Daniela Ramirez is a full-time feminist, part-time karaoke booth deliverer (yes) and all-around exceptional pundit of the week. She discusses her thoughts on being a white woman of color, making the most of PolicyMic, and why being unemployed after graduate school is not the end of the world.
As part of the "pundit of the week" column, we spotlight one PolicyMic-er to share personal experiences with our community, and pose one never-been-asked question to a staff member.
About Daniela: She recently completed her Master’s in gender, development, and Globalization and has a background in NGOs and non-profits. Daniela's also an aspiring writer and hopes to one day write and publish feminist books. In the meantime, she’s been busy hustling to pay back her student loans and soaking up as much friend and family time as possible.
Caira Conner (CC): First things first, tell me about why you decided to get involved with PolicyMic.
Daniela Ramirez (DR): I came across PolicyMic when feminist extraordinaire/phenomenal person Elizabeth Plank started working for the platform. She and I studied at the London School of Economics’ Gender Institute. In class, I admired Liz’s fresh and critical perspective, and once I heard she was writing for PolicyMic, I knew that it would be worth checking out. Shortly thereafter, Sam Meier and Liz introduced the first-ever PolicyMic Feminist Writing Skillshare. I applied, was accepted and starting a wonderful 8-week journey of writing about feminism and learning the tricks of the trade. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of becoming a regular contributor.
CC: Your recent article on what it's like to be a white woman of color and not choosing your "between-ness" prompted much empathy from the comments section. What motivated you to write on this personal issue, at this particular time? Has PolicyMic been an effective platform for your cause?
DR: The idea to write the story came from a piece I wrote about #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen and if it created solidarity for women of color— the short-answer to which I argued was no. Inspired by Ana Cecilia Alvarez, I touched on what it was like to be both white and a woman of color and how disorienting it can feel to not be able to fully identify with either side, especially in the context of feminism, which claims to be an intersectional movement. To be honest, I had mixed feelings about doing it. I didn’t want to be wrongly accused of being ashamed of my ethnic roots. I’m fine with being critiqued for my thoughts and opinions but it was another thing to put my identity out on a chopping block.
Racial tensions have always been a part of a feminism and now that it's addressed so regularly, it felt not only timely and relevant to tell my story, but almost irresponsible not to. It was finally in reading a critique of Alvarez which claimed that her whiteness automatically trumped her “otherness” that I felt the need to say something. I was compelled to stick up for her, and for myself and everyone else who identifies.
PolicyMic has proved an effective platform for this discussion. The responses I've received have been overwhelmingly positive, and I've been pleasantly surprised by all of the personal stories readers and fellow pundits have continued to share with me since. It’s amazing to see how many people, from all different ethnic backgrounds and racial identities, could identify with my experience in such a real way. I’m endlessly thankful to Sam and Thomas McBee for suggesting the piece and supporting me throughout the process, and honestly proud of myself for deciding to take it on. As feminism evolves and hopefully becomes more inclusive and intersectional, the Latina voice risks further marginalization. I am committed to stop that from happening.
CC: What's one thing about your user experience with PolicyMic that's surprised you? What's one thing you wish were different?
DR: My answer to both questions is actually the same. I’ve been surprised by how anti-feminist some of the responses, sometimes even from fellow pundits, can be to pieces that for me don’t seem to be controversial at all. I understand and wholeheartedly agree that in order to be a strong platform, PolicyMic needs to represent a wide range of opinions, voices, and perspectives— I have had my eyes opened to so many issues I didn’t know much about beforehand. But with social justice coverage, I’ve been surprised not by the lack of knowledge on the issues, but genuine disagreement from the readers with them.
CC: Any advice to like-minded peers about the best way to engage with PolicyMic? What's one fantasy outcome that could result from your having used PolicyMic?
DR: Admittedly, I was a bit privileged to have a direct connection to someone on the PolicyMic staff, but I’d say the more you engage with us the more we’ll engage with you. If you're a reader or PolicyMic hopeful, the more you read, mic, or comment on pundit work, the more you’ll understand what we’re about and be able to pitch stories that would work well on our platform.
Ultimately, I want to be a writer, and I want to be an activist, and I also “just wanna have fun.” I think my fantasy outcome would be PolicyMic launching me into a space where I can make those dreams a reality. I figured if I want to be a writer, I’d better start writing and PolicyMic has given me the opportunity to do so. I’m very small-beans right now and still have so much learn about pitching, writing, online activism, social justice issues, the world. But I’m so incredibly grateful to PolicyMic for transforming me from a writer-wannabe to an actual writer, so in some ways the first step of this fantasy has already come true.
CC: Let's go offline. What do you like to do when you're not PolicyMic-in'?
DR: Well at the moment, I’m in a "transitional phase" post-graduate school, living at home and searching for my “next opportunity.” These are what I’m told are the better ways to say “unemployed.” I’ve done a range of internships and odd jobs. Right now I’m interning at Feminist Press, which has been amazing, and from time to time I work events in the fashion and magazine industries. I'm also starting to help out a friend with a party business, delivering photo/karaoke booths to Bar Mitzvahs and Sweet Sixteens all over the tri-state area.
It’s not exactly what I thought a Master’s degree would bring, but it’s been fun and trying at the same time. Now that I’m back in the U.S., I’ve been able to spend loads of time with my super supportive family, and most importantly my adorable nephew. I've also been able to reconnect with my lovely friends, several of whom have been getting married, all of whom for which I have been honored to be a bridesmaid. I joke that I’m a professional bridesmaid by trade, but I truly love celebrating love, even though sometimes I feel like this:
CC: Your turn. What's a question you have for PolicyMic staff?
DR: My question is for Sam Meier and Jordan Fraade. What is the number one "do" and number one "don't" you have for submitting a strong pitch?
Do: Tell a small story with big implications. Go deep into a subject you know a lot about and really lay bare whatever it is that interests you in a story instead of reaching for material that isn't as relevant to your own knowledge and expertise because you think that shows the "big picture" better. It doesn't.
Don't: Confuse an opinion for a thesis. "Sexism in television is bad" is an opinion. "New Girl's protagonist Jess has been mis-characterized as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl because television proffers so few female characters that the viewing audience sees them as essentially interchangeable" is a thesis.
Do: Tell us a story but also tell us why we should care. Show us that you bring a valuable, unusual perspective to the table, and that you can make us think about this issue in a way that no one has before. This can be based on a personal experience you've had, or some topic you have an in-depth knowledge of, or a counter-intuitive take on an issue everyone has been talking about, or whatever else you want. But it should answer the question, "Why are you the right person to tell us about this?"
Don't: Give us a thesis that isn't actually a thesis. Common examples of these include, "It's bad when innocent civilians die," "The thing I'm writing about is a very important development," "Warrantless surveillance is bad," "We must all work together and find a common-sense solution to this problem," "I find this offensive," and my personal favorite, "I'm a libertarian."
CC: Thank you Daniela, we're proud to have you on PolicyMic!
For more news on Daniela, follow her on Twitter: @DanRam910