Macho, Macho Man

ma·cho / ˈmächō/ • adj. showing aggressive pride in one's masculinity: the big macho tough guy. • n. (pl. -chos) a man who is aggressively proud of his masculinity. machismo.

Machismo, one my biggest turn-offs. When I hear the word I think of hairy chests and men grabbing their crotch while ordering their women to get them another damned beer. Mexico (and other Latin countries) has a reputation for being a society dominated by macho men, and while I hate to stereotype, I would have to say that it is somewhat true. Women are evolving here, but the culture of man being dominant certainly still exists. Chauvinism is alive and well, evident in cultural events such as lucha libre (wrestling), cock fights, bull fights, domestic abuse and the cantinas packed with men seeing who can drink the most tequila or eat the hottest salsa while ogling the waitresses. I must be clear, this is certainly not ALL men in Mexico, and it's not just a Mexican problem, but it is more widely accepted here than it should be. Many women do not report abuse and they may not even realize that they are being abused emotionally, verbally and psychologically. Their mamas will tell them to do all that they can not to anger their spouse and to not discuss their issues outside the home.

Lately Max has picked up on the word "macho" and I am perturbed. "Remember mommy, I have to be macho?" I'm pretty sure I threw up a little in my mouth when he came out with that gem. I wish I could be a fly on the wall of the kindergarten to see exactly what these five year olds are talking about amongst themselves, though I think I would be pretty devastated to discover the truth. In my five years as mommy, I have done my best to show Max a world that is free of gender bias, but I am fighting against a huge outside wave. "Ewww, I don't want that mommy, it's for girls!" is popping up more and more in conversation. I use it as an opportunity to speak to him about a world free of gender, telling him that he can choose whichever toy or game or activity he wants, regardless of what the world around him thinks.

A couple of months ago we were out with some friends and Max and I were talking about how much he loves his gymnastics classes. One of the men turned to me and said "You know that he's a boy right? He should be doing manly things, he should be playing soccer, not doing girly gymnastics". HUH? WHAT?? Have you SEEN professional male gymnasts? Rock hard bodies, rippling muscles, strength and physical abilities beyond what any soccer player can offer! Why is gymnastics not "manly"? And really, who cares if it is? Raising a "manly" or "macho" son is not a priority at all. In fact, it's at the bottom of my list, something I will try to avoid at all costs.

I have always made up little life lesson songs for Max, easy to remember and repeat whenever we face a difficulty or problemita. The "Do it Again" song has helped us through the last couple of years, if Max's plasticine figure falls apart or his Lego tower collapses we sing "We do it again, we do it again, we do it, we do it again, it's fun!" With the latest issues of machismo popping up, we have a new song. Actually, it's more like a cheerleader routine. While clapping our hands and marching, we sing "Respect and compassion, are always in fashion, respect and compassion, are always in fashion". Rinse, repeat. He seems to have embraced it, I just hope the message is sinking in and he's not just digging the rhythm and rhyme.

Raising a kid is like fighting a war. There are skirmishes and battles, wins and losses, dissention in the ranks. "The Battle of the Machos" might be a long, hard haul, but I hope that with the right ammunition, respect and compassion will come out on top and machismo will be banished from our world. Would anyone like to join our army of love?

(I find it very amusing that the macho Muppets are the pigs....)


Andrea said…
Kelly - Max will always be bombarded by messages from the outside but in my experience he will learn most of his values from the actions, not words, of those he loves. In you he has a strong positive female role model and if all the important men in his life are respectful to women then he will see that as normal and right. I am confident that he will grow to be a man you will be proud of.
From psychology I learned "identity development" is growth that HAS to occur. From coaching I learned it is easier to recall what TO do instead of what NOT to do. And from Roseanne on TV I learned, "Manly? Let me tell you it takes a REAL man to stare a 30 year mortgage in the face!"
Life's a Beach! said…
I remember when my son was in kindergarten, I was convinced he'd end up in prison. LOL! Yes, raising a boy is a battle, but in my experience, the strong kind role models at home win out in the end! My son's now 30 and one of the nicest people I know. I actually got a call last year from a winery owner in Northern California who wanted me to know what a wonderful son I'd raised. She'd met him at a golf event. So never fear, a caring mother usually wins out in the end!
Steve Cotton said…
Knowing The Muppets team, I am positive the macho pins are not a coincidence.
Anonymous said…
My friend's nephew in Chile laughed at the thought that I could drive a car. He said that women don't DRIVE cars, they only CLEAN cars. Hmmm... Yes, machismo is very much at play in Latin America.
Sarah said…
I have not commented here for a long time, nut this post is classic. I am a kindergarten teacher, and I first want to assure you that the "this is for boys/this is for girls" from a 5-6 year old is perfectly normal for this age.... NOT necessarily a product of a specific culture. Kids just seem to have these set ideas. (I am also raising my boy/girl twins who are 6 and they have naturally swayed towards trucks/princesses without any help from me..I still sit in awe has to how this happens!
SO whiile that is a ll normal, I have to congratulate you on your dedication to let your son explore his interests without a gender pressure. I think the example he sees and hears at home (more importantly SEES) is a key factor in how his thoughts will develop in this area. You are doing a fantastic job and I definitely thin you are going against the grain down there a little....just keep doing what you know is right and that sweet little gem of yours will be just fine.
We are dealing with this a lot too with Akilean in ballet. He also has long hair which does not help. But when he gets smack from little kids calling him a girl he replies. "Um? are you stupid? A vagina makes someone a girl and I have a penis." It is pretty funny- especially because all the adults laugh a bit.

When we lived in the states Ruben stayed at home with the kids for over 2 years while I worked and when we got to Mexico- I was making about 4,ooo pesos a month more then him and yet- here I had to quit my job. The Sterotypes do not come out of nowhere.
St. Dickeybird said…
I think Max's parents will teach him to understand 'macho' and which aspects are to be avoided. After all, Jorge didn't seem overly macho when I met him...
Mic said…
You are a good Mom, Kelly.
CancunCanuck said…
Late thanks for all your support and kind comments. I've been kind of "blue" lately so the kindness is appreciated. :)

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