Posts Tagged ‘mami’

I shall be quick.

A friend, a few years back, complained of the tendency of certain people to refer to women as ‘mami”. She hated it. She felt as if it were limiting, as if as a woman the only thing she could ever be or aspire to be was a mother.

I said that i understood her POV. But that when evaluating the culture of another, do so by their yardstick not yours.

She was in Miami and a gringa blanquita (white american), so I am guessing the people using the terms were Cubans.

I wondered if she would take offense at her man calling her “baby”. Why is THAT ok? Because it is gender neutral? Because she is used to it?

She said that language tells you about culture and she didnt like what the use of the word “mami” implied. Well, she had no kids. I have kids. So Im used to being called mami.Doesnt bug me. So what DOES it imply, again- that women are limited in their choices to being nothing but mothers, that  latin culture is so machista that they cant even conceive (no pun intended) of women in other roles.

Points taken.

But, language tells you about culture. In both cases, using baby or mami as a term of endearment reflect that both cultures (lets just say there are 2 cultures to make it simple today,ok?) recognize the mother-child bond as the primary one, as thes strongest and most ideal. The ultimate expression of love, tenderness and intimacy is to refer to your partner as being part of the mother child dyad. (DID I FUCKING TYPE THAT?? *smh*).

It is QUITE American that we would speak of our beloved as a “baby”, because in the US we coddle children, we love them, adore them, spoil them and we worship youth. But, let us not confuse issues. The people using this term arent generally from the US. THey are from a culture where women, though they do have to deal with some shit, are respected and revered and adored as mothers. (I didnt say wives, I said mothers) Mami runs the show, mami runs the house, mami slaps her sons around and keeps them in line even when they are big hulking middle aged brutes. To be Mami is to be the one loved and adored beyond reason, but with the additional perk of being looked up to- venerated and respected.

Im no old fashioned person. I also happen to be a woman, I birthed 3 kids and have spent a grand total of 10 years either breastfeeding or lactating. About a quarter of my life. So you  know, I dont think of the role of mother as being one that is shameful. I certainly understand not wanting biology to be destiny, not wanting to be barefoot pregnant and confined to the kitchen. But, would a woman ever say “I hate to be called Queen, as if the only thing a woman were good for is to rule a country”,just to think of an example.

ONLY a mother. Nothing more than a mother. Well, the Queen Mother doesnt seem to mind. The Queen of England has whelped a few pups. Benazir Bhutto had some kiddies. Being a mami didnt limit them.  And MY GOD, the woman who said this was a pagan. For her, being called Mami should have been the ultimate compliment.

That it wasnt, I said, says less about the word mami and latin culture than it does about her own culture. You hear an insult in the compliment, because what woman in the US A would want to be a mami? Mami the workhorse, the unappreciated, the dog, the mule, the abandoned, the forgotten, the poor, she who is good for nothing but breeding. A culture where women in order to be appreciated in the workplace have had to bind their breasts and dress as men and act as men. We think we are so advanced, yet for a woman to get the same respect as a man she has to practically BE a man.

There is something to be said for cultures that have as their ideal, even if an unmet ideal, the image of a loving, kind, loyal mother. Who have as the ultimate recipient of their love, the one who they adore and respect and obey even! Maybe its just me, but Id rather be the mother than the baby. La que manda,you know? As a woman, an adult, if I were to find such things offensive, I would chafe much more under the paternalistic infantlization and implication that to be loved I have to remain a helpless dependent powerless opinionless subjugatged subordinate mewling puking infant, than the implication that as a woman I was doomed to be nothing more than a mother.

But, again, this is America where we worship youth, so I get why the idea of being someone’s baby is appealing. Me. I dont want to be a baby. I like being Mami. I like being Mamita, a perfect amalgam of respect and affection. My ex used to call me Ma, and if it was good enough for Caroline Ingalls it was good enough for me!! She wasnt Cuban, btw,

To wrap it up-If being called a mother is an insult, just maybe it says more about the role and value of mothers in your society than it does the machismo of the one “insulting” you.

*after writing this i hit my normal internet haunts and found the perfect word, by happenstance.this is and has been one of my major complaints for years.  here goes



In America we are currently living in a Kindergarchy, under rule by children. People who are raising, or have recently raised, or have even been around children a fair amount in recent years will, I think, immediately sense what I have in mind. Children have gone from background to foreground figures in domestic life, with more and more attention centered on them, their upbringing, their small accomplishments, their right relationship with parents and grandparents. For the past 30 years at least, we have been lavishing vast expense and anxiety on our children in ways that are unprecedented in American and in perhaps any other national life. Such has been the weight of all this concern about children that it has exercised a subtle but pervasive tyranny of its own. This is what I call Kindergarchy: dreary, boring, sadly misguided Kindergarchy.

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