Debate Magazine

The Perils of Being A Feminist in the Dominican Republic

Posted on the 07 March 2012 by Juliez
The Perils of Being A Feminist in the Dominican Republic

I’m currently a senior at my high school here in the Dominican Republic. I was born in the States and have lived overseas almost my entire life. I’m also Hispanic– both my parents and the rest of my family are Cuban. I think this is a great thing, a blessing even. We’re all pretty close, we’re bilingual, our food is delicious, we have friends all around the world, and now we have many opportunities that we wouldn’t have been granted if we hadn’t moved around. I’m extremely grateful.

Nevertheless (did you feel there was an impending catch?), if you’re also Hispanic or if you have had any exposure to Latino culture, you’ve probably witnessed the drawbacks of the close-mindedness and conventionalism that are evident in my culture, and maybe you’ve even dealt with the ever-present ‘Big P’, or need for propriety.

My family could easily be considered open-minded for a Latino family. There are some ideas and decisions that are debatable, but mostly they’re very modern. But when I told my family that I was applying to women’s colleges, their reaction wasn’t so progressive. “Why?” They asked. “Are you feeling a bit confused Amanda? Because you know…” they trailed off. I didn’t understand why they automatically associated women’s colleges with lesbians before associating them with powerful, innovative women or extremely rigorous schools. I even thought it was quite entertaining to have my father, who is probably one of the most conservative men his age and the opposite of up-front when it comes to discussing sexuality and relationships with his daughters, look at me wide-eyed, scrutinizing my every move, so as to notice any sign of hesitation or confusion. I answered: “No, I’m pretty confident that I’m straight, not that my sexuality impacts my decision to apply to these colleges in any way.”

While my dad is a bit “old-school” and conservative about some issues, he is (relatively) open-minded about most others, and so is my mom. Both are completely devoted to and supportive of my every endeavor. Again, most families here do not possess this ‘modern’ thinking. I was, thankfully, brought up to have a mind of my own, to venture outside of my bubble of society here in the D.R. and find this appealing, not scary or “disagreeable” (I’m boldly quoting Jane Austen’s Emma directly, which was, mind you, published in 1815 … uber-conventional thinking? Yes.)

Needless to say, it does get difficult sometimes when dealing with students who are completely unaware of how ignorant they sound when making archaic comments and the effect these comments have on their own society and country. The men inhabiting this island are generally sexist- machistas for you Spanish speakers- and that’s caused by this traditional-conventional-conservative attitude that seizes most minds here. The country still hasn’t progressed past this self-destructive thinking: it’s stayed behind with the Highbury mentality of the 19th century (again, thank you Ms. Austen).

I’ve experienced numerous situations where women face the most regressive expectations here on this island. If we don’t wear makeup to school, we’ve obviously missed out on scoring our future potential husband, who will study business or finance and then come back to start his own company, or work in a bank, or open his own bank, and maintain us for the rest of our lives while we breed and nurse our young. I’ve been in classrooms with male peers, many of whom I adore and am very close with outside of the classroom, but who undeniably project innumerous stereotypes in their (repugnant) attempts to trigger a laugh or two. Guys will make comments like the classic: “I can’t wait to work on Wall Street and bring home the bacon.” I always dismiss comments like this with a, “Who says you will?” which naturally provokes the comeback “the man is supposed to make the money so that the mom can stay home with the kids,Amanda. Duh!”


The extent to which men look down on women here is unthinkable and it’s disturbing how they have these roles for women already planned out in their minds. Naturally I’m really looking forward to moving back to the US so that I can experience newer, more modern, more apt treatments and perspectives of women. I find out where I’ll be attending college this month- wish me luck!

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