Generally speaking, I have never been the kind of person who understood how to "draw the line." I have been on the receiving end of many, "don't take it so personally!"..."Why do you get so upset!?"..."Learn how to 'let go'!" When I began my educational path, it was always an uncertain road. High school was horrible. I mean, I had a blast listening to Bikini Kill and L7 and becoming my own kind of feminist...but academically, I found it impossible to "do the 'right' thing." It seemed impossible and I was unmotivated to excel in my overcrowded public school. Community college was also difficult. I felt very lost and always so unsure of what I was working towards. I continued to follow this path because I had people (outside of my family) that pushed me to believe that I had important things to say. They made me believe in my potential as a scholar. Being the first person in my family to attend and graduate from college was a significant contributor to my uneasiness. My family (my parents specifically) supported me through love and encouragement. They lacked the necessary, fundamental tools and the academic capital to guide me to my dreams. Needless to say, I kept walking toward an uncertain future based on trust and hope that my faculty mentors were right. I had to believe in what they saw in me, because at the time, I didn't see it in me.
I suppose that I decided on Chicana/o Studies as a major because I didn't feel the pressure to "draw the line" between my personal life and my academic life. The salience of what I learned in classes and read in books was undeniable. My amazing Chicana/o Studies mentors and peers allowed me to imagine that I had a place in academia. Although I was pissed that my culture and history were denied and/or misrepresented in my K-12 schooling, I felt secure that I would never have to suppress my "whole" self again. I was pleasantly surprised that the "line" between the personal and academic no longer existed. (This next part may sound cheesy, but it's the truth!!) Reading Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera changed. my. life.
Cherríe Moraga's Loving in the War Years blew me away. These Chicana feministas were speaking to what I could not even begin to put into words at the time. They made their bodies, the center of their theorizing. It was a "theory of the flesh." How can one separate themselves from their flesh? Where does one draw the line from their body?
"A theory in the flesh means one where the physical realities of our lives-our skin color, the land or concrete we grew up on, our sexual longings-all fuse to create a politic born out of necessity. Here, we attempt to bridge the contradictions in our experience...We do this bridging by naming our selves and by telling our stories in our own words" (Moraga, 1981).
I read this "politic born of necessity," as an ethical move toward survival. I have found it very difficult, to separate/negotiate my "whole" self (true self? authentic self? "real" self?!?) from my work as a Chicana feminist scholar. Much of what I do/write/think/share is based on my own theory of the flesh. My experiences as a working class Chicana feminista are bound to deaths, accidents, "tragedies," discrimination, injustices, structural violences and many other realities that seem to not have a place in the professionalization of the academy. What do I do with all this other "stuff?"
Recently, I have been thinking about how feminist ethics and/or queer ethics can function as a place for these kinds (moral? ethical?) negotiations. For my final I would like to write a paper that expands on our discussions with the role of the "personal" within the "academic." I would like to focus on death, dignity, grief, respect, value and proper and improper mourning as a way to work through my own negotiation of how to confront the ethical decisions that we all make as academicians.
I look forward to any/all comments/reading suggestions/thoughts.
...and, here is a bikini kill video just for fun and also cuz I don't always know/want/care for the line between what's appropriate and proper ☺