Baby mama drama

A 10-year-old girl in southern Spain is generating an awful lot of buzz lately. Her situation has been morphed into a total news spectacle: she gave birth last week in Jerez de la Frontera, a city in the region of Andalusia. The father of the baby is also a minor, according to reports.

The reaction to this young mother has mostly been disbelief; a Ripley’s-Believe-It-or-Not! type response to what almost seems like a farce. But, as the LA Times reported, the girl’s mother wasn’t appalled or confused upon the birth of her grandchild. She was elated:

The girl’s mother told reporters earlier this week that she’s delighted to have a new granddaughter and doesn’t understand the fuss the birth has caused. She said the baby’s father is a 13-year-old boy who is still in Romania.

I have done a fair amount of research on Spanish gypsies and the Roma community, especially gypsies from southern Spain. This girl isn’t a Spanish gypsy — she’s from Romania — but as the Times wisely points out (although not until the end of the article):

Arranged “marriages” for girls reaching puberty are relatively common among Roma, who make up about 1.5 million of Romania’s 22 million people.

Not to say that I’m a proponent of arranged child marriages, but in the US, how often do you hear about gypsy or Roma culture? Never. Because (presumably), they don’t live here. But the Roma are the largest ethnic minority in the European Union, about 10-12 million people strong. The Roma are a massive, diverse, dynamic community, with customs that don’t always blend in seamlessly with “mainstream” or Western ideals.

I encourage you to do some Googling of the Roma, or of Spanish gypsies. There’s a lot to learn here, aside from “OMG BABIES HAVING BABIESSSZZ.” I posted a video below of the prueba del pañuelo (“handkerchief test”). This is customary at gypsy weddings: on her wedding day, the bride is inspected by an older female (here it’s the mother-in-law) to verify the sanctity of her virginity. A bloody handkerchief is a sign of an in-tact hymen, and cause for celebration:

(At the beginning of the video, some of the women comment on how beautiful the bride looks; the woman speaking asks if the 15-year-old bride is nervous for what’s about to happen — she says no. The bed is where her mother-in-law will perform the prueba del pañuelo. The honra de la mujer or “woman’s honor” is hugely important at a gypsy wedding.)

If the video doesn’t load, you can see it at here, along with other videos from the same wedding. It helps if you speak Spanish, although you can still develop an interesting visual even if you don’t.

Thank you to José for sending me the video link.

Targeting Women

Grl'z best, and only, friend.

Tonight I was eating yogurt and drinking red wine, admiring the flickering flame of my tea leaf & honey scented soy candle. Then I set down my spoon and felt like an idiot, like some kind of ladyloser straight out of a Sarah Haskins skit (PS Sarah Haskins if you ever [for some godforsaken reason] read this, I’m your biggest fan).

Then, after validating a few lady stereotypes — namely that my life is lonely and filled only with Yoplait, a chalice-size wine glass and scented candles — I remembered that I have this thesis to write about feminism that’s due, well, kinda soon.

And I really need your help! I need to locate contemporary feminist blogs — even better if these blogs include criticism or response to mainstream women’s magazines (i.e., Jezebel-style posts about things like Photoshop editing gone awry in Elle).

I already follow Jezebel, The XX Factor, Feministe, and Feministing. If you know of any other good feminist blogs or publications — independent bloggers, magazines, underground newspapers — please respond here or shoot me an email. You will be compensated for your help with an over-sized glass of Franzia at my next Grrlz Night, where we’ll watch The Notebook. Thx!!!

(Seriously though, please get in touch if you have any recommendations).

Affirmation for an ally

Here I am, at the slow and anticlimactic decline following a week of steady work on the west coast. That’s actually a lie, because life in Iowa City is still action-packed; at least in the sense of making up a week’s worth of schoolwork and beginning the paperwork process preceding graduation.

Out and about in the Castro with Alex, a fellow Student Project participant, gathering man-on-the-street audio interviews.

Working on the NLGJA Student Project was an incredible way to jump start my last semester and start thinking seriously about my career — that’s me being optimistic and assuming I’ll have one in the next five months or so. San Francisco was a week full of work (yielding a portfolio of clips, photography, audio and video), but I also interacted with heaps of professional journalists in a capacity I’ve never been able to before. I worked directly with writing mentors from the Associated Press, a photographer from the Oakland Tribune, a video journalist from D.C., an over 20-year veteran of NPR and a multimedia journalist for the Washington Post. Among others. Opportunities abounded to meet (and interrogate) people who are already established in the field, to learn about how they got to where they are now and to take back a few tips that will hopefully help me along a similar path to success. Or, any kind of path that doesn’t end in me as a perma-fixture in my parents’ basement/forever waiting tables/living on the streets.

Although my week centered almost exclusively on journalism, it’s worth mentioning (again) that I was able to go to San Francisco thanks to the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. If you know me, perhaps you’re scratching your head right now (or making any other gesture to express “Huh?”). I’ve fielded a lot of questions — not so much from conventiongoers, but from friends and family — asking Why? or, moreover, How? did I end up at a conference for the LGBT community.

To put it bluntly, I’m straight. But as a writer I’ve found a niche — and a passion — writing for and about the LGBT community. Whether this puts my sexuality into question, I’m not too worried. Since at least age 15 when I joined my high school’s Gay Straight Alliance, I’ve felt a certain sympathy for the LGBT rights movement. A week ago I was concerned that maybe, for some reason, people on the project or at the convention would think I had somehow deceived the organization by coming to San Fran as a straight ally. Of course, nobody cared (or if they did, they kept quiet). On day one of the project I was immediately reassured after listening to our first speaker, an AP reporter who covers the LGBT beat. One of my peers kicked off the Q&A by asking about her sexuality — like me, she doesn’t identify as L, G, B or T, but rather as a straight ally, and one who has also found her niche writing about the community. I should stop the comparisons here; I’m certainly not writing for the AP or anything of a similar magnitude, but it was affirmation for me all the same.