Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Latin America is for Lovers?

I'm finally going to have to admit to myself, despite my belief that the stereotypical Latin male is/was a thing of the past, that machismo does indeed exist in Argentinean society. Of course, not all men here are patriarchal male chauvinist pigs blah blah blah. And what's more, many women find that attitude attractive. But I've found that there are subtle ways that men treat women that really don't jive with me. I once got yelled at by a Porteno guy (the whole rest of the night) for apparently "flirting" with another guy (it's a long story). Ugh the point is I was made to feel inferior for just being the way I am. Lame. Anyway, so there's just an example of my own culture shock when it comes to dealing with men here.

Since I've been posting really freaking long essays lately, I'm going to break down the dynamics of gender relations here in BsAs (from my observations)

-guys from other countries in Latin America (ahem, Venezuela) claim that Porteños are not your stereotypical "Latin Lovers" for these reasons:
-they're direct and up front about what they want (ie, if they see a hot girl in a club they're not going to waste time trying to "romance" her, they're just going to be like, "hey, come home with me"
-they don't really romance girls at all...they either pick up chicks at clubs (and go to sleezy hotels) or have sullen girlfriends that they seem to fight with/passionately make out with all the time
-these same Venezuelans claimed that Porteña girls go crazy over them because they perceive them to be the real so-called Latin lovers, because guys from BsAs are just, like, "so European" about it

I was NOT having it. Get lost, boludo.

-the Public Displays of Affection here are out of control-everywhere you look someone is sucking face...teenagers, couples on dates, old people...Anyway, at first it takes some getting used to, because hard-core making out in public back in the States is pretty much frowned upon (read, trashy). Maybe it's a subconscious act of liberation from years of sexually repressed society, or the fact that most young people still live with their parents and they don't have anywhere else to do it, or, they just want a little sugar/like to express their love all the time. Ok, I get that, no problem. But on the colectivo? Or in the sweaty subway during rush hour? Ew. Stop.

-Speaking of ew, men here definitely make it no secret if they think you're attractive. I'm not talking about just in clubs: on the streets, in the subte's, they'll make sure you know you're cute. But the thing is, when they whistle or say things like "preciosa!" or "que linda" or even "I'm going to think about you the rest of the day" (haha true story), they really mean no harm. Graciela says we should take it as a compliment. Uh...thanks? But she also said if they say offensive things, like call you a "puta" or something, then you should just ignore them and resist the urge to tell them to "andate a la mierda" (ie go fuck yourself, ahem, sorry mom). Speaking back will only encourage them. So I guess a little compliment from some rando on the street is nice every now and then, but sometimes I can't help but feel objectified (not that I get a lot of dudes trying to holla, jeez, but, many of my friends get lots of unwanted attention)

-ok, last one. This one's a little heavy: the A-word. Surprisingly, abortion's illegal here. Actually, maybe not so surprisingly. It is after all, a Catholic country. Still, with all the supposed sexual/social liberation I'm a little curious as to why Argentina hasn't lead the way in women's rights in Latin America. Looking around the streets on a typical day, there seem to be an abnormal amount of young mothers (and I mean young, early 20's) with a couple of kids in tow. Young dads too. While that's cute and all, Graciela explained to me that people aren't very smart about their sexuality (using birth control, etc) and so these young women end up getting pregnant before they've finished school, gotten jobs, or even moved out of their parents'. So the young couples could end up in a lot of trouble with a lot of mouths to feed before they're ready. Still, the babies here are absolutely adorable and most of these young couples look really happy. Sweet. But, I still wondered how girls in more unfortunate situations handled their unplanned pregnancy. I asked my friend Jonathan what they did, and he rolled his eyes and attempted to explain that they would have to go to a "witch" to obtain an illegal abortion, and that many girls end up in the hospital or even die because of unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and if they go to a hospital they face legal prosecution. Wtf???? First of all, what exactly did he mean by witch? (turns out he couldn't think of a better translation and just said that to mean old scary lady, like a mid-wife or something). Second of all, not only do these girls obtain illegal and unsafe abortions, they risk going to jail for seeking legitimate medical help afterward, and so many don't even go, and end up dying or seriously messing up their bodies. Sad. So I could rant about this for awhile, but I guess I shouldn't impose my views of women's rights on other cultures...

Anyway, so that's enough about that. Somehow though, my romantic notions of the "Latin Lover" are shattered. But I don't need to be treated like a princess; being treated like an equal is just fine, thanks.

*disclaimer: really though, not all guys are like that here, I've met some really great ones who do respect women

*sorry this was a long post

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