Masculinity is seldom talked about in Latin America, although its “caricatured” version “Machismo” dominates the gender debates within the region. I had the privilege to attend a conversation with Julio César González Pagés, Anne Rubenstein, and Michael Kaufman in Toronto on the different ways in which masculinity is experienced in Latin America.
As mentioned by González Pagés, the author of the book “Macho, varón, masculino,” men in Cuba go through various techniques from injecting peanut oil into their muscles to ‘bulk up’ to accessorizing their penis with pearls to appear as a real ‘varón’ as determined by their culture. These attempts to embody masculinity are dangerous to men’s health yet the need to appear their self-identified gender of “macho, varón, masculino” compels them to put their lives in danger. Although I am not doing any justice to the complex ideas González Pagés has on gender violence, patriarchy, and power relations I nevertheless wanted to comment on the harms of masculinity on men. After all, masculinity and masculine power relations also affect men who do not fit into the idea of “Macho, varón, masculino.” For more information on Gonzáles Pagés’s work, access to his book, and other articles visit: http://redmasculinidades.com/
Historian Anne Rubenstein discussed Mexican ‘machismo.’ She looked at the root of the word (in Spain macho is a bull) and Mexico’s role in disseminating its current definition. Moreover, she argued that although Mexican ‘machista’ identity is predominant in the discourse on gender, Mexicans on their day-to-day lives do not reproduce the expected ‘machista’ behaviour (e.g. drinking, beating up women, etc.,). However, the label of “machista” is projected onto the working classes continuously. It is certainly an interesting observation worth reflecting on. Especially for those of us who have Mexican families. I am excited to have been exposed to this alternative view of ‘machismo’ and will follow up on Rubenstein’s work on Mexican masculinity and its discourses. Her recent co-edited book “Masculinity and sexuality in modern Mexico” is now available.
Finally Michael Kaufman touched on the importance of bringing men into the debate on masculinity; especially as agents of change. His theme of power and pain highlights how in performing gender men also experience pain and are denied the opportunity to alternatively pursue things that are not viewed as masculine. As a founder of the white ribbon campaign (http://www.whiteribbon.ca/) and supporter of Men care: a global fatherhood campaign (http://www.men-care.org/) Kaufman is busy empowering men to take action in promoting gender equality. For more on his work you can visit: http://www.michaelkaufman.com/
Although this is a very oversimplified account of the conversation I was exposed to I nevertheless wanted to create this post to get you thinking about what masculinity means to you and how you think it may or may not affect your life. Food for thought.