Who are Chicanas?
Chicana refers to women of Mexican descent
born and/or raised in the United States. The term Chicana (and
Chicano) came into popular usage during the Chicano movimiento
of the 1960s and 70s as Mexican-American activists sought to define a
cultural and political identity for themselves. Some believe that the
term derives from the indigenous Mexica (Meh-sheik-a) tribes of
Mesoamerica; others point out that the term was used as a derogatory
reference to Mexican-Americans in the Southwest U.S. for many years,
until it was reappropriated by activists.
In the 1960s, the term was picked up by a generation of
activists to signify their uniquely American identity which meant two
things: 1) acknowledged and took pride in their Mexican heritage,
and 2) demanded that white America acknowledge historic and
persistent patterns of racial inequality in legal, political,
educational, and social opportunities for Mexican-Americans. A
Chicana or Chicano identity specifically rejects the idea that we must
deny our Mexican heritage in order to be a 'real' American. To
identify as Chicana means we are both Mexican and American.
It's important to realize that many women of Mexican descent call
themselves Mexicans, Mexicanas, Latinas, Mexican-American, or
even Hispanic for a variety of significant, often personal, reasons.
What's Chicana feminism?
Chicana feminism means almost as many different things as there are
different Chicanas. For the purposes of this space, Chicana feminism
can be defined as a critical framework which looks at inequalities
along lines of race, class, gender, and sexuality as they effect women
of Mexican descent in the United States. That means talking about
sexism, racism, homophobia, and poverty as interlinked issues.
Chicanas have launched important critiques of the Chicano movement,
the women's movement, and the gay/lesbian movement, challenging each
to think about the way racism, sexism, and homophobia are all embedded
and interconnected, not only in contemporary society, but in our own
movements as well.
How is Chicana feminism
You can look at a this
page on definitions of Chicana feminism by various Chicana
activists and scholars from Ana Nieto Gomez to Gloria Anzaldua (students
and other research paper writers should be sure to check it out).
Other Mexicana and Latina work which could be called precursors
to Chicana feminisms such as the writings of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
and other lesser known mexicanas.