Believe Me, I’m a Good Girl

I’m a good girl, right? This is the question that many girls ask themselves frequently. For centuries, women have made an effort to adapt to society’s standards on manners, behavior and appearance. Both men and women try to conform to society’s expectations. The difference is that women have done it to gain acceptance and avoid mistreatment. Are these expectations helping women or confining them to a limited number of options and growth?

Hispanic Women and Culture:
Hispanic women are taught to act a certain way and to act “proper.” Otherwise, shame would be brought to the family, and a good reputation is of the utmost importance for Hispanic families. As a Hispanic female, I have seen firsthand how we are used to respecting the opinion of our families, which is why we try to fit into their expectations. We are united people, and many of us feel guilty when we oppose what our families tell us. At the same time, we have such a strong link to them that we also learn many healthy lifestyle traits from our family. On the other hand, it makes me think about how this might negatively impact us learning to become independent.

Embracing Our Culture:
Latinas living in the United States often struggle to define what behavior is considered appropriate. The Hispanic culture has very different expectations of girls than the U.S. culture. I see great potential to have the best of both worlds through the mixture of Hispanic and American cultures. Through the blending of both cultures, it becomes possible for us to see the flaws in our own practices. There is a bigger range of options to choose from as far as behavior, appearance and manners. In order to choose wisely and freely, we must develop an independent mind. However, this does not mean that Latina women must completely abandon or forget their families’ customs and traditions, but rather strengthen those which we strongly relate to.

Paving Our Own Path:
In the same way, there might be some family or cultural traditions that we do not agree with. Our immediate reaction might be to feel guilt for it. If we are mature enough, it can simply mean that we are gaining a certain mental independence, which of course can be a positive trait. That is the benefit of living in a place different from where our families came from originally. We can choose our own path even as we remember the many positive traits our culture passes on to us like the importance we place on family.

To strengthen our culture and those around us as Hispanic women, we must ask ourselves two questions. Which customs would you like to see change in your culture? Which customs would you like to continue and celebrate?