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Machismo (/, , /; Spanish: [maˈtʃizmo]; Portuguese: [mɐˈʃiʒmu]), or machoism, is a word derived from Spanish and Portuguese, where it has the meaning of a belief in the supremacy of men over women. (See androcentrism, male chauvinism, misogyny, patriarchy, sexism, etc.) However, in English the word means instead the sense of being macho or manly.
The word macho has a long history in Spain, and in contemporary Spanish, in the sense presented most often along this article, means the ideal societal role men must have in a given society (but most particularly, Iberian language-speaking ones). Macho in Spanish is a strictly masculine term, derived from the Latin mascŭlus meaning male (today hombre or varón, c.f. Portuguese homem and now-obsolete for humans varão; macho and varão, in their most common sense, are used for males of non-human animal species). Machos in Iberian-descended cultures are supposed to have bravery, courage and strength as well as wisdom and leadership, and ser macho is something all [gender normative] boys are supposed to aspire to.
During the mid-20th century, the term "machismo" began to be criticized by non-Latino Americans and ridiculed in literature, television and film. The stereotypical Latino immigrant was described as an oversexed, overly aggressive, "macho" loser. During the women's liberation movement of the 1960s and 70s, the term began to be used by Latin American feminists to describe male aggression and violence. The term was used by Latina feminists and scholars to criticize the patriarchal structure of gendered relations in Latino communities. Their goal was to describe a particular Latin American brand of patriarchy.
The English word "machismo" derives from the identical Spanish and Portuguese word. Spanish and Portuguese machismo refers to the assumption that masculinity is superior to femininity, a concept similar to R. W Connell's hegemonic masculinity, Presently in the sense that supposed feminine traits among males (or traits historically viewed as non-feminine among females, see marianismo) are to be deemed undesirable, socially reprovable or deviations. Gender roles make an important part of human identity as we conduct our identities through our historical and current social actions. Machismo's attitudes and behaviours may be frowned upon or encouraged at various degrees in various societies or subcultures – albeit it is frequently associated with more misogynistic undertones, primarily in present views on the past.
- 1 Contemporary dominant view on the meaning of the term
- 2 Caballerismo
- 3 Criticism and controversy
- 4 Indigenous influence on Mexican culture
- 5 See also
- 6 References
Contemporary dominant view on the meaning of the term
Women can be said to be "machistas", meaning women who do not support gender equality, mainly as a pejorative term used by other women who see themselves as more liberated or by pro-feminist men, or less often so those that support the macho culture, and they are seen not just as a natural part but a vital one to the life expectancy of this gender role, as women, as mothers, are usually the first and main socializers of children of both sexes, so some of the most important social norms of the future generation of a society, even in a patriarchal system, are learned most commonly from the female members of one's family environment.
In the culture of machismo, as well as in Western culture's hypermasculinity, the idealized womankind is that submissive, conservative, "pure" and family-centered, the opposite of many, if not all, the characteristics of the macho gender role.
Currently the dominant discourse surrounds the negative aspects of machismo, which are similar to the Western culture concept of hypermasculinity and are seen as threats to females in Latin America and Iberian societies: accordingly machismo is among the supposed threats to LGBT people, and is connected to homophobia, so awareness of both as correlated social problems is a central part of local social movements' discourses.
As an attitude, machismo, in the English sense, ranges from a personal sense of virility to a more extreme male chauvinism. Characteristics include domineering, fierceness, bravado, etc., in ways that are showily and histrionically tough.
The peacock's tail, the enlarged claw of the male fiddler crab and the machismo of members of the human species are all exaggerated features that may cause injury to individuals that display them but attract females.
In American literature, an example of machismo comes from Tennessee Williams' character Stanley Kowalski, the egotistical brother-in-law in A Streetcar Named Desire. In the play (and in the motion picture), Stanley epitomizes the tough guy stereotype alpha male, socially and physically dominating and imposing his will upon his wife and her sister, Blanche Dubois. Bound up with Stanley's aggressive and occasionally misogynist views is a strong sense of pride and honor which leads to his hatred of Blanche.
In the play A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller, one of the main characters Eddie is a classic type who displays machismo. He wants to be the best of the men around him and when beaten, becomes very agitated and increasingly irrational.
"Caballerismo" or "Caballerosidad", is a Latin American understanding of manliness that focuses more on honour and chivalry. The literal translation is horseman (see below) but the figurative translation is gentleman. Latin American scholars have noted that positive descriptors of machismo resemble the characteristics associated with the concept of caballerismo. Understandings of machismo in Latin American cultures are not all negative; they also involve the characteristics of honour, responsibility, perseverance and courage, related to both individual and group interaction. Studies show Latin American men understand masculinity to involve considerable childcare responsibilities, politeness, respect for women's autonomy, and non-violent attitudes and behaviors. In this way, machismo comes to mean both positive and negative understanding of Latin American male identity within the immigrant context. Therefore, machismo, like all social constructions of identity, should be understood as having multiple layers
The word caballerismo originates from Spanish word for horse and horseman – caballo and caballero. Caballerismo refers to a chivalric masculine code of behavior. (Note that the English term that also stems from the original Latin root caballus.) Like the English chivalric code, caballerismo developed out of a medieval sociohistorical class system in which people of wealth and status owned horses for transportation and other forms of horsepower. Thus, caballero referred to a land-owning colonial Spanish gentleman of high station who was master of estates and/or ranches.
