Women of color don’t see a place for them in mainstream
When Teresa Rivera turned the glossy pages of top women’s magazines, she didn’t see women who looked like her and the people she knew.
No brown skin, no thick hair and definitely no voluptuous bodies.
So Rivera, 20, decided to make her own magazine, one “written by us, for us,” she said.
“Us” turned out to be the participants in The Point CDC’s W.O.M.E.N.’s group, along with its director Stephanie Messer.
Their zine, called POP Magazine (the initials stand for Power of the People) is published quarterly. For each issue, the group chooses one young woman to appear on the cover of POP and write the cover story.
This fall for its fourth issue, Sharon De la Cruz is on the cover with a blistering critique of photographer Chris Arnade, who has won wide acclaim for his portraits of prostitutes and addicts in Hunts Point.
“His success includes being featured on the NY Times, Guardian, and many followers on Flickr and Tumblr,” writes de la Cruz.
“His claim to fame is the constant exposure and embarrassment of addicts and prostitutes. Assuming that community members are simply ignoring this situation is the perspective and air of a poverty pimp,” she writes.
Although the participants in W.O.M.E.N. are free to write about anything they want, beauty standards, race, body image, health, nutrition, independence, environmental justice and social justice are among the central themes in POP.
So why is a magazine like POP necessary?
Gabriel Burvis, a regular at The Point answered. “Women of color need to see their voices in media,” he said, and to hear role models speak “about the truth that they live.”
Ameenah McCray, 21, a member of W.O.M.E.N., said when she reads news stories she often finds that “the stories are negative for people who look like me,” referring to her own brown skin and curvy build.
So when Rivera had the idea for POP, she wanted the zine to be an outlet for her peers to tell their own stories, especially because women of color are often portrayed in the media through stereotypes, she said.
The young women address the issues they face through essays, stories, art or poetry. Their work aids in shaping their identities as whole people and not the pervasive “Loud Black Woman” or the “Spicy Hot Latina” stereotypes that plague them, they say.
For instance, in a poem entitled “Reasons Why I Need Feminism,” Alexis Davila wrote “because my reproductive rights are constantly up for debate by men who do not have to deal with the restraints that are put on women.”
Instead of Teen Vogue or Cosmopolitan, said Rivera, “I want to see more girls reading POP.”
And rather than seeing friends share stories like “What do men love?” on Facebook, Rivera said she would like to see more headlines that read “Women you should know.”
She paused for a moment, and seconds later she eagerly changed that headline to “Women of color you should know.”
Another reason why POP is necessary, according to Messer, is that it’s giving young women the information they need from the perspective of their own peers.
The Point’s young women are getting information about everything from self-love and healthy eating habits to style, skin care and breast self-exams. Additionally, POP lists local and affordable women’s health service centers like Planned Parenthood, offers intimate testimonials of struggles about family, love and relationships and publishes photos that enforce a positive body image.
“Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a voice,” McCray said. “POP gives me a way to have one.”