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Machismo

MACHISMO.

Machos are not born; they are made. For the same reason, the term machismo refers to a concept that has been invented and not to a primordial cultural trait of any particular group of people. In the United States, machismo was "discovered" by social scientists and feminists much as the New World was "discovered" by Europeans five centuries earlier: U.S. scholars and feminists noticed gender oppression in Mexico and the rest of Latin America and announced that it was a particular cultural trait among Spanish-speaking men.

Although some believe machismo has ancient roots common in all "Latin" cultures since Roman times, others argue that it is an ideology that originated uniquely in Andalusia, Spain, and was carried over the Atlantic Ocean during the Spanish Conquest. There is even an opposite theory positing that machismo was indigenous to the pre-Columbian Western Hemisphere. In fact, the term machismo has a very short word history dating back only a few decades in the twentieth century.

This does not mean that what scholars today call sexism is new to the Americas, or that inequality based on sexuality and gender differencetoday recognized under rubrics like homophobia and misogynyare of recent vintage. But like the expression sexism, the term machismo is new.

Perhaps the most complicated aspect of the idea of machismo stems from the fact that until fairly recently the term may have been more broadly used in the United States than in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world. Although elsewhere in the world macho always has had a negative connotation when referring to humansit originates in a term that designates the male of an animal species (hembra being the female)in Latin America the term has a somewhat different history. Only in the 1990s did the term come into vogue more broadly in Latin America; earlier it was mainly utilized to refer to culturally determined forms of masculinity by intellectuals and activists involved in examining and struggling against oppressive regimes grounded in ideas and relations of gender/sexuality systems in journalistic writing, social science studies, and feminist critique of the oppression of women and gays.

Pegging extreme sexism to one or another culture is a dead-end at best, and a racist subterfuge at worst. In the contemporary United States the machismo mystique is regularly employed to imply that somehow Spanish-speaking men, and especially Spanish-speaking heterosexual men, are more prone than men from other cultural backgrounds to sexist language, actions, and relationships. This is in large part a result of scholarship by U.S. academics, including anthropologists and sociologists, who have gone to Mexico and other parts of Latin America to study questions of family, kinship, and gender/sexuality and through this research have developed interpretations and paradigms consistent with hegemonic notions of studying downthat is, looking at populations that have been marginalized and oppressed (as opposed to "studying up"; that is, examining the ruling classes)and finding political, social, and cultural fault with oppressed others.

In Latin America, the term macho usually must be distinguished from that of machismo. Macho has different meanings in different social circumstances: sometimes it refers simply to the male of a species, whether animal or plant. In other cultural contexts "to be macho" can have contradictory connotations: for older generations this may refer to something positive for men to emulate, so that a macho man is one who is responsible for the financial welfare of his family, whereas for younger men to be macho can refer to culturally stigmatized behavior like beating one's wife, and thus in order to differentiate themselves from this kind of stigmatized practice many men of these younger generations would not readily refer to themselves as macho.

The term marianismo was created, in almost biblical style, in machismo's image: it was not good for the macho to be alone, so in 1973 a North American academic invented marianismo. Marianismo has done damage to our understanding of gender relations and inequalities among Latin American and U.S.. Latina women similar to the damage done by machismo among Latin American and U.S. Latino men. Now discredited, marianismo was originally an attempt to examine women's gender identities and relationships within the context of inequality, by developing a model based on a religious icon (María), the quintessential expression of submissiveness and spiritual authority. This notion of Latin American women is grounded in a culturalist essentialism that does far more than spread misinformed ideas: it ultimately promotes gender inequality. Both marianismo and machismo have created clichéd archetypes, fictitious and cartoonesque representations of women and men of Latin American origin. If a Mexican man, for instance, is abusive and aggressive, he will be labeled a macho. If a Mexican woman quietly endures such an abusive relationship, her behavior is automatically examined within the marianismo paradigm. But if a white man and a white woman display similar behavior, they are seldom analyzed in so cavalier and simplistic a fashion.

