Sample Essay on Chicano Movements: Chicana Feminism From 1950 – 1990


The Chicano Movement was an extension of the famous Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement that was formed in the 1940s, which pursued educational, social, and political parity in the United States for Mexican-Americans. [1]The Chicana Feminist movement continued to evolve from the 1950s and became radical between 1970 and 1980. This movement was used as an avenue of addressing trepidations of Chicanas as a result of the oppression in the form of race, class, and gender. The Chicanas fought back with an intention of gaining the same status in the male subjugated movement. Through the movement, both liberal and radical feminists hoped to triumph in attaining gender commonality. Furthermore, most of the black civil rights movements during the 1950s and 1960s triggered 1940’s Mexican-American Civil Rights struggles in their fight against racial discrimination. The black power movement was instrumental in progressing the model of nationalism that employed racial distinctiveness as a source of self-importance. Consequently, in their pursuit for greater identification and recognition, the Chicanos copied this model and established the idea of cultural nationalism, which became the conceptual foundation for the Chicano movement. This paper presents the development of the Chicano Movement and Chicana Feminist movement discourse from 1950 to 1990.

Historical Perspective of the Chicano Movement

The Chicano Movement was a progression of the Mexican-American Civil Rights Movement, which occurred in the 1940s and sought educational, social, and political equality in the United States for Mexican-Americans.[2] In the preceding years, the feminist movement advanced in the United States and continued to discourse explicit concerns, which continued to impact Chicanas as women of color. The development of the Chicana feminist movement can also be attributed to the dialogues, letters, and other literatures available in Chicano and Chicana print media.

In the 1960s, the American society continued to witness the growth and development of the Chicano social movement, which featured politics of protest. [3]Several issues that were emphasized in the Chicano movement spread on numerous concerns, for instance, social justice, parity, educational restructurings, political, and economic autonomy for Chicano communities that were living in the United States. Furthermore, countless tussles emerged from the movement, for example, the United Farmworkers unionization, the New Mexico Land Grant movement, the Colorado grounded Crusade for Justice and the Raza Unida Party among many others. The Chicanas population played a significant role in taking part in these struggles. Towards the end of 1960s, the Chicanas commenced to evaluate the benefits and restrictions of their involvement. In the 1970s, the Chicana feminists attained great developments as the women of color in the American society. Chicana feminists defined several concepts, which led to the developing Chicana feminist discussion. Similarly, Chicano males were also re-inferring the ancient and current understanding of Chicanos in the United States while the Chicanas were analyzing the powers determining their own capabilities as women of color. Generally, the Chicana feminist movement arose predominantly because of the underlying forces in the Chicano movement. Towards the end of 1960s and 1970, the American political scene underwent extensive social protest movements with different political ideologies that impacted heavily on each other’s influence. [4]The expansion of feminist movements was highly triggered by women participation in the bigger social movements in the nation.

According to Rowbotham, women were triggered to pursue a feminist consciousness course as a consequence of their experiences emanating from chauvinism in radical brawls.[5] When such movements become male dominated, women in most cases develop a feminist cognizance. This was the case for Chicana feminists who commenced a fight for their own space through evaluating their involvement in the Chicano movement. Chicana feminist mindfulness arose because of their struggle of parity with Chicano men besides a re-evaluation of the function of a family as an avenue of opposition to domineering societal settings.

Traditionally, the Chicano family formed a rich source of cultural and political opposition to the numerous types of acumen witnessed in the American society. For instance, at the cultural level, the Chicano movement accentuated the necessity to protect the notion of family loyalty concept. Moreover, at the political level, the Chicano movement made use of the family as a premeditated organizational instrument for protest activities. Intense transformations in the construction of Chicano families occurred as they took part in the Chicano movement. For instance, women started to question their customary female responsibilities. [6]Therefore, a Chicana feminist movement was a result of the nationalist Chicano scuffle, also referred to as a colony within a colony. Nonetheless, as the Chicano movement progressed over the years, Chicana feminists started coming up with their own political itinerary and made several interrogations to evaluate their responsibilities in the Chicano movement. Afterwards, they agreed with each other through dialogue on elements that clearly mirrored their brawls to secure their own rights and privileges in the Chicano movement.

