We refuse to make a choice between our cultural identity and sexual identity, between our race and our femaleness. We are not turning our backs on our people nor on our selves.
— Cherríe Moraga, This Bridge Called My Back
There is one thing that the Left and the Right often agree on: women’s concerns (our rights, our safety, our health, our progress) are disposable, dispensable; they are a distraction from the truly “important” issues. We won’t address the issues of the Right here, but we say to our sisters and brothers on the Left: If you claim to be working for the liberation of your people, and for the liberation of other peoples of color, and you’re still beating or threatening or harassing or raping or assaulting or enslaving women, you are totally missing the point. And you will fail.
No one can be truly free, no one can be respected and have equality of opportunity — and certainly no man can have full personhood — until all women, especially women of color, are safe from the rages and oppressions and depredations/degradations of men, including men of color.
The racism of the world does not make it OK to take out your frustrations on those closest to you. It is not OK to terrorize someone you claim to love. It is not OK to (attempt to) silence women who are speaking our truth, and it is not OK to demonize those who challenge your petty authority (no matter how much you have struggled to wrest that status from the hands of the dominant culture).
You cramp my style, baby
when you roll on top of me
shouting “Viva La Raza”
at the top of your prick.
— Lorna Dee Cervantes, “Baby you cramp my style”
We are calling upon all men of the Left, and today, especially, we call upon the male leaders of the Mexican American Studies and Ethnic Studies struggles here in Tucson and beyond to repudiate the oppression of women in both institutional settings and in our homes and families and in the hard-working rooms of political organizing, la lucha.
We fully expect that those who have taught or claimed to believe in “In Lak Ech” will stand up and say: “Not in my name. No más.” Manifestations of widespread misogyny and sexism must be acknowledged before it can be eradicated — for the benefit of us all, women and men and children. We need healing, but not at the expense of silencing women.
If we are “your other me,” then you must look deeply at how you treat us and yourselves. You must open your eyes and look at the boys and young men who see you as role models and ask: “Am I teaching what I want them to learn?” Your actions must match your words. It is not women’s job to make this abuse stop. Men must stop these destructive behaviors in themselves and in other men. Men must call out other men to walk their talk. Be brave! Stand up for women! Clean up your own house, examine your own oppressor behaviors, demand change from your compadres. Until that happens, no true healing of our community, no true liberation, is possible.
We close this letter with the words of Norma Alarcón: “women are seen not just by one patriarchy but by all as rapeable and sexually exploitable,” and thus “to choose among extant patriarchies is not a choice at all” (“Chicana’s Feminist Literature: A Re-Vision Through Malintzin”). Dismantling racism also demands a dismantling of sexism. We look forward to statements and actions from the men of MAS, from the leadership of the Chican@ communities, and from the larger Left/progressive communities.