It is no secret that the role of women in society has significantly evolved over time. From a point in time where our responsibilities consisted solely of changing the sheets (preferably twice a week), cooking the best food for our family, taking care of our children, and assuring a happy husband, to currently being entitled to political rights and careers, we sure have come a long way. One would even say that we, women, have won the fight; we are now seen, heard… valid. Congratulations to us! Why is it, then, that the hassling talk of gender is still a common concept to be discussed with the ones around us? Didn’t we get what we wanted? We can vote, we can hold positions of power, and we can most definitely study and follow our desired education and career paths. What’s the problem now, girls?
There is an answer to this. In fact, it is the answer to what most American women would secretly ask themselves back in the twentieth century when the feminism fight had once been lost and we were resigned back to our domestic responsibilities: “Is this all?” A question carrying emptiness, lack of self-fulfillment, and everything but satisfaction. As previously mentioned and as basic knowledge dictates, it would eventually be learned that no, in fact, that wasn’t all. Women would actually get to know life beyond the boundaries of a housewife. But there was a catch. Even though we have achieved said victory, there is still more to it, and it is violence. It is present and it can be very silent.
Although domestic physical violence rates in the United States have declined 63% since 1994, which is undoubtedly a good thing, everyday women across the world are still victims of violence (Domestic Shelters, 2015). The silent kind. It manifests itself in the shape of natural-looking attitudes and behaviors, and has ultimately evolved and crept its way into the professional, cultural, domestic, and daily lives and routines of men all around the world, according to the studies of psychologist and male behavior expert, Luis Bonino. These behaviors are quite often subtle and go unnoticed, meaning that most times, the victims do not recognize them, and given their subtlety, neither do the aggressors. These are products of misogyny, and while not necessarily physical, they are still a form of violence.
Imposing, assuming, and reassuring the idea that one (male) is right without necessarily proving it; expecting an absolute disposition on behalf of the woman in a relationship, project, or interaction of any kind; internally or openly refusing to be surpassed by a woman in any activity or knowledge on a matter; actively expecting continuous feminine validation and/or recognition; directly or indirectly manipulating a woman’s actions, behaviors, or decisions to achieve one’s own personal means or objectives. These are some examples of casual behaviors that show the use of gender abuse and privilege through the emotional and psychological realms.
There are additional expressions of this nature, in Spanish commonly known as “micromachismos,” that are conceptualized as part of the “art of domination and manipulation” (Derbez 2020). Going unnoticed to not eradicate masculine authority, it is common for them to manifest themselves within romantic relationships. Bonino’s studies describe that these can be separated into four categories: Utilitarian, Concealed, Crisis, and Coercive.
Utilitarians are shown by the evasion of responsibilities in the domestic sphere; meals, cleaning area, or taking advantage of a woman’s maternal instinct with the purpose of avoiding taking care of children or subordinates. Concealed micromachismos occur through emotional violence. For example, the difference of control in the life and sexual habits of the couple, the isolation and manipulation to establish dominance and ownership of the other party, as well as lying and the implantation of guilt, usually disguised through charm and an innocent self-affirming attitude.
Crisis micromachismos, on the other hand, occur when the woman identifies an imbalance in the equity of gender roles in the relationship, attempts an end to it, or demands better treatment. The man in this situation, commonly and usually in a desperate manner, creates false promises of change and asks for time to improve his attitude. Only to reinforce hyper-control in order to regain male authority later on. Lastly, Coercive work through psychological abuse over excessive control. These can take over the time and space of women, their economic activity, as well as the limitation of overall freedom.
These gender abuse expressions are effective due to the way they happen subtly, hidden between subconscious charms and behaviors. Thus, causing difficulty when it comes to the need for resistance and/or response. For this reason, it is extremely important to learn how to recognize these red flags, in order to act and avoid their repercussions. Because unfortunately, this form of misogyny and its derivatives within relationships is a major cause of emotional exhaustion, deterioration of self-esteem, loss of motivation and personal essence, depression, and guilt, among a number of harmful conditions for women all around the world. The education and spreading of this topic is crucial for an ultimate contribution to equity and gender justice in society.
The internal and external fight against silent violence is long overdue. And the first and fundamental step toward building a barrier against the normalization and acceptance of silent violence is breaking its silence. Through information and education, we can learn how to recognize the signs and red flags, and ultimately act to prevent and stop their repercussions from the root. “The violence won’t end until all of us, women and men, increase our awareness about what we can do as a community, as individuals, and demand real change.” It is possible for everyone to fight against it, improving the flow, health, and well-being of society, communities, and relationships of all kinds.