Is Published Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

This Bridge Called My Back is a key political text for lesbian feminists, especially lesbian feminists of color. It was one of the earliest multiethnic anthologies that analyzed multiple and interlocking forms of oppression from a feminist perspective. Also, the work was influential in creating global or Third World feminism.

Summary of Event

The first edition of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color was published in 1981 by Persephone Press. Persephone Press The anthology, however unremarkable it might have seemed to the popular media at the time, represented a critical liberatory moment for women of color in the women’s movement. Although women of color from Sojourner Truth to Pauli Murray had been present in feminist organizing, their historical and political contributions have been underacknowledged in women’s studies classrooms and by feminist organizations. [kw]This Bridge Called My Back Is Published (1981) [kw]Published, This Bridge Called My Back Is (1981) This Bridge Called My Back (Moraga and Anzaldúa, eds.) Lesbian feminism;and women of color[women of color] Feminism;and lesbians of color[lesbians of color] Third World feminism Chicana lesbian feminism [c]Publications;1981: This Bridge Called My Back Is Published[1430] [c]Feminism;1981: This Bridge Called My Back Is Published[1430] [c]Race and ethnicity;1981: This Bridge Called My Back Is Published[1430] [c]Literature;1981: This Bridge Called My Back Is Published[1430] [c]Civil rights;1981: This Bridge Called My Back Is Published[1430] [c]Cultural and intellectual history;1981: This Bridge Called My Back Is Published[1430] Moraga, Cherríe Anzaldúa, Gloria

The cover of This Bridge Called My Back (1981).

(Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press)

White feminists at the time had not been prepared to talk about racism within the women’s movement. While This Bridge Called My Back was neither the first nor last collection of writing to bring women of color together to discuss racism and classism Classism;in women’s movement[womens movement] in the women’s movement, the anthology has become a touchstone for women, including Third World feminists and lesbians of color, who identify with a number of marginalized identities.

In their introduction to the first edition, Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa wrote that they created This Bridge Called My Back to “reflect an uncompromised definition of feminism by women of color in the US.” The book was organized into six sections, which the editors felt were areas of concern for Third World feminists. Although each section focused on the intersection of multiple oppressions (including sexuality), the section most relevant to lesbians of color was the fourth, “Between the Lines: On Culture, Class, and Homophobia.” The writings in this section focus on “the cultural, class, and sexuality differences that divide women of color,” and contain incisive critiques of Third World communities and white feminists, written by distinguished scholars such as Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Merle Woo, and Cheryl Clarke.

Significance

There are at minimum three ways that the publication of This Bridge Called My Back has influenced the development of feminist, lesbian, and antiracist theories. First, authors expanded the conventional Western and feminist notions of lesbianism and lesbian identities. The work of Moraga and Anzaldúa, for example, like other lesbians of color, was politically daring because it not only challenged the sexism of men of color and the racism of feminists but also discussed the sexuality of women of color in frank terms.

In many of the communities of color, often deeply influenced by religious traditions, such as Catholicism and Christianity, it was taboo to discuss sexuality. In one example, Merle Woo, in her “Letter to Ma,” asks her mother to understand why “your daughter has turned into a crazy woman who advocates not only equality for Third World people, for women, but for gays as well.” Woo continues: “Please don’t shudder, Ma, when I speak of homosexuality. Until we can all present ourselves to the world in our completeness, as fully and beautifully as we see ourselves naked in our bedrooms, we are not free.”

These types of statements ran counter to the commonly held belief that women of color were somehow betraying their ethnic roots by embracing “white” lesbianism. Instead, women of color asserted in This Bridge Called My Back that their lesbianism was part of their heritage—an inextricable component of their ethnic and political identities. This declaration allowed lesbians of color to gain personal validation and political capital by organizing locally and internationally. For example, the Asian Lesbian Network would be organized in Bangkok in 1990, and in 1993, Gloria Wekker would write about the culturally specific form of same-gender love in the African Diaspora known as mati-ism.

