I’ll start with the dictionary definition of machismo. Merriman Webster’s definition, “a strong sense of masculine pride : an exaggerated masculinity,” followed by these synonyms, “macho, manhood, manliness, masculinity, virility.” The problem is with the two definitions. The first one, a strong sense of masculine pride, is not a negative connotation of machismo. The issue is how a man expresses his masculine pride – manhood, manliness, virility. The shadow of masculinity is exaggerated masculinity or what has become synonymous with toxic masculinity or misogyny. Yes, there exists a backlash to the feminist movement towards gender equality that a small minority of men have used as a rationale for toxic behavior. However, the vast majority of men are not toxic but are struggling to feel proud of being a man. The irony is that if a woman said she was proud to be a women she would not be accused of toxic femininity – if that even exists. How then can a man be prideful of his masculinity without it being at the expense of female domination. This is especially important for boys and younger men who are clearly struggling with their identity and worth. In addition, middle aged men who have lost their way due to job losses in manufacturing with the subsequent consequences of suicide and opioid addiction have lost their pride in being a man.
So, other than being a sperm donor, how else can a boy/man feel pride in their masculinity? One example is fathering. Given the grim statistics of the impact of a lack of fathering has on both boys and girls –71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. Nearly 25 million children live without their biological father. 60% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes- men need to step up fully to the responsibility of being an involved father and appreciate how valuable they are to the welfare of their children. Another aspect of manliness that can be a source of pride is strength. When expressed in the light a man’s strength or character is his resolve to overcome obstacles, sacrifice for the welfare of others, protect one’s family and provide for one’s family.
For those men who have been left behind by automation, globalization and a loss of pride in blue collar work we need government and industry support in re-training and vocational education that will again offer a pathway to a middle class life for non-college educated men. If these men can earn a decent living and regain their self respect they are less likely to fall into the cadre of men in despair.
There are numerous examples of macho men who live their lives in the best of masculinity without apologizing for being a man. Let’s recognize these men as appropriate role models for boys and men. Again I will repeat my mantra, we do not have to be gender neutral to be gender equal.