“It can be argued that the display of dysfunctional machismo can be displaced anger over an inability to handle aspects related to one’s social and cultural responsibilities and a difficulty in taking responsibility for the assumed role assignment that a male is expected to integrate into one’s personal, social, familial and work behavior.”Cervantes (2006, p.216)
Macho Man Syndrome
There is a long history of stereotyping Latin-American men with a pathological level of machismo, often referred to as “macho man syndrome.” Essentially, this version of masculinity is a collection of attitudes and behaviors that primarily include hypersexuality, punitive attitudes toward women, social domination, narcissism, and drug/alcohol abuse. This can be thought of as a form of “exaggerated masculinity”, which is a stylized masculinity that is inflated to dysfunctional levels. One idea of why this exists for Latin-American men is described above.
The underlying values historically behind machismo were not sexism and dominance, but instead were instead responsibility and respect. Notably, being “macho” was associated with strong community leadership, defending family and family honor, personal responsibility, emotional connectedness, and spirituality. These values are becoming referred to as “caballerismo”, which is based on traditional Spanish chivalry (Arciniega et al, 2008).
A more complete view of machismo is that it is an identity with two major factors: traditional machismo (macho man) and caballerismo (chivalrous man). For Latin-American men who are working to get a better understanding of their masculine identity, it is important to know this distinction, the historical foundation for both, the functions, losses, and gains of holding onto an exaggerated masculinity, and the developmental points.
- Arciniega et al (2008). Toward a fuller conception of machismo: Development of a traditional machismo and caballerismo scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 53, 19-35.
- Cervantes (2006). A new understanding of the macho male image: Exploration of the Mexican-American man. In Englar-Carlsen & Stevens (Eds.) In the Room With Men. Washington DC: APA.