In case you missed our first installment in an ongoing series related to Latino/x masculinity, we recently asked twelve Latino/x men to define toxic machismo and speak about how it has impacted their lives. The responses varied but the consensus was that toxic machismo is rooted in toxic masculinity and is defined by unhealthy shows of power, aggression, and violence towards women and other men that are readily found in Latino communities throughout the U.S. and Latin America.
Or, as one respondent put it, toxic machismo, “creates a society where Latino men have an exterior shell hardened by violence and aggression where emotions are deemed weak, feminine, and soft, making Latinx men disconnected to the complexities of manhood and masculinity.”
As your responses filled our inbox and our comment section, we realized that while defining toxic machismo is an important place to begin with, we also need to talk about potential solutions. That said, the second installment of this week’s exploration of Latino/x masculinity is dedicated to finding potential solutions to disrupt and end toxic machismo.
Here are what twelve Latinos think we need to do:
Pablo Jose Oro Lopez
“As a queer Black Latinx man of Honduran descent, born and raised in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick, I think one of the steps towards dismantling toxic machismo in our communities is centering intimacy and vulnerability in our socialization with each other. In order to begin dismantling heteropatriarchy’s toxic machismo, intimacy and representation are crucial in this process. We internalize toxic machismo from our households to popular culture, how media criminalizes and dehumanizes black and latinx men as aggressive, hostile, and violent. Having multiple representations of manhood and masculinity that complicate heteronormative gender presentation and subjectivity can begin to disrupt toxic machismo. However, I feel that work of dismantling toxic machismo is an on-going lucha and it needs to have cis-women, queer women/men, and trans man/women in the same spaces. The dismantling of heteropatriarchical toxic machismo is the labor of all of us. We all need to decolonize our bodies and minds from toxic machismo and I believe that intimacy and vulnerability among Black and Latinx men is a first step.”
“I think the first step is opening our minds and hearts to the possibility that Latino males can be feminists. My growth as a Latino male feminist and engaging in the on-going process of unlearning patriarchy, misogyny, and toxic machismo has been when I have listened to and learned from women of color. This has been crucial because it made me aware of my mistakes as well as motivated me to correct them. I also think it’s important to take the things we have learned and discuss them with other men of color. It’s in these spaces that we can challenge one another to become better feminists as well as normalize vulnerability and love for each other.”
“In my self work to end toxic machismo I have created my own definition for masculinity. I have learned to stay in tune with my feelings and to reject expectations that don’t feel natural to me. I think finding other alternatives or definitions to what being a man means is key to created a world where young boys are allowed to explore “alternative” ways of self expression.”
“I think the best way to disrupt machismo culture is to start at home. Let’s be honest, many of us learned many of these machista behaviors from our dads, older brothers, and uncles. And they learned that behavior from other family members. This is not to throw our apas and tio’s under the bus. It’s because that you love them that you need to call that shit out. I’m not saying get into heated arguments with them, but name it when you see it. Question why it is that you get to stay out late as you want but your prima gets grilled for staying out late studying or having fun. These are double standards that I’ve called out in my own family. Trust me, it’s not easy. But if we really want to disrupt these behaviors, we need to have these tough conversations.”
“First we have the responsibility to understand that machismo is a manifestation of masculinity that is necessarily toxic, a benevolent version of it doesn’t exist. In order to transform and eradicate those practices within the social fabric we need to work from several angles, spaces and experiences, starting by dismantling heteronormativity as the center of our gender politics understanding. We need knowledge production that challenges those constructions while being accessible to our communities, grassroots social development initiatives, political representation of non-binary people, educational reforms, etc. We might not be able to fully annihilate machismo over night, but we need to keep creating the conditions to stimulate that process. Colonialism, capitalism and patriarchy are linked and operate efficiently against our conditions of existence, so when trying to find solutions we need to consider that those systems of oppression are not acting in isolation.”
