Culture

Towards a New Consciousness

A Woman’s Consciousness

Anzaldúa‘s woman spans the banks of two sides of a river. While she specifically writes about spanning two or more ethnic cultures, this equally applies to culture in general. She also argues for the damage that a colorful soul suffers through the process of assimilation into a culture or in trying to span the divide.

Anzaldúa finds that “from this racial, ideological, cultural and biological cross-pollinization” a new consciousness arises, the consciousness of a woman who lives among the borders—both literal and figurative.

An assumption that she makes is that the beliefs of the chicana are in conflict with that of the white culture and it creates a climate of constant conflict as each side struggles to assert itself and to give defense.

She assumes that straddling these borders requires the development of tolerance for contradictions and ambiguity. In doing so she (the mestiza) is able to survive and creates a new veracity or reality from the midst of ambivalence. However, “she can be jarred out of ambivalence by an intense, and often painful, emotional event which inverts or resolves the ambivalence… the work takes place underground, subconsciously.” The mestiza’s consciousness is that of synthesis, one of “intense pain, its energy comes from the continual creative motion that keeps breaking down the unitary aspect of each new aspect.”

This essay resonates for me, and probably many other women, in a manner much broader than its intended focus. While Anzaldúa struggles with the awareness of cross-culture expectations (a mestiza is a woman who has parents or ancestors of different racial origins, especially a woman in Latin America of both Native American and European ancestry as in Anzaldúa’s case) her perspective applies to that of any woman, or any being really, who struggles with expectations from competing forces of influence in her life. This conflict creates a troubled soul fraught with insecurity and indecisiveness. She feels at odds with the world, and is never at rest doubting herself or her perspective. There are no absolutes; right and wrongs. “The ambivalence from the clash of voices results in mental and emotional states of perplexity. Internal strife results in insecurity and indecisiveness. The mestiza’s dual or multiple personality is plagued by psychic restlessness.” This is the mestiza; this is all women across the globe struggling with conflicts – religion, class, and socioeconomic status to name a few.

Anzaldúa was brilliant—I would have loved to see this essay further developed to explore the application of her theory to women in general. “By taking away our self-determination, it has made us weak and empty… we have never been allowed to develop unencumbered—we have never been allowed to be fully ourselves.” This essay gives me solace in that someone else could articulate what it feels like to be a woman, and as I term it ‘one apart’. I imagine how powerful it would be to have had Anzaldúa take her principles to a more global scale and applied to the socialization of women in general. To explore how one might find peace in the borderlands of the world view.

“I will not be shamed again
Nor will I shame myself.”

Anzaldúa, G. (1987). Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (p. 203 p.). Spinsters/Aunt Lute

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