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.