The macho paradigm: Where a woman must “know her place”

By Roni Roseberg

Some years ago, I was teaching English as a second language at an adult school.

One of the students in my class, a young ballerina from Mexico—we’ll call her Marisol—was a dinner guest in my home one evening.

My two young sons and I enjoyed her company, so she became a regular visitor in our home.

Soon after, Daniel, a male student from the class, a young man from El Salvador, arranged to see her at my house. Cheery and handsome, he made it clear that he had an “offer” for our ballerina friend.

After a whopping six weeks in the US, he was confident that he understood the culture and wanted to settle in the US. For this he needed a wife.

Marisol and Daniel had gone out once, and barely knew each other. She had found they had nothing in common, and he didn’t listen when she talked. He knew nothing about her world, the world of the arts.

She wasn’t at all interested in him. He persisted, however, and arranged to see her at my house so I could witness his good intentions.

He talked about his future business plans. She patiently explained that she wanted to pursue her dancing career. They were on two distinctly different pages.

I asked him how he saw the situation. He responded that he wanted someone to run a household, have his children, and cook for him. And, he said, he was a pretty good catch for some woman.

In the macho paradigm, there is little or often no place for working women. Instead, a woman’s primary/sole place is in the home, while a man’s role remains outside.

He would bring home money and she would play an entirely traditional role. Marisol rolled her eyes.

I think he had no concept of any other paradigm, and I’m sure he was raised this way. That a woman would want her own career and turn down this excellent economic offer baffled him.

He had a very fixed view of the world and couldn’t imagine things another way. He left my house shaking his head and promising Marisol that someone wiser would take up his offer.

Of course she didn’t. However, Daniel’s macho paradigm is still prevalent in many places. It is designed to keep those in power right there.

There is always an economic aspect to the arrangement, no matter how elegant the trappings of romance and “choice” appear to be (which is not always accessible or varied).

Frankly, the more economically solvent women become, the more options open up. And it’s that financial freedom that is key.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not opposed to traditional roles or marriages for those that want them, but they have to be based entirely on free will, respect and team work.

Otherwise, there is an imbalance of power that is limiting, controlling and obsolete.

Thankfully, Marisol went on to become a dancer and actress in Europe.

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