By Krizia Puig
My feminist perspective is like a kaleidoscope. It is a mixture of references from diverse fields of knowledge, social justice practices and personal experiences. Each little piece of that vision has changed and keeps changing depending on the shifts in my own social location, now as an immigrant Latina queer lesbian. In other words, my particular understanding of feminism is constituted by a myriad of elements that interconnect with each other, that aren’t fixed, and that create a lens that has enabled me to situate myself in a world riddled with injustice.
The Roots: Theater as a Bridge to Feminism
The theater group that I used to belong to when I was an undergraduate in Venezuela was the place where my mind took the first steps toward a feminist consciousness. There, for the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to read women writers. Nowadays, I can understand why I spent so much of my life without intellectual female references because, as Sherry B. Ortner states, “the secondary status of woman in society is one of the true universals, a pan-cultural fact” and, therefore, women have been historically and systematically erased from the top tier of the hierarchy of human knowledge.
Feminism is a collective adventure, for women, men, and everyone else. A revolution, well under way. A worldview. A choice. It’s not a matter of contrasting women’s small advantages with men’s small assets, but of sending the whole lot flying.
It was in this theater group, thanks to my first mentor, that I started reading the poetry of Emily Dickinson and María Zambrano’s ideas about philosophy. Also, it was there that I met Freire’s understanding of education and Boal’s uses of theater as a tool for social transformation. My intellectual and activist personhood is deeply rooted in these influences and in the experience of being a volunteer coordinator of theater workshops with people in vulnerable situations.
My thesis project created a major shift in my life. I worked on Marguerite Yourcenar, the first female and lesbian writer inducted to the French Academy of Language. I focused on her use of Greek mythology as a source of inspiration to provide modern definitions of love in her book Fires. I analyzed the love triangle between Yourcenar, her lover Grace and André, her gay editor. Thanks to Yourcenar, I learned about the myth of romantic love, the fluidity of desire and the struggles of women within intellectual environments.
The Awakening: Mainstream Feminism and Radical Lesbians
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir was my first feminist reading. It was because of her that I started to understand the dichotomous nature of Western thought and, therefore, the implications of the otherization of women. She woke up my mind and made me able to grasp the specific dynamics of power and oppression employed by patriarchy to control women’s lives. Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, particularly her tale about Shakespeare’s imaginary sister and the inequalities that she would have faced as a potential writer because of her hypothetical assigned gender at birth, was also specially influential in my comprehension of women’s oppression.
I understood the relationship between patriarchy and heterosexuality through Adrienne Rich. Her work Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence radicalized my identity as a lesbian. Also, her citation of Kathleen Gough’s 8 characteristics of male power functioned as a reinforcement of my refusal to live under the rules of our heteropatriarchal society. On the other hand, it was because of Monique Wittig’s statement “Lesbians are not women” that I started to think about the socially constructed nature of gender and the fakeness of the normative relation between sex, gender, and desire.
The Disruption: Performativity, Queer Theory, Post-porn and Polyamory
Foucault’s thoughts, specifically his definition of power and his account of Western sexuality, made me realize that what I was taught as normal through socialization is, in fact, a discursive construction product of relations of power. My way of thinking grew in complexity thanks to him and other post-stucturalist philosophers like Barthes, Derrida and Judith Butler.
My feminism goes beyond gender. It is about demolishing the oppressive present structures of power through intellectual and activist work… My feminism is about believing in utopias.
A world of possibilities opened to me when I read Butler. Instantly, my two passions became one. Because of my theatrical background I was fascinated with her understanding of gender as performance. Because of her influence, my own understanding of gender is linked to my experience as an actress.
The identity of a theatrical character and the actor who plays it becomes a unified performative illusion on stage. This interpretation derives from a particular system of power and knowledge that takes shape through theatrical language. Likely, gender identities and the forces that shape our minds and bodies are constituted in relation to a specific “social temporality” that works as a creator and regulatory force of our performance as social actors.
The next step in my intellectual development was being under a bombardment of radical and vanguardist thinkers. Kate Bornstein’s notion of gender as a playground, Beatriz Preciado’s philosophical analysis of gender as prosthetically constructed, Virgine Despente’s understanding of sex without shame and Anne Sparkling’s post-porn theory made me embrace my freakiness and question monogamy as the only acceptable model of relation.
The “Manifesto”: My Own Feminist Perspective
My feminism goes beyond gender. It is about demolishing the oppressive present structures of power through intellectual and activist work, because everything that is socially constructed can be socially deconstructed. My feminism is about believing in utopias.
My Feminism is about believing in the right of owning and defining our bodies. My Feminism is being against the normalization, the serialization, of human beings. It is about being conscious about the fact that “everyone’s body is a battleground.” My Feminism is thinking that any sort of discrimination because of human variable body features is an abomination.
“the secondary status of woman in society is one of the true universals, a pan-cultural fact” and, therefore, women have been historically and systematically erased from the top tier of the hierarchy of human knowledge.
My Feminism is about “…not settling for less than freedom” in any aspect of our lives. It is about not negotiating my personal freedom again. My Feminism is about thinking that I have the right to feel pleasure in every aspect of my life without suffering any social punishment for that.
My feminism is about believing that there are innumerable truths. Each one of them is valid and it is the consequence of a myriad of personal experiences in relation to the exercise of power and the experience of oppressions. The problem is that some of those truths are based on injustice because, in the heteropatriarchal system, the exercise of power is not distributed fairly. Within this system the different is violently suppressed. This must end, because there is no freedom without difference.
My Feminism is about knowing that I can’t do any of these alone, that in order to create a more just world we need to nurture our community. Coalitions are indispensable. We have to stop fighting between us. We need to rebuild our trust. We need to talk.
Krizia Puig is currently a Graduate Student of Women’s Studies with a certificate in LGBT studies at San Diego State University. She is also the Graduate Coordinator of SafeZones@SDSU. She is originally from Venezuela.
Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. 1949. New York: Bantam Books, 1952.
Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory” Theatre Journal, Vol. 40, No. 4. (Dec., 1988), pp. 519-531.
Despentes, Virginie. King Kong Theory. New York: Feminist, 2010. Print.
Moraga, Cherríe, and Gloria Anzaldúa. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. New York: Kitchen Table, Women of Color, 1983. Print.
Ortner, Sherry B., Louise Lamphere, and Michelle Zimbalist. Rosaldo. “Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?” Women Culture and Society. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1974. 67-89. Print.
Rich, Adrienne Cecile. “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence (1980).” Journal of Women’s History 15.3 (2003): 11-48. ProQuest. Web. 6 Sep. 2015.
Wittig, Monique. “The Straight Mind.” Feminist Issues, 1.1 (1980): 103-111.
Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. 1929. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991. Print.
Yourcenar, Marguerite. 1936. Fires. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1981. Print.