak. But I bet these men wanted to hear none of that and just wanted you to talk dirty to them in Spanish, again we men are awful but in my opinion these men are also very insecure. Why? Because they lack the social skills to get past the stereotypes and engage you for who you are. If they really wanted to know more about the Latin culture there are tons of better approaches that are not so lame like “muy picante.” I mean really, I would not say that seriously no matter how drunk I was. Just talk to people as equals.

Now as far as respect from the others in the Latin community, cherish it. Often times there is resentment if you are accomplished. While you are loved, I am usually hated. First off people can’t always place my ethnicity. I get everything in the book before they get to Puerto Rican. Yeah I don’t have an accent, so what? I don’t speak it but my family came here in the 20′s, what do you expect? Things fade. I do understand it however so if someone’s talking smack about me, I know. Artistically, hated by some in my family because I don’t write or perform about racial issues. If I’m compelled to do so and it feels right, then I will. I’m not close with them anyway so it doesn’t mater.

I have no shame in who I am but if I’m expected to act a certain way for the appeasement of the ethnic police, then arrest me because I am who I am and feel no need to apologize for it.

Now if women wanted to use me for a latin sex toy…Maya…I’ll be honest, I’ll be her Toys R Us if she’s she’s got the stuff. But men don’t really get used this way. Not in America at least. Europe would be a different story. But even that would grow old in time I suppose, a very long time but still ;-)

  • Daniel aka theMULatino

    Daniel is a Mexican American Graduate Student at Missouri University. Daniel is the self-proclaimed token minority at MU.

    from his blog

    • Next, let’s talk about Jewish people. Actually, wait a minute. Let’s not. Cause I don’t really know many Jewish people. However, a new study released by the American Jewish Committee indicates that Hispanics harbor more anti-Semitic feelings than non-Hispanics. So, according to the “research”, I guess I’m supposed to hate Jewish people. Now (sigh)…..I don’t mean to debunk anyone’s intellectual efforts here, but I don’t think it’s fair to Jewish people or Hispanics to waste time on such mindless activities like being anti-Semitic. It’s pointless. It’s ignorant. It’s un-American. SO, let’s not hate Jewish people…. let’s hate WHITE people. If you ask me, it’s completely unnecessary to begin dividing up white folks into groups and hating them by ethnicity. We should unify and hate them all equally. (Okay, you idiots. I hope you realize I’m joking here.)

    This video was my first introduction to theMULatino.


    after seeing that hilarious video and reading his blog I had no choice but to post a response video.

    To get the ball rolling I asked them to answer the following questions:

    • Where you see yourself going?
    • What is your goal as an artist/educator/politician/writer…?
    • In what facets (if any) do you plan on serving the latino and or jewish community?
    • What do you hope to achieve using the internet as a means of communication?
    • What do you want people to know about you?
    • As a minority (that is a public figure), who is more effective in creating change?

    Intellectuals, Comedians, Artists

      How are they representatives of our society?

    • Who actually sees their work?

    • Ricardo’s Responses:
      1. I really hope to see myself in a position that I can write and direct my own films. When I sit down to write something I try and tell a story on how we, as people, use all the wrong ways to move and affect each other as opposed to honestly and openly communicating. To do the former is pave the way for a small scale but devastating human disaster. This is where the drama comes in and these dramas, these mini tragedies, are happening all around us each day. They go unnoticed because they don’t involve a bank robbery or high speed chase, but there is great emotion and compelling stories in these events none the less. These are not easy targets to hit when doing a screenplay or the like but they are challenging.
      2. In terms of serving the Latino community, I want to be able to show people out there that all of us have stories to tell that are universal in their appeal. While there will be Latino artist that contribute to breaking down racial barriers by doing race oriented fare, I want to do that by telling stories that transcend race. I want the fact that I’m Latino to be an afterthought because that means, to me, that they’ve accepted me as an individual and artist. And I think that’s happened to a great extent on my blog. It’s a very diverse group of readers that relate to the story. I’m not a gang member and I’m not going to steal your car. I’m a guy that thinks and works for a living just like you.
      3. As for the Jewish community, I want to show people that we too have the same hopes and fears as everyone else and we’re not out to take everyone’s money or control the media or whatever conspiracy theory of the day is out there. Again it goes back into the types of stories we tell and how we frame them. One day I’d like to be able to do a documentary that shows and how it’s like to be Jewish in America. All of us are not doctors and lawyers and all of us are not loaded. You’re a minority but not really a minority because people perceive that you have money and that cancels it out. But that’s the great myth. Being Jewish is about not fitting in and loving it. There’s got to be a way that I can show that.
      4. I think you need the Jon Stewarts, Dave Chappelles AND the Guillermo Gomez Pena/ Coco Fuscos of the world out there grinding it out. The approaches are different but there’s a lot of truth in each approach. These are the people that tap you on the shoulder and say “What you think is acceptable is really fucked up and here’s why.” And they show us this through their mediums and it hurts sometimes. These people shock you into looking at your reality in a new way and make you think.
      5. Humor is such a powerful and healing thing. I told you about about shocking people before but if you can get them to laugh at the shock then your on your way to enlightening some people. The laughter in a strange way is an acknowledgment. if they can acknowledge the issue then they can be moved toward learning more about it and possibly fixing it.

