Feature photo by Ed Siasoco

One of the most important things Latinos will try to instill in their children is a strong sense of family. That blood is thicker than water. That there is no transgression big enough for anyone in any family to turn their back on them … No, wait. Let me rephrase. There is no transgression big enough for any MAN in any family for anyone to turn their back on them. If they do drugs, well, you’re supposed to tell people they’re “sick.” If they get put in jail, you’re supposed to tell people they’re “out of town.” If they molest their underage niece, you’re supposed to tell people they’re “misunderstood.” Unless they’re gay. Then you’re supposed to deny their existence completely. But that’s a topic for another article altogether.

What I’ve not been able to wrap my head around has been the discernible bias among the sexes in our culture. Worst yet, that the ones that suffer most from this bias are the very ones that perpetuate it. How often have I heard my grandmother not only make excuses for her sons but even defend them in the face of their own terrible infractions. How often have I heard my mother and her sisters share the same desire to excuse and defend their brothers even for acts that they would otherwise condemn. Growing up I watched the women in my family put up with their husbands’ alcohol abuse, philandering and even turn a blind eye to sexual abuse, and why? Because he was a man. No, because he was THE man. The man of the house, the law, the king, the have-the-last-say, the make-or-break you, the supposed mortar which held all us little bricks in place. And boy were we put in our place.

The women in our culture have been held to such high standards of not only conduct, but also appearance, that they’ve lost themselves in the shadows of machismo and the double standard for far too long. They have been groomed to endure the weight of loyalty to men that wouldn’t think twice of fathering children with other women, and expected to do so with discretion and a smile. They have been conditioned through generations to accept without question the double standard and bias and instill it in the generation that follows by excusing the men and leaning hard on the women. But what happens when we do not wish to follow?

Newer generations of female Latinas have started to rebel, stand up for ourselves and even realize that the family ties are no more unbreakable than a piece of twine and that no good comes from the perpetuation of a lopsided pissing contest when, without the proper “equipment,” the odds are stacked against us. So we opt, instead, to not participate at all, and sometimes at the cost of being ostracized. But no change was ever inspired by complacency. And although we’ve a long way to go, perhaps once the support of the very thing that suppresses us is no longer available, the men will put it back in their pants and be accountable for more than just being “the man.”

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