What is more, frequently these traits of machismo and marianismo are pegged in particular to working class men and women, as if those from the middle and upper strata were too sophisticated for their lives to be captured by such crude academic groupings. As theoretical categories, therefore, machismo and marianismo are not only culturally chauvinist but elitist as well. The machismo-marianismo paradigm represented an expression of a widespread intellectual colonial mentality in the behavioral and social sciences that remained dominant and unchallenged for far too long.

As a contemporary idea, machismo has long since entered popular discourse, including among the Latino/a populations in Latin America, the United States, and elsewhere. Indeed in the twenty-first century, Latino/a cultures are commonly defined from within as inherently macho. As such machismo has become a critical aspect of Latino/a identity politics, even when, as in this case, the cultural characteristic in question is held to be a negative set of ideas and practices.

The etymology of the idea of machismo thus has roots in political and social concerns of the late twentieth century. The origin of the term is found in texts, especially journalistic, social science, and feminist dissections of Mexican men and Latinos in general in this period. The popularization of machismo as an epithet for Spanish-speaking males of the species coincided with the rise of second-wave feminism and, later, cultural identity politics in which supposedly immutable cultural traits were linked, as if genetically, to men with one or another geographic and/or class ancestry.

The origins of the term give an indication of its future as an idea: to the extent that hegemonic ideologies and ways of constructing knowledge about Latin America and Latinos remain unchallenged, including with regard to gender relations and inequalities, it will be possible to continue employing machismo in a stereotypical fashion and as an expedient label for complex social interactions. If, on the other hand, the idea of machismo and that of its even more problematic would-be opposite, marianismo, are recognized and discarded as antiquated paradigms invented to explain and teach about gender inequality in Latin American and Latino/a societies, then the idea of machismo could be short-lived. Machismo as a shorthand for sexism may have come into journalistic, social science, feminist, and popular vogue for a variety of reasons, including the well-intentioned desire to criticize gender inequality and oppression. The continued employment of this hackneyed term can only reflect the persistence of an elitist and racist model to understand gender inequities among women and men of Latin American origin.

See also Feminism ; Gender ; Gender Studies: Anthropology .

bibliography

de Barbieri, Teresita. "Sobre géneros, prácticas y valores: Notas acerca de posibles erosiones del machismo en México." In Normas y prácticas: Morales y cívicas en la vida cotidiana, edited by Juan Manuel Ramírez Sáiz, 83106. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1990.

Fuller, Norma. "Reflexiones sobre el machismo en América Latina." In Masculinidades y equidad de género en América Latina, edited by Teresa Valdés and José Olavarría, 258266. Santiago, Chile: FLACSO/UNFPA, 1998.

González-López, Gloria. Erotic Journeys: Mexican Immigrants and Their Sex Lives. Berkeley: University of California Press. Forthcoming.

Gutmann, Matthew C. The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

Paredes, Américo "The United States, Mexico, and Machismo. " In his Folklore and Culture on the Texas-Mexican Border, edited by Richard Bauman, 215234. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993.

Zinn, Maxine Baca. "Chicano Men and Masculinity." In Men's Lives, edited by Michael A. Messner and Michael S. Kimmel, 2432. 5th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2001.

Gloria González-López

Matthew C. Gutmann

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MACHO

MACHO / ˈmächō; ˈmachō/ • n. Astron. a compact object, such as a brown dwarf, a low-mass star, or a black hole, of a kind that is thought by some to constitute part of the dark matter in galactic halos. ORIGIN: 1990s: acronym from Massive (Astrophysical) Compact Halo Object.

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macho

ma·cho / ˈmächō/ • adj. showing aggressive pride in one's masculinity: the big macho tough guy. • n. (pl. -chos) a man who is aggressively proud of his masculinity. ∎  machismo.

