Charla De Merienda: Machismo in the #YoTambien Era
Destabilizing “Heteropatriarchy”: Not all masculinities are born equal!?
University of Kansas
Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies
Note: Guyana is an English-speaking country located geographically on the continent of South America, but economically, politically, culturally and socially located with the Caribbean. “Machismo” is not a word commonly used in the English-speaking Caribbean, and if it is used, it is used interchangeably with the word “masculinity”.
As an individual who is constructed and self-identifies as a cis-gender woman, “masculinity” has meant a type of silencing for me. As a Caribbean (Guyanese) woman, who has layered her identity outside of hetero-normative ideas of gender and sexuality, masculinity has meant in many ways that I have had to submit and/or react to power, control and coercion. Masculinity within hetero-patriarchy, for me, solicits rage against those that enact and embody it, and the entire system that privileges it. Therefore, I hold the position that masculinity hurts everyone, and argue that masculinity as described here should not survive.
Masculinity in the Caribbean is produced through “heteropatriarchy” which privileges cis-gender heterosexual, “masculinity”, and subordinates feminine and effeminate sexuality and norms. Influenced by theorization on gender and sexuality by Caribbean scholar, Kamala Kempadoo, hetero-patriarchy in the region is a structuring principle that normalizes relations of power that are intolerant of and oppressive toward sexual desires and practices that are outside of or opposed to dominant gender regimes. Kempadoo writes that the concept of hetero-patriarchy institutionalizes and privileges “men’s” experiences, definitions, and perceptions of sexuality, whereby lesbians, gays, and transgender individuals are denied legitimacy through structural, cultural and direct violent acts. The form of masculinity spoken of here fits the description of “hegemonic masculinity” as theorized by sociologist Raewyn Connell.
In the Caribbean, slavery, indenture-ship and the plantation system/society have left a legacy, and created a variety of masculine arrangements and practices that define Caribbean masculinity today. Caribbean masculinity is characterized by diversity across race, class gender identities, sexuality, nationality, and class. However, even though there is an understanding among Caribbean social scientists that Masculinity is a social construct, a common understanding of masculinity comes from first possessing a penis, urethra, scrotum, seminal vesicle, testes, vas deferens, epididymis, prostate, bulbourethral gland, and ejaculatory duct. Possessing these physiological features is widely considered one primary feature necessary for a person to embody masculine identity and related ideologies about themselves, their relationship to the “other” in the private and public life. While masculinities are experienced and labelled in multiplicities (such as hegemonic, soft, and non-existent), they are not equally powerful as social forces. However, they all (in varying degrees) invoke the entitlement to dominate, police, marginalize and criminalize gendered subjects who transgress hetero-normative gendered norms/boundaries.
In Guyana, domestic violence has increased by 14.2% over the past six years, 80% of the victims were “women”. Suicide rates for “men” who have murdered or attempted to murder their partners have also increased. The Life in Leggings social media movement (#lifeinleggings) emerged in 2016 in the region in response to sexual assault, domestic violence and harassment. Across the region, individuals use social media to post experiences of gender violence. While these statistics and movement(s) provides an idea of gender violence in the region, critiques of hegemonic masculinity and gender violence are discussed within the context of the typology of direct violence. For instance, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and intimate partner violence in heterosexual and same sex partnerships, are more frequently discussed as gender violence, in comparison to masculinity and structural and cultural violence.
How are social scientists and development practitioners in the Caribbean, for example, thinking about hetero-patriarchy in systematic ways that interrogate how and why some groups are hindered from equal 2 access to opportunities, goods and services that enable the fulfillment of their basic human needs? Asking the question of how many cis-women and trans people (men, women and non-binary folks) feel they can trust the legal, educational and healthcare institutions is one strategy to destabilize hetero-patriarchy. Asking these individuals about their experiences with the intention of making changes in their interest, without compromise, is another strategy that should be accompanied. It is additionally important to question prominent social norms about gender identity and sexuality, and how they are filtered into the contents of school curricula, campaigns about health, leadership, interpersonal relations, employment, responsibilities, and expressing grievances.
