The Feministing Five: Favi

FaviFavi is a San Francisco-based vocalist, musician, rapper, performance artist, and visual artist. Raised in a musical family, she grew up singing Latin American and Iberian traditional music like guaguanco or tonada carvajal as well as being classically trained at San Francisco Girls’ Chorus.

A mujer descendant of campesinas living in diaspora, she uses art as a way to voice her experience of multiple belonging. Through her art, singing and mixed-race identity, Favi passes between multiple spaces and makes music influenced by these experiences, moving between different genres and elements of music. Although she doesn’t call herself a political artist, she is guided by the belief that all art stems from a political context. Therefore, all art is political. And Favi’s art is definitely of the revolutionary type. Not only does she speak of liberation and empowerment through her work, but she also is part of a women of color artists collective named Xochitlceive, or flower of self-determination, in order to build spaces for other women artists working in male-dominated industries.

Make sure you show love and check out more of her work after the jump! (Not to mention, her beats slap!)

And now, without further ado, The Feministing Five, with Favi.

Anna Sterling: How do you remain revolutionary in such a male-dominated and patriarchal music industry?

Favi: Everything I do is guided by the belief that all cultural production and art is political; anything aesthetic has a political context. Drake singing, “Money over everything,” to me, that’s a political statement. Capitalism is so normalized that we think about any statement [endorsing] materialism as apolitical, when it’s not. It’s representing a certain set of ideals and has been force fed to us as a part of colonialism. All culture is political; all art is political. I don’t consider myself a political artist for this reason. That being said, my work is going to be powerful and political and have a social function because art is communication. As a queer, mujer artist I struggle to not let myself be defined by the extremely narrow conception of femininity, beauty or desirability that controls how marketable we are in this industry.

[As a woman], you’re definitely seen as a sex symbol. You can see how most “successful” artists in commercial music are highly sexualized and that image is what really sells their music. You can look at Nicki Minaj and a lot of these women who I really respect as musicians, but I feel like their image and marketing is totally based on these old, colonially-imposed conceptions of what it means to be a female and unfortunately, we’re not able to escape that. As a “Spanish” descendant, Andalusi female in the Americas that works mostly within the Latin market, I don’t want to be naïve and say that having light skin and fitting certain standards of beauty hasn’t opened doors for me. It’s something that doesn’t go away just because I make political music. My privileges and my status in this colonial society don’t go away and that’s something that I have to confront. I feel that by pointing it out and reflecting on it in my music is a way that I deal with it.

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

F: Detective Benson, I love you! She’s a strong mujer. She’s a detective on Law and Order: SVU. I really appreciate this character being on TV and being an advocate for mujeres that are so often silenced and told that our stories don’t matter and that we need to keep quiet. As problematic as that show is, I always loved her character and I almost feel when watching it like that’s my friend! We need more models of women that are strong and are willing to stand up for our sisters. We must love each other and protect each other and that’s what she represents to me.

Selena Quintanilla is an artist who is one of my biggest inspirations. She was a Tejana, Xicana, young artist that was barely crossing over into the English language market when she was murdered at a really young age. To me, she represents someone who exercised cultural resistance and is a feminist because she demanded cultural self-determination. She is someone who made music for her people, for la raza, Spanish speaking people. She didn’t conform or assimilate into a white beauty standard, the English language or many of the other ways she could’ve marketed herself to be more palatable to a dominant English-speaking market. She chose to make music for her comunidad. She refused to assimilate and, to me, that’s a profound act of cultural resistance.

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

F: The cuts to public education. Jerry Brown talking about the budget in California and how the state doesn’t have money for schools– that’s such bullshit. I was a student at UC Berkeley and involved with folks that aim to respond to these neo-liberal attacks on our future. I’ve witnessed the violence firsthand against the protesters. I had one of my hands broken by a cop who was beating on us. It was real state violence that came into the universities even before we had a national spotlight on the police crackdown on Occupy. When I saw those news stories, it made me think back to 2009 in the first glimpse of real state repression we saw on our campuses that were targeting organizers, artists and people interested in framing these attacks not just as an issue affecting schools, but as a symptom of a larger problem, which is a neo-colonial system of power. It’s so maddening to me to think of how much harder the next generation of young people are going to have to fight to demand their basic rights.

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

F: The dynamics of power at actions that received national attention like these Occupy actions that people identifying as feminists have been vocal participants in. Check your privilege, check all of our privileges. Take a step back and learn from over 520 years of struggles that have been going on consecutively in this land and in various resistance movements across the world. People have been struggling. It’s nothing new. The fact that movements such as Occupy or Slutwalk that have prominently featured voices of white women have been getting media attention is great and useful for many reasons, but for these movements to be called something new or, particularly, groundbreaking is not productive. It’s not useful for anyone to continue to marginalize voices of women who have been calling out for change and defending land and life for so many years.

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

F: I would bring some fresh agua. So many people on this planet are not given access to this in this day and age where earth and sky are being privatized. I would be grateful to have that life giving agua. I love avocados and they are so nutritious. I could survive eating them. I’d bring my sister, Noemi. She’s a strong mujercita who just started at UC Berkeley. I feel that there’s nothing more precious than the bond we share with our sisters—blood or otherwise. Much love to all my sisters- you all know who you are!

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