Anzaldúa, “Movimientos…”

[a] pages 37-45, Chapter 2: “Movimientos de rebuldía y las culturas que traicionan

[b] In this chapter Anzaldúa analyzes her rebelliousness against Chicano culture that betrays women and Indian, and against White culture that betrays Chicana culture. Anzaldúa notes that she “had to leave home so I could find myself, find my intrinsic nature buried under the personality that had been imposed on me” (38). Culture imposes an identity on us, and Anzaldúa fought against this, largely because of the anti-woman, anti-Indian, anti-queer designs of Chicana culture. Anzaldúa is angered by the way women are used by culture (men) to reinforce culture: “Culture is made by those in power—men. Males make the rules and laws; women transmit them” (38). Because men fear the unknown and the sexual, and “[b]ecause, according to Christianity and most other major religions, woman is carnal, animal, and closer to the undivine, she must be protected. Protected from herself” (39). But instead of protecting women, culture “keeps women in rigidly defined roles” (39).

Not only women, but homosexuals and queers are oppressed by culture. Because homosexuality is seen as deviant, Chicano culture tries to get rid of them, as do many cultures: “Most cultures have burned and beaten their homosexuals and others who deviate from the sexual common” (40). Anzaldúa considers herself half and half, half male and half female, refusing to believe as some psychiatrists do that this is evident of suffering from identity confusion: “What we are suffering from is an obsolute despot duality that says we are able to be only one or the other….I, like other queer people, am two in one body, both male and female. I am the embodiment of the hieros gamos: The coming together of opposite qualities within” (41). She expresses her fear, common to many, that she will be rjected by her culture for her choice to be queer (she says she made the choice, while others believe it is genetic), but while she fears this, she announces she will not take her cultures tenets and laws: “I want the freedom to carve and chisel my own face, to staunch the bleeding with ashes, to fashion my own gods out of my entrails. And if going home is denied to me then I will have to stand and claim my space, making a new culture—una cultura mestiza—with my own lumber, my own bricks and mortar and my own feminist architecture” (44).

Not only has Chicano culture betrayed women and homosexuals, it has betrayed its Indian heritage. Chicano culture has developed myths that blame the Indian woman for betraying them to the Spaniards. This Indian woman is mythologized in the form of “Malinali Tenapat, or Malintzín,…known as la Chingada—the fucked on” (44). Throughout this chapter, Anzaldúa rebels against the tenets her culture has imposed upon her, telling her woman is dangerous and most be protected, telling her homosexuality is deivant and must be denied, telling her that the Indian inside her is betraying her. She repates the phrase, “Not me sold out my people but they me” (44).

[c] Once again, I am struck by how powerful Anzaldúa’s writing is. I was surprised by how Chicano women must protect themselves from men. First, men protect girls from other men; Anzaldúa uses the phrase “don’t poach on my preserves, only I can touch my child’s body” (39), which I think is meant to connote the image of child molestation, and the ways she is able to do this without saying it is amazing. The way this sentence conveys so much: abuse, property, perversion, distrust, danger, is amazing. Anzaldúa also tells that women do not let their girls go into rooms of men in shorts or nightgowns and never let their girls be alone with men (40).

Anzaldúa tells us that she made the choice to be queer (for some it is genetically inherent)” (41, emphasis hers). I am not sure if she is going to expand on this, but it really made me think. We do make a choice to be queer or not, though often this choice is whether to be true to oneself or not, to be who you want and need to be or to conform to the tenets of society. It seems that for Anzaldúa this is an explicit political choice. I want more explanation from her on this choice, why she believes it to be so. I also wonder about how she has italicized this phrase, one of the very few phrases in this book to be italicized that are also English: does this make it her own? does this express the Otherness of being queer? does this place her outside of White anglo culture, so she italicizes? is it solely for emphasis?

I like how Anzaldúa believes herself to be Half and Half, to be both male and female. I agree, and this reminds me of literary theory (Roladn Barthes in specific) who argues that we are all texts, collages of different voices that have come before us and who inform us. Of course we are all both men and women if we are defined by both men and women, if we are informed by both men and women. I do challenge her reinforcement of the man/woman duality. While she deconstructs it with those who do not fall into the binary, she reinforces it by being both/and. I’d rather think of ourselves as all. Of course, it is hard to escape the gender binary, and I love what Anzaldúa is doing here.

[d] What is behind Anzaldúa’s emphasis that being queer is a choice for her? Will Anzaldúa offer more details on the origins of Malintzín? I assume so because she ends the chapter with “Coatlalopeuh waits for her [the battered dark-skinned woman]” (45). I am still curious how one writes against culture in his/her/hir own identity, or more specifically, how did Anzaldúa first start this journey? What was her childhood like? How did all of these struggles take place in her childhood; what led her to be able to break away, besides this innate rebelliousness? Where does this rebelliousness come from?

[e] Once again, in this chapter we see evidence of institutional power by men, who control and define the institution of family in this chapter, and even the institution of “womanhood.” We see internalized oppression, as the Chicanos betray the Indian inside them, blaming that part of the self for betrayal long ago. Also, we see internalized oppression in the women who reinforce and believe in a culture that oppresses them.

Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands: La Frontera. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 1999.

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