Hey feminists! My name is Chloe, and I'm a senior at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. I am interning with CFC this year, so you'll be hearing a lot from me! I concentrate in Women's and Gender Studies (my school has concentrations instead of minors), as well as Latin American and Race/Ethnic Studies, and I major in English and Spanish. Sounds like a lot but there was a lot of overlap in all of those studies, so it worked out well.
How did I become more active in gender equality, you may ask? I have been passionate about equality for as long as I can remember. I became more conscious about what women's studies, gender studies, freedom of sexuality, feminism, etc. are truly about throughout my college education at Olaf. I love learning about all of these topics, and I love asserting myself as a strong, independent woman. I especially love learning about gender in cross-cultural perspectives. I would say I grew up having feminist ideas even though I may not have realized it, just as so many people don't realize they are actually feminists!
To kick off my blog posts, I'd like to discuss the following quote about undocumented female immigrants from Surviving Globalization by Brown Professor and scholar Evenlyn Hu-Dehart:
"Immigrants are not only NOT a drain on the U.S. economy, but an absolute necessity, especially women immigrants, who comprise half or more of new immigrants to the United Sates. Immigrant labor is indispensable for the labor-intensive, service-dependent, restructured economy of the United States, as well as for the resurgent light manufacturing sector, captured at its worst by the image of the garment sweatshop."
So many people believe that immigrants, especially unauthorized ones, are stealing our jobs. These people are often mistaken, and their opinion is often a product of discrimination and racism see Hu-Dehart's article). It's amazing how many women work without authorization here, and for such low wages--I have read so many sources on women in nannying positions or housekeeping work that do not receive legal wages because they are not here legally. They are often coerced into awful work or coerced by life situations in which they have no other choice to work for a rate that provides for only an impoverished life. Some may uphold that these women put themselves in this situation. But if you had to go to a different country, leave your children behind, and work with the risk of losing everything or being subjected to horrible things, sending all your money back home, in order to survive and support your family, what would you do? Do we have a right to judge them when we don't know their personal circumstances or motives? Do we have a right to stereotype them based on what we think we know about undocumented immigrants and their reasons for living in the US without authorization? These are questions that we, as privileged US citizens, need to ask ourselves in order to be conscious of those immigrants' necessary participation in our economy and the hardships they often experience in doing so.
This essay also reminds me of the documentary Nefarious: Merchant of Souls in its discussion of sex work. A campus group called SOLAS (St. Olaf Leaders Abolishing Slavery) screened this film, and it was eye-opening. I was aware of the horrors of sex work and how prevalent it is in our globalized world, but this brought the tragedy to a whole new level. I cannot even fathom what these women and girls and even CHILDREN have to go through. I learned a lot of things that I did not know before, and I thought I was pretty educated on the topic… Women and girls all around the world are forced into sex trafficking by oppressive systems. Each woman interviewed who had been prostituted said that NO WOMAN chooses that. Whether they are abducted, trafficked by their families to bring income into the household (while their fathers sit around drinking and smoking all day--yes, there was factual evidence of this in the documentary), expected to become "nothing more than a whore" by the people in their lives… The images and stories of these females are so tragic. The saddest part is that the makers of the documentary even say themselves how nearly impossible it is to go into this system and "save" these girls. This is the TRAFFICKING and SELLING of HUMAN BEINGS and their BODIES we are talking about here; violence is the essence of this practice, as is exploiting one's vulnerability.
Throughout our globalized world, why are women continuously considered the lesser sex and subjected to such atrocities? I plan on rereading/watching Half the Sky to further learn about this topic, and I suggest we all look more into this issue. The hardships these women go through goes further than so many other pressing issues we face; it is the question of lives, of human beings, and the suffering they endure in order to support their family or to please another human being even as they are hurting. For these women, I will educate myself as much as I can about ways to become more active in fighting trafficking and sexual enslavement. If you feel as I do and want to take action, please read more about the Half the Sky movement and watch the movie Nefarious to learn what you can do to help the cause.