The lack of systemic and holistic quantitative and qualitative analyses to expand the conversation about gender violence in the Caribbean needs to be responded to with an interconnected three-fold approach that aims to unlearn hetero-patriarchy at micro and macro levels. This three-fold approach should include but is not be limited to: 1.) identifying and tracing hetero-patriarchy and its pillars that have been institutionalized and pass on as everyday essentialist norms; 2.) connecting gender violence within a systemic context of violence typologies - structural, cultural and direct. Finally, 3.) an intentional queering of gender norms in the sense of resisting compulsory/obligatory heterosexuality and biological determinism.
I conclude that in order to destabilize masculinity in the Caribbean, we must be prepared to accompany responses with resources - expertise, research, policy change, finance, and general provision and access - and speak directly to the relations of power nestled in hetero-patriarchy.
Connell, R., & Messerschmidt, J. (2005). Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept. Gender and Society, 19(6), 829-859. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27640853.
Kempadoo, K. (2004). Sexing the Caribbean: Gender, race and sexual labor. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com.
Guyana Time Inc. (2018, March 9). Domestic Violence up by 14.2%. Retrieved from https://guyanatimesgy.com/domestic-violence-up-by-14-2/.
Do We Need A Broader Conception of Machismo?
University of Kansas
Department of Philosophy
Machismo has come to represent a constellation of negative traits embedded in the Latin American community (Coronado, 2017). In fact, if you search we are mitu, a multi-media website dedicated to all-things Latinx, for the word “machismo,” most of the entries implicitly or explicitly treat machismo as synonymous with toxic masculinity: “Toxic Machismo is Killing Latinos…,” “9 Ways My Dad Challenges Machismo…,” and “F*ck Your Machismo, These Women Take Back Womanhood.” Indeed, like toxic masculinity, many of the traits typically associated with machismo have for the most part been negative; they include misogyny, emotional/physical aggression, sexism, and homophobia. For the purposes of this short essay, we may regard these traits as derivative of male chauvinism (Arciniega, 2008; Anders, 1993). Let’s call this negative picture the traditional conception of machismo.
Findings, however, suggest that the traditional conception fails and is perhaps in need of a reboot. Vicente Mendoza (1962) argues for example that the traditional conception undermines the fact that machismo is a widespread phenomenon with unique expressions throughout Mexico. These distinct expressions, for Mendoza, are best exhibited in Mexican folklore and literature (p. 74). In his paper “El Machismo En Mexico,” Mendoza calls the readers attention to a lengthy paragraph in the book “Flor de Juego Antiguos” by Agustin Yañez. In the autobiography, Yañez recounts a drunken exchange between mule drivers and musicians in Jalisco. In this exchange, a grey-bearded mule driver pours himself tequila, toasts to his hometown Amatitlan (a city in Jalisco), after which he is provoked into a fight by another mule driver who is quick to disparage Amatitlan (pp. 77-78). Mendoza concludes that Yañez’s story…
“… captures two aspects of machismo in Jalisco: the muleteer, can at once be in possession of authentic bravery, and also be quick to provoke anger, insults, and cursing, pondering not only his own qualities, but that of his land Amatitlan. This implies that two qualities may be found in a single individual.” (My interpretation, pp. 78)
For Mendoza, Yañez’s autobiographical tale points to an alternative conception of machismo, one that is rooted in a sincere commitment to one’s home land, and a bravery to stand up and fight for it.
The clinical psychologist Miguel Arciniega (2008) reaches a similar conclusion regarding the traditional conception in his research. In two separate studies, which consisted of surveys and questionnaires of over 300 Latin men, Arciniega found evidence supporting a two-dimensional characterization of machismo. The results of Arciniega’s study were that Mexican American men express two sides of machismo: one positive and one negative. The positive side of machismo captures instances of nurturance, dignity, and hard work, while the negative side captures instances of aggression, and anti-social behavior (pp. 19-20).