The Concept of Feminism and Women of Color

One of the fundamental issues among the feminist discourse was the definition of feminism. The deficiency of a substantive agreement was a reflection of dissimilar political principles and contrary social-class grounds. In the United States, Chicana feminists shared their ideological meaning with the white, Black, and Asian American feminists. Just as the white and black feminists, Chicana feminists went through a gruesome struggle in their attainment of social impartiality and termination of bigot and prejudiced repression. The Chicana feminists acknowledged that the nature of social disparity for women of color was multidimensional. They also struggled to obtain equal access to status in the male-conquered nationalist movements as well as the American society. According to the loyalists, feminism entailed a movement to terminate sexist subjugation through an expansive social demonstration movement. The Chicana feminists, like the Black and Asian American feminists, also struggled for their social equality rights.

Additionally, the feminists also acknowledged that their movement was required to address several issues that were beyond women’s rights besides incorporating men in the movement. This was because the males also encountered several racial subservience. [7]The Chicanas also held on to the fact that feminism entailed more than an exploration of gender because as women of color, the issue of race and class impacted their contemporary lives. Therefore, Chicana feminism, which was a social movement to enhance the position of Chicanas in the American society, also entailed both autonomist and feminist struggles. Furthermore, the Chicana, Black, and Asian American feminists took part in the feminist struggle, which was aimed at ending sexist subjugation in a more expansive nationalist level. All groups went through male domination in their own societies and in a larger society. One form of women oppression was the labels of Asian American women and the male-controlled family structure.

Chicana Feminism and Cultural Feminism

In the process of their struggle for equality form the 1950s to the 1980s, Chicana feminists have been compelled to respond to several criticisms that cultural nationalism and feminism are incompatible. According to the first issue of the newspaper, Hijas de Cuauhtemoc, Anna Nieto Gomez (1971) affirmed that the fundamental challenge that the Chicano movement was encountering was the need to enhance their position as women within the extensive social movement.[8]

In backing this notion, Bernice Rincon in 1971 maintained that a Chicana feminist movement, which was pursuing equality and justice for Chicanas would fortify the Chicano movement.[9] Nonetheless, in this process, the Chicana feminists dared traditional gender responsibilities since they confined their involvement and reception in the Chicano movement. In the 1970s seventies, Chicana feminists regarded the war against sexism inside the Chicano movement and the similar struggle of racism in the expansive society as fundamental elements of Chicana feminism.

Furthermore, the focus on national cultural egotism besides cultural endurance in the Anglo-conquered society offered an important political course to the Chicano movement. Among the philosophical discrepancy between Chicana feminism and cultural nationalist thought was the concept of cultural survival. According to many Chicana feminists, the emphasis on cultural endurance among the nationalists did not recognize the necessity to transform the male-female associations among Chicano communities. For instance, Chicana feminists disparaged the conception of the ideal Chicana, which overvalued Chicanas as robust, lengthy-suffering women that had tolerated and reserved Chicano culture and the family together. According to the Chicana feminists, this impression signified a major impediment to the redefinition of gender responsibilities.

Furthermore, despite the fact some Chicana feminists disapproved the allegory of machismo that was applied by the main society to authentic racial inequality, other feminists shifted far above this level of exploration. They was to extricate between the machismo that troubled both genders and the prejudice in Chicano communities in overall, and the Chicano movement in specific, which beleaguered Chicana women.[10]

The origins of a Chicana feminist mindfulness were as a result of sexist insolences and the conduct of Chicano males that entailed grave impediment to women concerned who were actively involved in the Chicana liberation. [11]Moreover, several Chicana feminists were not in agreement with the cultural nationalist interpretation that machismo could become an optimistic worth in the Chicano cultural value system. The feminists defied the perception that machismo was a foundation of masculine conceit for Chicanos and consequently a protection device contrary to the prevailing society’s racism. Even though Chicana feminists acknowledged the fact that Chicanos encountered discernment from the prevailing society, they were obstinately not in agreement with the individuals who alleged that machismo was a mechanism of cultural opposition to such perception. This triggered the Chicana feminists to demand for transformations in the principles that were destroying the associations between women and men. Among such transformations was altering the cultural nationalist focus, which regarded machismo as a basis of cultural egotism.

