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Breaking Cycles For The Women In My Family

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TAMU chapter.

As a first-generation Mexican-American, I am no stranger to toxic gender roles. Since I was a little girl, machismo was like a dark cloud hovering over me. It showed up, simultaneously, in ways that seem so insignificant yet major. Such as sitting at the dinner table and my mother asking me to get a spoon for my brother even though he was perfectly capable of getting one himself. I noticed a pattern of how much easier the men in my family have it compared to the women. My dad would try to make it playful, saying one day you’ll be waking up early to make me lunch for work, just like your mom, but I was not having it. He always made it clear that women are supposed to cook and clean and quickly that dark cloud turned into a storm.

I knew deep inside that things were not supposed to be that way. I started fighting back and it put a wedge between my dad and me. It was not like I learned to talk back at school or on some television show either, I was always a quiet kid who avoided trouble at all costs, but that would not stop me from the screaming matches about how unfair it was to have to pick up the slack for my brother. Feminity was weak in my eyes at this point and I refused to do anything my dad wanted me to do just because a woman is supposed to do so. I defied my dad in any way I could, the biggest way being refusing to learn how to cook. And in between the angst of wanting to go against his ways and typical adolescent insecurity, I never gained that sense of what it meant to embrace feminity fully.

As I got older I became more aware of the hardships that all the women in my family went through. What was passed off as drama covered up the deep-rooted issues in my family. I can’t blame my family for the way they are, traditionalism runs strong in Latino families. Gathering stories of the pain my grandmother, mother, and sisters went through, I knew there was a cycle going on that I needed to break. Even though I wouldn’t comply with my father’s wishes, I still noticed toxic patterns within myself that showed up in different ways. I found shame and silence consuming me, creating the perfect victim for toxic relationships.

It took a lot of work to unlearn toxic patterns. Not only was I processing my own pain and connecting the dots between moments of my life and the cycle, but I also took it upon myself to unpack the emotional baggage my mother and sisters carry with them. Instead of looking down upon the choices they made with judgment, I learned to understand how they’re not any different from me and the harsh reality is that we are the products of a toxic environment. But before this realization, I thought it would take distancing myself from my family to heal. So I did. I focused on having a found family through other women in my life. I found the beauty in feminity through my female friendships, a void I thought could only be filled with romantic love was now fulfilled platonically. Which sounds cliche and overplayed, but who cares?

Suddenly doing the work to heal and building healthy relationships gave me the realization that I don’t have to run from my family and its problems. Distancing myself made me want to build a better relationship with the women in my family. There’s this quote I love that always grounds me in the way I think about my family members – be kind to your mom, it’s her first time living too. Grace has been a major theme in this process. I stopped holding onto things in the past that dragged me down and opened up.

Machismo doesn’t define me anymore. My inner child would be proud of how I turned something so damaging into a learning lesson. Most of my adolescence was spent running from my culture thinking it was toxic. I used to think my culture did nothing but put women down, but this is far from the case. Ridding such a limiting mindset was freeing when I learned that machismo can be fought through actions. I can embrace my culture and choose not to submit myself to a life my dad thought was most fitting for me. Breaking cycles is a stepping stone in fighting toxic traditional beliefs, not just for Latina women but for every woman. So create a future for yourself and the women around you because we all deserve to embrace feminity for what it is and not doubt any part of womanhood that comes with it. Happy Women’s History Month!

Brianna Torres Adame is an active member of the Her Campus at TAMU chapter, working with public relations and the writing/editing committee. She produces lifestyle content, as well as covering a broad range of topics such as the fashion industry, sustainability, and current events in the College Station/Bryan area. Brianna is a junior at Texas A&M University studying Communications with a certificate in Social Media. Just recently transferring in, she is hoping to further experience in PR and writing roles as she continues her time at TAMU. Beyond Her Campus, she is a part of TAMU PRISM, an organization focused on boosting skills in public relations, influencing, and social media, and TAMU HEAT, an organization that does volunteer work for the community, environment, and animals. In the future, she aspires to mix fashion and sustainability into a career, since those are the two topics she's most passionate about. Creativity is what drives Brianna. She can romanticize almost everything she does but her favorite hobbies are writing, making art, and keeping up with the latest trends in fashion. If you ever need a dance buddy you can count on her to make the most of your Latin Nights at Northgate.