Mental health break: girls and their dads


Completely non-Venezuela related: what do you think of this? What is it like to raise a girl in Venezuela?

I, for one, couldn’t agree more with the author.

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  1. Each child comes with his or her own “Raising instructions” under the arm; to read them, you just need the love-encoded key, freely available to all parents.

    • yes, I liked that comment, neddie.
      If the author talks about gender prejudices — and I agree, that they still exist in many so-called developed countries — then double those prejudices for Venezuela, before taking them to the nth power for the countries mentioned here:
      and in this trailer of a film coming out on Jun 16th:

    • Oh yeah? We’ve got the love, but I’m still looking for some of those instructions 😉

      Here’s a question: pierced ears for girl babies? Outmoded, barbaric and objectifying, or harmless and delightful way to decorate the little critters…..

      • Not to avoid your question, canuckles, but here’s a corollary, recently overheard:

        New mother carries her baby girl, who in turn, wears one of those soft ruffled bands (in pink, of course) around her practically hairless head. The young woman enters the small-machine repair shop and greets her dad, the owner. After a while, the dad asks his daughter:

        Why is she wearing a headband? Looks like it’s to hold her brains together. (Meaning, get rid of it.)

        Seems like some have to announce gender to the world. Ditto, the pierced ears.

      • This is something we go the rounds about pretty regularly so far and I’ve managed to stave it off. My wife argues that it is common in Venezuela and it is cute, however, my position is that if the kid freaks out everytime we go to the doctor’s appointment because she recognizes it as a veritable house of torture (forced to be naked, placed on a cold scale, touched all over with various implements, stuck with needles, etc.), why inflict other pain on her than is absolutely necessary. Let her make the choice for it down the road when she is old enough and stop projecting vanity on her.

        That, and at her age (2), and for the forseeable few years, kids tend to play rough, fall down, trip, twist or land on things. I can just see them being ripped out and that just necessitates more pain, healing, and then a return to whatever piercing joint to start all over again.

        • I was just thinking, though, that maybe many north american kids go all crazy on the piercings and tatoo-ings during adolescence because they did not suffer the residual trauma of a piercing right after birth. Maybe there is a salutary effect to this practice….

          • hmmm, is there some connection between circumcision following birth, among male babies, and a lower incidence of piercing and tattoo-ings during adolescence?

        • Really? that is the reason in Venezuela they do it right away… Maybe that is the reason any Venezuelan woman, even living in the states feel naked if we forgot our earrings! ( This I have a focus group about it) And I worry all day long if I forgot to put my earrings! ( and I use little ones… besides i think if you do that right away when in born it is less pain than if you wait!!!

          • My wife, is admittedly, an earring junkie. A fixation I do not fully understand.

            The “baby is too young to really feel the pain” was her reasoning when she wanted to do it. Since she had just finished up an ethics class shortly after the baby was born, I pointed out that she was imposing her choice on the child and inflicting pain for her own vanity. That the utility gained was hers, but the sacrifice was the baby’s, and after reading, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” she really couldn’t argue back.

            Of course, she still brings it up every now and then, but I always reply that it should be our daughter’s decision when she can make an informed choice.

            You think, after being married to a Venezolana for several years, I’d learn to pick my battles.

  2. Completely Venezuela-unrelated but you want to know how it is in Venezuela? 🙂

    I agree with the message, very much so. Venezuela has a big issue with this.
    Venezuelans are obsessed with this “reina” crap…and they don’t see
    I think that situation is not just related to the general, very horrible situation with crime in Venezuela but also part of the machista culture.

  3. It might be coincidence but, during my frequent travels abroad, whenever I meet a female, kick ass, talented investment banker, systems engineer, architect, petrochemical expert, business owner, chances are she is venezuelan or of venezuelan origin (merideñas. maracuchas and barquisimetanas). They usually feel fully appreciated at their workplace. In certain countries, like Germany, they complain about hitting a wall when they have kids. It never occurred to them that work-motherhood balance could be a problem and it didn’t seem to be for their mothers in Venezuela.

    • Yes, Gold, that has been my experience as well but I think we might have the wildest variance with regards to women’s position in society.

      Some of my best Venezuelan females friends are top scientists, engineers, one at a very high level in IBM, another a well-known researcher in mathematics.
      In Germany I got surprised looks when FEMALE friends found out about what studies and careers my sisters had followed.

