Marianismo

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"Marianismo" comes from beliefs about the Virgin Mary. It is a supposed ideal of true femininity.

"Marianismo" is an aspect of the female gender role in the machismo of Hispanic American folk culture. It is the veneration for feminine virtues like purity and moral strength. For example, it represents the "virgin" aspect of the virgin-whore dichotomy. Evelyn Stevens states;

"it teaches that women are semi divine, morally superior to and spiritually stronger than men."[1]

The ideas within marianismo include those of feminine passivity and sexual purity. There is power in marianismo that stems from the female ability to produce life.

This term derives from Catholic belief in the Virgin Mary as both a virgin and a mother. According to the New Testament, she was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. She was eventually given the title "Mother of God" and thus became a subject of veneration and admiration. From this is derived the idea that an ideal woman should be spiritually immaculate and eternally self-giving.

This ideal woman is emotional, kind, instinctive, whimsical, docile, compliant, vulnerable, and unassertive. She has a higher status in the community if she has children and is a caring mother. She is also pious and observant of religious laws.

Origin of the term[edit]

"Marianismo" originally referred to the devotion to the Virgin Mary (or "Maria"). Marianismo in its modern-day definition was first used by political scientist Evelyn Stevens in her 1973 essay "Marianismo: The Other Face of Machismo". It was in direct response to the male word machismo and was meant to explain the phenomenon in Latin America in which women were either saints or whores.".[2] It is the supposed ideal of true femininity that women are supposed to live up to—i.e. being modest, virtuous, and sexually abstinent until marriage—and then being faithful and subordinate to their husbands. In essence, "marianismo" is the female counterpart to "machismo," and as such, probably originated during the time of the Spanish conquest.[2]

Evelyn Stevens' work[edit]

Evelyn Stevens’ work In her essay, she argues that marianismo and machismo are complements, and that one cannot be existent without the other. She also states in her argument that the ideal woman is the same when she claims that “popular acceptance of a stereotype of the ideal woman [is] ubiquitous in every social class. There is near universal agreement on what a ‘real woman’ is like and how she should act”.[2] In marianismo, it is the bad woman who enjoys premarital sex, whereas the good woman only experiences it as a marriage requirement. Marianismo dictates the day-to-day lives of Latin American women. Stevens believes that marianismo will not disappear anytime soon because Latin American women still cling on to their female chauvinism.

Critique of Stevens[edit]

Evelyn Stevens’ essay was very significant to this area of study. However since its publication, her argument has been largely debated by other researchers and critics. Although her argument addresses marianismo in Latin America at large, many of the sources she uses mainly focus on Mexican culture, thus severely limiting her frame of reference. Also, her ideas about the universal woman ideals present a flaw in her argument, implying that despite numerous socioeconomic differences men can have, their ideal woman is ultimately the same. Also, because she ignores socioeconomic factors, “her description of women as altruistic, selfless, passive, morally pure” was inadequate.[3] There are other criticisms of her work that accept her argument in part and others who reject the notion completely. Regardless, Stevens’ work has given rise to a recent cultural phenomenon that anthropologists and other researchers cannot ignore.

Other literature[edit]

In their book The Maria Paradox: How Latinas Can Merge Old World Traditions with New World Self-esteem (1996, G. P. Putnam), Rosa Maria Gil & Carmen Inoa Vazquez suggest that the concept of marianismo was first discussed in the academic literature in a 'ground-breaking essay written by Evelyn P. Stevens in 1973' and that it has also been further discussed by academicians such as Sally E. Romero, Julia M. Ramos-mcKay, Lillian Comas-Diaz, and Luis Romero. In their book, Gil & Vazquez use it as applicable across a variety of Latino/a cultures." [2]

"There have been some responses in the literature to the concept of marianismo that point out that its model of/for women's behavior is very class-based. In other words, the rather sheltered existence, with men doing the hard work, etc. in exchange for the pedestal that women are supposedly on, is a life that rarely exists, particularly for the majority of peasant, poor and working class women that make up the population of Latin America. Remembering Stevens' article, most of her data came from middle class Mexican women."[2]

Feminist perspective[edit]

Some feminists find themselves criticizing the concept of marianismo, suggesting that it simply legitimizes the social conditions of women in Latin America by making it seem valid and normal. They also note that marianismo is often presented as everything machismo is not; therefore femaleness is put into “the realm of passivity, chastity, and self-sacrifice”.[4] They argue that marianismo suggest if women have jobs outside of the home, her virtues and her husband’s machismo are put into question. Women are simply an additional part to the male ego and chivalry; their only identity is found in being a virgin, wife, and mother.

In the media[edit]

Very few studies on the role of marianismo in the media have been conducted. However, in more recent years, researchers are beginning to explore this cultural phenomenon. Researchers Jorge Villegas, Jennifer Lemanski and Carlos Valdez conducted a study on the portrayal of women in Mexican television commercials. Oftentimes with marianismo, women are polarized into those who adhere to the feminine ideal, and those who do not. These women are then categorized as good women and bad women, respectively. These "good women" are seen as nurturing, family-oriented, soft spoken, even-tempered and sexually naïve, whereas the "bad women" are often the sexual targets for men. Another dichotomy presented by this study is dependent women and independent women. The researchers found that "dependent women tended to display characteristics perceived as positive in marianismo (helpful, rewarded by their family) whereas independent women were more sexualized".[5]

A similar study by Rocío Rivadeneyra examined the gender portrayals in telenovelas. The research found that in comparison to their male counterparts, women were seen as spending more time with children and either homemakers or unemployed.[6]

Both studies, however, noted that women and men were portrayed in equal amounts in the media.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Evelyn P. Stevens, "Marianismo: la otra cara del machismo en Latino-América"; in: Ann Pescatelo, Hembra y macho en Latino-América: Ensaios., Edición Diana, México 1977, p.123.
  2. ^ a b c d e Marianismo: Origin and Meaning
  3. ^ Montoya, Rosario, Lessie Jo Frazier, and Janise Hurtig. Gender's Place : Feminist Anthropologies Of Latin America / Edited By Rosario Montoya, Lessie Jo Frazier, And Janise Hurtig. n.p.: New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2002., 2002.
  4. ^ De La Torre, Miguel A. Hispanic American Religious Cultures. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2009.
  5. ^ Villegas, Jorge, Jennifer Lemanski, and Carlos Valdéz. "Marianismo And Machismo: The Portrayal Of Females In Mexican TV Commercials." Journal Of International Consumer Marketing 22.4 (2010): 327-346.
  6. ^ Rivadeneyra, Rocío. "Gender And Race Portrayals On Spanish-Language Television." Sex Roles 65.3/4 (2011): 208-222.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Stevens Evelyn P.; 1973. :Marianismo:The Other Face of Machismo in Latin America; in: Pescatelo Ann; Female and Male in Latin America, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1973.
  • Villegas, Jorge, Jennifer Lemanski, and Carlos Valdéz. "Marianismo And Machismo: The Portrayal Of Females In Mexican TV Commercials." Journal Of International Consumer Marketing 22.4 (2010): 327-346.
  • Rivadeneyra, Rocío. "Gender And Race Portrayals On Spanish-Language Television." Sex Roles 65.3/4 (2011): 208-222.
  • Montoya, Rosario, Lessie Jo Frazier, and Janise Hurtig. Gender's Place : Feminist Anthropologies Of Latin America / Edited By Rosario Montoya, Lessie Jo Frazier, And Janise Hurtig. n.p.: New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2002., 2002.
  • De La Torre, Miguel A. Hispanic American Religious Cultures. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2009.

External links[edit]