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A Latina Feminist: A Year In The Making

Yelena Bivian

Just like fine wine the older we get the better we become or, so they say. A year ago, I wrote about my experience marching in the Women’s March in Los Angeles. I wrote about how I didn’t agree with some of the key points that were being advertised during this new wave of feminism, especially the points that were attacking core values taught to me by my most respected/ important person; my Mother. I have taken this time to really explore what words like feminist and Latina mean to me.

Some questions that arose from this self-reflection where:

  • Why does it matter?
  • Who really cares? And,
  • What is the importance of all this?

Well, I realized that…

It matters to me and it matters because these are ideas that I have coined as part of my identity.

I made a promise to myself to no longer share my thoughts with just a selected few but with everyone despite whether they agree or not. During the March, last year I was in the process of identifying what being a feminist meant to me. I was conflicted by the images and the ideas that were being popularized during this new wave of feminism and the moral values that I grew up with. At the time I was separating being a Latina and being a feminist as two strong opposing forces. Now a year later, I am no longer separating the two but instead intertwining them as one thing; a Latina feminist.

My Father taught me at a young age that I could do anything I set my mind to. My Mother taught me the importance of cleanliness and the power of a homecooked meal. She didn’t do it with the intention to make me into a “perfect wife” but with the intention of me being able to take care of myself. My Mom’s lessons helped me become the person I am this day. My ideas of feminism fueled by my upbringing have created an idea of feminism I agree with.

As a feminist I am fighting for equality; the fight for equal opportunity and equal pay. It is a known fact that as a woman, as a Latinx woman the wage gap is present. As I and other educated, prepared Latinas make our way into the workforce, we need to change the current statistics. We as women need to be united because we are not. Women of color and white women need to work together to address the issues that affect both groups independently. We aren’t treated the same and it is necessary to admit it to be able to move forward.

However, it isn’t all about equality in the public sphere. It is also the liberation from societal norms that claim that a woman needs to be virginal and pure; because this cast the idea that following these norms women will be naïve. Men are not thought of any less if they have multiple partners or are caught in nonmarital sex. I think that we need to move that idea on to women as well. It is a women’s choice whether she wants to engage in sex or not and she shouldn’t be shamed regardless of her choice.

That leads me to my final point, I believe in making your own choices. A woman has every right to make her own choices just as a man does. I believe we are our own worst critics, hence by making our own choices we become responsible for our actions regardless of gender. Although I have a better idea of what being a feminist is to me, it doesn’t mean that I will stop learning and be absorbing more information. If in one year I was able to discover so much, not only about concepts like feminism but most importantly about myself, I can only imagine how much I will change in another year or two!

Have your perceptions changed or have they been reinforced, let’s talk!

1 comment

Cialischeap / April 3, 2018 @ 12:03 pm

Maybe I have missed something important, but why is it so darned important whether one calls oneself a feminist or not? (I am new around here) I mean, there are so many definitions and practices of feminism, that labelling one as feminist can mean a lot of things. One can f.ex. be a feminist and care about the plight of men. bell hooks strikes me as a good example of this. I could probably also easily find feminists who don”t care about the plight and men (the same for non-feminists). So I don”t think you can necessarily deduce intent and behavior from someone labelling themselves as feminist. For me it is more important, whether one recognizes that sexism (whether based on gender, gender expression or sexual orientation) is systematic, and that it needs to be fought. This sexism comes in at least two types: (I am roughly using Julia Seranos “taxonomy here): Traditional sexism: Men and masculinity is better than women and femininity Oppositional sexism: Men/masculinity is categorically different from women/femininity (and they shouldn”t be mixed) Of course theses two types of sexism are intertwined, but I think oppositional sexism is very much at the heart of mens problems. So I am more interested in discussing core ideas instead of labels. If you fight sexism (both kinds), I don”t care if you call yourself a feminist, humanitarian, equalitist or something else. (my first comment here, btw)

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