      And yet: over 500 women were murdered in Venezuela from January to September of 2011 in gender-related cases compared to 51 in Spain (with 16 million people extra) in the same year (thus, in 12 months)…and Spain has an awful reputation about that.
      Is that just part of the horrible murder rate we have now? I think yes, but only in part.

      Venezuela has a very high rate of adolescent mothers even for Latin American standards and they are usually without any partner at their side.

      So: we have both sides and this discussion is not carried out because we don’t see so much the problem.

      On one side we have a lot of women advancing very fast. On the other we have this (just look at the picture and what it all implies):

    • Gold,Part of the reason for that is that in Venezuela maids are often used.Here in the US most people do not want to leave their children with maids even if they could possibly afford them.When my children were born in Venezuela I had maids because I had to entertain constantly however I refused to leave my children in their hands.The value for caring for one’s own children varies from country to country.

      • Gold : The difference may lie in the fact than when a Venezuelan lady professional lives in Venezuela she can usually count on a strong family network of female relatives ( grannies , aunts , godmothers ) who are more than happy to take care of their children, while if they live and work in the US or Europe that netwock will most likely be lacking . Also if you are well off in Venezuela , often ´family’ nannies can be brought in to help in some of the children raising chores .

      • I agree with Bill Bass, you have strong family support to raise your kids in Venezuela. As an immigrant, you have to rely on daycare or nannies and there is a significant cost associated to child care in some place. I live in Vancouver, Canada where the annual cost of daycare is more expensive than a year of university tuition in the best local public university. In fact, we did the math for our 2-yr old daughter and if my wife was back in the workforce full time, she was going to have a real earning of $5/hr (after deducting all child care cost and even including all tax benefits). Don’t take me wrong, the decision was not made solely on the financials but when you combine the importance of having a kid being raised for his/her mother and the financials, it was a no-brainer.

    • Gold, just thinking out loud here:
      Could it be that the problem is not in the women-as-professionals, but in the women-as-wives/mothers?
      From what I have seen, most of the women in Venezuela pursue careers and they show how competitive and successful they can be…until they marry and have kids.
      Our society teaches women that the house work, cleaning, food preparing, groceries, looking after kids, taking them to sports, etc, etc, is THEIR responsibility. They turn into “machistas” themselves. Most of the time they end up quitting their jobs because it’s really too difficult to carry both loads, work and home.
      And of course, men support that because their “provider” role is not challenged.
      Look at how venezuelans understand a divorce: in most of the cases, the children are the responsibility of mom and dad only gives money, if so.
      Lately I’ve heard way too many cases of venezuelan female friends who won’t go out for a drink after work because they have to run home to make dinner for their husbands or because they have a load of clothes to iron. I even heard a friend telling me she wakes up at 5 am to prepare the lunch bag of the husband who goes to work at 6!! Really??
      In the other hand, that doesn’t happen with my canadian friends. Canadian men – at least in my experience – don’t mind sharing the responsibilities of the house. If the work is done as a team, it gets done faster, and there more time for family time.

      • …and by the way, there is a huge number of stay-at-home DADS. Couples actually discuss and decide what’s better for the family and their options.
        Also, dads have the legal right to ask for parental leave when a baby is born.

  4. Exactly Kepler. Part of the problem is that reports on the subject tend to focus on the negatives: “femicidio”, high rate of adolescent mothers, abuse of plastic surgery, the “Miss” culture, to mention but a few. They rarely delve on the fact that Venezuelan women, as opposed to most women in the first world, have not shied away from pursuing male dominated careers and that they excel at them.
    Their parents must have done something right.

    • Gold, but what I am trying to say is that there seems to be two huge extremes in Venezuela. And the other extreme is so full of violence and disdain that it is causing a lot of problems for all of Venezuela.
      A lot of these guys shooting around and killing people are the children of single mothers who grew up in an environment of violence and Machismo.
      So: we should not say “oh, pero yo no conozco a nadie así, todas mis amigas son profesionales muy independientes en hogares donde sus parejas comparten las labores domésticas y son padres y amantes de primera”. Reality is that gender violence is huge in Venezuela and that girls are more used to trying to look like beauty queens than to read and learn stuff for their careers.

      • Kepler : Your comment is spot on!, there is a cultural divide between the haves and have nots in Venezuela that make many women in each side of the divide very different in outlook and living experience !! In Venezuela machismo is rife among the poorest , affecting not only mens attitudes but those of the women. Still women in the ‘have not’ part of the country are generally much more steadfast and responsible than their men . For example in microbanking poor women are known to be much more reliable as recipients of loans that men.

