Feminism, Latinidad and Silence : Ain’t Sotomayor a Woman?

sotomayorphotos-1048-200x300I can’t read most of the mainstream feminist websites. As in I can’t because doing so will likely make me really really angry and I’m angry enough about shit to purposely piss myself off. It’s the same reason I don’t watch Fox news or read the National Review. It’s an act of self-care and a decision to move my words and thoughts forward. Amiga Blackamazon reminded me how in the context of the Sonia Sotomayor nomination, mainstream feminist icons have been largely silent.

From Racism Review:

Funny how I haven’t heard any statements from these women castigating G. Gordon Liddy, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, or Michael Steele for their repugnant, sexist, and racist remarks about Judge Sotomayor. Funny how they haven’t jumped out in front of this issue the same way they did when Hillary Clinton was the one on the receiving end of a barrage of sexist statements. Funny how the PUMAs (Party Unity My Ass) who were so outraged at the way the Democratic Party ostensibly treated Hillary Clinton now don’t seem to see this as a worthy cause of their efforts, and aren’t outraged by Democratic politicians’ unwillingness to call these abhorrent statements the blatant misogyny that they are.

What’s not funny are the implications this has for women of all races. When white feminists look the other way when Michelle Obama is callously referred to as “Obama’s Baby Mama,” when Sonia Sotomayor is savaged by right wing conservatives who engage in the basest types of sexism, or more broadly, when women of color across the country face higher rates of abuse, incarceration, and poverty than white women, it sends a clear message about their lack of respect for and interest in the ways sexism impacts women of other racial groups and class positions. It reinforces the idea that white women feminists are interested in maintaining their white privilege while undermining sexism, a process that keeps women of color oppressed but broadens the category of whites who have access to and are able to wield power over others. It perpetuates the (erroneous) message that feminism has nothing to offer women of color, even though they too suffer from the gender wage gap, sexual violence, and all the other manifestations of gender inequality.

I do not understand why white feminists like Steinem, Ferraro, Burk, and others still don’t seem to get this message that intersections of race and gender matter and that the feminist movement cannot succeed without the influence and involvement of ALL women.

This point has been made for years, by many progressive white women (playwright Eve Ensler, sociologist Margaret Andersen) and feminists of color (sociologist Patricia Hill Collins, activist Pauli Murray, writer Alice Walker). It would be really nice if the rampant sexism being directed towards Sonia Sotomayor finally served as an overdue wake-up call about the importance of both race and gender.

Now I’m involved in lots of “backroom” conversations with people in Latino organizations and journalists from around the US. And so far at least two organizations, the National Council of la Raza and Presente! have put out petition campaigns asking people to support Sotomayor and calling for an end to the racist/sexist attacks coming at her. All of the analysis I have heard and been a part of has included an analysis of how race and gender are being used together. Porque it’s not scary enough to have a woman, she speaks Spanish and is strongly connected to her Latininidad. I have seen strong support coming from mainstream feminist orgs for the Sotomayor nomination because she is a woman. The fact that she is Latina is mentioned almost as an aside. “Oh and she’s Latina too!”. As if the hot blooded stereotype could exist without the woman part added.

This selective representation isn’t anything new. Mainstream feminist have been criticized for not expanding their analysis to include the impact of the anti-immigration movement on women. As if Luis Ramirez and Marcelo Lucero were killed in a Latino vacuum that didn’t seek to emasculate Latinos and as if their murders had no impact on mujeres. It’s much easier to see immigrant mujeres as sacrificial mothers escaping machismo than it is to visualize them as leaders in their own communities or as facing the dual oppressions of racism and sexism when dealing with la migra on one side and mostly male coyotes and the threat of sexual violence and trafficking on the other. Immigration is latinized and gendered as male, silencing the experiences of immigrant mujeres of all nationalities. And look at the Angie Zapata case. Angie was easy to adopt as a dead trans woman, while playing down her Latina identity. As if her ethnic identity had no role in her life, death, or how the justice system treated her murderer, a Latino male.

We need to open our minds and corazones to a new idea of justicia and struggle. A few years ago when I was on a feminist panel talking to young women, I was asked about my identifying as a feminist and I think it was the first time that I publicly admitted that I came to the struggle not as a feminist pero as a Latina, that is a Puerto Rican woman. My role models were the strong mujeres in my family but also the mothers of racial violence and police brutality victims who would sacrifice their freedom in the name of their children, Lolita Lebron and Dylcia Pagan: Puerto Rican political prisoners, the mujeres in the Young Lords who called their hermanos out on their shit, and my vecinas and amigas, like Fatima who came over the border all the way from Ecuador so she could raise her two hijos in the U.S. as a single mother. Ser mujer isn’t a side gig and being Latina isn’t tangential. The two are full time real factors in how I live and no doubt in how Sonia Sotomayor lives and moves through the Supreme Court nomination process. Taking away any one piece of that picture is tapando el sol con un dedo, refusing to see the reality for Latinas and all women of color in this country.

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6 comments on “Feminism, Latinidad and Silence : Ain’t Sotomayor a Woman?
  1. Yeah people should be calling them out, people didnt come to Hillary’s aid at all democrates were silent bascially saying that’s the way the game is played. Noone made noise for Hillary until it was way too late. As far as michelle my self beign a black woman she set herself up for that one when she referred to Barack as her baby’s daddy when he won his senate(yes she did)

  2. Looking back at the presidential election specifically and how the intersections of gender and race played out, Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente were either completely ignored or painted as crazy women of color. When I was speaking with a group of high school students a few weeks ago, many of them were shocked that they hadn’t heard about the two women of color in the presidential race and went back to reanalyze their relationship with electoral politics.

    Now it’s one thing for a woman to self-use the term baby daddy and then have it thrown against her in a racist/sexist way the way FOX did. I self-identify in many ways pero let someone else use those labels against me in a racist/sexist context and it’s on. It’s like saying Michelle asked for it.

  3. Sorry I didn’t warn you about the pic. ;) Pretty revolting huh?

    I also thought it was a disgrace that McKinney and Clemente got very little coverage, and it doesn’t surprise me that you get fed up with the mainstream feminism!

    You made some very thought provoking points with this post.
    best regards.

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