By Grethel Muralles
The world is changing and, with it, so are cultures and ideals. But in that lies the problem that occurs with American girls whose households still follow the traditions and cultures of their parents’ native lands.
From a young age, girls are taught that there are certain ways that they have to behave and act. In Central and Latin America, women are often expected to cook for the men of their households and bear children, while men are to be
served. Though women hold the house together, at the end of the day, men are still the “head” of the households.
At my grandmother’s home, it is a custom that is easily seen. My grandfather goes to work, while my grandmother cooks day and night, serving guests and family first, herself last.
It is common in many Latin families to watch telenovelas, also known as Spanish soap operas, together. Yet, in many of these soap operas, the main female characters are shown as vulnerable and spend most of their time at home doing chores. The message in most of these soap operas is that women are meant for nothing more than taking care of their families.
“Mi Marido Tiene Familia” (My Husband Has Family) is one of the many telenovelas that showcases machismo, the gender socialization within the Latino communities that endorses, according to Marilyn Valenciano in her study from the University of Pennsylvania, “traditional gender roles based on beliefs of male superiority and female subservience.” In the soap opera, Julieta, the lead female role, is a modern Latina who is judged by her boyfriend’s family because she cannot cook, has a job and worst of all, doesn’t want to have kids.
So many of these soap operas exist for girls – young and old – to watch. Thus, many second generation Latinas allow themselves to be trapped in the mentality of the machismo that is represented in the media.
In a study from the University of Florida on minority women, media, and body image by Carolyn L. Martin and Eboni J. Baugh, they discovered that on average, Latinas watch four more hours of television daily than women in other ethnic groups. In other words, Latin-American women are more susceptible to negative images and negative connotations aimed towards them.
However, little research exists regarding how machismo,
impacts the identity of Hispanic women. In her study, Valenciano encourages revealing the mindset of machismo and its effect on second-generation
“The participants’ narratives demonstrated machismo creates a clash between her self-concepts and her ascribed social identity… It provides insight on Latina women’s experiences impacting her self-concepts and her relationships with others and the need an internal transformation within Latino women and Latino men,” Valenciano adds.
This is where the battle for these girls begins, socially and mentally. Many of them are often told that they can’t do certain things because they are a “man’s job.” In other words, if only they were men, then they’d be able to succeed. This causes many of them to go through more humiliation and stress for not being able to be “good enough.”
Machismo affects many second-generation Latinas that live in our modern world. Yet, I can’t say that I think I am one of them; my parents have always made sure that I understand that any woman can make it in this world, so long as she works hard and tries her best. The only limitation that she has is the one she sets up for herself when she conforms to what others say or think.