Our second installment in our Women’s History Month miniseries on Favorite Feminist Heroes comes to us from SIUE Director of Women’s Studies and Associate Professor of Philosophy Alison Reiheld. Don’t miss Part 1 from Sociology Prof Kiana Cox, and keep reading for more!
My favorite feminist hero is Gloria Anzaldúa, who has been a big influence on me as a as my thinking has developed. Her identity as a queer Chicana feminist born and raised in the Rio Grand Valley on the US side of the border is reflected in her writing. Perhaps her most famous work, and certainly the one that most deeply affected me, is Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Another one not to miss is the anthology she co-edited called This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Not long ago, she even got her own Google doodle. Anzaldúa considered the impact of crushing heteronormativity, of being perceived in America as Other, and the ongoing impact of colonialism on the lives of Mestiza women whose heritage includes both native peoples and European colonizers. She also worked from her experience of growing up with a chronic medical condition and provides food for thought for folks working in disability studies. As a result of these many intersecting identities, she felt that she lived in many worlds at once. Rather than seeing this as a source of a fractured self, Anzaldúa developed the concept of border-crossing and bridge-building as metaphors for a productive way of existing in a diverse world with people from other groups and also across multiple group memberships. Border-crossing means being in deliberate contact with people who are different from oneself and working to understand their lives and needs, being able to live and be in community with many people. Of course, there is a lot more to it than this, but we could all use a little mental border-crossing and bridge-building skill in this world of ours.
If you’re interested in how Anzaldúa’s work continues to live on after her death, check out the cool Podcast “Anzaldúing It” (“2 best friends + queer Latinx woes. Powered by echale ganas, tacos, cochinita pibil and Selena. Episodes come out every other Week!”) or this sweet half-hour long NPR show commemorating her work.