On the surface the short story Woman Hollering Creek is a story about a woman and her escape from her abusive husband, but it has another message underneath about feminism. It has a pro feminism message shown through the backstory of the main character and her interaction with the character Felice. The message is important because it could help a lot of women out who are in similar positions as the main character in this book. The message shows these women that they shouldn’t allow themselves to be completely dominated by men and they need to break free and live their own lives. The strongest example of this book being about feminism is when Cleofilas has her meeting with Felice who is the perfect feminist woman. Felice is independent, has her own truck, and is free to do what she wants whenever she wants. She is remarked as an amazing woman by Cleofilas immediately following her appearance in the book. Despite Felice only being in the book for the last few pages her character presents a major contrast to Cleofilas who has always been rules over by men never having a strong female role model and suddenly here is her first glimpse into another lifestyle.
The main character grew up in a household that was not exactly built to help her succeed. Her family is described by one character as her father “having a head like a burro and six clumsy brothers” (Cisneros 45). Her father is the one who married her off to this man who they barely knew and who turns out to be this monster that we see in the book. This household was in charge of her wellbeing and to teach her how the world works the good parts and the bad but instead Cleofilas describes her treatment as “A little leniently as an only daughter, the princess” (Cisneros 47). She was raised with a very naïve idea of how the world works because of her brothers / father treating her like a princess. She described her first beating as “The first time she had been so surprised she didn’t cry out and defend herself. She had always said she would strike back if a man were to strike her. But when the moment came, and he slapped her once, and then again until her lip split and bled an orchid of blood, she didn’t fight back” (Cisneros 47). She shows her naivety in this paragraph by believing she would fight back if she was ever abused but growing up as a princess she is so shocked to be met with violence that she ends up too shocked to even cry let alone fight back. This is a pretty standard response to have when someone who has never met with violence encounters it for the first time. Her family raised her in such a sheltered environment she wasn’t prepared for abuse from a husband and probably didn’t even consider it a possibility when she married Juan Pablo. If she had a mother it might’ve been different because as remarked by one of her friends Cleofilas is “without a mother to advise her on things like the wedding night, poor girl” (Cisneros 45). What this quote implies is a mother is supposed to give their daughter guidance for the tough things that can shock a young woman like their first sexual experience but also married life in general. The con artist Juan Pablo may have been able to fool the idiotic father but a mother would have seen through his bullshit or at least been able to prepare Cleofilas for the possibility of her new husband being a scumbag.
Near the end of the book we meet a character who stood out as the Ideal women according to feminism, she is independent, free to do whatever she wants, and even helps empower other women. Felice was very easy for me to identify as a feminist character because she is presented as a complete contrast to Cleofilas and ends up swooping in like a hero and rescuing Cleo from her terrible male dominated life. Cleofilas describes her to the reader as “everything about this woman amazed Cleofilas. The fact that she drove a pickup, a pickup mind you, but when Cleofilas asked if it was her husband’s she said she didn’t have a husband. The pickup was hers and she herself had chosen it and was paying for it” (Cisneros 55). Cleofilas meets her for only a few minutes and already admires her so much, this is the author telling us that this is how women should be and that women should look up to and aspire to be like her. We get some insight into Felice’s ideals when she says “Did you ever notice that nothing around here is named after a woman, unless it’s the virgin, I guess you’re only famous if you are a virgin” (Cisneros 55). In this quote it is implied that Felice is either not a virgin or at least resents the fact that women are only valued if they still have their virginity. This view is a more modern idea than what would’ve been common for traditional families during the time/area that this story takes place in. Felice is a modern woman in a time when that was a rarity and that combined with her apparent success and Cleo’s extreme failures makes her stand out as a creation by the author to insert a feminist message at the end of the book.
The book makes it very apparent that a woman growing up without a mother’s guidance will run into trouble when they are faced with problems that are generally unique to females. The author is also very blatant with their use of the character Felice as a feminist stand in who rescues the main character from domestic violence which according to this quote from a web article about feminism and abuse “Feminist theory aims to understand and combat violence against women” (Feminism 101) explains that this is a major goal for feminists. Both of these are examples of feminism being a recurring theme in this book and how it can have positive effects on women. I would like to clarify that my analysis of the feminist messages in this book are not a criticism of feminism itself I am merely trying to point out their existence.