Gender roles within Mexican households

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“How am I a misogynist if I cook and do all those things women do?”

I am the eldest of three children in my family, with a sister who is 13 and a brother who is 9. From my tween years up until the age of 16 I did not really notice any difference in the way my siblings and I were treated. However, this changed when my sister started growing up and the way my parents treated her changed.

I first took notice of this change when I woke up late one morning. As per usual my mom cooked my breakfast and smothered me with affection, disregarding the fact that I probably should have woken up earlier to avoid inconveniencing her. A couple of days later my sister also woke up late, but her treatment was different than mine. Instead of making her breakfast, my mom called out my sister for being lazy and went on to tell her that she could cook her own breakfast.

After noticing that obvious inequality in the way that my sister and I were treated, I began to see it more often and at times in more blatant ways. My sister always had to look nice, my brother and I were fine wearing hoodies and sweats to church. My sister had to serve food along with my mom, my brother and I waited for our food to be served.

The way that my sister was treated now that she was older, especially by my mom, bothered me a lot. I knew that my mom was sheltered when she was growing up, which is why she gave me so much freedom as a teenager and why she was so open with my siblings and I. This made me realize that that aspect of the culture was not something that disappeared within a generation, that it did not matter if my parents were not old-fashioned but that it was so ingrained within them as children that there was little they could do about it.

This realization allowed me to look back at my childhood, and that’s when I noticed that I was subject to that same type of treatment that my sister was subject to from my mother, but from my father.

I was not allowed to be sensitive, because if I was then I would be called feminizing names. I couldn’t wear pink because it was a girl color. At every turn my masculinity was put into doubt by my father, and it made me doubt my own masculinity throughout my early teenage years, and frankly, to this day.

I decided to talk about the pseudo-machista culture that exists within Mexican households because of the gender roles that were seen throughout The Aeneid, with women being agents of chaos and something to be conquered, while the men are the heroes and do most of the talking. Like in Ancient Rome those that dominate, men, define the dominated, women. In the epic, Aeneas being passionate and acting upon his feelings and sense of duty is something that is seen as righteous and heroic. However, when Dido becomes enraged and curses Aeneas after having her heart broken she is portrayed as not only someone who is weak and susceptible to her emotions, but the person to blame for the future conflicts between Rome and Carthage.

Women are still subject to gendered roles that have existed for thousands of years, and young boys are subject to the toxic masculinity that they then perpetuate to keep the cycle going.

Despite it almost being 2019 these types of antiquated social constructs have not ceased from existing, but instead are seen throughout people’s everyday lives. While I am aware that things have drastically changed from even as little as 10 years ago, I am also aware that there is work to be done when it comes to gender relations.

While gender relations have been greatly improved through legislation and in turn through cultural change, the remnants of past attitudes still remain. This is especially true of countries where problems like wealth inequality take center stage and do not allow for conversation about social issues such like gender inequality.

This is why Mexico and its culture are relatively behind when it comes to conversations like these. This does not mean that places like the United States are so much better when it comes to things like this, but at least there are conversations about it nationwide.

The silver lining of this issue that has dragged along intergenerationally is that the newer generations are starting to take notice of the problems that plague the culture they were raised in and still are active members of. I saw this attitude change when attending an Hermanos Unidos meeting a couple of weeks back. One of the leaders was going over the pillars of the club and in doing so made reference to the toxic masculinity that many of us were raised around as children living in a Latino household, and how it was our job to finally end that cycle of machismo and misogynism.

While there is a lot of work to be done culturally, nationally, and internationally, it feels good to know that here at UCI the conversation is happening and that together we are going in the right direction when it comes to gender relations.

Bibliography

“Combatir El Machismo Con Humor: Las Mejores Viñetas De Feminista Ilustrada.” Combatir El Machismo Con Humor: Las Mejores Viñetas De Feminista Ilustrada, Smoda, 15 Nov. 2017, smoda.elpais.com/feminismo/feminista-ilustrada-libro.

Goerne, Nora. “Gender Roles in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome: Odyssey and Aeneid in Comparison.” Academia.edu, http://www.academia.edu/9502676/Gender_Roles_in_Ancient_Greece_and_Ancient_Rome_Odyssey_and_Aeneid_in_Comparison.

Gowan, Mary, and Melanie Trevi. “An Examination of Gender Differences in Mexican American Attitudes Toward Family and Career Roles.” Sex Roles, vol. 38, 1998,link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1023/A:1018886912223.pdf.

Ortiz, Veronica Lira. “The Culture of Machismo in Mexico Harms Women.” Merion West, 17 Aug. 2018, merionwest.com/2018/01/28/the-culture-of-machismo-in-mexico-harms-women/.

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