#MeToo and Voting Our Way out of Misogyny

October 8, 2018 7:31 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

 


Versión en español.

#MeToo

Back in 2009 when I was getting my PhD at Purdue University, I wanted to teach film studies. Assistant professor Lance Duerfahrd was the sole person responsible for deciding who got to teach the course. There was no formal application process. You had to walk into his windowless, secluded office and make your case, and you also had to take one of his courses. After a very uncomfortable conversation, I was allowed to teach film studies. Throughout the semester, he kept asking me out for drinks and asking other students for my phone number. He wouldn’t return a scarf I left in class unless I came to get it in his office, where he got threateningly close as he handed it back. He had us watch and teach films where women were raped, and sometimes cut open on camera. It was while watching a woman treated this way in a film that was mandatory for class that I had my breakdown about Lance, followed by sleepless nights and pervasive dread that kept me on edge for months.

When I learned that one could actually report such behavior to the university, I did. Yet I never heard back. He got tenure in spite of a weak publication record, questionable teaching evaluations, and multiple complaints like mine. Not only did Purdue tenure him, but they made him the head of the Film and Video Studies Program, where he held power over hundreds of undergraduate students. Last week, I learned that he is accused of raping and assaulting an undergraduate student and that Purdue has responded by saying, “The university does not and will not tolerate such misconduct by any member of its community, including faculty, regardless of their rank or tenure. This case proves it.”

As I watch the sickening insanity that has unfolded as Brett Kavanaugh is pushed to be our newest Supreme Court judge, I think of Lance and how the signs were there, and yet they kept on promoting him. As the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault reported, only 7.1% of alleged rapes turn out to be false. A study distributed by the Australian State of Victoria police found the number to be only 2.1%. If our institutions don’t protect us even when data backs up the accusers, we have to fight back. With the US elections coming up in November, we get a chance to make it harder for men like Kavanaugh to end up in lifetime positions of power. Let’s transform the institutions that protect abusers one ballot at a time.

Directing a Film Across Continents

As the Miami Herald reported, Venezuelans have been facing a passport scarcity crisis for years. My Venezuelan passport expired in 2017, and I’ve been unable to renew it. I can go almost anywhere with my American passport but not to the land where I was born. Because my American passport states that I was born in Venezuela, I cannot use it in Venezuela, nor can I apply for a visa to go there. Being indefinitely separated from my homeland is devastating enough, but trying to direct The Weeping Season—a documentary that primarily takes place in Venezuela—from the US is quite perplexing. Luckily, I’m working with the fantastic Caracas-based production company, La Pandilla, and they’ve brought their considerable talents to the project.

I have spent the last month watching and editing hours of footage that La Pandilla’s Rober Calzadilla, Amanda Pérez, and María Carolina Agüero Altuve shot over a nine-day trip to La Gran Sabana, the remote area where my father disappeared. Watching the footage makes me long for a different world where I could have joined them, but above all, it makes me feel thankful to them for the beauty and magic they captured and for bringing their souls into the story.

Unearthed Photo of the Month

One of the worst days of the year for me after Dad disappeared was Father’s Day. I dreaded the hours we’d spend at school making gifts for our fathers. My mom told me the solution would be to make my gift for someone else. I immediately chose my Uncle Manolo. He looked a little serious—as he does in this photo—but he was someone who loved every inch of what life had to offer and who shared that love with the rest of us. He immigrated from Spain to Venezuela around the late 1940s, and he took the joy and exuberance of his new home and made it part of his being. By the time I knew him, he was the general manager of a candy packaging plant, a prodigious photographer who took and lovingly printed portraits of all of us, a poet, and the owner of two vast corn-producing farms where the cattle were free to roam. On the weekends when he visited his farms, he would ride his horse into the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.

He used to tell me that to have a good life a person should have a child, plant a tree, and write a book. He had five wonderful children and he planted dozens of trees. All that’s left is the book, he’d say. I saw him last summer in Barcelona, and he handed me a spiral-bound volume titled Ten Love Poems and a Sad Farewell. It features poems he wrote from 1960 to 2017, a lifetime of lyrical yearning. He passed away three weeks ago at 89 years of age, after a weekend surrounded by children and grandchildren where he performed magic tricks for everyone—of course he was a magician too. Children, trees, a book, and one of the clearest examples I’ve ever known for how to live life with luminosity, creativity, and passion. Gracias por todo, Tío.

I’ve Been Named the Editor-in-Chief of constellations

It is an incredible honor to announce that I am the new editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal constellations: a cultural rhetorics space. We seek to publish daring, compassionate, and well-researched cultural rhetorics scholarship. If you are interested in submitting something and you have questions about it, let me know.

My Story Was Featured in MSU Today’s Faculty Voices

MSU Today kindly invited me to talk about my experiences behind the camera. In this short piece, I discuss how coming from a long line of writers has shaped my fascination with storytelling and why some stories, like The Weeping Season, need to be told.

Sold Out Crowd for Teta at the Detroit Shetown Film Festival

Our short documentary Teta: A nursing mother tells her story had a wonderful screening at the Detroit Shetown Film Festival last month. We were nominated for the Best Michigan Film Award. Quite a thing for a bilingual film made by a Venezuelan.

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This post was written by Alexandra Hidalgo

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