By: Victoria Vela
Every month on a Tuesday, I make my way to UT’s Wagner building to meet with a small group of students to discuss Latinx feminist issues and how to organize ourselves effectively. The term "Latinx" is used to be inclusive to all gender identities of those of Latin descent, where ‘Latino/a’ erases those who identify as non-binary. You may also see “Xicanx” used sometimes as an identifier for all those of Mexican descent, switching out the “chi” in Chicana for “xi” to signify roots to indigenous identity.
When I first came to UT as physics major, I had little interest in activities like this. I always knew I leaned left, but I remained comfortable with inaction. Over the years I switched majors twice, finally ending up in the Mexican-American and Latino/a Studies department where I’ve had the opportunity to take various classes on the politics of race, gender, and other intersectionalities of identity. Unsurprisingly, it was my Chicana Feminism class that helped me develop and criticise my feminist politics while also teaching me about the importance of learning from past intersectional feminist movements. Coincidentally, the same semester a small group of women formed a Latinx feminist organization named FLORES (Feminist Latinx Organization Empowering Society) and I was finally moved from inaction.
So what is Latinx Feminism?
Latinx feminism isn’t just wearing Frida Kahlo shirts or sharing Latinx memes –in fact, Frida was a radical communist who probably wouldn’t like American gringos using her image for profit. Latinx feminism is a frame of mind used to approach social and political issues. While there is not a standard definition, a simple way of describing Latinx feminism is that it is a form of intersectional feminism viewed through a Latinx lens. Intersectionality remains at the base of Latinx feminism, meaning that Latinx feminists try to be inclusive to the struggles of all oppressed people, because often these struggles are erased within Latinx activism. Although the Chicano Power Movement of the ‘60s remains important to our history, main Chicano leaders refused to associate with the ongoing feminist, queer and Black rights movements. Angered by this lack of solidarity, many Latina and Chicana feminists left the Chicano Power Movement to create a more inclusive version of Latinx activism.
Latinx feminists, like other intersectional feminists, have agreed that being a feminist requires one to be constantly learning and developing their ideas. Latinx feminism is an evolving movement that takes on both individual struggles and the oppressive systems that create them.
What current issues do Latinx feminists care about?
There are countless complex issues being brought to the forefront of American politics – it is easy to see how these issues are interconnected. Latinx feminists advocate for the liberation of the poor, disabled, undocumented, queer and other marginalized communities. Many Latinx feminists advocate for other movements such as Black Lives Matter, Free Palestine, and indigenous activism. This solidarity is crucial because these movements are too often ignored by white feminism and mainstream media. Intersectional feminists believe that white feminism fails to recognize how race and other factors affect the way a person navigates the patriarchy.
It is also imperative to criticize the problems within our own Latinx communities. This includes shutting down anti-blackness, sexism, classism, transphobia and the other forms of oppression that many of our friends and family ignore.
Of course, not all Latinx issues are the same or require the same responses. Mexicans and Mexican-Americans often ignore the voices of Central and South American Latinx when discussing Latinx issues. While it is easy to criticize Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric, many forget the fact Mexico has worked with the U.S. to produce harsh immigration policies have resulted in the deaths of many Central Americans.
How do Latinx feminists actively organize for change?
FLORES is an inclusive organization that focuses on embracing and promoting Latinx Feminism while also volunteering in the Austin community. FLORES was started by Nikki Lopez and other Latinx who wanted to put their feminism into action. We hold bi-weekly meetings to discuss various issues and how they affect Latinx communities in Austin, the U.S. and the world. Aside from these discussions, we have also raised money for the Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund and are currently selling buttons for Planned Parenthood donations. FLORES hopes to educate UT students about Latinx matters while also serving the Austin community. In the upcoming semester, FLORES plans to visit the Hutto Detention Center and local transitional homes for immigrant women and children, among others. FLORES is just one example of how to get involved using intersectional feminism, there are many other ways to take action.
We are living in a time where being apolitical doesn’t do anything but help oppressive structures stay in place. Whether it be radicalizing your friends or volunteering in your community, getting involved in a constructive manner remains vital years after the Civil Rights Era. No matter how you identify, anyone can learn from intersectional feminism on how to navigate under our new administration.