by Mariana Aguilera, @thedemureista
Experience speaks loud and clear. I'm not here to shame the men in my life or play victim because at one time in my life I felt I was right in all my decisions. Instead, I am here to tell you about my worst enemy, a male chauvinistic mentality, and how everyday I am trying to defeat it with gradual changes. If I could name one thing I've done that has slowed down women around me and myself in attaining personal growth and achieving goals, it is my male chauvinistic mentality. My life's struggle: 'juggling to be a woman and a man at the same time'. Don't be that woman because you don't have to and if you find yourself to be, just stop. You have the right to be you.
It's no secret that women have been fighting for equal humane rights in an environment with deceptive notions on genders. It is also no secret that this false notion on what is considered masculinity--being authoritative, aggressive, men predujice and considered weak at any sign of human emotion to using these characteristics to suppress the humanity in others is a real thing. That was me. And sadly there are quite a few of us out there and not easily ready to admit that in ourselves, but why should we? It is something that just as it creeped-in, it will catch up to our natural humanity.
Latino culture varies in terms of gender roles due to many factors, but the environment I grew up as a Latina was surrounded with an interesting mix of 'machismo'. The struggle between genders for me dates to my childhood and probably like many other women out there always starting with questions like why can my brother do this or that? "because he's a boy". I say interesting mix of 'machismo' because for one part I felt anger at the deprivation of opportunities, but from the other side I felt empowered to change my circumstances--take that play mix into my entire life on repeat mode.
From one side, I happily danced to music that demeaned women but from another side I felt uncomfortable of how they were portrayed, but danced on. I tended to credit men more when they spoke versus women because I considered men to be rational thinkers and women to be emotional thinkers with an intuitive sixth sense, I categorized women into two: good girl, bad girl. I watched some of the women in my life bend their backs and eat last to serve the men in a servitude vs. a complimenting way. Now, that I stand in a different position, I want to say more humanely one, I clearly see them still elating the men over women, validating more what my brother has to say over my own testimony, still expecting the women to hold up good and excuse in a laughing manner the men simply under the excuse of 'they are men and boys will be boys'. I still hear my girlfriends excuse their boyfriends for cheating because a man has needs and bullying themselves to exceed as a woman and man. One side of me while growing up rebelled against these notions by making opposite extreme decisions out of frustration that at times made my father angry. At other times when expressing my thoughts, some of the women in my family thought I was delusional. Many times ending up asking myself, why don't they see what I see? Without knowing, I was fighting hard towards my own place in humanity, but also without knowing, I was forming my own enemy that instead of allowing me to move forward it was slowing me down and crushing other women in my way. It was reinforcing the wrong side of the battle that we have been fighting for the last century.
Throughout growing up, there were those notions that part of me fought and part of me accepted. I say fought because there was something uncomfortable about them, but I still went on to carry such actions. I am talking about shaming myself for being weak, going to the bathroom to cry so not to show my emotions to anyone, shaming other women(yup!), praising and elating men over women or just elating them, being authoritative upon others in unhealthy manners along with other actions. This cultural false notion of what is to be a woman and a man leads to destruction in others. These type of actions creeped up on me as I developed into adulthood, but like all excessive things, it caught on to me.
The first book I remembering buying into trying to understand genders was 'Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus'--ya! I know what you're thinking, don't say it outloud. It was the struggle that tired me out to be honest! I just felt complexed between what I lived and what I really thought. Perhaps, when we supress some characteristics of our human nature, the body and mind also get worned out. My first realization into coming to real terms with genders as plain humans was in my search of spirituality and my new founded faith, Islam--probably the key to unleash my real thoughts on genders because it was wild after that and it started in my own home cooking when I felt like it for adult males that can do for themselves and standing strong against my brother's tantrum of me not bringing him a fork when he asked for it.
It's hard to spot ourselves in this mentality, but as I started with the help of my spirituality and wonderful and inspiring women out there trying to bring light to the situation and the powerful women throughout my life, for the last 10 years, I have been working hard to unwire myself from this conditioned male chauvinistic mentality and embrace who I am. Not an easy process and I still have ways to go, but it has to be done in order to change the future of our daughters and sons unbalanced views of gender to simply knowing we're humans with the same emotions and we can both be assertive, have rational thinking and cry, basically as I recently learned, our human core is the same. My change in mentality has opened array of potential within me but has also changed the way I view other women.
By having a more humanely view on genders it called to embrace all women and view them in a their own light of full range of human characteristics and potential not constrictive to false notions of femininity, but just see them as them. This constructive change in mentality also doesn't mean holding hands and singing Kumbaya(we are humans with personalities) nor forming a women army and hate men, but to gradually change ourselves from re-enacting destructive male chauvinistic behavior that helps both women and men shed against false notions of gender expectations to something natural and healthier for our selves and our relationships.
Written by Mariana A.
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