An Interview with dr. alemán

I got the opportunity to speak with a faculty member right here at James Madison University. I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Melissa Alemán and was able to get an inside scoop on various feminist topics. Here I will present some of our questions and answers and have linked her JMU faculty page so you can learn more about her and her successes! 

Please note: reading interviews can be long, so I have paraphrased some of these answers based on our meeting and tried to make it more conversational and text-like. Feel free to let me know what you think of this style! 

Without further adieu….. 

Interview Questions/Topics: Top Three from Discussion  

  1. What to you are your biggest achievements or investments in feminism at JMU? 
  • Dr. Alemán: A group of students and I founded ShoutOut! 12 years ago so in terms of some enduring accomplishment, I give the credit to the students as I facilitated the infrastructure for that to begin the group but I really see that as a collaborative effort to the students. It is their accomplishment, but I would say that working with students and creating ShoutOut! is a key accomplishment. “I have been here for 25 years and working with students for 25 years and to me what is most joyful and exciting to see students that I have worked with or mentored going out and being change makers and some of them are faculty themselves and are doing important feminist work.” 
  1. What is your definition of feminism? Does it differ from what society thinks?  
  • Dr. Alemán: I think first of all that there are many different feminisms and the main disconnect between popular conceptualizations is that there is “one feminism”. This one perspective that tends to center white women and white womens issues and over simplify the perspectives that should be brought to bare. I think ultimately feminism is about facilitating basic human rights for all genders. We can do this by facilitating this through an intersectional lense.  My experiences as a white, cisgender middle class, heterosexual woman are going to be really differnt from other identities and expressions. So, feminists have a obligation to look at gendered racism for example. Also, build coalitions to work toward fundamental human rights such as voting, healthcare, reproductive justice, political voice, and safety.
  • bestiesovertesties: When I was doing research and typed into google the word “feminist” things came up like “why dont they shave”. Just things where the value diminishes. There is no talking about voting rights or gender equality. It is very media based, one sided, bland and was not intertwined into any true feminiist values at all. Society has this very narrow, singular idea of for feminism. 
  1. Do you think there is a negative stigma around the word “feminism” if yes, why? Should it be called something different since society has so many negative underlying assumptions simply based on a word? 
  • Dr. Alemán:  First, no there shouldn’t be another word. We shouldnt ditch the idea of feminism because folks that wish to uphold the status quo see it as problematic. There’s always going to be folks who want to villainize communities who are fighting for the fundamental right to exist safely and to thrive in every way. This includes things like access to food, jobs and healthcare. 

We shouldn’t cave!!

Instead, do the work to dismantle patriarchy, white supremacy and transphobia etc. 

  • bestiesovertesties: I totally agree. The BLM movement for example, there are some people that are against this idea and all I could think of is “why are we rejecting/protesting against basic human rights?” Even if we were to call ‘feminism’ something different, there will always be backlash or villianization regardless. It is something we are constantly working on (showing the true reason for feminist practies/works) and is something we should not cave to and cater to these villiinaizers simply to make them feel better. There is no reason we (people in society) should be fighting against equal rights, opportunities and basic necessities to live and thrive such as food, shelter, healthcare and overall safety. 

Well besties, I hope you all enjoyed this eye opening conversation with Dr. Alemán!! 

This brought in perspectives you just don’t think of until it is brought to light. 

Many, many thanks to Dr. Alemán for taking time out her day to speak with me and educate myself and others on the various topics we listed today. 

Until next time, besties! ❤

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