Originally distributed by Overground Collective
“Calladita te vez mas bonita” is a common phrase heard in Latinx culture. It means, “you look prettier with your mouth shut.”
You see, women and girls are often criticized for the same behaviors men and boys are praised for. And it doesn’t help that all the novelas in our mainstream media romanticize our generational traumas. But times are changing.
More women are speaking up
As you may have heard, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was recently verbally accosted by her colleague, Rep. Ted Yoho.
Ask any woman you know if they’ve had similar experiences. They can surely tell you about times they were mimicked, silenced, or put down by a man for speaking up about something at work, school, or some other public space. And keep in mind that our jobs and our classrooms claim to have standards and rules to prevent this overt sexism. Domestic experiences are an entirely different subject that we will leave for another time.
Although we like to think we’d intervene when overhearing patriarchal language, it’s so widespread that sometimes we don’t realize it’s happening.
One time in college, a friend and I were talking about children and how, due to various reasons at the time, neither of us wanted to have children in the future. A friend (male) overheard us and said something along the lines of, “women who don’t have kids are just selfish.”
We were young and brushed his comments off, but the reality is that this is just one of the roles that has been placed on women for generations.
Our family and friends say things like, “mija, when are you going to settle down, porque se te va pasar el tren?”
On the surface, this is an innocent joke. But it’s also a statement about what people expect from us: to bear children.
Fortunately, there are many women today, such as Ocasio-Cortez, who challenge these patriarchal expectations.
Together, this new generation of intelligent and courageous women, femmes, and non-binary people remind us to stand up in the spaces we occupy, and to put an end to the disrespect, gender-based norms, and injustices we face.
Ocasio-Cortez’s speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives is a prime example of women speaking out. And don’t think for a second the incident between Ocasio-Cortez and Yoho is an outlier.
Sexism and Feminism
Sexism is deeply rooted in our society, and I haven’t even touched upon the racial and socio-economic layers that intersect with it.
Someone once told me, “you’re only a feminist because a man hurt you before.”
The truth is, yes, I have been hurt emotionally, verbally, and even physically by men. But I refuse to be minimized to a definition of feminism put on by willfully ignorant people who don’t take the time to understand feminism, yet want to criticize it.
We’ve all internalized some aspects of sexism. That’s what happens when you grow up in a sexist society. That doesn’t mean we can’t unlearn it, though.
I actively work to deconstruct sexism within myself, and within the people I love. If we love our friends and our family, we have to challenge them, along with ourselves, to do better.
Perfection is unrealistic, but we can grow and start to dismantle patriarchy one person at a time.
Feminism is defined as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes;” and as being an “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.”
Many people think we don’t need a “label” to know that all genders should have equal rights, access to opportunities, and bodily autonomy. I disagree.
We need language to describe what is happening. Namely, why women are killed by their partners, why women don’t report assaults, why women are underpaid for doing the same thing as their male counterparts, why women are slut-shamed for daring to have sex—and enjoy it!
I could go on forever.
How are we supposed to fix things if we fail to name the problem? How will we ever get justice?
Violence Against Women
Vanessa Guillen was a 20-year old Latina enlisted in the U.S. Army. Before she was eventually murdered by a fellow soldier, Guillen was repeatedly harassed by her ranking officer in the U.S. military. No investigation was opened until her best friend made her case go viral on social media.
Breonna Taylor was a 26-year old Black woman and an emergency medical technician. She was murdered by police officers in her own home while she was sleeping. Her murderers are still free. They are vacationing while her family grieves the loss of their loved one.
Sandra Bland was a 28-year old Black woman who died in police custody in 2015 after being stopped for not using her turn signal! Her death was ruled a suicide.
It’s also important to put the suffering of women into the larger context of the global community.
Femicide, for example, is rampant across the globe.
In 2017, 40 girls died in a fire that took place in a Guatemalan orphanage where children had reported being raped and beaten by the staff.
This past February, Yesenia Zamudio’s video, expressing the hurt and anger she felt because of her daughter’s murder in Mexico four years ago, resonated with millions of women. She has yet to learn what happened to her daughter.
Finally, and most importantly, there’s intersectionality.
Intersectionality was coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw. She argues intersectionality is a necessary “lens, a prism, for seeing how various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other.”
“We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality, or immigrant status,” she writes. “What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts.”
A white woman’s experiences with sexism, although valid, are not the same as those of Black, Indigenous, women of color. A cis-gender, heterosexual woman’s experiences will not include the added layers that women in the LGBTQ+ community face.
We have to be intentionally intersectional. Otherwise, we are not invested in creating change and liberation for all people. We have to reserve grace for ourselves and others when mistakes are made—and they inevitably will be.
Women deserve to live in a world where we can be ourselves and be safe. We all deserve to live our lives free from fear and oppression.
Stop teaching your daughters, “que se porten bien.”
Start teaching your sons to treat women better!
We have to start with changing ourselves. If we can’t even do that, we’ll never change the systems that are currently holding us down, and in many cases, killing us.
Historically, silence has been the single most powerful tool of the oppressor. We will no longer be silent.