Gender Generalizations

Sabanilla Travel Blog

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A group of loan recipients

Costa Rica has redefined feminism for me. I have never in my life met so many women who hate men. At first I thought that I continually heard degrading conversations about men because of the company I keep. I spend the majority of my time in Costa Rica at work-a microfinance institution that boasts a client-base that is 97% female. However, I quickly came to find out that any and all women in this country love the opportunity to verbally reduce men to pulp, to complain endlessly about them, and to forewarn others against the male gender as a whole. Although these seem like vast generalizations, you truly need to visit Costa Rica to understand.

My Ticamadre and her son
For some reason, this culture has some sort of stigma against men. Marriage and relationships seem to fail more often than not and this failure is attributed to the male counterparts and not the females. Essentially women are victimized and men are reproached. In this country men are assumed to be misogynistic, self-absorbed, and incapable of commitment. Tourists are forewarned that Ticos (Costa Rican men) objectify women as a hobby. Clearly this is true of some men out there, but it cannot be the case for an entire country.

I have had several in depth conversations about gender thus far with family members in my home-stay and employees at my work. I would like to share these experiences with you as I believe that they accurately depict the undeserved hatred that women encumber upon men here. My home-stay Ticamadre is my first example. She is 33 years old, has an 11 year son, and is not married. Her son’s father is a well-known singer in Costa Rica who leads a lifestyle that does not easily incorporate fatherhood. He hardly plays a role in his child’s life and as a result, my Ticamadre spends all of her time working to support her son and to maintain her household. My home-stay mother’s sister, Leslie, is my second example. Leslie has a 10 year old daughter. Her boyfriend, the father of her daughter, cheated on her then left her to live with the other woman two years into her daughter’s life. During his time away, he remained very involved with his daughter, but almost incommunicado with Leslie. Just this past spring, he returned to the life he thought he should lead. He moved back into the house with Leslie and his daughter taking on the role of husband and father. Strictly by appearance, he looks very smitten with Leslie, but once delving into their relationship and their history a bit, one can see that it is a flawed perception. My co-worker, Yaclin, is my third example. Yaclin is 19 years old with a 2 year old son. At the time of her son’s birth, her boyfriend, at the ripe age of 17 years old, was not willing to settle down and commit to fatherhood. Her mother, a single mother whose husband ran out on her, is helping her raise the child. What I find most interesting about the aforementioned examples is that all three women love to discuss at length the ways in which men have created all the problems in their lives. Although I have only heard the stories from the women’s perspectives, I can still recognize that the men are not the only ones at fault. In fact, the women made a series of wrong choices that led to the situations they are in now.

First and foremost, one can look at the means to explain the final result. The majority of women here in Costa Rica get married and/or give birth at a very young age (18-21). For the women who have children out of wedlock, I do not believe they have grounds on which to complain. They overindulged in their sexual impulses with someone who was not ready to commit. Had they discussed their actions, their futures, and commitment before becoming physically involved, this result would have been foreseen and somewhat expected. Also, I think that the decision to bring a child into a household with no male role model adversely affects their growth and development. I do not believe that a single mother cannot foster a strong household, but I do believe that they must make an effort to incorporate male presences and influences in their child’s life. In regard to households in Costa Rica, I do not think it is wrong to raise a child without a father, but that it is wrong to raise a child to believe that men are evil. By encouraging and reiterating this belief, mothers are only bringing their children into a vicious cycle.

The women in Costa Rica need to change their ways in order to be more open-minded and less hateful overall. By abstaining from involvement with men at a young age, women can avoid early pregnancies. Pregnancies at a young age obviously hinder a woman’s future opportunities to meet a new man as children require a great deal of resources (time & money) and sacrifices (sleep & socializing). Without ample opportunities to meet new men, how can women in Costa Rica redeem their incorrect perceptions? Everyone has had an unsuccessful relationship, a bad break-up, or a guy with whom things did not turn out as planned and expected. This is merely a fact of life. The women in Costa Rica need to stop harping on their failed relationships and begin looking for opportunities for successful ones. One failed relationship is not grounds to judge the male gender as a whole. By no means can one man’s actions and words represent half of the world’s population.

I have personally found proof that wholesome men not only exist in Costa Rica, but are not that hard to find. I have a Tico friend named Daniel whose mantra is “Respotoso” which in English translates roughly to “Be Respectful.” I am certain that more men abide by this mantra in this country than women realize. Perhaps if the women here stopped with the negative, degrading comments and the misplaced blame, they would be able to make a much-needed societal change that enables men to be respected and to be considered equals with women, as they deserve to be.

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A group of loan recipients
A group of loan recipients
Employee meeting
Employee meeting
My Ticamadre and her son
My Ticamadre and her son
Sabanilla
photo by: lgarey