Listen to Maria's story:
In the Mexican culture I grew up in, I always saw a lot of difference in the way men and women are raised. According to what I’ve seen, men have many more liberties than women. As a little girl, I wanted to be a boy because I wanted those
liberties. I wanted the liberty to work outside the home, make money to provide for my family, but not take care of children, clean the house and make food. I wanted to work outside the home because after finishing work, I wanted to relax, go out with my friends and do whatever I wanted. That is what I saw men doing while women were always working.
At the age of 7, my family came to the United States from Mexico, and here my family continued with the same beliefs, my three brothers could do what they wanted, and we as women could not because we had to be hardworking and proper young ladies. We had to learn how to cook, clean, iron, sew, etc., but I wanted to work outside of the house, make money, shoot pool, and go out to have fun with my friends. I wanted to do what my brothers did, not what my sisters did.
Desk with knick knacks and a plant.
After growing up in this manner and now working for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, where we talk about and practice the equity that should exist amongst human beings, I feel proud being able to live a life where I have the opportunity to be and do what I want. It is important to raise our kids with the opportunity to be and do what they wish and to also do this with our own lives, regardless of how old you are, because it is never too late to start.
This isn't easy because culture is very hard to change. I, knowing what I know and feeling how I feel about gender roles, raised my two boys in the same machista manner my brothers were raised in. My boys did not learn how to cook, iron, clean, etc. because those are things women do and that is what I or my mom did for them, that is what I learned from my mother. It is hard to relearn what for centuries has been practiced.
About 15 years ago, I learned about something called reproductive justice, a movement created by Black women, which demands that women have everything they need to live a full life to decide when and if they want to be mothers, how to raise their children and have the environment needed to prosper. At the time I learned about reproductive justice I tried to teach my community about this movement. We had an event where I talked to the audience about reproductive justice and a man stood up and said “Maria, you want to teach women to boss their men around.”
That is not it! Reproductive justice is about the power women have to lead. In my life even though men were considered the boss, I was raised by exceptionally strong women who did not need a man to be by their side to be successful, raise children and provide for their children. Husbands have always been outside the home, supposedly working and making money to provide for their family, while women stay at home, taking care of the family and doing everything else that’s needed.
Crown of thorns flowers in a blue pot.
Reproductive justice speaks to that power in every woman and I support the reproductive justice movement because I know women are powerful and strong, but they have always taken the back seat to men because that is the way we were raised.
It is time we, as women, come out of the shadows of men and demand to be at their same level. We do not want to walk behind men, nor in front, but to walk side by side, because as human beings, our worth is the same. That is what reproductive justice teaches, women are powerful, strong, and should not be afraid to be that.