May 20, 2015
By Mara Potter
In high school, I was mocked for my dyed hair, stylish wardrobe, and female friends; hiding behind my textbooks in school was barely enough to avoid confrontation with the jocks.
Even with all that, the hardest part was at home.
So that I understood where I stood as a Hispanic male at home, my father enrolled me in “manly” activities like soccer, baseball, and taekwondo. I knew that wasn’t for me. I gravitated toward more stereotypically feminine roles, cooking, cleaning, and running the household, which felt natural because I am the oldest of three.
I was raised knowing a Hispanic man should have “machismo,” he must be the great provider of the family, and must embody masculinity and dominance. My sisters were raised to be “marianismo,” which is to be loving, religious, and dedicated to running the household.
Recently, my Hispanic parents have strayed from the traditional Latino gender roles, which could be due to the progressive atmosphere in Seattle since the years I’ve been here attending the UW.
When Hispanics migrate to a new country like the United States, they bring their culture with them. The Hispanic community has very strong traditional gender roles. For Hispanic families in the United States, life is very challenging, but the children are the ones being brought to a new country, where gender roles and traditions are completely different. The Latino community tends to police gender roles according to more conventional values, reinforcing a binary system, but this is slowly changing.
“Women do not stay at home anymore,” said Norma Ramirez, UW College Assistance Migrant Program adviser. “Latino males are now adopting traditional roles of women, and women are working full-time and not staying at home, which redefines these traditional gender roles.”
My father, a Hispanic who migrated from Mexico, has changed his perspective on the binary gender roles. At a young age, I was taught that manhood was to keep one’s word, honor, and dignity. It was not about doing household chores. Toward the end of my teenage years, my mother assigned me more household chores and even though it didn’t settle well at first with my father, he accepted it.
My mother had to do the household work while maintaining a day job, and she did not fulfill the traditional gender roles. But, my father strictly held the standards of gender roles to maintain a type of system of power between the man and woman.
Undergraduate researchers Jenna Knapp, Brianna Muller, and Alicia Quiros, at the Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame found that in a Latino home, the woman traditionally does the housework, which establishes a more rigid system of power.
“Marriages are often based on the concept of respeto (respect) and have a hierarchal power structure in which a woman is often relegated to the demands and desires of her husband,” the trio wrote in their research titled “Women, Men, and the Changing Role of Gender in Immigration.”
The meaning of marriage is learned through everyday life as a child. That’s when children pick up the understanding of masculinity and femininity. When boys are told to not play with girl toys that is the beginning of enforcing gender roles.
My parents are redefining these traditional roles by letting me take on more standard female roles, and my sisters are now helping my father with “manly” chores.
Years of cultural tradition assimilating to the present era of social change signals a quickly changing social progression in the Latino community.
Modernity is changing roles of men and women. Men and women have more equal opportunities to become breadwinners, blurring the roles in the binary system.
I live in that intersection. I’ve never been a manly man, even as hard I try to pass as a “bro.” I have never been attracted to sports, hand-eye coordinated, or had a well-built body frame.
Now, as a modern Latino male, I can take pride in both my masculinity and femininity. I am petite, have minimal facial hair, and lead with my hips when I dance.
Source: The Daily