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Latina Women ‘Lean In’ On Their Own Terms

Latina Women ‘Lean In’ On Their Own Terms

(This article was originally published on Fox News Latino)

Just as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg launched her campaign to ban the word “bossy” in the name of female empowerment, a new study was released by the Pew Research Center that highlights the incredible strides made by Latina women, America’s fastest growing demographic. The study showed that Latina women are doing fine without Ms. Sandberg’s advice.

Nearly 80 percent of Latina high school graduates are going on to college, surpassing even the impressive college-bound rates of their white, non-Latina counterparts. Meanwhile, the number of Latina-owned businesses has climbed 180 percent since 1997 and totaled 944,000 firms in 2013 — more than 1 in every 10 female-owned business in the country.

Sandberg – America’s most celebrated businesswoman and feminist – is credited with rebooting the feminist movement by challenging young women to pursue high-powered career tracks. Too many women, she argues, are subconsciously eschewing demanding careers, hedging their bets on children and families they don’t yet have. In short, she assumes that women are not thinking rationally and are not in the driver seats of their lives and decisions.  

But Latina women actually challenge these assumptions. Indeed, they have always had the cultural advantage of not being constrained by the old-guard feminist paradigms that have so often pitted women against men, motherhood, and even their own children.  

Gender insecurity is at the heart of Sandberg and America’s feminist movement and it is the motivation behind so many of its silly and alienating tactics from bra-burning to word banning. Rather than elevating the feminine genius, feminists continue to make their goal the emulation of men, including normalizing their worst vices, such as pornography.  In the process, they damage themselves and the culture at large by killing chivalry and embracing sexual mores that ultimately do not benefit women and their children.  

Case in point: “Bossy” campaign surrogate and influential pop culture icon Beyonce. Her irresponsibly hyper-sexualized songs and music videos reduce women to strippers and sexual playthings, but are touted by her and her defenders as “empowering”.  In fact, the “b-word” Sandberg ought to be banning are all contained in Beyonce’s song, “Bow down b******”.

On the other hand, the deeply entrenched religious and matriarchal roots of Hispanic culture that have elevated motherhood and by extension, the importance of family and hard work, have empowered Latinas to embrace our gender and biology as strengths, rather than weaknesses.  Perhaps it is this disinclination to see ourselves as victims that is propelling our no-fuss proclivity to “just do it” when it comes to educational, economic, and entrepreneurial opportunities. As the influence of Hispanic women continues to grow, so will a Latina-centered version of female empowerment, reflecting our own cultural experiences and values, rather than the experiences and narrow definitions of “success” as told by Sandberg and the women’s studies departments of America’s ivory towers.

In my own life, I have on occasion been called “bossy”, both professionally and on the home-front (just ask one of my six kids). I have also been criticized for having a large family and “wasting” my education and post-graduate degree during the years I spent as an at-home mom.  

Like millions of others, I reject all of these judgments. Words don’t define me. Actions, my faith, and the strength of my relationships and family do.

I’m not alone. What women really want is opportunity and the freedom to love and accept all aspects of womanhood — the intellectual, spiritual, professional, biological and relational dimensions of who we are. We want to do it on our own terms, jump on and off career tracks as we see fit, and incorporate our own cultural value system, free from ideological movements that try to tell us motherhood and family are incompatible with professionalism, intellectual pursuit, and personal achievement.

Whether they “lean into” career, family, or both, let’s not underestimate the wisdom of women to define happiness and success for themselves. In that regard, Sandberg could stand to take more cues from Latina women.

Rachel Campos-Duffy is the national spokesperson for the LIBRE Initiative, an organization that promotes economic liberty, empowerment and opportunity for Hispanics.