In the Gloria Anzaldua’s half-biographical work titled Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, the author explores the theme of deviance in the current American society. The autobiography is a compilation of poems and essays, which touch on Anzaldua’s experience. The author seems to have undergone deviance at a personal level since she grew up in the United States, was a woman, a lesbian, and a Chicana. One of the major themes explored in the poems and essays revolve around being deviant and carrying the blame for that, realizing the limitations within a society, having no ability and willingness to adhere to the social customs that one cannot comprehend, or consider unfair. The author does an excellent work of sharing and communicating her emotions and feelings to the reader. She is able to do this because all her emotions and feelings are strong, true, and painful.
Concerning the issue of cultural diversity, the concern of deviance is paramount. The norms, traditions, and beliefs of a foreign culture are at times viewed as being awkward or simply wrong. Anzaldua delves on this problem from two dissimilar aspects. Being a Chicana, she had deviant views for the American society because her tradition, appearance, and language were different. In the autobiography, Anzaldua indicates how the Chicano, mexicano, as well as certain Indian cultures do not tolerate for deviance. She describes deviance as whatever is condemned by the society. The heterosexual tribe’s fear are reflected by the unexpected: being different, belonging to the other group and thus lesser, therefore being regarded sub-human, non-human, in-human. To put it differently, the gay and the queer were on the lowest rank of the social hierarchy of Mexican Americans, women being a single step above them. She supports her lesbian identity and homophobia and sexism and gays against the Chicana culture as follows ‘‘Not me sold out my people but they me . . . I will not glorify those aspects of my culture which have injured me’’ (Anzaldua, 22). Being a “lesbian of color,” she faced ultimate dismissal within her culture, while being compelled by interweaving oppressions within the main culture. She was abandoned by her culture because she deviated from being a straight, Catholic, and non-sexual woman. Anzaldua was doubly deviant. Firstly, since she is a lesbian, the cultural and Catholic teachings label her sexuality “faulty.” Secondly, she is sexual. ‘‘She goes against two moral prohibitions: sexuality and homosexuality’’ (Anzaldua, 19). In these two quotations, Anzaldua shows that she is not ready to be limited by the societal norms. What matters to her is how she views things.
Western thinking created an atmosphere of subjugation in the American society by forcing its ideology on the minor groupings and eroded identity among them particularly in the issue of indigenous races. Indeed, Anzaldua argues that having a deviant mind splits the identities of the minorities. In her view, Western rationalization caused the establishment of dangerous duality in the society by trying to be objective. This dichotomy is what causes violence. According to Sonia Saldivar-Hull, the theme of deviance being pushed by Anzaldua is important since it equips the Chicana with tactics for discovering a razed indigenous history as a step towards achieving awareness as political ambassadors of change (Saldi´var, 205). When women realize their potential as political agents, they are able to deviate the restrictions of their self-created ways of Western thinking. In the author’s theorization, the vehemence against humanity is created in the gap between male and female, modern and traditional, and white and black (Saldi´var, 206). Furthermore, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, is infiltrated with the feminist concept that women in all places are limited by the notions of patriarch and with the help of sexism, the socially created models of belonging to the female gender constrict them. Owing to genderization and racialization, women of color like Anzaldua suffer doubly from the clichéd categorization imposed on them. She argues that, fragmenting and splitting the Self, creates a dangerous impact in the borderland identity. To this end, the theme of deviance being pushed by Anzaldua is critical in that it offers women a strategy to circumvent violent consequences, resisting and contesting these patriarchal dichotomies.
Anzaldua goes ahead to describe how she went through the thought of being deviant to her society and not being part of the community she lived in. Accepting that an individual is dissimilar from you in their opinions, thoughts, appearance, and behavior is not that simple when the same qualities matter to you. However, coming to the realization that being is not advantageous or disadvantageous is what many individuals fail to do habitually without even noticing how insensitive they are. Nonetheless, Anzaldua is able to prove that she has a multi-dimensional view of things, opinions, languages, and beliefs. For instance, the book has a balance of both Spanish and English. She naturally shifts from English to Spanish. This not only shows that she is bilingual but also indicates that she is ready to deviate from the tradition of writing in one language. It also indicates that what mattered in her writing is not adhering to writing tradition, language, or form, but it is the content and the message behind her poems and essays that matters.
Further, Anzaldua’s deviance is aimed at breaking free, liberating the “Shadow-Beast.” She says, “It is a part of me that refuses to take orders from outside authorities.” (Anzaldua, 38). At this juncture, she shows her consciousness of the Hegemonic Discourse. Majority of individuals subject to authority since they do not know that it is the duty of the authority to prove its validity. All the restrictions placed upon Anzaldua and her Chicana and female counterparts, stemmed for the need to manifest power, disguised as the compassionate act of providing protection, “Culture professes to protect women. Actually it keeps women in rigidly defined roles.” (Anzaldua, 39). Here, Anzaldua is hinting to the women that they should protect themselves by being deviant to their culture.
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza is a masterpiece of great austerity and insight. Anzaldua ability to share and communicate her emotions and feelings to the reader is because of her emotions and feelings being strong, true, and painful. She takes the reader through her journey of showing deviance to the Western culture, authority, and Catholic Church among others. Her efforts are not in vain, because through her deviance, she offers women a strategy to circumvent violent consequences, resisting and contesting these patriarchal dichotomies. Moreover, she equips the Chicana with tactics for discovering a razed indigenous history as a step towards achieving awareness as political ambassadors of change.
Anzaldúa, Gloria (1999). Borderlands – La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Aunt Lute Books.
Saldi´var, Sonia. 1991. ‘‘Feminism on the Border: From Gender Politics to Geopolitic.’’ Pp. 203–220 in Criticism in the Borderlands: Studies in Chicano Literature, Culture, and Ideology, edited by Hector Calderon and Jose David Saldivar. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.