  5. Not so unrelated, you‘d be surprised to know how many times in my job (University Teacher) I‘ve had to listen, with stoicism, how some Professors seem to be amused because I not only have an acceptable physical image, but can also think and talk! Women in my area have to compete, intellectually and also against a very deep believe that we‘re not as well suited for some possitions as men are. We can talk about culture, how many women are raised to be Wife and Mother. The problem is when you‘re raised just to be a woman. I‘m tired of telling people I don‘t have kids because I don‘t want to. I often get a pat on the back as in a “poor girl“ way. And yes, probably I had to choose between career and family (aks my ex-husband about it) but no one ever forced me to, because it was a rational choice, which I think is what all of this is about. Maybe there is an environment that collaborates driving women to do crazy stuff like getting breast implants that can put their health in risk, but it‘s a choice. I believe there should be the possibility to make choices, and that is not always the case.

  6. Simon Baron -Cohen, professor of Developmental Psychopathology at the University of Cambridge in the UK, has extensively studied the differences between the male and female brains, and has discovered that females measure higher on empathy ( knowing ‘ mind ), and males on systemizing ( understanding systems).

    Of course this would imply that women ( in general, not in specific) are more likely to understand their children’s needs better.It would also explain why there are a preponderance of male engineers.

    I don’t think that means we should not be free to choose because I do believe in freedom of choice, but I do not think that automatically more women in the workplace means progress for a given population, nor do I see an automatic correlation between more women in the workplace and freedom for women.I wonder how many women in Venezuela would feel happier to be able to stay home and care for their children? How many of them feel absolutely free in their choices?

    I also very much agree with Neddie up there, that love is important.Love is the key to empathy, without it, there is none, and without empathy there is poor child care,and with poor childcare , well you know the rest.

  7. Hi all,
    I actually do research on this topic of gender and achievement. I often think about Venezuela, where I grew up. Like others have noted, I have met many highly successful, high-ranked business women from Venezuela, both in Venezuela and abroad. In many ways, they (and other South American business women) are much better than Europeans and North Americans at managing the dual career of being a mother and having a successful career. So, that made me think: something about the context and culture makes this possible. Think about it. Even in politics: Venezuela has had more women come close to the presidency than the US, for instance. Maybe it’s the fact that our mothers and grandmothers HAD to work work to support their kids and balance work and family and that just got passed on. The luxury of being a stay at home mom is not something many women in the developing world have. In fact, some work suggested that at some points in the history of Venezuela, about 50% of women with children were, in practice, raising and supporting their families on their own or with the support of extended family, rather than of their spouse if they had one. Anyway, I thought about all this, and also about the research (such as this We know that when girls are made to even just think about looks and romance, their ability to perform well in math and other kind of intellectual tasks is hampered, but not so for boys. When girls do not have to think about those things, they do as well if not better than boys. In a culture where the biggest aspirations that society teaches girls, either directly or indirectly, is to be a beauty queen or a soap opera actress, what would be the outcome of all those messages? I do not know. I suspect in some way many girls grow up to be women who learn that they have to hide their intellect (men do not find smart women attractive in cultures where female beauty is valued highly). Add to this the fact that in many parts of Venezuela, traditional values are very strong. I remember growing up in Venezuela and having teachers tell the girls in the class that they should aspire to be pretty and have a husband and forget about chemistry. All they need is to find a boyfriend and have a job as a preschool teacher or secretary. Of course, what happens in practice is quite different. Data in the 1980s showed that girls in Venezuela outperformed boys gradewise in high school (by a point of half a point). But, if the culture than tells those intelligent girls that it’s better to drop out of university or never join the workforce, the culture is losing out on a lot of great social capital. You do have to wonder if IN PART the country is not as fucked up as it is because too many boys are the ones who have lead.

    • Mark, I am gonna quote my favorite scientist, Dr. Sheldon Cooper 🙂 in that example of women and math, what he said about Einstein that if he wouldn’t have been such a ladies man (apparently he was) we would have been time traveling by now. So the issue of romance and goals are well, both male and female. Do you know why is always a male scientist or an artist (painter for example) the famous one, the one who get to the top? Because of 1) stereotypes 2) male have more support on their careers (by women usually) than woman have. Doesn’t have much to do with their capabilities even though female and male brains are different.

