This year, the media has covered sexual abuse and harassment in ways it hadn’t before. Following The New York Times‘ exposé about the ways Harvey Weinstein preyed on actresses and female employees, a flood of allegations from other women and men shook up not just Hollywood, but also journalism, film, and theater. #MeToo – a hashtag the victims of these predatory behaviors used to describe their experiences – went viral online. And those who courageously spoke up against their abusers became Time‘s Person of the Year. The movement is necessary, but it has so far centered the voices of white women. However, outside of this circle, advocates have denounced sexual abuse and harassment for years (me too was actually started for girls and women of color), and they’ve made the discussion more inclusive. People like Mala Muñoz and Diosa Femme have used their podcast, Locatora Radio, to condemn these behaviors, while at the same time, elevating the voices and stories of women of color.
In a recent episode, titled Es Un Escandalo!, Mala and Diosa discuss the current sexual assault allegations coming out of the entertainment industry, making an effort to highlight the women who are often in the shadows. The Latinas who do domestic work for the Hollywood elite can be susceptible to sexual harassment by their bosses, but are often silenced or afraid to speak out due to factors like immigration status. The duo emphasize the importance of thinking about women on all rungs of the social ladder, especially considering that women of color often face sexual assault and harassment at higher rates.
“I think for so many, especially women of color, like we don’t always name our traumas as traumas,” Mala, who works as a rape crisis counselor, tells me. “I can’t tell you how many crisis calls I get from Latinas in LA who are asking me, ‘My husband did this to me, my boyfriend did this to me, I was made to do this, is that technically bad? Is that technically a crime? is that technically abuse? is that technically rape?’ Like women are really suffering through a lot of fucked up shit and don’t have the words to name what’s happening to them.”
“I think for so many, especially women of color, like we don’t always name our traumas as traumas.”
But the podcast, which excels at taking complicated issues and breaking them down from a fiercely brown femme angle, also wants to give women the tangible tools they can use in their everyday lives. They strive to do this even when it’s not on their own platform. In an episode of Sounding Out, the hosts ask, “What does repeated exposure to verbal abuse have on the minds and bodies of women of color, specifically with regards to street harassment?” The self-described mamis of myth and bullshit asked their listeners to share their own accounts of this pervasive form of sexual harassment, which led to a discussion on how cat calls and whistles are a form of sonic abuse.
“When we hear certain sounds like a car following us or someone blowing us a kiss, it’s meant with negative intentions,” Mala says. “It leads to a lot of symptoms that are similar to PTSD, if not straight up PTSD.”
In turn, they discussed how technology, such as headphones and music, can be a way to resist and survive these intrusive and traumatic situations.
“We wanted to touch on the inconveniences we face and how we have to mold our life around not being sexually harassed or sexually assaulted,” Diosa explains.
In other episodes, they discuss our favorite femme revenge songs (cue Blu Cantrell and Rihanna), bruja feminism, and creating home sanctuaries as a form of self-care. They don’t hold back when it comes to celebrating women of color and denouncing a society that often looks at femme and pop culture as frivolous.
“I think so much of girl culture and femme culture is making art and making light out of the fucked up shit men put us through,” Mala says. “We can do an entire analytical history of the Spice Girls, and it’s gonna be really intellectual and academic as shit. Without even trying, because it just is.”
Mala has spent the last three years as a rape crisis counselor, where she’s acquired an intimate understanding not only of sexual violence, but also of the systems and institutions that perpetuate and excuse abuse. She brings this perspective to the podcast by centering the stories and legacies of sexual assault survivors, while unpacking complex topics like toxic masculinity.
“In the podcast we talk about survivorship as a spectrum and how even just every day interactions, we are surviving them, gendered violence and sexual violence,” Mala explains.
Diosa is an advocate of multidimensional self-care, which can value both adornment and therapy, for example. These self-care practices are discussed in the podcast as a powerful healing tool that can help Latinas who have historically faced constant attacks on their minds and bodies.
“Giving voices to survivors, to femme folks, queer folks, folks that are marginalized that maybe don’t necessarily hear their narrative on any other podcast or any other type of Latino or Latinx media, I think is something that we really strive for,” Diosa says.
Even the name of the podcast – a play on the Spanish word for radio host, “locutor” – is an attempt to reclaim the term “loca,” which is often used to discredit Latinas. “When survivors try to report abuse, the first thing that is said about them is that they’re liars or they’re crazy,” Mala explains.
Discussions on chisme as resistance, femme defense, and ancestral healing through their unique lens allow Mala and Diosa to give a platform to the survivors of color who might feel left out or isolated. This is crucial when taking into account the way Latino culture often shames women who experience sexual violence.
“[We strive to give] voices to survivors, to femme folks, queer folks, folks that are marginalized.”
“What we have heard from survivors is that ‘Your podcast makes me feel connected to a community. It makes me feel less alone in my survivorhood and in my trauma experience,'” Mala adds.
Beyond discussing the issues Latinx women experience, they also make it crucial to highlight and center the work of survivors and femmes of color by featuring people like La Loba Loca, a queer feminist bruja and yerbera, to discuss abuelita knowledge and ancestral healing as a form of autonomy, or Afro-Peruana dancer Nadia Calmet to discuss how dance can be a form of resistance and liberation.
“We are archiving the legacies and brilliances and geniuses of women and femmes of color,” Mala says. “To have an audio file, an audio archive where we can look back and say this is what mujeres were doing. This is what survivors were talking about and creating.”
While not in the work of giving direct advice to survivors, through their perspectives and storytelling they provide empowering narratives that women can take and use for healing and celebration. They unpack heady topics and allow the listener to come out of the experience with a new set of tools to analyze and understand their experience.
“We have this culture of silence around abuse and harassment,” Mala says. “That silence allows for the abuse to continue to grow in the shadows and that’s where power gets its bearings, where it’s not checked. We have to talk about it and air the dirty laundry.”