CELEBRATING INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY!
Will you join us in celebrating Olivia with a special gift today?
Architect of The Chipotle Hustle? Check.
Create a personal brand that revolves around a specific iced beverage of leisure and the catchphrase "I’m a Latina that loves Latin"? Check.
Design a blueprint with the eventual goal of working for NASA or the National Science Foundation as an officer of academic oversight? Check.
Conversing with Olivia Ortiz is like witnessing two worlds colliding in the great tradition of physics. Force is exerted from one particle upon the other, causing an exchange of energy or momentum. One interaction with her and you might think differently about a few things. She’ll casually rearrange your worldview. There are more than euphoric highs to be found in her trademark pop-offs. There’s a measure of stratagem that accompanies the humor. She might be your favorite comedian someday, if she’s not working for NASA. Maybe she’ll do both. Astronauts are a captive audience, are they not? You’d have to assume there’s probably less misogyny in outer space?
Olivia moved to Seattle after graduating from the University of Chicago holding a Linguistics degree with a focus in Basque. Once she arrived, an all too familiar scenario unfolded. Olivia found herself visiting Google, typing in "women’s rights seattle", and hitting enter. Since that fateful algorithm led her to our office, she has volunteered for our auction and joined the working group on campus sexual assault. She was instrumental in composing and publishing Legal Voice's student website, Know Your Rights: Sexual Assault in Washington State Colleges & Universities, in 2017. One of the things she appreciates the most about Legal Voice is the work that we’ve done on behalf of incarcerated women.
"I think we intentionally overlook the needs and experiences of incarcerated women. We don’t view them multi-dimensionally. I think incarcerated women, especially incarcerated black transgender women and transgender women of color, are usually ignored. I think that’s one of the biggest issues in our country. Who do our feminist movements prioritize and who do they ignore?"
"I feel like I grew up to adapt to a sense of whiteness. It really put me in my place and made me think: 'What do we consider qualified? Who gets seen? Who doesn't?'"
Olivia has a unique perspective on this from growing up in Arizona in a biracial family. She noticed the differences in opportunity at an early age. "My mom used to clerk at the state Court of Appeals in Arizona. My white grandma was my primary caregiver. She was really badass. She ran for state rep but she didn’t win. She was a huge champion of the Equal Rights Amendment. She also championed equality and education. I think the barriers between her and my brown grandma are very distinct. My white grandma could go back to school and get her college degree, whereas my brown grandma didn’t have that opportunity. I think it really highlights the racial differences." In a society that is designed to privilege a certain set of people, it is important that others are heard.
Throughout our conversation, Olivia was elevating the voices of others. She spoke of the organization Survived & Punished, a national coalition that includes survivors, organizers, victim advocates, legal advocates and attorneys, policy experts, scholars, and currently and formerly incarcerated people. Before moving to Seattle, she interned at the Lay Legal Hotline for The Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. "You had to be knowledgeable about indigenous law because there are multiple tribes in Arizona that are prominent and you have to be aware of the sexual assault and sexual violence that occurs on tribal land," recalls Olivia. "I feel like I grew up to adapt to a sense of whiteness. It really put me in my place and made me think: 'What do we consider qualified? Who gets seen? Who doesn't?'"
Make no mistake: the future of feminism will be found in the visibility of the marginalized. During an age where access seems infinite, but deliberation is scarce, what is the best way to elevate the deserving? How can we advocate that our laws and our media reflect a reality based in truth rather than contrivance? How do we challenge ourselves to acknowledge what’s beyond the surface when objectivity is usually determined by people in power?
Olivia’s advice is to not let false dichotomies limit your aspirations. Understand that the way we talk about women in media perpetuates false premises that should never be accepted as natural. Strive for equity, not equality. Challenge things. Trust yourself. Cherish your time. Sometimes it's better to get something done than it is to achieve perfection.
Also: use one Sweet'n Low per eight ounces of iced tea. Add one Sweet'n Low for every ounce you don’t have ice.
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This piece was based on an interview with Olivia Ortiz and written by Phil Bouie. MORE STORIES
MORE FROM OLIVIA
Books Behind Bars: How Title IX Protects Incarcerated Students' Rights, Speaking of Women's Rights blog
Can Title IX Protect Me from Sexual Harassment at My Internship?, Speaking of Women's Rights blog
This Administration is Moving in the Wrong Direction on Campus Sexual Assault, Speaking of Women's Rights blog