As a Latina feminist writer I get asked too often: “What does your boyfriend think of your work?” Some times I am even asked that while he is standing right next to me. I resent these types of questions for obvious reasons but also find that it is important to answer these questions with care when a fellow Latina is asking me this because it means that sexism is so normalized in relationships that we have made sexism romantic.
When I say that we have romanticized sexism I mean that we have lost track of sexism as an overtly violent act of social control for women by mainly men but also perpetuated horizontally toward one another through generational/traditional understandings of gender roles.
Regardless, we have romanticized sexism and I notice this every single day, when I have to check myself, and my partner, in the ways that we unintentionally allow sexism into our partnership.
We have given men the power to move a relationship forward, by making them the ones who usually ask for a date, a relationship title, and even proposals. The romantic Valentine’s Day candies that read: “You’re mine,” are a relinquishing of power upon request. And we still manage to blush and clap our way, into a FaceTime conversation with our best friends, to let them know that our partner has asked permission for you to become “his.”
We have also given them free reign to dictate things like our hair and outfit choices. We take it as a sign that he is attentive and caring. I once had a boyfriend who openly told me once that he “preferred me with long hair.” I did not ask him for his unsolicited input, he just felt so socially emboldened to let me know that he had an opinion about MY body that he should let me know about…YET if I had a dollar for every woman I heard verbalize they could change something about their partners, and had their male partners blatantly ignore them, I would be rich. Too often I hear: “I hate it when he doesn’t shave his beard” or “I wish he would wear a better fitting suit,” or even “I wish he would cut his hair,” while the male partner stands in full view of the world with his long beard, bad suit, and long hair. Not a care in the world exists for this male partner because socially he is allowed to exist and be without having to change anything about himself, YET I date someone who tells me they prefer my hair longer and I am expected to do just that: keep it long. When did unsolicited opinions about my hair become a romantic sign of his attentiveness toward me???
In a lot of my circles we have normalized and made the idea of an overly jealous novio into a sweet character trait.
No, this is not sweet.
No, this is not romantic.
All of this is an overtly violent act of social control.
I say this a lot, to myself and to anyone who asks me: “what does your boyfriend think of your work?” Because sexism is not romantic, nor should it ever be considered romantic.
This is why I have begun to refer to my boyfriend as my partner, it makes treating him and having him treat me like an equal in this dynamic. It reminds me to speak to my partner, like a partner, in a way where we can both exist with our flaws and our autonomy remains intact. And yes, it can get sticky and it can be uncomfortable but I would rather us both be uncomfortable than me constantly working to make his existence comfortable while relinquishing my own comfort.
Partnerships are romantic, not sexist.
Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez is a chonga Mujerista from Managua, Nicaragua currently living in Miami, FL. She recently graduated with her Masters from Vanderbilt University, and is looking to take some much needed time off to refresh. She is also the founder of Latina Rebels, a blogger for HuffPo Latino Voices, and a columnist/editor at Chica Magazine. Her interests are within biopolitics as it relates to Latina embodiment, specifically concerning models of conquerable flesh around narratives of naturalization for women of color. Thus her work is around reclaiming and upholding embodied resistance, particularly within chonga and chola subcultures. Que viva la mujer!