FYSK 2013: Susana Ruiz

By Guest Blogger

After receiving hundreds of nominations for our Feminist You Should Know contest, the Feminist Campus team was able to sift through them, sit down, knock our heads together, and decide on ten finalists! This was no easy task: every single nominee was the most amazing person we’d ever met so far in our lives. No lie. Our awe-inspiring crew come from a diversity of backgrounds, universities, regions, and perspectives in the feminist movement – and it’s just not possible for us to choose a winner alone. And that’s where you come in! 

Over the next week, we’ll be posting blog posts written by each of our stellar finalists; on Monday, we’ll launch an online voting form where members of our community – that’s you! – cast a vote for who moved you deeply, inspires you most, or simply has your favorite haircut. 

Drumroll, Please: Announcing the Feminist You Should Know Finalists!

To be on this list is just about one of the most phenomenal things that has happened to me. I am grateful, honored, delighted. When I received the news that I had – by some extraordinarily gracious goings on – ended up a finalist in this contest, I took to sharing the news with my social networks. I began asking my friends and family for their vote. But as I did this, something didn’t feel right.

For the last several years, one of my core foci as a doctoral student and artist has been game design. What I was experiencing as I asked for votes was similar to how I have often felt when deciphering what the “win state” to my games should be. The games I co-create typically engage content that is sobering and faithful to reality. As such, we ask ourselves what winning means in particular circumstances: a loaf of bread, another day with clean water, feeling a sense of community with fellow players, a million dollars…

By soliciting votes in order that one rise above the others, these unbelievably accomplished thinkers and doers have been positioned in competition with one another. Certainly, to be nominated is an honor and the fact is that our stories have now been shared and will cross-pollinate in ways that are likely to be unpredictable and remarkable. But the question needs asking of whether there aren’t other useful models of recognition, models that designate individuals as perfectly on course to becoming even more conscientious, generous, capable. Particularly pressing is this question in context to issues of social justice, where the aspirations are liberatory and inclusive.

Research shows that privilege and poverty tend to beget themselves. The inherent disadvantages of inequality mean that insidious cycles of oppression can be impossible to break. Those that often “win” in life tend to keep winning and those that typically “lose” keep losing. This, in contradiction to popular longstanding narratives in this country about the value of pulling oneself by the bootstraps as well as more contemporaneous ones about grit as an invaluable character trait to improving one’s own circumstances.

In the field of game design we often talk about the affordance games have to allow players to fail safely and therefore to rehearse for success. However, if a game doesn’t question conventional definitions of success and failure, then how could it possibly extend consciousness? “Playing” with these definitions is one way, I believe, that a game can invite a player to reflect upon her own place in the world and its interdependent systems, as well as upon her behavior, assumptions, and societal norms. It is when the possibility to question and redefine success and failure is crafted that games and play can most directly address the power gap between those who experience oppression and those who hold greater social privileges.

I’m touched by this nomination and I’m grateful to learn about the nine outstanding feminists who share this honor; winners all of us, thanks to that one person or to the many who vote/s for us and on whose shoulders we stand.


  1. Susana – Thank you so very much for helping us re-think our “win state” and for extending/expanding our consciousness in the context of this exercise.

    Every feminist is a champion. Anyone and everyone who commits to working for justice and equality is our hero. There are thousands, millions dare I say, more unsung feminists we should know – and we salute each and every one. United we will continue to change the world for the better.


  2. Susana’s blog post and a questioning of the need to pit 10 women against each other in a competitive popularity contest underscores her ongoing commitment to social justice and the need to call attention to even the most seemingly benign aspects of oppression in daily life. Drawing on the work of theorists as varied as Augusto Boal and the Theater of the Oppressed and Paulo Friere’s critical pedagogy, Susana adamantly counters the often unconsciously expressed structures of oppression all around us, and she does so with generous respect alongside a tenacious demand that we pay close attention to our own acts, our thinking and our potential complicity with attitudes and mindsets that may need further scrutiny. Overall, Susana’s work emerges from an ethical imperative to make the world a better place, and to do so in a way that harnesses the empathy and identification we feel in the most amazing documentary films, while at the same time inviting us to move beyond being mere audience members to becoming people who do indeed take action.

    Everyone on this list is amazing! These comments try to highlight some of the things that make Susana’s work so important.

  3. Hey y’all! I just wanted to pop in as one of the people working behind-the-scenes on the FYSK contest and clear up some stuff. We here at Feminist Campus started the FYSK nominations process hoping to give due recognition to the shining stars of on-campus activism around the nation. We were floored by the nominees and the work being done by over 200 young feminists who were brought to our attention through that process, but profiling each and every one is a simply impossible task – and, even then, leaves much room to exclude the countless others like them engaging in good work as well. We started FYSK to admonish the myth that young feminism doesn’t exist, and to profile folks who represented a diverse array of feminist perspectives, backgrounds, and lived experiences. We are not pitting ten feminists against one another in this contest – we’re simply giving them a forum to share their experiences and lending incentive for participation, engagement, and community-building from our larger FC community by encouraging them to find the areas in which they relate to these folks, draw inspiration from their stories, and let us know who they believe embodies their feminist activism the most. Each nominee and finalist is receiving an appropriate prize package, and each has our undying respect and gratitude for their work.

    1. Thanks for the clarification! I wasn’t familiar with Feminist Campus prior to this seeing this amazing list of feminists, and I want to underscore how impressed I am with the effort overall.

  4. Thanks for raising these questions! I am just honored to be apart of this amazing group of people. Also, Thankyou for FYSK for bringing visibility to young feminisit!

  5. It was not my intention to invalidate the efforts or ethos of Feminist Campus or this contest. I am truly honored to be a finalist alongside these nine astonishing doers (whose stories I’m still absorbing)! As Kendra notes, the visibility this brings to the fact that student feminists in all pockets of this country are investing themselves daily in the hard, important, and often unrewarded work of creating social equity is necessary and exactly fitting!

    My post was a reflection of my opinion that it is possible to embrace and venerate without being uncritical. Activism can be a fragile and risky project; it can feel like nothing is doable that will satisfy everyone. It is an imperfect project, as it is bound to be because it is complex, the stakes are high, and well – we are all on our own learning curves. In this context, sometimes (in fact, more than sometimes from my experience), practicality trumps criticality (and definitely perfection!).

    1. Susana — I didn’t think you were! As duVergne said, your post raised a lot of valid questions and was really thoughtful. I’m so glad you’re a part of this whole thing!

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