Sad Girls y Qué Are Breaking Down Machismo with Internet Art
Sad Girls y Qué are a glittery, girl power gang based out of Tijuana who use art to retaliate against the machismo culture prevalent in Mexico.
Images courtesy of the Sad Girls y Qué Facebook
Sad Girls y Qué are a glittery girl power gang based out of Tijuana who offer an alternative to "white feminism." Five Chicana-identifying women started this collective in October 2013 with a Tumblr-style Facebook page that has gained more than 12,000 followers through its curation of images of alternative icons like Selena, animated characters like Sailor Moon, and sex-positive imagery. They also use the platform to publish heartbreak poems and notes on depression and solitude. Through the dissemination of internet art, they seek to retaliate against the culture of machismo prevalent in Mexico and the world at large while reappropriating a girly "feminine" aesthetic. Since their inception, they have garnered fangirls from Pakistan to Mexico who identify with their chola chic propaganda and messages of feminine solidarity.
The whole concept of the "sad girl" was inspired by the Chicana chola culture highlighted in the 1994 movie Mi Vida Loca, which takes place in the Los Angeles neighborhood Echo Park. The sad girl is often depicted in LA tattoo art as a gangster chick with tears running down her face. She's beautiful with a hard-edged pachuca style. However, this image of a crying woman is not a weak victim. She's tough and conveys a more complex range of femininity.
I spoke with recovering Catholic schoolgirl Maite Soleno, Selena-obsessed Anna Bon, hustling hair goddess Pau Lia, glittering anthropologist Ariana Bon-Hodoyán, and taxidermy aficionado Ana Laura Camarena of the Sad Girls over Google Hangouts about their backgrounds, what it means to be a Sad Girl y Que, and why they reject "white feminism."
So how did SGYQ come together?
Anna Bon: The collective started with eight of us. Now there are five of us. It began as an online outlet for our frustrations regarding being girls in a patriarchal world. I started the Twitter and Facebook and let all my friends in on the fun. I just told them to go crazy. It was kind of by accident that we created this character of the "sad girl." At the beginning we used it to say anything we didn't feel comfortable saying on our personal profiles. It became popular instantly and we realized we weren't alone in our frustrations. SGYQ has given us the courage to stand up for ourselves and others against misogyny and racism. At first it was sort of a shield and now it's our weapon.
Why do you feel you need to defend yourself?
Growing up in a society that is so macho-oriented and Catholic, we've felt limited and oppressed by those forces. Mexico is one of the countries where cat-calling is prevalent. You can't really walk alone at night or during the day without experiencing it. I don't want to reinforce this idea that Mexico is this shitty, unsafe place, because it’s not. But there is this macho culture that is very apparent and dominant. It’s insane how much shit you go through as a girl.
Can you explain what a sad girl symbolizes to you?
It could be any girl who is fed up with society's standards and patriarchy. But it’s more specifically for Chicana girls. There’s this group of artists in LA who call themselves “sad girls” and they’re all white girls from CalArts. It’s cool that the sad girl term is a trend and a thing, but the appropriation of it is annoying and offensive. You can like other cultures and admire them and be interested in them without appropriating them in a way that devalues their origin. It’s important for us to let it be known where we got our name from because it validates a culture.
So what is the origin of the sad girl?
I got it from the movie Mi Vida Loca. A scene in the movie provides a good metaphor. One girl’s baby daddy dies, leaving behind his lowrider car, Suavecito. The girls imagine doing laundry easier, filling it up with groceries, and going to Disneyland. But the men have other ideas about putting Suavecito in a car show and splitting the prize money. The girls find out about it and say they should get the prize money. “That motherfucker left us with kids, bills, etc.” But the women are robbed by the men. It’s relatable to what we go through as second class citizens to the necessities of men.
Can you describe the aesthetic of SGYQ?
Feminized things and anything pink. Those things are usually devalued, made less important. Even women who have corporate jobs have to dress like men to gain respect. We are trying to be aggressive about it. Just because we like those things doesn't make us superficial or dumb or any less smart.
Maite Soleno: The symbol switching can be used to negate the idea of what the media says a feminist has to look like. A feminist doesn't have to be some hairy girl. A feminist can be whomever. It doesn't rely on the fact that she likes pink or not.
Ariana Bon-Hodoyán: We’re trying to fight against this whole angry feminist stereotype. I'm not trying to blame men.
Maite Soleno: Even bell hooks says that patriarchy is genderless. It's this massive thing that's oppressive. The media has created this stereotype that feminists hate men and they're lesbians. Actually, you can wear short skirts and be smart and a feminist.
Sad Girls y Qué cosmic sweatshirt of Selena in Mexico
Is there ever any disagreement over what to post?
Anna Bon: When there were more of us, there were differences in how we defined feminism and objectification. We’re totally into girl power and being naked and whatever, but we also had to have a standard. Facebook doesn't even let us show naked bodies. We've gotten so many bans from Facebook.
Maite Soleno: And it's all because of nipples and vaginas. They want to equate vagina with porn and reduce it to that. I'm not saying anything shady about porn. I watch porn. I love porn. But it’s a reductive thing.
Do you have any feminist icons?
Ariana Bon-Hodoyán: The story of Malinche is very relatable to us. She was an indigenous Mexican woman who interpreted and advised the Spanish colonizer Hernan Cortés. Everyone in Mexico believes Malinche to be the ultimate national traitor because she betrayed the Aztecs. However, she was a slave who was sold by the Aztecs and simply used the Aztecs’ enemies against them. She embodies characteristics not typically associated with women in Mexican culture like intelligence, adaptability, leadership, and forward thinking. And by adapting to unexpected historical circumstances, she defied social expectations of women's role in society.
I think Sad Girls y Qué represents these same characteristics and attempts to fight traditional social restraints set by macho values in the culture we live in. In Mexican culture, la Malinche represents the antithesis of the Virgen de Guadalupe. Unlike the holy virgin, la Malinche has become equated with being a sex object or “whore” who slept with Cortés and betrayed her own people. Even if in truth she was used as an object of exchange among men who delivered her into the hands of the Spaniards.
What are your thoughts on "white feminism"?
Anna Bon: White feminism is mainstream feminism. It's controlled, superficial, carefully packaged, easily digestible, and "one size fits all." It’s non-intersectional and binary. It does not understand race, culture, and gender diversity when it comes to inequality. It’s focused on body hair, the pay gap, make-up, skirts, Joan Rivers, and “not all men.” It’s the feminism you learn when you're a teenager. A well-rounded feminist looks out for everyone, especially oppressed groups that for centuries have been demonized, dehumanized, and exoticized by Western culture.
Maite Soleno: White feminism is what bell hooks refers to as the “eat, pray, love” kind of feminism that enables a ruling section of women to appropriate all kinds of cultures to empower themselves from their already coveted position of privilege. It reinforces patriarchal notions that only the problems of the bourgeoisie are relatable and worth noting. It’s a smoke curtain. But white is not a concept to be reduced to skin color, white is the combination of privilege and ignorance that constitutes a culture that believes we live in a post-racial, post-sexualized society.
What kind of feminism would you call your type of feminism?
Ariana Bon-Hodoyán: Common sense.
What about feminine rage?
Anna Bon: Yes, we are angry at society and everyone who has ever tried to oppress us, but we are more sad for you. We’re really sad for you because your thinking inhibits you. You are the one who is losing more from ascribing to patriarchy than we are. We’re conscious and we know what we’re up against.
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