The feminist movement seeks to emancipate women from oppression. The book, ‘They came with their dogs,” looks at the difficult situations faced by the Mexican immigrants living in East Los Angeles (LA) in the 1960’s, during the construction of the freeway. These include displacement, restrictions and roadblocks, which the writer believes were just a control measure disguised as a protective measure by the state, in conjunction with the Quarantine Department. This kind of control is what feminists have all along been fighting against. This is because it has always been disguised by both the state and the patriarchal systems as a protective measure, while in real sense it is a tool for manipulation and oppression. The basis of this presentation is thus “The state and the patriarchal systems have played a significant role in curtailing women liberty”. This paper looks at the feminist view on women liberty.
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Viramontes brings about the concept of liberty in the way she presents the struggle experienced during the 60’s, the same time the feminist movement was being formed. The community was characterized by protests against unequal conditions a similar aspect that has characterized the struggle for women’s liberty. There were by civil unrests with issues ranging from violation of farm workers’ rights, the feminist movement and even the Vietnam War (2007). This life of misery is what Viramontes tries to explain depicting a very troubled youth. The key highlight is how she brings out the lives of the characters from childhood to adulthood with the aim of highlighting how one’s upbringing affects their present life. Also illustrated is how those in power, in her case the colonists and the Quarantine Authority oppresses the weak. This is a key theme in the feminist movement, where women are brought up to view themselves as inferior to men and this goes on to adulthood
After facing the wrath of colonialists for a while, the East Los Angeles community does not seem to have a reprieve as their lives are interrupted again. There are bulldozers used in construction of freeways making their homes inaccessible and the harassment by the Quarantine Department. The youth also become unruly and joins gangs in a bid to foster an identity. This identity crisis represented by four young characters is also experienced by many women. Turtle Nee Antonia for instance, has to act as a boy in her desperate attempt to fit in the youth gang. This is in a bid to by please her brother Luis Lil Lizard who is part of the gang. Luiz on the other hand is so resentful to have a sibling who is a girl. His upbringing has led him to believe that boys are better and would therefore have preferred to have a brother than a sister. Turtle grew up in an abusive family and prefers to join the McBride homeboys and live on the streets than going back home. Ermila on the other hand is orphaned after her parents ran away and is left under the care of her grandparents. Unfortunately, the grandparents treat her as a burden as they do not understand her generation. She finds solace in school, turning her school mates into her family. Tranquilina is lucky to be the daughter of missionaries and her life looks bright. However, she has also experienced horrible atrocities in the neighborhood including the murder of Ermila’s cousin by the McBride Boys. Ben on the other hand gets a scholarship to study but is too depressed after losing his mother and the guilt of leading a friend to a truck accident that costs him his life (Viramontes, 2007). The book depicts the struggles faced by the immigrants, especially the youth. This can be related to the everyday struggles experienced by women in their day to day life.
Intersectionality is a concept brought forth by the multiracial female movement critiquing the notion that women oppression is homogenous and restricted to gender, as argued by radicle feminists. The concept acknowledges that women oppression also varies in terms of age, race, class and even ethnicity. From the intersectionality point of view, women of color disputed the idea of homogeneity, after realizing that the oppression experienced by white middle class women was very different from that experienced by poor black or disabled women.
An intellectual commitment and a political movement seeking justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms, the feminist movement as an offshoot of abolitionism, an anti- slavery movement that fought for an end to slavery. The idea of liberty for women therefore embodies several aspects including: economic empowerment, sexuality, employment, self-defense, family, human rights, the body, culture among many other aspects. Feminism, in a bid to enhance liberty for women therefore asserts the rights of women as adults consenting to their own sexuality, opposes censorship on the basis of gender and even defends women’s right to self-defense.
Liberal feminists holds that freedom is a very fundamental value, insisting that any just state ensures and protects the freedoms of its citizens. Classical liberal or libertarian feminism looks at women liberty as freedom from coercive interference. Viramontes presents the aspect of coercion as the order of the day. The neighborhoods are disrupted by the heavy construction work that is taking place; the roads are barricaded across the sidewalks in a bid to control residents from travelling from their destined places (2007).
Equity feminists insist that the state is the only morally significant source of oppression for women. Feminism to them therefore, plays a political role in bringing an end to laws limiting women’s liberty. Socially conservative equity feminists argue that even though the state may not enforce such laws, traditional values should be in a position to regulate state power and produce independent and self- restraining citizens. Viramontes presents the government as the key oppressor of the people, a sentiment shared by equity feminists. She talks of the identity cards checks and being denied access to one’s own street. She also talks of helicopters buzzing the sky, armed patrols that ‘track down stray dogs’, while in real sense, they are more keen on policing the residents and even gunshots that filled the air at night (2007).
Cultural libertarian feminists hold the belief that that the culture of most societies is patriarchal and the source of oppression for women. To them, the state and the patriarchal culture work hand in hand as complementary systems when it comes to the oppression of women. Egalitarian liberal feminism on the other hand looks at freedom as both personal autonomy where one is able to live as per their own choosing and political autonomy where one is able to coauthor the conditions under which they live in.
The fact that the state and the patriarchal system have played a great role in curtailing women’s liberty cannot be denied. However, it is important to appreciate the fact that several milestones have been realized in this struggle. Governments have put legislations that not only give women more powers, but also protect them and ensure that they are protected.
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