The Scars from Machista Beliefs
Bluntly put, machismo is the belief that men are superior to women.
Machismo is a cultural practice seen in various parts of the world. Bluntly put, machismo is the belief that men are superior to women. Essentially, that men are braver, stronger, wiser, quicker, and more capable at any task (except at birthing children) than women. It is from this that the notion that women are made only for domestic work and having children came from.
Culturally, I was born in a machismo household. My father, brothers, uncles, and most of my cousins all are machistas. Meaning that the women in my family always follow the men’s rules, needs, and desires. The man’s word is always the final word. And women are not given a chance to have their opinions heard. Just because they are women, they are seen as individuals incapable of really knowing anything or of even offering a real solution.
This leaves scars in the women around me. Scars from never having their voice heard. Scars of not being able to follow their dreams. Scars that birthing and raising a family is all they are capable of. Scars that their mind can not go beyond housebound thoughts. Scars that they are inferior and less capable. Scars that they are only meant to serve and obey. Scars that their destiny was predetermined by centuries of cultural teachings. Scars that they cannot be a role model to their daughters to be strong independent women. Scars that their sons will grow to see them as less. Scars that they cannot be the heroes of their own lives.
In machista households, men tend to complain that women talk or nag too much. From an observer’s perspective, it’s easy to see that women just want to be seen. They want to be recognized and appreciated. They want to have their spotlight and feel as if they have value. They don’t want their worth to be determined by how many children they can have, but for who they are. The “talking” and “nagging” are essentially women’s outlets to their frustrations. Because if these women cry, it’ll just enforce the beliefs held in this cultural system. It’ll just “prove” that women are too emotionally driven to be able to work beyond the walls of their households. Therefore, the women resist their tears and allow their words to flow instead in hopes that they’ll be seen.
In machismo households, women are deprived from developing even basic skills. My mother and a few of my aunts never learned how to drive because it was not seen as something that women should do. They were never allowed to ride a bike, climb trees, throw a punch or carry heavy things. Anything beyond the kitchen was seen as not their ‘forte.’ They were practically trained to be housewives. My father wouldn’t even allow my mom to learn English in fear that she would speak it better than him. He also restricted her from reading books for the same fear that she’d become smarter than he. Martial-arts or weapons for self-defense were out of the question. Friends and outing were out of the picture too. Anything that would allow her to seem to have “more” in any way was unacceptable. The men around me restricted their wives from having better paid jobs because they “needed” to be the breadwinner. They “needed” to be the head of the house. (My mom is the only woman in my family, except for me, who didn’t follow this rule. As a housekeeper, she earned more than my father did. He had to suck it up so they can pay off their mortgage).
Even though I grew up with a very machismo father, I was lucky. I grew up being anxious all the time. Therefore, I didn’t want another thing to define and shape my life without my consent. Therefore, I learned how to have a voice. Even though that may sound rude and a dishonor to my parents, I didn’t want to grow up completely bitter from being robbed of opportunities to learn and grow. Even though I was limited in many ways, I poked holes in my father’s machismo to at least bend some boundaries my way. By the age of five I taught myself how to ride a bike with no training wheels. I learned how to skateboard and climb trees. I would play baseball at home and basketball at school. Not only did I learn how to cook, clean, iron, and sew, but also how to garden, use tools, work machines, and drive a car. I was attracted to the sciences and math as well. Therefore, I would borrow books at the library about space, the human body, math, and biology. It took me a few years, but I grew out of being shy. I found my voice. I found my spirit. I learned how to play with the rhythm of my own heart. I’m not scared to throw a punch and know how to do a head lock. Many of the things that I’ve learned were out of my father’s will. But I did them anyway. Because my mother’s biggest fear was that I would grow old without knowing how to defend myself verbally, intellectually, and physically. That I’d depend on a man to define my value and worth; for me to live a life defined by the limiting boundaries of the men around me. To be molded and sculpted to their perfection, forgetting that I have a mind, body, and soul too.
Unfortunately for many women, machismo is still common. It instills fear for women to be themselves, to speak up, to share their opinions and ideas. They become afraid of going against their father or husband. Honestly, I think machismo is just a man’s fear of being uncovered. For everyone to see that his ego is bigger than he is. And I’m not a feminist, but I do think that if men want to grow and reach their potential, they need to compete with women. We might not be built the same, but we know how to put up a fight.