When discussing gender equality and gender-based violence, it is important to address the concept of machismo. Machismo refers to traditional gender roles within a society, often transmitted from one generation to another and seen as “normal”. This article will help us understand the causes of machismo, its influence, and its consequences on society.
Even though macho attitudes  and behaviors are present in various regions worldwide, it remains strongest in Latin American and Spanish culture, where it has been a part of the culture for many generations. It shows how men should engage with their gender based on virility, courage, strength, and power. However, women are the most affected by machismo, as they are taught to be housewives and take care of their kids and husbands. Furthermore, they do not have access to the same job opportunities as men.
History of machismo and the Influence of the Catholic Church
The origins of Latin American machismo can be traced back to the time of the Spanish conquest when various cultural norms and myths portrayed men as needing to assert their power and dominance over others to prove their masculinity. With the arrival of the Spaniards and the subsequent destruction of indigenous cultures, the colonizers gained control and power over the entire population, leaving little room for the indigenous people to have a say or a voice in their own society. This power imbalance reinforced a culture of male dominance and machismo that persists in Latin America today.
The Catholic Church and its beliefs also play a role in the creation of the machismo concept due to the religious prevalence of Catholicism in Latin culture and many Latin American families. The church teaches women in the community that marriage is a sacred covenant, and that a woman should not leave her husband even if she is a victim of domestic violence, as it could reflect poorly on her in society. Another belief of the Catholic Church is that suffering is an inevitable part of life and will be rewarded in the afterlife.
Results of machismo
Boys learn from a young age that expressing love, crying, fear, or vulnerability are signs of weakness. This starts at home, as mothers often teach their sons that they need to be strong. Later on, in school, acting out of anger is often seen as a display of strength. Men in general are less likely to talk about their feelings of humiliation, embarrassment, rejection, joy, genuine pride, loss, and anxiety. This may be why they are more prone to showing anger. Perhaps they feel overwhelmed by a range of intense emotions but feel that expressing anger is the only socially acceptable option. In Western cultures, boys are taught to suppress their emotions and communicate in an emotionless manner, through withdrawal or silence.
This conditioning results in boys developing a nature of pride and coldness, causing them to suppress their emotions instead of expressing them. Often, these unexpressed feelings lead to aggression against those who do show emotions. Unfortunately, this process also affects boys' views of women and their treatment of them. Women are often seen as docile creatures whose only value comes from their ability to do household chores and care for children. As a result, women are trapped in a cycle that perpetuates their subservient status.
Machismo often leads to violation and femicide
Aggression is a distinctive characteristic of machismo since every man tries to prove to others that he is the most masculine, the strongest, and the most physically efficient; every woman tries to win such a man because she believes that he will protect her from others. This aggression can often lead to femicide - an intentional killing with a gender-related motivation.
Man's aggression can be described as behavior to gain or maintain a reputation in his surroundings. In order to protect one’s reputation as a man, defiant behavior from his wife cannot be tolerated. Machismo is usually not a solitary action, and if a woman dares to show her independence to her husband or to contradict him in front of his friends, he has the right to punish her. A macho man usually needs to deal with his jealousy, as he is not self-confident, which often leads to aggression and sometimes even murder.
Many households fail to educate or highlight the role that men play in perpetuating machismo. This cultural phenomenon “rewards” men who are womanizers and places the burden of responsibility on women if they become pregnant. It is not uncommon for men to have multiple girlfriends in addition to a wife and children, which they use as a way to “destress” from their home or work life. While men have unlimited freedoms in these situations, if a woman is even suspected of infidelity, her husband may resort to violence. A woman must be completely faithful to her husband. However, she should expect her husband to be unfaithful to her and overlook it in order to preserve the family. The role of a woman is seen more as a mother than a wife. In the relationship with her husband, she is expected to endure his tantrums and ignore unfaithful behavior.
The problem of culture and tradition
Although it may seem obvious that women should leave such relationships, the reality is much more complicated, especially if the man is viewed as the family's stability and support. Other family members also have a strong influence on why a woman stays with her husband. Women are often taught to endure suffering because they are told it is their obligation. This tradition is deeply ingrained in the culture and creates the notion that a woman loses value if she leaves her husband.
Due to psychological conditioning, women often question their decisions and may even blame themselves for being abused by their husbands. Victims usually never talk about their situation because they are taught by families and society that any violence, be it physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal, is simply part of the relationship. Victims have constant fear for their safety or for the safety of their loved ones and fear of being judged by society.
Family as a cause of the problem?
If we consider Latin American culture as an example, it is evident that families are highly valued in the region with a strong sense of loyalty and solidarity among family members. However, while families can provide a sense of security and support, they may not always foster individual self-expression. Furthermore, parents who did not receive support from their own families are more likely to perpetrate violence against their own children, which further perpetuates the cycle of violence. The roles of men and women are deeply rooted in the culture worldwide, dictating the rules that must be followed. Contrary behavior could lead to violence, the greatest form of machismo, in order to establish order.
Although machismo is not frequently discussed in some cultures, it is a pervasive issue worldwide. Despite its prevalence, recognizing machismo at the beginning of a relationship or breaking the cycle within family generations can be challenging. Recently, numerous organizations have emerged to aid victims of gender-based violence, but these services are often only in major cities. Perceptions of machismo within societies tend to impact education and are more readily observable among individuals from the middle and upper classes, regardless of gender. As feminist groups continue their battle against violence targeting women, it is crucial to understand the causes of the problem and prioritize educating society about the effects of gender roles.
 Machismo is described as a strong or exaggerated sense of manliness; an assumptive attitude that virility, courage, strength, and entitlement to dominate are attributes or concomitants of masculinity.
Alvarez, A. (2021, May 05). The Impact of Machismo on Women. UAB: The University of Alabama at Birmingham. Obtained from: https://sites.uab.edu/humanrights/2021/05/05/the-impact-of-machismo-on-women/.
Basham, R. (1976). Machismo. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. Obtained from: https://doi.org/10.2307/3346074.
Castañeda, M. (2002). El machismo invisible / M. Castañeda. ResearchGate. Obtained from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/31721632_El_machismo_invisible_M_Castaneda.
Enrique Gracia, E. & Herrero, J. (2006). Acceptability of domestic violence against women in the European Union: a multilevel analysis. J Epidemiol Community Health. Obtained from: 10.1136/jech.2005.036533.
Malley-Morrison, K. & Hines, D.A. (2004). Family Violence in a Cultural Perspective: Defining, Understanding, and Combating Abuse. SAGE Publications, Inc. Obtained from: https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452232577.
Octavio, G. (1972). El machismo como fenómeno psicocultural. Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología. Obtained from: https://www.redalyc.org/articulo.oa?id=80540302.
Sotelo, I. (2022, October 07). Machismo: The Traits and Impact of Traditional Masculinity. Verywell Mind. Obtained from: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-does-the-term-machismo-mean-6748458.
Thomas, J. (2008). Violence and Nonviolence. ScienceDirect.com. Obtained from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/machismo.