The Feministing Five: Marienne Cuison

YenYenMarienne Cuison, known to friends as YenYen, is the Chair of Anakbayan Silicon Valley. Anakbayan (translated as “children of the nation”)  is a comprehensive national democratic youth organization based in the Philippines that has chapters all over the world. It fights for social and economic justice for Filipino youth in the Philippines and abroad and is part of the wider national democratic struggle in the Philippines.

Anakbayan Silicon Valley focuses on Filipino youth in the San Jose region of California. ABSV’s work includes putting on workshops all around Silicon Valley and the Stanford area and running political campaigns that affect youth and students in the region.

And now, without further ado, the Feministing Five, with Marienne Cuison.

Anna Sterling: What is the biggest issue affecting Filipino youth?

Marienne Cuison: The quality of education they are receiving and how it’s not relevant to their experiences as Filipinos. Filipino identity is really complex and we’re not taught what it means growing up in the education system from  kindergarten through elementary school. Plus, there’s always the disconnect between Filipinos born in the Philippines and Filipinos born here. So bridging that gap amongst the youth is really hard, especially in Silicon Valley since there’s no community center or programs in place that will show them what Filipino identity is about.

AS: Who is your favorite fictional heroine and who are your heroines in real life?

MC: I really like the Pink Ranger from Power Rangers. I really liked how she could fly as the teradactyl.

One of the youth in Anakbayan Philippines National, Chaba, is my heroine. She’s a dope speaker and she could hella analyze things. She’s fearless. You should look her up!

AS: What recent news story made you want to scream?

MC: I heard McCain is going to the Philippines. He’s bringing the head of the Homeland Security with him so it seems fishy. Also, Obama signing that stupid act, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It would take away people’s rights and it would be like martial law legalized here in America. If they accuse you of being a terrorist of any sort they can detain you without letting anyone know they detained you. I think they’re doing it now because of all the Occupy movements. At first, when it was introduced Obama didn’t sign it. He was like, “I’m not going to sign on to this. The House and Senate are crazy.” But then he signed on to it still because it’s election time.

AS: What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge facing feminism today?

MC: In mainstream media there’s a lot of propaganda about what feminism is and what the images are. People get the wrong image of what it really is and they don’t know why people are doing [the work]. If you’re a feminist, you have to fit narrow prescriptions of what a feminist is. And if you’re a man you can’t be a feminist because then you’d be considered gay or queer.

AS: You’re going to a desert island and you get to take one drink, one food and one feminist. What do you pick?

MC: I would bring coffee for my drink and I would bring kare-kare for my food. That would be a terrible combination! [Laughs] And for the feminist I would bring Angela Davis. We’d have a lot to talk about. I would ask her to break down the prison-industrial complex to me. That would take at least two weeks.

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In 2007,  New York City-based reproductive justice activists Mary Mahoney and Lauren Mitchell founded The Doula Project, the first full spectrum doula organization that supports people across the spectrum of ...