Francisco J. Galarte, the new director of the Feminist Research Institute (FRI) at the University of New Mexico, plans to continue focusing on topics that relate to gender and sexuality as the center celebrates 25 years in action.
The FRI has a specific focus on the support of students — graduate students in particular — and faculty. Galarte, an assistant professor of American studies and women, gender and sexuality studies at UNM, has been the director for about two months and plans to continue this work while strengthening ties to the community.
"We focus on supporting feminist research," Galarte said. "Feminist research for us means research that not only is focused on issues related to women but rather issues related to gender, sexuality and institutions that govern and oversee gender, sexuality and those types of roles."
Galarte spoke about how the FRI is effective in the Southwest in particular, bringing up examples such as the rapid growth of COVID-19 rates in prisons, migrant political issues and institutions that categorize people based on gender.
"(The FRI is) really kind of working to create a slate of programming that features issues and topics that are feminist in nature and breadth and also with a desired focus on race and sexuality as it relates to the Southwest," Galarte said.
As the institute adapts to new leadership, Galarte said plans to celebrate Women's History Month are still settling into place. Nonetheless, graduate student board members Alana Bock and Natalia Toscano said that the FRI would boost and support other Women's History Month-related events happening on campus.
"It's a feminist institution, so we're always amplifying the voices of women, of gender non-binary folk, of trans folk," Toscano said. "I think right now, as we're going through this transition, we just want to function as a catalyst and as a springboard for others who are already doing that important work on campus."
An important facet of the FRI is its collaboration with other campus and community-based centers, Galarte said, including the Women's Resource Center, the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico.
Bock and Toscano are also involved in the movement to unionize UNM graduate workers and drew feminist connections to the organizing effort.
"My role as a feminist ... also encompasses supporting labor movements. On a personal level, I see my work with the FRI as being completely intertwined with the effort to unionize, so I obviously support this unionization effort," Bock said. "I think it's something feminism research has always been concerned with: labor work and how it relates to gender, race (and) class."
Toscano reiterated Bock’s position and said "care workshops" hosted by the FRI were put in place for graduate students who are struggling to get through the day.
"Let's really talk about the conditions that the University is fostering that is creating burnout, that is forcing graduate students to take multiple jobs, to work themselves to the bone where they can't even enjoy being with their family, having a meal or feeling like they can't survive because they don't have health care or guaranteed summer work," Toscano said. "We're feminists, right, and so feminism — there has to be some kind of praxis to it and some sense of justice."
The most recent workshop was a burnout webinar for graduate students with Center for Academic Program Support associate director Stephanie M. Sanchez on Feb. 26 that addressed the need to take care of oneself.
"Graduate school is hard in general, but I think there's something about the pandemic and having to be remote and, you know, just feeling precarious about when you're going to go back to school," Galarte said. "Working is different, our home lives are different, so I think that definitely has made things hard for graduate students and faculty."
While the pandemic has introduced many difficulties, including for the FRI, Toscano said a positive is that it allowed anyone "hungry for feminism" to attend the institute's events. Last semester, the FRI's online events saw attendees from all over the world.
Galarte said the difference between feminism, which is an advocative social movement, and feminist is that the latter term "is more of a framework; it's a category of analysis."
"I understand it to uphold and interrogate categories of gender, to understand how gender works with an institution, and then also understand how gender works alongside other aspects of identity like race, sexuality (and) ability," Galarte said.
The most recent action by the FRI board was a vote to become the institutional home of the Transgender Studies Quarterly, a journal of which Galarte is an editor. With moves like this, Bock said she's eager to see more moves to diversify the FRI in the future, both on and off campus.
"When we look at the history of the FRI, like many feminist faces, it used to be very white and privileged and through the years has become more and more diverse," Bock said. "If you look at our current board, it's extremely diverse not just in research topics but also in having more women of color, more queer folks and also people from different parts of campus that usually weren't tapped into by the FRI in previous years."
Megan Gleason is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @fabflutist2716