If you’ve studied or spent time in Latin culture you’re probably familiar with the term “machismo” (strong or aggressive masculine pride). Someday I’ll probably talk about machismo in terms of Paraguayan men or relationships between men and women in Paraguay, but not today. Today the topic is how women talk about other women, and how it feeds machismo and everything else that’s disempowering to women.
In the States and in Paraguay you can gripe about or battle gender inequality, the complaints are justified and the fight is needed. But, when we talk about empowering women we often talk about one of two things: 1) giving women skills and tactics to get what they deserve, 2) teaching men to be less discriminatory toward women. We infrequently talk about how women treat and talk about other women, and that’s where we need to start.
I love so many things about Paraguayan culture and spending time with Paraguayan women, but there is one thing I detest and that is how critically and negatively Paraguayan women talk about other women. In truth, women bashing other women isn’t unique to Paraguay, but it is so blatant here that it directly influences almost everything women do. Women might critique other women’s weight, their dress, their house, their food, their children, their husbands…anything that can be blamed on someone could be the subject of scrutiny. I have yet to hear a conversation among women about another women that is devoid if negativism. The catty comments might be sandwiched between compliments but they’re there.
People in my community joke that women get dressed up to go to the soccer game to impress other women because the men don’t care. You might brush off women’s negative comments about other women as envy, and sometimes that is the root of it, but I think more often these comments stemmed from learned culture and are not based on insecurity.
We got to change this.