It’s a man’s man’s man’s world … But not in mine.

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Carne asada season is approaching which brings gatherings with the family outside in the yard, banda music playing in the background, the smells of the rice and beans floating around the air. Multiple children are running around the house with the one kid that won’t stop crying, and that one random baby that’s always sleeping in someone’s room.

As the time comes to get food all the wives, nieces, granddaughters, daughters all get up to serve plates to the men in their family who apparently have no sense in their arms or legs to get food for themselves suddenly. The nagging from the men when there isn’t enough food served on the plate or something they did not want is served is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to machismo in the Hispanic community.

Women in the Hispanic community continue to follow this machismo ideal as if they had no choice but too. Girls have the choice to say no to the nagging boyfriend, or uncle, or dad, or neighbor, even the dog if it needs food. It’s as if we are scared to say no, yet this shouldn’t be the case. These “men” are perfectly capable of getting up and getting their own food, washing a plate, or God forbid watch the kids.

Parenting is a strong contributing factor to the inflated egos that the men have in Mexican communities. Moms would continue to baby their sons up to the age of 40 if they could, while dads continue to give the boys more freedom or liability because “they’re just boys.” On the other hand, moms expect their daughters to clean, cook, care for the needs of the men in the house all by the time they can recognize their own reflection in the mirror. Dads continue to keep their daughters under lockdown as if allowing them to see the outside will automatically cause the end of the world.

Do you see machismo ideals practiced by your family & in your community?

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Poll based on a cross-section of Hispanic female & male East students

Growing up, the difference between me and my brother in the way we were being raised was prevalent. Going out to hang out with friends in elementary school or middle school was so rare to me and there always had to be parents around at all times, it was as if I was telling my parents I was on my way to war when all I wanted was to walk around the block. Once I reached high school, the topic of my going out changed completely especially by the time I was able to drive. Wherever I went I had to have my location on at all times and be back home by 8:30 p.m. I also would only be able to go out if I cleaned the house and hadn’t been rude in any way towards my dad during that week.

When it comes to my brother, his ability to go out was never an issue. We are four years apart and I’m the oldest, yet somehow (because he is a male in my household) overruled everything else. I can go days without seeing him in the house because the number of times he comes home late just isn’t an issue to my parents. In order for him to go out all he has to say is where he’s going and that’s all, no questions asked. No tracking system monitoring his every move. No curfew or parents around.

Why?

As a senior now, I’m able to go out all the time due to me ignoring most of the one-sided rules placed solely on me. My main concern is graduating school at the moment while my mom’s main concern is how I’m going to cook for my future husband because to this day I refuse to learn how to cook “proper meals” for someone in my future. Not to mention, different family members breathing down my neck trying to figure out what type of job I’m looking to pursue because I need to make sure I don’t pick anything too strenuous like a construction job, that wouldn’t look good for a girl. Though everyone seems to ignore how my brother aspires to be a SoundCloud rapper in his future.

When it comes to family gatherings, you will always see all the women inside the house preparing all the food and watching over the kids while all the men are outside drinking. Every so often a yell from one of the men to “bring him another beer” can be heard through the open window.

Typical.

Moms would continue to baby their sons up to the age of 40 if they could, while dads continue to give the boys more freedom or liability because “they’re just boys.” On the other hand, moms expect their daughters to clean, cook, care for the needs of the men in the house all by the time they can recognize their own reflection in the mirror. Dads continue to keep their daughters under lockdown as if allowing them to see the outside will automatically cause the end of the world.

Do you actively participate in cultural machismo ideologies?

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Poll based on a cross-section of Hispanic female & male East students

As young girls going to fetch our dads something to drink or getting them a snack doesn’t seem like an issue, we’re just doing them a favor, or at least that’s what I thought. As girls continue to grow up we start getting taught how to clean the house properly and how to cook a decent dinner, yet funny how the boys aren’t being taught the same thing. By the time a Hispanic girl reaches high school we’re expected to know how to cook, clean, and most importantly keep the man happy. We start to remember when we first realized this was happening as young girls but decided to ignore it because that’s just the way things are.   

Visiting Mexico, the level of machismo is to the extreme. The whole idea of a man being higher than a woman is so engraved in everyone that when I act the way I normally do in the U.S. it’s seen as rebellious and defiant, while all I see is me going out to get some food on my own. For example, when walking around with a guy he must stand on the outer edge of the sidewalk. This signifies that no one can come up to us and “steal the girl away” in a sense, and if he stands on the inside of the sidewalk it can mean any other guy can come up to me and take me because I’m available for anyone.

The men there also have to have the final say as to what their wife or girlfriend does. If he says your skirt is too short, then your skirt is too short. If he says you can’t go out with your friends, then you can’t go out with your friends. If he says you can’t stay out late, then you can’t stay out late. If he says you have to make dinner now, then you make dinner now, and if he says you can’t breathe, well I guess you can’t breathe either.

When it comes to family work all the boys are sent out to farm or take care of the animals while the girls must stay at home and take care of all the household needs and are expected to have food prepared and served on the table by the time the boys get back. The girls also only get to eat last because the boys must get the first pick of everything.

The teachings like this in Mexico only follow our parents back to the states in which they try to instill these same teachings in their children, though living in America challenges these ideas of machismo engraved in our roots. As women here are able to do so much more and stand up for themselves, living in a machismo-driven race challenges the idea that men superior to women.

As more generations of Hispanic girls are being raised in the U.S., and the more women empowerment is on the rise, these machismo teachings are started to be tested, in result it’s also testing the men who apparently still want to see women in the kitchen. Girls now are saying no to the basic, “go get me a beer,” and instead are pushing back by saying, “go get it yourself.”

The root of this toxic masculinity in Hispanic communities comes from how our parents were raised, and how their parents were raised, and so on. It’s no wonder why this toxic idea hasn’t gone away. It’s like an old family heirloom that’s been passed down from generations, except in this case it’s the inflated egos of men instead of a dusty blanket.

For myself, my family sees me most of the time as rebellious and like to remind me how I’ll regret my choices in the future. Whenever I say I don’t want to have kids, it’s like I’m driving a wooden stake through my mom’s heart. I often say I don’t want to get married because I don’t see the point. It’s like I’m telling my dad my life will always be wild and uncontrollable. Whenever my brother says he’s going to grow up rich with girls all around, my family looks the other way because at least he’ll be able to take care of himself.

Excuse me?

I have a cousin who as a career chose to be a flight attendant because she loves to travel and now has the opportunity to go wherever she wants. She’s almost 30 and is currently living her best life, though the family still wonders why she hasn’t gotten a boyfriend, or gotten married, or had kids.

Maybe she’s gay is the safe answer to them.

Meanwhile, her brother dropped out of college and continues to live at home as he’s in his mid-20’s.

At least he has a girlfriend though, and she’s probably getting him a beer at the moment.

Can’t forget that.

Jocelyn Pinedo is a columnist for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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