It is easy to understand why the men in my family say things like: las mujeres son las amas de casa. The men in my family benefit from exploiting this machista perspective, in a lot of ways. They pretend that we have dominance over house duties, by calling us “amas” but we are given no choice but to tend to house duties.
I will also say that machismo is a not just a Latinx problem, I have seen the way some women in the South perpetuate these same models. I stand by this statement despite some who think that vilifying our culturas is the answer to anything.
I however was always extraordinarily hurt and blown away when my mami perpetuated this patriarchal mentality. And I remember seeing my little sister’s hurt eyes as she turned to my mom and said: why do I have to do this and not my brother? To which my mom would say: this is just the way it is. I remember seeing that hurt, because she was just realizing how shitty it was – I had grown accustomed to it. I had grown numb to it and if it weren’t for her I might have passed that down to another generation. These responses that are given to young girls are given with such little care, but also the robotic response of generational silencing, that I was jolted that day. I was brought back, and reminded how shitty it was. I was brought back to life!
But I wonder, because to singlehandedly blame my mami for this mentality – this horizontal violence she inflicted upon me and my sister – is too simple. When the hashtag #maybehedoesnthityou went viral, all I could think about was my mami. I shed tears for my mami, and for my brother’s wife. My mami and dad have managed to pass these very same patterns to my brother, and he has blindly begun to be that terrible partner my dad has been to his wife. Yet, interestingly enough they both are proud mujeres who walk with their heads held high because they somehow feel good about their situations. And then I started thinking and I remember an episode on Law & Order that mentioned Stockholm Syndrome, where victims of kidnapping feel some sort of love or sympathy for their kidnapper. It is a sort of survival instinct, but also a highly fucked way of relating to this person who is clearly not treating you like they love you but rather taking ownership of you; so your mind rewrites love to mean that fucked ownership dynamic. I thought, well my mom has not been kidnapped, but she has a weird sentimental value to this sexist relationship/marriage which she perpetuates to her daughters like it is the word of God. Oh wait, because in church these values are also blindly taught, especially our childhood tradition that stemmed from the Church of Christ denomination.
So my mother essentially has traumatic bonding with sexism, and the church has somehow put a divine label of duty over this shitty way of raising girls and treating men. Accepting this as someone who was raised within these sexist expectations is harder than you’d imagine. But once I got to the point where I could say it, I knew that coming to my mami, who has never worked a job in her life and depends financially on my dad, would be violent of me also. So, what now? Stay silent? Write for other women to see how fucked up it is to keep your girls suffocating in sexist duties ordained by God? Say nothing to my mom while I hold intention in my own relationships?
I don’t know, I took a lot of ethics classes in my graduate school course, but none of those books can give me the answers to deal with this real life example. All I know is that my papi does not hit my mami, but my mami is a survivor of an abusive relationship, and her sense of duty keeps her in it, her traumatic bonding allows her to justify it, and I just wish I could save her from it. But then again, is there any real saving in a patriarchal society? Look at American politics today, where we have a president-elect who spews hatred and vitriol, admits to sexually assaulting women, and he can do and say all that because he is a man, a very wealthy white man. When people ask people of color, specifically WOMEN of color, to pick the side of peace and love they are asking us to create a traumatic bond with a violent and awful man – and unfortunately it is a script so many of us know and it is a script we have normalized. To all that I say: Hell No.