Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
I’ve such a horrible case of déjà vu right now. Anyone else remember how the oppression of women in Afganistan was used as a polemic and rhetorical device to justify the occupation of the country and distinguish between “us” and “them?”
Of course, taking nothing away from this woman, my statement does not mean that Qaddafi and his troops are not horrendous and guilty. I’m just interested in how the crisis of women’s oppression has been used to justify war efforts throughout our history. We are so concerned about women’s rights abroad but not so much at home. A really good recommended reading is Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars.
This week I had the opportunity to give what little insight I had on a gaming project for the documentary Sands of Silence, produced by activist film-maker Chelo Alvarez-Stehle.
It is a first-person role-playing game where the gamer assumes the character of a girl from either Africa, Nepal or Mexico and is taken through the whole experience of trafficking. The point is to engage the gamer beyond just empathy and encourage action from a community—high school and university students—that may otherwise not know much about the issue.
Going into the project, my primary concern was with trivializing the experiences of sexual trafficking victims. There is absolutely no way to ever simulate the lived experiences of these young adolescents so I am quite ambivalent about the prospects of building genuine empathy through ‘gaming.’
There’s Fashion Wars and then there is Fashion the movie. Fashion Wars is all about seeing whose pose has more style, getting the biatches to gain more cash, and expanding a fashion empire. Fashion the movie takes one behind the camera to see the ugliness of glitz and glamour, into a world that demarcates women as cheap objects for show and sale. They were certainly not meant to be complimentary but how can we bridge the gap between the two platforms in a manner that is both sensitive and engaging?
The concern was somewhat alleviated with knowledge that the producer was an activist film-maker and that the stories in the gameplay were based on real life experiences. And then there was the voice in the back of my head saying if I could excuse and actually appreciate BreakThrough for ICED that simulated the experiences of undocumented immigrants in this country, I had no right to place objections over something I had not experienced or undergone.
The next problem I had was with the complete absence of boys from the gameplay. All the major characters were women. For the first time, I was irked by the absence of men and that awareness came from a queer perspective. We cannot ignore that boys are also sexually trafficked and that there is yet another community that we can reach by including that particular narrative. In our efforts to make women’s experiences more mainstream, let us not marginalize a population that is already afraid to speak out about abuse. De-stigmatize. Make relevant to as many people as possible.
My third concern dealt with how to draw attention to this game. Why would a teenager or university student play this game? I was told that inner-city youth in New York could relate to the project and could react with empathy that these horrendous things happened with their peers. Yet, it simply is not enough of a selling point for me as a gamer. We mostly play games to escape reality; not relive our pains and misfortunes. There has to be a ‘oh cool!’ factor to attract youth to this game and I hope whoever is given charge to market it can come up with the right catchphrase.
“Gay issues are also women’s issues because homophobia is a form of misogyny.”
-Jennifer Beals, New York Times Talk
This statement might be a no-brainer for some. The most obvious example is when flamboyant homosexual men are hated on for their ‘femininity’ and labeled as ‘not men enough.’ That is misogyny, defined as hatred or contempt for women.
Misogyny is also apparent when women are held in contempt for loving women or not seen as women simply because they may be androgynous or gender-bending.
So when I read the headline in the the Examiner article juxtaposing “Gay Right’s Versus Women’s Rights,” I went into attack mode. The writer might need to use spell check but this is the crux of her argument:
But instead, he incited another social-political battle (or battles): one that attacks those who dissent with unpopular opinions and most importantly, women and their collective integrity by haphazardly slamming a “bitch” and “cunt” label upon the beauty contestant — invalidating all of her opinions that do not resonate with his by using her femininity against her and ultimately aiming to degrade her entire worth as a person. If he had wanted to prove a political point about gay rights, he might have better expressed himself with more socially acceptable word choices instead of irrelevantly denigrating her and women through the use of his derogatory statements.
I won’t defend his choice of words and at the same time I cannot possibly come down on the side of Miss California for using the platform to spew more hatred and ignorance. “Opposite marriage?” C’mon.
At the end of the day both Ms. California and Perez Hilton are responsible for promoting misogny to the detriment of our civil rights.
I recently had the chance to view this documentary at the Immigrant Solidarity Network in Chicago. And now I have the opportunity to blog about it.
