Category Archives: Views

Making “WAVE”s or Going with the Flow? – Pinay Thoughts on Marvel’s new Filipina superhero

I posted my first reaction a few days ago upon seeing the first look poster of the very first Filipina Superhero from Marvel.  Since then, some discussion went down over on my Facebook Timeline.  Somewhat heated debate between me and a white Facebook friend (not RL friend) trying to parse out our understanding of the data: that Tagalog is both a Language and a group of people; that people with Spanish heritages are less than 1% of the population; that the artist, although Filipino, displays largely western, marvel influenced comic book art styles, etc.  I definitely outright challenged this white friend’s recollection and knowledge — and also pointed out that her 4-year living in the Philippines as a white person does not give her the same lived experiences as Filipina or Filipina Americans.

In the end, what matters here is not how this one white friend responded, but what my two Pinay educator friends had to say.  In the spirit of being called in (since I’m not Pinay) and calling others in, I’m reposting their salient comments here.  I’d really like to encourage Marvel and the creators of the new diverse superheroes to be courageous: this is uncharted water, but you have the resources to make large waves: do your due diligence and stay true to the cultures you’re representing even if they could be unfamiliar to western eyes.  Create something fresh and unlike all the previous superhero stories!  Don’t just do the same-old, same-old with merely changes of skin tones and costumes! (And please no resorting solely to “oriental mysticism”!)

Maria is an elementary school librarian who also produces and hosts a Theatre Review Show on YouTube to highlight work primarily by women and POC playwrights, actors, directors, etc. :

Maria Paz Alegre Hey all  Pinay here. I’m Kampangan and Tagalog – though little known outside our country, Tagalog is indeed both a language and a people! Props to Roxanne for shining light on that little known fact. TBH my fam usually refer to ourselves as Manilenyos first, a nod to our capital city. I believe Tagalog can be compared to the word “English” – both a language and a people. The idea that we are strangers to our own land, coming from Spain and Polynesia to conquer is false. We’ve ALWAYS been there. Been there long before King Philip and long before Christ. Source: myself, and if experts are needed, my father Edilberto N.Alegre- an award winning scholar and PhD of Filipino Cultural Anthropology. His books are often required reading at the University of the Philippines where he taught for several decades, but feel free to google him if you like.

I’m also the one who made the spray tan comment. I stand by it and it appears I may need to explain.

I was ELATED AF to find out that Marvel made a Filipina superhero, only to feel a kick to my gut when I saw her. If you know my country, then you know all about the systemic bigotry derived directly from white colonialism. The bleaching cream, the rhinoplasty, the upper eyelid surgery, you name it… I cannot stress the havoc that this western standard of beauty has wrought on my people, especially on indigenous tribes like the Ati.

Are there mixed Filipinos with western features? Sure! But they often make up the 1% and are almost always the rich and elite. They do not look like the vast majority of my country people. My stepmother (Joycie Dorado Alegre) has been the Commissioner of the National Commission in Culture and the Arts to the Visayas and Mindanao and she personally worked on campaigns to encourage that “Black is Beautiful. Brown is Beautiful. You are Beautiful.” It’s been a very rewarding but very uphill battle.

So yes, to see the first representative of my race in Marvel with Eurocentric features? It sucks and it hurts.

Spain wins again. America wins again. The Filipinos must take a hit and live to fight another day, again. And while a Pinay character may be a step in the right direction to you, it greatly disappoints me and many others that she doesn’t look like like one. They could have done better.

Justine is a Health and Wellness educator whose Decolonizing Beauty Standards workshop at the People of Color Conference (for educators in Independent Schools) was the highlight for many attendees two years ago:

Justine AF Yo! Pinay here too and glad this convo is happening so thanks Roxanne Feldman for your allyship. I’m feeling like all I need to do though is clap and bow down because Maria Paz Alegre just crushed it with her eloquence. But since I rarely can keep quiet, I’ll add my 5 pesos here:

1. Yay that Marvel is naming a character an identity that matches one of mine.

2. Boo that she looks like the beauty ideal I’ve been told to emulate for most of my childhood. Unless Wave has that nose because her Tita was right about clothes-pinning it and she obeyed, she is the 1%

3. Interesting that the Cebuano artist drew a Pinay that had the more expensive body alterations done when they could’ve just drew the cheaper and more common one by applying Eskinol lotion to lighten herself up.

4. Decolonizing the beauty ideal is not dunking your face in Hawaiian Tropics oil. We’re more than a skin tone.

5. There better be some real Pilipinx words and cultural practices that aren’t all Spanish and American influenced in this screenplay to make up for this. Just saying.

P.S.

And a week later, our differences in opinions did not get reconciled.  Instead of seeing what my Pinay friends expressed, that it would have been wonderful to see a more representational Pinay character, she posted this picture and claims that the woman on the right most “has basically the same shape face and brows of the comic character.”

