Thursday, August 14, 2008

Post-War Gender Dynamics in El Salvador

So, I've been reading about El Salvador and will probably be blogging about El Salvador leading up to my trip there and obviously while I'm there. I'm going to be working with an NGO that does advocacy work regarding gender-based violence in El Salvador. This is includes domestic violence (like we might hear about quite a bit here in the US) but, it involves a lot more than that.

I'm not really given to super explicit descriptions but recently on the blog, Maggie in San Salvador, I found the description of what gender-based violence means in El Salvador. It's the kind of violence that we hear of in Africa and don't think of hearing about in the Americas.
Here's an excerpt of her post:

The first thing people will tell you about the gender dynamics in El Salvador is that there is a lot of machismo. But it’s not always obvious and definitely manifests itself in a variety of ways, some fairly harmless, others extremely harmful. The ways in which Salvadoran women deal with this macho, patriarical culture is quite admirable.

So there are definitely degrees and types of machismo here. You find patterns in attitudes and personalities of the men here. Of course there’s grey area and contradictions, but I would say the two most obvious are: The Hero and The Womanizer. There are also a few Total F... Mysogynists.


And then there are the Total F.... Mysoginists that are the cause of the very high rate of femicide in El Salvador. I had read stories before that were terrible enough to almost make me decide not to come. While it would be easy to say that such terrible acts occur in all corners of the world, think Paul Bernardo, I believe in El Salvador it is a direct result of the culture and the history of the country rather than just the actions of individual psycopaths. There was so much excessive rape and mutilation of women that occured during the civil war. It was done openly, as an intimidation tactic, so that many many people witnessed these atrocities.

I’m not an expert on how growing up in, living through, or fighting in a war affects a person. I’ve seen people with extreme anxieties, people who are angry or sorrowful for all they have lost, people with a great deal of concern for their fellow countrymen. But another outcome, especially for men whose lives were interrupted and taken over for all of the war, is complete desensitization. This, in combination with the generally sexist culture, is what can lead a truck full of a dozen men to pick up two women, rape them to pieces, bite at their faces, and then put bullets in their head despite their pleas that they have children waiting for them at home. This happened a month ago. One of the women survived despite the bullets in the head. But they probably won’t find the guys that did this. It wasn’t even in the news, it happened to a family one of my co-workers works with.

It’s hard not to distrust every single man you meet after hearing that. But it definitely isn’t such a common attitude. Most men simply want to be your hero. Like Enrique Igelsias.

I'm going to do some more reading about the civil war and its effects on the Salvadoran culture.

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live the questions now... R.M. Rilke