By: Kaydian Campbell
In “Speaking In Tongues: A Letter To 3rd World Women Writers”, Gloria Anzaldúa expresses that the dangers women writers of color face are not akin to obstacles because, “We can’t transcend the dangers, can’t rise above them. We must go through them…” (165). I believe she means that these dangers are embedded within us, within our lives, or within our thoughts. Anzaldúa reminisces on her own struggle with her right to write, “Who am I, a poor Chicanita from the sticks, to think I could write?” (166). She explains that it is so easy to question our right to tell our story, whether our story is even worth telling. Her advice is that we should “Write of what most links us with life, the sensation of body, the images seen by the eye, the expansion of the psyche in tranquility: moments of high intensity, its movement, sounds, thoughts” (172). She essentially means we should write what we know, write what we live, with the understanding that it will be true and meaningful. “Nothing is too trivial”, she asserts, “Even though we are hungry, we are not impoverished of experiences“, we do have something to contribute, and it is worthwhile (170, 172). There is no need to transform into into “male-women”, “go to the university”, or “Bow down to the sacred bull, form” (167).
One of the dangers of writing, she asserts, “is not fusing your own personal experience and world view with the social reality we live in, with out inner life, our history, our economics, our vision…The danger is in being too universal and humanitarian and invoking the eternal to the sacrifice of the particular and the feminine and the specific historical moment” (170). Our writing is at risk of falling into the abyss of intellectual musings that are so general and theoretical that what we produce loses its essence and its intimacy. “Precious” almost echoes this idea when she explains what she thinks about the usual approach to writing: “… you an do anything when you talking or writing, it’s not like living when you can only do what you’re doing. Some people tell a story ‘n it don’t make no sense or be true” (3).Therefore as you write, Anzaldúa warns, “Don’t let the pen banish you from yourself…. Don’t let the censor snuff out the spark, nor the gags muffle your voice” (173). Instead, she encourages women writers of color to “throw away abstraction and academic learning, the rules, the map and compass (173). She expresses that not only does society make us think our story is not worth telling, that our story is not glamorous or profound enough to share. There are also voices that seek to censor what you write, and sometimes those voices are our own, because we have been taught what is “valuable”. Anzaldúa explains that “the schools we attended or didn’t attend did not give us the skills for writing not the confidence that we were correct in using class and ethnic languages” (165). Instead, she finds that school, in its own way cripples our writing. Even in writing this letter, she finds that her first draft was “wooden”, a result she says, of having “not yet unlearned the esoteric bull**** and pseudo-intellectualizing that school brainwashed into [her] writing (165).
I titled my post, “The Resisting Writer” in homage to Judith Fetterley, who wrote The Resisting Reader. I found that there was a huge parallel between Fetterley’s admonition that we should not let the misogynistic works we read cause us to hate our sex, but that we should be skeptical of the way women are portrayed in men’s writing. Similarly Anzaldúa proclaims and encourages our rejection of “the guilt, self denial and race-hatred” that has been “force-fed into us” (167). However, Anzaldúa’s vision is that women writers of color should resist the narratives of “valuable” or “intellectual” writing, and instead to write what is real to us, otherwise, according to “Precious” Jones, “What’s the f***ing use?” (4).