The decline of machismo?

Cultural Insights — By on October 11, 2006 at 2:02 pm

In Latin cultures, both in southern Europe and in Latin America, there is a long tradition of machismo.  This can take many forms, from a strong sense of masculinity that manifests in a certain physical appearance or swagger to an acceptance of extramarital affairs to a more overt domination of women in the home or workplace.  In some counties, though, it seems that machismo may be on the decline.  That is the opinion of this Washington Post story on the cultural evolution of gender roles in Spain.

The situation is not exemplary, by any means…

Despite advances in government opportunities for women, the Spanish private sector remains one of the most chauvinistic in Europe. Women sit on less than 5 percent of corporate boards and overall earn 30 percent less than their male counterparts. It remains common practice for companies to fire pregnant women, according to women’s organizations and victims.

“The culture and tradition of machista is very deeply ingrained in the mentality of everyone,” said Carmen Bravo, secretary for women’s issues for Spain’s largest labor union.

But at least the times are changing …

The push for gender equality in one of Europe’s most macho cultures comes as both internal and outside forces are creating seismic social shifts: Spanish women are taking greater control of their own lives by waiting longer to marry and having fewer children. The European Union is exerting more pressure on members to enforce equality. And the growth of high-tech businesses with a greater sensitivity to hiring women is expanding job opportunities.

Of course, sometimes even the best intentioned efforts to promote equality can seem a bit extreme, or at least humorous…

New divorce laws not only make it easier for couples to split but stipulate that marital obligations require men to share the housework equally with their wives.

It’s a good thought, but a law that stipulates equality in housework?  Not surprisingly, some Spanish males have strong feelings about the policy…

“Just because Zapatero says by law men have to do dishes, men are not going to do dishes,” said Alberto Fuertes, a stocky, square-faced 37-year-old owner of a small factory. “That’s ridiculous. It’s totally absurd.”

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