Made in L.A. is an Emmy-award winning film that tells the story of three Latina immigrants working in garment sweatshops as they embark on a three-year odyssey to win basic labor protections while finding their way in the U.S. It’s a very personal story of each woman’s self-empowerment, and it humanizes the immigrant experience and draws parallels between today’s immigrants and those whose families came to the U.S. generations ago.
What I particularly liked about this particular work was that the focus was not on discerning whether the migrant women workers in question were legal or illegal. That was not the point of the movie. The binaries of legal-illegal were torn down in the narrative as it explored the trials and tribulations of three Latina women working in a sweatshop in Los Angeles.
Between April 15th and May 31st (and beyond) national organizations, grassroots groups, faith-based congregations and individuals are coming together in a nationwide effort to share the Emmy-winning Made in L.A. and put a human face on the issues of immigration, immigrant workers’ rights, and supporting humane immigration reform.
It’s always important to tell our stories. And especially the stories of migrant women given the trend towards feminization of migrant labor.
Will you join or support this effort? You can:
1. Host a screening
3. Post the banner and button on your blog or website, and get the new Immigration Headlines Widget featuring Made in L.A.
By creating a climate of empathy and understanding around immigration reform, we can use Made in L.A. to help lay the foundation for change. Join the movement at www.MadeInLA.com/MayDay!
No crime means no police. What makes the presence and control of the police tolerable for the population, if not fear of the criminal? This institution of the police, which is so recent and so oppressive, is only justified by that fear. If we accept the presence in our midst of these uninformed men, who have the exclusive right to carry arms, who demand our papers, who come and prowl on our doorsteps, how would any of this be possible if there were no criminals?
-Michael Foucault, Prison Talk
When the immigration question is framed as a matter of law-breaking, the inevitable result is the criminalization of migrant workers and families which feeds into the migrant-prison-industrial complex.
In a recent article published in La Prensa, Ali Noorani-Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum (www.immigrationforum.org),– subscribes to the dangerous ‘rule of law’ discourse that criminalizes undocumented workers and their families. The ‘enforcement-mantra’ of the mainstream DC organizations holds that comprehensive immigration reform is key to holding undocumented workers accountable and ensuring that U.S. security is not compromised:
Only through a controlled legalization of those who meet certain criteria can we hope to isolate those few immigrants hiding under the radar that may wish to do us harm or take unfair advantage of our generosity.
Combining an enforceable immigration system with effective, targeted enforcement is the only way we can achieve an immigration system consistent with American values. We must reestablish the rule of law by fixing our immigration system and then enforcing the heck out of it. This is how we regain control, create an even playing field for all workers in the economy, and ensure that workers and employers who play by the rules will be rewarded rather than undercut.
This ‘rule of law’ discourse is devoid of the fact that many immigrants fell out of status by trying to follow the rules. Moreover, a quick study of the new ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ discourse and agenda citing President Obama in ABC News (www.ABCnews.com) would tell one that it hardly applies to the horror of immigrant detention camps–the Guantonomizing of America (www.homelandgitmo.com). The heterosexualized concept of immigrant ‘family unity’ (www.Change.org) stops just outside the immigrant-detention complex.
In a recent report named Jailed Without Justice, Amnesty USA (www.amnestyusa.org) found the number of immigrants held in detention camps had tripled from 10,000 in 1996 to 30,000 in 2008, with the numbers likely to increase this year. The ‘rule of law’ discourse somehow forgets that the migrants detained in these archipelagos of detention constitute not only ‘criminal aliens’ but asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors, legal permanent residents, and survivors of torture and human trafficking. And they probably would not benefit from any sort of ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’
The gender dynamics of immigrant detention are also unavoidable. See studies by Human Rights Watch and Southwest Institute for Research on Women, that highlight the mistreatment, lack of prenatal care, and other serious medical conditions that migrant women undergo while under detention. And these are women who have committed no crimes nor pose any flight risk.
As this country moves towards reforms via legalization, it is important to pay attention to the gross, inhumane violations of human rights in our immigrant detention facilities. Not engaging in dialogue and action about the creation of these achipelagos of detention would certainly not amount to ‘just and humane’ immigration reform.