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El caballero y la feminista

“Sé un caballero,” (Be a gentleman) a father told his little boy the other day, “y cárgale la mochila de la niña” (and carry the little girl’s backpack).

“Thank you, but that’s not necessary,” I responded. “She can carry her own backpack.” And so my stepdaughter and we continued on our way to school.

I also remember when my husband and I went to see our “partera” (midwife). She is a robust woman capable of shaking big babies out of large women. She needed to buy a “garrafón” (jug) of water. So she asked my husband, who’s about half her size, if he could carry it for her. Now our midwife is as much of a feminist as the next woman, but she is also accustomed to letting the men do the heavy-lifting. Later on she laughed about it and also wondered why my poor husband should have to struggle with the “garrafón” when she could lift it and carry it herself.

This same scene is repeated time and time again. The other day in the office a group of women were huddled around a plywood desk, whispering amongst themselves until one of them spotted my husband. There was no escape. He was volunteered to carry the desk to the next room while the five women stood around and watched.

This is when feminism gets a little muddy. On the one hand, men and women (here in Xalapa) are taught that “caballeros” (gentlemen) should open doors and carry “mochilas” and that women are strong and independent but shouldn’t use that strength to carry their own “garrafones”. It’s another take on gender roles I suppose. More on that next time…