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machismo

ma·chis·mo / məˈchēzmō; -ˈkēz-/ • n. strong or aggressive masculine pride. ∎ fig. daring or bravado: the Japanese have taken culinary machismo to a new level.

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machismo

machismoammo, Gamow •Rameau • Malmö •demo, memo •Elmo • Palermo •emo, primo, supremo •limo •gizmo, gran turismo, machismo, verismo •Eskimo • Geronimo •duodecimo, octodecimo, sextodecimo •altissimo, fortissimo, generalissimo, pianissimo •proximo • centimo • ultimo • Cosmo •Pontormo •chromo, duomo, Homo, majordomo, Nkomo, promo, slo-mo •Profumo, sumo •Alamo • dynamo • paramo

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macho

machogazpacho, macho •nacho • pasticcio • honcho • gaucho •Ayacucho

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MACHO

MACHO (ˈmætəʊ) Astronomy massive astrophysical compact halo object

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Machismo

Machismo

MACHISMO’S ETIOLOGY

THE CONSEQUENCES OF MACHISMO

MACHISMO AS ANALYTICAL CONCEPT

BIBLIOGRAPHY

The concept of “machismo” is a culturally defined attribute associated with U.S. Mexican and other Latino men. It has come to have a number of negative connotations, such as a chauvinistic and tyrannical male character, an exaggerated masculine posture, extramarital sexual activity, involvement in physical abuse and violence, displays of physical courage or daring, heavy drinking, and the imposition of restrictions on women’s freedom of movement. However, there is a contrasting view holding that machismo embodies the desirable combination of fearlessness, self-sufficiency, and courage. In this view, a macho is a hombre noble (noble man) who sacrifices to economically support and protect his family at all costs. This article explains the etiology and veracity of these two views of machismo and suggests how it may be used analytically.

MACHISMO’S ETIOLOGY

In the social sciences, the words macho and machismo have become shorthand for labeling male characteristics in Mexican and other Latino cultures. Machismo is thought to be more dominant among U.S. Hispanic groups than non-Hispanic populations. However, these gender role characteristics are more likely to be attributed to men from more traditional cultures. The cornerstone of machismo is the traditional Mexican family, stereotyped as having a patriarchal structure characterized by the unquestioned and absolute supremacy of the husband and the self-sacrifice of the wife. Within this family structure, major decisions and privileges flow from the male patriarch to all others, from whom he demands unquestionable allegiance, respect, and obedience.

Mexican women and other Latinas are seen as submissive women who are not only forced into this type of situation but also accept this position. Marianismo defines the Hispanic female ideal. Like the Virgin Mary, the ideal woman in Hispanic culture is regarded as morally and spiritually superior to men. She is seen as centering her life around her husband and children; she is unfailingly submissive and obedient; she avoids self-indulgence and sensuality; she is expected to be chaste before marriage and accept her husband’s macho behavior when married; and she is expected to endure whatever suffering men may impose on her. The family is perceived as the institution in which these clearly delineated gender roles are perpetuated and reproduced from one generation to the next. In contrast, the woman who does not adopt these characteristics is labeled “la mujer mala” or “the bad woman.”

Traditionally, social scientists tend to reinforce these images by imposing an assimilationist paradigm on this population. This paradigm promotes the perspective that Mexican Americans immigrated to the United States from rural agricultural regions of Mexico with strong traditional cultures and values. These images are based on early anthropologists such as Robert Redfield, whose description of Mexican rural society in the mid-twentieth century was transferred to Mexicans living in the United States. This paradigm was reinforced by early settlement patterns, which found Mexicans living in rural areas of the Southwest. Even though most Mexican Americans were living in cities by the 1960s, the existing literature on this population was heavily weighted by studies of rural and traditional life.

