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Doing Away with the Safety of "Women of Color"

inclusion of men/whites in the new "This Bridge"

Forum: chora-l
Date: 10/20/2002

<< Gloria Anzaldua has recently paired up with another woman (whose name escapes me right now) in an anthology called: This Bridge Called Home. It is of a similar genre to the earlier one, but includes white women, men, Jewish women, etc. It tries to "bridge" feminisms and recognizes that any woman can identify as a "woman of color" in terms of her politics, etc. >>

Hi everyone - I just received a copy of the book also, which I'm supposed to review... I still haven't finished reading it (it's a 600+ page book with 80+ essays/poems/etc.), but I thought I'd share my interpretataion about the issue of the inclusion of men/whites in this collection...

As far as I can tell, Anzaldua's and Keating's decision to include men/whites is *not* meant to suggest that men/whites can "identify as 'women of color' in terms of her politics" as someone said. It is more about refusing to accept "women of color" as a natural, stable identity category from which to formulate political theory than about including men/whites/etc. per se. Anzaldua wrote:

Many women of color are possessive of _This Bridge Called My Back_ and view it as a safe space, as "home." But there are no safe spaces... Staying "home" and not venturing out from our own group comes from woundedness, and stagnates our growth. (p.3)

A bridge, such as this book [is] about doing away with demarcations like "ours" and "theirs." It's about honoring people's otherness in ways that allow us to be changed by embracing that otherness rather than punishing others for having a different view, belief system, skin color, or spiritual practice... To include whites is not an attempt to restore the privilege of white writers, scholars, and activists; it is a refusal to continue walking the color line. These inclusions challenge conventional identities and promote more expansive configurations of identities - some of which will soon become cages and have to be dismantled. (p.4)

These "more expansive configurations of identities" do not refer to men/whites being able to "identify" as "women of color," but rather to question the naturalness of conventional identities such as "white," and "of color," "men," and "women." The editors' decision to go beyond the presumed "safety" of staying within our own "boundaries" is timely, in the era in which our basic liberties and equalities, not to mention lives of innocent people, are taken away in the supposed pursuit of "security" in the scale unprecedented in recent history.

As some of you may know, I did a debate in the latest issue of _Bitch_ magazine over the trans exclusion policies at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. Invoking Anzaldua's frontera theory, I argued that any attempt to establish clear, unambiguous boundaries where none could naturally exist is inherently flawed. In other words, I did not simply argue that transsexual women be included, but that any borders kept ambiguous and de-militarilized. I also argued that the "safety" of women-only space is an illusion that must be challenged. I'm glad to see that my interpretation of Gloria's earlier work in terms of discussing boundaries and safety is reflected back to me in her new writing.

Oh, and a quick reply to Louise--

On 10/20/02 05:05 pm, "Louizzze" wrote:

i for one cannot understand why people of the jewish faith are said to be a race can ANYONE explain why the jewish faith = race?

Because "race" is a socially constructed system of categorizing people(s), rather than a biological reality. I am *not* saying that Jewish people are a race, or that they aren't - because to say either in any sort of deterministic way would mean that I am accepting race as a natural, stable system, which I do not. The duality of Jewish identity as both race and non-race (religion, ethnicity, etc.) is the result of the relatively recent shift of Ashkenazi Jews from its own "race" into the "white" race, which occurred only post-WWII.

regarding womyn of colour........i have also experienced this dilemma.....although i am white, i was married to a nigerian and so at times, i could identify more with his race than mine...... what does that make me?

White person who at times thinks she identifies with Nigerians.

Emi Koyama
Confluere: A Network of Independent Activists & Artists

-- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.