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Can we drop the word “machismo”?

21 April 2019

(a response to a query from a would-be migrant):

How is “machismo” different from plain old vanilla “sexism”? It is a racist term, as well, suggesting there is something particularly worse about Latin sexism compared to sexist behavior and attitudes among any other group of people.

I did some linguistic research, and — as far as I was able to discover — “machismo” wasn’t even a word in Spanish until about 1970, a “hispanicized” English word based on a misuse of the technical term used in bull-fighting and cattle breeding when referring to bulls: “machos”. Both Robert McAlmon and Ernest Hemingway, used “macho”not for the bull, but for the matador, and “machismo” for what they believed were the virtues of the bullfighter: an indifference to danger, masculine pride, athleticism, etc. Later writers, notably Normal Mailer, used it to “celebrate” masculine attitudes (or, in Mailer’s case, to justify his being a total asshole). The women’s movement here borrowed much of its rhetoric from English speaking women’s literature, and as far as I can tell, just won out over alternatives like “sexismo” or “chauvinsimo” for the same concept.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rebecca Ore permalink
    8 May 2019 10:53 pm

    Yeah, as you pointed out earlier, Latin law didn’t erase married women’s civil existence quite as thoroughly as Anglo common law did. I also see more women in Latin countries working as doctors and dentists than I did in the US, also many more women in police forces, and in politics compared to the US south I grew up in.

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