On why I blog, criticism and activism

It’s been a difficult week.

I feel appreciative of having this space to write. I appreciate all of you who have read my thoughts here over the last two years and contributed to this dialogue.

This is the space that I created when I first decided I had something to say. The timing of all of this is in some ways fitting, because this weekend I was back at the place where it all started.

I was back at the site of the conference where I first called myself a radical doula. I was back at that same hotel in Atlanta, this time for a board meeting of the Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Health Collective.

Because of the dialogue over the past week, because of the criticism and personal attacks, I keep coming back to this question: why do I blog?

Over two years ago, when I first stood up in a room full of birth activists and abortion advocates and said, “My name is Miriam Perez and I’m a radical doula,” I felt the seeds of this blog stirring. The reason I felt compelled to stand up and say that is the same reason that I come back to when, in these difficult moments, I ask myself why I write. I write because I have a philosophy that motivates my activism. I said those words then because I felt alone in that vision, unsupported in it. I wanted a place where I could flesh that out, articulate why all the pieces of my activism fit together. In these 2 plus years I’ve learned that I’m not alone, that there are people everywhere who also feel similarly.

I come back to the identities that I hold which contribute to this philosophy: I’m Latin@, I’m a doula, I’m an abortion advocate and a part of the reproductive justice movement, I’m genderqueer (when I started this blog I used the term gender non-conforming), I’m a feminist. For some people these identities were contradictory, and it was that realization that made me want to articulate why they weren’t. That’s what motivates my activism.

This activism isn’t only reflected on the internet, on these blogs, on the evidence you find when you google me. Most of my activism has happened offline. It’s happened in my doula work, in my work in the reproductive justice movement, in all the other things I do off the internet.

Having an online persona is new to me. It’s strange and wonderful in so many ways. It can also be painful and damaging at times, particularly when I don’t feel like I can faithfully represent myself. My offline activism doesn’t get the same weight as what I do on the internet. The irony of that sometimes is painful.

Take this weekend for example. At the same time as there were really difficult and strong criticisms being made about me and my writing about issues of gender and transphobia, I was at the board meeting for Sistersong. While things were being written about me that I couldn’t fully respond to or engage in because of my commitment to this organization, I was doing the work of engaging with a WOC organization around issues of gender identity and trans inclusion. I pushed forward the conversation about gender variance and inclusion—a conversation that feminist and women’s organizations are being forced to take on, rightfully so. I feel a responsibility to push these conversations with whatever influence I have in those spaces, because I know it is vital and important to the work of feminism, and important to me as a member of the gender variant community.

How do I hold that work along with what is said about me on the internet?

Being in the public eye means there will be criticism. I’m accepting that. At the same time I’m remembering why I write, what ideas and beliefs motivate me and what my agenda is. I do have an agenda, and I won’t pretend that I don’t. That doesn’t mean I’m not open to discussion, or pushback, or dialogue. But I also won’t let myself live on the defensive, or only in response to others. If my agenda doesn’t speak to you, if my philosophy doesn’t jive with yours, you can engage with me and you can also choose to leave.

I won’t be bullied into responding on someone else’s terms. I do the best I can to be faithful to the online communities I’m a part of. I’m limited by my offline commitments to my activism, to my work, to my life and my self-care. The truth is that for some people, nothing I do will ever be enough. I have to sit with that and know it’s true and there’s nothing I can do to change that fact.

I’m sure I’m going to screw up along the way, as we all do. Call me out, say how you feel about something I did or said. But personal attacks and vendettas aren’t going to be where I engage.

I remain committed to why I began this work in the first place. Because I have something to say. I know that what I say may not fall favorably on the ears of every person. That’s fine.

But sometimes, in these tough moments when I feel like shutting down to protect myself from the drama, from the internet and it’s anonymity (which protects everyone but those of us who have put ourselves out there) I have to remind myself why I came to this part of my activism in the first place.


