The Story They’ve Told Us About Love
By: Wendy Matamoros Zambrana, Coordinator of Intersectoral Alliances and Communications.
What ideas about love do we grow up with? How do we understand and experience love as women? The stories about our foremothers, religious passages, fairytales, top songs, Disney fables, Mexican and Brazilian soap operas, Hollywood movies, the media, and even the stories we tell ourselves, sum it perfectly: Your life will be complete when the man of your dreams appears. He will be your better half, your Alpha and Omega, your beginning and end. You will give him his legacy and your life will revolve around him and his legacy. You will give all of yourself and all of your sacrifice will display your true love.
“We have been taught to see love only from the religious, utopic dimension, to aspire to love in an almost dehumanized way. We situate love in a dimension based on sacrifice, total surrender and unconditionality, attitudes that make us susceptible to subordination and domination,” explains Carmen Baltodano, in her essay, “The Patriarchal Concept of Love in the Lives of Women.”
The patriarchal primer on love teaches us that our other half exists and must be desperately searched for, because if we do not find it, we will be incomplete. We are also taught that if we do not have a partner (a cisgender heterosexual man) by a certain age, our life will be destined to solitude, sadness, misfortune and bitterness. Furthermore, the primer tells us that we only exist for a man, and that man has the right to protect what is his – which is to say, a woman is part of his private property – through control, correction and punishment.
The decree of sacrificial love is so powerful that when a woman decides to put herself at the center of her own existence, to develop her autonomy and make decisions that do not respond to traditional gender norms, then guilt, doubt and judgement appear like gargoyles of self-sabotage. Nevertheless, many women decide to continue and chose to confront these limiting beliefs of submission, but many recoil and stay on the track of mandated gender roles. Others do not even question the romantic and religious narrative on love.
These conceptions of love that we learn, that we believe, and that turn into truths written in stone, put us in a situation of vulnerability, especially when it comes to machista violence.
The romantic love that we learn in the patriarchal primer about relationships tells us that we are responsible for everything good and bad that happens in a relationship. If they are violent, aggressive and unfaithful, it is because of something we have done wrong. If they are jealous and they isolate us from others, it is because they love us and they want us only for themselves. If they expect us to serve them, we feed them and get their things ready, it is because there is no one else than can do it as well as we do. If they want to have sex (and unprotected sex) when we do not, it is our obligation to fulfill and if necessary, we have to fake that we enjoy it.
In this primer, the patriarchal gender mandates blame other women outside of the relationship for their faults and the “instinctual” behaviors (that can include crimes and harassment) of men towards these women: “That woman has a long line of men, she got what she deserves,” “That girl is crazy and passionate, she better not complain later.”
Many men that commit femicide justify themselves as being “blinded by love” when committing their crimes. Many abusers and batterers of women say they love the women they have harmed. Many women do not see the danger signs or take protective measures because since they were girls they learned that love hurts and requires sacrifice. None of this is normal, none of this is love. It is violence; violence that each year in Nicaragua dramatically takes the lives of more women, many of them mothers that are solely responsible for raising and caring for their children.
Machista violence kills. Machista violence leaves profound injuries in women, girls and teenagers. Machista violence oppresses and submits. Machista violence is not love
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.