      Daniel’s Responses:

      1. To answer some of your questions the best I can, I think I first have to confess to honestly feeling like my life is a work in progress. I don’t always know what I’m doing. In fact, 99% of the time I don’t even know what I’m going to write or say until I actually do it. Being a writer and a student is just a natural extension of my process of self-discovery and my interest in sharing. I’ve worked in diversity in higher education since I was undergraduate, so that’s mainly my writing content now. However, the more years I put in, the more I’ve realized that while the thrust of institutional diversity is positive, it’s a political showman’s game just like everything else. At this point, I know that I’m paid to write, publicize, and document nice news, not real news. My goal with my writing is to someday have the financial stability to write something truthful that I don’t have to be concerned about getting fired over.
      2. My ethnic background is Latino, Hispanic, Chicano, and I grew up poor (who didn’t?) in Kansas City. My parents were Chicano activists in the sixties and seventies when they met in college. They’re both civil servants today. Although they’re divorced now, we all still live in the same neighborhood, except that I’m finishing up graduate school in Columbia, Missouri. My entire life has always included some element of community activism, so I really felt like a fish out of water when I moved to middle-Missouri. My long-term plan has always been to eventually head back home and participate in making my community a better place (aren’t I noble? barf). However, right now I have some more learning to do, things to see, people to meet, experiences to go through, you know the deal. I’m just trying to make the most of everything.
      3. I think that’s what my website is about; sharing, learning, exercising intellectual freedom, making the most of this experience, and not losing touch with my community back home. If I wanted people to know anything about me, it would probably just be that the irony inherent in that particular question is that I’m really just trying to learn about them.

      please feel free to share your responses

    Obsessed With Frida Kahlo

    April 11, 2007 § 21 Comments

    obsessed with frida kahlo, 2007

    el es frida kahlo, 2007

    part of the piece I did for d[x]i magazine on the commodification of Frida Kahlo

    auto retrato, 2003

    autoretrato

    frida painting, 2007

    frida puppets, 2007

    In search of the #1 Frida Kahlo fan in the World

    PROVE IT answer the following questions:

    When did you fall in love with Frida?

    Why do you admire her?

    What trivia do you know about Frida Kahlo?

    How many and what Frida objects do you own? (prints of her work, t-shirts, mugs, wall hangings, toothbrushes, etc…)

    please leave a written comment, submit photos, or a video response
    Dressed as Frida

    Still from Forever Frida
    Frida KahloFrida Kahlo @ Fiddlehead Fest.me dressed as frida kahlo at work

    RachelFrida03Alter EgoMe As Frida Kahlo 1

    Davina as FridaFrida KahloFrida Kahlo's 100th Birthday

    How does it feel to be called a JAP?

    March 11, 2007 § 13 Comments

    Please take this as an opportunity to let your voice be heard.

    I welcome anyone who would like to offer a response online, either written or in the form of a video blog. Remember that the acciones plásticas videos are not the stereotypes themselves, they are women who have be affected by their presence.

    I will continuously update this post with videos as they are submitted. “How does it feel to be called a _____?” Feel free, (but not limited) to respond to the stereotypes I have presented. Use this as an opportunity to share your own experiences.

    If you are an educator takes this as an opportunity to discuss these issues with your students. I am in the process of developing curriculum for presenting acciones plásticas in the classroom.

    while the “youtube” video blogs are played on a reel.

    Orthodox Jew JAP Chach Sexy Latina

    The public will be invited to respond, by altering the text accompanying each doll. Over the course of the exhibition the original cards displaying the stereotype will be replaced by the new cards with altered text.

    Your video responses will be incorporated into the reel.

