“I Believe In the Power Of Fiction” An Interview With Juliana Abaúnza

We Spoke With Juliana Abaúnza About Feminism, Abortion, Pop Culture, Television, the Viejas Verdes group, And Her New Book "Series Largas, Novios Cortos".

Juliana Abaúnza

We were chatting with her on various topics, especially feminism and pop culture. Photo: IG-julianaabaunza

LatinAmerican Post | Vanesa López Romero

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Leer en español: “Creo mucho en el poder de la ficción”, entrevista con Juliana Abaúnza

The Viejas Verdes collective was formed in 2018 by 8 Colombian feminists who, seeing the lack of information in social media about abortion in the country, decided to create a platform to talk about the subject openly, with a feminist approach. Juliana Abaúnza, a lover of series, is one of the women who make up Viejas Verdes and recently published her book "Long series, short boyfriends" in which, based on 6 stories of self-fiction and a tour of series such as "Girls ", " BoJack Horseman " and " Girlmore Girls "  she reflects on the impact that television has on our lives and the impact that our life has on society.

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We were chatting with her on various topics, especially feminism and pop culture.

LatinAmerican Post: You are part of the Viejas Verdes collective. What is your role in it? 

Juliana Abaúnza: We formed the collective in 2018, in response to a bill that was going to limit the weeks in which women can have an abortion here in Colombia. We realized that in the country there is still a lot of misinformation and a lot of ignorance about the sentence that legalized abortion in Colombia under three instances. Initially, our two main objectives were, on the one hand, to inform and, on the other, to socially decriminalize this topic that has always been taboo in our society. We decided to do this with videos, lives, and posts on Instagram.

Within the collective we do not have roles as such, we all do a little of everything. We are women dedicated to social networks, so we have knowledge about their use. In addition, we all work a separate workload, so we take turns.

LP: In these three years, how has the response of the people been and to what extent do you think they have achieved those goals?

JA: Whenever we talk about sexual or reproductive rights, or feminism in general, there is a response from the most conservative and reactionary sector of society, but that has happened very little. Other than that, the response has been very positive. We have had conversations in schools, meetings with teenagers who are thinking in a completely different way than I thought when I was 15 years old. I would have liked very much to have contact with a group like Viejas Verdes, who resolve doubts, clarify things and allow one to ask questions that have never been asked before. Our strength is communication through social networks to young girls between 15 and 25 years old.

LP: Historically, feminism has been tied to academia, but in recent years we have seen feminism enter the pop culture circle. Why do you think it is important that these issues are dealt with in a much more relaxed setting and, to that extent, how important is what you are doing with Viejas Verdes and with your book?

JA: For me, it is super important. Sure there are people who disagree with this and believe that these issues should always be discussed from an academic point of view. For me, feminism should be everywhere, in gossip shows and magazines, it should spread all over the world. It should not be exclusive to a single group of intellectuals.

In Viejas Verdes, the tone we use to tackle issues is super important. For example, social decriminalization cannot be achieved with a solemn tone alone. As it is a taboo subject, we have become accustomed to speaking about it with that tone, and it is a serious and public health subject, but there can also be personal stories crossed by humor, and this is something that I deal with in my book. There are as many abortion experiences as there are women in the world. The more democratized feminism is, the better.

LP: The Internet and the information age allow anyone to approach feminism. Information went from being in the hands of cis, straight, and white men to the hands of 15-year-old girls who can appropriate these issues. But that can also be problematic because the information age also allows the saturation of unspecific and false information. To what extent can the academic and the casual sphere be combined?

JA: The union of both things can and is already being done. A clear example is the Causa Justa proposal, a bill that aims to fully decriminalize abortion. In Colombia, abortion continues to be a crime, it is only decriminalized on three grounds. In Causa Justa, this issue is tackled legally, but there is also a very strong campaign on social networks. Knowing how to handle both areas is key.

It's our duty to inform people that care about these issues but are not necessarily knowledgeable about legal matters. It is in our hands to be active users and consumers.

LP: In what way are current audiovisual productions able to reflect that feminist struggle in pop culture? How this has evolved with respect to the older media?

JA: Television has been a reflection of social changes. If one studies television, one realizes that feminist ideas were already making their way let's say, in the 80s, but with the limits imposed both by the time and by the territories in which they were produced. There has been talk of abortion on television for years, but the progress is seen not so much in the issues that are touched, but in the voices that are allowed to create new stories. In the history of art in general, those who have told the stories have been mostly men, and that now different people are being given the opportunity, I think it benefits us all, as it further enriches our vision of the world.

LP: In that vein, do you think it is worth revisiting the series from a few decades ago but with the feminist lens that we now have? For example, with "Ugly Betty".

JA: One hundred percent, I think it's worth it. I don't think it is possible to take off the feminist lens. What we should try to achieve is to see something without it ruining our day or making us angry. Anger is good, but watching television and feeling angry all the time is not so good for our health. I do believe that "Ugly Betty" can be seen again knowing that everything Don Armando says and does is very wrong. Cultural products should be revisited to understand us as a society. In the case of this novel, it was a reflection of what we were as a Colombian society 20 years ago. If it was the most successful novel in history for a reason. It is worth seeing again, to see what has changed and what this says about our country.

LP: To what extent do you think pop culture can really contribute to causes such as the legalization of abortion, the closing of the gender gap, violence against women, femicides?

JA: Society affects the stories that are told, but seeing those stories also affect our lives. That does not mean that just by watching television we are going to change the world, but watching series with stories that show reality and address these issues with ease can help change the stereotypes and myths that we have created as a society. I also believe that it can inspire and change lives, inspire people to act and do something. I believe a lot in the power of fiction.

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