      Still, women have gotten to the top, having to juggle kids and a husband asking what’s for dinner honey. I have seen with this very own eyes that the worms will eat, women faculty (in the US) accommodating male students to their needs, and tell female students “your own your own sweetie, if you cannot keep up sorry”. Get this, because, the male student was married and taking care of the kids, because the wife was a doctor and was very busy. The freaking faculty woman got sorry for him, really???? Married to a doctor and you feel sorry?. So the expectation is to help the male to fulfill his career and let the woman on her own to see if she can pass the test of life.

      This is the trick, people in Venezuela value beauty, so what has happened is that women have evolved to be beautiful. take care of themselves, and be vain, and all of that actually be a positive value. In the US, being vain (with the exception of SoCal perhaps), being vain and worst if the woman is pretty (or the male for that matter) is seen as a negative. But that’s changing due to immigration, not only Latin American, but Persian woman, who don’t hesitate in becoming doctors and look like supermodels, Russian women too, and etc.

      So being a beauty queen is not bad, a lot of Venezuelan beauty queens are smart women and also great mothers. Barbara Palacios is a good example. Beauty and brains. Even Irene Saez who regardless she managed to become Mayor. Continuing with this, so what Venezuelan parents (dad and mom), teach, is that you can be beautiful, have piercing in your ears or whatever (yes Canuck), wear pink dresses with butterflies and flowers in it, and be and astronaut, a physicist, and MD, whatever you want. My parents are older, and they taught all of us to be whatever we want. My mom was different, her dad told her to stop studying before finishing high school because she was gonna be a wife, so she didn’t need to continue studying… and my dad never wanted her to work, but she always wanted to be a lawyer… so she always push us to study, study, study. Plus, we have so little opportunities in the thriving democracy that Father Chavez has given to us that when we traveled abroad and see the see, well, we take it!

      In US, people tent to judge quicker with stereotypes, so usually they get surprised with the latin american woman, because they managed to be pretty, be the mom, and actually have a career. American woman have to choose, because the stereotype is much heavier. They cannot become the President of the company if they wear pink, (or mini skirts), sandals with pink pedicure and have long hair. In Latin America you can. So actually Latin American men, are much tolerant and less judgmental than what they look like in that regard.

      Soooo men, dads, tell your girls they can be beautiful like a supermodel (or not) and still have brains. The only thing is please don’t buy them a tshirt that says “princess” on it! You don’t want to foster the damsel in distress syndrome.

      • nicely said, plumitas. Like you, I do believe — grosso modo — that there is more tolerance among Latam men towards women, than what is the case in northern latitudes. Similarly, I think, too, there is more tolerance, in Latam, towards both genders, insofar as their aspirations are concerned. Is it because there are fewer entrenched stereotypes in Latam? And I focus on the word “entrenched”.

        Perhaps it has something to do with the fierce economic overhauls of countries in more northerly latitudes, after these countries suffered great losses in wars, e.g., WW1 and WW2. Advertising during those post-war periods reveals psycho-social coercion of females to get them back into the home, after their “Rosie-the-Riveter” stints, or as battlefront supports (i.e., nursing). The reason? To allow for males to compete for the very few jobs available in the workplace.

        • Yeah I agree with you, for whatever reason we are more relaxed, less competition and hardship than in the north for sure. I also think that it has to do with the puritanism from the old days still “entrenched” in the North American culture.

        • I agree with you. maybe everyone in here are in high places in Academia. However, i used to hear so many times from Americans, than they want to find a good job, because at some point they want a family, and they did not want the wife to keep working! And i hear it way too much, and of course with the comment, you are not married? no kids? so really is something more world wide about the role of women…Always in some extent we are not treated as equals, no matter what…otherwise why even in The US there is a difference in paying a female with the same job and performance that the male counterpart?

      • Hi,

        I’m not sure what your point was, but here are a few thoughts in response to your comments:

        1) Experiments and studies, including imaging studies, show us that men and teenage boys are not hampered by thinking about romance or their looks right before a test. I.e., when you make people, male and female, think about romance or their looks, even if you do it equally to everyone, it is women who are put at a a disadvantage. Why? We do not know exactly. There is a lot of research being conducted around the world testing various mechanisms and processes that may account for this. The point is that in practical terms, if the larger social context emphasizes beauty and romance all the time, and girls are singularly impaired by this, women and girls will on average be at a disadvantage. Science is about reliable findings that can be replicated, so it is about numbers. It doesn’t mean that every single woman in the world is affected in the same way by information that makes concerns with romance salient, and that every single man is not.

