Because I Am: Societal Gender Expectations

By: Valerie Padilla and Nicole Arroyo

Christina Maldonado, 21, wearing a skirt and some adjectives she’s been told whenever she goes out in public wearing a skirt, dress or jeans. Christina is a University of Puerto Rico -Mayagüez (UPRM) student majoring in psychology and in Hispanic studies, who has always felt that society labels women according to their outfit. “I’ve been complimented by men on the street and whenever I reject their  inappropriate comments they tend to say that I am asking for it, which I believe is an insult to me and to all the women out there because women should be able to wear whatever they want and still be respected.”

Christina Maldonado, 21, wearing a skirt and some adjectives she’s been told whenever she goes out in public wearing a skirt, dress or jeans. Christina is a University of Puerto Rico -Mayagüez (UPRM) student majoring in psychology and in Hispanic studies, who has always felt that society labels women according to their outfit. “I’ve been complimented by men on the street and whenever I reject their inappropriate comments they tend to say that I am asking for it, which I believe is an insult to me and to all the women out there because women should be able to wear whatever they want and still be respected.”

Nicole Hart, 19, striking a classic ballet pointe pose while wearing a traditional rehearsal outfit. Nicole is a sophomore majoring in nursing at the Interamerican University- San Germán and has been practicing ballet since she was eight years old. “As a kid I loved to play with the boys and I wasn’t graceful at all, that’s why my parents decided to enroll me in ballet lessons so I could learn how to act like a girl.  Even though I’ve learned to love ballet I’m only graceful when I’m performing.”

Nicole Hart, 19, striking a classic ballet pointe pose while wearing a traditional rehearsal outfit. Nicole is a sophomore majoring in nursing at the Interamerican University- San Germán and has been practicing ballet since she was eight years old. “As a kid I loved to play with the boys and I wasn’t graceful at all, that’s why my parents decided to enroll me in ballet lessons so I could learn how to act like a girl. Even though I’ve learned to love ballet I’m only graceful when I’m performing.”

José Toro, 18, better known as Pekike, reflecting on his masculinity. Pekike is a freshman at UPRM in the arts and sciences faculty who has been judged by his colleagues from his basketball team in Ponce, based on his looks and how he dresses. “I have been thought as homosexual by many people, even though I am not; my teammates took my abilities for granted for many weeks.”

José Toro, 18, better known as Pekike, reflecting on his masculinity. Pekike is a freshman at UPRM in the arts and sciences faculty who has been judged by his colleagues from his basketball team in Ponce, based on his looks and how he dresses. “I have been thought as homosexual by many people, even though I am not; my teammates took my abilities for granted for many weeks.”

Krismarie Carrasquillo,19, staring in the mirror reminding herself to maintain her weight. She is a sophomore at UPRM; as a child Krismarie was overweight and was bullied during middle school. “I always try to remind myself to stay in shape and never be embarrassed to go to the beach, because of my past experiences with bullying, I try to keep up with society’s expectations.”

Krismarie Carrasquillo,19, staring in the mirror reminding herself to maintain her weight. She is a sophomore at UPRM; as a child Krismarie was overweight and was bullied during middle school. “I always try to remind myself to stay in shape and never be embarrassed to go to the beach, because of my past experiences with bullying, I try to keep up with society’s expectations.”

Paola Gracia, 22, holding one of her childhood baby dolls and wearing a diamond ring she was given by her father when she turned fifteen. Paola is a senior at the University of Puerto Rico-Ponce majoring in political sciences, who has not been in a serious relationship and most of the time feels pressured by her family  to find someone to settle down. “I am young, that’s why I have no hurry to be in a relationship, also I’ve never dreamed of getting married and to tell you the truth I don’t like children so I don't se myself as a mom.”

Paola Gracia, 22, holding one of her childhood baby dolls and wearing a diamond ring she was given by her father when she turned fifteen. Paola is a senior at the University of Puerto Rico-Ponce majoring in political sciences, who has not been in a serious relationship and most of the time feels pressured by her family to find someone to settle down. “I am young, that’s why I have no hurry to be in a relationship, also I’ve never dreamed of getting married and to tell you the truth I don’t like children so I don’t se myself as a mom.”

 Juan Cazares, 20, in his room after talking with his housemates about many of his life problems. In his childhood Juan was abandoned by his father and has had many other tough experiences, like the death of his closest cousin; today Juan studies biology in the Interamerican University-San Germán. “Just because I am male, it does not mean that if I break down and cry I would be less of a man than one who pretends to always be strong.”


Juan Cazares, 20, in his room after talking with his housemates about many of his life problems. In his childhood Juan was abandoned by his father and has had many other tough experiences, like the death of his closest cousin; today Juan studies biology in the Interamerican University-San Germán. “Just because I am male, it does not mean that if I break down and cry I would be less of a man than one who pretends to always be strong.”

Valeria Collazo, 18, cleaning the kitchen after preparing a meal for her two brothers. Since her freshman year as a student at UPRM, Valeria has had to cook and clean after herself and her brothers. “Ever since I was little my mom taught me to clean after my brothers and maintain a spotless house; while my siblings played sports I was learning how to clean and cook or  studying and reading.”

Valeria Collazo, 18, cleaning the kitchen after preparing a meal for her two brothers. Since her freshman year as a student at UPRM, Valeria has had to cook and clean after herself and her brothers. “Ever since I was little my mom taught me to clean after my brothers and maintain a spotless house; while my siblings played sports I was learning how to clean and cook or studying and reading.”

Andrea Figueroa, 21, hiding her face behind a piece of paper because of her sometimes lack of security and confidence. Andrea a UPRM student majoring in microbiology has struggle all her life to find that sense of security that would make her a strong and confident woman. “I’ve been taught since I was little that women are not supposed to be confident because it would threaten the men, but I rather threaten someone than to be submissive and unhappy.”

