Machismo is a cultural phenomenon that occurs in Latin American countries. Machismo is (according to dictionary.com because I couldn’t think of a formal definition myself): a strong or exaggerated sense of manliness; an assumptive attitude that virility, courage, strength, and entitlement to dominate are attributes of masculinity. In other words, some men feel like they can think, say, and do whatever they want just because they’re men. One of the most prominent manifestations of this, as I have experienced in Ecuador, is catcalling. It can happen to you whenever, wherever, by whoever- a comment from your fellow peer at the university, a whistle from random old man on the street, a long stare from creepy middle-aged guy on the bus, etc. They also do a weird whistling-through-their-teeth thing that’s really irritating. Another annoying thing too is that the older men who catcall are probably married, but because of machismo, they still think it’s alright to check out other ladies.
But arrrgghhhh catcalling makes really angry because it’s so degrading! People have actually told me before, “just be flattered! Just take it as a compliment,” but no, actually, I don’t enjoy being objectified or being viewed as a sexual object. And as much as I would like to go up to these men’s faces and say “Hey man, you’re a creep. Get out of my face and before I break yours,” apparently it would just provoke them more. Any sort of “retaliation” is seen as flirting apparently. So we (ladies) were told to just ignore them and walk away. It’ worked so far, but I wish there were a way to change the culture of machismo. Things here are getting better though as women’s rights is progressing. It’s still a long way to go, but it’s gotta start somewhere.
Disclaimer: this does not apply to every male in Ecuador or Latin America (in fact, like 98% of the guys I’ve interacted with here have been pretty cool)… this post is only about the creepy ones I’ve encountered…
Writing this post reminded me of an NPR article I read last year about a photographer who confronted the men who catcalled her by taking pictures of them… a really interesting response actually… here it is if you wanna check it out: http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/10/17/235413025/a-photographer-turns-her-lens-on-men-who-cat-call