Celebrating Dr. Claudia De La Garza
Mar 18, 2022
“Gender Equity is a Necessity.”
Gender bias and inequity are some of the most critical social challenges today, and at INUK we believe that solving big and complex problems calls for collective action. We must not forget that people who face challenges and obstacles are essential to discuss them and search for a solution. Listening to and putting women on the spotlight are the first step to address gender inequality.
So, we want to put our friend, Dr. Claudia De La Garza, in the spotlight because her story is a perfect example of never forgetting our roots despite overcoming challenges and breaking gender norms. Throughout her whole life, she has challenged gender stereotypes and bias while hurrying and helping other women to do the same. She is an Art historian with a PhD in Social Sciences and a specialization in gender studies and holds a heavy interest for fashion, contemporary art, and feminism. Nowadays, she coordinates the space Museo UNAM Hoy and also works as a curator for national and international art expositions, and writes books and essays that challenge and address gender inequality and other social issues.
Hi, Dr. Claudia, it is a pleasure! Thanks a lot for accepting our request to do this interview. First, could you tell us what inspired you to pursue your academic and professional paths?
I have always been interested in the dissemination and communication of knowledge. I have a background as an art historian, but I grew up in a very creative family of people who spread knowledge, and that's where that interest comes from. Furthermore, I guess that's why many of the things I do have to do with dissemination and communication. Also, museums, teaching, and writing can serve as mediums to open a dialogue or conversation and generate a change in the society in which we live.
Where does your interest in gender equity came from?
It comes from the fact that gender equity is a necessity. It arises from experience, from the violence you experience and the violence you see around you. This is not only limited to your surroundings, because you can see inequity in the violence you read, hear, and see. Personally, it also comes from the practice of art history itself, the silences and absences that exist in the work of women in those "official" narratives. We read about official voices, and most of the time women are not included in that group. That does not sound like gender equity.
You have worked in lots of different areas, is there an experience in particular that shaped how you see and understand gender norms?
Yes, art history itself made me more interested in the subject. I am influenced by teachers, classmates, and theoretical texts. They make you think and reflect in another way. In particular, Karen Cordero, Olga Rodríguez and Minerva Anguiano are people who inspired me and changed me. They showed me that there was another way of thinking and acting because sometimes you are very aware of gender inequality, but you do not know what to do with it. They gave me tools to make that analysis, to dismantle the history that they present as if it were unique, official, and neutral when it is not. Once you make those analyses and use those tools, you can no longer see social and gender relationships in the same way.
What motivated you to write your book?
It is not a book that I decided to write on my own. The idea came to me because of an invitation. The project caught my attention because it was another channel to talk about those topics with which I do not agree and with which it is necessary to put an end. This book seeks to open a channel of discussion and communication with people that will not listen to these ideas otherwise.
How can we approach this issue? What is a good starting point for people interested in addressing this issue?
There are many tools and information available today in many forms and formats. When I first became interested in the subject, it was difficult to find them. We have to be aware that we are all an otherness for someone. There is not a single truth. We have to do our part so that these relationships happen in a much more fair way to generate structures that transform them. We must first recognize other people and their experiences. There are also many people who believe that everything is fine and that there is no need for any change because they live very comfortably. Yet, this is not the case, we must reflect a lot on how much we live outside this violence, both as victims and aggressors. At the end of the day, gender inequality and gender issues affect everyone, but in a different manner and degree.
How can we avoid falling into tokenism?
We must be coherent, not fall into the logic of authoritative voices. One always needs to give their opinion with the idea of opening a discussion or conversation. We must act, provide space, rethink structures, and commit to a way of living so that these ideas do not end up being a screen, a mask. We must also ask ourselves from where we speak and what level of commitment we have with certain ideals. Considering all these points will create a more powerful message that can generate changes and have social impact.
What is the importance of using the correct terminology when dealing with gender issues?
We have to be careful with terms and be aware of how we relate to other people. Deconstruction should happen more on a societal scope rather than on a personal level. The idea that deconstruction must be personal comes from the misconception that the individual must transform society, when in reality this is really complicated. For example, campaigns of the type "Water will run out, because YOU are wasting it" promote this idea and redirect the problem to individuals instead of more powerful organizations, businesses, or institutions. I am not saying that people do not have agency, but we have to understand that there are other structures that have more influence on our daily lives and their struggles. The important thing is to continue working on this issue, to listen and attend to the needs of the different populations of women out there.
What do you think about today’s progress on gender equality?
There are advances in many fronts, but these changes are not an evolution that goes one way only. These transformations do not only go forward. They come and go, they have setbacks. It is a complex matter, after all. Also, some of these positive changes do not impact everyone. There are those of us who have more privileges and have access to new opportunities, but there are communities that do not enjoy the same opportunities or rights. That is to say, changes are slow and unequal because unfortunately a great part of our society does not support them or see them with good eyes. Recognizing that changes do not impact everyone is part of the struggle. It calls us to improve and make sure that these changes benefit more women.
Is it possible to achieve a sustainable society without gender equality?
No, because the very concept of sustainability has to do with social welfare and gender equality is part of that. It is not possible to separate the two concepts because both lead to a dignified life. The ecological problem cannot be solved if there are inadequate social conditions to carry it out. We need to search for a way in which we achieve both at the same time.
What is the change you are most excited about in terms of gender issues?
I like the access that there is today about information on feminism and social criticisms. I also love the fact that there are very young girls out there who are very aware of the violence they endure every day. They know how to confront something they don't like, how to demand their rights, the role and position they really deserve, and how to get rid of assigned gender identities. This gives them the freedom to think of themselves as they want. This did not happen when I was a child. We sensed and thought several things about it, but we did not have all the tools we have today. It is wonderful because there is freedom to break with social issues and not feel alone in this criticism. How many bad experiences would we have been spared if we had had this critical sense and this security and support back then? It is incredible how everything has been transformed in a few generations.
What piece of advice would you give to women that want to follow your steps and discuss social and gender issues on different channels?
Work for what you want, believe in yourself, try hard, and always remember that you can do what you want no matter where you come from. Although that is very idealized because we know that many times those things matter. Some people will judge you just because you are women or because of the place where you come from. You should not allow that system of thought to block you, to interrupt you, to make you feel less, like an eternal child or an apprentice. Women need to trust in who they are and in their experience. Not only that, but you have to go against the current, despite the fact that sometimes we need to rely on more traditional ways of understanding art and culture. Yes, it is something very difficult to do, but it is also a critical step to achieve gender equality. Another crucial point is to build alliances, collaborate with other women, and stay together to be stronger.
Dr. De La Garza overcame many challenges that still plague us today. Nonetheless, she uses what she learned to call for action, empower women, and remind us that to achieve balance we must work together. Gender discrimination is a problem for everyone and requires collective action to solve it. We must also understand that not all cases are equal and that each woman requires different things to achieve their full potential, but we can begin by removing gender bias and listening to what women want and need. After all, we must not forget that equality is part of our common nature, so, just like Dr. Claudia, let’s not forget our roots and continue helping, celebrating, and empowering women.
About Dr. Claudia De La Garza Galvez
Claudia de la Garza is an art historian and PhD in Social Science, specializing in gender studies. She also is a teacher and researcher on fashion, contemporary art and feminism that is deeply absorbed by the many ways in which we use clothes to show and express our identities and also transform our bodies. She also works with numerous art exhibitions all around the world. Currently, she coordinates the Museum UNAM hoy, and co-wrote the book "No son micro. Machismos cotidianos" (They Are Not Micro. Everyday Machismo) along with Eréndira Derbéz.