    From the show

    Now I am asking you to participate. Hopefully viewing these images has caused you to question if and when similar stereotypes have been applied to you or those around you. Please take the time to share your experiences by clicking on any of the dolls to submit your response.

    Escobar_Maya_02.pngEscobar_Maya_03 .pngEscobar_Maya_04.pngEscobar_Maya_05.pngEscobar_Maya_06.png

    I have included a section with guiding questions. If you have more you would like to submit post them here

    Please feel free but not limited to answering the following questions regarding each doll:

    Is there any truth to this description?

    Are all of these things negative?

    What is the origin of this stereotype?

    What is a _________ really like?

    What does this stereotype leave unsaid?

    brenda still


    Jewish Stereotypes

    Bitch Magazine Aritcle

    The JAP©

    February 13, 2007 § 6 Comments

    from the series acciones plásticas


    click here for Kol Ra’ash Gadol’s critque on Jewschool about this piece.

    When Maya Escobar uses this stereotype she may be either mocking it or indulging it – or both – that’s one of the dangers of comedy. She clearly thinks that she’s mocking it, and attempting to provide a conversation starter (Okay, Maya, so here I am starting a conversation: Kol hakavod!) But even in her attempts to mock the stereotypes that have been projected onto her (and let’s be clear the chach and the sexy latina aren’t any better!), I have to wonder about those who are watching the comedy, and whether it helps them reject – or accept- those experiences in which they met a person onto whom they themselves projected such a label. “After all, how can she “nail the JAP” if there’s no JAP to be nailed, if the JAP happens to simply be a person whom one dislikes upon meeting, but no more likely a Jew than a Lutheran? In order for it to confirm that glorious feeling, one has to have a little sense that there is something about being Jewish and female that attaches to that kind of behavior, n’est ce pas?

    she offers the following links
    an exerpt from Dr. Evelyn Torton Beck’s essay “From ‘Kike to Jap’:How misogyny, anti-semitism, and racism construct the Jewish American Princess.”
    bibliography of the analysis of the JAP stereotype

    www.lilith.org/landmark_articles/jap.pdf

    Escobar_Maya_02.pngEscobar_Maya_03 .pngEscobar_Maya_04.pngEscobar_Maya_05.pngEscobar_Maya_06.png

    Shomer Negiah Panties

    February 13, 2007 § 16 Comments

    SHOMER NEGIAH PANTIES NOW AVAILABLE ON ShomerNegiahPanties.com


    Shomer Negiah
    is a concept in Jewish law halacha that prohibits any degree of physical contact with, or touching of, a member of the opposite sex, except for one’s spouse and immediate family. Shomer means “guards”, but due to its common use in phrases relating to religious practice, it has come to mean: “adhere to” as well. Negiah is the Hebrew word for “touch”, and thus Shomer Negiah is a term used to describe one who “guards the touch” or simply “adheres to restrictions of touch”. Although the feminine form of the term is technically Shomeret Negiah, it is almost always used in the masculine, even when in reference to women. Shomer Negiah Panties allow a woman to abide by the halacha, but still be individual and sexy at the same time.

    shomer negiah panties

    post by dovbear on the panties recieved these comments

    my pink sexy low cut bras say vlo sasuru in micro print … lol
    frumbabe | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 2:00 pm

    why don’t you ASK her, DB? Or would that be un-tznius (as opposed to, say, visiting her blog, looking at her panties, and then tattling on your own blog…) :)
    Tzipporah | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 2:34 pm

    this is much more tzanuah.Trust me. I’m a man :)
    DovBear | 02.22.07 – 2:44 pm

    “Shomer Negiah Panties,” essentially ordinary cotton undies, I’m going to run over to CafePress and put some “Shomer Negiah Thongs” up for sale.
    Al Gore | 02.22.07 – 3:07 pm |

    What about the fringes? Women unite for equality! We want fringes on our panties!
    Anonymous | 02.22.07 – 3:13 pm

    How about upgrading to a tattoo strategically placed on one’s behind? This could be a real trend on the upper west side!
    Anna Nicole | 02.22.07 – 3:18 pm |

    How about upgrading to a tattoo strategically placed on one’s behind? This could be a real trend on the upper west side!

