From “Por qué no me empacaste el lonche?” to “sirvame la comida,” Latinos have heavily defined gender roles.
The Latino community expects women to take care of the household. She not only needs to take care of everything involving her children, such as picking them up from school, taking them to the doctor, and attending parent-teacher conferences. She also needs to tend to household responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and caring for her partner.
But why is she expected to take care of a grown man (that can take care of himself)?
This all stems from the way Latino boys are raised. Latino boys are taught just to sit around while their mom, tias, and abuelas do everything for them. This is not to say children should be taking on adult tasks, but you get the gist. They leave their dirty clothes and socks thrown all over the floor, don’t make the bed, and simply have little regard for picking up after themselves.
The worst part is that they would return home from school and find their room pristine, with everything put in its place and smelling fresh and clean. The problem arises when this behavior continues well into adulthood, with maternal figures intervening in their son’s relationships and providing (toxic) suggestions about how their partner should behave.
Enter the problem of infantilization of Latino boys
Infantilization is when an “adult is treated like a child,” even if they have no “mental, physical, social, or intellectual” impediments. Infantilization perfectly describes the special treatment Latino boys receive, as they are perfectly capable of caring for themselves yet don’t know how to (or care to learn how to).
As a teen, I watched as my grandmother coddled my uncles but had strict expectations from my mom.
As a result, my uncles grew up to be men who could not fend for themselves, while my mom learned all the basic life skills needed to survive and thrive. My uncles went on to expect this behavior from their wives, demanding they be taken care of at all times, even if their wives worked full-time.
And so the cycle of machismo continued.
Infantilization is a problem because it creates the expectation that men are these defenseless creatures that need a woman to do even the most simple of tasks for them and further perpetuates toxic gender norms.
And what about women? Who serves their plate of food at Thanksgiving? Who takes care of them when they catch the flu?
Your partner is not your maid, and your partner is not a replacement for your mother. It is comical how women are often treated as inferior when some men don’t even know how to do their own laundry.
As women, it is time to break free of society’s mold and feel empowered to speak against infantilization.