Excerpt by Beatriz Salcedo-Strumpf
Hurriedly, I answer him:
How cold you came across to me in your last message! I must also tell you that I’m very disenchanted that you have no regard for Hispanic women writers. Whether you like or not, there are excellent Ibero-American authors, and the quality of their writing is very appreciable, and I’m not going to repeat any of their names. The reason why women haven’t advanced in this field and in others is because historically we have been yoked to domestic space. And when one has had the opportunity to become educated, it has been quite a bit effort. I’m saying this because of personal experience. Virginia Woolf put it very well: “Intellectual independence depends on material things. Poetry depends on intellectual freedom.
And women have always been poor, not only for two hundred years, but since the beginning of time. Women, therefore, have not had the least opportunity to write poetry. That is why I have insisted so much on the necessity of having money and a room for your own”.
As you can see, she expresses this idea better than I.
Look, I can only read or write when I have finished the endless work I have in the house, in addition to all my work at the university. Many of my friends haven’t even able to practice their professions because the needs of the house have taken precedence.
Don’t think I am against housework, but there should be more equality in the executions of these labors. I mean men should help with household chores. I know that these are cultural matters, deeply entrenched in our cultural medium, but with the aid and support of all family members, change could succeed. I recognize that this is rather utopian, but not an impossibility.
And I add, in the same way, the rearing of children has been assigned to us and we are valued for the male heirs that we give society. The machista ideology is evident in its existence here and now, and in the current patriarchal system in which we live. What infuriates me about all these questions is that equality doesn’t exist in our upbringing and let’s not even mention the double standard that we women have tolerate. The saddest part of the situation is that machista and misogynist women exist as well. They help to proliferate the patriarchal model, but I don’t pile all the blame on them. First, some haven’t had the chance to overcome their sphere and, for that reason, they think that is the only way to exist, to be.
As to the double standard, I recall incidents when I was an adolescent. For example, my brothers had the luxury of entering, leaving and getting home at any hour, but I was strictly prohibited from doing the same. Nine o’clock was my nightly curfew. As to sexual aspect, every month I had to show my mother the bloodstains on my most intimate clothing. It was her way of verifying that I wasn’t pregnant.
Obviously, my brothers had nothing to show and nothing to verify.
I’m going to relate you an unpleasant anecdote. Early one day, on the way to the gym where I worked-I tended to walk there because of its proximity to my house- I was suddenly confronted by a youth of fifteen or sixteen. He tried to yank my skirt up and I screamed at him to let go and ran away from him as fast as my legs would go.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the police was passing by and called to me: “What’s wrong, Miss? You look so upset”. I pointed at the boy and exclaimed that he tried to rape me. The policeman ordered me to get into the car, then did the same to the boy. We were taken to headquarters where another policeman asked me to repeat my story.
His reaction left me pretrified: “Young lady, if you weren’t wearing a miniskirt, that kid wouldn’t even have looked at you.” I kept silent and the only thing I wanted was to get out of that abominable sexist place.
Similar things can be said about my girlfriends. Many have had to abandon their careers because their duties at home would not permit them to do more or their husbands simply would no allow them to work. Or if the spouse was “generous,” he authorized his wife to work with the assurance that she wouldn’t neglect the needs of the children, much less his own.
These cases raise my bile. I recognize that they are products of cultural biases deeply rooted in tradition, but with the support, understanding and reasoning of all family members, the predicament of women could be amended.
Well, I leave you here because my household duties are calling me.