The theory pieces I have examined over the last few weeks discuss the very distinct tie between women and sexuality. This week, Gloria Anzaldúa’s “Speaking In Tongues” is a commentary on race, a look at “the Third World woman writer.” (167) Like Monique Wittig, Anzaldúa sees a divide in the feminist movement, declaring that “the dangers we face as women writers of color are not the same as those of white women.” (165) However, where Wittig seeks to transcend, Anzaldúa seeks only for her readers to write and, through that simple act, find salvation.
There is a barrier between white women and women of color, Anzaldúa claims. Compared to them, women of color “never had any privileges…The schools we attended…did not give us the skills for writing nor the confidence that we were correct.” (165) Her writing implies a greater resentment towards a class disparity that puts women of color at a disadvantage. Even if rich white women are encouraged to write in a patronizing fashion, perhaps that is better than the feeling that “writing seem[s] so unnatural for me…” (166)
The patronization imbued in the white woman ironically permeates into mainstream feminist culture: “…followers [of the white feminist establishment] are notorious for ‘adopting’ women of color as their ’cause’ while still expecting us to adapt to their expectations and their language.” (167) Why bother attempting to “liberate” the woman of color at all, Anzaldúa asks, if the only aim is to conform her to your own way of thinking? This denial of diversity doesn’t help the white feminists’ cause any more than Wittig’s, who saw differences as excuses for segregation.
Where does a refusal to conform leave the “Third World Woman?” Anzaldúa cautions “We can’t do the white woman’s homework for her.” The solution against being “tokenized” is to exist as writers in larger numbers than before: “We must make our own writing and that of the Third World women the first priority.” (168) Anzaldúa believes that if women of color truly announced themselves in the literary world, they would be liberated, especially from the oppressors who claim to represent them.
With this in mind, Anzaldúa writes that it is time for women of color to be accountable for their part in what feels like a complex war between (and within) the genders. Yes, the woman of color often has domestic responsibilities that are inescapable: “…who has the time or energy to write after nurturing husband or lover, children, and often an outside job?” (170) In conceding the obvious, Anzaldúa finishes with a powerful declaration: “It’s too easy, blaming it all on the white man or white feminists or society or on our parents.” (171) Women of color should use their lives as a source of inspiration and not, as so many do, as an excuse for complacency, “a far more dangerous attitude than outrage.” (168 – Naomi Littlebear).
Parodying Virginia Woolf, Anzaldúa eschews “the room of one’s own” and calls upon women of color to “write in the kitchen, lock yourself up in the bathroom. Write on the bus…on the job…between sleeping or waking.” (170) Beyond pushing past domesticity, Anzaldúa warns that it is even more necessary to push past the fear that comes with writing about one’s life: “To write is to confront one’s demons, look them in the face and live to write about them.” The woman of color lacks fairytale endings in her arsenal but that is what makes her writing the key to her liberation, “because a woman who writes,” says Anzaldúa, “has power. And a woman with power is feared.” (171) The mainstream media often casts a condescending glance towards the plight of the woman of color, preferring instead to focus on Cinderellas and Snow Whites. Do not feel your story is not worth telling, Anzaldúa seems to say, when allowing the world to hear it could set you free.
The woman of color, Anzaldúa writes, are not meant to transcend their gender or color, or segregate from the feminist cause at large. If she simply took time out of her day to affirm her place within the feminist movement, to say, “I am here,” she would gain more power than ever thought possible.