machismo made me do it

...those who, after hitting their wives, insist that,
'The machismo culture made me do it.'
(Matthew C Gutmann, "Real Mexican machos are born to die." 1996:164)

In yesterday's Theology and Gender we discussed masculine identities in Latin America.

Juan, a fellow student from Ecuador, told us about his work in Quito with men who hit their partners and children. Six women out of ten suffer from domestic violence in Ecuador; in Argentina the figure is 54%.

The progamme explored what kinds of society promote violence understandings of what it is to be male, and asked how the connection between men and aggression can be broken. It challenged understandings of abusers as simply sick individuals, or just following their 'natural' insistincts; instead encouraging both individuals and wider society to take reponsibility.

Juan commented that is unusual in Ecuador for men to meet up, outside of the bar to watch the football. However, those men that had stuck with the programme had found it helpful to have a space to share their feelings and talk through their actions.

R.W. Connell's article, 'The Social Organization of Masculinity' (Berkley: Uni. of California Press, 1995) suggests alongside the dominant model of masculinity, man live out a number of different masculinities. Other factors such as etnicity, class and sexuality dramatically affect a man's power and identity. While few men live up to the 'ideal male' of patriarchal thought, Connell suggests that the majority are willing to accept the dividends of patriarchy.

Víctor Hugo Robles, the 'Che' of the Gays in a demonstration in front of La Moneda
, Santiago de Chile, September 2004, by Javier Godoy

This picture was part of an exhibition of images of Chile that I saw in the seaside town of La Serena earlier this year. I was struck by how prominent human rights campaigner Víctor Hugo Robles constructs his identity, employing and subverting one of the dominant images of maleness in Latin America, that of Che Guevara.

Within the church, traditional teaching on the Trinity sets up conflicting types of masculinities: God the Father demands the death of his son, the efeminate victim. We have to learn how to subvert these violent ideals of maleness, or else be content to live with a God who excuses his lust for sacrifice saying:
machismo made me do it.


Dave Williams said…

Interesting comments. I believe though that it is a severe misunderstanding of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity and indeed of the Doctrine of the atonement that leads to your identifying them with "machismo" Firstly because our doctrine of the Trinity is about love and about unity. Secondly because the atonement involves the Son willingly offering himself as a sacrifice. It seems that there is a strong desire at the moment to latch onto any hot debate and say that the problem is caused by a traditional Christian understanding. Many loving husbands and happy wives who hold to traditional Christianity will have been surprised this week to find that they are closet wife beaters and victims! Anyway a stimulating blog -I shall pop in for more later! Do pop and have a nosey at mine as I've been contemplating some of these issues too. Cia Dave
rachel said…
Thanks for your comments and interest Dave. Certainly, there is room for more postive life-giving interpretations of the Trinity, ones that I would hold to. Nevertheless, dominant theologies have created a relationship of violence within the Trinity. I disagree that my post suggests all 'traditional' (whatever that may mean) Christians are either violent or victims; simply that dominant theologies offer us an unhelpful model of relationship.
Dave Williams said…
Hi Rachel,

Thanx for your response. My understanding is that the "violence in the Trinity" critique is one aimed at Penal Substitution as a model of the atonment -especially Steve Chalke's descriptino of it as cosmic child abuse. As someone from a reformed tradition -and therefore pro penal substitution my take on it is that it's the caricatures of the doctrines by their opponents who are creating the violence in the trinity.
rachel said…
Hi again Dave

As you point out, there are many different interpretations of Jesus' death. I wasn't quite sure if you were agreeing or not with Steve Chalke, also what you mean by 'from the reformed tradition' (URC? Lutheran? Protestant in general?), and why that means you have to be pro-penal substitution, and therefore whether you are pro-penal substitution in practice or only in theory(!) So, many questions, and posted a while after yours. Sorry.
Dave Williams said…

1. I'm reformed as in reformed theology -so following particularly Calvin with due deference to Luther et al!
2. Penal Substitution is a key element of reformed theology in that respect
3. Yep, disagreeing with Steve Chalke. I think his criticism of PS was wrong