Undocumented and Awkward: Episode 13
A little over a month ago, Julio and I were conducting a small presentation to a group of students about building a narrative, creating media, and addressing intersectionalities in our experiences.
Inevitably, a young lady raised her hand and asked shyly, “Why are there no women in your videos?”
It’s a question that we, within Dreamers Adrift, have asked ourselves. Does this project lack the space/room to address the narratives of women? Have we been actively reaching out to encourage women to help develop content and incorporate other voices/experiences into our series? If not, how can we share the space? What do we have to do make it safe enough so that others feel comfortable in sharing and co-creating?
These are questions that we’ve been working to understand and deconstruct.
With this in mind, I responded with something along the lines of:
“The reason that women aren’t in our videos is simply because these videos are creations based on moments that Julio has undergone, that I have gone through, and that the actors in the videos have experienced. It just so happens that a lot of the participants thus far have been fellas. We’ve noticed that the presence of women in our videos is sorely lacking; we haven’t really connected with any women to help us in creating a narrative for videos framed from their own experiences. We decided that we weren’t going to create videos and portray stories that are not ours. Our aim is to tell what we know. And we’re not women. It’s not our place to tell that story or to speculate what the story is.
“The only way we can create content around the experiences of women in the movement is to have women write it and help us direct it. They’re the ones who know what those crucial moments are, what those feelings are, and they’re the ones who can tell us how and where to check ourselves.
“But you know… while us fellas are hanging back and creating these videos, it’s the women and queer folks who are on the forefront, making all the moves and the difficult decisions, sacrificing themselves, and organizing. Maybe that’s why we haven’t worked closely with any mujeres: they’re all too damn busy making all this happen.”
I walked out of that presentation with her question in mind, wondering whether my answer had been enough to explain the minimal presence of mujeres in our videos. Had I just made the assumption that women didn’t participate in our project because they didn’t have the time or the interest? Did I just say that women in our movement haven’t been recording their experiences due to lack of will? Were these half-baked assumptions the reason that our space hadn’t been so receptive to other voices?
I realized that it was time to stop theorizing; praxis was due. So I pitched Julio the idea of opening our space more and doing something different. I contacted Catherine (“I’ll cut him!”) Eusebio and asked if she’d be interested in helping develop a video and if she knew other ladies who would be interested in participating. Within an hour, she’d confirmed four other women.
So there it was. The problem was never that the ladies didn’t have any time or interest to work with us. The problem was US. Our space had always been open, but nobody knew it and we hadn’t really bothered to let others know.
The evening that we met to create this video, we all decided to hash out and idea over some chow mein at a Chinese restaurant.
I approached this dinner meeting knowing that my role was now to listen and help guide the idea so that we can present it in a video. As the discussion got deeper, I restrained myself to just LISTEN… to take it all in and periodically recenter the conversation if it did go off too deeply towards tantalizing tangents. I learned a couple things: as difficult as it is for me to keep my mouth shut during the creative process, sometimes, it’s the best contribution I can make. I was also reminded that the reality of the DREAMer experience is one that is incredibly multi-dimensional and much more complex than I currently understand. It made me realize that I needed to listen more.
What you see in the video is a scene that was inspired by an actual experience that the mujeres in the video actually went through the NIGHT BEFORE we shot this video. They were organizing a location for an event, and when they had completed having a discussion with community members and worked out logistics for finding a community center for the event, a gentleman ally came in and rejected the motion, completely ignored the decision-making process, and derailed the entire idea. All the work and consideration that the women organizers had put into the conversation and decision-making process got thrown out the window. By ONE guy. An ally at that.
For me, it was a bit astounding that one lone voice could still carry so much… weight and entitlement. Though the DREAM movement (amongst many others) is indeed headed by women and queer folks, this kind of situation continues to repeat itself in many crucial moments of potential breakthroughs. Fact of the matter is, some of us fellas are completely unaware of our ingrained societal chauvinism, many of us don’t make the effort to actively address this weakness in our movements, and many others choose to ignore it knowing full well that it’s there. And sadly enough, there are even some of us who embrace this disparity.
Episode 13 is our effort to be more inclusive and open of our virtual creative space, to bring this issue to the forefront, to pay homage to the mujeres who have sacrificed their personal lives to push this movement forward, and to call out all the fellas who don’t get enough recognition for talking as loudly and constantly as they do. Yep. You people know who you are.