Get Over It, Women Haters
It’s My Pussy. It’s My Body., Favianna Rodriguez
Tina Vasquez: As a Latina who grew up in an incredibly strict and repressive household, I still struggle with being “out” about various aspects of my identity, even at the age of 27. Because of this baggage I carry—and as much as I hate to admit this—when I first saw your Slut Power posters, the first thing I thought was, “What do her parents think of this?” I feel like it can be challenging for women of color to identify as “sluts,” and as Latinas, it’s everything we’re not “supposed” to be. What is your relationship with the word, and why did you want to tackle the subject in a series?
Favianna Rodriguez: Any identity, even a Latina identity, can be very limiting. When I speak on panels with other women, you wouldn’t believe how much slut-shaming there is, which is why this work is so important to me. I think it’s ignorance and a lack of understanding. A big part of our radicalization as Latinas will require rethinking sex. I’ve had my own version of the coming-out process as someone who doesn’t believe in monogamy or its framework. We call out people in the right wing, but in the supposedly progressive communities I’m part of, there is no major push to defend sex workers’ rights; women can’t openly talk about having multiple partners, women can’t openly talk about masturbation. Discussing these things in Latino communities is still outrageous. I’ve been sexually active since I was young, and I’ve had very positive experiences. I’m empowered by my sexuality and I celebrate my sexuality. I’m a woman who loves experimenting. I’m a woman who doesn’t want children and who doesn’t want to get married. I want to tell these stories and explore them in my art.
As you continue to develop your artistic voice, do you still struggle with the expectations thrust upon you by your culture and your family?
I feel like the most important and transformative work you do is in your own family, and that’s no different for me. I’ve experienced a lot of suffering because of the things that women in my family have said to me or about me. I’m a 34-year-old woman who isn’t married and doesn’t have children. This is weird enough in my family, but I’m also a sexually open person and because of it, the women in my family have been brutal. They disapprove of my “lifestyle.” They say I embarrass them and they insinuate that my home is a “whorehouse.” It’s painful, but I’ve confronted it. I’ve spoken to my mom about her behavior and the behavior of my aunts. I told her that at the end of the day, I’m up against patriarchy and I work in an industry dominated by white, racist men. I told her I need love and understanding to do what I do in a man’s world and that I don’t need to be torn down by the women in my own family. I’ve been very honest about how it affects my head and my self-esteem. I’m still dealing with my own insecurities. Patriarchy is so damaging; it runs so deep and you have to unlearn it. It takes years and it takes a toll, but you have to do your own personal work and then worry—or don’t worry—about what your family thinks later.
When did you begin doing your own “personal work”?
About three years ago, I decided I wanted to be my full, authentic self in front of my family. I was surprised by how supportive my dad was, but when I told my mom I wasn’t going to find one guy who would marry me and take care of me and give her grandchildren, she didn’t respond to it very well. Some of the most toxic, hurtful stuff comes from the people you love, and that’s why it’s so hard for women to express their true desires and be their authentic selves. At the end of the day, it’s worth it. I think it’s important to confront it and to really share our lives because if we hide, it implies that what we want and what comes naturally to us is shameful—and that’s not true.
I’m assuming art has been instrumental in your quest to be your true, authentic self.
Definitely. The other day, my mom talked to me about my abortion poster [“Come out. Share your story. Break the silence.”], and she said she was proud of me. I never told my mom about my abortion, but my art gave me my voice. Art is my way to discuss things in a way that is still protective of me. The one thing I despise about our culture is that children are seen as the property of their parents and parents feel it’s their job to control and shape us. Latina moms play this control game like no other and that really fucked me up. It took me a while to realize that my life and my body were mine. Yes, I love my brown people, but that doesn’t mean I can’t call out the fucked-up aspects of our culture—the racism, the misogyny, the homophobia. When I have the opportunity to speak to Latino parents, I tell them to give their kids more freedom to find their voices. Young people need to explore and experiment; many Latino parents are really afraid of that. Art has taught me to think critically for myself-—it taught me how to form my own opinions and how to choose my own path. I think those are things we should want for all children.