¡Viva La Revolución!: Chicana Feminism And Its Roots
Feminism: mischaracterized by pixie-cut wearing (vaginally-entranced) white women and deemed the production of female lunacy by (relatively emasculated) men in unsophisticated and drab Armani suits; it is an ideology that is equal parts progression and equal parts deconstruction — nearly on the verge of a debilitating demolition that is necessary to the reevaluation of society’s halls, fabrics, and institutions. Women have, since time immemorial, been boxed into the confines of a male-dominated rhetoric; social, cultural, and political identities have been restructured to their detriment, discrimination, and neglect. In their own land, characteristic of the pervasiveness of racism, misogyny, and poverty that run rampant within their communities and communities that hold similar disconcertment with their well-associated pain, women are forced to settle for a diluted form of self-election and self-selection; stereotypes and the duplicitous nature of what it means to adopt both feminine and masculine values in the contextualization of womanhood have overlapped and caused controversy amongst a variety of feminist waves and micro-turn-cloaked-to-macro movements. They are the women who embrace the “divinely-decreed unconventionality” of their identities through the white kyriarchy’s bifocals; the agitated embers that wish to sear and circumvent not only the bleached fabric of male-knowledge and male-households, but the preconceived notions white America and its minions.
However, the particular “turncoat” that has undone the genericism around white feminism’s doting of the i’s and crossing of the t’s is one that combines the stouthearted nature of black liberation feminism’s warrior cries with the spirituality and self-determination consistent with that of indigenous women’s rights organizations and micro-organizers: Chicana feminism.
Chicana (which, colloquially, is used to describe a Mexican-American woman who was raised in America) Feminism, also referred to as Xicanism, is an ideology based on the rejection of the traditional “pottery wife” role that has derogated the individuality/multiculturalism generationally-entrusted to Hispanic women; in an effort to modernize its approach to advocate for the autonomy and reinstation of rights and liberties of all marginalized women, the movement works to challenge misogyny’s coinciding cleavages through criteria revolving around the diversity of gender-expression/identification, ethnicity, class, race, and sexuality.
The Chicana Movement (otherwise known as “El Movimiento”) was a continuation of the 1940’s Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. It challenged the ethnic stereotypes that existed in America about the Mexican culture and heritage. The Chicano Movement was comprised of many separate protests, which included ones that sought educational, social, and political equality in the United States.
Within that geographic region, one of the premier organizations that reinforced the “liberation/secularist” ideology encompassed within the movement was the United Farm Workers organization (formed in 1962). This labor union, formed by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and Philip Vera Cruz, fought for the installation of blue-collar worker rights to be applicable to Mexican-American workers who survived off of their disproportionate employment in the agricultural sector. By using non-violent tactics — demonstrative of civil disobedience and an inalienable right that xenophobe nor racist can snatch — such as boycotts, marches, and strikes, the UFW attempted to better the working conditions (i.e. insurance benefits, workers rights, and safer work environments) of its largely-Mexican members.
A secondary highlight (besides that of galvanizing the support of one of the most influential/dynamic labor unions in the West Coast) of the 1960's-1970's Chicano Movement was its undeniably important splinter group: The Chicano Student Movement. As all uproarious youth social justice organizers know like the back of their hand, youth politics and the generational divide birthed from them oft result in agitational aggrandizements (with the hope that the end goal of a facilitated transition or a more equitable and beneficial policy-change arise). In the case of the Chicano Student Movement, the Martin Luther King Jr.-inspired protests originate from abysmal educational opportunities and conditions. Prospects were dim as graduation rates were one of the lowest in the country (the dropout rate at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles was a staggering 57.5%). Average class sizes in area schools were 40 students and the ratio of school counselors to students was one counselor to 4000 students — and, where was the Latinx community to be worked into this invariably downtrodden equation? The answer remains as concrete as all predicaments of de facto segregation in the aftermath of Brown v. Board (1954): the state, unconcerned with the plummeting college graduation rate (~0.1%) of its denizens because of their origins and skin color, utilized its bastardization of “benign intervention”: watching dereliction take its course.
But a spark was lit in 1963. Sal Castro — a teacher at Lincoln High School in East Los
Angeles, a Mexican-American, and an educator who worked to instill pride in his
students’ Chicano heritage — led the first Chicano Youth Leadership Conference at
Camp Hess in Malibu. This conference would inspire and motivate a generation of
leaders, including future Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California Supreme
Court Associate Justice Carlos Moreno, and filmmaker Moctesuma Esparza.
They fought for educational equality in their communities by asking for better textbooks, more Hispanic teachers in their schools (qualified representation is quintessential to the educational and pathological development of people of color across all age-related boundaries), accessible and untampered educational services, and classes that related to the richness of Hispanic history, civilization, and culture. The momentum from the summer of 1963 had not been watered down — whether it be for the palatability of white America or to appease other members of the marginalized that were afraid to witness the repercussion — in 1969. Students from all grade levels (primarily those from 9th-12th) began to take action, organizing the first of the Los Angeles School Blowouts. More than ten-thousand students walked out of their schools in protest of the poor education systems. That same year, in 1969, the National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez was founded. Out of the conference, a doctrine, "El Plan Espiritual de Aztlan", was written that would later become the framework for the movement. The conference also resulted in the formation of many different organizations, including El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or MEChA.
And where, you may have been pondering as you read this brief recitation of Chicano history, were all of the Chicana women? Were they watching their men, hairy brass and brawns, tangling with the institutions that shackled them whilst remain deliberately oblivious to the ensnaring of their women to the white patriarchy? Or, were they in the kitchen, making mincemeat out of empanadas and pozole while teaching their fidgety daughters that while her brothers, future husband, and father would be saving the world from peril, they would be bound by husband stitches and shriveled-up expectations to birth, birth, and birth again?
If you thought that women — especially women of color — would be silent in the face of their oppression, then you thought wrong. Hispanic women had incorporated themselves male-dominated discussions, stormed the halls of educational institutions, and addressed femme-based concerns at localized rallies and all-female conventions. They wanted to deal with not only issues of judiciously-stern xenophobia and racism, but also the ingrained fetishization and misogyny within their households. Women went back to their communities as pioneers of social justice, acclaimed activists, and femme-superheroes; and, as a result, this signified the beginning of the Chicana Feminist Movement — one that would revolutionize the intersectional feminist movement for not simply the week, the month, or the year.
Chicana women — and, women of color in general — are and will always be the generals of justice; and, they will remain the righteous bane of ahistorical white feminists and male America for eternity.