This year has been a very strange year of discovering what I like about writing, and what I do not like about writing. For example, I absolutely love to write in noisy spaces. Noisy spaces are where people gossip. It’s like watching fireworks in a San Fernando Valley back alley – spectacularly familiar and unpredictable.
I am finding it more difficult to write about things that I don’t relate to: like an A-typical family where the man is the head of the home, the mother is at stay at home mom, and the children fall into the 2.5 ratio. I mean, that just wasn’t my reality. I think it is no longer a lot of people’s realities. It doesn’t make me happy to write this, unless it’s to prove a point.
Lately, I have noticed that when I sit down to write – the stories that pour out of me are mostly about women struggles. Specifically women of color, and women with an immigrant background. This is because it reflects my reality and my personal journey. When I write about this, it comes out like a soft song. Sometimes it’s coherent, sometimes it’s just fragments – but I know that’s what it is. It’s me trying to grab onto my voice, my style, my inner power.
I feel as though a lot of women have been silenced and trapped into a corner of the house because of religious and traditional roles. These roles are still valued in our Latin@ communities. It’s history and realities engulf me when I am in family gatherings. I am constantly defending why I have yet to get married or have children. Being in a woman in your thirties, in a predominantly Latino family, is a task.
Once, my mother laughed at me when my boyfriend said I did “not cook enough” for him at home. He was trying to be funny, but he wasn’t trying to be funny. He and I were not jiving that day, and I believe his comment stemmed out of our earlier arguments. It was his jab to me that night. I may be wrong, but that’s what it felt like.
It was an awkward situation. My mother gets told to cook all the time by my younger brother and stepfather. She has felt those pressures and the judgement from other women in her family too. Her laughing at me, was both uncomfortable and sad. I was sad for the both of us because in that moment patriarchy took over our conversation and we didn’t challenge it, we bowed to it by succumbing to what it meant to cook for a man. Let’s talk about it: love, devotion, and etc. etc. etc.
Why should that have to be a factor? And why that task not placed upon the male figure as well? Is my value as a partner only as good as my cooking routine? And what of my mother? She escapes every now and then to go to school, to do some odd jobs. She does it to give herself a little bit of freedom from my stepfather’s paychecks. I know she also longs to detach herself from the stay at home mom role and value system, so why laugh at me? Why not say: “Well maybe it’s because you haven’t cooked for her in a while. When is the last time you showed how devoted you are to my daughter?” Was she laughing at herself too? Or maybe she was laughing at all Latinas as if saying: “Hey guess what? You’re in your thirties now. Pop them babies and put on that apron. Either way you look at it, that’s how your success is valued from here on out.” But women do this, we shoot ourselves down all the time.
I don’t like this. I don’t want to do this. I refuse this.
The more I focus on what women do in order to succeed in LIFE, the more I notice that these inequalities affect the way women relate to each other. In the process of comparing our sizes, what we cook for our man, how well we dress at events, when we should get married, and blah blah blah – I don’t think I’ve ever been taught to stop, look, and listen to other women. Why are we taught to mistrust each other?
This morning I spoke with a religious family member of male gender. In his eyes, I was not being Christian enough. In his point of view, my value as a woman of faith seems lost and therefore, I may not be able to contribute towards x, y, z. I will confess, that I may seem lost at times, but that’s besides the point. My relationship with my faith is none of his business. In fact, I was appalled by his need to break things down to me, as if I had not hear a sermon before. Being raised in a Christian church, I can tell you I remember the laws of the book. I may not be able to recite verbatim, but I know what Love is.
I realized, that Latinas like me, who are in their early thirties, who have chosen to not have a family, who are focusing on their education and careers – can be seen as failures or selfish. I will not blanket the entire American population (and when I say American I mean North and South, because guess what the South is also AMERICA). I know for a fact that progress is bettering the realities for a lot of people all over the world. This morning, however, I felt slightly mistreated. It felt like yet again, I was being confronted with patriarchy. Not the word of God, but Patriarchy.
I wonder how all these years the Christianity and similar faiths like it, have been used to give power to the son, the male, the one to inherit the land. It felt like, for a moment, I was being told that I am not enough for God. Again, I don’t know how that’s any of your business. My puzzling gaze towards his comments ended the conversation. I had no words. I just nodded, and felt as if once again I wasn’t doing enough to challenge this Patriarchy.
I grew up believing the following: (1) Man is made in the image of God, (2) women would not be here were it not for man giving us a rib, (3) women bit the apple, so it’s our fault there is suffering, (4) the pain of childbirth and our moon cycles are punishments for this betrayal. Is it for this reason, the man believes he can speak down to a woman? That men are raised to believe their word is final? I call BS. Whatever it is you think God is, God may not be that for me. I may be wrong about it all, but you also may be wrong about it all. Either way, I don’t believe that super power over the feminine figure (body, mind and spirit) was in Jesus’ mind when he died for us.
My voice and writing is becoming clearer. I am not interested in your patriarchy.
Note: I am discussing something that is more of a personal experience and relatable to me as a Latina Immigrant myself. I focus on a heterosexual relationship when writing about family roles.