Andrea Figueroa, 21, hiding her face behind a piece of paper because of her sometimes lack of security and confidence. Andrea a UPRM student majoring in microbiology has struggle all her life to find that sense of security that would make her a strong and confident woman. “I’ve been taught since I was little that women are not supposed to be confident because it would threaten the men, but I rather threaten someone than to be submissive and unhappy.”

 José Díaz, 18, during his daily training as wrestler at UPRM. José has always been very sports oriented since he was in second grade; he has been in volleyball, basketball and wrestling teams.  “My parents oriented me to use sports as a stress reliever; I have always thought that athleticism was a good and necessary quality in men.”


José Díaz, 18, during his daily training as wrestler at UPRM. José has always been very sports oriented since he was in second grade; he has been in volleyball, basketball and wrestling teams. “My parents oriented me to use sports as a stress reliever; I have always thought that athleticism was a good and necessary quality in men.”

Valerie Padilla, 21,after spending almost two hours getting ready for a night out. Valerie is a UPRM student majoring in biology that has been dissed for not wearing make up to college in order to hide any imperfections. “I have learned to accept and love myself, but sometimes I feel pressure to go the extra mile and get all glammed up even if it’s for something so simple as a movie night.”

Valerie Padilla, 21,after spending almost two hours getting ready for a night out. Valerie is a UPRM student majoring in biology that has been dissed for not wearing make up to college in order to hide any imperfections. “I have learned to accept and love myself, but sometimes I feel pressure to go the extra mile and get all glammed up even if it’s for something so simple as a movie night.”

Dorianne González, 19, after her basketball practice with the Atléticos from San Germán team. When she was young her parents encouraged her to practice ballet and sports with less physical contact, however she always loved playing basketball and her family grew to accept it, presently she is an undergrad in the UPRM in business administration. “In school I tried to play basketball with the boys and all the girls judged me for being a tomboy, instead of giving up it made me stronger and today I still practice three times a week.”

Dorianne González, 19, after her basketball practice with the Atléticos from San Germán team. When she was young her parents encouraged her to practice ballet and sports with less physical contact, however she always loved playing basketball and her family grew to accept it, presently she is an undergrad in the UPRM in business administration. “In school I tried to play basketball with the boys and all the girls judged me for being a tomboy, instead of giving up it made me stronger and today I still practice three times a week.”

Michelle Pérez, 21, wearing her everyday look which consists in jeans, a nice blouse and a cardigan or blazer. Michelle is a Interamerican University-San Germán student majoring in biology who all her life has been pressure to wear dresses and skirt so that way she would look more appealing to men. “As a kid I was encouraged to look more feminine  and not be mistaken as one of the guys, but I feel more comfortable wearing jeans because they make me feel  comfortable, confident, and powerful; traits I consider important in my future career.”

Michelle Pérez, 21, wearing her everyday look which consists in jeans, a nice blouse and a cardigan or blazer. Michelle is a Interamerican University-San Germán student majoring in biology who all her life has been pressure to wear dresses and skirt so that way she would look more appealing to men. “As a kid I was encouraged to look more feminine and not be mistaken as one of the guys, but I feel more comfortable wearing jeans because they make me feel comfortable, confident, and powerful; traits I consider important in my future career.”

Amanda Méndez, 20, studying hard for one of her organic chemistry finals in order to maintain her 4.0 gpa. Amanda is a dark blonde UPRM student majoring in chemistry who’s intelligence has been constantly questioned by others. “When I was in middle my peers would always call me “dumb blonde”, at some point I started to believe that I was dumb and I decided not to study, but then I realized that was society’s stereotypes talking so I decided to rise above those stereotypes and pursue my dreams.”

Amanda Méndez, 20, studying hard for one of her organic chemistry finals in order to maintain her 4.0 gpa. Amanda is a dark blonde UPRM student majoring in chemistry who’s intelligence has been constantly questioned by others. “When I was in middle my peers would always call me “dumb blonde”, at some point I started to believe that I was dumb and I decided not to study, but then I realized that was society’s stereotypes talking so I decided to rise above those stereotypes and pursue my dreams.”

Marianna Altieri, 22, wearing her favorite work boots instead those glittery pumps that she is expected to wear with a party dress. Marianna is a mechanical engineering student at the Polytechnic University-San Juan, who sometimes feels left out or that she doesn’t belong there just because she is a woman. “When I was in high school, the counselor called me into her office to discuss my future and she started talking to me about nursing school and business administration, and when I told her I was going to become and engineer she tried to persuade me into studying a more ‘lady-like’ career.”

Marianna Altieri, 22, wearing her favorite work boots instead those glittery pumps that she is expected to wear with a party dress. Marianna is a mechanical engineering student at the Polytechnic University-San Juan, who sometimes feels left out or that she doesn’t belong there just because she is a woman. “When I was in high school, the counselor called me into her office to discuss my future and she started talking to me about nursing school and business administration, and when I told her I was going to become and engineer she tried to persuade me into studying a more ‘lady-like’ career.”

 Nicole Arroyo, 20, during a date with her boyfriend in Mayagüez. Nicole, who studies microbiology at the UPRM, comes from a very traditional family where she is expected to be in a steady and healthy relationship with a man, instead of being single. “Although I am happy in my relationship, my family indirectly pressures me and my cousins to be in a relationship where a man can take care of us.”


Nicole Arroyo, 20, during a date with her boyfriend in Mayagüez. Nicole, who studies microbiology at the UPRM, comes from a very traditional family where she is expected to be in a steady and healthy relationship with a man, instead of being single. “Although I am happy in my relationship, my family indirectly pressures me and my cousins to be in a relationship where a man can take care of us.”

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