Female Sexuality and Self Development in Chicana Culture
Eysturoy (1996) points out that studies of women's sexuality related to Chicana culture have focused on the quest "for authentic female self development." She notes that this process involves environment and psychological factors combined, and involves "coming to terms with multiple social and cultural forces" in addition to coming to terms with internal and external issues that often impede Chicana women from realizing "individuation" or understanding their sense of individual self (77).
The author notes that a recurrent theme in much of Chicana literature centers on the evolvement of a child into an older women, and that in fact a majority of the literature related to Chicana women focus on the process of self development that is not just a search for identity, but rather a method for engaging Chicana readers and exploring or articulating a process that will ultimately lead to the awakening of the female lead in a work (Eysturoy, 1996). This process is often seen as a means to inspire Chicana women in their rite of passage.
Other narratives and works focused on Chicana women that focus on older rather than younger women tend to be according to Eysturoy, more "confessional in nature" suggesting that a Chicana women as she grows old must re-examine their past heavily in order to arrive at a better understanding of her female self, both as an individual and as a sexual being.
The focus of much of Chicana works seem to be an emergence of the self via interactions with oneself and the world at large according to many. The path toward self development and definition for many Chicana women is often portrayed as connected to the process of creation (Eysturoy, 1996). This is perhaps the result of a new movement toward feminism and self recognition for Chicana women.
Chicana women have for some time faced masculine domination and the notion that women are weak passive and should be dependent on men for their livelihood and to find meaning in life (Canut et. al, 1993). This sentiment is evidenced by many Chicana women who believe that their sexuality in some respect in the past has condemned them by enslaving them to men, and this very act of enslavement often lead to self-hatred (Cantu, et. al, 2003). To find their sense of self and personal identity, Chicana women often have to first overcome the myth or notion that they are in some way inferior in part because they are women (Canut, 1993). That is why much of the literature aimed at Chicana women attempts to liberalize them by freeing them from oppressive roles handed down by a patriarchal society (Cantu, et. al, 1993).
Women have for years in the Chicana culture been subject to the concept that they should be barefoot and pregnant, subordinated and under-appreciated, resulting in a lack of unit between men and women (Vidal, 1972:31). This is an old belief that perhaps has led to some suppression of women's sense of sexuality and self-worth.
Martinez (2002) points out that Sandra Cisneros adequately captures the image of a Chicana looking to discover her sexuality and own path in her work, "The House on Mango Street." In this work the author portrays the Chicana woman as someone who stares out of a window, waiting inside locked doors for their spouses to return or for something extraordinary to occur within the course of a day (Martinez, 2002). Women are images of what many Chicana women see their reality to be ... A life where they do not initiate their own lives and do not get to chose their own spouses, a life where they do not get to choose whether or not they have sex or get pregnancy, and are for the most part considered 'bad girls' (Martinez, 2002).
This book however like many others takes on the standpoint however that this method of existence is not acceptable, that women need to create her own path and her own sexual choices. There is much urging among the Chicana community for females, whether characters in novels or in real life to make their own sexual choices and "control their erotic fantasies" (Martinez, 2002).
The modern Chicana woman does not find shame or disappointment to herself, and does not feel the need to marry to find respect within her culture. Rather she is independent, strong and sexually alive (Martinez, 2002). The later depictions of Chicana's show characters acting on their own sexual desires and determining how their lives should be structured, without the help of masculine role models (Martinez, 2002).
In fact, the Chicana woman as a sexual being can best be described as 'blossoming.' As Martinez (2002) points out, recent portrayals of women as intellectuals in control of their destiny and in control of their sexual desires and experiences act as a metaphor for the real life actions of feminism within the Chicana culture (Martinez, 2002).
More and more Chicana's, particularly those living in the United States, are "deconstructing the traditional and patriarchal roles" and using their bodies as a means of sexual expression (Martinez, 2002). IN literature this is reflected metaphorically by social and sexual interaction that occurs between the sexes, where the female body is now seen as the primary focus, something that needs to be recognized in order for the Chicana woman to realize her true sense of self and ability in the world.
The primary intent of this research is to determine how sexuality is represented among Chicana women, and the extent to which Chicana women recognize their sense of self and sexuality as members of society. As part of this research a qualitative investigation is carried out. Qualitative research is appropriate for identifying patterns and themes that are emerging from given phenomena. As part of this research the researcher interviewed two members of Chicana descent to determine what their opinions were regarding sexuality, and how their opinions co-aligned or differed from the material gathered from the literature review.
The primary method of data collection was a review of the literature available on Chicana women and sexuality, with specific emphasis on examining how Chicana women have been represented both in real life and in the literature. Very often, one can determine what the primary beliefs are about a society or subject by reviewing works of fiction as well as works of non-fiction written about a particular group of society.
The evidence collected from the literature review was combined with information gathered from the interviews so that scientifically and well thought out conclusions could be drawn with regard to how Chicana women view their sexuality and role in the world.
It was difficult acquiring information on Chicana women as their have been relatively few studies that directly examine sexuality related to Chicana women. A majority of the studies that have been conducted related sexuality in terms of fictional stories about Chicana women, which are supposed to metaphorically represent what actually goes on in society.
The information gathered from this research project indicates that the role of Chicana women is changing. I found it most interesting that more and more Chicana women are using their sexuality as a means of expressing themselves. A feminist movement aimed at supporting the self-worth and importance of women in society seems to be adopted among a majority of Chicana women in society today. This movement is reflected in the literature as much as it is reflected in the every day actions of Chicana women.
Historically the literature review reveals that in the past women's sexuality and sense of self or self-worth has been repressed (Aldama, 2003; Canut, 1993). The literature reveals that many women of Chicana descent grew up in a patriarchal society that emphasized the role of women as caregiver and wife, not as an independent and even sexual being (Dicochea, 2004). This attitude, while still common in many works of fiction and among many women of Chicana descent is slowing changing as women are starting to realize their true power and the influence they may have on society as contributing, sexual, independent and important women.
Interviews of Chicana women show that Chicana women are no longer adopting the attitude that they need to be subservient to men. Chicana women are more and more on the question for their sense of self and self-identity, a fact supported by information gathered from the literature review. As pointed out in the literature review, many older women of Chicana descent still fall victim to the ideal or notion that they hold a role in society that is less important than or subservient to men. However younger Chicana women are adopting a new attitude, one that promotes exploration of ones sexuality and sense of self.
The Chicana women interviewed confirmed that they are growing and learning, and coming to a place in life where they recognize that they are powerful, and that there sexuality can…