In my women’s studies classes, I often found myself having to answer the question “do you define yourself by your gender first or your culture?” The answer to this has always been easy for me – I’m a woman who happens to be Latina.
Now, you all know I don’t much like labels, but if I have to choose, I’ve always seen myself as a woman first.
At first, this just came as a gut reaction, but after being asked that question for the third or fourth time, I realized my reasoning: most of the struggles I’ve had were because of my status as a woman, not as a Latina.
I couldn’t go anywhere alone because I was a girl, I couldn’t date or wear make-up or any of that because I was a girl, I put up with catcalls and harassment because I’m a woman, I worry about going out after dark because I’m a woman… the list goes on and on. I can probably count on one hand (okay, probably two) the number of times I’ve been called a spic, but I won’t even bother trying to count the number of times I’ve been called bitch, slut, whore, etc.
And, sure, I struggled to learn English as a 5-year-old immigrant, and having to be my parents’ translator was not only embarrassing but unbelievably difficult (there’s a reason you need to be 18 to sign legal documents—elementary school education just isn’t enough to understand any of that). But those memories pale in comparison to the ones I have of thinking I couldn’t do something because I was a girl.
In my women’s studies classes, and when I’ve asked the question to others, I seem to be in the minority in feeling this way. How do you define yourselves if you’re forced to choose? Can you choose? Does anybody else choose based on a similar reasoning?