Rafael L. Ramirez Handout

Outline of Presentation

Presenters: John Wilkinson and Desiree Wimberly

Rafael L. Ramirez


Professor of Anthropology (Ret.)

Senior Researcher at the HIV/AIDS Research and Education Center of the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras


Performance of a specific, hegemonic Latino Masculinity

A history of manhood “must…recount two histories: the history of the changing “ideal” version of masculinity and the parallel and competing versions that coexist with it” (Kimmel 4)

Characterized by beings with described as – including but not limited to – “aggressive, oppressive, narcissistic, insecure, loudmouthed, womanizers, massive drinkers, persons who have uncontrollable sexual prowess, and …(don’t stop til you drop partiers)” (7)

“Some say a set of attitudes and others a configuration of traits, even a syndrome at times” (Ramirez 8)

“Term popularized in the social literature of the fifties and sixtiers and was initially presented as a Latin American phenomenon in its crudest form in the peasant and working classes” (Ramirez 7)

Most studies of Machismo are derivative of Bermudez (1955) and Stycos (1955)

Bermudez “defines machismo as a typical case of unconscious compensation against feminist tendencies hidden in the Mexican man” (Ramirez 8)

Reminiscent of Judith Butler’s (1990) notion of gender performances as outline in Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity:

“ideas about separating, purifying, demarcating and punishing transgressions have as their main function to impose system on an inherently untidy experience. It is only by exaggerating the difference between within and without, above and below, male and female, with and against, that a semblance of order is created” (Butler 167)

Stycos and successors “[perceive] machismo as an intrapsychic phenomenon dissociate from its sociohistoric roots” (Ramirez 8)

Initial over-emphasis on virilty

72 men were polled with the question: “Speaking of being a macho completo, how does a man show it? How does he prove it?” 39.2% of the answers were associated with virility and sexuality (Ramirez 9)

Ramirez argues that this study over-simplifies the association and “lacks a historical and comparative perspective” (Ramirez 10)

Later research by Hill, Stycos, and Black demonstrated less of an emphasis on virility and more focus on being “authoritatian, dominant, and distant” (375)

Sociocultural perspective focusing on social, economic, but tend to be “repetitive and uncritical” and emphasize the “destructive aspects” of machismo (11f.)

“[L]iterature on machismo is essentially descriptive, uncritical, and repetitive” (Ramirez 11)

Mejia Ricart’s 20 characteristics of machismo, divided into categories of sexual and the individual versus society, that she eventually calls to conquer:

Sexual Aspects

Sexual Potency proving to himself and others his great sexual potency
Don Juanismo Possessing and supporting an unlimited number of women
Parranderismo Irrepressibly going out with male friends to drink and meet prostitutes
Masculine Exhibitionism Exhibiting parts of the body that characterize the male sex and customary male behaviors
Coprolalia Consciously using vulgar language and making obscene jokes
Cult of Virginity Demnding viringity in women to test innocence and pride in deflowering
Sexual Repression of Women Relegating women to merely passive roles in search of mates and intercourse
Taboo on Sexual Subjects Mena and women abstaining from commenting to each other about sexual experiences and desires
Fertility Identifying masculinity with the procreation of many children
Procreation of Males Procreating males rather than females as a sign of masculinity

Individual Vs. Society

Stereotyping Male Superiority Men being superior to women in both physical and intellectual features
Emotional Rigidity Showing aloofness from loved ones and apparent rigidity in critical situations
Generational Distancing Psychological distancing between man and younger generations
Independence Desiring independence for the man of the machista culture, encouraged from youth and denied in girls/women
Aggressivesness Being physically or psychologically violent to settle differences
Power Hunger Wanting to achieve and exercise social control
Physical Strength Having great physical strength as being masculine
Personal Courage Facing danger even when unnecessary, bordering on reckless
Honor Identifying honor as a mix of self-esteem and conduct of others
Extravagance Spending money before strangers to give an impression even at daily financial risk

Distinction between ideology and behavior:

“The masculine ideology, because it is a social construction that favors the masculine and belittles the feminine, places us men in a universe of categories and symbols of power that we reproduce daily. This ideology forms and guides us in our behavior as men” (Ramirez 15f.)

“Although there is one ideology there are various behaviors; they vary according to the power and privileges that each man possesses” (Ramirez 16)

“The ‘machismo traits’… in Mejia Ricart’s article are acts of behavior that manifest class positions and are survival mechanisms used by the least powerful men in class societies” (Ramirez 16)

Isabel Pico stated that “‘machismo’ to be the set of attitudes, beliefs, and behavior that results from belief in the superiority of one sex over the other” (Pico v)

Superiority based in various aspects: “physical, intellectual, characterological, cultural, and sexual” (Pico v)

Is a “cultural phenomenon originating in economic conditions” (Pico v)

Ramirez argues that Pico “does not elaborate on the assertion that machismo is a cultural phenomenon…does not discuss the economic conditions that …give rise to machismo…[and] asserts that machismo is equivalent to sexism” (Ramirez 19)

Machismo is a gender classification/ideal whereas sexism is an ideology linked to the biological fact of sex.

Victor De la Cancela attempts to “discover the interactive, interconnected, and contradictory aspects of machismo given a specific socio-historical context” (De la Cancela 77)

The marginalization of Latinos, particularly Puerto Ricans, in economic and social structure and resulting consequences.

4 trends: positive and negative aspects of being a man, paternity and familial figure,  contrast with Anglo values, and contrast between Puerto Rican understanding of machismo and the conventional social understanding (Ramirez 21f.)

Ramirez’s Conclusions about machismo and masculinity

Machismo as a blanket term for Peurto Rican and Latin Masculinities is a reductive and stereotypical term that frequently serves as a misnomer or incorrect substitute for masculinity.

Used in this way, machismo exists as an abstract concept that fails to define Latino masculinties

Machismo is both too descriptive as well as not complex enough to incorporate all the complexities of various masculinities.

Masculinity and the construction of male identities is a complex formation and processes determined by relative cultural norms and beliefs that operate in a Foucauldian discourse similar to radical exclusions of opposite, hegemonic gender characteristics.

“Culture offers cues and instructions so that people may make their own gender identity, in order to evaluate and esteem themselves as the incarnation and representation of their gender” (Ramirez 27)

McIntosh arguing that homosexuality is “acting out a role, which is defined in terms of expectations… [and] streeses that such a role exists in some societies but not others” (Ramirez 29)

Ramirez supports the Foucauldian discourse of power and knowledge in symbols as they apply to sex and cultural constructions of gender.

Ramirez gives examples of anthropological study of the Baruya culture

Works Cited:

Butler, Judith. Gender Troubles: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990. Web. 19 Febuary 2013.

Kimmel, Michael S. Manhood in America: A Cultural History. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford UP. 2012. Print.

Ramirez, Rafael L. What It Means to Be a Man: Reflections on Puerto Rican Masculinity. Trans. Rosa E. Casper. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1999. Print

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