The machismo mindset
Living in a culture where the machismo mindset is front and center every day is really difficult for me to adjust to. Here are several snapshots within the last two weeks that show the polarity of situations I encounter.
I had an interesting conversation with César, a worker at a brewery. Since I don’t get many opportunities to speak with Cusqueñan men, I took the opportunity to pick his brain about machismo. I asked him about men in Cusco, his thoughts, and his predictions for the future. He started by saying how great a program GSW is for teaching girls that they could do whatever they set their minds to, but stressed the importance of having programs like ours for boys, as well. He believed that boys need to learn how to be better citizens of Cusco. They need to learn from others what it means to be respectful, kind, and supportive of Cusqueña women. He mentioned that as more tourists come to the city, more ideologies are being accepted in the area, and women are starting to speak out against the mistreatment by men. But it isn’t enough. César also expressed that it takes men like him to educate these young boys. In his experience, many private schools are starting educational reform to change machismo in Cusco. In ten years, he predicts it will be almost eradicated. Hearing him speak with such conviction, such passion… I believed him.
A group of men were catcalling our girls from outside one of our courts, saying that they wished we would stay where we stood so they could get a good look at our rears. Although everyone knows that we have this court from 9:30-11am every Thursday, they enter the court and walk through our soccer game before we finish, showing a blatant disrespect of our game, our program, and the fact that we have as much of a right to play as they do.
A group of boys at one of our bigger schools, Santoni, asked us why we couldn’t teach the boys soccer. My first response was frustration at another instance of everyone telling us it’s unfair to the boys that there is a Chicas Dinámicas but no Chicos Dinámicos. But my second reaction was shock at the thought that a group of boys were asking Profe Alika, a girl, to teach them soccer! It wasn’t much, but it is a start of the changing the view of women and sports in Cusco.
We arrived early to Santoni’s public court and were sunbathing to pass time. Ten minutes into our relaxation, I watched as three noticeably drunken men stumbled onto the court. They were in the corner for a bit, but as they were walking around, they noticed Lydia lying on the court. They pointed at her and made their way over, standing against a wall uncomfortably close to us. We tried to ignore them, but then one of them picked up a rock and threw it at her to get her attention. We were pretty spooked, so we hurriedly made our way to a more public area so we would have witnesses if they tried anything. That brief moment of fear for our safety is something that many women experience every day.
Freddy, a guard at our newest school, Miguel Grau, was asking us questions about the USA and commenting on how great Chicas Dinámicas is. We talked about various topics for two hours as we waited to meet with the administration, but then landed on machismo in Cusco. He seemed a bit uncomfortable at first, but was very open and honest in his response. He said they need more stand-up men, like himself, to show these boys love and compassion, and through that they will learn to love and respect women. He told us that programs like Chicas Dinámicas are good for teaching young girls that they don’t need to seek refuge and love from boys, that they can achieve that by simply loving themselves and being confident. But he also told us that the same can be said for boys, that the lack of love experienced in their lives could lead them to act out and seek attention, more often than not in the wrong crowd. It was an interesting view on machismo, and the divide between men and women, but his experiences with his friends and family showed us that he had learned a lot in his life and has much to offer in combatting this negative culture.
Freddy, César, and the boys asking us to teach them soccer are encouraging. I’m looking forward to these next ten years, hoping that our Chicas Dinámicas will have a machismo-free community to live in.