When I first considered creating a column about being a feminist, I didn’t know where to start. I was unsure as to how I would actually approach this incredibly delicate issue. Yes, I am a feminist, and I am proud of it, but I am also so much more. I don’t allow the title of feminist to define me, in the same way I don’t allow the term Latina to define me, and the same way I don’t allow woman to define me. I am multifaceted; as a first generation American, as well as a member of the LGBT community, there is no way that I could fit into just one mold. In any case, I wouldn’t ever allow it.
So why devote an entire column to feminism? The short version is that out of all of the pervasive issues in our society, feminism is one I feel the most connected to. I was raised in part by an unintentional misogynist, but I was also raised by a strong woman who offset the views of her helplessly ignorant partner. My dad wasn’t aware that his views were oppressive towards women; to him his views came from an old school state of thought, and there was nothing wrong with them. It was the way he grew up. It was the way his entire family grew up. In the Latino culture, it is a given that men are just more superior to women. There are no questions, if, ands, or buts about it. The wife cooks for her husband, cleans for him, and bears his children, and is supposed to do so with pleasure. And when she one day is lucky enough to have a daughter, the very special privilege of cooking and cleaning for the patriarch is passed down as a strange rite of passage.
It was at a young age that the tiny seed of feminism was planted into my soul from watching the power struggle between my parents. I had the sinking feeling something was just not right. It’s difficult to say which exact moment triggered me to become a feminist. I think there were several different moments over the span of many, many years. I became defiant when my chores included doing laundry for everyone in the house, I became disappointed at my mom when she reluctantly abided to my dad’s wishes, and I never wanted to cook for them – or for myself, really (something I still don’t enjoy). With my every defiant move, there was a declaration made by my father insisting that I “would never be able to find a husband.” Which, of course, was never actually my intention.
There is still so much machismo rampant in the Latin-American community, and my dad sometimes still does not treat me the way he treats my brothers. Even though by all accounts, I am a fully functioning adult who is doing significantly better at twenty-six than he was doing at the same age. My younger brothers both have very strong opinions on feminism, just like me, only that when they speak, he listens a bit more. It has definitely gotten better. He no longer objectifies women, not in front of me at least, and he respects me as a person. Because of my culture, I was just supposed to go along with the machismo and accept it as a part of our lives. But I didn’t, and nothing bad happened to me, or to my precious culture.
We should be more willing to open up about the issues of feminism. We need to stop closing our eyes and ears to problems that affect both our women and our men. We need to quit thinking of feminism as “man-hating,” or something that only bra-burning hippies are interested in. There are so many situations that demand feminism, yet some women still hesitate to call themselves the F-word out of fear of being ostracized by their peers. Why is there such a stigma associated with feminism? The fact that some are afraid to even use the F-word tells us that we have a long way to go. Feminists do not hate men. I certainly don’t. I could never hate men when I have two brothers that I love unconditionally and see as an extension of myself. In fact, I can acknowledge when men are treated unfairly as well, such as the systematic bias of a legal system that favors mothers over fathers during custody battles. The point isn’t the hating of men, the point is the fair treatment of all humans that share this planet.
In other words, yes, I will often discuss feminist issues, but I won’t stop there. I will also often discuss equal rights for all. My work at a nonprofit is committed to ending the stigma associated with mental illness, drug abuse, and homelessness. I will also talk about the limbo between being an American, and being the daughter of immigrants. In other words, I will rant a whole lot.