The Cost of Machismo and Marianismo

While gender stereotypes are not new topics, Latinx individuals face a nuanced experience of what it means to “fit in” to their respective gender identity. Latinx women are socialized throughmarianismo to exemplify “virginal” attributes, family-first mentality, and self-sacrifice. Latinx men socialized through machismo tend to subscribe to the idea that one should be “manly”, self-reliant, and provide/protect. While these characteristics are not inherently bad, when they are coupled together to become the norm they not only weigh a heavy burden on cisgender men and women, Latinx LGBT individuals become targets for discrimination and internalized homophobia as well.

Marianismo can have a significant impact on Latinx women’s sexuality as conversations around sex are taboo. It is not uncommon for Latinx women to feel that sex is simply a duty to their partner, not an activity they can truly participate in, or even enjoy. Latinx women are typically expected to put others first, especially men. Their role is to care for others and to do so lovingly, no matter what. Violence against women and girls is not uncommon when such cultural norms exist. Suffering in silence becomes an expectation as women are taught that it is up to them to keep the family together and men showcasing various forms of aggression is normalized.

On the other hand, machismo sends the message that men are inherently dominant and independent. This idea can have negative outcomes for men’s sexuality as they are expected to be sexually dominant with women. Latinx individuals may acquire homophobic views on gay and lesbian people because they do not “fit” the stereotypes. As a result, Latinx men may find it difficult to come out to their families and/or experience discrimination form their own community. Additionally, both machismo and marianismo make it difficult to openly discuss these types of topics. Latinx men are often taught not to show emotions, other than anger, which further promotes power through aggression. These rigid cultural guidelines make it difficult to develop emotional fulfillment in relationships, family, and even work.

Marianismo and machismo have the potential to make Latinx individuals question their cultural identity. First-generation Latinx Americans may feel guilty straying away from cultural norms and feel distance from their heritage. Significant life decisions such as going away to college, attending therapy, and/or deciding not to have children may create conflict within one’s family. It is important to reflect on what Latinx culture means to you, when you feel the most connected to it, and aspects of Latinx culture that you value.

While these cultural constructs are common in the Latinx community, every individual and family are different. Here are some questions that may help you process how machismo and marianismo have been present in throughout your life:

  • Did women in my family often work outside of the home? Why or why not?

  • How were decisions made in my household? Who typically had the final say?

  • Did men in my life show emotions, other than anger, in a healthy way?

  • What messages did I receive about the LGBT community?

  • How were household responsibilities divided up?

  • What was I not allowed to do because it was too “manly” or “girly”?

  • What does it mean to be satisfied sexually?

  • What is it like for me to put myself first?

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If you are looking for a therapist who is familiar with Latinx culture and the stressors of being part of the Latinx community, feel free to reach out to us to learn more about how we can help.

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