A History of Our Time: Readings on Postwar America

By William H. Chafe; Harvard Sitkoff et al. | Go to book overview

¡Soy Chicana Primero! (1971)
Enriqueta Longeaux Vasquez

When the contemporary “second wave” feminist movement began, many of its proponents argued that women shared “bonds of sisterhood” across race and class lines. This position presumed that the common experience of being born female in a patriarchal social structure transcended in importance and impact the very dissimilar experiences that divided women of different classes and races or ethnicities. All too often, however, it was the experience of white, college-educated women that was being used as a basis for generalization. Controversy over this issue became a critical dividing point in the feminist movement. Was gender in fact a more important source of opposition than class or race? Did the mainstream feminist movement deny the validity of the experiences of women of color, working-class women, or lesbians?

Women of color, especially, faced hard questions. Were women who embraced feminism betraying their brothers in the Black Power or Chicano movements, as some male leaders charged? Was feminism simply a divisive force within the larger and more important struggle for racial justice? Were the sources of women’s oppression only external (white supremacy; capitalism), or did they exist within African American and Chicano/a culture as well?

Like African American women, Chicanas struggled with these questions. The cultural nationalism of the early Chicano movement glorified the traditional, family-oriented, and subordinate woman as a cornerstone of Chicanismo, and that made the issue of feminism particularly difficult. Was it sexist oppression, or was it a central part of the culture around which the movement was built? Feminism did grow strong within el movimiento, as Chicanas debated these issues and wrote platform statements of their own. But not all women declared themselves feminists first. In the following article, Enriqueta Longeaux Vasquez makes a powerful claim: “¡Soy Chicana Primero!”, but at the same time gives voice to the ambivalence and confusion many women felt in this tumultuous and difficult time. How does Vasquez answer the question

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