Like a lot English majors I dream of being published. The getting there is the tough part, though. I haven’t had the criticism I need to make me a stronger writer (at least not until this semester). That’s what happens in the feminist movement when we coalesce to work on a common goal. We criticize each other. The chafing creates heat. It’s uncomfortable. We have to find a way to express what we have not expressed, what we’ve dared not express, what we’ve been unable to express before. Stone rubs against stone. Sparks fly. “If things get hot enough,” we meld (Moraga 219). The fragments are no longer simply glued together; they become one with each other. “By writing [we] put order in the world” (Anzaldúa, “Speaking In Tongues” 169) and make things hot enough to fuse through the “fire of our individual passion” (Moraga 219). This paper will show that writing is a spiritual act that allows us to create the fire we need to melt the fragments back into wholeness.
In “Speaking In Tongues: A Letter to 3rd [sic] World Women Writers,” Gloria Anzaldúa discusses how important it is for women, and specifically for Third World women, to find “time to weave writing into [their] lives” (165). Because they must work in order to survive, they often lack the time (165). Anzaldúa quotes Luisah Teish, speaking to a group of white women. Third World women don’t have the luxury of simply sitting down and writing or doing the work of feminism because “the hours that [they] do not have are hours that are translated into survival skills and money” (168). These aren’t hours spent relaxing. This is time taken away from earning enough money to have enough to eat (168). But Anzaldúa says that we women need to do “organic writing” (172, author’s emphasis). Organic writing allows us to “confront one’s demons” (171). It allows us to say “something [we] have repressed or pretended not to know” because, though Third World women may be impoverished, they ‘are not impoverished of experiences” that other women (and men) need to hear and understand (172, author’s emphasis). The key, though, is to “not fake it, try to sell it for a handclap or [a] name in print” (173). Women need to “put [our] shit on the paper” (173, author’s emphasis), being real with others because we “write to record what others erase when [we] speak” (169). According to Anzaldúa, “The danger in writing is not fusing our personal experience and world view with the social reality we live in, with our inner life, our history, our economics, and our vision” (170). Writing is a spiritual activity, and “No topic is too trivial” (170, author’s emphasis). “There is no separation between life and writing,” according to Anzaldúa (170, author’s emphasis), because “the writing saves [us] from. . .complacency” which “is a far more dangerous attitude than outrage” (168). The writing breaks “the white’s comfortable stereotypic images they have of” Third World women (167). The key is to “keep the spirit of [our] revolt and [ourselves] alive” as human beings living in a white, patriarchal society (169).
But revolution “is a long dirty process,” as Pat Parker explains in “Revolution: It’s Not Neat or Pretty or Quick” (241). “We have no examples of any country that has completed the revolutionary process,” not Russia or China or any other country that has had a major revolution (241). And I dare say that the United States, while it had a revolution from Great Britain in 1776, has not met the ideal of a society in which all people have the freedom to choose how to live their lives and achieve their dreams. “Revolution is not a one step process,” Parker continues (240). It takes years to build a society without discrimination based on class, sex, race, or any other –ism that can be used to discriminate against people (240-241). According to Parker, reform isn’t working, and we must make a commitment to change our world through revolution (242). We’re not revolutionaries for the sake of causing disruption, though. We’re revolutionaries because we want ourselves to be free (240), and we seek revolutionary change throughout the world and in America so that we can attain that freedom of choice. In this 1980 speech, Parker said that “the rest of the world is being exploited in order to maintain our standard of living” (238). We can understand the nature of imperialism when we look at how [America] deals with other countries” (238). What do we see? We see the “exploitation of the working class” throughout the world, not just in America (239).
How do we begin this revolution? How do we contradict the idea that a “good American = Support [of] imperialism and war” (Parker 239)? According to Chrystos in “No Rock Scorns Me as Whore,” we begin the revolution by “glimps[ing] under that malarkey called ‘civilization’” (243), and we write in order to survive. “To survive,” Chrystos says, “we must begin to know sacredness” (244), and in order to know sacredness we slow down, examine the world. We listen to what the earth means, and “the earth means exactly what it says” (244). We write what the wind says, which is “without flattery or lust” (244). These “whispers of a world without words” (244) demand that we stop and take stock of the world we are living in. We do not label” Klan or Nazi activity “as lunatic fringes;” instead we “assess their roles as a part of this [male patriarchal] system” (Parker 239). We “focus on those things within us that allow others to control us,” and we seek the “individual freedom to be different” (Canaan 236) so that we can be “true to [ourselves] in order to be true to [our] humanness in order to be true to [our] communit[ies]” (237). We “address the issues of [our] own oppression and survival,” but we don’t “separate them, isolate them, and ignore them” for if we do we “separate, isolate, and ignore [ourselves]” (234). We are units; we must not allow ourselves to be fragmented. We “take. . .the power / into [our] own hands” (Moraga 220), and we “live together,” despite our differences and conflicts, “and transform the planet (Anzaldúa, “La Prieta” 209). “By changing ourselves we change the world,” Anzaldúa says (208). And we change the world by struggling together (“El Mundo Zurdo” 196), by using “our vulnerability . . .[as]. . .the source of our power” (195). That vulnerability comes from “becom[ing] more intimate with [ourselves]” and others in this revolutionary movement of feminism (“Speaking In Tongues” 169) by “listen[ing] to the words chanting in [our] bodies” (170), taking the “bits and pieces” “strewn on the floor,” taking those “fragments” and “as a woman who writes” claiming our power for “a woman with power is feared” (171) and can create the change we desire. In our aloneness with our writing, we are “still in communion with each other” (172). Our “creative lives. . .are the spectrum of resources to reach the truth, the heart of things” (172-173). In that spiritual heart of things, we become whole.
Our journeys may never be complete. We will continue our work, be it writing or protesting or speaking up when others would not. I have written more in these past fifteen weeks than I have in fifteen years, but I have also been closer to other women and men who share an awareness that all of us are in some way fragmented. In this process of writing and publishing on my blog and in sharing with my high school students my own trials and tribulations with the creative process that forces me to deal with my fragmentation, I have created my own revolt, a revolt against silence, that great tool of oppression. Neither I nor my classmates nor my students can remain silent any longer. We will carry our work with us in different ways, but we will hear those whispers without words and give them voice.
Anzaldúa, Gloria. “Speaking In Tongues: A Letter to 3rd World Women Writers.” This Bridge Called My Back. 2nd ed. Eds. Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983. 165-173. Print.
—. “La Prieta.” This Bridge Called My Back. 2nd ed. Eds. Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983. 198-209. Print.
—. “El Mundo Zurdo.” This Bridge Called My Back. 2nd ed. Eds. Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983. 195-196. Print.
Canaan, Andrea. “Brownness.” This Bridge Called My Back. 2nd ed. Eds. Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983. 232-237. Print.
Chrystos. “No Rock Scorns Me as Whore.” This Bridge Called My Back. 2nd ed. Eds. Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983. 243-245. Print.
Moraga, Cherríe. “The Welder.” This Bridge Called My Back. 2nd ed. Eds. Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983. 219-220. Print.
Parker, Pat. “Revolution: It’s Not Neat or Pretty or Quick.” This Bridge Called My Back. 2nd ed. Eds. Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983. 238-242. Print.