Sociology Index


Machismo, the cult of virility? Machismo is the public display of characteristically masculine behavior. Machismo is the quality of being macho; male virility, masculine pride and a show of this. Machismo is the strong or exaggerated sense of masculinity stressing attributes such as physical courage, virility, domination of women, and aggressiveness. The word machismo is identical to Spanish and Portugese word, though its meaning varies. Machismo may be defined as: "...the cult of virility, the chief characteristics of which are exaggerated aggressiveness and intransigence in male-to-male interpersonal relationships and arroagance and sexual aggression in male-to-female reactions" (Stevens, 1973:315).

There are two principal characteristics macho or machismo. The first is aggressiveness. Each macho must show that he is masculine, strong, and physically powerful. Differences, verbal or physical abuse, or challenges must be met with fists or other weapons. The true macho shouldn't be afraid of anything, and he should be capable of drinking great quantities of liquor without necessarily getting drunk (Giraldo, 1972).

The other major characteristic of machismo is hypersexuality. The impotent and homosexual are scoffed at. The culturally preferred goal is the conquest of women, and the more the better. To tike advantage of a young woman sexually is cause for pride and prestige, not blame. In fact, some men will commit adultery just to prove to themselves that they can do it.

Spanish and Portuguese meaning of machismo refers to the superiority of males. In the sense machismo means sexism or male chauvinism. There are four types of machismo found in Mexican scholarly and popular literature: The Conqueror Macho; The Playboy Macho; The Masked Macho; and the Authentic Macho. Machismo describes attributes of men's attitudes or behavior which make them macho.

The Spanish term machismo is a common reference to Latino masculinity, in particular, the gender construction of extreme traditional masculinity or of the characteristic of the “true” man or “macho” in Latin American and Caribbean societies.

The term machismo is commonly employed within Latina/o communities inside and outside of the USA to refer to such males or the behaviors associated with those males. Machismo has been theorized as a form of masculinity derived from the Spanish conquistadores. The complementary gender construct for Latin American women is referred to as marianismo.

Machismo in Latin America

The term machismo has been used in many different, quite often contradictory, ways. Evelyn Stevens described machismo as a cult of virility whose chief characteristics are "exaggerated aggressiveness and intransigence in male-to-male interpersonal relationships and arrogance and sexual aggression in male-to-female relationships.

According to the Dictionary of Mexican Cultural Code Words machismo meant the repudiation of all feminine virtues such as unselfishness, kindness, frankness and truthfulness. Machismo is an all-embracing concept determining women's subordination.

During the women's movements of the late twentieth century, the term began to be used by Latin American feminists to describe male aggression, violence and toxic masculinity. The term was used by Latina feminists and scholars to criticize the patriarchal structure, and a particular Latin American brand of patriarchy.

While the term machismo has become part of the lexicon of lay people and social scientists, the exact definition, associated decontextualized characteristics, and applicability to most Latino men, is a matter of debate. Some researchers have noted that the initial social science descriptions and focus on machismo were obtained from particular populations of Latin American men and then simplified and generalized.

Machismo meant being willing to lie without compunction, to be suspicious, envious, jealous, malicious, vindictive, brutal and finally, to be willing to fight and kill without hesitation to protect one's manly image. Machismo meant that a man could not let anything detract from his image of himself as a man's man, regardless of the suffering it brought on himself and the women around him.

The word macho has a long history in both Spain and Portugal as well as in Spanish and Portuguese languages. It was originally associated with the ideal societal role men were expected to play in their communities. Machismo is associated with a man's responsibility to provide for, protect, and defend his family.

Macho Men, Machismo, and Sexuality
Donald L. Mosher Ph.D.
The anthropologist Gilmore defined machismo as "a masculine display complex involving culturally sanctioned demonstrations of hypermasculinity both in the sense of erotic and physical aggressiveness."

A Theory for the Development of Machismo
Ingoldsby, Bron B.

Abstract: With changes in sex role expectations in marriage, family researchers have begun to examine the concept of machismo. Two characteristics dominant in the study of machismo are aggressiveness and hypersexuality. A biological model of machismo asserts that males everywhere tend to be more aggressive than females, a sex difference which appears to have a genetic base. A modern theory of sociobiology offers another explanation for macho behavior.

A generally accepted psychological theory views machismo as an expression of an inferiority complex. Most research on machismo is restricted to the lower classes. Research from Mexico, Puerto Rico, England, and the United States suggests that lower class males suffer from job insecurity and compensate for their feelings of inferiority by exaggerating their masculinity and by subordinating women.

Other studies point to distant father-son relationships as one factor leading to feelings of inferiority and to the development of machismo. Women may support machismo by being submissive, dependent, and passive. The combination of feeling inferior and acting superior is machismo, a trait that is repeated generation after generation. If men can be socialized toward male parental investment, the incidence of machismo may decline and the incidences of men feeling self-esteem and women feeling equal to men may rise.