Summer of Feminista: Negotiating feminism with my mom

Written by Audrey Silvestre

I was going to write about the absence of women/queer/trans of color within the mainstream feminist movement, in women studies programs, and isolation that I have felt in “white feminist” circles. However, I decided that instead I would write about my negotiating of feminism within my household because that is really where change begins.

Growing up I always had “feminist ideals” some were instilled in me by my parents but a lot of it was my own instinct or “gut feeling” that told me to stand up against injustice. Once I learned that there was a word for that “gut feeling” I grabbed the word and ran with it. FEMINIST! This word is my safe space. It is where I am able to make sense out of the world. However, taking the word/identity did not come easy. It has been a struggle at home, school, and my community.

I come from a very big family I have five siblings (big “catholic” family). My mom would never call herself a feminist but she taught us and continues to teach us to be strong, self-sustaining, and to never give up. My mother like many others does not identify or see the point of feminism, she thinks that activism is a waste of time. When I first identified as a feminist I remember coming home from school and sharing with my family what I had learned. I remember feeling so empowered. My mom didn’t say much she just said, “ok, help me clean, wash the dishes.” As I was washing the dishes I continued on with my rambling. Days, weeks, went by and every time I learned something it was the same routine to come home and share. Then one day I was telling my mom that I was going to come home late because I was going to volunteer for “Take Back the Night” to which she responded, "Well, ok but I would prefer if you would come home instead and help me out at here.” I remember getting really upset and trying to explain to her why it mattered that we put this event together and how hard we had worked on it. I felt like she was missing the point. I realized that she wasn’t listening and I thought that she simply didn’t care. I didn’t understand at the time that my mom like many saw feminism as a “white women's cause,” I didn’t understand that even if the “Take Back the Night” rally had good intentions, at the end of the day in our community many girls/women/children are getting assaulted and no one is organizing a rally for them. My mom insisted that my activism was a waste of time because it didn’t solve any of her immediate problems. I have learned from my mother feminist concepts that I would have never learned in college. I learned to negotiate with my mother, and this taught me how to negotiate feminism with others. She also taught me to bridge my academic with the community. My mother and I still disagree on a lot of issues but we are trying to understand each other.

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