Tikkun Winter 2019 (34.1) - Page 90

time when many movements were often, and not surprisingly, immersed in oppositionality. But even during the most hyper-oppositional years, Anzaldúa generally adopted a post- oppositional approach seen even in her self- definition. Look at her early autohistoria, “La Prieta” (first published in 1981, in This Bridge Called My Back) where she positions herself as a participant in numerous contradictory social locations and movements: I am a wind-swayed bridge, a crossroads inhabited by whirlwinds. Gloria, the facili- tator. Gloria, the mediator, straddling the walls between abysses. “Your allegiance is to La Raza, the Chicano movement,” say the members of my race. “Your allegiance is to the Third World,” say my Black and Asian friends. “Your allegiance is to your gender, to women,” say the feminists. Then there’s my allegiance to the Gay movement, to the socialist revolution, to the New Age, to magic and the occult. And there’s my affinity to literature, to the world of the artist. What am I? A third world lesbian feminist with Marxist and mystic leanings. They would chop me up into little fragments and tag each piece with a label. These demands conflict and cancel each other out. Each movement followed a status-quo story in which belonging required 100% alle- giance solely to their group: You’re either with us, or you’re against us. When approached from this oppositional stance, the demands are impossible to fulfill because each group re- quires exclusive loyalty. Anzaldúa maintains her allegiance to all of these groups while, simultaneously, reframing their demands that she align herself with only one identity and cause. Addressing the various oppositional activists demanding her exclusive allegiance, she redefines herself in expansive terms: 90 W W W .T I K K U N . O R G Think of me as Shiva, a many-armed and -legged body with one foot on brown soil, one on white, one in straight society, one in the gay world, the man’s world, the women’s, one limb in the literary world, another in the working class, the socialist, and the occult worlds. A sort of spider woman hanging by one thin strand of web. Who, me, confused? Ambivalent? Not so. Only your labels split me. I describe this response as post-oppositional. Anzaldúa’s self-definition rewrites the status- quo stories about identity so common at that time: The problem is not her; it’s the opposi- tional thinking that shapes the activists’ labels, motivates their demands, and restricts their visions of community. Anzaldúa’s spiritual activism sidesteps this exclusionary logic. As she demonstrates in her preface to this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation, although identity typically functions through exclusion (e.g., I’m queer because I’m not heterosexual; I’m a woman of color because I’m not white), she de- fines identity differently: “Many of us identify with groups and social positions not limited to our ethnic, racial, religious, class, gender, or national classifications. Though most people self-define by what they exclude, we define who we are by what we include—what I call the new tribalism” (“(un)natural bridges” 3). Significantly, Anzaldúa does not discount the importance of gender, ethnicity/race, sexuality, ability, and other such components. However, she maintains that social identity categories are too restrictive to completely define us. Indeed, she suggests that such categories can be used to disempower and oppress us: “the changeability of racial, gender, sexual, and other categories render[s] the conventional labelings obsolete. Though these markings are outworn and inaccurate, those in power con- WINTER 2019