Radical Doula seeks graphic designer

I’m entering into the exciting prospect of (finally!) updating this site. My first step is finding a graphic designer to help me create a logo for Radical Doula. Here is the pitch, please send it around to any awesome designers you know.

I am the founder and sole blogger at http://www.radicaldoula.com. I’m looking to work with a graphic designer to design a logo for the blog which will serve as the banner for the site.

While I have a limited budget (since the blog does not bring in income), I would love to work with a young and talented designer. I’m willing to negotiate fees.

If you are interested, please send an email to radicaldoula@gmail.com with a little bit about you and some examples of your work.

Nominate a women’s health hero today!


Our bodies Ourselves is hosting a Women’s Health Heroes contest.

When you hear the words “Women’s Health Hero,” who comes to mind? Your 9th grade health teacher who taught you about sexually transmitted infections? The midwife who sat with you through 15 hours of labor? The young Nigerian activist you read about who’s working to end gender discrimination in her country? Or maybe the neighbor who counter-protests at the abortion clinic every Saturday morning?

Whoever your heroes are, we want to know about them! We’ve created the Our Bodies Ourselves Women’s Health Heroes awards to honor those who make significant contributions to the health and well-being of women. It’s a great way to publicly recognize people who make a difference in your life or the lives of others.

Nominate someone today! The deadline is May 1, 2009.

Virtual Tour for Yes Means Yes: Interview with Hazel/Cedar Troost

Hi ya’ll!

Welcome to the second to last stop on the virtual yes means yes tour. Be sure to check out the grande finale conversation at Feministe tomorrow.

If you haven’t heard about the book yet you should check it out. I have a piece about sexual violence against immigrant women in the book and there is a lot of really great content.

Today I have an interview with Hazel/Cedar Troost, another contributor to the book.

About Hazel/Cedar Troost:

Cedar/Hazel Troost is a trans and polyamorous femme living in Chicago, practicing explicit verbal consent, and passionate about ending trans misogyny. Ze is a former member of the University of Minnesota Transgender Commission, co-organizer of the 2007 Twin Cities Trans March, and the original author of the Cisgender Privilege Checklist currently residing at T-Vox—but hir real love is gardening.

You can also check out Hazel/Cedar’s blog here.

I asked to interview Hazel/Cedar because I thought hir post about consensual touch and body autonomy had some interesting connections the birth activist movement. We got a chance to gchat briefly. Here is an exerpt from our convo:

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Some thoughts on tokenism

There is a guestpost up at Professor What If that I feel the need to respond to. I feel the need to respond, and to respond here at Radical Doula at not at Feministing (where most of my blogging has been going lately) because of the nature of the conversation the post has invoked.

The post is called What if the feminist blogosphere is a form of digital colonialism?

You should read it, but it touches on some of the politics of blogging, “big time” blogs vs smaller blogs, WOC bloggers vs. white bloggers. Tokenism and power.

As a Latin@ blogger who started writing for this “small time” (what is the definition of that anyway?) blog and then joined a “big time” (again, where is the line?) blog as a contributor about a year ago, I felt like Van Deven and Shoot were talking about me.

There is A LOT running through my head right now. I’m annoyed, I’m frustrated, I’m tired of having to expend energy responding to intra-feminist blog wars and cat fights.

I already feel the pull between writing for this blog, which I love and miss when I don’t have time to write as much, writing for a larger blog with a bigger reach (more impact?) and yes, more benefits to my own life as a writer/activist, and the other myriad of things I do to make money to support my passions, many of which don’t pay.

I’m not going to lie. I love that I have a platform at a blog that has built up a readership over the last 5 years. As much as I sometimes hate having to deal with commenters at Feministing, I like that I get to talk about the world from my own queer, Latin@ perspective, to many people who would never hear it otherwise. And they need to hear this shit. Seriously.

