I can hear two televisions as I write this post. One is blasting the loud music of an action movie and the other is blasting a novela. My sister Jazmin is keeping me company although is very busy studying for her summer math course. I'm sitting in the kitchen writing because I feel this intense energy and wish with all my heart that I was actually at the Texas Capitol seeing feminist history unfold. I keep thinking of what the word means to me and how important it is going to be from now on.
A year ago, I sat in a book writing class and my bright idea was to record the fourth wave of feminism. I decided then to call it transcendental feminism. It was exciting! Still, it was one of the toughest semesters I have had in graduate school and did not really want to acquaint with feminists. Another part of it was that I really wanted to use social media to compose the book. I know weird yet brilliant. I am a feminist and always will be. However, when I first walked into UT Austin I had wanted to try to get rid of the word because I was confused as to where I fit in as a Mexican American woman. I had also heard of the term Chicana but I thought it best that people did not know this certain aspects of my identity. It gets political. Others that do not relate to such terms can be hard on you and definitely give you a bad time. Well, I have learned that it is absolutely worth it. Therefore, I am thinking about the way I came across the term/word and adopted it.
I learned I was a feminist in high school. I grew up in a broken home and I just knew that being a female did not mean that I needed to be a certain way. I wanted to learn things and see the world. I refused to do things around the house only because it was what a lady was supposed to do or because no one would marry me other wise. The feminist ideals were there to keep me safe and wishing that one day I would be in a better place. It wasn't until American history class that I came across the word. I was reading about the roaring 20s. I was happy that women had cut their hair and decided to wear short skirts for the first time during this decade. The more I read though, the more shocked I became about women's history. I could not believe that women had not been allowed to vote or have fun. I read about Alice Paul and Lucy Burns fighting together to gain us women's vote. It was a simple understanding of what had gone on in the past but it was enough to spark something in me. Especially when I read the definition of the word.
"Feminism is the belief that women and men are equal. A feminist is someone that believes women and men are equal." Cool, I thought to myself. So, that's what I'm supposed to call myself. I believe that. What's funny is that I also thought everyone was in on this idea. I thought that because it was in my textbook, it meant that everyone was one. I was also innocent and naïve to think that everyone that was white and American was probably a feminist. I thought everyone cared about this matter and loved women. It took a while for me to use the term but it had definitely been embedded in my brain.
The word lay dormant in my brain for another year or two. That is when I first held the flyer for the first meeting of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance at the University of Texas at El Paso. It was the first feminist group to be established at the university and since I was looking to be very involved in school manners I showed up to the first meeting. I had no idea what patriarchy was by then or what I was about to learn. I had no idea this would become a life journey. I had no idea I would have to redefine the word and perhaps a whole movement.
After joining the group and being one of the most involved members, I decided to take as many women's studies courses as I could take. That's another thing. I walked into college thinking "WOW! People must really like women! There's a whole department dedicated to them! HOW WONDERFUL! I'm going to hang out here all day everyday!" I learned quickly that is not entirely so and that being a feminist can be the most confusing and exhausting experience ever. There was a lack of support for the group. Then, my culture began to clash with the new information I was learning about being a feminist. At some point, I started hating Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and all Mexican music because, OMG!, it was all so sexist and spoke badly about women. I became a radical feminist and tried rejecting as much of my femininity as I could. I was determined that one day someone would become interested in me because of my entire beauty - which is great - but refused to be myself entirely. I would have to say that, part of it, was that the first feminist elder I knew rejected everything. However, she later rejected me.
I learned after a year of working with this person that even feminists are human. That I was human and that it is okay to love Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and embrace the positive aspects of my culture. I am a feminist. I might not have my women's studies credentials yet but many know me as a feminist expert already. I know wonderful things about women's history in America that others do not know and I love it. In fact, I recently discovered how incredible it is that I know this information because I was in a room full of white friends that did not know who are the Iron Jawed Angels. I had to explain that in order to get the women's vote in America, Alice Paul and other National Women's Party members imprisoned without having broken the law while rallying in front of the White house. They were then force fed with the use of an iron mask that would extend their jaws painfully after they went on a hunger strike. It was a great moment for me but it also made me incredibly aware of how others might perceive me and how much knowledge I hold. It has finally hit me that I really am a feminist expert. Even if, I am Mexican American.
Anyway, I hope most reading this are paying attention to news about Texas legislature and the bills they are proposing. I would like to know that more women and men are aware of how these bills can affect the Latino community and women. Only five women's clinics would stay open to provide women safe reproductive options, sex education information, and other women procedures. The real issue should be keeping women's clinics available for women of color and others that have no money or insurance. I know that I need a good clinic. I'm a broke graduate student and have no insurance. I also know that many of my cousins have made use of these women's clinics when they had early pregnancies or questions about how to be safe when having sex. It is okay to have questions and seek for help. Therefore, it should be okay for these places to exist even if everyone does not need them.
I know now that what I wrote a year ago is true and that there is a new wave of feminism coming. I think that this wave will see more Latino women in it and that it will come from very personal experiences. I think that it will be more focused on individualism within a movement and acceptance of feminist values as they apply to our everyday lives. Really, it already exists.