In Mexican society, most decisions in the family are traditionally made by males. And even though women have been able to overcome boundaries and contribute towards their social, cultural, and political statuses—and even to family decisions—the stigma of the “macho male” tag remains well into the 21st century.
The Mexican macho, rather than being an archetypical representation, is more of a caricature that has been presented to us by films proliferated by the Golden Age of Mexican cinema: A handsome and sturdy, horseback riding man, a womanizer, and hard drinker, but also good-natured, just as described by Juan Miguel Zunzunegui in his book, The myths that gave us trauma. This description has evolved over time but it seems that the only thing that has improved about the Mexican male is that he has now become an expert in “gadgets” and uses a more expensive cologne.
Of course, I am not speaking about every Mexican man and many men resisting wearing this moniker. But the implications of the “macho male” tag are deep and contribute to the idea that a man can have authority over a woman. The most recent report by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística and Geografía, INEGI) showed that 45.7% of Mexican women suffer violence from males; an alarming percentage which undoubtedly plays a part in the country’s high rate of femicides (killing of women).
In spite of the large number of pro-women’s rights organizations and all the free information out there, we must ask why is this statistic still so high. The answer is as obvious as it as disturbing: Mexican women are trapped in a culture in which we are told by our grandmothers that women are weak and need a man by their side to take care of and protect them. Whether they are abusive, whether they treat us badly doesn’t matter. Women “need” men. This goes further: Many believe that even thought women talk about, and seemingly desire, independence, deep inside, it horrifies them.
Sadly, I can use my own mother as an example. With a Mexican macho as a husband, she was able to raise three children and go through college while working. I remember her doing homework at strange hours so my father wouldn’t complain. Even though she is a woman striving for her independence, it is paradoxical to see her remove my father’s shoes with a simple order, or hear her demand for my brother to clear his dishes but yet do it herself for her husband.
That’s how things are in Mexico. We are taught to become independent women but at the same time we need to learn how to keep our men happy. A lot of women still believe that if a man allows a woman to decide for herself and to be free, then he could not possibly take care of her. If he lets her do whatever she wants, he is not a real man. This stupid way of thinking continues into 2014.
I’ve had my own experience with a Mexican macho. What was interesting was that when we dated, our relationship was more open and honest. He seemed to love that I was liberal when it came to sex, but as soon as we got married and I “became his property,” things changed. He no longer liked certain things in bed because he considered them to be more suitable “for a whore rather than to a proper married woman.” We are now divorced so I can talk freely.
All in all, I believe that Mexico is this way because we women have allowed it to be like this. We shouldn’t just talk about independence; we should actually be independent. It is not a question of needing a man but sharing a life with our partner—and being equal in all aspects. Until that happens, I guess I’ll be watching my mother clear my father’s dishes.