How would the first 21 years of my life been different if I had had someone like me to look up to? What if Ellen DeGeneres hadn’t been the only dyke I knew of? What if I had been able to read the thoughts of someone like myself, about gender, sex, race, politics, life? Maybe my teenage/college years wouldn’t have been so damn isolating. And you know what? I never would have found a blog like radical doula. We need these ideas and perspectives in mainstream (and I say that with a bit of perspective, since no feminist blog is really mainstream yet) places, so that people like the 16 year old version of myself might see themselves reflected somewhere.

Shark Fu pretty much hit the nail on the head in terms of how offensive the tone and implications of that post are. I can’t be bought. I can be offered an opportunity, a larger microphone, a new platform. I can say no, I can set my own terms, I can choose to preserve the spaces that are mine and mine alone at the same time as a I contribute elsewhere.

You want to talk about tokenism?

Let’s talk about tokenism. Let’s talk about how it happens everywhere and everyday. Let’s talk about how it’s the flip-side of oppression. Let’s talk about how it makes me question every award I receive, every job I get, every person who emails me, every opportunity I’ve ever had. Let’s talk about how often I make a joke out of my own presence to call attention to the hidden thought in the room before someone else does. Let’s talk about how it makes me feel like I can only talk about a certain set of issues, that I have to be the one and only representative of an entire community. Let’s talk about how I don’t need to be publically reminded of something I think about every day.

But do me a favor. Let’s put this shit in context. The feminist blogosphere isn’t the only place that tokenism happens. And it’s probably not the first place we need to be fighting it. Not that you asked, but my role in the big feminist blog I write for is pretty damn much my own. No one tells me what to write about, how to write, who to write for. I make all those decisions, just like I decided to join that platform as just one part of the activism I do everyday.

Yes Means Yes on tour!

I mentioned this briefly before but I have a piece in the new book Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape.

The book has some really interesting pieces in it, and I promise I’m not just saying this because I’m in it.

If you want to hear more from the contributors, there will a livechat this afternoon at 3pm Eastern over at Feministing with the two editors and three contributors (me included!).

If you’re in DC, you should come to our reading on Thursday February 5th at Bus Boys and Poets (on U st). After party at Chi-Cha lounge! I’ll be there, along with LaToya Peterson, Jessica Valenti, Jaclyn Friedman and other contributors.

Also, today’s livechat kicks off the official Yes Means Yes Blog tour, with stops all over the blogosphere. I’ll be hosting the second to last stop here at Radical Doula, with an interview with contributor Hazel/Cedar Troost about her article on consensual touch. Should be interesting! See below for the rest of the blog tour schedule.

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Sometimes listening ain’t easy

There has been a lot of controversy lately in the feminist blog world. I haven’t commented on any of it (with the exception of one collective post) and this is mainly because I’ve been doing a lot of listening.

I realized in March that I had missed the first birthday of Radical Doula. I only entered into the blog world in February 2007, and really spent most of my first year blogging mostly writing and reading only a few other blogs. It’s been a pretty incredible year, to say the least. I feel grateful to everyone who has respected my thoughts and opinions, and given me larger platforms for my words.

A few recent developments pulled me out of my blogging bubble, so to speak. I began writing for Feministing, which brings with it a whole new level of visibility and participation in the wider blog world. I also attended the Women, Action and Media (WAM) Conference last month, where I met a lot of the faces of the blog world, and it motivated me to expand my regular reading list.

I’m not going to rehash any of what has happened here. Many other already have, and you can look at the links in the first sentence of this post for an entry into some of what has transpired.

So these last few weeks I’ve been listening, and reading, and processing, and learning. I don’t know a lot about the history of these conflicts and it all feels very personal as well. I’m Latina, I write for a big Feminist blog, I know a lot of the individuals who are involved in the controversy. I have my own thoughts and opinions about race and appropriation, but lately I’ve just wanted to hear what’s being said by all parties.

My point in writing this is to let all of you who know and care that I am paying attention. I realize that some not so great things have happened and as difficult as it is at times (why can’t we all just get along?!?) these conversations are necessary, important and probably overdue. I’m not going to chime in with my opinions, because as one friendly blogger pointed out, no one is asking. But rest assured, I’m listening.


