- Daniel Pardo
- BBC Mundo correspondent in Colombia
“Welcome to Calma, the listening line for men,” says a male voice, soft, slow. “We are here to listen and guide you,” he adds.
Minutes later, an official from the Bogotá Mayor’s Office, an expert in psychology, answers to attend to the anguish of some men in the Colombian capital.
Almost 2,000 men have called the line in 10 months of existence. And about 200 of them have taken advantage of the 10 free personalized sessions to which they are entitled, just to be willing to examine their macho emotions, thoughts and attitudes.
“I was becoming the macho that I never wanted to be,” Alex Rodríguez, a 31-year-old from Bogota, baker and artist tells BBC Mundo.
“But, as I was worried that I was feeling that typical toxic man jealousy, I called the line and was answered by Diana, a psychologist who told me that Jealousy is normal, that we all feel it, and that the important thing is to know how to process it“.
Most of the men who call Calma do so in the midst of an attack of jealousy: “We have discovered that not only men, but also Colombian women, jealousy is something that we love,” says María Fernanda Cepeda, gender expert in the civic culture division of the Bogotá mayor’s office.
Henry Murrain, Bogotá’s undersecretary for citizen culture, adds: “Behind the macho who can do everything, who controls everything, there is a deeply insecure and tormented man.”
“And it is there, not only from jealousy, but from an idea of exclusivity and control of women, that their deepest rages are awakened and they can become the violent person that, in most cases, they do not want. become “, explains the philosopher.
In Argentina, Mexico and Peru, among other countries, there are programs to assist men who commit gender violence, but most of them focus on perpetrators already convicted or are promoted by civil organizations.
The Calma line, focused on the prevention of sexist attitudes, seeks to change the sexist culture from the administrations, at least at the Bogotá level.
“Much effort is made in the empowerment of women and in working with perpetrators, but our approach, which is anthropological in nature, seeks to prevent sexist violence through an understanding and attention to its emotional causes,” explains Murrain.
An old Bogota politics
Since the government of Antanas Mockus in the 1990s, the Bogotá mayor’s office set out to change the harmful attitudes of Bogota citizens through creative projects. Getting people to cross the street on the zebra, put on their belts and save water at home were some of the outstanding advances that many remember (and practice) today.
The Calma line is the new facet of the already emblematic undersecretary of citizen culture of the Colombian capital, now under the command of Murrain, a pupil of Mockus who studied the machismo of Colombians in two societies of patriarchal tradition: Barranquilla, the port capital from the Atlantic coast, and Barrancabermeja, an oil city.
“Through various studies we found that the Colombian man, although I think this is a very Latin American facet, he is tormented by a number of burdens imposed on him by his status as a male supplier and conqueror“, explica Murrain.
“And that the processing of those emotions of guilt, anger, and helplessness is not done in a calm and transparent way, but with violence and arrogance.”
The mayor’s office surveys report that 66% of intrafamily violence is from a partner, that 55% of cases are due to jealousy and that 76% agree that men do not know how to manage their emotions.
Cepeda adds: “The expectation about men is that they act in accordance with the idea of manhood, of the man who provides and does not deal with the sentimental.”
“It is an identity that is very difficult to win and very easy to lose, because they permanently have to show that they are men, that they provide, that they conquer, that they do not cry“.
Thus, the anthropologist asks, “How do we expect men to not exercise violence if we constantly ask them to be at the level of that macho manhood?”
In search of the cause of sexist violence
Oscar Eduardo López, a 24-year-old from Bogotá who is dedicated to music and journalism, did not know how to deal with his girlfriend’s infidelity when he called Calma.
“The guilt for not having lived up to the wills of my partner was generating very deep problems for me, my body fell asleep, I said things that I was not very aware of, and when I went to seek help from my friends or my family I came across ‘hey, get over it’ and ‘hey, that’s life, turn the page.’
In Calma, says López, she found an impartial, patient and disinterested interlocutor who made her understand “that the breakup and the infidelity were not my fault, but a decision of her that had little or nothing to do with what I did.”
Unlike other capitals in Latin America, Bogotá leads the national figures for intrafamily violence: only Casanare, Arauca and Meta – cities in the eastern plains – have higher rates of assaults within the home.
“Despite all the progress that Bogotá has made in terms of security, environmental awareness and urban behavior, there is a debt when it comes to intimate partner violence,” explains Murrain.
According to official data, 5 out of 10 men in Bogotá grew up without their father as the main male figure. “And when the father is not absent, he is violent,” says Cepeda.
“It is a public health problem,” adds Murrain. “We know that emotions such as jealousy are predictors of violence. So with proper and professional treatment of these emotions we can prevent violence.”
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.