In my Nicaraguense Spanish speaking context feminism/feminismo is a term used by bourgeois wealthier and highly educated women – and when I began to use this term to describe myself I was becoming a highly educated Latina, with all of my working class trappings and aesthetics. My mami used to roll her eyes at me, when I labeled myself or tried to tell her that I was a feminist, and I cannot even begin to imagine how often my abuelita Rosa rolls in her grave whenever the universe tells her of my chosen identity.
The women in my family referred to feministas feminists in a few ways: “las que se creen maestras, las que se creen expertas del genero, las que se creen”/those who believe themselves to be masters, those who believe to be experts on womanhood, those who think too highly of themselves.” Feministas in my country did phenomenal things, for the record, and can be traced in my country’s civil war as having been instrumental and the fall of our revolution is debatably linked to men not embracing a feminist agenda. However, my working poor family has a very particular experience of being powerless and having elites/outsiders come into their neighborhoods and try to eradicate their ways.
Feministas have a bad reputation because the acquisition of this so-called/believed-to-be enlightened identity came from access and time. The ability to reject masculinity, the patriarchy, and place themselves in a rebellious stance takes a certain kind of luxury – to say screw society, as it is – takes a lot of privilege. And working poor muxeres began to see that all this pressures to become a feminist was not attainable. Embracing feminism as the bourgeois un-intersectional elites proposed it meant relinquishing themselves from partners that they could not afford to be rid of, either because of horizontal sexism that our mamis taught us or straight up being discouraged from being financially independent so as to secure and affirm the construction of masculinity. Either way, there are a million reasons to reject feminism in a brown working poor context, that may not necessarily make sense to outsiders. But to me, as a brown Latina raised in a working poor family, this rejection of feminism makes sense.
As I have gotten older, and migration has definitely taught me a specific kind of feminism prevails in the USA and it looks WHITE, wealthy, and educated. It frankly feels a lot like it did in my country, but it has the added element of systematic racism that seems to go unchecked in these progressive mostly white female movements. For example, the women’s march earlier this year was not something I went to because living in Nashville, TN means that all I experience is white female fragility that is justified through “well-intentioned” feminism that mostly feels oppressive and silencing to WOC. So I knew that a space like the women’s march would inevitably be problematic and highly offensive, despite intention.
Claiming to be a feminist, means that by my mere existence I am intersection, so I see feminists where mainstream feminists will not. I began to acknowledge that my mami is and always has been a feminist, and that I come from feminist tias and abuelas. This became clear one day when I reflected on something that happened in my home when my mami got a job. She kept what she made for herself, and told my dad who demanded her money “mi dinero is mio, y tu dinero es de nosotros”/ “my money is mine, and your money is ours.” I saw a feminist, and a badass one to say the least. As my mami saw it, reparations were due and her context said “I have given my life and my body to my household and feminism looks like me getting paid for my labor.” This type of adamant claim to her efforts through monetary gain was her claiming herself to us all, and if that is not feminism than I do not know what is.
There have been other instances that I reflected on and realized that I have always been a feminist and I was shaped by feminists. But all this has only happened once I stopped viewing feminism as something that belonged to ellas, but something that has always been about nosotrxs.