In My Opinion
Where Are All the Latina Feminists?
I have been eating up all chatter regarding Anne-Marie Slaughter, Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, and other issues and topics that affect families and women in workplace.
I have read articles upon articles, from varying points of views and have seen men and women, though mostly women, speak out about it all. I couldn’t stop speaking about it all myself, to the point where a female friend asked me, why? Why was I so mad? I defended my feelings, stating that I had been in positions during my time in the corporate world where I felt held back, where I felt limited power, where I felt I had no choice, no flexibility, where I felt helpless. I explained that I wasn’t as mad as much as I was passionate.
Suddenly however, with that one question, I felt that for a moment I had something in common with feminists, women who often speak out and protest and fight and speak out some more about issues affecting women everywhere. I grew up listening to them being called angry, crazy, lesbian, man haters.
Growing up in a male-dominated culture, and Latino household, I am used to being called angry when I express my opinions.
My father used to hit me, often times hard enough to bruise me, because I was angry and my anger was disrespectful.
An ex-boyfriend, whom I physically fought off after he tried to rape me, yelled at me as I walked away, that I was angry and had issues.
My ex-husband, who often didn’t come home for days and days while we were married, called me violent when I finally lashed out after he returned from a 3-day disappearance.
But never, have I ever seen myself as a feminist. I am not even really sure what the Spanish term for feminist is – feminista? However outspoken I may be, however courageous and bold I may come across, these traits all developed later in my lifetime. Sometime after I finally hit my father back hard enough that he never hit me again. Sometime after I stood face to face without signs of backing down upon seeing my almost rapist who thought he might intimidate me. Sometime after I walked away from my abusive marriage.
My mother, whom I did look up to for her own strength and survival of abuse, and who was a huge admirer of Gloria Steinem and Barbara Streisand (obviously not Latinas), used to say I was the strongest girl she ever knew. How much she admired my perseverance. But never have I thought of myself as a feminist.
My Latino culture views my ways as being too “gringa”. Latino men want nothing to do with me. I am a “malcriada” (ill mannered) woman, too difficult to contain, not lady-like and vulgar.
And even still, I wonder. Because as I read the articles upon articles of feminists speaking out against the decisions and statements from Mayer and Sandberg, I notice that none of them are written by women like me. As a matter of fact, I failed to really find any article written by a Latina (other than myself) on this issue. My friend Carolyn Edgar, a single mom and attorney, who is also black, was the only other woman of color I saw taking this topic on.
Is it because the women we are talking about (Slaughter, Sandberg, and Mayer) - and often talk about - are just rich, white, executives? Is it because as immigrants and people of color, many of us with low incomes and lack of higher education, these issues don’t and probably never will apply to us? Is it because we have bigger fish to fry as a community of color, than to be worrying about having it all, telecommuting or “leaning in”?
Is it because to see ourselves as feminists, we stand to risk more than just being compared to trying to be like the white, American woman- we also stand to be ostracized by our cultural community or risk being seen as angry black women – an even harder and scarier pill to swallow?
I don’t know if I am a feminist. Some may say that I am. That my voice and my opinions and my actions prove it so, but I would say I was just trying to survive. I was just fighting back, because sometimes, when faced with enough abuse something just snaps, and you do. There were no voices of oppressed white women helping to guide my way out. If there are Latina feminists concerned about more than just “minority” (immigrant, health, etc.) focused issues, where were they this week? Or have we just not caught up to our white, American counterparts enough to even share their problems?
When it comes to work-life balance issues and women in the workplace, do Latina feminists even have a voice?