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Perhaps this the case of seeing what you want to see and refuse to see what you don’t want.

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 2.12.40 AM Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 3.55.15 PM

I alwo wonder why instead of seeing how most of these women do not look like the artist’s imagining of Wave, this Facebook friend decides to hone in on the one that, to her, makes the point.

 

 

 

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Marvel’s New Filipina Hero – WAVE (First Reaction)

(Reposting from my Facebook)

Good and Bad News at the same time?

YAY – Marvel is debuting a Filipina superhero — WAVE;
HUH? – Why does she look like a Euro-White lady with tan skin?

And the artist is Filipino…

Reported as having “identifiable Filipino “morena” skin” …. my Filipino friends — what are your thoughts?

wave.jpg

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Critical Thinkers

Educator friends, what does it mean to cultivate critical thinkers?

A critical thinker is not a cynical thinker.  Too often, we value or even praise young people for their ability to be “critical” about events or people around them, believing that being able to find faults, poke holes, or even make fun of matters are signs of their mental acuity.  In fact, those are often mere manifestations of small mindedness and posturing, or even just parroting grown-ups and peers.

A critical thinker must have the patience and fortitude to gather multiple aspects of any single issue before making up their mind.  A critical thinker is not quick to judge and does not belittle.

So, when we teach young people — please remember to give them plenty of opportunities and time to practice patience and broadmindedness.

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The Whiteness of My Profession

Over at Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog – a commenter noticed that the nineteen Heavy Medal readers who volunteered to read and participate in discussing and choosing our 2019 Heavy Medal Award winners/honorees all identify as White.  I wrote my longish response in a comment there and repeat the words here:

The predominately white Committee (with Steven, white, and myself, Asian/non-white, serving both as manager of the blog and occasional commenters starting January) simply reflects the librarian profession as a whole.

Here’s the finding from ALSC itself in 2016 via an Environmental Scan study of librarianship in the U.S. (Note, the Librarianship counts are almost 10 years old by now so hopefully the number has increased.)

“The overwhelming majority of librarians, including children’s librarians, are white women. Librarians are disproportionately white compared to the population of the United States as a
whole, as demonstrated by the “Librarians and US Population” graph that follows (Librarian data from Diversity Counts 2009-2010 Update; US population data from “Outreach Resources for Services to People of Color”). It is clear from this graph that people of color and Native/First Nations people are grossly underrepresented in the field of librarianship.” — The graph shows the following:

88% of Librarians are white and 12% are non-White: 1.8% are Latino, 6% are African American, 3.8% are API, and 0.4% are multi-racial or Native American.

So, out of 21 people (including Steven, white, and Roxanne, Chinese,) we should have 2.5 persons who are “non-white” – we have 1, making it 4.7% diversity: if we only look at race. If we look at other factors, gender (5% of the profession is male, and we have 4 members identify as male, making 20% of the membership.) We also have some diversity in political views, abilities, ages, sexual orientation (openly identified or not,) professional focus, etc.

This brings me to explain an important process during the Committee formation to balance representation so Committee members look MORE like the nation and the children our professional serves than the profession itself. ALSC, through members and the Board, intentionally balances the representation of each Committee (Newbery, Caldecott, Bepre, Sibert, Notables, and many more,) through both the voting and appointment processes.

We here at Heavy Medal do not use any balancing mechanism. If no Heavy Medal Readers of Color volunteer to serve, then we have no HMAC Members of Color to participate. Do you think we should have pushed during the call for participation to encourage more readers of color to sign up for this process? I am curious to what outcome would have been then.

Last year’s Newbery Fifteen included three (counting me) Asian participants — we did not have any African, Latino, or Native American participants, either. Or could it just be very possible that we do not have many/any Readers of Color — and this is merely a parlor game for white (and Asian) children’s literature enthusiasts?

Much to think about.

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Thankful

I’m grateful these days that I work in a school where I am allowed to share my honest opinions, respectfully, with my co-workers and my students about what matters: that equity and inclusion are of supreme importance, that love and kindness are what we need to combat hatred and ignorance, and that there is hope in young people and the future.

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No More Laura! And the controversy begins…

Yesterday/Last Night, youth librarians, young readers authors and publishers gathered in the Hilton, New Orleans, Grand Ballroom to witness and live a historical moment.  In the room that held a thousand, we united and cheered in the decision (long in coming, and long overdue) to update and change the name of the life-time achievement award administered by the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC).

The Wilder (Laura Ingalls) Award has been given to an author or illustrator who has made, “over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution” to American children’s literature since 1954.  In recent years, however, the name of the award has prompted the Association to examine its implication, especially when it comes to Wilder’s portrayal and sentiment about Native Americans (Indians) and Black Americans in her classic Little House series.

Read about the decision to update the name of the award to Children’s Literature Legacy Award and the divergent opinions (in comments) from the general public here:

http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2018/06/childrens-literature-legacy-award-alaac18/

I, for one, applaud the decision and am proud to be a part of an organization that continues to examine practices that should no longer be upheld as we honestly face the reality of this nation’s history.

