Women of Progress
There is no question that inequality is a tremendous issue in today’s world. Between numerous cases of discrimination in everyday life to acts of violence towards minorities, it is too easy to see injustices that permeate society. Even though most people realize there is a problem, barely anybody takes action to combat these issues of discrimination. However, authors Gloria Anzaldúa, Joy Castro, and Gloria Bird understand that change needs to happen so they step in and choose to speak out on these topics through what they do best--writing. They all share similarities with their personal backgrounds and styles of writing. All these authors format their writings as autobiographies, sharing their personal struggles as a minority and experiences with discrimination. These women choose to write autobiographies because they are more helpful in influencing audiences than other forms of writing. They use their platforms to voice their opinions on topics that directly affect them throughout their life. Also, in their autobiographies they encourage their audience to take action and make sure that everyone, especially minorities, have a voice. However, they have different methods of making sure everyone’s opinion is heard. For example, throughout Castro’s college education, she presents feminist literature in a class where the professor attempts to avoid discussing those works. This differs from Anzaldua’s approach, where she puts her readers in a position where they feel excluded to demonstrate how minorities often feel. No matter how these women go about spreading their message, it is clear that they all are using discrimination from their personal life to teach equality.
"No matter how these women go about spreading their message, it is clear that they all are using discrimination from their personal life to teach equality."
Since autobiographies are told from a first-person perspective, they often contain emotions from the author, which other forms of writing can lack. This involvement of emotions can allow the reader to see the passion behind their topics. This is important because if an author is able to make the reader feel the same emotions as themselves and put the reader in their shoes, their audience is more likely to be in support of their arguments since they have a better understanding of their background. Therefore, if these authors display a passion about their argument and they give the audience their perspective, their readers will also have a passion about their topics. However, passion is useless without action. That is why these authors encourage their audience to take action in fighting these issues. By writing their autobiographies, these authors are already showing an example of what they want the reader to do, which is voice their struggles and keep an open mind to perspectives from other people.
"By writing their autobiographies, these authors are already showing an example of what they want the reader to do, which is voice their struggles and keep an open mind to perspectives from other people."
In Joy Castro’s memoir, she shares her personal experiences of exclusion, prejudice, and injustice as a woman within the education system. As someone wanting to study feminist theory, she did not agree with her professors excluding unpopular feminist work that consisted of ““justified anger in response to violation” (Castro, 268). By writing about her life growing up feeling isolated and excluded, her audience has a better understanding of why Castro is so determined to make sure all types of feminist literature are included in the classroom. This way, the reader knows why she continues to bring up controversial feminist topics in her feminist theory class even though her professor keeps turning her efforts down. Also, Castro sets up her writing to illustrate that women in poverty need help and explains why her professors refuse to discuss and expose their issues by writing, “Maybe if your educational pedigree is immaculate, the remedial intellectual needs of people who grew up with food stamps aren’t your problem” (Castro, 268). Through her methods, Castro gave a platform for underrepresented women to voice their struggles. She explains why broadcasting these voices is important as she believes “our public voices are an extraordinary privilege. We can make the choice to carry with us and be shaped by the voices we’ve heard” (Castro, 270). By making it easier to share feminist literature from various authors, Castro shares multiple perspectives on feminist struggles, allowing others to become aware of these victims. Other methods of writing that do not come from a first-person perspective can miss out on fully displaying how these topics impact lives on a personal level.
"By making it easier to share feminist literature from various authors, Castro shares multiple perspectives on feminist struggles, allowing others to become aware of these victims."
Another author who uses her autobiography to educate others about her experience as a minority is Gloria Bird in Autobiography as Spectacle: An Act of Liberation or the Illusion of Liberation. Bird describes her life growing up as a Native American in the United States, focusing on the ignorance of Americans about Native American history and lifestyle. She reveals, “How I have come to know myself as Indian is contradicted continually in mainstream pop culture, in commercials, in ads in magazines, and in film” (Bird, 174). In her autobiography, she also brings up an example of American ignorance involving President Ronald Reagan’s 1988 speech in Moscow, where he states that Native Americans live a “primitive” lifestyle. In response to his speech, Bird claims, “I view Reagan’s ignorance of Indian history, and consequently American history, as a mirror of America’s basic lack of knowledge about us” (Bird, 175). She explains that there is an inaccurate portrayal on Native Americans in the media and Reagan falls under this false impression just like most Americans. As a way to combat these incorrect beliefs, Bird believes that educating and publicizing the ways of life for Native Americans will get rid of these untrue stereotypes. This explains why Bird decides to write not only about her personal perspective as a Native American, but also include opinions from others in the Native American community as well. By formatting her writing as an autobiography, she uses her personal experience to illustrate why educating America on Native American lifestyles is such an important topic.
The last autobiography we will analyze is Gloria Anzaldúa’s How to Tame a Wild Tongue. In her writing, she discusses the difficulties of always having to translate her Spanish in order for her English-speaking readers to follow along without troubles. She provides an explanation as to why this is an issue by claiming, “as long as I have to accomodate the English speaker rather than having them accomodate me, my tongue will be illegitimate” (Anzaldúa, 30). She deals with this problem by writing certain sections in her autobiography in Spanish to put her English-speaking readers in the position of Spanish-speaking readers when reading English text. Personally, when I read her work, my high school Spanish 4 education only carried me so far and I was left confused on some points Anzaldúa was trying to make. By reversing the roles of English and non-English speakers, Anzaldúa allows her English-speaking audience to understand the convenience they have for most writings to be translated into English. She then relates this to herself because she is often expected to tailor her writing to English speakers. She describes her problem by explaining, “we don’t identify with the Anglo-American cultural values and we don’t totally identify with the Mexican cultural values” (Anzaldúa, 33). This sharing of identities explains why she writes in both English and Spanish and does not stick to only one language. Although she has a different method of showing the audience her perspective, Anzaldúa’s autobiography still allows the reader to understand her struggles.
Since Castro, Bird, and Anzaldúa, format their writings as autobiographies, we have a better understanding of why these authors are so passionate about their arguments. These women use their personal experiences of exclusion, ignorance, and discrimination as a platform to educate others on these issues. By publicizing their experiences, they provide readers with reasons to take action and combat these problems. Writing about their topics as autobiographies even further encourages readers to make a change since their essays include personal examples of consequences of these issues. Even though they have all dealt with prejudice throughout their lives, these women’s autobiographies are testimonies of their courage and nonstop fight for equality for all.
Anzaldúa, Gloria. “How to Tame a Wild Tongue.” Ways of Reading: an Anthology for Writers, by David Bartholomae et al., Bedford/St.Martin's, Macmillan Learning, 2017, pp. 26–34.
Bird, Gloria. “Autobiography as Spectacle: An Act of Liberation or the Illusion of Liberation.” Ways of Reading: an Anthology for Writers, by David Bartholomae et al., Bedford/St.Martin's, Macmillan Learning, 2017, pp. 173–183.
Castro, Joy. "Hunger" and "On Becoming Educated". Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Ed. David Bartholomae, Anthony Petrosky, and Stacey Waite. 11th ed. Boston/New York: bedford/st. martin's Macmillan Learning, 2017. 262-72. Print.