Criticism and controversy
Controversy surrounding colonial connotations
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There is controversy surrounding the concept of Machismo is originally from Spanish and Portuguese descent. The use of Spanish and Portuguese produces historical colonial connotations through its promotion of Spanish and Portuguese masculine social construction, when the term should be used to describe specific Latin American historical masculinities. However, the word machismo does resemble words in Spanish and Portuguese language which is the cause why it is often associated with Spain and Portugal. In addition, by identifying machismo as a form of Europeanness, it offers legitimacy to the concept of a wicked formed of the same Western hypermasculinity known to Protestant Reforme-derived cultures and subjugates Latin America's understanding of itself and its cultural history and peculiarities.
For example, the use of caballerismo to mean only the positive characteristics of machismo contains colonial connotations regarding the historical colonial power relations. This is because the origin of the word caballerismo to intend for a wealthy Spaniard landlord during the colonial era, exalts European culture in comparison to the so-called Latin American machismo (animalesque, irrational, violent, backward). It cannot be avoided in Portuguese as cavalheirismo, the word for the more acceptable parts of machismo, is itself a loanword from Spanish presenting a palatalization process that Portuguese did not experience (the Portuguese word for a horseman is cavaleiro, and for horsemanship it has cavalaria).
Consequences of a one-sided negative depiction
Researchers are concerned regarding the unbalanced representation of machismo within Latin American cultures; and are now focused on creating a balanced representation. They have repeatedly pointed out the positive characteristics consistent with machismo, or caballerismo: nurturance, protection of the family and its honor, dignity, wisdom, hard work, responsibility, spirituality, and emotional connectedness. Latin American scholars propose there are really two different constructs within machismo, one positive construct and one negative construct. The negative construct of machismo is based on the traditional Western concept of hypermasculinity, and is predominant within mainstream discourse, without an acknowledgement towards its resemblance towards hypermasculinty. Caballerismo's characteristics are exalted, while machismo's characteristics are seen as predominately negative.
The other side of machismo, the positive side (caballerismo), refers to a connection to family and chivalry. However, the focus on the negative aspects and avoidance of positive aspects of machismo coincides with the concept of marginalization and powerlessness of Hispanic and Latino, and more broadly Romance-speaking European culture-derived, narratives. This is because the focus on the negative and avoidance of the positive creates a power dynamic that legitimizes mainstream American hegemonic masculinity as the correct masculinity and subjugates machismo as a degenerated "non-white" form of abuse against women and backwardness. As a result, it creates a sense of powerlessness within Latino male in their expression of their masculinity.
Academics have noted that there are consequences of only having a negative definition for Hispanic and Latino masculinity in popular literature. Researchers have suggested that, according to the Eurocentric (and to a certain degree anti-Catholic and/or Nordicist) views dominant in mainstream white American culture, Latin American manifestations of machismo represent "all that is wrong in a man". Latino Academics have used this argument to explain why Latino male youth struggle in academic institutions and have high rates of criminality. These are the same discourses that argue that Latino masculinity (machismo) is defined by violence, recklessness, and misogyny. Accordingly they link these expressions as contributing to a lack of interest in academics as well as behavioral struggles in schools for Latino males youth. However, this focus does not reveal the other social forces that drive Hispanic and Latino youth to struggle academically instead of participating in criminal behavior, or the fact that those cultural myths of the strong Latino male character, famed for its self-assertiveness and dominance, are often perpetuated by Latin Americans and their cultural descendants themselves.
Negative depiction of machismo in popular literature
Throughout popular literature, the term has continued to be associated with the negative characteristics. For example, sexism, misogyny, chauvinism and hypermasculinity and hegemonic masculinity, Scholars characterize macho men as violent, rude, womanizing, and prone to alcoholism. Authors from a variety disciplines that typified macho men as domineering through intimidation, seducing and controlling women and children through violence and intimidation .
For example, in American literature, an example of machismo comes from Tennessee Williams' character Stanley Kowalski, the egotistical brother-in-law in A Streetcar Named Desire (play). In the play (and in the motion picture), Stanley epitomizes the tough guy stereotype alpha male (hypermasculine) socially and physically dominating and imposing his will upon his wife and her sister, Blanche Dubois. Bound up with Stanley's aggressive and occasionally misogynist views is a strong sense of pride and honor which leads to his hatred of Blanche. In the play A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller, one of the main characters Eddie is a classic type who displays machismo. He wants to be the best of the men around him and when beaten, becomes very agitated and increasingly irrational. It is important to note the negative stereotypes depicted in American literature that is not representatives of the different layers of Machismo.
Indigenous influence on Mexican culture
In Nahuatl culture, the term macho (having nothing to do with the derivation from the Latin mascŭlus), means, translated into Spanish, ejemplar; in English, an example, "one who is worthy of imitation". The Nahuatl dictionary also states that the word macho means "enlightened one", or "one who had been made to learn".
Therefore the pre-Columbian use of the word macho had to do with wisdom and leadership that was worthy of imitation, while gender was not involved. When the Spanish came, their use of the word macho was strictly masculine. Therefore, after the Spanish invasion a new word, idea and concept was born: that a macho was a masculine leader, who was enlightened and worthy of imitation. It was always a positive term. Therefore, in Mexico, the use of the word macho may provoke confusion if it is not used precisely or in context.
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- Adams, Carlos (2006). Machismo and Geographies of Hope. PhD dissertation. Program in American Studies, Washington State University
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- Rémi, Siméon. Diccionario de la lengua náhuatl o mexicana. Siglo XXI Editores, S.A. de C.V., 2004. pp. 246, 258 ISBN 968-23-0573-X. Macho: distinguished, illustrious, ... as a passive voice of Mati: uel macho ó nouian macho, evident, well known, notorious; qualli ipam macho, he is good, well behaved.