The cornerstone of the assimilation model is that a minority group’s disadvantaged status decreases as it

adopts the values of the majority society. In the case of Mexican Americans, the model assumes that what impedes the advancement of this population is that they stubbornly adhere to a deficient traditional culture that is incompatible with modern urban societies such as the United States. One of the most pejorative cultural characteristic ascribed to this population is that of machismo, which is assumed to permeate all aspects of family life. The family places a great emphasis upon children learning submission and strong obedience to the dictates of the father and other authority figures, and the family is seen as orbiting the strong domination of the male in the family. This idea, however, conceptualized as “machismo,” was accepted without any empirical verification, resulting in a distorted view of the family and gender roles.

Although some social scientists have challenged the portrayal of Mexican American (and other Latino) machismo (Baca-Zinn 1982), research has found that gender roles within the family are more egalitarian than previously presented. For instance, the women’s role is more independent and assertive than previously described, and decisions are shared by both the husband and wife (Cromwell and Cromwell 1978; Vega 1990). These findings support a view of Latino husbands and fathers as caring individuals who have an active role in their children’s upbringing. Contrary to the stereotypes and the popular view of machismo, the bond between fathers and children is one that is inherent in the culture, independent of the child’s relationship to the mother. In this more sympathetic view, a macho is the protector of the family and defender of family honor.

A result of current empirical evidence, a less pernicious and nuanced view of machismo has emerged in some social-science literature. More recent research suggests that—just as in the broader area of family sociology— marital power, division of labor, and kinship orientation are found to be influenced not only by culture but also by structural factors such as class position, employment status, and residential patterns.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF MACHISMO

Despite this contemporary research, the association of machismo with Mexican Americans and other Latinos has endured as a major stereotype of these populations. These exaggerated and prejudicial views are reinforced by societal institutions (e.g., religion, education) and, in particular, by the mass media. In the first half of the twentieth century, films and literature largely portrayed Mexican males as sleazy bandits, sleepy peons, Latin lovers, fun-loving buffoons, or some variation of these characterizations. These images have been modernized for twenty-first century audiences and have evolved into urban versions of these earlier portrayals. The new imagery of Mexican Americans is dominated by the gang member, drug user, dealer, and illegal immigrant, and they tend to be men that are violent, sexual predators, criminals, or cowards. Mass media researchers have proven that long-term exposure to misrepresented stereotypes can have what is called a cumulative effect, leading persons to believe that the dominant image is the norm.

These negative machismo stereotypes result in prejudice and discriminatory behavior towards Mexican American and other Latino men. Regardless of whether these characterizations are true or false, the stereotype leads to what Robert Merton identified in 1957 as a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if Mexican American men are widely believed to be sexist, people will behave toward them, have certain expectations of them, or interpret their behavior in such a manner that fulfills their stereotype. Even if these beliefs are false, they become real in their consequences.

Further, the prescribed male roles associated with machismo among Mexican Americans and other Latino men have various negative consequences. One of these is that these characteristics become internalized by Latino males themselves. The relationship between these stereotypes, self-image, and subsequent behavior needs further exploration. However, it is clear that Mexican-American youth are highly influenced by their exposure to the mass media. In particular, the urban life culture promoted in the hip-hop and rap music subculture has had a pervasive influence on young urban Latino males. Many of this musical genre’s lyrics promote an oppositional culture centered on a lifestyle expressed through distinct clothing styles, tattoos, language, and body jewelry. Of more concern is that some artists involved in this genre condone violence and crime by promoting a “gangsta” way of life. Some of the most vociferous critics of this musical genre argue that it also promotes a hypermasculinity, sexism, and an objectification of women.

When this message is delivered to Mexican-American (and other Latino) males living in economically disadvantaged urban Mexican-American communities, it reinforces an already established predisposition to machismo. As Elijah Anderson (1999) points out, in many economically depressed areas of inner cities, the rules of civil law have been replaced with what is identified as a “code of the streets.” Here, youth and adult subcultures are involved in street violence, drug use, crime, and confrontational behaviors toward authority. Specifically, this subculture revolves around a street socialization process that emphasizes the development of collective and individual coping strategies that use violence as a means of resolving conflicts, especially among males. The repercussions for Latinos may be more severe than among blacks or whites. In this regard, machismo is highly embedded in situated activities and an environment that is based on a male-dominated patriarchal hierarchy.

