Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Anzaldúa & Rushin: Identities

Everyone possesses multiple identities, whether those involve one’s position in a family, work place, age group, social environment, etc. These identities can act as fluid markers depending on the context, add to the complexity of individuals, as well as present difficulties to a person when separate identities clash. When one is classified as the product of a plurality of races, the tension that often can arise from conflict of identities is tremendously augmented. Gloria Anzaldúa’s La conciencia de la mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness addresses the unique and distressing position of those with a combination of Spanish, Native American, African, and Anglo roots. She describes the uncomfortable position of both men and women labeled mestiza, and the need for a mestiza consciousness fixed upon the concept of inclusivity and acceptance. Anzaldúa addresses the need to require equal treatment from the men of same unique racial makeup, and the necessity of creating a fresh definition of masculinity within this new consciousness as well. She posits that the creation of this consciousness cannot come without an acceptance of the tensions, contradictions, and ambivalences which mark the unique identities of those like Anzaldúa, including the recognition of past and present injustices inflicted by/upon such people. “We can no longer blame you [oppressors], nor disown the white parts, the male parts, the pathological parts, the queer parts, the vulnerable parts” (386). Her work shares some paramount concepts with black feminist writers. The issue of identity multiplicity is very integral to Black Feminism, given the continuing conflict of whether to unite with men of color or predominantly white feminists in order to fight subjugation. The distinctive intersection of race and gender is considered home to many. To Anzaldúa this space is the called “Borderlands”; to Donna Kate Rushin, it is a “Bridge.” Anzaldúa’s Borderlands poem demonstrates the alienation, invisibility, and vulnerability which accompany the mestiza experience. Her assertion that survival entails “being a crossroads” certainly parallels the idea of multiple identities creating a bridge for others to tread on, as put forth in Donna Kate Rushin’s Bridge Poem. She denounces this kind of bridging of identities because she must first build a bridge to her “true self” in order to be “useful”, much in the same way that Anzaldúa recognizes the need to internally accept the plurality of identities in a mestiza. Both women shed light on the extreme pressure to explain themselves, externally and internally, and their continually contradictory and conflicting personal and cultural histories.

1 comment:

AlliSimon said...

When studying the position and rights of women, and bringing up the notion of "self", in contemporary American culture Simone de Beauvoir’s idea of the “other” continuously reemerges. Simone de Beauvoir explains that before a group can be defined, the individuals must be somehow distinguished from others. Therefore, subsequent concepts of racial and ethnic groups (social constructions) are merely the result of the perception of individuals. The feeling of being pigeonholed, classified as fitting into only one social category, is the primary topic in Donna Kate Rushin’s “The Bridge Poem.” Rushin speaks of the limitations in relating to others that results from being strictly constrained to a particular group. In “Borderlands” by Gloria Anzaldua the author writes about a similar experience of sorting out her identity, as a member of several social, gender, and racial groups. The author alludes to the thought that until one can truly come to terms with a multidimensional identity, that person, as well as society as a whole, cannot be completely fulfilled. This idea is epitomized in the phrase “you are at home, a stranger.” Never fully fitting into socially constructed categories restricts an individual from ever embracing his or her true self. Anzaldua speaks of this tension in "La Consciencia del la Mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness." She explains that as a result of this inner conflict, insecurity and self doubt often occur. In addition, Anzaldua asserts that a tolerance for contradictions and ambiguity must be established in order to challenge dominant white culture. Before this practice of strictly categorizing individuals based solely on nationality, ethnicity, gender (or any other seemingly arbitrary trait) can be confronted one must question the role that context plays in the process of assigning an individual to a particular group. In other words, if the public assumes that people simply identify themselves in terms of their one respective affiliation, than it is important to question, for instance, how an African-American woman would see herself. Does advocating for women’s rights mean she holds her femininity over her pride as an African-American? On the other hand, does supporting African-American causes prove her race is more important than her gender? Both Anzaldua and Rushin speak of the importance of somehow linking these varying groups and identities. Anzaldua concludes “Borderlands” by stating, “To survive in the Borderlands you must live sin fronteras, be a crossroads.” Perhaps if every individual could become a crossroads, some how bridge the gap between groups, all individuals could finally feel comfortable embracing their true, full self.