by Pamela Powers Hannley
Sexism and sexual violence cross all ethnic, racial, and class boundaries. This story focuses on the struggle against misogyny and sexual violence in Tucson’s Chicano community.
For years, the Tucson Weekly’s Mari Herreras has covered multiple aspects of the rise and fall of Mexican American Studies (MAS)– the chaining, the chanting, the demonstrations, the fundraising, the controversies, the personalities– but A Broken Community, the cover story of the July 18 issue, was one of the more fascinating stories about the evolution of MAS.
Maybe it’s because I gave up reading the Three Sonorans blog years ago, but I haven’t heard or read much about MAS since the former director of the program, Sean Arce, was charged with domestic violence back in December 2012.
At the time, the silence surrounding the Arce’s charges and what happened between him and his wife that night in December at La Cocina was deafening. As I wrote, “Bloggers who regularly post ‘news’ stories every time Arce catches a cold are mute, and none of the mainstream media have touched his story.”
A handful women bloggers wrote about the Arce story– most notably, a relatively new blog, MalintZINE. “Dear Sean”, a moving essay about machismo and sexism in the MAS movement, was one of the first few posts on this blog, and at the time, the author(s) was/were anonymous to the general public, myself included.
Herreras’ TW story updates us on this thread.
Rape and Violence
Without naming many names, Herreras gives us the back story on sexism, sexual abuse charges, and fallen idols in the MAS program, with accounts dating back to 2011 (more than a year before the December 2012 Arce incident). At the core of the story is former MAS spokesperson and former cover girl for the Precious Knowledgemovie Leilani Clark and the womyn of MalintZINE. In the early heyday of the MAS protests, Clark was everywhere. I heard her speak with poise and fire about the MAS struggle at multiple events, and then… poof… she disappeared from the scene. She was everywhere, and then, nowhere. (I’m sure I’m not the only one who wondered what happened to her.)
To find out, follow the jump.
Herreras hints at an assault, suffered by Clark, but no details are given– most likely because no charges were made. Clark’s assault in 2011, the Arce incident in 2012, wide ranging posts on MalintZINE, and accusations by other Latinas affiliated with MAS are offered as a symptoms of deep-seeded sexism in Tucson’s Chicano community. When Latinas began to speak out about misogyny, sexism, and sexual violence in the MAS/Save Ethnic Studies (SES) community, friendships were broken, a propaganda war began against Clark, and people took sides. In a powerful essay, one of the MalintZINE authors describes how she initially didn’t want to believe Clark’s rape story, how their friendship deteriorated, and how she changed her mind. From MalintZINE…
I didn’t believe my friend when she was raped.
The last few years in Tucson have been a struggle to survive. With the battles in our communities and legislation targeting brown people of color on indigenous land – we have nearly killed each other and the work and the fight and the fighting has made us all sick – susto. It deserves writing that will never end now that it has started. Through it all, I now reflect on two moments when I know I fucked up. I monumentally fucked up and hurt other women. When it first happened, she was and we all were sorting through statements and over ‘what does this mean to this movement’ shit. She may have at first said something(s) and later they changed which isn’t uncommon with sexual violence and doesn’t delegitimize what happened to her or her voice at any given moment. Sexual violence is haunting…
Misogyny in MAS
Courageous posts on MalintZINE go far beyond the TW in details and accusations of misogyny– including direct attacks on the main MAS mouthpiece, the Three Sonorans blog…
Bloggers at the Three Sonorans have, again, pointed fingers of accusation at Chicanas of Tucson. It seems that we (and a few men) are responsible for divisiveness within the community, for accusing rapists and misogynists of their crimes, for calling out the men and women of the Chican@ community for their hypocrisy and machismo and for demanding that Precious Knowledge be abandoned as a source of financial support by Save Ethnic Studies because a victim of crime directly involved with the film asked that it be so. And this is a bad thing?
Underlying the blogger’s concerns over a current issue involving copyrights, profiting and local artists is a broiling anger towards Chicanas who insist upon speaking about the inequities and injustices that they have experienced from within the community movement. And again, the blogger persists in attacking the accusers rather than naming the crimes and acknowledging that these problems exist. We do not pretend to know his motivations, and they don’t really matter. What is relevant is that he continues to imply that a woman’s concerns are not valid unless they have been legitimated by the community and, in this case, the men of the community. The blogger points his angry finger at Chicana feminists as the problem, though he willingly admitted in a recent post that he knows little about feminism. [More here.]
This post says D.A. Morales (AKA the Three Sonorans) “points his angry finger at Chicana feminists as the problem”; MalintZINE also offers a list of powerful local women who have disagreed with Morales and gotten slammed in his blog– TUSD”s Kristel Foster and Adelita Grijalva and City Councilwoman Regina Romero– to name just a few. This pattern has been going on for years; his sexism goes far beyond Chicanas and a handful of political women. There also are posts that claim Morales is trying to intimidate them into shutting down the blog or at least shutting up, but MalintZINE certainly has not done that!
I am proud of these young womyn and their courage. In their collective, I see a radicalism and solidarity that I don’t see among young Anglo women. These Chicanas stood up to a powerful group of men with an equally powerful propaganda machine. Not only did they say, “Enough,” they have been spreading the word and educating others about sexism, misogyny, and sexual violence through their writing and through workshops and forums. (Details in the TW article.) From MalintZINE…
It wasn’t through ethnic studies that I learned in lak ech, tu eres mi otro yo. But through two ethnic studies alumni, both younger than me, who offered me forgiveness and room to grow. Creating some Chicana girl code of accountability and responsibility. To taking care of each other and never assuming anyone else will. To loving other women and loving yourself.