Who's the bigger person?
I grew up in a simple, small home in Daly City. Both my parents from El Salvador, arriving in the United States in the late 70’s. I grew up seeing my mother countlessly serving my father, it was her second nature. My role everyday throughout Middle School and High School was to come home from school, plate and warm up my mother’s pre-made food, and serve my father at the table. Then of course, clean up after he had finished eating. Let me make note that I am not complaining about the environment and the influences I grew up with. On the contrary, now as an adult, my current mental state is curious to dissect the components that led to my conditioning.
I can’t blame my mother for unconsciously conditioning me to be submissive and subservient to the opposite sex, as she was also influenced by her surroundings during her childhood. Through my life experiences I feel that I have to constantly readjust my role as a woman and my role in society. This is not because I’m insecure about myself, on the contrary, our society is constantly evolving. I’ve grown to accept that my views may not align with those of my parents, and that is absolutely OK.
I’m married now, and let me tell you… I’m constantly in a battle with myself to not allow myself to fall into the habit of being subservient. If I do something for my husband or in my home, I have to be sure that I am approaching the situation because I want to do it, not because I have to do it. Some of the most triggering words for me are, “She is so good at cooking, no wonder Arnaldo [my husband] married her." It is utterly disgusting to me that anyone can say something so stupid that could produce a soul crushing reaction. I am not anyone’s property.
I can honestly say that my biggest issue with any type of entitled behavior, like machismo, is that it crushes the available potential of the belittled person. Why must the woman behave within submissive parameters? Is it that instead of wanting to exert overly male behavior, men are trying to overcompensate for their insecurities? What if she is a astrophysicist and he is a gardener? Does that still mean she has to bow her head and tend to her partners every need?
Female subservience in our Latino countries is fueled by machismo. To be clear, in no way or form does my opinion reflect any hatred towards men. I’m a sincere believer that we, men and women, are equals. This does not mean that I condone bad habits, bad judgement, bad behavior, and any sense of entitlement. Does my need to understand why I can’t and shouldn’t conform to any mans need to belittle me discomfort you? If it does, maybe you should reconsider where you stand on machismo, as I certainly know where I stand against it. If there were a referee, where would the equality line be drawn, and where would you be standing?
Jackie Zaldana-Altamirano - Daly City, CA