The Chicana feminists demanded for a focus on the collective facets of sexism, which outlined gender dealings between the Anglo and Chicano culture. Despite the fact that they acknowledged the economic manipulation of all Chicanos, Chicana feminists also pointed out multiple mistreatments that Chicanas went through. Therefore, although the Chicano movement addressed the concern of racial domination that faced Chicanos, Chicana feminists maintained their need to incorporate the concept of sexism.[12] Correspondingly, the Black and Asian American women also emphasized on the link between race and gender subjugation. This model was founded on the basis that racism and sexism overlap besides their corresponding nature and many thought that no struggle should take advantage of the other.

There were also numerous reproaches on the Black men whose nationalism was considered as limiting factors to the Black women’s involvements in sexist subjugation. Numerous Asian American women also condemned the Asian American movement that emphasized on racism but overlooked the influence of sexism, which impacted the contemporary lives of women. The contribution of the Asian American women in numerous community fights augmented their encounters with sexism. Consequently, the Asian American women also developed a radical awareness on the feminist’s issues.

Chicana Feminism and Feminist Teasing

As the Chicana feminists continued with their struggle for equality in the 1970s and 1980s, most of them were criticized for rising issues that were seen as having a divisive creed. These feminist ideologies were frequently observed as an intimidation to the general Chicano movement. As the Chicana feminists scrutinized their responsibilities as women activists in the Chicano movement, a philosophical division arose. One active group among the Chicano movement considered itself as loyalists who alleged that the Chicano movement did not have to address the sexual discriminations because both the males and females among the Chicano went through racial coercion. Gomez affirmed this position in 1973 who was not a loyalist. Gomez claimed that if the men within Chicano movement beset women, it was not the problem of the men but rather an issue to do with the whole system. [13]Furthermore, the loyalists also believed that even if such a matter was present, the best alternative was to solve it within the confines of Chicano and not through an external campaign. This made the group to defy the establishment of a discrete Chicana feminist movement on the basis that it was a politically treacherous approach, possibly Anglo enthused. The group also asserted that the formation of the Chicana feminist movement would destabilize the concord of the Chicano movement by coming up with a matter that was not all encompassing. According to the loyalists, racism was the cornerstone that influenced the formation of the Chicano movement.

Additionally, Chicana feminists were also confronted with an accusation that they were overlooking the Chicano cultural principles. According to Chicano loyalists, the Chicana feminist movement was an antagonistic movement to the family, culture, and a man’s position and consequently an anti-Chicano movement. Chicano loyalists generally considered the feminist movement as a personal pursuit for identity, which was disrupting the real concerns being tackled by the Chicano movement, for instance, racism.

These conceptual challenges and conflicts between the two movements, which featured Chicana feminists and loyalists continued all the way through the 1970s that later resulted in the reflection of the concerns being raised. [14]Moreover, the discrepancies between these two groups were aggravated in several Chicana meetings. In most instances, the conflicts enhanced Chicana feminist actions, which continued to challenge attacks from the loyalists. Additionally, the outbreaks also enhanced the subdue of the feminist activities. For instance, Chicana feminist lesbians encountered sturdier attacks from the loyalists who viewed feminism as a contentious philosophy. In the political climate that initially regarded the feminist system with doubt, the lesbianism sexual way of life and political system faced more rebellion. This was because the nationalist ideology that regarded Chicanas image as good wives and good mothers could not be convinced to admit a Chicana feminist lesbian movement. This increased the Chicanas struggle in the 1970s, particularly the Chicana feminist lesbians and other Chicana feminists who found out that the elements of sexism in the Chicano movement were becoming unbearable. Just as the Chicana feminists evaluated their life situations as being part of an ethnic minority besides being women, Chicana feminist lesbians also considered themselves as lesbians in the wake of the oppression they faced.

Additionally, the Chicana, Black, and Asian American feminists went through comparable cross-gravities of feminist enticing and lesbian baiting assaults. In their processes of organized campaigns, which were built around feminists’ struggles, the women of color experienced reproach from different corners, particularly men and women in the cultural nationalist’s groups who frequently considered feminism to be an anti-male philosophy. The issue of lesbianism was one of the fierce battled concepts that were acknowledged to be an extreme seed of feminism. In most instances, a direct connection frequently regarded feminism and lesbianism as tantamount. This resulted in feminists being referred to as lesbians on one hand and lesbians as feminists on the other hand. Furthermore, other attacks directed towards the feminists were also as a result of the existence of the homophobia among these communities. As the lesbian feminists and other women of color printed their writings, they continued to encounter several attacks.

