When I think about feminism, I think of the women who have shaped who I am today.
I grew up in a socially conservative Latino household, where my dad was – and still is – the head of the house and made most of the family decisions. Although my mom had a say, she never made the final call. It annoyed me from a young age that this was the case, though mostly for selfish reasons, like not being able to go with my friends when they went to places outside our town.
However, in September of 2001, my dad had an accident at work that left him paralyzed from the waist down, and my mom was with him and taking care of him 24/7. It was my mom who slept in the waiting area of the emergency room for almost two weeks to make sure he was never alone. Needless to say, it was one of the hardest times for our family, yet she was always there for him.
When my mom was growing up – and still in some countries today – girls stayed home to do housework while only boys went to class. Although she didn’t go to school at all, she’s the smartest person I know. She can do math in her head like no one else and she learned Spanish and English at an older age than most people do. I often wonder what would have happened had she been afforded an education. My mom made many sacrifices so that my family and I could have a good future and have the resources to be successful in life.
Growing up, the teachers who most influenced me were women- they were the ones who encouraged me to be engaged in school. Women incentivized me to find my love for books; women believed in me from an early age, made sure I was succeeding in school, and gave me the most encouragement when I did something well. Many of my biggest supporters in high school were women who put in great time to make me as successful as possible in college, and for that I am thankful every day!
I want my mother and my teachers, as well as my younger and older sister, my sisters-in-law, and my nieces to be treated based on the content of their character and not their gender. I want all women to have the same opportunities that I have as a man. I want to see women empowered. Why would anyone ever want them to be mistreated? That some men are okay with women being treated less than they deserve is beyond me.
I am a feminist because the people who have made the biggest impact on my life have been women, and I know that I am better because of them.
(feature image courtesy of Ted Richardson for The New York Times)