The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
A few months ago, my boyfriend’s Mexican grandmother shared some concerns about me attending a university. “She shouldn’t make more money than you because she will hold it over your head,” his grandma said. I was devastated hearing those words but not surprised.
For many traditional Hispanic families, the man is responsible for financially providing for their families. The women’s responsibility is to be a housewife and nothing else.
Mexicans have dealt with discrimination for many years. Yet, they still discriminate amongst themselves based on gender roles. The most toxic gender role in the Mexican community is machismo. Men in Latin America have exaggerated their masculine pride, which hurts many women. Machismo has encouraged Hispanic men to dominate their families and to act with entitlement.
Machismo is the major cause of toxic masculinity and gender roles in Latino communities. It encourages women to be silent and for men to take control. Women are abused and treated as objects owned by men. A woman is more than capable to be independent, but it’s difficult when Latino men take part in oppressing them.
As a Mexican woman, it’s intimidating to be in a room full of men. I am not your traditional Mexican woman, which can be scary—Not for me, but for the Mexican woman who didn’t get the opportunity to be different.
I’m working hard to get my degree, and to have a successful job in the future. Not to be expected to be a housewife. My biggest fear is being dependent on a man because I want to be self-reliant myself.
Men and women suffer from these toxic gender roles because both are put on a pedestal to meet numerous expectations. Men and women should have the freedom to choose who they want to be, without any judgment.
Latin America’s society has embedded these toxic stereotypes into our lives for generations. Going against society’s idea of what a man and woman should be is a challenge in itself. Mexicans should have the freedom to express themselves without having to please society’s toxic gender roles.
Jason Gutierrez, a fourth-generation Mexican and sophomore at the University of Texas, shared his experiences of toxic masculinity. “I constantly feared getting judged by my family,” Gutierrez said. “I wanted to get an ear piercing, and my dad expressed his disappointment, which made me insecure about myself,” Gutierrez said.
His doubts about being ‘manly’ enough for his family stemmed from the fear of not wanting to disappoint his family. In wanting to make his family proud, he couldn’t be true to himself.
A study in 2015 measured the health impact of machismo in Hispanic communities. Acts of machismo heightened the levels of anxiety within the Latino community.
Parents have the most influence in perpetuating these gender roles in their children. An article in Luz Collective spoke to the influences of machismo in different stages of life. Children grow up to actively participate in society’s toxic gender roles. They’ve learned to believe it’s normal to please society’s expectations of them. Once they grow up, they learn to do the same to their children. The cycle of perpetuating toxic gender roles continues with future generations.
I was reminded of this when recently taking an implicit bias test through Harvard University’s Project implicit. My gender-career bias test results showed I associated family-oriented jobs with women. And I associated business/math jobs with men. Even if I disagree with machismo and toxic masculinity, I’m still guilty of perpetuating these stereotypes without even realizing it.
Daniela Rascón, a Mexican-American studies graduate, shared reasons why the cycle doesn’t break. “It takes both men and women to say it’s enough,” Rascón said. People avoid calling out machismo because it’s an uncomfortable conversation.
“We won’t ever progress if we can’t bring up the severity of the issue,” Rascón said.
It’s not easy to call out older generations of Latinos; they have lived through a different time. It’s understandable to see where their perspectives come from, but it isn’t a good enough reason to avoid the subject. Both men and women are guilty of insinuating these ideas of gender roles.
Society has taught men to not express their emotions and for women to obey. It’s difficult to know who you are when society has molded you into who they wanted you to be.
My boyfriend and I always make sure to communicate our feelings. The incident with his grandma just showed us the work we need to do to abolish these toxic gender roles.
Machismo culture isn’t going to go away in a day; it’s going to take time. Having conversations with your parents or grandparents about the harm toxic gender roles cause seems like a small action but its impact is larger than it seems. Today, everything is much more progressive than before but these gender roles are still very much present. It’s scary to combat these gender roles because you won’t know your community’s reaction.
Fear shouldn’t be a reason to not stand up for yourself and others.