    Totally unecc. In Willy. they’ve found the combination of bald heads and really thick stockings serve the same purpose.
    DovBear | 02.22.07 – 3:27 pm |

    that’s a weird fetish. :)
    Tzipporah | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 3:31 pm |

    Not a fetish. A form of birth control.
    Anon | 02.22.07 – 3:39 pm |

    I think it’s just for giggles. I could imagine SN girls giving each other these panties as a joke… the number of SN guys who’ll ever see them on a girl is probably tiny.
    quietann | 02.22.07 – 4:10 pm | 

    Granny panties are by definition shomer negiah.——–

    Perhaps what the world REALLY needs are burqas with playboy bunnies or ‘party-babe’ stencilled across the front.
    The Back of the Hill | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 4:18 pm |

    DB:
    Been done before. Look, don’t you think this makes the statement just a bit more…… pointed? http://www.corkscrew-balloon.com…torture/ 31.html

    Anon:
    A form of birth control

    A form of birth control??? Wow, I’d hate to know what you consider birth-out-of-control, then.
    Baal Devarim | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 4:33 pm |

    that’s hot….
    ThePervert | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 4:52 pm |

    I just don’t see it.Then why bother giving old Maya and her incredibly unfunny, juvenile and tasteless underwear any more free publicity? What motivates you to post what you do really mystifies.
    Chaim G. | 02.22.07 – 5:13 pm |

    Oooh, these could be useful for the frum girl who secretly moonlights as a stripper. Warning, guys — all lookie, no touchie.
    GoldaLeah | 02.22.07 – 5:19 pm |

    the frum girl who secretly moonlights as a stripper. A match truly made in hell as her audience would no doubt comprise frum boys who secretly “moonlight” as patrons of “gentlemens” clubs
    Chaim G. | 02.22.07 – 5:28 pm |

    Kinda like the “Sanitized for your protection” ribbons on motel toilets.
    Psycho Toddler | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 5:54 pm |

    A match truly made in hell as her audience would no doubt comprise frum boys who secretly “moonlight” as patrons of “gentlemens” clubs…I now have this mental image of bearded young gentlemen wearing ill-fitting ‘gentile’ clothes yelling “remove your sheitel, remove your sheitel”. Thank you. It will take me a while to get over this trauma.
    The Back of the Hill | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 6:14 pm |

    BOTHDain ershtoinung iz gornit antkegen der ershtoinung fun zaira vaiber If only such occurences were as humurous and harmless as the “sleeveless bar” scene that you conjured.
    Chaim G. | 02.22.07 – 6:20 pm |

    I can see them being a present for a friend too–or a joke for one’s husband.I don’t see them having any halachic purpose, though. Unless there’s a mitzvah to wear tacky panties that I somehow missed.
    balabusta in blue jeans | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 6:27 pm |

    I’m married, and I would wear them. I think they’re hilarious. But I’d be too scared to give them to anyone I know–they might take it the wrong way.
    Rivka | 02.22.07 – 8:39 pm |

    Pardon me for the overshare, but I have a pair of panties that say “Girls know best” on the front. And there are times that they are appropriate for the situation, like maybe when I need a reminder that girls really do know best :) (I am almost 43, so hardly a girl, but the sentiment is the same.)Similarly, I could see a shomer negiah young woman wearing these panties on a date. Just knowing what her panties say might help her keep her skirt on!
    quietann | 02.22.07 – 10:21 pm |

    at the mall any day now, i’m expecting to see “Shomer Negiah” stenciled on the butt of some babes yoga pants…
    eliyahu | Homepage | 02.22.07 – 11:15 pm |

    I am truly mystified that this post exists
    reality | 02.23.07 – 7:38 am |

    It’s obviously a gag. What’s the big deal? Girls that are really shomer are never going to wear them with any expectation that a guy will see them, and those that aren’t will wear them for their ironic humor.
    nicejewishguy | Homepage | 02.23.07 – 11:15 am |

    How about upgrading to a tattoo strategically placed on one’s behind?Also know as a “Tramp Stamp.”
    Al Gore | 02.23.07 – 12:26 pm |

    It should also say “shomer negiah” in braille in case it’s dark in the room when being read.Should also say it in Hebrew or Yiddish, so the message is clear to all chareidim as well.
    B.T.A. | Homepage | 02.25.07 – 1:54 pm |

    Ah, should have looked at her site first. DB, now you’re linking to tushies?! What a shonda. I go away for a few weeks…In any event, perhaps she could tatoo it on the small of her back, then could wear any panties she likes? Just a thought.
    B.T.A. | Homepage | 02.25.07 – 1:55 pm |

    add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook

    Where Am I?

    You are currently browsing the feminist category at Maya Talk.

    Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 49 other followers

    %d bloggers like this: