As this essay on “Revolt of the Cockroach People" by Oscar Zeta Acosta discusses, women figure prominently in Acosta’s, “Revolt of the Cockroach People" although hardly in the sense that one might expect in a semi-autobiographical account of the turbulent Chicano Power movement. In “Revolt of the Cockroach People", women are merely the supporters, the mourners, and most of all, the concubines to their men in arms. Aside from the stated roles of women in “Revolt of the Cockroach People", Acosta barely mentions the powerful women who worked behind scenes to further the cause and those that are mentioned are only described in over-sexualized terms that devalue their actions or contributions to the movement.

Throughout “Revolt of the Cockroach People", even the most vicious revolutionary woman is not truly present or vital without her sexuality and this emphasis on feminine features (as opposed to female actions) takes precedence in his descriptions. To Acosta, these revolutionary women are, as he put it in one of the important quotes from “Revolt of the Cockroach People" not so much revolutionaries but, “Girls with long mascara-eyes, long black hair done up chola style, with tight asses and full blouses bursting out with song" (Acosta 12).

While their enthusiasm is apparent with the images of their breasts bursting with song—with something to say, they are nonetheless marginalized. In a particularly powerful moment, well before the reader has had a chance to comprehend Acosta in all of his chauvinistic glory, Gloria Chavez enters into the church and begins bashing and ranting. Without a doubt this is one of the most aggressive revolutionary acts present in the book, yet the description of this event is strangely devoid of the heroism that marks the conquests of males.

Consider Acosta’s description of Gloria Chavez as she “charges down the aisle in a black satin dancing dress that shows her beautiful knockers and she carries a golf club in her pretty hands… Her big zoftig ass shakes as she rushes up to the altar" (Acosta 18). Instead of giving the reader the opportunity to fully grasp the moment, to realize just how powerful such an act, the image and meaning is clouded by Playboy-esque description of her attire, her breasts, and her buttocks. She has become a cartoon, she is no longer real, she is incredibly sexy and dangerous—but in that role her act loses its potency. For Acosta, women are simply scenery, forming a pretty and sometimes raucous background to the cowboy-and-Indian revolt of the males.

The idea that women are merely either caricatures of women (impossibly large breasts or illegally young and sex-crazed) compliments the protagonist’s elevated sense of self and hyper-masculine bravado. “The pomposity and self-centeredness of Acosta’s protagonists are components of the satire directed at the idea of the Chicano warrior-hero. Acosta inflates the egos of Oscar and Brown at least as much as he exaggerates their bodily characteristics. What becomes clear to the reader and drives this thesis statement about the representation of women in the novel home is the extent to which such self-important male figures are dependent on the subordination of women and gay men" (Hames-Garcia 465).

In order to create this ego, Brown looks to media to confirm and create his sense of male identity. For instance, when Brown discusses his reason for getting fired from his job he states, “What they really fired me for was my name. Buffalo Zeta Brown. General Zeta was the hero of an old movie classic, La Cucaracha.A combination of Zapata and Villa with Maria Felix as the femme fatale" (Acosta 37). This is the stereotypical image that plagues the entirety of Revolt of the Cockroach People. All the men are cowboys; fearless and confident they strut around and the ladies, as is their duty in this male-created fantasy, come flocking.

Later in the text when Buffalo Zeta Brown meets the underage girls he again projects himself into this television-inspired cowboy drama. “They saw me on TV and decided to come down and join the revolution. Isn’t that how the women did it when Zapata and Villa took to the hills? Isn’t that the way young girls are supposed to do" (Acosta 86)? By this point in the book, women’s role in the revolution has been entirely forgotten and the only females the reader has contact with are women who fall under Brown’s approving eye. It should also be stated that by this time in the novel, Brown has really found himself in that cowboy fantasy and is just playing the part. His speech and memories are no longer grounded in the hard times growing up and he no longer laments about being fat or unloved. This is a new and improved Brown, simply because he has the force of his male fantasy propelling him forward.