We might say that both Mendoza and Arciniega take up a similar argument in refuting the traditional conception. The main bone of contention, for Mendoza and Arciniega, seems to be that the traditional conception fails at capturing the positive side of machismo, and therefore must be rejected. Though there are relevant differences between Mendoza and Arciniega’s methodologies, their case may be cashed out as follows: 1.) In the Mexican (or Mexican American) community, men express positive and negative character traits, 2.) If both traits are expressed in this manner, the traditional conception fails (since it only captures the negative side of machismo), 3.) Given (1), the traditional conception fails. Let’s call this argument the Case Against the Traditional Conception.
There is a critical flaw, however, with Mendoza and Arciniega’s Case Against the Traditional Conception. It assumes, wrongly, that because two traits are found in a population of individuals, that the two traits are necessarily related. To illustrate this, consider the following thought experiment. Suppose Juliana has a bag of marbles. These marbles have two distinct properties: the property of being red, and the property of being round. We might then ask the following question: are the two properties related? In other words, does being red have anything to do with being round? No, not necessarily. Marbles may be blue, green or yellow. On the flip side, a number of things may be red: hats, chairs, and writing utensils. Let’s bring this argument down to earth by rehashing it in the following way. In the Mexican community, Mendoza and Arciniega take it that Mexican men possess a set of negative traits (such as hyper-masculinity, chauvinism, and misogyny), and positive traits (such as bravery, authenticity, and valor). We might then ask (as we did with the marbles): are the positive traits and negative traits related? No, not necessarily. Just because members in a community possess positive and negative traits does not yet imply that the traits are related, or that they fall under a larger category.
These considerations imply that the Case Against the Traditional Conception falls short. In order for their argument to gain traction, Arciniega and Mendoza must show how the positive side of machismo (if there is such a thing!) relates to the negative side of machismo. Merely highlighting that Mexican (and Mexican American) men have positive and negative traits is not enough to show that the traditional conception fails, or that we need a broader conception of machismo.
This criticism invites a number of questions that make machismo a topic worthy of philosophical treatment. The first set of questions concern the nature of machismo: what exactly is machismo, anyway? Is it a purely negative phenomenon? Is machismo “the result of hierarchical male dominance” as Gloria Anzaldua (1987) argues? Is machismo a natural kind? We might also ask questions that fall within the purview of the Epistemology of machismo: Are questionnaires and surveys (of mostly men in this case!) sufficient for knowing about machismo? What about Mexican folklore and literature? Are these likely sources for better coming to grips with machismo? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we might ask questions about the Ethics or Politics of machismo: Are all instances of machismo bad? If so, how so? Does machismo play a role in our political/social institutions, or policy-making? If so, are we directly/indirectly affected by it?
Anzaldúa, G. (1987). Borderlands: la frontera (Vol. 3). San Francisco: Aunt Lute.
Juan David Coronado (2017) Machismo, Oxford Bibliographies
Hurtado, A., & Sinha, M. (2016). Beyond machismo: Intersectional Latino masculinities. University of Texas Press.
McLeod, S. A. (2018). Questionnaire. Retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/questionnaires.html
Mendoza, V. T. (1962). El machismo en México: al través de las canciones, corridos y cantares. Cuadernos del Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Pensamiento Latinoamericano, 3, 75-86.
Anders, G. (1993). Machismo: Dead or alive?. Hispanic, 6(1), 14-17.
Arciniega, G. M., Anderson, T. C., Tovar-Blank, Z. G., & Tracey, T. J. (2008). Toward a fuller conception of Machismo: Development of a traditional Machismo and Caballerismo Scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 55(1), 19.
