When ‘defending’ your partner serves as a justification for violence (and machismo)

What does Will Smith’s slap in the face of Chris Rock at the Oscars have in common with the crime committed on Friday, July 1, in the Valladolid town of Santovenia de Pisuerga? Maybe nothing. Or maybe everything.

In both events, violence was used to ‘defend’ a woman, or several. In Smith’s case, from a joke in bad taste. In the case of the town of Valladolid, it is believed, from an argument between the wives of those involved in the brawl.

It seems that we have gone from that “I killed her because she was mine”, which reminds us of the murder of Ana Orantes, to a “I killed them because it was mine”. And although the first is still valid, and is found in the very bowels of gender violence, the second makes visible a machismo that could be summed up in a “You are mine, therefore, I protect you, I defend your honor”.

[¿Fue Will Smith machista al pegar al que ofendió a su mujer? El debate tras la agresión en los Oscar]

Reminds a bit of brave prince charming who goes to the rescue of the princess, which is locked up in a tower, guarded by an evil dragon. or to damsel in distress unable to defend himself and that he faints at the slightest pressure. oh that errant knight –and in shining armor– who comes to save her from the slightest evil.

The husband, boyfriend or fiancé comes to protect the ‘honor’ of ‘his wife’.

The collective imagination is full of fictional scenes like these, in which the man, strong, brave and somewhat violent, feels the need to take care of the defenseless woman and unable to articulate what you want. Medieval stories and poems have perpetuated this idea that presents the female sex as a passive element in the action, waiting for the male to come and save her.

The romantic love was built on this core idea of ​​fairy tales. Those in which the female protagonist is nothing more than the girlfriend of the main male character, or ‘his wife’, not his wife or partner, but her possession. An idea that, as the now First Vice President of the Government, Carmen Calvo, recalled in 2018 in an interview with EL ESPAÑOL, is still “undercover machismo”. He, then, places women in a position of helplessness and inferiority, and men in a deceitful superiority.

From Andromeda to Jada Pinkett Smith

Greek mythology introduced us to this damsel in distress clichewaiting to be saved. we see it with the myth of Perseus and Andromeda, for instance. And also in the classics of pop culture, such as princess peach in the Super Mario Bros video games or the well-known Snow White, Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel.

And although some may say that “stories are stories”, their effect on our subconscious is greater than we think. Native Americans say that “Who tells the story, rules the world”; And it is that, as psychologist Zoe Walkington, from the Open University in the United Kingdom, assured the BBC, these stories that are normally aimed at a child audience “have the potential to be incredibly powerful.”

The expert explained that stories “can change the way we relate and combat prejudice”. But also create them. Something that has been happening until relatively recently, and that is still not overcome. Thus, stereotypes created in fiction run the risk of materializing in real life.

That happened, for example, this week. A man allegedly murdered another in the town of Santovenia de Pisuerga, in Valladolid. It is believed that the trigger for this deadly attack was an argument between the wives of both. Although it escapes logic, and seems only an excuse or justification for violencethe story is what it is: something that should have been resolved – however it was – by the two women, ended in a fight between two men who, it seems, were impelled to ‘show up’ for their partners.

[“Soy la suegra del muerto. No ha habido ninguna reyerta entre dos familias, han sido seis contra dos”]

In what situation does this way of acting leave them? In one, no doubt,ejana to empowerment. Something similar happened, although with different results, at the last Oscar gala.

Comedian Chris Rock made a joke about actress Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia. Actor Will Smith, her husband, realizing that the comment had upset her wife, went on stage, hit the comedian and he blurted out “Keep my wife’s name out of your fucking mouth!”

The first reactions, especially on social networks, were sympathetic to the actor. There were even those who recognized his “right” to “defend” his partner. Smith himself, in his Oscar acceptance speech, blamed the assault on Rock on “love makes you do crazy things”.

However, violent reactions to attacks (verbal, in both examples) on a woman, without her taking sides, could not be anything further from love. Because, as psychologist Fernando Pena explained to MagasIN, “love for another person does not justify being violent or physically assaulting another. Carrying out violent behavior reaching to hit another is rather a lack in the management of one’s own emotions. It is a symbol of lack of emotional management”.

Little by little, and in a matter of hours, public opinion shifted its support towards Smith and began to condemn that internal mechanism that made the actor feel the need to ‘defend’ the damsel in distress that he turned into –perhaps unwittingly– to Jada Pinkett.

The toxic masculinity could, then, have come into play. This was repeated over and over again by experts and feminists with the case of Will Smith. The same could happen with the Valladolid municipality this week. And it is that that deeply destructive doing and feeling that has traditionally been attributed to the alpha male permeates all layers of society.

Because the world has been built on that toxic masculinity that repeats to boys that they cannot cry, they cannot show signs of weakness, and to girls that they must be ‘perfect ladies’, the more fragile the better.

After all, as UN Women reminds us, it is this toxic masculinity, imbued in the very heart of sexist and patriarchal societies, that perpetuates inequalities and, ultimately, violence.

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