Cultural tyranny can be defined as cruel dominance in one’s culture by a main group who sets up the rules, laws, and practices through hegemonic consent. The concept of cultural tyranny is present in feminist discourse to show how this oppressive system functions in relation to women in a particular group. Looking at different ideals that are embedded in particular cultures can show how women are constructed in ways that produce certain roles and behaviors that they are supposed to assume. Also in opposition behaviors and certain roles that are deemed negatively in cultures. Much of this critical analysis around tyranny of a particular culture is seen in U.S Third World Feminism by scholars like Gloria Anzaldua. Many of Anzaldua’s text deconstruct the dominant rule of the land, which is man. Anzaldua wants to show how women are situated in Chicana/o culture as docile and dependent servants for men, with no hope of achieving autonomous independence. With this critical analysis she hopes to not only change dominant ideologies and discourse in her specific culture but bring conscious raising awareness to men and women. Using this feminist framework I will deconstruct Anzaldua text “Borderlands/La Frontera” in relation to Ana Castillo novel “The Mixquiahuala Letters” to show how this particular piece literature fits into dominant feminist scholarship and how using this mode of references breaths new meaning into the reading to show that this novel holds a major stake in feminist scholarship.
Letter Four in “The Mixquiahula Letters” written by Ana Castillo is to Alicia written by her good friend Teresa. In this Letter Teresa discusses her experience with the Catholic Church. When Teresa was eighteen years old she went to a Cathedral to talk to a priest. When entering the church she states “It smells of incense, hot oils, the wax of constant burning candles, melting at the a vigilant pace, the plaster of an army of saints watching with fixed glass eyes, revered in exchange for being mediators and delivering your feeble prayers .It smells of flowers and palms that precede Easter. It smells of death (Castillo pg.24)”. Here with the use of descriptive language and imagery Castillo is able to create a mood and image of Teresa experience. You can feel Teresa anxiety when she is describing the church as she enters. Her anxiety stems from the massive size of the Cathedral, the staring, and the atmosphere. Teresa then talks about her experience with the priest of the church and how he accuses her of having or wanting to have sexual relations with a man, even though she was a virgin. This experience completely mortifies her because virginity and wholesomeness are virtues that are valued in her culture. Since the purity of her womanhood was questioned Teresa runs out the Cathedral completely taken by her experience.
Relating Teresa’s experience to Anzaldua text “Borderlands/La Frontera” you see the construction of woman and what counts as a virtues woman. Anzaldua states in her text “If a woman remains a virgen until she marries, she is a good woman”. What Anzaldua is getting at here is the law of the land, which is men and church. The expectation of a woman is to remain a virgin, become a mother, and be a good wife. Virginity becomes the required duty of a woman in order to be considered a respectable one. The bad woman or the whore is a woman who does not remain a virgin, isn’t subservient to men, and doesn’t become a wife/mother. The bad woman becomes a failure as stated by Anzaldua. This is why Teresa is so affected by her experience with the priest because she does not want her womanhood to be diluted by any sorts of sin like sex.
Teresa relates to my life because I am a queer male and the fact that I am queer goes against the church, which is in many ways the law of the land. Black Culture has religious roots deeply embedded into their community. The topic of homosexuality is one that is not spoken of at all within homes, church, and even in school in regards to the black community. It is almost assumed that every male will become heterosexual. So when a male identifies as anything but heterosexual he becomes ostracized from the dominant group. Coming out as a queer male positioned me in many ways as the deviant other because I no longer appeal to the normal standards of the black community. Like Teresa I too feared being unman like she was almost seen as being unwoman. But, I had to embrace my shadow beast as stated by Anzaldua because if I didn’t I would be living a lie and wouldn’t be fulfilled at all in life. It is hard knowing that in way I am perceived by others in many situation as a physical manifestation of sin but in order to be truly happy I had to resists dominant hegemonic values surrounding homosexuality to create a home within myself.
“She lay down beside him and he stroked her hair. She had no vocabulary to deal with the event, either; besides, she had thought of herself only as the Other Woman, never as a Femme Fatale. ‘Good heavens,’ she thought. ‘I must be dangerous.’ “
In this passage Protagonist Lee and character Carolyn are together after Annabel attempts suicide. Here is the part were Carolyn becomes aware that she may have been the main cause in Annabel’s hospitalizing. As she lies in bed with Lee she contemplates the situation in her head. In Deconstructing Carter piece you see how there is a comparison between the Other Women and the Fatale Female figure. Analyzing the construction of woman you see Carolyn portrayed as a villainess. She becomes the “Femme Fatal” characterized as the other, a killer, and the whore of the novel. She is never perceived in a way that shows her as an autonomous being. She is played down because she is a woman and will be looked down on if she expresses her sexual agency. I felt like that was interesting analysis taken from the reading because people are so quick to judge woman when dealing with issues around marriage and monogamy. She becomes the whore or the jezebel while men are more likely to get away from this stigma, because they’re positioned in a way that makes them a victim or constructs their act as a sinful crime of passion. In creating this image of Carolyn, Carter uses tone in order to show Carolyn as key cause of Annabel’s attempted suicide. In reading this passage you feel the dramatic tone being used by Carter in order to show the complex nature of the situation. She is not only the other women but the Fatal Female. Carter capitalizes Other Women, and Femme Fatale to stress the importance of her characterization. She wants to readers to see how Carolyn is harmful in this situation.
Key concepts that were explored in this week’s readings were Hegemony and Intersectionality, which were in reference to dominant feminist scholarship. In Hook’s reading you see her bring to light the hegemonic ideals that manifest within feminism and how it only includes a privilege perspective of white-middle class women. Since white women dominated feminism during this time period their ideals became normalized or the defining factor of feminism. In normalizing the white feminist standpoint you see how the theme of hegemony plays out within this movement. Hooks points out that poor white women and women of color are rendered invisible and silenced in this collective group/space created for all women. How then is a women movement supposed to challenge and reshape the category of woman, but not include all instances of her? A major theme that could offset hegemonic feminism is adopting an intersectional analysis. What Hook’s means by this is bringing in not only gendered aspects to discourse or scholarship but also class, race, and sexuality. In doing so we’re able to gain a better understanding of how different oppressions affect a diverse set of women. This also helps show that feminism is a diverse category, which can create understanding and build solidarity. In connecting these themes to poetry presented in class you can get a better understand of these women lived experience. In Maya Angelou piece “Woman Work” with an intersectional framework we’re able to see how class, gender, and race interact. Angelou talks about how she must tend to her children and fulfill her domestic duties as woman. We also see instances of her class in the piece because she talks about having only the rain, sun, and stars to call her own. You see how race plays an important factor because this poem is written from a black woman’s perspective. Coming to use this intersectional framework gives us a better understanding of how our identities make and shape us has human beings.
Hi my name is Tuquan Harrison I’m a 4th four year Philosophy and Feminist studies major hailing all the way from Los Angeles, Ca. My research interest are black queer and queer minority group. What i like to focus on is the visibility and voices within these communities. How these voices are rarely heard or seen in queer scholarship. This connects to the class because we discuss how different women are not represented in dominant feminist politics. How this exclusion from this space is oppressive to this marginalized community.