The Two Worlds Of A Woke Brown Girl
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Politics and Activism

The Two Worlds Of A Woke Brown Girl

Integrating our world and our father's is tricky business.

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The Two Worlds Of A Woke Brown Girl
"Mechanic's Hands" by JD June

The #WokeBrownGirl movement took over my social networking circles a few weeks ago. It championed beautiful women both inside and out, with dreams and aspirations that broke the norms of their communities. I identified heavily with the idea that women with brown skin could shake the foundations of their cultures and help educate their own about issues like gender stereotypes, education and even female autonomy — an issue that I identified with on a personal level during my education while growing up as a Mexican-American female.

My sisters and I were, for example, expected to help serve my father whenever he got home from work. Mother would cook for him, and someone else would plate the food, get the salsa, make his tea, clean up after him. Mother would wash his dishes, and then we'd go to bed.

I still remember how he likes his tea, too. Two and a half spoons of unsweetened Lipton tea, the juice of one lime, six little packets of Sweet N' Low sweetener, and his favorite (let me note — pink) cup, filled to about an inch from the top with water. Every night, he'd drink the same thing with his dinner. I don't know how he developed the ritual; I just obliged. We always obliged. He was Dad, and I loved him (we all loved him), and from the respect I had for him came the deference and obedience that characterized so many of my young self's interactions with him.

While I love my father and would still make him tea if he walked in today, I realized recently that I've grown out of the designation of power that was instilled in me through my relationship with him. The same goes for my sisters. One is a proud single mom raising a sharp little boy, another is in a long-term relationship with a partner who'll do his own laundry to help out, and my twin sister is a Marine. Whatever Mexican-American cultural norms exist, we sure are breaking a lot of them. And while I'm proud to no end of what we've accomplished, sometimes I try to imagine how my father must feel.

No doubt he's proud, as he often tells me. But he knows that I'm not traditionally heterosexual and that my twin sister is giving her life to her country instead of going to school. He knows that one of his grandsons doesn't have a father figure and that one of his daughters doesn't do laundry for her husband. He was accustomed to having my mother serve him and to being the breadwinner of the house. He was accustomed to the idea that a woman cooked and stayed home and, if she worked, that she gave the man of the house her hard-earned money.

My parents belonged to a generation of different Mexican-American cultural norms, and somewhere between their generation and mine, something changed. My father is proud of me for getting an education at one of the best engineering schools in the world, and he is proud of my Marine sister for signing her life away to her country. He didn't have any sons, and I think at some point he chose to live vicariously through the children he did have — through the four daughters who were breaking the rules that he had helped propagate himself.

I don't expect my father to understand all of the choices I've made so far, but I think it's reasonable to want some sort of admission of pride.

He can't hide away the chuckle he gives when I make jokes about school, and he can't hide away the twinkle in his eyes, wrinkled at the corners, that tells me I'm doing something right. My dad was a brilliant and wiry young man who didn't finish school and opted out of a military career for personal reasons — and here his two youngest daughters are, accomplishing what he must wish on some days that he had. And there are his two oldest daughters, living free of the male deference that characterized my mother's actions toward him for many years.

Ultimately, I think that having four daughters helped veer my father from his traditional ideas about male and female stereotypes. My sisters and I still serve him if he comes over, but we love him and some things just won't change. There exists this dichotomy in each of us, a conflict between wanting to serve the most important male in our lives and wanting to be strong, independent and educated women. This polarity exists for any female in which the old world and the new world converge — and learning to strike a balance is particularly a struggle for the #WokeBrownGirl.

But what else can I say? I love my papí, and he loves his tea.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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