I was born a girl, and because of that, there were times when things were different for me than they were for my younger and older brothers. At the time, I figured that it was just the way the world was. Girls did particular things, while boys did others. It was like a rhyme that my classmate and I chanted as we hopscotched and skipped rope: “Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider, girls go to college to get more knowledge.”
The first time it didn’t sit right with me was when my younger brother was allowed to go camping before I did. The only excuse I was given was that as a boy if anything bad happened to him, he’d be able to defend himself.
I figured that was somewhat correct.
[bctt tweet=” Girls did particular things, while boys did others.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Other Latino families seemed to think the same thing. As I became older and began to embrace being a Latina more, I found myself uncomfortable with the cultural expectation that women would act one way and men would act wholly different from that. High school started and, while my parents didn’t give any of us the talk, my siblings and I began having crushes and getting into relationships behind their backs.
At one point, my brother had a girlfriend, but it was hard for me to talk to my parents about liking a boy. It was still only a minor frustration, though.
[bctt tweet=”My brother had a girlfriend, but it was hard for me to talk about liking a boy.” username=”wearethetempest”]
A few years later, I learned that my mother had a half-sister. I wanted to know if she was older, a child from one of my grandparents’ older relationships. My mother wouldn’t say. Soon after, I was visiting an older cousin and badgered him about our aunt. Just like I had, he used to think she was just a regular aunt. He then told me that she was the youngest daughter, that our grandfather had her with another woman. I looked shocked, so my cousin revealed that our aunt’s husband had also cheated on her and also had hidden a child from her for a few years. As bad as I felt for my aunt, I found myself more confused that no one had ever talked about this situation openly before.
If a woman was a single mother, she was looked down upon, almost ostracized. But I began to realize that no one ever really insulted the other half of the equation: the father.
At first, I was a bit disillusioned because I liked my uncle and I adored my grandfather. But then, not too long ago, I found out that my mother’s eldest brother also had a child that he tried to hide from his wife. My cousins refuse to speak to him about her, even though he doesn’t act like what he did was all that bad.
Not too long ago, my cousin helped her father file for residency in the U.S. so that he could be near her and her husband. He asked her to file for his other daughter – her half-sister, born of an extramarital affair – as well.
When she blew up on him, he didn’t understand why it was so bad. I remember trying to bring it up with a few men on my mother’s side of the family, and they didn’t seem to think much of it.
[bctt tweet=”If a woman was a single mother, she was looked down upon, almost ostracized.” username=”wearethetempest”]
I eventually gave up on trying to talk to them about it.
Whenever I tried to make a point about why it was wrong, relatives would just scoff and kind of just say that I was upset because I was a feminist. Though a lot of my relatives respected feminism and supported me, some of them acted as if it was some sort of joke and that I’d come around once I was older and married. That made it hurt so much more whenever my uncles would let my guy cousins get away with certain things, but had a different set of rules for their daughters.
[bctt tweet=”When she blew up on him, he didn’t understand why it was so bad. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
That disparity became apparent to me during a few recent family gathering. When a cousin of mine was preparing for his second marriage, everyone was so excited to see him and his new bride. His older sister, who had also been married and divorced twice, was attending the wedding with her new boyfriend.
When a few older family friends spoke about her relationships, they judged her without shame.
Apparently, it was okay for her brother to become divorced, but not for her. After the ceremony began and the guests went to the reception area, I sat at a table with a lot of my other cousins and was appalled at some of their conversations. One of my oldest guy cousins was drunk and talking about all of the underage girls he was going to try to hit on at the wedding. He had recently filed for divorce and placed all the blame on his ex-wife, claiming younger girls were better. My brother sat with him and laughed along, also pointing out all of the younger girls he was going to try to “holler at.”
[bctt tweet=”As a feminist, it’s suffocating to be around the men in my family.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Though a lot of the things the men in my family have done hasn’t been directed towards me, it’s suffocating to be around as a feminist. It’s made it so that I couldn’t ever date anyone that reminded me of a family member, or who was from my mom’s country or my dad’s country. It also made it so that if too many men from my family clustered together at a family event, I began to go out of my way to avoid passing by them.
On social media, the situation is no better.
Some of my guy cousins and even my own brothers post memes that degraded women and make them out to be sexual objects. They post jokes about “hos” and “sluts” while congratulating other guys on “getting some.” The straw that broke the camel’s back was when one of my brothers posted a picture about what a modern marriage is like. The picture had a story about two people who dated, the wife is a nag who wants more and more and eventually cheats on her husband and takes half his money. The picture was posted with a caption that my brother wrote. It read “ain’t that the f*cking truth.”
I found out recently that he had been cheating on his wife with a coworker for a few weeks until the coworker found out that he had lied about being single. It stung to remember how when I was a teen, he had joked about how he would smack around any guy who cheated on me or made me cry. And yet there he was upsetting my sister-in-law with no shame.
Heart pounding, I went onto his Facebook profile and unfollowed so that I wouldn’t have to see his posts without unfriending him.
Then my younger brother began to post things that depicted women as cruel, frivolous, and promiscuous. At the time he had broken up with his girlfriend and was maturely placing the blame on all women. The post that really did it for me was one that called feminist “new age broads” that need to stop complaining. The photo said that a good girlfriend cooks when asked, cleans when asked, and pampers her man without question if she loves him.
He technically wanted a servant, not an equal relationship. And if the relationship went wrong, it would automatically be her fault.
That’s when I unfollowed him, too.
[bctt tweet=”‘Do you actually considered me your equal?’ I want to ask my brothers.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Despite loving all of the guys in my family and enjoying their company, visits are sometimes quiet on my end. I’d like to sit down with them and ask them if they knew how much they’ve hurt others. “Do you actually considered me or your mother your equal?” I want to ask. “Do you know how much anger the things you’ve done have caused everyone around you?” I worry about one day having my own kids. I worry that I won’t feel comfortable with some family members watching after them or telling them to degrade women or to allow themselves to be degraded. It’s something I’ve been working through for several years now, and it’s something that I will probably have to work through for years to come.
[bctt tweet=”That’s when I unfollowed him, too.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Until then, I’ll have to make sure that I do my best with my own future children. I’ll show them how to see the good in their family members, but also the wrong so that this disease dies in my generation. I refuse to see that kind of behavior justified or accepted any longer. It has to end somewhere.