Every true feminist is aware of the diversity that exists among all feminists. We come in all colors and from all walks of life. In theorizing Feminism and battling oppression, it is not possible to isolate our gender from our race, our culture, our sexuality, our age, our religion, or our class status. All these factors intersect and feed off each other to make us who we are.
I am a Chicana Feminist because I cannot separate my race and culture from my gender. This is because my race and culture have greatly impacted the woman I have become. I also refuse to rate those factors in terms of importance because one does not exist without the other. Being a woman and a feminist has impacted my life just as much as being a Chicana.
So what is “Chicana Feminism”? “Chicana Feminism” is a complex concept and practice that incorporates a wide variety of ideas and theories and cannot be easily defined. However, my particular concept of Chicana Feminism incorporates intersectionality; the act of claiming your gender and race/ethnicity/culture simultaneously, without placing one identity over the other. Identifying as a Chicana means more than just identifying with Mexican culture, it is also a political stance that involves a political and social awareness of existing inequalities. Similar to second wave feminism in the U.S., “Chicana Feminism” seeks to achieve social, political, and economic equality among the sexes, as well as incorporating a political stance and direct opposition to the evils of patriarchy. Furthermore, Chicana Feminism analyzes and recognizes numerous other forms of dis-empowerment and oppression such as racism, homophobia, and class inequality, in hopes of giving a voice to the silenced. Chicana Feminists seek liberation and emancipation from both sexism and racism. Chicanas and Chicanos belong to a race and culture that is constantly under attack because it is construed as negative and inferior in comparison to the dominant American culture. Chicana Feminists want to destroy this misconception of inferiority and achieve cultural integrity and dignity for all Chicana/os. Chicana Feminism emerged in the mid 1960’s, in the midst of an era categorized by radical organization and mobilization by many minority groups in the U.S. that felt un-represented and discriminated against. Following the Civil Rights Movement, many separate movements began to emerge, including The Chicano Movement and The Feminist Movement (also commonly known as the Second wave of feminism).
Although the Chicano movement included respectful aims for the Chicano community such as embracing their cultural nationalism, it remained largely a male-centered movement that ignored the importance and issues of Chicanas.
On the flip side, the Anglo Feminist Movement in the mid 1960’s was comprised primarily of women whom were white American and middle to upper class. Although they fought for equality for women in government, employment and labor unions, their sole focus on gender inequality was erroneous because they failed to acknowledge the implications of other factors such as race/ethnicity, sexuality, class and how these factors can work together to further oppress certain groups of people.
Consequently, Chicanas felt excluded from both The Chicano Movement and The Anglo Feminist Movement. In response to this exclusion, Chicanas created their own branch of feminism that helped the “Chicana” become recognized as a valuable asset in her community. Chicanas could not rely on the men in the Chicano movement or the women in the White Feminist Movement. Each of these movements wanted Chicanas to sacrifice her needs for the larger movement. Chicanas were often told by both movements that they had to choose between being women and being Chicana. Which begs the question: Why can’t we be recognized as both simultaneously?