Response to Gloria Anzaldua’s “Speaking In Tongues: A Letter To 3rd World Women Writers”

I am a third world woman.:)

Dear Gloria,

Women like you make me proud of being a mujeres de color. There’s nothing wrong with it. The struggles of women of color are unique and are something that the white women cannot understand. These struggles that we eventually overcome make us learn some things in life that white women don’t know. These kinds of struggles make all women of color understand and lean on one another. We share the same kind of sentiments against a patriarchal world that is dominated by white men. In this profoundly sick society, it seems that it would still take a very long time for third world women to rise from their very low position in society – and yet, I still agree with you when you said that at the end of the day, blaming everyone is useless and that we are all responsible for ourselves. I know how true that is because as a third world girl in a third world country, I’ve suffered so much from my own inferiority complex and the consequences of having it was slapped into my face the moment I first stepped into this university. But bit by bit, I have overcome this and helped myself to become better. I’ve accelerated a few steps in the ladder of life because I have helped myself.

However, there’s one petty thing that I have noticed – and yet it’s something that you should remember too. You talk about the Asian women as if being “Asian” is limited to the chinks like the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans. You forgot the Filipina women or any other Southeast Asians of the Malayan race. We are Asians, too. J However, we should not let racial differences deter us from helping and understanding one another. Because even among third world nations, there is still a sense of “I-am-better-or-less-than-that-race”. Skin color is just an illusion. It’s merely melanin, merely pigmentation, and it does not reflect what kind of souls we have. Chicanas or Latinas are not better than any race, like for example than the Filipinas, just because they look prettier. Third world women share the same kind of struggles no matter how much we pinpoint the differences of our heights, noses, skin colors, or beauty. Chicanas, Latinas, and Filipinas owe a percentage of their appearances now to the Spanish and Portuguese colonizers – but instead of comparing ourselves with each other like we often do, it is better to just hold each other’s hands, look into each other’s eyes, and sympathize with each other as the third world women of this planet.

And as much as we hate putting the west and the orient into a binary opposition just like in the “Orientalism” by Edward Said, it has long been done since the European colonizers have differentiated themselves from the “orient” and justified its colonial conquest of it through its “otherness.” Right now, we hate labels and we aim for equality. However, orientalism has made such a great impact that, right now, we can firmly say that white women are utterly different from us, and their western version of feminism do not, in fact, address the struggles of third world women like us. These white women writers still cannot reach far deeply into the souls of other women since they weren’t deprived and unprivileged like us in the first place. We all contain the divine feminine energy within us, yet there is still a wide and empty gap – a gap made by the division of the world into the occident and the orient, and into first, second, and third world countries.

Like what you have pointed out, our speech is inaudible here in a sick world in which white males rule the world. You said, “We speak in tongues like the outcast and the insane.” We are the untouchables in the international caste system. We are dirty. We are whores. We are uneducated and ill-mannered. White people always rob us of everything – from then until now. We provide the labor and man power while they enjoy the luxury that resulted from our blood and sweat. They rob us of resources and ideas and of means to make our own nations prosper. They want to own the whole world. And our state as women looks very hopeless, since we are still doubye colonized. Not only are we subjugated by the first world; we are also subjugated by this patriarchal world. For thousands of years, we have been silenced. Now, it’s time for the third world women to speak through writing, and pour their souls out for the world to see and feel. We have to express. We have to speak out. We have had enough.

You ask, how dare we have the right to write? You say, the whole world would not even try to give importance in whatever we have to write unless we bleach our skins and write right-handed. However, the western logic that schools and universities have used to brainwash us is not the thing that makes writing beautiful. It is not even through literary criticism done in classes. It is through reaching through the depths of our soul, being honest with ourselves, and treating the readers as if they are merely humans who understand human suffering in this universe. I have loved writing about anything, especially about myself, ever since I was an elementary student – and I have excelled in subjects that require writing. I even wondered before why some people find it hard to write essays and feel insecure whenever they have to write in English. But lately, I realized that writing is not a logical skill but it is the ability to share your heart and soul through paper, as if you talk to your childhood friend who knows who you really are and judges you not. It is through writing that we reach our subconscious mind, the part of ourselves that we have repressed, our innermost thoughts, and our alter ego that we think the right-handed world would deem insane. Writing is about expressing who we really are, and not about impressing other people with our way with words. Writing for the purpose of impressing others makes the literary work empty, a fake, a hypocritical one. It would lack the thing that touches the souls of other human beings because it came from the head, and not the heart. It is the heart that speaks through us through writing. Perhaps that is also why we love reading journals and diaries of other people. It is the rawness and authenticity of the person that should come out through their writings, because we have no other thing to offer the world but who we really are.  

There is no separation between life and writing. – Gloria Anzaldua

I like it when you said that there is no separation between life and writing. As writers, we need experience so much in life in order to produce an authentic and soulful writing. Otherwise, it would really be too hypocritical. I, for example, cannot write in the point of view of a divorced woman because I have never been married. However, I can write through the eyes of a child because I have experienced childhood and I always go back to my past happy memories and traumas. No topic is really too trivial, as long as what you say really comes from you, your soul, and you really know what you are talking about. Pleasing other people, or the world at large, should never be a concern in writing. Otherwise, we would be inhibited in our thoughts and writings, and would therefore make our writings inauthentic. I personally think that we should forget about being politically correct. We should, as humans, express the truth of who we are, whether or not some people would be offended by it. Our personal freedom in writing is more important than making people feel at ease by suppressing our true thoughts and feelings. We need more humane writers who write with their hearts and do not depend so much on logic. We have to break free from the logical rigidity that the current educational system perpetuates. We are humans. Writing should come naturally from our hearts, not from a space of obligation or duty.

We get surprised by what we write sometimes. Sometimes we sound too wise, immature, or whatever. But it’s only our suppressed selves that come out. Every one of us has something to say to the world. Do not suppress it. We are given voices for a reason. Use it. And as third world women, I think it’s time to come out of our wooden huts and say or write whatever we want regardless of what the white and patriarchal world would say. Sometime in the future, I know that bit by bit, the third world women will step up into the world and become heard – either through public speech or writing. Someday, we will come out of being merely subalterns. Our skin colors would mean nothing but melanin. Anyway, thank you Gloria for your attempt of waking up third world women, especially the writers. We have something to express and we should not be ashamed of it. Thank you for your bravery, and may more third world women be awakened too.


Anthea

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