They Need a Mother, Not Another Best Friend

Disclaimer: This post contains information that may offend readers. Views expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

Growing up, my family was poor. I never internalized that fact until I was preparing to go to High School. It was a momentous event. I was flying the coup, the Bronx, to go to another borough, and attend a specialized school, Brooklyn Tech. My mother could not have been prouder.

Knowing that my single mother did not have the funds to purchase my school clothes, I decided to do something drastic. I lied about my age to obtain a factory job. I was 13, pretending to be 16. They never asked for papers.

That job opened my eyes to more than just the working world.

I was sexually harassed every day on the job by men that could have been my older brother, father, uncle or even grandfather. Everyday I was met with catcalls. All kinds. They talked about my rump, grabbed my body in various areas and sometimes … even showed me photos of men and women in different stages of undress.

It didn’t matter that I looked like a child. It didn’t matter that I was not provocatively dressed. It did not matter if I stayed quiet, screamed at them to leave me alone, or sought help from my jefe/boss. It didn’t stop. In fact, speaking to my jefe just made it worse. They were angry now. They would not be ruled by a girl/woman.

You may be wondering why I stayed. It’s simple.  I witnessed this in varying forms while living in Puerto Rico and in New York. It was part of my community, my cultura,  full of machismo. It was “normal” to see women emotionally and/or physically abused around me.

Police refused to become involved. Many times they would tell the man to walk it off and leave the scene without arresting the perpetrator, that is until someone was drastically hurt or killed.

Or, like happened in my own family, till she lashed out and stabbed the man who abused her since she was 13. The man who swore to love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, as long as they both shall live. This same man, who was approximately 30 years her senior, did none of that. His love was twisted, his thought of comfort only for himself and his many, many mistresses. She, on the other hand, at age 21, had 5 children, including the twins she had bore that past week.

Photo Source: David Castillo Dominici

As women, we have come so far and yet not far enough. We purport to want so much more for ourselves but place our daughters in the very same situations we sought to outrun. We continue the cycle. Marrying men who represent this cultura, raising boys that believe the “men will be boys” mentality, behaving as if our bodies are more important than our brains, all while allowing society to determine who our daughters are to become. I witness it day in and day out.

Our daughters need us to step up. They need mothers to speak up and out, for themselves and their children. They need parents, not  friends.

We are our daughters’ first defense. Let them be angry. Let them sulk, whine and throw tantrums because you will not allow them to wear the latest fashion trends, tell them they can no longer associate with certain “friends”, and reinforce abstinence is best, while also teaching them about safe sex practices. Let them call you old fashioned, as long as they get to become old themselves. 

Yes, it is a sad state when our daughters can not run as freely as our sons. However, I would much rather see them alive and unscathed, than buried, in a coffin or living a nightmare that has no end, because denial is running rampant.

I witnessed a lot that summer. It changed my life.  Don’t let denial change hers.

Hold her hand now so that she can soar later.

Thoughts? Share them in a comment below.

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About the Author

Migdalia Rivera, also known as Ms. Latina in social media, is a single Latina mother of a teen, tween and 2 Australian Shepherds. When not blogging, or chasing after her energetic bunch, she connects influential bloggers with brands and PR agencies via her blogger network, Stiletto Media.

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{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Myrah - Coupon Mamacita August 15, 2012, 2:06 pm

    Wow Migdalia, every day I admire you more and more. You have gone through so much turbulence in your life, hence you continue strong, positive and loving! More power to you chica!
    Myrah – Coupon Mamacita recently posted..$0.75 off the purchase of $5 of Weight Watchers!

  • Tough Cookie Mommy August 15, 2012, 3:51 pm

    This is a wonderful post, Migdalia. It’s about time that we stood up as parents and protected our girls. As an educator I get to see first hand how these young girls are growing up too fast and being encouraged to show their bodies by dressing provocatively. It all starts in the home. How could I question what they are doing and what they are wearing if their parents allowed them to leave the house that way. We are robbing children of their childhoods and their innocence by trying to be their buddies instead of establishing boundaries and parenting them. Thank you for saying what has been needed to be said for a long time.
    Tough Cookie Mommy recently posted..Enjoy a Family Day at Pole Position Raceway in NY/Jersey City!

  • alissa apel August 15, 2012, 6:00 pm

    I was just talking with my co-workers about the sexual harassment I experienced when I was younger. When I was in middle school I got paired up with 2 boys in Science class for a group. One of the boys kept putting his pencil on my chair saying, “Come on sit and spin.” The other one laughed. Then he kept putting his hand up my leg, while I pushed it off. I asked my teacher to switch groups because they were doing things I didn’t like. He let me. :)

    Then in high school guys would yell out to my friend (whom I was always with), “I bet if you had sex with her she’d break in 1/2.” She was skinny.

    I was told by my photography teacher to never be alone in the dark room. Well I wasn’t then all the sudden people up and left, while I was timing my prints. A guy came over and put his hand on my breast. Just like it was no big deal. I wacked him, but never told anyone. I felt it was my fault for being alone when I wasn’t supposed to.

    I didn’t grow up in a culture where that was normal. I still experienced it. It’s awful! I makes the girl feel as if it’s her fault somehow. So sad.
    alissa apel recently posted..WW: Vintage Car {Linky}

  • Lisa ~ AutismWonderland August 15, 2012, 7:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing this with us! You are so right – we need to teach our girls to be strong and independent. To want to be with someone because they want to not because they have to.
    Lisa ~ AutismWonderland recently posted..A Walk In My Shoes

  • Bicultural Mama August 15, 2012, 10:54 pm

    What a thoughtfully-written post. So sad you had to endure all of that harassment at the factory. Also very sad what your family member went through. It’s true that the first line of defense are us, mothers, who can teach our girls what’s acceptable and not acceptable to put up with. It’s hard to change a culture of macho-thinking, but we can start with our own daughters.
    Bicultural Mama recently posted..MOMables 3 Month Menu Subscription Giveaway Winner Announced

  • Maggie S. August 16, 2012, 9:59 am

    Thank you so much. There are very few voices out there saying let them be mad at you for the things they think are old fashioned.

    It’s a fool who thinks it can’t happen to them or their child because their circumstances are better than their grandmother’s were or because they live in a better neighborhood or because …whatever.

    Giving our kids better than we had isn’t a function of physical provision, it’s calling out the wrong and delineating the right. Thanks again.
    Maggie S. recently posted..Ready? Oh-KAY!!!

  • Laurita August 20, 2012, 4:20 pm

    Without a doubt when of the most jarring– and moving– posts I’ve ever read. Short, bittersweet, and truly compelling. I’m proud that you are speaking up for girls– who will someday become women, amiga! :)
    Laurita recently posted..Comment on Tomen un pedazo del ‘pie’: convención LULAC 2012 / Grab a Piece of the Pie: LULAC 2012 Convention by Laurita

  • Bruna Payne September 24, 2012, 10:48 pm

    I’ve just recently been following you and as a Latina myself I completely understand and am so glad that you came out and spoke up to all mothers and daughter – not an easy topic at all. Also not an easy role, because as mom’s we usually want to be our children’s best friend – my mom is my best friend. But as a mom, I know that there will come moment when my children may hate me but they will eventually look back and love me all the same because one day they will understand and I pray that I can educate them enough along the way and be able to speak with them that our relationship will develop in a way that they will know that I only want what’s best for them, no matter how much they may disagree or dislike me at the moment. Great piece. Please visit me some time at -Bruna

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