When you think about it, there is really no such thing as machismo in a culture. Well, there is but it’s not what people are labeling it to be. “Macho” means “male” in Spanish. And “machismo means “maleness” in Spanish. So then knowing this, what’s the problem? Are people saying that men can’t behave like men?
What you are seeing, and what is diagnosed as machismo, is disrespectful behavior from some of the Latin men, nothing else. We would hope that a male would behave like a man no matter where in the world he lives.
For those who take biblical history as an important part of creation: Male is created; male is strong, wise, hunter, protector, provider. Female is created from the bone of male and( s)he is feminine, beautiful, care-giver, nurturer, and they get married, copulate and make a family, who start another family, who start another family and a culture is formed. Male is male and female is female. Was there the term “machismo” 5000 years ago? Of course not!
Over the years many words take on a different meaning than the original. One has to only read the same subject out of older encyclopedias to notice the changes cultures put on words and meanings, and popular dictionaries don’t even know how to define a word with full historical context.
This is why all over the Internet, websites and dictionaries reflect the current politically correct whirlwind, that historically passes and doesn't last. And one of those things is how they have literally turned being male into a mockery! This is just another politically correct ridicule; out of many.
Here's what we mean: In Spanish history the term macho derives from the man being a masculine and strong male and is what behaving like a gentleman towards a woman is all about.
All one needs to do is look at the history of the term “macho” (that’s what we did) to see that even most of the dictionaries have the definition wrong as they depict the word macho as a form of aggression from a man, when clearly what you are seeing is "in your face disrespect".
As an example: When a man disrespects a woman walking down the street, which is a problem also in North America not just Latin America, that’s not macho or manly behavior; that’s aggression, that’s abuse, that’s behaving as a coward; it has nothing to do with manliness or macho or being a male; in fact, exactly the opposite.
And when a man eyes out women walking down the street and whistles, leers or cat calls that’s just plain disrespect and has nothing to do with being a “real” man. Real men don’t act like that!
History of Macho and How It Got Started
The word macho has a long history in both Spain and Portugal as well as in Spanish and Portuguese languages. It was originally associated with the ideal societal role men were expected to play in their communities.
Macho in Portuguese and Spanish is a strictly masculine term, derived from the Latin masculus meaning male (today hombre or varón, c.f. Portuguese homem.
This part is very important: "Machos" (males) in Iberian-descended cultures are expected to possess and display bravery, courage and strength as well as wisdom and leadership, and ser macho (literally, "to be a macho") was an aspiration for all boys.
Again, how is a guy who verbally abuses and intimidates women behaving with bravery, courage, strength, leadership and wisdom? all the adjectives described above? There's macho and there is disrespect, two very different aspects of a man's character.
Clearly our research shows that "macho" means something all together apart and different than what is commonly understood today, and has nothing to do with verbal abuse, disrespect, intimidation and violence of women!!
Here’s Where Things Began to Change and Become Negative
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.
What we're seeing today and calling machismo is bad societies that have literally twisted what being a man/male (macho) really is and turned it into something bad and to fear because of some of the Latin men who don’t know how to behave as a GENTLEman. Period!
According to this line of thought then, just because some Latin men are disrespectful/verbally abusive toward women, certainly does not make them macho, and it follows that we should quit enabling the behavior by labeling it as such, because it does not make a whole country any more machismo than say, North America or Europe because some of their men are disrespectful as well. We have witnessed disrespectful men in countries that are not Latin and are not normally understood to be a machismo country.
Something to think about: it would be VERY detrimental to the males that live in these societies as they are being told that being macho (manly) is wrong and so they should not behave as a strong leader or protector, or well, basically like a man in his marriage or of his family…this would be confusing at best, and this could be the cause of some of the aggression, violence and abuse on the women that Latin America is seeing, and in other parts of the world for that matter.
Bottom line is the best way to curb disrespectful behavior is to stop enabling it.
- We should stop calling disrespectful/abusive behavior (insolence towards women) macho or machismo
- Gringas who come to Latin America and dress in short-shorts and tank tops are not helping matters. Dress conservatively while on the streets. This is not the beach. Don't tempt them.
- Women walking alone are more apt to be whistled at, talked with and approached by these men who have nothing else better to do with their time, obviously.
- Women should walk in groups or take taxis
- Don’t act intimidated or fearful, keep right on walking, pretend like you didn’t hear anything. Completely ignore it.
- Women who are disrespectful themselves and bring an "attitude" with them, are not going to get very far in a Latin American country. Feminist who move to a Latin culture will sooner or later, run into disturbing situations. What we put out comes back to us, good or bad. It's the way the world turns.
- And finally it is always best to completely ignore this behavior rather than make a big deal out of it, by writing about it, labeling it incorrectly, and putting the cowards on pedestals.
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We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!