SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2005        Personal Memory Ethnographies


The Little Princess

I was about eleven years old, when I realized I was different, different in society and different from my three older brothers. I was not treated equally in our household; there was this segregation and over protection towards me, the only girl. My liberties were not equal to those of my brothers. They often were allowed to go places I was not, and had less adult supervision than I did. My mother often did not understand my frustration and anger towards her for not understanding my argument in favor of equality. I wanted equal, not special treatment, because in my eyes I was the same as my brothers. Many questions came to mind when I experienced inequality in treatment because I could not see the difference between my three older brothers and me. We all worked, ate, watched TV and played together. Somehow no matter what I did I was different. 

I was raised in a Mexican culture where women are always better taken care of then the males.  Women are always better supervised, and more protection is expected for them.  Because Esmeralda was our first daughter, I wanted to protect her more than my sons. It is just the way things are traditionally.  She will grow up to thank me when she is older.

The only reasoning and explanation I could get from my mother about why I was treated differently was that it was a cultural factor. My mother often argued that in Mexican culture women are better taken care of than the males.  Culture did not mean anything to me at the time, I knew that in American culture things were different and beliefs were not the same old traditional beliefs my mother held on to.  My mother thought that her being unequal was protection for me. Her answer was always the sentenced I hated to hear: “Sweetie you can not go there, do that, wear that, and say that because you are a girl.”  It would irritate me to hear her say that. Did she not understand that times had changed? My mom had adapted to so much of the new American culture but still held on strong to certain beliefs and ideas of her homeland of Mexico. Especially beliefs concerning gender.  

It does not matter where we live today; if in America people are different I continue to raise my children as my parents raised me in Mexico.  I see no abnormality in protecting my daughter. Women have to be more careful than the males, so much more can happen to females. Although my daughter may disagree that society is dangerous for females, it is. 

My rebellion event, as my mother refers to it, occurred when I wanted to stay the night at a girlfriend’s house. I didn’t think that it would be an issue. After all, my parents had known my friend and her family for a long time; we had gone to pre-school together and had been in the same classes since then. It was summer and I had no class the next day.  I remember being so excited because it had been a hot summer and my friend had a swimming pool. We were going to swim and eat pizza and watch scary movies all night!

However, my mother’s response was negative. She had not granted me permission to join the sleepover, I couldn’t understand why. My brothers always spent the night at neighbor’s homes but not me. The fact my mother knew the family did not change anything. I was still not allowed to stay for the sleepover because I was a girl.

This incident changed my way of thinking. It still sticks with me because it was at this moment when my eyes opened and I saw that I was unequal, in my home and in society. I think that being at the tender age of eleven I was more aware of the injustice by gender. If there had been some gender discrimination before age eleven I might have been too young to realize it. Also, puberty might have played a role in my parent’s disparity in treatment of my brothers and I, because this is when Mexican parents begin to segregate the genders into their “social role”. What I mean by this is that around age eleven through fourteen is when my parents began to implement what gender role their children must adapt to. Males must act and think a certain way, and females a different way.

I can still remember my exact mood and feelings during the incident, which makes it significant.   It was the feeling of hopelessness, and not being able to do much about anything. I was unequal but without a choice. The fact that I was born a girl put me at so many disadvantages. Today I can still reflect on the incident and how I became rebellious with my mother,  I really think that my perspectives of women’s role would be different if my mother had not been selective towards me because I am female. After that day I made it clear to my mother that because I was a woman she was not to treat me any differently than she treated my brother.

Esmeralda, taking a stand on gender roles at an early age made me change my viewpoint of women. She made me realize that there should not be separation between women and men, that we are all equal. I was not helping or accepting equality by treating her differently than my boys.

I was determined to change my mother’s viewpoint of women but I knew this would be a challenge because of her ethics in her culture. I could see this borderland between what she felt in her culture back in her homeland, and the new culture of her current home in the United States. As an immigrant from Mexico she wanted to hold on strongly to her culture and make sure her children practiced and knew her culture as well. Although I don’t think that I have completely changed my mother’s way of thinking, I gained more equality in our family and greater respect as a girl in my culture, which straddles the shifting borderlands between Mexico and the United States.  

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