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Notes Towards Day 17: Latina Feminism

Notes Towards Day 17 of
Critical Feminist Studies:
Latina Feminism (with Cherríe Moraga,
Tamarinda Figueroa and Ingrid Paredes)


For Thursday: read Spivak's 15 pp. essay,
"Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism"
Post a forum comment before or after class

A suggestion from one of you, as I continue to worry,
in conferences, my vision of all contributing
to our common understanding....)
For 8 remaining classes--
sign up in pairs to lead off discussion

(seniors are off the hook; know how to do this already)
could be something you've posted,
or something someone else has,
or something I've said on the website,
or something relevant from the NYTimes or on campus....

For example, (if I were doing this today),
I would report that the forum was filled w/ a rich range of comments about what home is/means to you, great questions about how important safety is, how to achieve it...
then pull out two that highlighted different forms of talking
about these questions, as ways of seeing more answers:

(by name!)
I was disappointed that we only heard one or two...personal metaphors...because I think they are key to seeing variations in our interpretations of what home means...I thought of "base" in a game of tag....

What other metaphors did you come up with?

then I would invoke jzarate's cartoon, ask her to talk about what was easier, what harder, in drawing, and invite you all to think about the forms in which you write...what form might do most justice to your ideas? is it always an analytical paper? might it be a creative or visual piece?

Good preparation for talking about the ideas of  Cherríe Moraga
(From her talk @ BMC, 2/24/05:)
in a site of deprivation, as a response to genocide, the clan mentality can be (strategically) useful; but the identity of the clan must be malleable, open to shifting and changing....


Moraga's "The Breakdown of the Bicultural Mind"
insists both on "taking a stand" and being "set apart":

"my mixed-blood identity has driven me to politics, protest, and poetry...

We light-skinned breeds are like chameleons...We change for...lack of definitive shade and shape....We invent our selves....people read the women you're with....And then...the choices become more limited....

I am always hungry...I am hungry to know...

In the 'choice' resides the curse....I have always hated the terms 'biracial' and 'bisexual.' They are passive terms, without political bite. They don't choose. They don't make a decision. They are a declaration not of identity, but of biology, of sexual practice. They say nothing about where one really stands. And as long as injustice prevails, we do not have the luxury of calling ourselves either.

Call me breed. Call me trash. Call me spic greaser beaner dyke jota bulldagger. Call me something meant to set me apart from you and I will know who I am. Do not call me "sister." I am not yours.

Ingrid, Tamarinda:
What shall we call you?
What do you call yourselves?
What terms do you use?
How do you understand feminism?
How do you understand the
intersection of gender and ethnicity?


from the forum:

1) What are the facets of Western feminism that differ from the feminist thought in your place of origin?

2) In which ways has "home" shaped your identity?... your thoughts on feminism?

3) Do you think the Western notion of feminism differs from the non-Western notion of feminism? How so?

ebock: What factors are most significant for you in how you define yourself? Do you call yourself a feminist? If so, what is your personal definition of feminism?

How do you feel about the essentialist/post-modernist/realist debate...the claim that some of Moraga's ideas were being used out of context in some post-modernist feminist works?

And along those lines, do you agree with Moraga in that "the physical realities of [women of colors'] lives - [their] skin color, the land or concrete [they] grew up on, [their] sexual longings" influence their identity, but they "do not define a person's politics?"...To what extent do you feel that these things influence your "politics", if you have "politics," per se?




(Reading Notes)
...we are the hybrid seed...We are Malinche's children and the new Malinches of the 21st century. We are talkin' breed talk...when Third and Fourth and First Worlds are collapsing into one another....I am of that endangered culture and of that murderous race, but I am loyal only to one..."

A little background re: La Malinche
malinchista ... is used by modern-day Mexicans to identify countrymen who betray their race and country; those who mix their blood and culture with European or other outside influences....Many historians believe that La Malinche saved her people: that without someone who was not only a fluent translator but who also advised both sides of the negotiations, the Spanish would have been far more violent and destructive in their conquest.

More from Moraga's talk @ BMC, 2/24/05:

  • your ego is the stupidest part of yourself
  • you know the answer to the question you are asking, as demonstrated by the fact that you have the consciousness to ask
  • let us adjust the lens, challenge the "I," singularity, individualism, progress as a plot line w/ a goal @ end
  • parenthood teaches you not to think about yourself first: you just want somebody else to flourish. Aside from forcing you to practice your politics (because this entity is looking @ you), being a parent means being responsive to something larger than yourself. It enables you to appreciate the work of revolutionaries, who risked the "I" for the "we" (vs. the notion of the "we" silencing the "I" that has seemed inherent, so far, in our discussion of altruism)
  • therapy is the privitized gringo consciousness that our illness is individual, as is our cure
  • I wake up every morning knowing I can leave my (university) job: otherwise I'm not free
  • the biggest illusion of academic discourse is that conflict is resolvable; even Marxism had a dialectic. As we change and grow, we move in and out of inconsistency; this is not contradiction, but evolution

Reading Notes from Paula Moya's
"Postmodernism, 'Realism,' and the Politics of Identity:

women of color are not a 'natural' affinity group but...
come together out of political necessity

postmodern theorists either internalize difference or attempt to subvert showing that it is merely a discursive illusion...we are all marginal now!

debilitiating effect of postmodernism on women as knowledge producers

theoretical misappropriation of women of color
by Donna Haraway and Judith Butler:

Chicanas as exemplary cyborgs, prototypical postmodern subjects, transcending boundaries, trapped within specific signifying function

Haraway conceals painful legacy,
overinvests Malinche w/ questionable agency,
affirms marginality and survival that
real live Chicanas find less affirming
overly idealizes social identities of women of color,
understands identity as entirely willful construction,
wholly independent of limits of social location

Judith Butler
more cursory, also highly questionable:
voices merely instrumental
both assume postmodern subject with
unstable, shifting, contradictory identity,
disavow link between identity and social location
people live as biologically, temporally limited
and socially situated human beings

Moraga articulates a "theory in the flesh" derived from,
without being uniformly determined by,

physical realities of sex and race

"epistemic privilege": experiences of oppression
provide information, understanding
mediated experience yields knowledge: structural causality
multiple determinations, continual verifications
Chicana as politically aware (vs. useless term Hispanic)
social locations have epistemic consequences
oppositional struggle fundamental to accurate understanding (Marxian)

postmodernists appropriate "border/mestiza"
without attending to social conditions that produced it:
universalizing theory grounded in specific history/culture

subordinate role of Chicanas in Chicano nationalism:
maintain one form of oppression in the service of abolishing another
analysis of sexism seen as threat to movement and to culture
cf. white feminists, disregarding class-, race-based oppression

Moraga's theory:
1) family primary socialization
2) theory grounded in emotional investment
3) link between social location and experience
4) body as source of knowledge
5) centrality of struggle to formation of political consciousness

salience of social location: theory derived from experience
"epistemically indispensable but never epistemically sufficient"

sources of oppression: the places we feel we
must protect unexamined at all costs
possess knowledge as result of being women of color