Denormalize Machista Violence
By: Wendy Matamoros, Coordinator of Intersectoral Alliances and Communications.
“You are mine and no one else’s!” “Shut up! You don’t have a say in this” “Who do you think they’ll believe, you or me?” “If I hit you it’s because you make me lose my mind!” “How could you think you would earn as much as a man? Get real” “Without me, you’re nothing, because you have nothing” “A woman’s place is in the home.” These daily expressions of machista violence affect women of all ages, conditions and origins, leaves deep scars, punches that leave marks beyond just the body, and humiliation that diminishes their dignity and self esteem down to nothing, women’s lives destroyed, their children orphaned, and children and youth abused.
Being a Man, Being a Woman
From the time we are born, machismo is present in our lives through the imposed gender roles that tell us how to be, how to think, and how to do things a certain way.
Women are taught to keep their heads down, to be submissive, to be dependent (emotionally, physically and materially), to not complain, to search for meaning in our lives through the men in our lives, through our children, through caring for others, through sacrifice and through domestic life – silent and obedient. Our dignity is tied to how well we become the maximum expression of sacrifice and suffering without complaint.
Women are taught not to trust others, to rival other women, to oppress and blame other women. Sisterhood is the mortal enemy of the patriarchy because, as Mexican academic, anthropologist, researcher and feminist Marcela Lagarde states, sisterhood “is an experience for women that seeks positive relationships and existential and political alliances, body to body, subjectivity to subjectivity with other women, to contribute to specific actions to eliminate all forms of oppression and to mutually support gender power for all and vital empowerment of each woman.” This is why one of the strategies of the patriarchy is to divide and conquer, submit to survive.
Men are taught to be the guardians and the duty bearers of the patriarchal inheritance. Their connection with their emotions and vulnerability is castrated, and they cultivate the adrenaline of oppression, control and possession of other bodies, lives, and lands. They are taught to not be empathetic, not be compassionate, not be loving, respectful or sensible, because doing so would imply weakness and inferiority, it would imply becoming feminized and losing the respect of their peers.
Men are taught to ally themselves to one another, to be complicit and to justify the actions of others that contribute to perpetuating their power of “superiority.” They are taught that the meaning of their lives is determined by the power they have and in order to have power they have to provide for, control, possess, dominate, demand submission, whether it be symbolic, emotional, physical or material.
While there are increasing numbers of people (in all of their diversity) that swim against the current of these patriarchal ideas, mandates, norms and dynamics, and many traditionally excluded groups are catapulting their voices, dignifying their identities, demanding their rights and exposing the intersections of oppression, the patriarchy maintains enormous power that crosses all arteries of our social dynamics, with monolithic force that dominates religions, governments, the media, laws, capital, institutions, the family, and even love.
Machista Violence in Nicaragua
In the report, “Progress of the world’s women 2019–2020: Families in a changing world,” U.N. Women states: Families can be sites of profound insecurity for women and girls, since, for far too many women, home is the place where they are most likely to face violence and abuse. Globally, 17.8 per cent of women report experiencing physical or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner within the last 12 months.”
It is no less alarming in our country. The report “70 Days of Machista Violence Against Women in Nicaragua,” signed by the Social Movement Network (Articulación de Movimientos Sociales), offers alarming data:
- In just 8 months of 2019 (from January through August 12), 44 femicides have occurred in Nicaragua, which represents an alarming increase compared to a total of 57 femicides in 2018 and 51 in 2017.
- 78% of femicides were perpetrated by the victims’ partners, ex-partners or acquaintances; data provided by the Network of Women Against Violence (Red de Mujeres Contra la Violencia)
- In 2018, of 4,085 forensic examinations of sexual violence carried out by the Legal Medicine Institute (Instituto de Medicina Legal), 81% of cases were minors under the age of 17; data provided by CODENI.
- Twenty girls between the ages of 7 and 14 have been raped in 2019 in Nicaragua’s mining triangle, Prinzapolka and Mulukukú.
- As of August 31, 2019, 48 girls, boys and teenagers were orphaned by the loss of their mothers; a high percentage of women victims of femicide were the only one responsible for the care of their children; data provided by Catholics for Choice.
It is worth noting that attempted femicide and aggravated femicide is not an indicator of regret by the aggressor. Anyone that commits femicide plans their crime. Anyone that commits femicide attacks with force, cruelty and misogyny. Anyone that commits femicide looks to crown their power by taking a life and denigrating the body of their victim.
For machista violence to be maintained and to grow (as is happening in Nicaragua), there must be a favorable structural environment, that like logs on a fire lights it, feeds it and spreads it. An environment in which power over the feminized lives and bodies does not just involve control in the bedroom and in the home, but in the street, in communities, and across the entire social system.
Femicide represents the tip of the iceberg of accumulated machista violence experienced in our country at multiple levels, spheres and structures. It is machista violence that is justified and invisible in the dynamics of daily life and propagated as a media spectacle that desensitizes and stimulates a gruesome attraction to cruelty.
Denormalizing Machista Violence
Challenging the status quo is not easy for men or women, even though they both experience it from their unique vantage point. Men from their place of privileged also suffer the consequences of patriarchal demand for masculinity, which harms and abuses men (particularly when they are boys and teenagers), turning them into fertile ground in which to cultivate the worst of the human condition.
As women, we need to analyze the problem of machista violence from an intersectional perspective, and develop connections of sisterhood among one another. We also need to build alliances with men that are willing to create a masculinity that has as its foundation principles and practices based on respect, solidarity, commitment, empathy and equality. Men with an authentic willingness to denounce their privilege so that women can exercise our rights.
How can we break down machista violence from where each of us stands, the privileges we have, and the places through which we move and where we have an impact? How can we assume our individual responsibility to cease to part of the collective links (be it from our indifference or our participation as agents and/or receptors of machista violence) that form this chain of oppression?
It is fundamental to recognize our responsibility, to pay attention to acts of obvious and less-obvious violence that we are committing and seek help to overcome them.
Unlearning these patriarchal mandates is a complex process which is better addressed together with others. We need to come together with other people that, like us, want to change and want to have an impact in eradicating machista violence, so that impunity ceases to be the norm, the focus of the media changes – to respect for the lives and dignity of the victims, to the deconstruction of violence and the demand for justice – so that we can truly exercise our human rights, men and women, equally.
This article is part of the “ACTÚA” Campaign: Businesses and Organizations Committed to Preventing Gender Based Violence” (ACTÚA: Empresas y organizaciones comprometidas con la prevención de la violencia basada en género), that uniRSE, together with organizations and businesses that make up the Inter-Institutional CSR Commission (Comisión Social del Comité Interinstitucional de la RSE) and Puntos de Encuentro Foundation, are implementing through the project, “We Are United to Prevent Gender Based Violence: Joining Forces Between the Business Sector and Civil Society,” funded by Trocaire.