Machismo in Mexico: Downfall Due to Women’s Progression?

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Mexico is a country that has long been in a struggle to find a concrete national identity. This struggle transcends the boundary of gender identities as well. This is the precise issue in which Matthew C. Gutmann addresses in his book The Meanings of Macho: Being a Man in Mexico City. In his book, Gutmann dispels the macho generalization that has been applied to all Mexican men, as a result of their struggle for an identity. The thesis of his book is that the terms macho and machismo, no longer exist, if they ever actually did, and the generalizations that accompany those terms and are subsequently applied to all Mexican and other Latino men are off-based. Due to the dependence of the identities of macho Mexican men to their relationships with women, those same women have an advantageous position of the power to tear down the stereotypes. Although these Mexican women play a central role in the changing of gender roles and the ideas of machismo, the manifestations of these stereotypes are often upheld by racist and ethnical tendencies, both within Mexico and abroad.

In trying to dispel the generalizations of machismo that have been placed upon all Mexican men, Gutmann places the emphasis of his argument on the range of differing definitions of what it means to be a man throughout Mexico, and even from man to man. He supports this argument through his diverse findings from his time and studies in Colonia Santa Domingo, a self-built working class neighborhood of Mexico City. He also focuses on the role of women as catalysts behind the changes in not only what it means to be a man in Mexico, and specifically in Colonia Santa Domingo, but also gender identities.

The relationship between women and machismo in Mexico is very complex and one of interdependency. This relationship can also be linked to the struggle for men to establish a national identity for themselves. Connected in the sense that the way in which a “macho’s machismo” has been commonly defined is through “his relationship to female bodies.” There have even been parallels drawn between the Spanish conquest of the indigenous people of Mexico and the conquest of Mexican women by Mexican men. The men found this sexual and power conquest necessary in order to establish themselves as Mexican men—as Paz feels they have denied their true heritage and are in search for one they can create. Part of this so-called conquest required that women be completely passive to the wills of men or chingones. The dependence of the macho identity on women creates an extremely advantageous position for the women. It allots them an enormous power to change things. Because as Gutmann expresses it, “if women who play an integral role in the construction of masculinities are changing, so too are their men.” Not only could this opportunity for women to change things, improve things for themselves, but it also can lead to the decline of the negative usage of the Mexican macho, making it a concept that only exists in old movies and literature. This power to change and possibly eliminate the usage of the macho Mexican stereotype can be expressed through the changes that have resulted from women’s roles in leadership, their move to the workplace outside the home, and their demands for intellectual independence.

Throughout the post-conquest history of Mexico, the role of women has primarily been that of taking care of the domestic responsibilities and child-rearing. This leaving the role of the men as the providers and protectors of the family. Providers in the sense that they are the ones who are working outside of the household, part of the more formal work force in any various number of occupations. This role breakdown created a very conducive environment in which the macho ethos could perpetuate itself. As one of Gutmann’s subjects put it, “It’s a situation which is still widespread in Mexican society: the man has to be waited on, has to have his wash...
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