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Spain : The Decline of Machismo

By Sally Ferguson - Tue 10th Sep 2013

Spain has long fallen prey to the stereotype that all Spanish men exhibit a degree of male “machismo” or, better said, an exaggerated sense of masculine pride which they shamelessly wield over their colleagues, friends and partners. It is undeniably present alongside other common stereotypes, such as “all Spanish men are supporters of bullfighting” and “all Spanish women spend their leisure time dancing the Flamenco”.But is there really any truth in this stereotype? Or is it a baseless claim which is, at the very least, outdated?

When you look at the well-documented reports of domestic violence in Spain, it seems logical to link these incidents to the so-called Spanish “machismo” or a general lack of respect towards women. However, looking more closely at figures, it seems that regarding Spain as having the highest rate of domestic violence is unfounded, as statistics show that domestic violence is no more commonplace in Spain than other European countries. For example, in 2010 the Spanish Observatory of Gender Violence reported the annual death rates of women at the hands of their partners to be 2.8 per million citizens, placing Spain significantly behind Austria and Finland, who were recorded at 9.7 and 9.3 respectively. That said, it could be the case that Spanish society still harbors some of the ideological residue from the Franco period, in which women were actively promoted as being the property of their husbands. Considering these attitudes were still predominant only 40 years ago in Spain, it is unsurprising that the country has taken longer to respond the problem of domestic violence. Perhaps “machismo” is not necessarily more prevalent in Spain, just better documented and publicized as a consequence of Spain’s history of female subjugation.

Another argument which promotes the “machismo” stereotype is that Spanish men do not contribute to household chores and consider it the woman’s responsibility to maintain the home. Again, this attitude appears to have its roots in the Franco period, when women were encouraged to be ‘angels of the home’ and were obligated to take on all tasks related to domestic management. This outlook still appears to exist to some degree judging by recent statistics, which indicate that 40% of Spanish men do no housework and that women spend on average 5 times longer doing chores than their male counterparts, suggesting that maintaining the home is still principally considered the responsibility of the female. This is supported by the fact that only 19% of men in Spain thought it was right for mothers of school age children to have a full-time job, the implication being that motherhood should take precedence over employment for Spanish women. It would be almost impossible to deny that some degree of sexism perforates through these statistics, although it could be argued that the existence of sexist attitudes does not necessarily mean that women are suffering the consequences of “machismo” in contemporary Spain. In fact, the number of young women in the labor force in Spain has now reached the same levels as those in America, perhaps demonstrating that the upcoming generation in Spain is far less affected by gender-based discrimination or “machismo”.

It is difficult to say with assuredness that violence against Spanish women is decreasing due to the ever-present issue of domestic violence in Spain and the rest of Europe. Despite this, it could be proposed that the attitudes from which this violence stems are not unquestionably linked to male “machismo”. It seems that “machismo” is essentially a hyper-inflated label which singles out Spanish men as a source of sexism, whereas the truth is, sexual discrimination is present in most countries in one form or another – it just depends how closely you search for it.

Comment on this Blog

According to Spain's National Institute of Statistics (INE) for 2011 : The victims of gender based violence = 32'242. The Victims of Domestic Violence = 7'744. The rate of recorded violence against women = 155 for every 100'000 Women. The total number of reported perpetrators of violence against women = 5'632. Whatever you "think" is happening in Spanish society might not be happening quickly enough perhaps ?
Mr Grumpy - Thu, 12th Sep 2013