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I will examine how gender based violence negatively affects the mental health/overall well being of Latinx women, and how there is hope for healing due to strength within Latinx women. I will support this by using the impact of domestic abuse on Cleófilas in “Woman Hollering Creek” by Sandra Cisneros, and “Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza” by Gloria Anzadua. I want to analyze how each woman responded to these events, how violence impacted their mental health, and what they did to move forward in their lives.
Gloria Anzadua’s Borderlands shows that there is hope, and resilience instilled in Latinx women. Anzaldua writes that in the borderlands, one can live with all marginalized identities and become something new and powerful. For Latinx women, this may look like being bicultural, being queer, or being a survivor. Holding all of these identities at once can make you susceptible to overlapping systems of oppression, but Anzaldua states that we must change our thinking around this. “A massive uprooting of dualistic thinking in the individual and collective consciousness is the beginning of a long struggle, but one that could, in our best hopes, bring us to the end of rape, of violence, of war”. By changing the way people think about the way identities intersect as one exists could lead to the end of violence against women. Living in the borderlands can be a tiresome place to live. While there may be rejection, pain, and fear in expressing all of your identities there is also freedom, resistance, and joy. Anzaldúa writes that one cannot ever choose which parts one wants to express, and which ones one wants to hide. They all exist at the same time and follow you everywhere you go. There is power in this, and there is power in being a Latinx woman and a survivor.
In “Woman Hollering Creek,” Cleófilas comes to the United States to marry Juan Pedro. Juan Pedro abuses Cleófilas, but because of societal expectations, Cleófilas feels trapped. Survivors can have many different responses to violence, and I will analyse Cleófilas’s response. In the article, “Literary Representations of Battered Women: Spectacular Domestic Punishment” Restuccia and Frances wrote about how Cleofilas responds to the violence with muteness. Cleófilas ‘sits mute beside [the men’s] conversation,’ waiting, nodding in agreement, politely grinning and laughing at the appropriate moments — is now the stuff of the narrator’s narrative, which has become, for the purpose, omniscient. The negative effect Juan Pedro’s abuse had on Clefilas’s wellneing is evident. Cleofilas felt like her voice was taken away from her, and felt unable to stand up to this abusive man. Restuccia and Frances introduce a concept that applies to many domestic abuse survivors called “the loving stage.” “She seems to be aware, for example, of what Lenore Walker in The Battered Woman calls the ‘loving stage’ (phase three), in which batterers endearingly seek forgiveness.” “The loving stage” and muteness often go hand in hand. Cleofilas still cared about Juan Pedro, even though he was violent towards her. “After every beating, she silently ‘stroked the dark curls of the man who wept and would weep like a child, his tears of repentance and shame’. In society, even after a man hurts a woman, women are often still expected to nurture and love them. This is very dangerous. Cleófilas felt she could not leave her situation because she fears the ‘whispering’ and ‘murmur of talk’ in both towns, the social ‘disgrace’ that would attend her return to her father’s house. It is clear that what other people thought affected the way that Cleofilas viewed herself as a wife, an immigrant, and a mother. If these damaging expectations and social norms did not exist, perhaps Cleofilas would have felt empowered to act sooner.
In conclusion, the normalization of women being beaten by their boyfriends/husbands often contributes to the way survivors view themselves and their situations. While printing this information in the newspapers does bring awareness, there are also challenges presented with this. Far too many times, these men face zero consequences and women like in “Woman Hollering Creek” are keeping silence even when being under violence regularly. Reading this paper may help some survivors feel as though they are not alone, but it also turns these strong women into nameless, faceless, statistics. Having a newspaper publish this information can cause public shame and cause women like Cleofilas to feel trapped and ashamed.
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