Latin American Women Face Double Standards

Double standards illustration by Ariel Trawick.

“No, mija, let the boys do it. Make sure you leave the door open. Go serve your brothers and cousins. When are you going to learn to cook for your husband?”

Sound familiar? If you grew up in a Hispanic household as a woman, then it probably does.

Every weekend your mother or grandmother were on your back, asking you to clean the house with them at 7 a.m., while your brothers or other male relatives slept in, enjoying their dreams. A woman in our culture is supposed to cook all the food, clean the house, wash the clothes and do all the household chores. While the men are out working on the cars and being doted on by the females. Then the men sit down at the dinner table and the mom, grandmother or girlfriend gets up and serves the men’s before they serve themselves.

But it doesn’t stop there. The machismo culture is very prominent in Latin America especially in more adult themes like relationships or body perception.

Let’s start easy: relationships. If I brought a boy over, my mom would make us sit in the living room with several feet between us. If we were in my room, the door needs to be open. But if one of my male relatives brought his girlfriend over, he could have her in his bedroom, close the door and no one would think twice about it. They would just say, “he’s becoming a man.”

Machismo says there’s a preciousness in our sexuality and virginity that should be kept from the world and we shouldn’t explore it. If I asked my mom about sex, she would tell me “Why do you want to know? You’re too young for that.” Meanwhile, if my cousin asks the same question to his dad about sex then he is getting a completely different answer.

As for the perception of our bodies, that’s a little more difficult to talk about. Not because it’s controversial but because so many people are used to it, they don’t see anything wrong with it anymore. If my cousin or any other male was walking around without their shirt on, and we do see it around here and in Cuba, no one even blinks. But if I were to wear a tank top and shorts, which I do because it can get hot in Florida, I am suddenly promiscuous or I’m asking for it. I would get catcalled or be told that I shouldn’t show so much skin because it isn’t appropriate.

We are the next generation and it is our job to get rid of the old ways and make things equal for everyone, men and women.