Activist author discusses gender violence

Haljit BasueljevicReporter & Jessica GuerrucciReporter

Pía Barros, a well-known short story writer and novelist from Chile, was invited to campus to do four different events for the 64 Days of Non-Violence program. She presented on her feminist activist project against gender violence, “¡Basta!”

Resha Cardone, the chairperson of the department of world languages and literatures, said this is a project she started in 2011, where she brought 100 women writers together to write about gender violence.

“This particular anthology generated a lot of excitement in Chile, and so they published an anthology for men, male writers writing against gender violence, and ultimately they published an anthology of male and female authors against child abuse,” said Cardone.

Barros’ ideas became popular and, eventually, Cardone said it spread around the globe to many Latin American countries, some of Europe, and the U.S.; these countries created their own anthologies against gender violence.

One of the events called Dictatorship and Exile, would be presented entirely in Spanish.

“She’s going to be talking about an award-winning short story she wrote called ‘El lugar del otro,’ which won in 2011 the best work of fiction written in Chile that year,” said Cardone. Barros held two different events, one solely in Spanish, and another with English interpretation. Students were invited to participate in a flash fiction writing workshop and create their own stories about gender violence that they could write in either Spanish or English.

“Pía doesn’t speak English, and we have the Spanish one for writers who want to write their stories in Spanish and don’t want to go through the translation process,” said Cardone.

Director of the women’s studies program Yi-Chun Tricia Lin said having the writer speak has been a tradition going back to 2009. She said the writer workshops created more of an intimate environment for students as opposed to the large lecture rooms.

“As a faculty member, I’ve found that the materials from the Basta! reading has had a tremendous impact on students, “said Lin.

Although the auditoriums were neat and productive, Cardone said this year was different in method as they emphasized in having students engaged with more workshops. They decided before Barros came they would have students send in their work and have them read her stories.

Language in Barros’ work goes beyond cultural differences. Barros said there was an implicit atmosphere in her stories that spoke a sense of oppression and dictatorship, without ever really pointing that it was so.

This makes simple words like “helicopter” more nuanced and important because of the experience of kids being used to listening to the propellers over their heads.

Much of her work, she said, parallels that of the oppression that French writer Marguerite Duras faced.

Barros characterized that the writers during that period wrote “with their bodies, not their minds.” The influence of such explicitness and empathy can be easily perceived in her work, several agreed.

“There is an antixenophobic sentiment in her works,” said Lin who said what captivated her about Barros was her defense of Spanish speaking peoples.

“I don’t think this would have been possible even in 2011,” said Lin.

She said the university provided a conducive environment to this aspect of respecting diversity because of the many Spanish speaking people on this campus.

Photo Credit: Haljit Basuljevic

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