Thursday, May 26, 2011

Everyday Activism

I practice activism every day. To me, activism includes a range of behaviors intended to change society for the better, from the street protests of people living in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Spain these last few months, to writing letters to your government representatives, to making choices about how to spend your time and your money. When you think about your choices as activism, it is easy to be an activist every day.

One of the required assignments in the Introduction to Women’s Studies course that I teach is what I call the Advocacy or Activism Project. I ask students to choose a topic related to women’s studies or feminism and educate an audience outside of our class about the topic. This assignment places them in their community and gives them a chance to be activists. They don’t have to wait outside The White House all day in the cold rain holding signs for the president to see like the suffragists, or protest outside the Miss America pageant like the second wavers, or even write letters to congress asking them to renew funding for the Violence Against Women Act. They can just research a topic that interests them and tell their friends about it. They can even use social media to do it. Activism made easy.

One of the last things I tell students every semester is that teaching the course is one of the ways I am an activist. Women’s Studies is about looking at society’s practices in a way that suggests there is room for improvement in order for all members of our community to reach equality. Feminists do not accept the status quo; neither do other activists. At the end of every semester, I have taught 70 students how to be every day activists. When they see a need to practice activism, they will be confident that they can contribute.

I am also an activist in many other ways. When I publish poems about the experiences of the women in my family, I am an activist for including the stories of women, particularly Mexican-American women, in our cultural knowledge and our state’s heritage and history. When I show my daughters what I have published and talk to them about my teaching, I show them that women can make choices to be mothers and/or workers and/or cultural producers. There are many more activist moments in my life, which I will write about in future posts. Writing this blog is also a form of activism (see the last post about eating for health).

So, now I ask: How are you an activist? Are you surprised by the answer?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What I’ve Learned About Eating for Health

My husband’s uncle and other family members are visiting Houston while the uncle is tested at MD Anderson Cancer Center following a cancer diagnosis by his physician. Whenever I learn about a family member’s or friend’s cancer diagnosis, I think about all the other times I’ve heard this news. Because both of my parents come from large families, I have a very large extended family, and I have heard about their cancer diagnoses and those of friends too many times to count. Cancers of all kinds have touched people I care about, taken the lives of some, and contributed to the deaths of others due to complications following surgeries and therapies. I have always been interested in eating in a healthy way, but several years ago, I began researching this intently, hoping to find a way to prevent future cancer diagnoses for my children, since they seem to have inherited a susceptibility. Here is what I’ve learned.

  • eat mostly plant foods, a large variety as close to their natural state as possible
  • eat fermented foods (yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, etc.)
  • avoid conventional produce and animal foods (choose organic & grass fed if you eat animal meats, dairy, or eggs)
  • choose wild caught fish and seafood over farm raised (careful: some species are contaminated by pollutants)
  • avoid most processed foods (stuff that comes in boxes, bottles, cans, and bags)
  • sugar debilitates the immune system and encourages cancer growth

Little by little, I have been changing my family’s diet to incorporate these suggestions. It hasn’t been easy for a number of reasons. Obviously, a fresh plant based meal that includes raw and/or fermented foods and avoids processed items takes time to plan and prepare. Organic products often cost more than conventional ones. Sometimes, my family is reluctant to try a new dish, or asks me not to make it again. Yet, I have persevered. I’ll post my ongoing efforts from time to time. If you wish to suggest the topic of a future post based on the list above, please let me know in the comments section. Whichever topic gets the most requests will appear first. Or, maybe I’ll just have to share my plans to create more fermented foods right in my kitchen (yes, I already make my own yogurt)!

Perhaps you already know about the bullet points above, or maybe you are as surprised as my students are when I talk to them about this. Here is some good news: the diet described above can also keep you healthy in general and protect you from chronic and age related diseases. If you are interested in reading more, here is a list of some of the books I have learned from:

About Me

I am a full time wife and mother, part time college instructor, and part time poet/essay writer/blogger. My husband and I agree that our two daughters benefit from a close family life, and we make financial, career, and social sacrifices in order to provide that. I teach in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department at the University of Houston. Despite my adherence to a seemingly traditional gender role as wife and mother, I believe in equality for all members of our society, and that women should have the right to freely choose how to live their lives as citizens, workers, cultural producers, and mothers. Working part time gives me the opportunity to care for my children while building a professional life. It also affords me time to write poetry and essays, an important part of my life that I would have to give up if I worked full time, given the demands of my children. This blog is an attempt to continue my writing career. I hope you find it useful, entertaining, and worth your time.


Welcome to my blog! In future posts, I’ll be blogging most often about motherhood, teaching (both at my job and at home), and writing. I’ll also cover a number of other topics, including preparing healthy meals, healthy living, poetry, reading, feminism and women’s studies (what I teach), raising girls, raising mexicanas, speaking Spanish, activism, environmentalism, gardening, being Catholic, being Chicana, being creative. I welcome your comments and suggestions for future posts. I invite you to visit and read often.
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