Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
WomensHistoryMonth HubHero FullWidth R2?width=719&height=464&fit=crop&auto=webp
WomensHistoryMonth HubHero FullWidth R2?width=398&height=256&fit=crop&auto=webp
Life > Experiences

What Does Womanhood, Gender, & Identity Mean For Hispanic/Latine Women?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

Every year from Sept. 15th to Oct. 15th, Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the identities, contributions, and victories of the Latine community. The University of Central FloridaHoe is home to hundreds of students hailing from Hispanic and Latin American countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia, and more, but with almost a quarter of the female population here at UCF being Hispanic, where does their sense of womanhood and Hispanic identity intersect? As someone who grew up Cuban and Costa Rican, but raised in America, I was always conflicted between the traditional values of domestic women from my Hispanic family and the more progressive changes women in America were pursuing in family, work, education, and society. I set out to ask myself and two other UCF students, what does womanhood, gender, and identity look like for Hispanic women? 

Penelope Sosa, 20, is a sophomore studying Kinesiology and competes on the UCF Track & Field and Cross Country teams. 

Sandra Guerra, 19, is a recent sophomore transfer studying Chemistry and Political science. 

How would you say being Hispanic has impacted your idea of gender? 

Penelope: Growing up Hispanic, my idea of gender had always been traditional. The way I was raised, a boy acts like a boy and a girl acts like a girl. Now that I’m older and have met so many different types of people, I can say that I don’t believe in that ideology or subscribe to it. It’s fine for other people, just not for me. 

Sandra: I would say that I’ve never felt fully feminine in my life, mostly because the idea of female beauty was internalized from Western standards, like not being blonde or being “too hairy.” I also witness a lot of preferential treatment given to boys, so I feel almost forced to act like a boy to be treated equally, or that as a daughter, I wasn’t enough. 

Amanda: I think because some Hispanic cultures have this deeply ingrained idea of “machismo” where the man is a provider and the woman is docile and a mother or homemaker, I can say gender used to exist in this strict binary of girls versus boys, but obviously growing up in the States and attending UCF, I’ve learned that there are so many different ways to be a man, woman, or to just go with the flow of your own gender and expression. 

Has growing up Latina/Hispanic impacted your relationship with womanhood?

Penelope: I would say growing up Latina made me very confident in who I am as a woman. My parents raised me with the idea that I am beautiful and strong. Being a part of my culture truly makes me feel like I’m in touch with my specific sense of womanhood. 

Sandra: For sure! I felt like the Latin experience almost limited womanhood and what us girls could do. There were strict rules of what was successful and what was deemed acceptable by my peers and family. 

Amanda: There’s almost this sense of “you’re a girl, you can only do or wear girly things,” but, now that I’m older, I love to rebel against stiff gender norms by embracing the fact that I can do something that’s seen in the culture as stereotypically ’macho’ and hyper feminine at the same time without sacrificing my womanhood. I think that comes from having strong women in my family that broke gender norms by being breadwinners or working in more maledominated industries.

Would you say being a woman means different things for different ethnicities? 

Penelope: Yes, there’s a variety of ethnicities around the world that have different cultures. Some women grew up under strict gender roles while others grew up more independent. One example, and a controversial one, is women who include trans women in the conversation, versus those that exclude them as “not real women” and ignore their identity by referring to them as “men.” 

Sandra: Definitely. Latinos define women under a strict cultural, and sometimes religious, definition, and often exclude anyone that doesn’t fit into that, including transgender women, tomboys, and more, whereas other cultures are more accepting and welcoming. 

Amanda: It’s different for different ethnicities, cultures, and generations. An older Hispanic isn’t going to have the same idea of womanhood and identity as someone younger or Gen Z. I’m Cuban and Costa Rican, which are two vastly different cultures under the Hispanic umbrella, but I’m also part of a younger generation and grew up in America, so my definition of a woman is going to differ from someone older in those countries or across the world. 

What are the different treatments you’ve experienced throughout your life as a Latina?

Penelope: In Miami, because a lot of the people are Hispanic, the treatment I received as a Latina was pretty positive. I didn’t face many hardships regarding my ethnicity growing up. I would say the only time I felt as if I’m different was when I got to UCF, where the population, like my cross-country team, wasn’t as Hispanic. Sometimes I get made fun of for my accent or the way I speak. While I’m blessed for the opportunity, it still hurts to be treated differently or feel like an outlier. The only thing I can do is keep my head up high and surround myself with true friends. 

Sandra: I’ve experienced some fetishization from men and the occasional microaggression (like asking me to say “papi,” or asking me if I really speak Spanish) since getting to Orlando, which is new for me since Miami is so predominately Hispanic.

Amanda: I’m very Caucasian-passing, and have mostly outgrown my accent, so I can’t say I’ve experienced being treated that much differently. There’s the occasional ignorant person that thinks my being Hispanic is “exotic” and a lot of my friends who are Afro-Latina or Chicana tell me stories of just horrible sexualization, but as this generation grows a lot more tolerant, I hope actions like these won’t be so common anymore.

How do you view womanhood, gender, and identity within your heritage?

Amanda is a freshman studying at the University of Central Florida, but is originally from Miami and is half-Cuban, half-Costa Rican. She is pursuing a double-major in Political Science (Pre-Law) and English Literature. When her nose isn't stuck in a book, you can find her listening to music, playing with her dogs, or going on a nature walk.