Reina, E. (2016). Las muñequitas del clima. El Pais. Retrieved from https://elpais.com/internacional/2016/01/20/mexico/1453260912_983797.html
Machismo in Brazil
University of Kansas
Although statistics show a substantial increase in women's work in the second half of the twentieth century in Brazil, men still earn the highest salaries and hold the highest positions. For example, only 10% of the representatives in the National Congress are women; in other words, 45 female deputies against 468 men Brazil has five major regions. Brazil, together with countries such as Mexico and Bulgaria, for example, is one of the many industrialized countries with middle incomes in the middle of the scale between countries that accept more the principles of gender equality and countries that accept them less. The data mentioned above reflects the patriarchal aspects that still characterize that not only the Northeast but the whole country . Not only do men enjoy the privileges of power, but they also activate mechanisms so that women can not pose a threat to this status quo.
The country is comprised of five regions. In one of these regions, the Northeast, gender inequality is even more evident: in the poorest region of the country, a third of women are victims of domestic violence. Violence has led 23% of women to refuse a job opportunity in the Northeast, creating a vicious cycle in which men take on the main job positions and higher wages; Bahia is the largest state of the region, but only 16 % of the seats in its House of Representatives are occupied by women. Women have fewer job opportunities than men, but they tend to work longer hours because of the double burden, where they not only cover the workload of their jobs, but tend to be responsible for household chores in their homes. In addition to the high unemployment rate, other indicators point to results that are unfavorable for workers of the Northeast, such as the growth of domestic workers, since these occupations are marked by the precariousness, given that about 90% of these workers do not have a formal job. Hence, there is a lower percentage of female social security taxpayers. They also have lower average income than men, although that difference is also decreasing (Targino and Neto 259). On the other hand, while the number of unpaid workers has decreased, there is a significant percentage of women in public services and a greater participation of women in the labor market with a higher level of education.
The northeast of Brazil is comprised by nine states. In many parts of the Northeast, where agriculture plays an important role in the economy, there is a culture of transferring land from parents to male children. This culture, besides the domestic violence mentioned above, can partially explain the inequality of opportunities between men and women. Other factors contribute to that, but since I come from the Northeast of Brazil, I created a comic strip for this Charla de Merienda based on observations in my own family. I intend to tell the story of a girl who grew up in this small village in the state of Bahia and how she, along with her sisters, struggled with several limitations imposed by Patriarchy not only as a kid and a teenager, but also as an adult.
“Machismo in Latin America” from an Intersectional Perspective
Veronica Ines Garibotto
University of Kansas
Department of Spanish and Portuguese
My intention in this presentation is not really to talk about machismo in Latin America but, rather, to briefly examine the notion of machismo in Latin America from an intersectional perspective.
What do I mean by “intersectional perspective”? As Kathy Davis, among others, observes, “intersectionality” runs the risk of becoming a buzzword. “Intersectional” often refers to how human lives cannot be explained by taking into account single categories—such as gender, race, and socio-economic status. Instead, human lives are multi-dimensional, complex, and should be understood at the intersection of multiple categories. Yet, intersectionality does not promote an additive approach. Most intersectional scholars agree that thinking that someone has gender+class+race is misleading. Rather, intersectionality conceptualizes social categories as interacting with and co-constituting one another to create unique social locations. In Ange Hancock’s words, “intersectionality” is “an analytical project designed to reshape how categories of difference are conceptually related to each other”.  Intersectionality tries to understand, for example, how race and gender often get combined to create difference. There is also considerable debate on the genealogy of intersectionality. Some scholars claim that intersectionality as a field of study could lose its power when it is not centered on the daily experiences of US Black women who are the originators and original subjects of intersectionality. Others suggest that US Black women dominate the genealogy of intersectionality in a way that ironically “others” women of color who are not from the US. Although I think that this is an important debate, I am more interested in intersectionality as a perspective that helps understand how categories of difference are conceptually related to each other with the hope of remedying specific instances of intersectional stigma or invisibility. I believe that the notion of machismo often makes Latin American and Latino men one of those instances, the object of intersectional stigma.
