The Feminist Before Feminism
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Politics and Activism

The Feminist Before Feminism

"I don't study to know more, but to ignore less"

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The Feminist Before Feminism

The fight for rights has become significant easier because of the era we now live in. Before anyone tells me otherwise, imagine being an advocate in another time. One could've been killed for speaking their thoughts. In some way, that is still possible yet my initial point was that it's less complicated to express views on a topic.

In honor of Women's History Month, I'd like to praise an extraordinary person who stood up for women's rights in a time where women were expected to be obedient to their fathers and, eventually, husbands: Sor Juana Inés De La Crúz.

The first time I heard this name was sometime around my Sophmore year of high school, in a Spanish class (Spanish language and literature): A self-taught scholar, whose intellect swept everyone off their feet from an early age; a nun; a poet; an icon of Mexican history; an advocate for women's rights. Quite an awe-inspiring combination, if you ask me.

Sor (Sister in Spanish) Juana was motivated by her interests in studying and writing, rather than religious reasons. She joined first the Carmelites in Mexico City and was forced to leave and join the Jeronymite order, which was better because it was less demanding. She spent the rest of her life here and wrote unlimited by genre: comedy, poetry, dramatic, Christmas carols, allegorical essays, and the list goes on.

One of her most notable themes was highlighting the power of women, defending them. A famous poem of hers, "Hombres Necios" (Of Foolish Men), is an example, for she accuses men of illogically criticizing women. Her most iconic poem, on the other hand, "Primero Sueño" (First Dream), recounts the quest for knowledge on a personal and universal aspect.

With her acclaim, so did her disapproval from the church: A bishop, with a pseudonym of a nun, published a critique of Juana Inés, in an attempt to convince her to focus on religious studies rather than secular. To which, she responded brilliantly that “one can perfectly well philosophize while cooking supper.”

Recently, I binge-watched a Netflix original series inspired by her life and it made me want to read all her work. It's called Juana Inés and it's only a season, 7 episodes. It's definitely worth watching through one sitting. I wish I could've taken that class more seriously, for I would've had knowledge of this amazing women back then. Sor Juana Inés is unfortunately overshadowed by so many other figures that are fighting for the same cause. It should be the other way round: She defended women's right when there were no such terms as "feminism". She should be profoundly praised.

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