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The Spectrum: Machismo mata/machismo kills

Liam Aranda, Columnist

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This essay is part of The Spectrum, a weekly forum in our Opinion section for marginalized voices to share their perspectives. To submit a piece for The Spectrum or discuss story ideas, please email spectrum@dailynorthwestern.com.

Machismo: the unspoken law of the land that is ingrained in Latino children since birth. It is a series of expectations, norms and rules forced on us by our gender. Men are expected to be hyper-masculine, unfeeling, controlling with women and heads of the household. Women, on the other hand, are expected to be polite, submissive and devoted to being good, desirable brides. Although only my father is Latino and has distanced himself from his Mexican culture, the ideology of machismo is something he retains and tries to instill in me.

My father’s machismo ideology conflicted with the expression of my identity as queer. I know being queer makes my dad uncomfortable, as this is something he is not used to because the cultural norms of machismo rely on rigid heterosexuality and patriarchy. In particular, a major conflict arose when I began to take an interest in how I looked and dressed. On several occasions, my dad would freak out because I bought or wore something that no “man” would ever wear. He would then demand that I return my clothes. He has also forced me to get my hair cut because the hairstyle I had would “make people think a certain way about me.”

I would generally accept his demands because placating him was certainly better than pointlessly fighting him. But when I came to Northwestern, I began to dress and look the way I wanted to. I went through a process of finding what was comfortable for myself, but it hurt knowing I had to do this away from home solely because this was something my dad would not understand or accept. I realize my dad does this because he thinks that if I fit in with the herd, then I will be happy.

Though these cultural norms are harmful, they are often instilled in us by the ones who nurture us. So, I walk a thin line between challenging my dad’s stifling expectations of me while also appreciating his love and care. I’m also scared of what will happen to my little sister. The cultural gender expectations she may face are far different and more daunting than what I face, as the brunt of weight of machismo is put on women because they are expected to be submissive to men. I know that my sister is a strong woman, but I am afraid that this toxic system could eat her whole. Although I know my dad, like me, only wants the best for her, this system is not the answer.

In machismo culture, no one truly wins or even stands to benefit. People who are non-binary are thrown under the rug, as this system is heavily rooted in the gender binary and the patriarchy between men and women. These men and women are expected to become two-dimensional caricatures of heteronormativity, only perpetuating a system that robs them of their ability to express their unique selves. This system deserves to be put to rest for all those who have had to sacrifice their bodies, livelihood and spirits in order to conform. A system that confines its people to a series of predetermined boxes has no place in paving the future. It may be part of a culture, but some traditions need to be buried to make way for something better and true.

Liam Aranda is a Weinberg freshman. He can be contacted at liamaranda2019@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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