“Mi Amor,” and More

28 Jan

Being fluent in Spanish and interning in Washington Heights at an all-female, feminist agency has opened my life up to new and exciting experiences that frequently challenge my notions of race, gender, and culture. This morning, as I was taking phone calls, I spoke with a woman who naturally, genuinely, and playfully employed phrases like, “Gracias mi amor,” and “ok corazón.” My supervisor regularly calls me her “amiguito.” I remarked to her that such terms of endearment – and their seamless interweaving into conversations – are one of my favorite elements of Latino culture.

Her reply took the conversation in a different direction: “Yes, it’s beautiful. But I find that very often men go overboard with it. There’s a difference between being affable and being sexist.” I asked her, “You think Latino men take advantage of that cultural custom?” Her answer: “Yes. It becomes an excuse for harassment. If a man is talking to me, hola, mi cielito, mi bella, déjame conocerte mejor, and I call him out on it, it’s, mi amor, I was not trying to offend you, I’m just being friendly, you know, haha, because this warmness is a fundamental part of our culture. But in this case, it’s not. It’s machismo. And it’s damaging to women and men.”

This story into this blog’s theme of “American social expectations of men are damaging to males,” because machismo is damaging to men. At the surface level, studies have shown that men who endorse more machismo ideals are less likely to seek healthcare services. One level deeper, Kimmel [1] suggests that machismo ideals are rooted in homophobia – “more than the irrational fear of gay men, more than the fear that we might be perceived as gay….[it] is the fear that other men will unmask us, emasculate us, reveal to us and the world that we do not measure up, that we are not real men.” Of course, being or becoming a “real man” is a near-impossible feat within our “white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure” [2], which bestows manhood only on a fraction of its male-identifying population — the straight, white, native-born, English-speaking, able-bodied, Christian, non-elder fraction.

In this way, machismo is not about the conquest of women, although as my supervisor illustrated, it’s most certainly a biproduct. Rather, machismo is about fear and powerlessness. Individual perceived powerlessness, contrasted completely by the power and privilege that men feel, in the aggregate. Fear leads to powerlessness, powerlessness leads to shame, and shame leads to fear. Cloaked in silence, the cycle devours itself in an unending wheel of destruction. Violence, in the form of self-hate, domestic violence, bullying, rape, and harassment, is the means by which the cycle destroys both men and women.

Destroying this cycle means uncloaking it. Men must acknowledge their role in this cycle, break the silence, and embrace the reality that neither gender can be free from fear without the other. As Tony Porter says, “My liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman” [3]. This freedom not impossible in the Latino community! Despite the perceived unbreakable link between Latino men and machismo, the Latino culture is a rich temple of strengths that diametrically oppose male violence and self-hate [4]. The importance of family, the ideal of being “un hombre noble” [5], and status as a “people of color” in America, are all points of departure for Latinos in breaking the cycle of sexism. And thanks to a growing body of organizations actively working to fight racism, sexism, and homophobia (like mine), this future is now within reach. It’s now up to us to support these groups with our dollars, our skills, and our passion.

==

Source:

[1] Kimmel, M.S. Chapter 33: Masculinity as Homophobia: Fear, Shame, and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity. In Adams, M., Blumenfeld, W.J., Castaneda, R., Hackman, H.W., Peters, M.L., & Zuniga, X. (Eds.) (2000). Readings for diversity and social justice. New York: Routledge.

[2] hooks, bell. Chapter 37: Feminism: A Movement to End Sexist Oppression. In Adams, M., Blumenfeld, W.J., Castaneda, R., Hackman, H.W., Peters, M.L., & Zuniga, X. (Eds.) (2000). Readings for diversity and social justice. New York: Routledge.

[3] Tony Porter: A Call To Men. Ted Talks. http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_porter_a_call_to_men.html

[4] http://www.mexica.net/literat/macho.php

[5] http://www.nationalcompadresnetwork.com/principles/principles.html

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