What I would like to argue is that, if we examine the notion of machismo from an intersectional perspective, one of the conclusions that we can draw is that this notion often perpetuates a racialized gender stereotype that further contributes to the marginalization of Latin American and Latino men. To put it in simpler terms, what I want to say is that sometimes the idea of machismo in Latin America is a racist idea. There are two paradoxical ideologies at stake. On the one hand, by calling attention to machismo in Latin America we are being sensitive to the oppression of women, queer subjectivities, or counterhegemonic men in Latin America—and, of course, I agree that we should fight against patriarchal oppression. On the other hand, we might be oblivious to the racist components behind this notion. In other words, we might not realize that when relying on the common assumption that machismo in Latin America is more prominent than in other places or that Latin American and Latino men are more machista than others, we are actually racializing these men and contributing to their marginalization. And also, although I will not address this now, this assumption often contributes to racializing Latin American and Latina women. As Sara Ahmed points out, “feminism can sometimes turn into imperial feminism, which takes the form of “white women saving brown women from brown men”—a patronizing view of Latin/a American women as passive, helpless, naïve, and oblivious to gender issues, as if we were so stupid that we didn’t realize that we have machista partners who oppress us.
I will now provide a few concrete examples of how I see this unconscious bias happening in academia, among well-intentioned people (among people who care about oppression, sexism, and racism). If a white man asks the first question at a conference, he is perceived as arrogant. If a Latin American man asks the first question, he is perceived as machista. If a Latin American female professor has a hard time preventing a male student from dominating conversation in a class, she is perceived as “nice and caring”. If a Latin American male professor has a hard time preventing a male student from dominating conversation in a class, he is perceived as machista. If a white professor is a strict grader, he or she is perceived as a strict grader. If a Latin American man is a strict grader, he is perceived as machista. White men’s body language is perceived as body language. Latin American men’s body language is perceived as aggressive. When a Latin American man presents his research, for example during a job interview, one of the first questions that invariably comes up is “Why didn’t you include women, or more women, or gender theory, or more gender theory in your research?” (I think that this is an important question. But it is also often a question that puts Latin American men, especially those who have not been trained at a US institution, at a disadvantage over candidates who have the cultural capital to master the specific vocabulary related to gender in the US). These are just a few of the first examples that came to mind. There are many more that I have witnessed throughout the years as a partner, colleague, professor, job interviewer, and classmate of Latino and Latin American men. In a nutshell, I believe that there is almost no way in which a man who is perceived as Latino and heterosexual can avoid being perceived as machista—unless he completely abandons his own cultural and social identity, modifies his body language, self-censors the way he dresses, talks, and moves in order to conform to White expectations. A similar argument regarding Black men has been made by Devon Carbado and Mitu Gulati in their book Acting White but I will not further explore this here for the sake of time. 
To conclude, I hope that it is clear that I do not want to suggest that we should not talk about machismo in Latin America or that there is no machismo in Latin America. I grew up in Latin America and I could provide one billion examples (as I could also provide one billion examples of machismo in the US). I want to suggest that we need to be aware of the unconscious, yet deeply ideological, biases that often underlie this notion and be aware that we might be unintentionally contributing to oppression.
 Davis, Kathy. “Intersectionality as Buzzword: A Sociology of Science Perspective on What Makes a Feminist Theory Successful.” Feminist Theory 9:1(2008), 67–85.
 Hancok, Ange-Marie. Intersectionality: an Intellectual History. Oxford UP, 2016.
 See, for example, May, Vivian. Pursuing Intersectionality, Unsettling Dominant Imaginaries. Routledge, 2015.
 See, for example, Puar, Jasbir. Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times. Duke UP, 2007.
 Ahmed, Sara. Living a Feminist Life. Duke UP, 2017.
 Carbado, Devon, and Mitu Gulati. Acting White? Rethinking Race in “Post-Racial” America. Oxford UP, 2013.
Literature in Machismo Studies