Wednesday, August 18, 2010

el Feminismo y Ecuador

So I've written (and read) mostly about American feminism, but now that I am studying in Ecuador for the semester, I have the opportunity to really learn about feminism in another culture. Border Crossings, the class I took freshman year and was a teaching assistant in last semester, was about globalization and feminism and many of the different issues that feminists/women face around the world. However, it is one thing to learn about this, and actually experience it.

This week I'm trying out a few different anthropology classes at Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador, and tonight I went to Sociocultural Anthropology. My professor is pretty young, and spent the majority of the class explaining what we'd be doing for the semester. It sounds similar to a class I took at Temple, so I wasn't sure if I should keep it on my schedule--but then my professor mentioned that we will be studying feminist theory to analyze our texts. Qué?

After she finished explaining the course, she opened the class up for questions, and a few people started asking about feminism. It was interesting, because the discussion about feminism in my class tonight in Ecuador was exactly the same as many discussions about feminism in my classes at Temple.

One male student asked if he had to be a feminist to use feminist theory. Carolina (the professor) then went on to explain that a lot of people are not familiar with what being a feminist means, and are unaware that they are feminists.

Carolina: Do you believe women should have the right to choose who they want to marry as well as if they want to get married at all?
student: Yes.
Carolina: Do you believe women should have the right to choose if they would like to have children as well as how many children they would like to have?
student: Yes.
Carolina: Do you believe women should have the right to work and get an education if they choose to pursue one?
student: Yes.
Carolina: You are a feminist.

A female student asked questions like Can feminists be feminine? and Can women who have children and husbands be feminists? Carolina explained the 3 waves of American feminism briefly, which have influenced Ecuadorian feminism.

Sitting through this talk reminded me of my first day at Temple in my section of Border Crossings. Kristi started asking the class individually if they were feminists. To my surprise, the girls (and boys) in the class (a women's studies class) all said that they believed women and men were equal, but since they weren't "activists or anything," they weren't feminists. What??! That day I was the only person to raise my hand and say I was a feminist. Two semesters later, I got a job as a peer teacher in that class, and sat through a new class of students ignorant to what feminism is. That time there were at least 3 students who said they were feminists (not including me).

After class I talked to Carolina to get some suggestions on Ecuadorian feminist reading, (She told me to look up Maria Cuvi, Gioconda Herrera and Mercedes Prielo. When I've read some, I will report back to you. In English.) and we talked about how the fear of being called a feminist was similar in Ecuador and America. Girls don't want to be called lesbians. Boys want to be masculine. Those aren't terrible things, but I mean, that's why we, as feminists, should be vocal about it. I don't mean you have to yell all the time (you can if you want to...), but no one should be a secret feminist. We can only start changing discriminatory cultures and attitudes when we are open to talking about it and when others start getting comfortable with talking about it as well.

Which is why I recommend this t-shirt. I finally bought one at the beginning of the summer and wore it about once a week at camp. This summer I had the oldest girls (14-15 year old girls), so feminism did come up, and I made sure to mention that I was a feminist. Hearing girl after girl in the Border Crossings section that I helped in say, "Well, I had this weird teacher who was a feminist..." and "There were these weird girls at my high school who were feminists..." only solidified my feelings that girls don't have enough feminist role models who are clear about being feminists. It's really not that hard!

Me in my feminist shirt

And in case you need to whip out a quick definition of feminism, these are the two I have memorized:

Feminism: 1.) the belief that women should have political, social and economic equality with men. 2.) the belief that women and girls should not face any form of discrimination or degradation.

Y en Español:

El feminismo: 1.) la creencia que mujeres deben tener la igualdad política, social, y económica. 2.) la creencia que mujeres y chicas no deben afrontar la discriminación o la degradación en ninguna forma.


  1. i really enjoyed this post.

    i guess if i'm being completely honest, a part of me is definitely naive as far as feminism goes... well, as far as many viewpoints are concerned... but I enjoyed the conversation your professor and your male student had. I think it was a simplified and easy way for most people (boys or girls, men or women) to be able to relate... and while it certainly doesn't even begin to encompass everything a feminist can be, it certainly does give a more "normal" or less abrasive outlook on feminism. baby steps.

  2. I feel the same way. The word feminist seems almost taboo. Lots of people don't want to be associated with it. I think we need to educate people and kids especially about what being a feminist means and that there is not just one kind of feminism. I think its sad that people don't want to be called a feminist because they don't want people to judge them. If we educate people on what the true nature of feminism is then we wont have so many stereotypes attached with the term.