 

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What About White Boys? (All Children’s Lives Matter)

milesI haven’t posted for a long time — but I have been thinking about both our society and the children’s books that reflect (and hopefully help shape) our society and its future.

E-V-E-R-Y  S-I-N-G-L-E  D-A-Y!

Here’s what I posted on Facebook this morning:

As we teach girls to say NO, we must also teach boys to RESPECT. As we teach girls to be STRONG, we must also teach boys to be KIND. As we teach black children to EXCEL, we must also teach white children to REFLECT. As we teach black children to have more self CONFIDENCE, we must also teach white children to have more INFORMED EMPATHY.

Instead of judging and blaming each other, we must teach POSITIVE INTERACTIONS AND ACTIONS between groups of people.

Heck, this is not just about children. This is about all of us.

And promptly a white male relative (in his 50s) who is informed, kind, and loving, posted that he agrees with my basic principles, but it seems so “one-sided” and that it sounds like I am blaming and judging white males.

Here’s what my response to him:

Actually, I think of it as helping white males to adjust better in a world where their past and complacent modes might no longer serve them well and let them be equal partners of a future, equal world.

If you truly examine our history and society and systems, you would see that pretty much all other groups: women, non straight, and non white people have been on the receiving end of systemic oppression: less paid for equal work, fewer rights for the same human beings, etc. I actually want Educators who have been advocating one sided to educate girls and people of color but having largely ignored giving the tools and skills to handle an increasingly demanding (and rightfully so) world.

So yes, it is one sided: for the benefit of our children and ourselves. Instead of just blaming people like Trump or Sessions or Weinstein, I want to figure out how we can successfully educate the white/male of the future to thrive and to not thrive by stepping on others’ heads. Does this make sense to you?

Indeed, I have been wondering and hoping for more books by White and Non-White authors that feature good, kind, fair, courageous, moral, wonderful WHITE male and female characters — who do not just show up as white saviors or antagonists but act like so many of my real life white friends do — stand up for what’s wrong, fight for justice, and are self-reflecting and always want to be better humans.

I often hear that children need mirrors to reflect themselves and their experiences — I say that they also need a crystal ball that can show them what they COULD become.  I am worried when I started noticing that authors of children’s books seem to think that when they create wonderful children of color protagonists, they are then obligated to create white antagonists (bullies, uncaring teachers, etc.)  I wonder about the image that a white young reader sees in such books — are these the only roles they can assume now?  Are they being delegated to the dark side without redemption?  How hopeless is that? And how dangerous!

I wish to caution writers and editors: in our zealous (much needed) pursuit to include positive characters from marginalized groups, please do not make the dangerous mistake in creating a host of negative characters from the majority group, or excluding them from positively interacting with characters from the marginalized groups.

Case in point: Miles Morales features a black/hispanic hero with an Asian side-kick and a racist white teacher — is there no possibility for Miles to have close and allying white peers, friends, and mentors?  Another case in point: Hello, Universe features wonderful, quirky, and ultimately lovable Filipino, Hispanic, and Asian main characters.  And there is ONE white family/white child — and that ONE white family/child are bullies whose actions are most aptly described as despicable.  Of course, these are but two books from thousands of children’s books published in 2017 — but they are highly touted, much recommended books, featured in Best Of the Year lists, for middle grade students.  What is the telegraphed message here — and if there are more books like this frequently consumed by young readers — how would they view each other and each other’s group?

This is why I say, “Thank Goodness for Magnus Chase,” a white boy, created by a white male author, who encounters an assorted group of friends and foes — from different cultures, with different sexual orientations/gender identities, and religious beliefs. And they are judged not by the color of their skin or identity traits — but by their inner convictions.  Because, let’s not forget that when Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” he never meant that he wished his children to grow up “judgment free.”  As citizens of the world and members of our own community, we must understand that the content of our character is to be examined, held accountable, and, yes, “judged” by our peers and our society.  Being part of a particular culture, whether marginalized or main-stream, does not exempt anyone from having a moral conscience.

While I am completely opposing the sentiment behind the “All Lives Matter” slogan (which is a detraction and distraction from the urgent “Black Lives Matter” movement,) I must advocate that ALL CHILDREN’S LIVES MATTER.

Please look at the big picture.

Please look toward a long-term future.

Please mind the GOAL — which is to respect and treasure everyone equally, regardless of skin colors, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, genders, etc. etc. etc. In order to actually achieve this goal, we cannot trample on ANY child and their potential, positive future.  We must make it possible that the children of today will become fair and compassionate adults – so we must hold up that crystal ball and motivate them with positive imageries of their potential selves.*

* Of course, I am not advocating of having no villains in books or no conflicts in stories!  Just please be mindful of the trend…

 

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