A second way This Bridge Called My Back influenced the development of feminist, lesbian, and antiracist theories was how it critiqued lesbian separatism. Some lesbian-feminist authors, such as Marilyn Frye, Mary Daly, and the women of Radicalesbians, had redefined lesbianism as a political act that entailed the rejection of and separation from men. Lesbian-separatist writings were often utopian in nature and tended toward a gynocentric Gynocentrism;and lesbian separatism[lesbian separatism] and ecocentric spirituality. However, lesbians of color were critical of this utopian vision, arguing that it perpetuated racism and classism in several ways: Lesbian separatists, the women of color argued, could be racist as well. Also, dividing women of color from the men of color in their community was believed to be racist because it interfered with the collective fight against racism. In the Combahee River Collective’s “A Black Feminist Statement” "Black Feminist Statement, A" (Combahee River Collective)[Black Feminist Statement] of 1979, reprinted in This Bridge Called My Back, the collective stated,

Although we are feminists and Lesbians, we feel solidarity with progressive Black men and do not advocate the fractionalization that white women who are separatists demand.…We must also question whether lesbian separatism is an adequate and progressive political analysis and strategy, even for those who practice it, since it so completely denies any but the sexual sources of women’s oppression, negating the facts of class and race.

This Bridge Called My Back set the stage for a number of similar anthologies that would follow, such as Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras, Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras (Anzaldúa, ed.) This Bridge We Call Home, this bridge we call home (Anzaldúa and Keating, eds.) and Colonize This! Colonize This! (Hernández and Rehman, eds.)[Colonize This] Theoretical resonances can be found in the later works of renowned scholars such as Bell Hooks and Patricia Hill Collins and poet-writer Audre Lorde, whose works draw not only from Western feminists but also from socialist texts and the politics of colonialism and Third World liberation. Their works also develop a nuanced analysis of the forces of sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as of Western imperialism, capitalism, ethnocentrism, and the issues of religion, color, and nationality. This tradition in feminist writings still flourishes in the twenty-first century. This Bridge Called My Back (Moraga and Anzaldúa, eds.) Lesbian feminism;and women of color[women of color] Feminism;and lesbians of color[lesbians of color] Third World feminism Chicana lesbian feminism

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Alaniz, Yolanda, and Nellie Wong, eds. Voices of Color. Seattle, Wash.: Red Letter Press, 1999.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco, Calif.: Spinster’s Ink/Aunt Lute Books, 1987.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">_______, ed. Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color. San Francisco, Calif.: Aunt Lute Foundation Books, 1990.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Anzaldúa, Gloria, and AnaLouise Keating, eds. This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation. New York: Routledge, 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gil-Gomez, Ellen M. Performing La Mestiza: Textual Representations of Lesbians of Color and the Negotiation of Identities. New York: Garland, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hernández, Daisy, and Bushra Rehman, eds. Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism. Emeryville, Calif.: Seal Press, 2002.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Freedom, Calif.: Crossing Press, 1982.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Moraga, Cherríe, and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. Watertown, Mass.: Persephone Press, 1981.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Short, Kayann. “Coming to the Table: The Differential Politics of ’This Bridge Called My Back.’” Genders 19 (1994).
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Smith, Barbara, ed. Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology. New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Thompson, Becky. “Multiracial Feminism: Recasting the Chronology of Second Wave Feminism.” Feminist Studies 28, no. 2 (2002).

1928: Hall Publishes The Well of Loneliness

1956: Foster Publishes Sex Variant Women in Literature

June, 1971: The Gay Book Award Debuts

1973: Brown Publishes Rubyfruit Jungle

1975: Rule Publishes Lesbian Images

1981: Faderman Publishes Surpassing the Love of Men

1982: Lorde’s Autobiography Zami Is Published

1986: Paula Gunn Allen Publishes The Sacred Hoop

1987: Anzaldúa Publishes Borderlands/La Frontera

1987: Compañeras: Latina Lesbians Is Published

May, 1987: Lambda Rising Book Report Begins Publication

June 2, 1989: Lambda Literary Award Is Created

Categories: History Content