Yesterday during breakfast I overheard a conversation my parents were having with my grandma. They were talking about the relationship dynamic of my Aunt and Uncle. We’ve cut off communication with them to the point that I’ve haven’t thought about them in years. I can’t even recall the last time I spoke to them, about them, or even thought about them. However, this conversation made me think about all the male figures I’ve had in my life.
Identity does not emerge in a vacuum. Its molded by everything around us. With this thought in mind, I thought about adding the role of masculinity, toxic and nontoxic, into my thesis. It’s a thought that had not come up until I heard this conversation. It’s one of these ideas that I knew would arise when I dove deeper into my work. In thoroughly thinking about it, I cannot say that my own father consciously instilled toxic masculinity in me. He always told me that its my role as a brother and a man to protect the women in my life. That its my responsibility to keep them safe from the cruelties of the world. That is what being a man is to him and what he taught me. HOWEVER, as developing children we are not only influenced by what we’re taught but also what we see.
Growing up, one of the things that would infuriate me was that he expected to be served at the dinner table. (I saw my uncle expecting this too) It irritated me because my mom (and aunt) would come home from work, cook, clean, and would still be expected to serve them. So during the beginning of my adolescence, one of the things I began to do things for myself would be to serve my own food, grab my own set of cutlery, and pick my own plates and cups and I still do to this day. It’s reached a point to where my mom mentions this to everyone who notices it. By everyone I mean the guests we would host from Ecuador. This is a task, a role “meant” for the daughter or mother of the family. But to leave this task to a woman who just spent ten hours on her feet working felt intrinsically wrong. There is a word in Spanish for a man who does nothing and is expected to be catered to, its Mantenido. Its literal translation means to be kept or to maintain, but it has a derogatory meaning as well. Its to be a freeloader or parasite or a good for nothing. This forum goes into detail about all the ways it can be used.
This word has been used by my mom as a counter to the toxic masculinity of Hispanic culture. No seas un hombre mantenido, don’t be a kept man. My mother has worked tirelessly to make me combat this culture, to be come a caballero, a gentleman. Growing up I took it a bit further by helping her in the one thing she hates to do, cook. She’s constantly told us that she hates to cook, hates the process, hates how everything comes out, her food doesn’t taste right etc. But being in this culture that expects her to cook and feed her family, she’s stuck doing it. I believe I found so much joy in cooking because I got satisfaction in helping her. I love to cook, to me there’s an insurmountable joy in feeding people, my friends, my family, my partners. I’ve mentioned in some of my classes that I’m the one who cooks for thanksgiving (all recipes inherited from my mom). I love it for the fact that the reward is visible. The happy faces and full bellies of my family. <3. Right back to toxic masculinity…
In their dissertation Garcia Alvarado and Alejandro Moises explain masculinity and hyper-masculinity.
“Hyper-masculinization is perpetuated and upheld by modern-day patriarchal systems where Latino men live. The social construct of machismo came with a set of gendered norms, constituting society’s perception of manly behaviors, which included, among others, the following: never show emotions, weakness, or any need for support; instead, one should portray the ability to be self-reliant
Alvarado Garcia, Moises A. First-Generation Latino Men’s Perceptions of Masculinity During Their Higher Education Experience, University of California, San Diego, United States — California, 2022.
Here is where I want to talk about the unconscious implementation of toxic masculinity. Never showing emotions, or the need for support. These are the main attributes I saw in my father. I can count the amount of times I’ve seen my father cry on one hand. (spoiler its 2) Once was when their golden child, me (I’m saying me sarcastically) was caught smoking marijuana and the other time when my uncle (fathers brother) and my great-aunt tragically passed away in a car accident in Ecuador. I remember these days vividly, they are branded into my mind, soul and being. In a similar fashion, I’ve only cried a handful of times with them being present. A result of becoming a withdrawn child which I mentioned in my presentation.
The other attribute, the need for support, I’ve only witnessed with the conversations I’ve had with my mom. These private conversations that we have are our connection. Since my withdrawn nature was/is seen as a sign of maturity, my family takes heed to my words. They see me as a calm headed person who thinks before he speaks or acts. (Disclaimer: I don’t believe this would be the case if my sister wasn’t so outspoken. Quite literally the opposite of me.) So during these conversation my mom would disclose the stubbornness of my father and his refusal to ask her for help, monetarily or otherwise. These conversation make me recognize my own aversion to ask for help. Unconsciously emulating my father.
Now that the trauma dump is out, we can get back to the academic part of this blog post. I’ve currently gathered 7 sources based on the effects of masculinity, hyper-masculinity, and toxic masculinity in the Latino community. All with great information and references that are beneficial for the completion of my literature review. I have to read them more thoroughly and discard the ones that will not be as useful. I anticipate that after this I will be left with 4 or 5 beneficial sources.
That’s all I have to report for this week.