The -ita Syndrome: Tools of the Machista

by Latina Fatale on 11/04/2010 · 2 comments

in Feminism

Today I was on twitter and I noticed that Ana, one of the Mexican feminists that I follow, tweeted the following:

Jefes que nombran a las mujeres que trabajan bajo su mando con diminutivos como “chiquita”…”reinita”…#machismo
(Bosses who use diminutives-suffixes in Spanish that denote “little”-like “little girl”, “little queen” with women who work under them…..#machismo)

This tweet gave me a flashback of something that happened recently with a Latino politician who is well-loved within the Latina/o community. At work in my capacity of an upper-level manager within the school district, parents asked me to host a forum where candidates who were running in the local school board election could talk about their education platforms. All eight candidates showed up, minus one candidate who sent a prominent Latino politician in his place.

The whole room was in love with the presence of the politician. However, at one point in the middle of the forum he directed a command to me in front of the 150 people who were also in the room. “Muchachita, dáme café”, he said. (Little girl, go get me coffee).

There I was, standing on the side of the room, in my fucking suit and with a few of my subordinates as well as the superintendent of the school district. All I could think was, “Did this jackass just call me muchachita?” All of my co-workers were staring at me in shock and I was almost about to back-talk him until I noticed my superintendent just staring at me in a funny way. Suddenly, one of my Latino male subordinates scrambled and got the coffee for the politician, thank Goddess.

Afterward all of the community members swarmed around the politician, thanking him for coming. I had to put on a mask on my face so that no one would see how pissed I was, because not only was I pissed at him but I was also pissed at the women who were surrounding him and kissing his ass.

At the time, I was perplexed over the fact that I was more pissed about him calling me a little girl than I was about him demanding me to serve him coffee as if I were his secretary. As Ana said in response to me telling her about this:
Nombrarte en diminutivo es disminuirte como si fueras una criatura sin razón
(To name you with a diminutive (ita) is to diminish you as if you were a creature without reason)

Interestingly enough, I’ve often heard about how macho Latino men are, but I’ve only been called ‘mi’ja’ only one other time in my life by a co-worker. I’ve definitely had my share of pissing contests with some Latino men, and have been sexually harassed by them. A long time ago I put one in his place and I think that the rumors spread like wild fire, so few have tried to cross me since.

Maybe it’s because I was born in the United States that this doesn’t happen to me as much. Then again I’ve known many men from Mexico (although primarily from large cities) who haven’t pulled this on me, so maybe it happens with men in rural communities (much like I imagine it to be in the red hillbilly belt of the USA). Maybe it’s because I am in a leadership position that few men won’t publicly pull this stunt. But I’ve known far too many Latina women who tell tales of the use of the diminutive that is used to try to make them feel inferior.

Maybe they just don’t say it out loud, but I can sometimes see the disdain for me in some of their eyes and actions. However, for every bad experience that I have had with a macho Latino man, there are always three or four like my employee who jumped up to get the coffee for me or five or six like the Latino males who I date who seem to love to see me running amuck. When it all boils down to it, at least in my experience, Latino men are nothing in comparison to the sexism exhibited by many white males. The white men just use other tools to try to make us feel inferior.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ana Karina August 2, 2012 at 5:04 pm

This isn’t exclusive to Latino men. When I worked at a radio station my white male boss used to call me “sweety”. He was really nice otherwise but being called sweety was so uncomfortable to me.

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