Positive Deviant: Carolina Sintura
Location: Bogotá D.C.
We interviewed Carolina Sintura, member of SietePolas. Carolina is a strong woman, determined and says things like they are, voicing her opinions in a clearly and strongly. At this moment she is abroad completing her doctorate studies in literature, but she is still connected to the reality of Colombian women and women around the world. This was what she shared with us.
Quántica: Who is Carolina Sintura?
Carolina Sintura: I am a feminist woman, a teacher, a researcher, a PhD student in Literature, a blogger, activist, reader and an insufferable questioner.
QA: What is your passion?
CS: I'm passionate about stories and difficult questions. I think they are the way to knowledge. To ask others is to allow me to inhabit their worlds and invite them to inhabit mine. Ultimately, what I love the most is knowledge which is found in all stories -- both true stories and those of fiction. For me, they are one and the same. I want to know and know everything I can. I seek inquiry, doubt, discomfort. And I usually find that in books and people, so I love reading and I love to ask questions.
QA: What is SietePolas? How was it born?
CS: SietePolas is a feminist blog in Spanish in which seven Colombian women share our paths of exploration, self-knowledge and deconstruction in the process of learning and creating our feminism. In SietePolas we take advantage of the written word, the internet and the rise of social networks to share about diversity, gender and the role of women, and generate conversations around these issues. The blog holds the story of a friendship between women transformed into a digital activism initiative in which, little by little, we have created a safe but diverse and critical space. He or she who accepts our invitation can engage with feminism as a practice, ethic, and path towards individual and collective transformation.
QA: What is the dream of SietePolas?
CS: The dream of SietePolas is to contribute with our perspectives, experiences and knowledge to the construction of a society, and above all, a generation of youth that question the prejudices, inequalities and injustices that we grew up with and which we have become accustomed to (especially those conditioned by a culture that considers the feminine as secondary or complementary). We are living the dream because every day we are generating and / or participating in difficult but necessary conversations about how we should reconfigure power relations in society. And the dream is to find and take advantage of all possible opportunities to continue amplifying these ideas and conversations.
QA: How do you understand feminism?
CS: We understand and want to create awareness about a current state of affairs called patriarchy. A social, political, cultural and thought system under which all people have been operating for centuries and which is very bad, which is responsible for many injustices, which is behind violence committed against women and people with diverse gender experiences. In drawing some supposed fundamental differences between the masculine and the feminine what this has done is to take away the freedom of all people. We understand feminism as the antidote to fight patriarchy.
From there, we embrace feminism as a varied, hybrid and constantly changing experience. Since the beginning of this project, it was clear to us that our added value as a group comes from the diversity of our experiences and points of view. Knowing each other's point of view, gives us the opportunity to listen to each other and engage with our followers and to argue meticulously. Our personal positions have led us to understand what many still need to understand: that feminism is plural and varied, a daily practice and an individual and personal reflection that leads to structural and social changes. So in our blog we talk about how we live and practice feminism from our individuality as a liberating force and acceptance of ourselves, and not simply as a theory.
QA: What has been SietePolas biggest challenge?
CS: Our biggest challenge so far has been getting to know and adapting to the digital world. We started with little awareness of how social networks and digital spaces work and how they grow. We have grown intuitively through much point of trial and error. We quickly realized that digital is very audiovisual-oriented, and our particular skills and knowledge are not oriented in that respect. So we had to learn on the fly.
QA: What has been key in giving you the “perrenque” to move forward?
CS: To be logistically and administratively constituted as a feminist organization. This means, organizing ourselves in a non-hierarchical structure in which power and leadership flow and are shared. Everyone leads with what they feel most strongly in or what they are most interested in learning.
Keys in this structure are absolute respect and admiration for the work of others, and a work dynamic in which all difficulties are seen as opportunities to learn and grow together.
QA: Who was Paola before and who is Paola after undertaking this journey?
CS: I am a person with a paralyzing perfectionism, very low tolerance for frustration and an absolute aversion to risk. None of these characteristics is advantageous, especially in today's world. My biggest personal challenge with SietePolas has been to learn to trust my work group, to understand that it is not possible or ideal to seek to control everything and that the best things happen when one takes risks. Several of the Polas are supremely proactive and determined women, and very capable of working in a group. Every day. I learn from them to trust the process and value it over the final destination. Before SietePolas, I did not know what it was to take risks out of my comfort zone, and now the unknown, the imperfect, the being-open-to-possibilities excites me instead of paralyzing me.
QA: Do all women have a Pola inside?
CS: Everyone has a Pola inside of us. Assuming ourselves as Polas, a name that in Colombia can be associated with the desire for change and freedom, implies seeing ourselves as people capable of thinking critically, of transforming ourselves to improve and act in respectful and conscious ways with the diversity of the world. Feminism calls all people to examine the way we think, live, and express ourselves, and understand how that affects all the people around us. Our inner Pola is the one that says I accept the challenge, I assume the responsibility to make myself better and to actively promote a change towards a more just world.
QA: What does the future hold for SietePolas?
CS: We are exploring multiple possibilities to make this a self-sustainable initiative and, hopefully one day, economically productive. The project that most excites us and that we are embarking on at this time is the offer of talks and workshops in schools, universities and other institutions that are interested in igniting and enabling conversations around gender justice, responsible sexuality, and which are based on pleasure, self-knowledge and the reconfiguration of paradigms about the feminine, the masculine and the spectrum of gender and sexuality.
QA: Greatest learning in life?
CS: In a moment of crisis, going to psychological therapy taught me to distinguish clearly between what is in my control and what is not. It seems an easy distinction but it is not. It is the secret to living the present moment to the fullest, without tormenting me for what I already was or obsessively trying to predict what might happen.
QA: Person you admire?
CS: I deeply and genuinely admire each of the other Polas.
QA: Book or text that you recommend?
CS: I recommend all the columns of SietePolas, available at www.sietepolas.com
QA: Film recommendation?
CS: The smile of Mona Lisa.
QA: Favorite phrase?
CS: A poem by Rupi Kaur:
I stand on
of one million women before me
what can I do
to make this mountain taller
so the women
can see farther.”
QA: A message that I would like to leave in the world …
CS: If my life is an example of something, let it be an example of how disobedience with purpose frees us. Society, the establishment and institutions disproportionately reward (with good grades, with recognition, with praise, with academic and professional progress) the people who comply with norms, who conform to expectations and who obey. I played that game until very recently. And when I understood that one can and should disobey, life became complicated and my mind and creativity were freed. We must doubt and deconstruct the normative, the paradigmatic and the expected; we must oppose imposed roles, the paradigms about the acceptable and the praiseworthy. The truth - univocal, given - is not what makes us free. Finding our own truth and living it is what does.
Learn more about SietePolas at www.sietepolas.com.