“Portrait of A Feminista” was born from AnaYelsi Sanchez’s desire to to see herself and her story reflected in others; an unwillingness to settle for a feminism that doesn’t reflect Latin@s shared history and experience. It began in November 2013 as the #SecretLivesOfFeministas twitter conversation addressing the absence of Latina voices in mainstream feminism and the unique struggles faced by feministas and is on it’s way to becoming a published anthology. Read about the twitter movement that led to this series.
I learned the word feminist in middle school in the 1970s when my mom bought a Ms. magazine in the grocery store. My mom is white, from a poor rural past. She’s the girl who got the scholarship to college and dreamed of becoming a journalist until an unplanned pregnancy shifted her life forever. On the pages of Ms. she saw what she wished she could have been: a single white professional woman with money, power, and status.
As a kid I felt a little proud of my mom for plopping that magazine down where my father would see it, encouraged to know she had some fantasy of liberation, however cold and unsatisfying it looked to me.
Somewhere around the same time I stumbled upon the word Hispanic. I was filling out my information for a standardized school test and discovered a box I could check next to “Black” and “White.” I remember staring at the tiny box, blinking at the vast questions it suggested, fearful of what checking it would signal to the world, and nervously excited to imagine a category that might embrace the brown-skinned Midwestern daughter of an immigrant father who feared that living near other Ecuadorians would make him the target of discrimination; a girl who knew Spanish but never spoke it in the US, a girl who spent summers in Ecuador sharing her cousin’s room in the warmth of her tía’s house.
I was a grown up before I heard the word Latina, embracing it immediately and instinctively as a political term that acknowledges and challenges the structures and hierarchies of race in the United States, asserting solidarity with other people oppressed by racism and eurocentricity. I had been drawn early toward social justice and with each step uncovered some insight that helped me piece together an understanding of how my life – my choices born of both oppression and privilege – was shaped by our country’s systemic, violent, cultural, often legally-validated, relentless racism.
Feminist and Latina have shaped me and helped me define my relationship to myself and the world. But as important as words are for the consciousness they carry, it is the moments in my body, where actual physical and physiological shifts occurred, that brought me to the meaning of feminista.
It’s hard to tell you about this, but I will.
I will tell you about that moment when I just wouldn’t accept it any more: the yelling, the threatening, the shoving from a Latino husband suffering blindly from racism and patriarchy.
The moment when I stood my ground for my own body and the soul it is home to.
The moment I refused to be a model of helpless unhappiness for my daughter.
The moment I let go of the illusion of a model Latin@ family, of a traditional structure that would somehow connect me back to my father’s roots and allow me to feel whole.
The moment I forgave my mother for choosing security over freedom.
The moment I said whoever I am is better than this, more than this. Whoever I am can survive with the collective support of my women sisters, whatever that may look like. Whoever I am is authentic enough.
Feminista is not my identity. It is my affirmation. It is my pledge.
Feminista is the affirmation of my tía and my abuela, of my bisabuela whose name no one told me until I asked.
Feminista is the affirmation of my mother who refused to die inside.
Feminista is the affirmation of my father who yearned for the validation of dollars to make him safe.
Feminista is the affirmation of my ex-husband who loves his daughter enough to grow and change.
Feminista is my pledge to witness the bullets of patriarchy and racism as they are fired into our homes, to offer care and food to the wounded, to track down the guns and melt them into tools, and to walk boldly forward together, arm in arm with anyone I can reach, with all the love in my heart.
Julie is the middle child of an Ecuadorian father and a Kansas mother, so she learned early how to read and question the subtle and complex narratives of migration, assimilation, race, class, and gender. She works at Movement Strategy Center where she edits Let’s Talk and collaborate with amazing people to catalyze, connect, and strengthen social movements. Her core strength is exuberance (!) and her life purpose is to support courageous transformation. She’s cis. She writes fiction. She love to swim.
Are you a feminista and want to add your portrait? Know a feminista whose story needs to be heard? Contact AnaYelsi at email@example.com.
Don’t forget to use #secretlivesoffeministas when sharing this series on facebook and twitter. Help to keep us connected.
Portrait of A Feminista: Marissa Rodriguez – Browneyedamazon.com
Portrait of A Feminista: Patricia Valoy – Browneyedamazon.com
Portrait of A Feminista: Rosebud Ben-Oni – Browneyedamazon.com
Portrait of A Feminista: Larissa Lucena – Browneyedamazon.com
Portrait of A Feminista: Brenda Hernandez – Browneyedamazon.com
Portrait of A Feminista: Ondine Quinn – Browneyedamazon.com
Portrait of A Feminista: Ynanna Djehuty – Browneyedamazon.com
Secret Lives of Feministas – browneyedamazon.com
Latina feministas unite at #SecretLivesofFeministas – feministing.com
The Color of Toxicity – vivalafeminista.com