Growing up, I was definitely NOT empowered. I was shy and retiring (don’t laugh, it’s true!). I was afraid to meet people or talk, so much so that my kindergarten teacher in the early ’60s told my mother she thought I was “retarded.” I overheard and was mortified and began talking in class so no one would think that again. I remain garrulous to this day. STOP laughing.
I am half Mexican-American and half Gringa (Anglo-Saxon descent with some Irish thrown in as well as Scandinavian, according to my family tree and DNA). My Mexican grandparents instilled a great pride in me for all things Latino while my very WASPy grandparents on my father’s side did their best to wash that out, by citing genealogy, references to relations in England and American Revolutionary patriots as well as Civil War captains (for the Union) and looking down on my Mexican/Catholic heritage and my mother. They came from a time and place where this was ok, where Latinos and/or Mexicans were seen as lesser beings. I always knew it wasn’t ok, but I loved and admired them too, so it was confusing; contributing much to my shyness and low self-worth.
In school, I didn’t fit in. Bookish and quiet, as well as being the geek girl who skipped three grades, I was younger than my classmates, didn’t fit in with the Chicanas, no matter that my mother was working with MALDEF and the UFW. The white kids in school considered me Mexican and didn’t want me around. My sisters cared only for makeup and boys, so they thought my books and writing was, in a word, stupid. I took refuge in the library surrounded by books. Was I bullied? No, not really, unless you count isolation as bullying. I had very few friends, but I was okay because I had my books, cooking and my family.
The way I grew up, being quiet and retiring was considered feminine (hello gender bias). Voicing an opinion or contradicting an elder or a man was considered unfeminine. Quiet, dainty, ladylike…all lovely little words, but also very suffocating ones. Those words can strangle a spirit. My grandmothers (both) thought they were teaching me to be a “lady” all rose petals, silk and good manners. I’m still shy, just don’t often show it. I learned to overcome it with positive female role models in my career path, with pride in my culture and believe it or not, from the #WWE. Watching strong women storm and rage around the ring let loose my inner confidence beast and showed me it’s sometimes more than okay to growl. It’s okay to toot your own horn and it’s more than wonderful to be who you are.
I have granddaughters and a daughter, all of whom I marvel at. They aren’t quiet and shy. They storm through their lives taking no prisoners. They sparkle in their diversity and confidence. They have many friends and know what they want out of life. They take charge. They are bold and brash, intelligent and spirited. It makes me tear up at times to see just how confident and secure in who they are – something I never had growing up. I hope that sparkle never dims. I hope those self-esteems stay up. I hope no one ever feels they have to hide their light under the auspices of femininity. p>
A few days ago we watched #SummerSlam together; my daughter, granddaughter, grandson and I. Not all of it, but we were very focused on the Stephanie McMahon/Brie Bella match. We were rooting for Stephanie who’d been out of the ring over ten years and completely killed it. She is just the type of woman my grandmothers would shake their heads at and call unfeminine. She is just the kind of woman I encourage my granddaughters to admire for going after what she wants, in a non-traditional role and succeeding in spite of all odds.
I don’t know what my neighbors thought of all the hooting, screaming and stomping that came from my place, but I can bet they weren’t thinking we were retiring, quiet or shy. GO GIRL POWER!
Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Wireless Lifestyle Program which gives me free access to mobile technology and other benefits. The opinions expressed here are my own, as is the cursing and the Spanglish. I am, as always myself. #VZWBuzz