MicroMachismos: Another Type of Violence against Women

By: Karen Legrand

Guatemala is ranked as one of the most unsafe countries in the world for girls and women. According to the National Institute for Forensic Sciences (Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Forenses, INACIF), in 2018 there were 628 reports of crimerelated deaths of women, meaning that two women were killed a day, 45% of them between the ages of 18 and 34.

Violence against women is rooted in different places, one of which is machismo. According to Marcela Lagarde, Latin American anthropologist and feminist, machismo is based on androcentrism, which has the social view that men and masculinity are superior to women, with more ability and utility. Machismo exalts certain male characteristics related to virility, emphasizing aggression, the use of harmful force, and sexual dominance.

What are Micromachismos?

According to the psychologist Luis Bonino, micromachismos are subtle acts of violence that take place in daily life and are for the most part unperceived. Yet, they reflect and strengthen machista attitudes and the inequality of women with respect to men at a subconscious level.

Bonino classifies micromachismos into four types.

  1. Utilitarian: Principally related to the domestic environment and the care of others. They are based on the “feminine abilities” of service and the characterization of their work as caretakers.

You’re a woman! You know how to cook! Good women keep a clean house!

  1. Hidden: Seek to impose “masculine truths,” rendering the wills and desires of women invisible. They don’t use force, but rather feelings, which brings women to keep on following the paths chosen for them by men, on the base of manipulation.

Quiet! Dad’s angry! I’ll drive the pickup because it’s big.

  1. Crisis-related: Used in moments of inequality in a relationship. These crises generally take place when women are conscious of their unequal position in the relationship. Given this process of concsiousness and empowerment of women, men should change their behavior in the relationship.

It’s your fault we always fight! You don’t respect the fact that I’m the man of the house!

  1. Coercive: In this type of micromachismo, the man uses his economic, moral, and emotional forcé to exercise power over the woman. The main impact on women is the limitation of their freedom to make decisions. This is a clear example of the real impact of gender inequality on women.

There’s no way you’re paying the bill! That’s no way for a lady to act!

How is violence against women perpetuated?

Every day in the street, on the busses, and on media messages that normalize and strengthen gender inequality. For example, when girls and women walk through the street, they are forced to be the victim of multiple forms of harassment. For example, one micromachismo that normalizes this type of harassment would be: “It’s her fault because she was dressed like that!” or “That’s what she gets for walking in the street alone!” When we normalize violence, we strengthen gender-based inequalities and perpetuate the message that women can be roughed up, abused, raped, and harassed, and it’s their fault.

Let’s reflect. How many times have we shared, written or said something like the following, or how many times have they been said to us?

You’re prettier when you keep your mouth shut

– I can’t take her today! It must be that time of the month

– She needs a man

– Woman at the wheel, constant danger

– Must be a woman

– You fight like a girl

– She only got that job because she slept with someone

– Women prefer bad guys

– Behind every great man is a great woman

– You should be a bit more feminine

– Being a mother is the best thing that could happen to a woman

– Dressed like that, she’s looking for it

– Women are emotional and men are rational

– It was a crime of passion

– She has to show a little something to get a little something

If your answer is more than once, it means that you are being the victim of or perpetuating machista messages. “Micro” means small, but when we speak of micromachismos, we’re referring to the subtleness with which the messages are spread. Machismo is not small. It is big and dangerous, and it kills.

What is the impact of micromachismos on the life of women?

Violence affects women on the individual, familial, community, and societal levels.

At the individual level, women who are victims of violence see their self esteem weakened and their self-image is harmed, which increases their insecurity and weakens their self-confidence. They lose their personal power and their ability to make decisions is limited.

At the familial level, the perpetuation of machismo affects the power relations between mom and dad, sending a message to children that reinforces gender inequality. For example: “Your sister has to serve you!” “Housework is for women!” “The boy can go out alone, but the girl no!” This way of raising children strengthens the idea of power over women and reinforces the submission and obedience of girls.

At the community level, machismo limits the participation of women and their decision making in spaces like board rooms and Community Councils on Rural and Urban Development (COCODE), and even their ability to vote for and be voted into office in local decision-making spaces, leaving the creation and management of projects, public policies, and/ or programs for women in the hands of masculine logic.

At the societal level, we see daily news about sexual violence, human trafficking, kidnappings and femicides. Forced motherhood is a crime, but thousands of girls are forced into motherhood by the simple fact that they’re women. This confirms yet again that Guatemala is an unsafe country for girls and women, and indigenous women.

How to eliminate machismo from our everyday language and behavior?

One of the most important stems is to be conscious of what we say, hear, see on social networks, and what the media tells us about “how to be a man or woman.”

Being conscious means reflecting on and questioning the “modes” or “norms” imposed on our sexuality. Thus, we need to start to be more self-critical of our everyday relationships; stop blaming women for being raped or mistreated; read alternative media sources; and investigate women’s movements in our communities, neighborhoods, or cities and the demands that they make at all political, economic, and social levels.