        Please note that contrary to what you seem to assume, the research does not show differences in talent of men and women. It shows that the context in which women and men are tested (what they are made to think) can hamper or improve their performance on tests.

        2) Your question about art: I have no idea. But, look at history books and look at how many women were allowed to practice art as their primary occupation throughout history? How many received the patronage of the wealthy to live as artists? The answer is close to zero. Up until the end of last century, when the printed commercial book gave women equal footing in literature and the performing arts allowed more women onstage, most female artists were religious, the daughters of privilege, or believe it or not courtesans. So, that issue is less about the talent of the female gender as it is about the social practices. In the 20th century we have higher numbers of well-recognized and admired artists, from architects to authors to composers who are women. There is still room for more equality, of course.

        3) The emphasis on beauty and the possible negative impacts on girls’ interest in academic achievement is a mystery. It is precisely what keeps me thinking about all this. In theory, the high value Venezuelans place on physical beauty should distract women from academic achievement, yet it does not until later in life. So, there is clearly something else at work, perhaps tradition, perhaps the fact that many men are not active partners in family duties. Who knows?! It’s a mystery worth some scholarly work and some research.

        4) You may not know this, but in many international surveys of values and personality traits, Venezuela has systematically been ranked as the most narcissistic nation in the world. Narcissism is not just about physical beauty, but it is in large part about having an inflated sense of self, thinking one self to be much much greater than one has any evidence for believing. It is also about being manipulative socially, conniving, and likely to respond to perceived social slights with great indignation and anger. So, the emphasis on beauty may be the tip of the iceberg for some other cultural syndrome. Again, no one has really explored this in depth.

        5) Finally, I agree with your assessment that in Venezuela (I would not say Latin America. I have no evidence of this being a pattern elsewhere, if anything, just the opposite) women do manage much better at juggling career/work and home, as I mentioned in my original post. As I mentioned in that post, it is likely to be because the social reality makes it a necessity. In the US and other industrialized nations, social reality does not create the same pressure (e.g., you do not need to work if your husband is make a bundle of money), but if you look at poorer communities in the USA and other countries you see the same patterns as in Venezuela. The “you can’t have it all” mentality of upper middle class women is just that, the mentality of upper middle class women. But, if they had to, they would more than likely learn to balance it all. They would have an advantage in that situation in that the men in their lives are more willing to share housework and parenting, believe it or not (data does show this, from huge international surveys).

        • Mark,

          Can you show us a peer-reviewed article about narcissism in Venezuela vis-a-vis other countries? I have read psychiatrist-turned-writer Francisco Herrera Luque wrote something about psychopaths and Venezuelan genetics, but I haven’t read the source (and that is also a different matter).


        • Hi Mark, point number one is a joke, since Sheldon Cooper is a fictitious character, I have no bases to doubt your study because it’s said that guys think about sex like a lot during the day, were it’s not the case with women. However, the point of girls get hampered doesn’t mean they can be as productive or even more than guys who doesn’t get hampered by romance, why, because both sexes have their own different way to solve problems and have their own different ways to make things work.

          About art, you just agreed with me what I said, it’s a cultural biased where guys are expected to do well, so they are the ones who are helped (patronage) and supported (usually by their wives and families), where with the wife, up to not long ago wasn’t the case, and still is not, as the example I gave to you by a female faculty. But of course they have been women painters as good as males, they have been the question recently if Vermeer didn’t finish all his work but their daughters did. And anthropologically speaking, the notion that males were the cave painters is totally obsolete, it’s said the cave painters were women and children.

          Point number 3, I think the answer to your mystery is what type of parents you are born with. Not only is important to have won the genetic lottery but also the parents one.

          Yes, I read about the narcissistic personality with Venezuelans somewhere, I also read we made the happiest not this year but in the past…. I guess the “delusional” happiness category didn’t exist so they ranked us as so very happy. But taking the joke aside, there is something to say about Venezuelans and the way they take life, with the jokes I guess it’s good reduces stress etc but also the reason why we r so f*** up (on this note, para que se rian un buen rato:

  8. Excellent discussion and… troll free! Venezuelan women never cease to amaze me. They have so much stacked against them, still they are the most beautiful, intelligent, ingenious, resourceful, fun and ballsy women around, be it in Harvard, The City or en La Lucha o La Bombilla. Tell me I’m wrong at your own risk 😉


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