MACHISMO AS ANALYTICAL CONCEPT

Mexican-American culture, reinforced by social context, magnifies the differences between gender roles to a greater degree than the culture of many other groups. The magnification of gender reflects a family-ethnic community complex tied to structural features of the family, and to more general conditions of social solidarity that stem from Mexican Americans’ subordinate status. There is a complex intersection of patriarchy (male domination/female subordination) and machismo with class and ethnicity. As Denise Segura (1999) notes, patriarchy refers to the development and institutionalization of male dominance over women in society. Machismo is how a patriarchal ideology is operationalized by males of Mexican descent or other Latinos. When using machismo as an analytical construct, class and ethnicity need to be theorized together because they emerge at the points at which stratification articulates structure. Christopher McCall (1999) has shown that class privileges are maintained by a pervasive social control made possible by ethnic labeling. Within ethnic communities, however, the structure of opportunity often operates through the mediations imposed by a patriarchy, which, in turn, may derive legitimacy from class and ethnicity. This is important to consider when using machismo as an analytical tool.

An illustration of how this approach can be used is taken from a recent study of intimate-partner violence. In this 2005 study, Avelardo Valdez and Raquel Flores attempted to understand the situational processes that contribute to the escalation of an argument to a physical and violent confrontation between Mexican-American gang-affiliated adolescent females and their dating partners. They found that “disrespect” was one of the precursors to the unfolding of a violent incident. This precursor implies that one of the partners has demonstrated a lack of good will, esteem, or deference to the other partner through behavior, symbolic gesture, or language. What is important here is that one party has perceived the other as engaging in behavior that is disrespectful. Differences in what is perceived as disrespect is influenced by gender and culture. For instance, a male will escalate the violence if the incident results in a “loss of face,” as dictated by the “code of the street.” Similarly, the inability to dominate one’s female partner is a challenge to a socially structured male hierarchy, particularly within a male gang subculture with clearly defined gender barriers. The violent response of a man in this position will be interpreted as somewhat instrumental and rational. On the other hand, a female will more likely escalate the violence if she perceives a threat to an emotional relationship or connection. For women, this is often based on witnessed behavior (i.e., seeing the man flirting with another woman) or validated behavior. For men, jealousy is often based merely on suspicion. This type of violence on the part of women is often interpreted as emotional or expressive, while the men’s violence is seen as more rational or instrumental. This is just an example of how the concept of machismo can be used as a construct in conducting research on Latino populations.

Machismo is a socially constructed concept that needs to be used judiciously when applied to Mexican-American and other Latino males. The degree of machismo associated with these men will vary depending on a constellation of variables, such as income, generation and education. Nonetheless, it would be a fair statement, considering culture and class variables, to say that machismo may be more salient among Latinos than other groups. This is certainly the case among young men living in disadvantaged communities, where it is a socially valued ideal that emphasizes aggression and control, venerates dominance, and has wide currency on the streets. However, this street machismo may be different than that represented in the home that is associated with prosocial characteristics. As a cultural model for male behavior, machismo provides important standards and motivations for the attainment of social goals. In the application of this construct, however, researchers must recognize the importance of considering structural factors, including economic marginality, in explaining these phenomena.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Alvirez, David, Frank D. Bean, and Dorie Williams. 1981. “The Mexican American Family.” In Ethnic Families in America, 2nd ed., edited by Charles H. Mindel and Robert W. Habenstein, 269–292. New York: Elsevier North Holland.

Anderson, Elijah. 1999. Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City. New York: W. W. Norton.

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Avelardo Valdez

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