Understanding the complexity of intersecting identities among women of Mexican descent
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Several social forces shape and influence one’s identity. The interaction of race, ethnicity, gender, and social class creates lenses through which a person experiences life and reality. These variables must be understood as they relate to each other to gain a better understanding of an individual’s life experiences. This study aimed to expand research on identity development and contribute to research on intersecting identities among American women of Mexican descent. The first goal of the proposed study was understanding feminism among American women of Mexican descent. Gathering data on the feminist perspectives of these women assisted in dispelling stereotypes that exist regarding this population. The second goal centered on examining the salience of an ethnic and feminist identity within this population. The study explored conflicts related to holding these identities simultaneously. The proposed study also examined the relationship between an achieved identity (such as ethnicity and feminism) to self-esteem. Consistent with past research, using the label feminist was related to feminist beliefs. Findings further demonstrated that those women that simultaneously identify as feminists and of Mexican descent scored higher on measures of feminist and ethnic identity. Analyses showed that participants identified more with an ethnic identity than a feminist identity. In this study, women with higher levels of feminist identity were likely to have higher levels of ethnic identity. Furthermore, women that simultaneously identified as feminists and of Mexican descent experienced some conflict in relation to family relationships, spiritual life, employment or school life, and personal relationships. Participants’ responses to open-ended questions regarding conflict provide context to empirical findings; responses suggest different ways of managing conflicts regarding feminist identification in the areas of family relationships, employment, spiritual life, and personal relationships. This study provides relevant information for professionals working with women of Mexican descent. Understanding the interaction of salient identities, such as ethnicity and feminism, may result in improved counseling treatment models for women of Mexican descent.