Feminist Next Door: Interview with Nahomy Ortiz-Garcia
Banner by: Sabrina C.S.
Regular girls discuss their thoughts and experiences with feminism.
The Feminist Next Door is a new weekly interview series where we interview regular girls and women about their perspectives on feminism and girl power, perspectives on sex, gender and also their ambitions, thoughts on society and other things. The media tends to focus on feminist perspective of famous people or celebrities who have a different take on the ideology than the everyday person. Think of this as "the girl next door's" take on feminism.
Today we’re chatting with Nahomy!
At what age did you first hear the term feminism? How did you find out about it? How was the term explained to you and how did you react to it?
Nahomy: Oh wow, probably when I first got to America (4 years ago). I think the way I found out about it was through Emma Watson when she made one of her first speeches for HeforShe. To me that speech was so inspiring, to think that I only clicked on the video because it was Hermione Granger, it really changed my life. I think the way I first understood feminism through Emma Watson’s speech was that it’s all about equality between men and women, which is what her organization is about, but now years later I can understand and see that feminism is so much more!
When did you begin to identify as a feminist? Was there an event that prompted you?
Nahomy: It was so scary to identify myself as a feminist at first because I was in high school. No one really cared about or had a passion for feminism the way I did, except my favorite English teacher. Many of my friends that are cisgender didn’t know or care. The only event that really prompted me to start speaking out about it was my senior year of high school when we actually started learning about it in school, if we hadn’t I probably wouldn’t be where I am today in regards to feminism.
Many people have issues with the label of “feminist”. People shy away from that label or perhaps use the term “humanist”. What are your thoughts on this?
Nahomy: Some people aren’t aware or educated what feminism is really about. Some people think that feminists just want benefits for women and want other genders such as male, non binary, etc. not to be represented or have the same benefits. If people were educated on feminism it would be known that feminism is about gender equality but also LGBTQ+ rights, Black Lives Matter, etc.
What does feminism mean to you?
Nahomy: Honestly, I’m a very selfless person. I think a lot on a day-to-day basis about the everyday effects on minorities such as myself. Feminism helps give a voice to all, including minorities and many other movements all over the world. Feminism empowers women and invites them to be their real selves with acceptance. It helps normalize things that aren’t seeing as “normal” for women to do. We need feminism!
Feminism has gone through many different waves over time, what do you think the current wave of feminism looks like and what is one of feminism’s current issues?
Nahomy: It has! And I’m so proud of that. I think the main feature of the current wave of feminism is most definitely diversity and cultures. I think we’ve been presented with this situation (in the U.S. at least) of a leader wanting to have everything and everyone act in specific ways, who says degrading things about women and bashes cultures, and a lot of people are seeing what life could potentially be without these ethnicities and therefore there would be a lack of representation. I think that now everyone is fighting very hard against things like the Muslim ban, conversion therapy, the North Dakota access pipeline and other issues so that we don’t have to see minorities suffer.
What issues most affect women in your community?
Nahomy: Most definitely degradation. I have to take two buses every day to and from school and at every bus stop every day a degrading comment is thrown my way. I am always forced to say that I have a boyfriend; every time I wish I had some pepper spray on me and every time I fear my safety but I am also disgusted by some of the comments that are made towards me.
What experiences have you had that have made you feel pressured to conform to stereotypical gender roles?
Nahomy: I think in everyday life I try to fight gender roles very hard. Even if I like cooking or doing things that are stereotypically “female”, sometimes I avoid them just to challenge myself and others around me. A couple of days ago I was complaining about something and I cursed in front of my mother, I remember she said “You’re a lady! For guys it’s okay, but on girls that’s looks so ugly.” I guess at that moment I had to conform, but, honestly, only because it was my mother. If it would’ve been anyone else I probably would’ve fought back. That’s something I’m very proud of in my feminism; I do stand up for myself.
Did any books/essays/TED talks/movies change your perspective on feminism?
Nahomy: Most definitely! I think if it wasn’t for media I never would’ve really learned what feminism is. Well, first of all, Emma Watson’s speech for the HeforShe organization was sort of my introduction. I also really love Tavi Gevinson’s TED Talk which introduced me to Rookie Mag that has a lot of feminist content. However, I think ultimately the one thing that really helped me broaden my perspective on feminism was the ABC TV show The Fosters. Like I said when I first became interested in feminism, all I was introduced to was gender equality that mostly benefited women, but when I watched this show there was an episode where one of the boys on the show (who was 17-years-old) had sexual intercourse with an older woman. In the show, immediately the mom said they had to call the cops because this was rape but the dad was hesitant and said that the boy knew what he was doing. The mom then took their daughter as an example “What if it would’ve happened to her?!” The dad immediately answered that it would be rape. As the dad realized it, I did too; there are so many things, such as rape, that males are treated differently about, so I then decided that I wanted everything to be equal, not only to better society for myself, but also for others.
Do you have a favourite feminist role model on TV?
Nahomy: A fictional character on TV who empowers me every time I watch is Annalise Keating (played by Viola Davis) in How To Get Away With Murder. She’s a law professor and just kicks ass in a classroom and in a courtroom!
Has there been a time that you faced oppression due to your gender?
Nahomy: I don’t think there has been one exact time. I feel like it’s a constant thing. Whether they are big or small impacts they happen almost everyday. It’s hurtful and it’s disgusting to know that there are so many men who genuinely feel superior because of their gender.
Do you have any thoughts on intersectional feminism?
Nahomy: Intersectional feminism is something I identify with very personally. I don’t think anyone experiences the same type of oppression in same levels, but in my case being a woman, part of the LGBTQ+ community and also being Puerto Rican I think I experience oppression in different parts of myself. Recently though, all of these parts of myself were challenged when our 45th president was elected.
How are some ways you feels feminists are (mis)represented in the media?
Nahomy: Feminists in the media are so misrepresented! Most of the time people just think that feminists are aggressive, angry women who hate men and it’s obviously not like that at all! I have not seen many characters on TV that are outspoken about their feminism, except Lorelai Gilmore, so we have a long way to go for representation of feminist women that correct the stereotypes that the media has created.
In your opinion, how do men successfully become feminists and support other feminists?
Nahomy: I think Lin Manuel Miranda is a great example of a man who is a feminist and I think the way men can successfully become feminists is when the idea of “treat her like you would your daughter” is just erased from existence. Don’t treat a woman with respect because you have in your head that this is the way you would treat someone that is related to you. Treat a woman with respect because she is a human being and deserves respect!