Much of fourth-wave feminism is being shaped through social media and mainstream media. It is here (let’s be honest, everywhere) that Latina voices are seemingly absent. In actuality, voices from nearly all women of color have been pushed to the peripheral. Like so many other institutions, feminism has formed a hegemonic structure where the power lies in the hands of the few; in this case, cis-gender heterosexual white women. Our narratives are so often shaped for us by those in power. Whether it is intentional or a result of disconnect, our voices are only acknowledged so long as they do not challenge the established power structure.
If you are familiar with Mikki Kendall’s #solidarityisforwhitewomen twitter hashtag that emerged a few months ago, you would have seen the outcry from women of color (predominantly Black/African-American) criticizing mainstream feminism. This was a great launching point because Latina and black feminists have a shared sociohistorical context through which we shape our identities. Though we have many similar concerns, we also have major cultural differences and areas of priority; just not to the extent that we do with white feminism.
“Part of me hates that I have to modify my feminism to make it clear just what I stand for. Why qualify something that already acknowledges the principles of intersectionality and transnationalism? But unfortunately, today’s modern, “mainstream” feminism has yet to prove its commitment to anti-racist projects and transnational movements. I’ve had too many conversations with Latinas who I would consider to be incredible feminists, and had them tell me that they feel excluded and out of place in the feminist movement. To these women, “feminist” does not represent them or the struggles their communities face. No #reprorights hashtag is going to address the way they have been demonized for reproducing, the fact that for many women of color, reproductive choice is just as much about the choice to have a child as it is about the choice to terminate a pregnancy. For so many Latinas, violence against women is so much more than intimate partner violence, it is embedded in the stories their mothers told them of military violence and of genocide, or the stop-and-frisk and anti-immigrant policies their communities faced on the street each day.” – Juliana Britto Schwartz
As incredible as it was, The #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen campaign was not able to (or meant to) address the unique struggle Latinas have in marrying their cultural identity with their feminist politics. It is that struggle and related victories that #SecretLivesOfFeministas endeavors to highlight.
This hash tag was born out of personal need. I am indebted to black feminists. My feminist awakening came at a young age and when it did I was ravenous for the voices of women. When I went in search of them I found incredible feminists who had paved the way for this pre-teen Latina. They were intelligent, funny, resourceful, strong women. Nearly all of them were white. I could not see the possibility of who I could be reflected in them. It took time and considerable effort but I began to find others- not quite like me but they gave me hope. Women like Sojourner Truth, bell hooks and Alice Walker. It was like having a world opened up to me and I will forever be grateful to them.
It is enough of a struggle to find resources from black feminists. When you begin searching for Latina feminists it is time to roll up your sleeves and really get to work. Finding Latina feminist resources on the web is a time-consuming effort. Aside from the occasional “Latino perspective” piece on a mainstream feminist site, we are nearly invisible. Put in the time and you will eventually discover women like Dolores Huerta and Gloria Anzaldua. It’s not that Latina feminists aren’t active or that we’re “voiceless”. We’re just so rarely invited into the inner circle. It creates the illusion that we don’t exist at all. It’s exhausting and disheartening to feel alone as a feminista.
This past week I had the pleasure of listening to a talk between bell hooks & Melissa Harris Perry. They were phenomenal. Still, as the conversation progressed, I found myself wishing I had such opportunities to watch Latinas interact in this way. It set something off in me and I began scouring the internet for such a video. After a couple of hours, I felt defeated and began voicing my frustration on twitter. I used the hash tag #SecretLivesOfFeministas. Not to imply that we are hiding but rather than we’re unseen.
This Thursday is the first day of the Gloria Anzaldua conference (runs from Nov. 14- Nov. 16). It seemed almost serendipitious. I reached out to the event coordinators and they enthusiastically agreed to suport me in my efforts to hold a formal launch of the #SecretLivesOfFeministas hash tag. It will happen this Thursday, November 14th at 6 p.m. EST.
The vision of #SecretLivesOfFeministas
1. Address the marginalized voices of Latina feminists in mainstream feminism. This refers to both the lack of inclusion of our voices in mainstream circles and the sidelining of feminist issues particularly important to women of color (employment security, immigration etc…)
2. Address the unique experience of reconciling our cultural identities with our feminist identities in light of their complex historical relationship. This includes the absence of our voices in feminist history and the perceived machismo/anti-feminist nature of Latino culture.
3. Connect feministas and their allies from across the world. Because of the aforementioned issues, our voices are scattered and muted. Using FB and Twitter to connect one another provides an opportunity to share stories, resources and goals.
Will you join with us in honoring Gloria Anzaldua’s memory by connecting feministas across the world?A special thank you to the feministas and allies who have already pledged their support: Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) – creator of #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen Norma E. Cantu – Gloria Anzaldua Conference 2013 Amy – Online Community Manager for Everyday Feminism Bianca- Unpacking the “F” Word You can also find Secret Lives of Feministas on facebook.