In a rejoinder, they employed different strategies to counter the attacks that were different among the feminist movements of women of color. The attacked groups attempted one approach and later embraced one another. For instance, lesbians incorporated a pro-autonomy approach in their specific tribal and ethnic communities. [15]Other groups also tried to establish lesbian alliances along their racial and ethnic lines. All these strategies were aimed at responding to the sidelining of lesbians as a result of the existing repeated influences of homophobic feelings in Chicano, Black, and Asian American communities.

Another reaction involved the cooperation of the sidelined groups with the larger nationalist movements in these groups and the feminist movements in the community with an intention of inspiring their heterosexual prejudices and the subsequent homophobia. In 1974, this position was affirmed by the Black Feminist Statement, which was written by a Boston-centered feminist group, the Combahee River Collective, which stated that they struggled with Black men against racism and brawled with Black men to counter sexism. This position was re-affirmed by Moraga in 1981 who dared the white feminist movement to look at its racist predispositions as well as the Chicano movement to reconsider their sexist inclinations to address their homophobic affinities. The author further attests that such movements aimed at bringing to an end the subjugation need by allowing diversity in their own statuses. The Chicano loyalist groups did not stop regarding Chicana feminism as associates of the white society with an objective of splitting the Chicano movement. Similarly, numerous Chicano men were convinced that Chicana feminism was a dividing system that was irreconcilable with the Chicano cultural patriotism. The Chicana feminist movement integrity was undermined when they were linked with the feminism of the white women.[16] The author further claims that this factor was the main reason feminists frequently encountered aggravation and isolation in the Chicano movement. Furthermore, the Chicanas continued to face more challenges in their course of equality since they were being suspected of integrating the white culture into the feminist system that was seen as a further attempt to enhance the local cultural supremacy.[17]

Nonetheless, the Chicana feminist quickly responded to the issues by diffusing such claims strongly. For instance, in a rejoinder to the claim, Flores responded to these anti-feminist claims through an editorial where she claimed that issues like birth control, abortion, as well as sex were concerns that explicitly affected them and not the whole societies. Chicana feminists’ resistance and defense of their assertions in the 1970s, particularly to the accusing voices that the movement was meant to divide the larger Chicano, reassured their responsibilities in the Chicano movement and a demand to bring to an end the male dominance.

Additionally, their contests against the customary gender responsibilities signified an avenue to attain impartiality. As a means of attracting the involvement of many women and offering them opportunities, the Chicano movement and the feminists eventually decided that both Chicanos and Chicanas needed to address the concept of gender disparity. [18] Besides, Chicana feminists maintained that the opposition they faced was a symbol of the presence of sexism among the Chicano males as well as the antifeminist approaches emanating from the Chicana loyalists. In his literature on appraising the involvements of Chicana feminists in the Chicano movement, Gomez claimed that issues of women in question have been detested, secluded, and overlooked. This was because in some organizations like Chicano where cultural nationalism was exceptionally robust, the Chicana feminists went through strong aggravation and snubbing. Therefore, the Black and Asian American women also encountered stark reproach in their pursuit for feminist concerns in their own societies. Certainly, increased joint efforts to bring to an end racial persecution also enhanced their hostilities against sexism.[19]

Some of the specific instances that made Chicana feminist movement to grow was the Denver Youth Conference and the Mujeres Por La Raza Confrence was held in March 1969 and 1971 respectively. In this workshop, the women in attendance affirmed that is was an accord of the group that Chicana Feminist Movement does not want to be liberated. This code ignited the movement. In 1971, close to more than 600 Chicanas assembled in Houston, Texas for the Mujeres Por La Raza Confrence and held two major workshops for Sex and the Chicana and Marriage Chicana Style. According to a survey conducted during the conference, more that 84% of the women felt they were not encouraged to encouraged to education and professional careers. Another huge percentage indicate they did not get equal pay others indicated they were discriminated against. In these conferences, the Chicana women realized that getting their word outside being heard was significant. This encouraged the Chicana movement to come up with publications, for instance, the Encunetro Femenil, which explored sexism and racism in Chicana.[20] Other important publications include newspapers and book of articles that propagated the Chicana movement. Chicana feminism thus became a highly acknowledged valuable organization in the community with prominent names like Mirta Vdal, Martah Cotera and Nieto Gomez among others.

