Etymologically, the concept of patriarchy comes from the Greek, and means “government of the parents” . It is a cultural heritage strongly rooted in our society based on gender differentiation, and that describes a structure in which men have power over women.
This imposed structure, totally unbalanced in favour of men, in which different expectations for men and women are differentiated, is governed by rules that are determined by the gender stereotypes assigned to us before we are born, depending on whether we are girls or boys. Let us see the relationship between this concept and that of the types of micro-machisms .
The foundation of patriarchy
The support of this patriarchal system is found in a disciplinary society in which people have been framed within certain imposed conditions, affecting all areas of the public and private sphere, in the way they relate to each other and producing a model that installs and perpetuates violence against women .
The unequal distribution of the exercise of power of domination produces a relational asymmetry whose central axis is the choice of gender (feminine or masculine) because the patriarchal culture has legitimized the belief that the masculine is the only gender with the right to self-empowerment. In other words, being a man means having the right to be a full individual with all his rights and to exercise them.
The patriarchal system and the androcentric culture deny this right to women, leaving men in a superior position, exercising power of control and domination over them as a result of the equation protection in exchange for obedience , one of the keys that is clearly reflected in the traditional couple’s contract.
Public and domestic spaces
To this must be added the implicit belief in the division of space, the domestic and care space assigned to women and the public space reserved for men. This relational asymmetry continues in our culture and is maintained and perpetuated for various reasons:
- The sexual division of labour that still assigns in a naturalized and automatic way the domestic space to women.
- The absence of resources and the social delegitimization of the right of women to exercise self-affirmative power.
- The use by men of the power of macro- and micro-definition of reality and power, that is, the capacity to orient the content and type of social interactions according to their own interests , beliefs and perceptions. Designated by authors such as Saltzman as a power of punctuation that supports the idea of the “male as the authority that defines what is right.
- The so-called “power of love”: the exploitation of women’s capacities for care and help to raise human beings in which our culture is in charge of making women experts.
This perpetuation manifests itself in many different forms, visible and explicit (murder, assault, rape), invisible and explicit (emotional blackmail, devaluation, blame) and invisible and subtle (sexist language and publicity, invisibility and micro-machisms).
This article intends to visualize the micro-machisms existing in today’s society that, supported by gender stereotypes , help to perpetuate unequal relationships.
Types of micro-machisms
In our daily lives we encounter situations such as differentiating between lady and miss, asking the waiter for the bill and giving it to the man, compliments, women who pay less in discos and phrases like “behave like a lady”, “and you still don’t have a boyfriend”… .
Micromachisms are those subtle and everyday behaviours that constitute control strategies that attempt against women’s personal autonomy , are usually invisible and may even be legitimised by the social environment.
Authors such as Luis Bonino define it as practices of male domination and violence in everyday life that include a wide range of interpersonal behaviors that aim to:
- Maintain dominance and supposed superiority over the woman who is the object of the conduct.
- Recovering or reasserting that dominance in the face of a woman who “rebels”.
- Resist the increase in personal and/or interpersonal power of a woman with whom she is linked or take advantage of such power.
These behaviours are “micro-abuses” and are effective due to the fact that the prevailing social order ratifies them when they are exercised repeatedly until they achieve a significant decrease in women’s autonomy, and they are so subtle that they tend to go unnoticed by both those who suffer from them and those who observe them.
Examples of types of micromachisms
Luis Bonino established a typology of the types of micromachisms by classifying them into
1. Utilitarian micro-machisms
They are those that force female availability by taking advantage of different domestic and care aspects of traditional female behaviour in order to benefit from them. They are carried out especially in the domestic sphere.
Some examples of these behaviours are: taking advantage and abusing “female service” capacities (them as providers and them as carers), delegating care work, not taking responsibility for the domestic, non-involvement and/or pseudo-involvement, abusive overlapping requirements, denying reciprocity and parental cronyism.
2. Covert or indirect micro-machisms
They involve the abuse of women’s confidence and credibility by concealing their objective. Some of these behaviors can be more effective than the rest, since they are so subtle that they go especially unnoticed. These types of actions produce in women feelings of confusion, helplessness, guilt and doubts that favor the decrease of self-esteem.
They include behaviours such as paternalism, emotional manipulation, double affective/aggressive messages , sulking, abuse of trust, creation of lack of intimacy, silence, setting of limits, defensive-offensive communication, deceit and lies, disavowal, devaluation, misogynist micro-terrorism, self-indulgence and self-justification, advantageous comparison and underestimation of one’s mistakes.
3. Micromachisms of crisis
They force the permanence in the unequal status when these are unbalanced due to an increase of women’s personal power or by the decrease of men’s power. They are behaviours such as hypercontrol, false support, passive resistance and emotional distancing , avoiding criticism and negotiation, promising and giving merit, victimization and pity.
4. Coercive or direct micro-machisms
They imply the retention of power, those in whom use physical, economic or personality strength, to try to convince women that they are not right . They fulfill their objective, since they provoke in the woman a feeling of subsequent defeat when she sees the inefficiency, loss, or lack of strength and capacity to defend her own decisions or reasons. These are behaviours such as control of money or sabotage of communication, expansive – abusive use of space and time for oneself, abusive insistence and imposition of intimacy.
The different types of micromachisms produce multiple effects on the quality of life of women among them emotional exhaustion, mental block, limitation of freedom, irritability, low self-esteem and insecurity.
It is necessary to change this form of domination that continues in our current society, for that it is necessary that at individual level both genders participate. Both should recognize, identify and be aware of these behaviours and their effects , resist them, modify them for more egalitarian behaviours and help those who practice them to identify and eliminate them. It is also necessary for the professionals in the different fields of action (health care, education, therapy) to be aware of the daily existence of these behaviours, to know how to detect them and to know their effects with the aim of eradicating them.
- Bonino, L. (2004). The Micromachisms. La Cibeles Magazine (2).