We formed as Conciencia Femenil in the summer of 2009. We were inspired by our foremothers, Las Hijas de Cuauhtémoc, who were also students at Cal State Long Beach in 1970. Las Hijas stood up valiantly for the rights of mujeres in a Chicano movement that, though inspiring, was machista or male chauvinistic and exclusionary.
In 1971, the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlán, M.E.Ch.A, held a mock funeral procession that was a ritualized attempt to kill Las Hijas. They carried caskets and walked with candles to a makeshift graveyard with gravestones for Las Hijas leaders and a lynched effigy of Anna Nieto Gomez — her name inscribed on this effigy. Las Hijas faced this for trying to transform the sexist oppression within M.E.Ch.A. This history has never been written about or confronted. This is why we feel it has repeated itself.
As a collective we decided to organize a Chicana Feminism Conference to address the cycle of zero, or the chronic erasure of marginalized communities, which includes queer Chicanas. Conciencia Femenil was recently hit with the firsthand experience of history repeating itself.
The Chicana Feminism Conference took place at Cal State Long Beach on March 17-20. We wanted to bring attention to heteropatriarchy at CSULB within the departments, student organizations and Chicano communities. And we too were recently attacked with misogynist and homophobic violence. In response to an article by the Daily 49er announcing the conference, hateful homophobic and sexist attacks against the organizers and conference speakers Cherrie Moraga and Alma Lopez were displayed on the publication’s Web site.
The homophobic slandering attacks intensified and eventually escalated into remarks that referenced an appropriation of an alleged “Aztec Law” that described how gays and lesbians were punishable through murder and other explicit details as to how to administer the punishments. We recognize that this is not an isolated event but is deeply intertwined with the recent hate violence at UC San Diego, UC Riverside UC Davis and Washington State.
The escalation of visible hate violence both on our campuses and communities only brings attention to the everyday violence we experience as low income, Chicano, women, people of color, undocumented, disabled and queer/transgender people. Those who do not see the violence are blinded by their privilege. We who are marginalized by the interlocking systems of oppression are forced to face the frequent wrath of violence.
The ideology that silences and erases us from our communities, curriculum and classrooms, demonizes, scapegoats and keeps us out of positions of decision-making power, forms the breeding ground for hate violence. The delegitimization or constant discrediting of queer, feminist, ethnic studies and queer feminist ethnic studies within academia institutionalizes our marginalization and is a form of violence itself.
We recognize that the sting of a virulent heteropatriarchy lashed out at us is an attempt to undermine, silence, threaten and intimidate our organization. The Chicana Feminism Conference called out for an intervention to hold accountable a curriculum and a community that strives for liberation but falls short by refusing to see the intersections of racism, classism, heterosexism, sexism and colonization. We will not be erased, defeated or discouraged by academic and community attempts that fail to account for the way that these systems of oppression intersect. We are fueled and stronger than ever to continue in the struggle.
We have reclaimed “concienca maricona,” a feeble threat launched against us as Conciencia Femenil. Homophobic and sexist retaliation against women calling out sexism in the Chicano movement have long been used as attempts to silence and intimidate us; this is not new, and we are reclaiming another term from the past: “lesbionage,” which was used by La Raza Unida Party and others to discredit mujeres’ organizing. Heteropatriarchy: Game Over!
A movement that is not down for all of us is not down for its people.
From the margins, we clearly see the connections between our disenfranchisement on campus and that faced by our communities, as well as that imposed by our communities, and we recognize that these many layers of oppression are responsible and complicit with the hate violence used against us.
Concienca Femenil is a chicana feminist group.
Nadia Zepeda, Audrey Silvestre, Pablo Ildefonso, Claudia Ramirez, Natalie Muniz, Lizeth Zepeda, Angelica Becerra, Denise Zepeda, and Jocelyn Gomez contributed to this article.