Importance of the Chicano and Chicano Movement

Chicana feminists, similar to other minority groups like the Black, Asian American, and Native American feminists, still go through explicit life situations that are different as compared to the white feminists. The disparity in the socioeconomic aspects among the Chicano communities directly contributed to the growth and development of Chicana feminism as well as the link between Chicana feminists and feminists among other ethnic groups like white feminists. Generally, lessons from the events of Chicana and Chicano movements demonstrate that impending dialogue among all feminists necessitate a mutual consideration of the prevailing disparities and similarities. Corresponding to other women of color, Chicana feminists need to integrate matters that affect them as women of color. Furthermore, Chicana feminists also need to address the concerns that affect the Chicano communities, for instance, poverty, inadequate openings for higher education, high school dropouts, poor health care, multilingual education, immigration restructuring, and prison reform among others.

In the education sector, a growing number of Chicana feminists have persistently continued the feminist heritage that was initiated in the 1970s. For example, in 1982, a group of Chicana scholars planned a national feminist organization referred to as Mujeres Activas en Letrasy Cambio Social (MALCS), which was aimed at establishing a backing linkage for Chicana academicians. Among the fundamental responsibilities of the organization was fighting against racism, class, and gender domination facing the Chicanas in institutions of higher education. Besides, MALCS that was objected at bridging the gap between academic requirements and the Chicano community. The organization’s success was also attributed to the Chicana/ Latina summer research establishments at the University of California. In the 1980s and 1990, there was a major reshaping of the serious query regarding the nature of the domination that was subjected to the Chicanas and other women of color. The Chicana and Black feminists demanded to know the consequences of the connection of race, class, and gender in the contemporary lives of women in the American society. However, because of their struggle and labor-force involvement, several positive outcomes have been witnessed, for instance, wages enhancement, education opportunities and reduction of poverty levels. Furthermore, Chicanas also enhanced several advances with regards to the concept of discrimination and oppression. This was attained through establishment and investigations of structures of racism, capitalism, and equality, which were more experienced by the majority of Chicanas.


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[1]. Miguel San, Chicana/o struggles for education: Activism in the community. Vol. 7. Texas A&M University Press, 2013.



[2]. Miguel San, Chicana/o struggles for education: Activism in the community.


[3]. Mario Barrera, “The Study of Politics and the Chicano.” Aztlan (1974).


[4]. Jo Freeman, ed. Social movements of the sixties and seventies. Addison-Wesley Longman Limited, 1983.


[5]. Sheila Rowbotham, Women, resistance and revolution: a history of women and revolution in the modern world. Verso Books, 2014.


[6]. Maxine Baca Zinn, “Political Familism: Toward Sex Role Equality in Chicano Families.” Aztlan (1975).

[7]. Hooks Bell, “Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism.” (1981).

[8]. Alma M Garcia, “The development of Chicana feminist discourse, 1970-1980.” Gender & Society 3, no. 2 (1989): 217-238.


[9]. Alma M Garcia, “The development of Chicana feminist discourse.

[10]. Martha P Cotera, “The Chicana Feminist.” (1977).

[11]. Vidal, Mirta. Women, new voice of la raza: Chicanas speak out. Pathfinder Press, 1971.

[12]. Blackwell, Maylei. “Chicana power.” Contested Histories of Feminism in the Chicano Movement (2011): 47-49.

[13]. Alma M Garcia, “The development of Chicana feminist discourse, 1970-1980.”

[14]. G. Leonard, Chicanas of 18th Street: narratives of a movement from Latino Chicago. University of Illinois Press, 2011.


[15]. Frances White, “Listening to the voices of Black feminism.” Radical America 18, no. 2-3 (1984): 7-25.

[16]. Alma M Garcia, “The development of Chicana feminist discourse, 1970-1980.”


[17]. Martha P Cotera, “The Chicana Feminist.” (1977).

[18]. Martha P Cotera,


[19]. Frances White, “Listening to the voices of Black feminism.”

  1. Alma García,Chicana feminist thought: The basic historical writings. Psychology Press, 1997.