“You’re so lucky your husband helps around the house” or “that’s so girly”
Surely you have come across a similar phrase or maybe even repeated one of them, even if you are a woman. These phrases, expressions or concepts are included in the phenomenon that is defined as micromachismo (machismo: sexism; in Spanish).
What is Micromachismo?
Small gestures, attitudes, comments and prejudices that are manifested in everyday life, contributing to inequality and placing women in a lower position than men in social, work, legal and family spheres.
Some of these practices are so subtle that they often go unnoticed and, when reported, are branded as exaggerations or downplayed. Meanwhile, the effects of it have repercussions on the mental health of the woman, undermining her self-esteem and depriving her of energy and self-confidence.
These attitudes become invisible or, rather, invisible gender violence, based on evident power imbalances that reflect the validity of sexism in our societies. It is precisely their micro and implicit character that makes microsexist behaviors less noticeable and normalized within a patriarchal society. Therefore, the main problem with this exercise of power lies in the lack of awareness and the difficulty in recognizing and reporting such acts.
Currently there is an effort from feminist struggles to identify the variations of violence to which women are subjected. Even so, we are far from identifying and breaking naturalized cultural practices that damage, affect and unequally organize the lives of all women.
Microsexism does not suppose intentionality, ill will or deliberate planning by whoever uses them, but rather they are culturally incorporated attitudes in our society that we often use automatically, without thinking. However, even if they are done unconsciously, they are behaviors that place men in a traditionally privileged and dominant position over women.
Examples of Micromachismos:
Pink for girls and blue for boys
This categorization of colors depending on sex is common microsexism that has been adopted mostly by the fashion industry. We can even go a little further: t-shirts for girls with messages like “princess” or “pretty” and for boys with “hero” or “champion”.
“You run like a girl”
From the same creators of “crying is for girls”, both are stereotypes that harm the female gender, showing it as of less value or weaker in society.
No matter who asked for the bill or who is actually going to pay for dinner at a restaurant, the bill is commonly handed over to the man and not the woman under the belief that he is the one who has the money and who is going to pay.
No, a man doesn’t “have to” help with housework, he as another resident of the home is equally responsible for them. Mentioning that a man helps means that the entire responsibility is of the woman’s.
Yes, they can. Society has to stop constantly sexualizing or romanticizing the relationship between men and women.
This starts right at the job interview: it is very common to ask women about their personal decision to become mothers and make their response a key decision factor about their hiring. Once inside the company, management positions are more likely to be for men rather than women.
This term refers to the common practice in which a man assumes that there is less knowledge of a woman on a certain topic, just because she is a woman or because of an excess of confidence on his part, leading him to speak about a topic to silence a woman or overlap her opinion.
If we are horrified by machismo, we cannot continue educating little kids with stereotypes such as “boys don’t cry, that’s for girls”, “beauty is pain”, “this sport is for boys, dolls are for girls”… the list is endless. This in childhood, but in adolescence there’s a long way to go too. Isn’t it a conventional phrase that “you have to make yourself be respected and that’s why you can’t go to bed with a boy on the first date?” I have always found something perverse in that speech. Because what is declared with that advice is not emotional respect, but purity, virginity, as if a woman who is not one can no longer be taken seriously.
Speaking up on micromachismo
Micromachismo is violence and it is necessary to sensitize the population so that they are alert to the danger they pose and have the necessary tools to stop following generations to continue using this speech.
You know that saying “it’s not what you say but how you say it”… it is precisely what you say.
In order to penetrate the population and train people in values of equality, trained to maintain healthy sentimental relationships, constant awareness-raising work is extremely necessary. Only by pointing out these macho behaviors and depriving them of their widespread state of normalization will it be possible to eradicate them, thus addressing the deepest root of gender violence.
Only among all of us can we put an end to sexism, being a little aware and warning those who “spit out” microsexism. Coming across the slightest manifestation of gender violence, speak up! Start putting the brakes on it today to achieve a future free of limiting stereotypes!