Francisco Aviles Pino
“Most cities like the city of Anaheim, for young boys of color have limited opportunities to explore the complexity of masculinity. High schools must provide young people of color with leadership opportunities that go beyond leadership positioning. In a patriarchal society, men are taught that they must seek power and hold on to it. When you ask a young boy to be the president of a club, to be the leader of an organization, you are asking them to compete for power and withhold that power. Schools and community programs must let young men know that power is shared and that as leaders it is our duty to find power in others beyond ourselves. Our communities however continue to have adults with hyper masculine approaches to what power is. It is these older men of color that then mentor other young boys and continue to perpetuate ideas of what power is.”
Alexandro Jose Gradilla
“Toxic” behaviors by men are individual expressions of larger societal realities. Toxic masculinity’s roots are systemic patriarchy, institutionalized sexism, and misogyny. They intersect into other oppressive systems such as racism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism to name the more familiar forms of systemic forms of oppression. Toxic masculinity’s suppression and temporary elimination are contingent on well organized and articulated social movements. Dynamic, perpetual social movements that are sensitive to time and space contexts require men and women to always and consistently work to end the “normalizing” of toxic masculine or macho behaviors. The target of the movement must focus on the radical transformation of individuals and structural problems.
“Toxic machismo is a violent performance.You learn the cues growing up–when to display emotion and when not to display emotion. To end toxic machismo you have to build a new stage and put on a new show– an alternate way of knowing yourself in which you leave behind the fear of self-reflection, accountability, femininity, queerness and vulnerability. Acknowledge and take accountability for any damage you have caused. Acknowledge the privileges that come from your subjectivities. Acknowledge your feelings. Are you sad? Go ahead, cry if you need. You want to see how that earring will look on you? Put it on! You think teal matte nails will look cute on you? Paint them nails! Build a new stage and put on a new show.”
Cesar De La Vega
“A concerted effort to end toxic machismo requires a multi-tiered approach with interventions at three levels: individual, familial/community, and societal. There are a variety of actions we should undertake; some are changes we can implement immediately, whereas others will require time, patience, commitment, and perseverance. Here are a few to move the conversation forward: Learn to feel comfortable freely expressing your emotions and embrace your vulnerability. Read more literature written by women of color. Elevate the voices and efforts of those who have BEEN doing the heavy lifting—i.e., women. Educate those who are in a child’s sphere of influence beyond the family (teachers, coaches, mentors, etc.). Advocate for more women to hold leadership positions in the media to help diversify the range of voices and perspectives disseminated to the public.”
“First, we have to constantly examine our actions and how they affect others–which is hard. The best of us are bound to fail occasionally. Second, we can’t be afraid to confront others’ toxic behavior. Third, we have to model positive masculine behavior. Ultimately, though, it comes down to recognizing that you aren’t entitled to anything just because you’re a man. Similarly, your treatment of others should be completely divorced from their sex and gender.”
“Toxic masculinity starts and ends with men. More often than not the men who came before us were horrible role models who perpetuated misogyny and sexism and taught us that being a “man” builds off the degradation of women and queer folk. It’s also always expected of women to do the emotional labor in order to “fix their man” but that’s bullshit. We need to “call in” our own boys on their harmful behavior and actions so that we can break this vicious cycle, homies. I ain’t no saint but I’m working on myself in order to better myself inwardly, by reflecting on my behavior and actions, in order to outwardly be a better dude. Let’s stop expecting women and femme energy to do this work and let’s do this ourselves in a healthy and constructive manner. Deveras! Talk to your boys!”
“Like with other systems of oppression, I think the most affected must be centered, which means we (especially cis-gendered and straight) men must step back, listen and change the most. We must challenge ourselves and each other to cede power, especially in male-only spaces. And change has to go beyond using the most ‘progressive’ terminology and assuming we’ve unlearned patriarchy because we ask for and give our gender pronouns. We won’t end anything until we practice our ideologies in our daily lives.”