"I’m a good girl, right?" is the question that many of us women ask ourselves frequently. For centuries we’ve made an effort to adapt our manners, behavior and appearance to those that are asked of us. We all do it- men and women just as equally. The difference is that women have done it with the purpose of not only gaining acceptance but also avoiding mistreatment. And does it all matter? Are these expectations helping us or confining us to a limited amount of options and growth? The opinion on this subject varies depending on the culture, country, religion, and social group.
As Latinas living in the United States, there have most surely been moments where we have experienced the struggle to define what behavior is considered appropriate. The Hispanic culture has very different expectations of women than the American. I am sure most of us can relate to acting a certain way in school, but having been questioned about it at home. Our immediate reaction could have been to feel embarrassed or regret acting in such a way, because the opinion that our families have of us of course matters, especially if we have a close relationship to our parents and siblings. Which for Hispanic families that tends to be the case.
It is a good trait to place family as a central focus, but it is also important to consider that developing a strong and independent mind is not only good for ourselves but for the improvement of our societies in general. I see great potential in that through the mixture of our Hispanic and American cultures. We have two points of view to offer and defend. We have a broader range of options to choose from as far as our behavior, appearance and manners, but in order to choose wisely and freely, we must develop an independent mind. This does not mean however that we must completely abandon or forget our families’ customs and traditions, but rather fortify those which we can strongly relate to. In the same way, there might be some family traditions that we do not agree with. Our immediate reaction might be to feel guilt for it, but if we are mature enough to understand what this means, it can simply mean that we are gaining a certain mental independence, which can of course be a positive trait.
Which customs would you like to see different in your culture? That is a hard question to answer, since it is a hard question to even ask ourselves in the first place. As Hispanic women, we are used to respecting the opinion of our families, which is why we tend to be greatly similar to them. We are united people and we feel a great amount of guilt when we oppose to what our families communicate to us. At the same time, we have such a strong link to them that we also develop some healthy lifestyle traits. On the other hand, it makes me think about the possible negative effects that it can have to becoming independent. I think one of reasons why it has become feasible for Hispanic women in the US to do that is because we have been surrounded by different ideas than our own, where we begin to see the flaws in our own practices. That is the benefit of living in a different place than where we are originally from. But we must never lose the importance that we place on family and the many positive traits that our culture passes on to us.
So a question that has great potential to fortify our culture and those around us as Hispanic women is: which customs would you like to see different in your culture? And I would love to hear your answers!