This post is a repost from Viva La Feminista’s Summer of Feminista. To learn more, visit http://bit.ly/cJCVdY
My mother suspected that all this crazy feminist talk was a result of my attending Smith. She thought this would be a phase like she thought other things. Unfortunately (for her) it wasn’t. It also didn’t help matters that I became a Study of Women and Gender major. My mother didn’t agree with this not only because it was not explicitly connected with a well to do, money making profession but also because of its association with feminism. Why the reluctance to embrace the term? As a single mother she always told my sister and I to be independent and to never depend on a man. Therefore getting an education has always been important to my family. Many of my family members were not given the opportunity to get a higher education so being knowledgeable and self sufficient was critical. I see feminism all over this.
At Smith, I was involved in the feminist organization, Feminists of Smith Unite! (FSU!). I was among young Caucasian women who were passionate about their cause and wanted to organize to make sure their interests were being acknowledged. I was one of the few Latinas involved in the organization and after awhile, their investment in the organization lessened dramatically and eventually, they were no longer involved. I became co-chair and there were members who suspected that I was the first Latina co-chair of FSU!. This was never confirmed but it shows that feminism was and probably is still not something that is prevalent in the lives of women of color at Smith. Even in my participation in Nosotras, the Latina organization, I felt that I needed to bring in my feminist beliefs because the subject of feminism was not discussed. As the social chair, I organized the panel, “Race and Feminism: Latina Perspectives.” I wanted to create a venue where there would be discussions about Latinas and feminism. I wanted Latinas who consider themselves feminists in one room discussing the implications of this and how they came to this conclusion about their identities. My mother may have never used the word but she indeed raised me to be a feminist. I know this sentiment is shared with other Latinas because a panelist on the “Race and Feminism” panel mentioned how her mother brought her up as a feminist yet her mother said: “pero no lo sabia.” Feminism has always been viewed as a “white woman’s issue” - something that only privileged women would involve themselves with. Feminism is much more than that. Feminism encompasses people (yes, women and men) of all races, genders, sexualities, classes and more. I wish my mother and other Latinas would understand this of feminism.
My growing up in a female headed household has heavily affected my identity as a woman and as a feminist. All my role models were women – my great grandmother who was outspoken and always said what she thought, and my grandmother who insisted that I get an education – something that no one could take away from me. Feminism wasn’t and will never be a phase for me. I graduated in 2009 and I am still proud to say that I am a feminist. Even though my entire experience as a feminist has consisted of defending myself against my mother, it has strengthened my resolve to embrace this part of me.