January 13, 2017

We Are Not the Problem, We Are the Solution

Hello from the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia. I can’t believe I have only been traveling for two weeks—it feels like a lifetime. Buenos Aires is a diverse, international city, home to a brilliant mix of Italian cafes that stay open way late into the night and little coffee shops that start the day serving croissants and strong espresso. 


In the past two weeks, I’ve made new friends from Brazil, Italians, Uruguay, Peru, Argentina, Israel, Poland, and even Canada. Everyone asks about Trump. I’ve gotten pretty good at discussing—in my far-less-than-perfect Spanish—the United State’s upsetting combination of racism, bad media, and election laws that are designed to disenfranchise poor folks and people of color. Traveling from Buenos Aires to southern Chile, I’ve been thinking about how United States’ policies have ramifications around the world. I picked up a little magazine written for Argentinian children (think Highlights, but in Spanish and full of adorable interviews with little kids) and it included a primer on Trump. “Donald Trump won the election in the United States and he wants to construct a wall to keep out immigrants,” it reads. Then they asked kids to answer the question, “What is an immigrant?” The kids responded, “My great-grandparents who were Italian. My grandparents were Russian. Anyone who goes to another country looking for work or because they want to study.” I hope this is the sentiment that U.S. kids learn, even with Trump as president: immigrants are our families, not some “other” people who need to be kept out with a wall. 




I have been walking a ton.




I’m not sure where this phrase originated, but it’s something I think about all the time. People who speak up are often seen as the “problem,” whether they’re voicing their feelings in an office meeting or in the streets. As Donald Trump lurches toward inauguration day, keep in mind that dissidents aren’t the problem here, they’re holding the lights to illuminate a better path. 




Podcast • I put together this Popaganda episode on fembots before I left town and I’m so excited it’s now live in the world! I talked to three feminist scholars for the episode and together we trace the history of female robots onscreen from Metropolis to Westworld, then delve into the gender politics of artificial intelligence agents like Siri. 



Ni Una Menos - Before leaving the states, I didn’t know much about this one-year-old movement across Latin America to end violence against women, but its presence is felt and seen very strongly in Buenos Aires. The group whose name translates to “Not One Less” doesn’t want to lose even one more woman to violence. In Buenos Aires, feminist graffiti is all over the place, from stencils declaring “Machismo Kills” to beautiful wheat-pasted signs like the one above. The group held several giant marches last year and organizes a huge community on Facebook—as soon as I tell people here that I’m a feminist journalist, they jump to say, “Ah! Isn’t Ni Una Menos exciting?!” You can read more about the movement here and follow their Facebook here.  


Born a Crime by Trevor Noah - The audiobook of this memoir by new Daily Show host Trevor Noah has been keeping me excellent company during 10-hour bus rides. Trevor tells fascinating and moving stories about his life growing up as a mixed-race kid in apartheid-era South Africa. I don’t think an audiobook has ever made me cry before, but I teared up during a few sections in this one. 


Gemma Correll - An artist whose one-panel comics about bodies, anxiety, and pugs are the highlight of my internet feeds



Sofia “La Watson” Alvarez - The first thing I did when I got to Buenos Aires was head to a book store and seek out all the comics they had by local women. That’s how I came across the unique work of Sofia Alvarez, who goes by the pen name La Watson. She’s an illustrator who’s working on comics, a tarot series, and moonlights as a tattoo artist. We met up in person and she was kind enough to show me around all the zine stores of Buenos Aires—including one called Espacio Moebius and one called Punc, both of which stocked dozens of comics I’d never seen before in my life. Heaven. 



Print a protest sign. As Trump heads into office next week, print out a sign of personal protest for your office, your home, or your street. Argentina recently elected a more conservative president and the streets are full of signs like the one above, which translates as “reading opens cages.” No matter who’s in office, it’s heartening to see peoples’ powerful ideas shared so publicly. I uploaded a high-res version of this week’s slogan to my website, please feel free to print it out and use it for whatever you need to in the coming weeks. 

See you again in two weeks! Keep in touch!