Women With Opinions: You’re Prettier When Your Quiet and Other Lies

By Irene Sanchez

Actually you are NOT prettier when you’re quiet. That’s just something certain folks would like you to believe when it’s convenient for them. What shocked me this year (the year I had more published opinions) was the ways in which other women including women from my own community (broadly speaking) would also attempt to silence instead of dialogue.

What shocked me was the lengths some would go to invalidate someone than to listen and maybe learn. Perhaps if I was made into something ugly and undesirable or “wild” and “crazy” than maybe they thought people wouldn’t listen.

Well think again.

See it started for me earlier this year with an attempt to change the name of a Chicana/o/x student organization. I write here on my blog. When I can which is hard as a teacher. I also freelance (meaning get paid if I land something good or get contracted from someone who reaches out).

I was reached out to in the spring by someone who interviewed my good friend/mentor in the past year. She works for a national public radio entity and saw my opinions (which are usually augmented with facts since I’m a history/social studies teacher and education researcher).

She asked me to talk on the phone as I was driving back from the national gathering of the academics in my “field” who sometimes accept me and sometimes don’t.

You see I got the degrees, but not the titles. I’m a high school teacher and a writer and in the world of academia, I’m not really seen as such a legitimate source by some because I’m not a tenure track professor or even an adjunct (sometimes I do adjunct). The academy thinks it can give legitimacy to whoever they feel like it and when you’re not in it, many will do all they can to invalidate the work so many of us outside of the institution do on a daily that has a wider reaching impact.

So here I was departing New Mexico because during my spring break as a teacher I decided I would spend it at an academic conference called NACCS aka The National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies annual gathering just as I’ve done practically every spring since I was an undergrad. As I was parked in front of a gas station with my son in the back I took the call from a Producer I thought I could trust.

She told me this would be a conversation about the “name change”. What I quickly learned was it was not. In the week that followed came an interview I rushed to after work at a studio in Pasadena. There was shock that set over me as I listened to the questions. The mispronunciation. The framing. I was essentially casted for a role of an ignorant Chicana, a role I didn’t audition for, and it was about to be broadcasted.

I spoke up. Asked for the correction to my title/background that I a second generation Chicana worked hard for. I wasn’t just an alumni of an organization from a community college and in fact am proud of my community college origins, but I was upset they had managed to erase any and all credibility I presented by misquoting me and the facts I presented.

There were many more upset in the communities I circle with, few were academics. Some of these folks took up a cause for accuracy and fairness as I worked teaching because let’s face it, if you know me I rarely check my phone while teaching.

Soon after I heard an apology from higher ups and saw a tweet which for me pretty much sufficed cause let’s face it a teacher mama has no time for outside nonsense in a work week. I was ultimately reminded of how our communities are portrayed by outsiders (even if they look like you).

Outsiders can share certain things, but if they don’t know the poor/working class struggle of those who look similar to them who have had higher to climb well it may seem that they could also be looking down on you.

Months later I heard from a friend after the incident the producer was not a fan, but what was she a fan of to begin with? Did she think this woman with opinions would suddenly agree and go along with how others try to remake her? Did others (including women) who called me names this year for having opinions think I would cower and hide?

If you don’t tell your own story someone else is will tell it for you

If you think I would trade pretty or like-ability for silence I think you may have me mistaken for someone else. You see for me there’s too much at stake with silence. Our communities are under attack and have been under attack. There are current events with historical connections that need to be seen. There’s also the very fact I share often with others that if you don’t tell your own story someone else is will tell it for you.

That’s the whole reason I started my blog to begin with. I was tired of being voiceless, of being told what to do, of being told when I could or couldn’t do something like have an opinion by academia or anyone else.

I’m Xicana. I’m Mexican. I’m part of a small percentage of Chicano/Mexican people who get their Ph.D. in the United States because yes unfortunately we do have some of the lowest educational attainment rates in the U.S. I took it as a challenge and managed to finish after barely graduating high school.

I’m a mother. I’ve been a single mother. I’ve been on welfare before AND after getting a Ph.D. I’ve spoken up and sometimes lost things like jobs and I don’t regret a darn thing about it. The fact I’ve survived many things in my life should tell you something,

I’m not here to be pretty for you or to let you decide the price to pay for your acceptance is my silence.

Who I am was never for sale to begin with.

Here’s to more writing/speaking/opinions in 2020.

c/s

Irene Sanchez

aka Xicana Ph.D.

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