Written by Ana Lilian Flores, co-publisher of SpanglishBaby, a site for parents raising bilingual and bicultural children and can always be found @laflowers.
I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself a feminist. I’m not a provoker, an activist, nor a social conscious spear-header at large. Not that I’m much for labels, as it is.
I grew up in the midst of El Salvador’s deadly and grueling Civil War in an era when you did not question the status quo. Much less if you belonged to the close-knit social class I was born into. The words ¿por qué? were hardly ever uttered and much less encouraged. Not that I even minded back then. I didn´t know better.
The seed of political activism or of traditional feminist tendencies of any kind were never planted in me. The woman that shaped my life and formed my first tribe were indeed strong and luchadoras, but always within the safe confines of their vast and plentiful homes. They treasured their luxuries, their leisure, their freedom and their image. Life existed within a thin and, oh-so-very-fragile veil that separated them from the imminent and loud reality that surrounded us. The label we could apply here would be more of “femenina” than “feminista.” (Funny tidbit that the popular Top 40 FM radio station I grew up listening to was called “La Femenina.”) Yes, the women I knew were adored because they knew their place. Even my mother.
Divorced in her mid-twenties with two girls to fend for, she never failed to impress by her strength of character when faced with obstacles. I always attribute my independent, go-getter and strong-willed nature to her. Her years as a single mother of two, she worked hard and cunningly to sustain us by the highest standards--the best schools, the best clothes, the best surroundings, the best memberships. Then, she remarried to a man that would be able to take away all that burden from her and allow her to just be a women again--to run the house and the staff that kept it up; to play tennis and socialize; to travel; to care for her girls; to care for her man; and to run a fashion boutique of her own. Life became easy, manageable, fulfilled--or so it seemed behind that self-imposed veil.
As soon as I turned 18 I left the country that had cradled me in a sweet embrace of naiveness. I left behind my mask and started the true work of uncovering my realness. This is when I began to let out the authentic feminist voice in me. The one I didn’t even know I had. The voice of a woman who wants to have the chance to be unrestricted to express her soul. The diva who wants to shine wherever she chooses to. The Goddess who wants to explore her depths, her yearnings, her missteps and own up to them all. The dreamer who wants an equal share of the materialistic male-dominated world, without letting go of her feminine instincts and ethereal desires.
I still don’t consider myself a full blown-out feminist. It’s just a label, and labels are used to judge.
I am, however, a mother that lives with a constant mirror reflection of who I am and what I give. My daughter will always carry a part of her that reflects how I constantly continue to reconcile the feminine little girl in me with the more feminist and non-conformist luchadora that has claimed its place as well. I see in her the potential of full, unrestricted expression that is softly guided by the whispers of her ancestors to a place where its manifestation will belong only to her. That, I hope, is my gift to my daughter.
Summer of Feminista is a project where Latinas are sharing what feminism means to them. Positive. Negative. Academic statements. Personal stories. Learn more or how you can join the Summer of Feminista. This is a project of Viva la Feminista. Link and quote, but do not repost without written permission.