So there a few new and exciting developments that I want to share with all of you Radical Doula readers. The first is that I am in the process of uprooting my life (and my uhaul worth of junk) and moving it to another US city, not too far away, but far enough to make it a lot of work! I am excited about my new environment and apologize for the less than robust blogging over the last few weeks. Bear with me as I get myself settled.

The other big development is that I will be joining the crew over at Feministing.com! Jessica and the other awesome women have graciously invited me to start writing for them and I’m really excited about it. Feministing is one of my favorite blogs and they are constantly producing awesome and interesting content. I’m honored to join their team (sniff). Check out a vlog from Jessica to learn more about their history.

I will still be blogging over here at Radical Doula and at Feministing I will broaden my scope somewhat and write about some new things. So stay tuned!

Pretty Bird Woman House: Over $80,000… OMG, Thank You and Happy New Year!

See below for a report back about the Native American women’s shelter I posted about before the holidays. Thanks to anyone who contributed!

In October, Betsy Campisi, a volunteer on the last Pretty Bird Woman House fundraising drive called Georgia Little Shield, the shelter director to check in. After all, after the previous May fundraiser, things looked great – Pretty Bird Woman House had a building, funding from the Netroots until a grant kicked in in… things were going well. But when Betsy spoke to Georgia she heard grim news.

Our shelter was burned down. They stole everything. Then they burnt it down.

Betsy asked; how much to buy a new house with a security system? The answer: $70,000. Worse, all the grants Pretty Bird Woman House depended on required a physical building to use as a shelter. They needed the money FAST. It seemed so unlikely back in October that it could even be done…

Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and just hope that the net is there to catch you. This time there was no net. But you wonderful people… you wove that net even as everything was falling off the edge. You wove the net out of blog posts and $5 donations, out of human love and compassion.

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Fresh Focus: Sex-Ed Digital Video Contest

Fresh Focus: Sex-Ed Digital Video Contest:
“In My Eleven Years Of School, I’ve Gotten No Sexual Education!”

Fresh Focus Video Contest - Watch Intro Video

Wednesday, December 5, 2007Fresh Focus: Sex-Ed Digital Video Contest, is accepting video submissions until midnight on New Years Eve. The contest is sponsored by a group of leading national reproductive health partners including Advocates for Youth, ISIS, Inc., RH Reality Check and SIECUS and asks young people to describe their sex education (or lack thereof) or explain how they would improve it themselves.

Amie Newman, of RH Reality Check, says “It’s time to get together with your friends and be creative! Young people from around the country are picking up their cameras and cell phones, getting together and shooting. It’s easy! We want to hear your thoughts about sexuality education in this country.”

In Angel’s video, she shares, “Basically, I’m in tenth-grade and I don’t recall having a sex-education…ever.”

In another video, a young man in an on-the-street interview says, “I really didn’t learn about sex education. It was word of mouth and just don’t get any of the bad stuff…”

Eliciting videos that, according to Andy Carvin at PBS.org’s Learning Now, are “a collection of frank discussions on teens, sex and health literacy” that “…are funny, outspoken, honest and bold”, Fresh Focus: Sex Ed Digital Video Contest aims to engage young people in their own education by encouraging them to envision a new way to teach sexuality education or to share with other young people how their own sexuality education was helpful or not. Prizes range from a $3500 scholarship or cash equivalent to an iPhone, as well as the opportunity to be featured at the inaugural Sex::Tech Conference: Focus on Youth, January 22-23, 2008 at the Institute for Next Generation Internet in San Francisco.

Entries will be accepted until December 31st, 2007. Voting begins January 4th, 2008. Visit the official contest page today for all the details and official rules.

Details, Rules, and Information on Submissions:


amie at rhrealitycheck dot org for more information
deb at isis-inc dot org for press inquiries
andy at isis-inc dot org for contest inquiries

For more information about the sponsoring organizations: