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Defined Womanhood: The Battle Between Misogyny and Radical Feminism

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 UPR chapter.

When I was young, I used to clean one of my grandparent’s rooms with my grandma. I remember that I had always loved to sit around and talk with her since I was a little girl. We could spend hours musing about everything and I can’t remember why this particular conversation revolved around marriage, but it did. Already, I could sense that whatever she was going to say, I wasn’t going to agree with it, but this was my grandma and above all, I love and respect her. So, I sat in comfortable silence listening to her speak on the subject. It had been a long talk, so after a while, I was half listening and half concentrated on what I was currently shuffling around on the shelves. That is until she suddenly put her hand on my forearm. I can remember how still that moment felt as our eyes connected and she said:

“When you have a husband, it’s important to give him the space and place of the house. I have always remembered that and you should too.” 

Then she proceeded to move on from her tale as if nothing out of the ordinary had been uttered. 

Whether she remembers telling me this or not, I can’t tell. After all, this was just another iteration of the  “man-as-the-head-of-the-house” ideal I’d previously heard my mother, aunts, older cousins, and great-aunts talk about so many times before. However, that memory is engraved inside my mind; not because it became a core value that I intend to actually go through with, but because of the train wreck that it left inside my mind.

I was raised by a revolutionized, yet highly inner-conflicted mother. She raised us so that we may become capable, self-sufficient women. Yet, the traditionalized upbringing she endured was still prevalent in our day-to-day. My father was and is to this day, the providerー a role she endorses even in disagreeable moments. However, the conflicting nature of her mentality surfaced when she decided to become a provider herself. I have never known a moment in my life when my mother didn’t workー both in the house and on a daily job. Sure enough, it took me and my sister to make her realize that. But to realize and to accept are different things, and to this day I cringe when she disparages her own role in the household for the “man of the house” ideal. 

Seeing the women I have loved forever go through such mental gymnastics of self-doubt made me positively angry. Here I was, seeing the backbones of our families reduce themselves to the traditional “woman of the house” mindset for a false recognition that their male counterparts, in all respect, didn’t deserve. The men gave their 50 when they gave a 110. 

This irritating knowledge pushed me further from wanting to be like them and pulled me closer to the newer generations of my family. My cousins embraced their feminist ideals loudly and proudly, even if it earned them disapproving stares from the older women. They were not afraid to speak up, take up space, and demand attention. But their search for being different abandoned traditionally endorsed feminine roles. Cooking, cleaning, sewing, and child upbringingー to them, these tasks were patriarchal shackles, and before long it became pretty clear they wouldn’t follow through with them as they neared adulthood. 

Where my own inner conflict began.

In an ideal world, I would love to wake up to a husband and many children. I would like to cook some days for them and even clean if it needs to be done. I wouldn’t mind sitting down to sew a child’s costume or fix my own husband’s broken seamsー Just as long as they were clear on the fact that this wasn’t my role, but a mere gesture of my kindness and love. 

But we don’t live in an ideal worldー and the younger women in my family knew it too. It wasn’t long before those who held onto similar illusions as I began to fall in love and have children first. Those of us who watched from afar were reduced to gape in horror as they were slowly sucked into the traditional gender-normative shackles and lost their sparkle. The older women approved because to them this was just a rite of passage into their definition of womanhood. For us, it was a nightmare. 

That’s why I soon started to adopt their radicalized thinking. I began to express my desire to be alone and not have childrenー because the alternative seemed to be a dooming sentence. I refused to engage in any activity that required following a traditional role, and when it came to interacting with the men in my family, I felt accomplished if I could make them scoff at my attitude toward men.

But that didn’t make me happy, and in my warped mentality, it also led me to immense amounts of guilt. I didn’t want to desire a man’s love and approval. I didn’t want to desire to be a wife and mother. I secretly hated knowing how deeply I yearned for domestic bliss. Then it came to the fact that, when no one was looking, when the older women knew they were safe to speak with me alone, they would congratulate me for sticking out for myselfー ensuring I had built a future for myself where no man had to save me. For them it was an act of rebellion against their mindset, to set themselves apart for a second to recognize my efforts. For me, it was another cry for help in a sea of thousands I couldn’t answer. I was both their joy and their disappointment, and it carried heavily in my heart.

So how did I reach the conclusions I live by today? 

I simply realized that I couldn’t live by the expectations of others. Choices, after all, were all I truly wanted. And I also realized my battle would be endless. Choice and perseverance would be my biggest allies. 

In the future, I want to choose to marry out of love and have a big family. I want to choose cooking, cleaning, and other things when the occasion arises. I want to choose the nurturing role that comes with being a parent. I want to choose. What I don’t want is to shackle myself to something for the sake of perpetuating misogyny or denouncing roles that could be traditional for the sake of radicalization and differentiation. That is where perseverance comes in. I will have to be strong and uphold my thinking to my husband and children; to make a statement by stepping back from those roles when my needs arise above them. It will not be easy, especially with the work society has yet to carry on in the mindset of our men and women. But this is the key to the future I want. 

Sure, some days I’ll be similar to the older women that raised me and some days I’ll act like the younger women that inspired me. But at the end of the day, I’ll be whatever defines my womanhood because I chose it. 

Writer, editor, artist, and social media enthusiast, Naomi thrives on fun daily challenges and lots of bed rest. When she's not working, she's outside trying to find the latest hobby to dig her hands on.