To begin with, I’d like to explain why I chose “machismo” as the title for today’s post. It is a term mostly used in Latin America and most describe it as the socially accepted ideas of how a men and women should conduct themselves, placing the male as the leader, the alpha-male. I don’t actually know of an English equivalent to machismo, although some would relate it to male chauvinism or sexism. I didn’t want to title this post as either one of those because machismo isn’t always the same as sexism.
Most people would describe machismo as a part of the culture that intends to define how men and women are expected to act, according to their set gender roles. The goal of machismo is to create strong, courageous, “manly” men who lead and submissive, supportive, feminine females to take care of her husband and family. Machismo has the expectation of a man to not cry, to bring home the bacon and take care of his entire family financially without the help of a woman. The man is expected to be tough, hard-working and good with the ladies; the more notches on his belt, the better. The woman is expected to do what her husband wants, to cook what he wants, to have the place clean when he gets home, to be grateful and not be promiscuous.
Although society has changed over the decades in terms of reversing of gender roles and acceptance of the participation of women in society, traces of machismo are still visible today. One example that I notice most is chivalry. Men still talk about having to be gentlemen, of never laying their hand on a woman, of opening doors and paying the tab. Although all of these details are small acts of generosity, they’re remnants of a system of beliefs that taught us that women are weak and have to be taken care of.
I was taught to treat others the way I’d like to be treated and to help others. Back then, nobody looked at me strange when I opened a door for a man or offered to pay for dinner. I live in another country now, where the culture is a bit different. When I arrive last at the bus stop, I assume that I am last to get on. Because I am female, however, every single man steps aside and stares at me until I get on the bus. It’s not something that I am ungrateful for, rather something that I had to make a habit of… not being “chivalrous” towards men. It offends many of them. Not accepting an offer to help carry my bag or open a bottle of soda can be taken the wrong way. Damn feminists.
At the beginning of my relationship, I was constantly given advice by other women.
“Don’t pay for anything, he’ll get use to it and then expect you to always pay for everything.”
Wait? HE is the one who’ll get use to it? In the future he’ll expect ME to start buying him everything? I highly doubt that. This society looks down on a women paying for ANYTHING when she has a man. The few times that I have paid for our hotdogs or a taxi ride, he would look down with shame. There is no reason for him to feel shame, but it’s the way he was taught. I let him pay for some things and I cover whatever I order in excess…. which I often times do, I love to eat. If anything, it’s the women here who expect their man to pay for everything, some screen potential boyfriends on how much they make and how much they will be investing in their future girlfriend.
“He goes over to your place? Jeez, you even save the guy money on hotels.”
He’s my boyfriend, not a john. Why would we go to a hotel? I’ve noticed over time that this is from the idea that many have of a man having to do everything get in the woman’s pants. I’ve also had men tell me that I am doing it wrong. If he doesn’t come running when I need to have my gas tank installed or a nail put on the wall, I am not “controlling” him right. “You’re not supposed to make it easy for him, you’ve got to make him work for everything.” GTFO.
“So…is he helping you? You know, how much is he giving you?”
I was a little confused when she first asked, “helps me with what? Specifically? The other day he helped me clean my apartment, fixed the door hinges, and accompanied me to the doctor’s office when I was feeling like crap. Yes, he is very supportive. Oh! You mean by paying my bills?” I’m not saying there is anything wrong with a man helping a woman out financially. But I don’t consider it his responsibility when we are only dating. If he were my husband, living with me, or if we had children toether, then yeah, we’re splitting the bills. Otherwise, like I said before, I’m his girlfriend, not a hooker.
In regards to these last couple of points, it’s frustrating enough that I don’t yet have financial independence… that my mom is still helping me financially with my needs. It would be even more embarrassing to be leeching off of a boyfriend as well. The goal here is to find my own financial freedom and end up being an equal player, not remaining a dependent.
I am the man and he is the woman. This one I’ve heard recently from a guy friend. He finds it amusing that while I can’t cook and that I’m not the typical high-maintenance female, my boyfriend takes his sweet time getting ready. His clothes have to combine, “I can’t wear this yellow t-shirt with these jeans.” He takes extreme care of his sneakers, button-up shirts, jeans, baseball caps, you name it; year old items that I always assumed were new. I’d notice him taking a pair of red and black sneakers out of a box and plastic bag and compliment him on his new shoes, only to find out they are years old. He takes extra care grooming his beard and clipping his mustache hairs one by one so they are perfectly even and cuts his own hair every week. He irons his pants and t-shirts regularly and always has crisp white socks. I don’t know how to iron, my shoes will last me about six months if I am extra careful and I always wear dark colors. My clean clothes always end up on top of a suitcase on the floor (I take months to unpack when I move) and when I don’t remember what’s clean and what’s not, I do the smell test. My clean socks are always brown on the bottom, and I rarely style my hair. We are opposites in these areas, but I’ve never considered that I am the man in the relationship. Apparently, these small details indicate that we have switched gender roles to our guy friend.
The expectations that others have of me as a “lady” is another of the issues that I’ve dealt with during my stage of culture shock. If I wasn’t being scolded for wearing a pair of Timberland boots with black sweats, I was being criticized for not wearing makeup or not straightening my curly hair. I was also called out at times for being “perverted” if I made a sex joke, something that a “lady” doesn’t do. “Valemadrismo” or not giving a crap was a skill that I acquired over time. To hell with what other people say, although it still bugs me at times. It’s annoying that people think that their opinion of another’s personal life is so valuable.