Against the Current: Collective works on State Violence, identity and Resistance

Cover Presentation Analysis (Cont.)

This Bridge Called My Back: Radical Writings by Women of Color 

The anthology This Bridge Called My Back builds off of this goal of creating community by attempting to unify the different identities within the category of women of color. Toni Cade Bambara shares in This Bridge’s Foreword her insight on how the contemporary mainstream narrative for women of color works to keep them separated, operating on “divide and conquer tactics of this moment.”  These “divide and conquer tactics,” upheld by government, included taking resources from one minority group and transferring it to another, thus pitting these minority groups against each other (“Foreword” vii). Bambara recognizes that the challenge in unifying women of color is created by a system that draws these lines and boundaries between them. The cover of this anthology, however, complicates this notion of lines as boundaries and challenges the mainstream narrative that divides women of color by using the image of an outlined, naked woman to instead connect to one another.

The cover of This Bridge features an all red background with yellow text and line work. The main featured image on this cover is the outline of a naked woman’s body, crawling on all fours, with her head cut off by the left edge of the cover. Without recognizable facial features, the woman remains unidentifiable. However, this naked woman can be any woman of color, thus creating a unifying force around the image.

Interestingly, the body is the same color as the background around it. Moraga reflects, “If we are interested in building a movement that will not constantly be subverted by internal differences, then we must build from the insideout, not the other way around. Coming to terms with the suffering of others has never meant looking away from our own” (Moraga, “Foreword”). In this quote, the word “insideout” is combined together to form a new word in which there is no distinction between the inside and outside. Looking at the cover, one can see this phenomenon occur. The lack of distinction between the color on the inside of the naked body compared to the outside aptly mirrors this usage of the word “insideout.” What this effect does is create a sense of community in which, like Moraga says, women of color start by changing themselves internally with an honest conversation with one another.

The red color continuation into the body suggests there is no separation between the background and the outline. External and internal blend together and become one. This implies that the woman’s body is an extension of outside forces, or, in other words, external forces shape this woman. These external forces include systems of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia that work to oppress women of color and divide them.

Having to carry the weight of this burden is symbolized by the emphasis on the cover woman’s back and the placement of the text. With the hands, feet, and head cut off, the image diverts our attention on her back, chest, belly, and hips. Her stance on all four limbs and nakedness connotes the physical toll of these burdens. Moraga provides insight for the reasoning behind this image:

The materialism in this book lives in the flesh of these women’s lives: the exhaustion we feel in our bones at the end of the day, the fire we feel in our hearts when we are insulted, the knife we feel in our backs when we are betrayed, the nausea we feel in our bellies when we are afraid, even the hunger we feel between our hips when we long to be touched. (Moraga, “Preface” xviii)

The simplicity of these lines and the stark nakedness of this woman’s body highlight the woman’s flesh and vulnerability to the daily forces that oppresses her.  Thus, this cover image works to unite women of color in their vulnerability, struggle, and physical and emotional pain against systems of oppression.

Furthermore, the title text, in yellow and bold font, is placed so that it is partially being carried on the back of this naked woman.  Not only is the heaviness of the font reminiscent of the heavy burden women of color carry because of intersecting systems of oppression but it also displays the strength and tautness of this woman’s back. The back, like the title states, is essentially a bridge.  Moraga continues to say, “If the image of the bridge can bind us together, I think it does so most powerfully in the words of Donna kate Rushin, when she insists: ‘stretch or die’” (Moraga, “Foreword”). This metaphorical bridge is, again, used to unify women of color wherein the bridge acts to not only support themselves but also to connect women of color to each other.

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  1. Cover of 2nd Edition of This Bridge Called My Back