4 Ways Sexist, Macho Culture Hurts Men
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Macho culture– the perpetuation of hypermasculinity, dominance, violence, bravado– can be deadly, particularly for women. According to the World Health Organization, women in the US are victims of intimate partner violence at a rate about five times that of men, and the United Nations has found that the most common form of violence experienced by women around the world is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner.
While men experience much lower rates of violence, and are privileged in many respects, it's both naïve and harmful to ignore the ways in which macho culture negatively affects their psyches. Sexism is detrimental to society as a whole and should be examined as a cultural and systematic structure. Thoroughly understanding the effects it has on women as well as men, can help reduce all manifestations of violence. Since gender is a performance, men are not inherently more violent, so this behavior can certainly be changed.
Here are four ways macho culture hurts men:
1. Causes Emotional Repression
Men are often discouraged from showing any sort of physical or emotional weakness. This can begin at a very young age. “The earliest experience with macho culture was when I was young and started playing football,” says Jon Tribble, now editor and professor of creative writing. “That was an extreme version.” He believes that this sort of masculinity causes young men to suppress pain, and consequently, become incapable of understanding who they are and what they feel. Celia Falcov, clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California-San Diego and author of Latino Families in Therapy, says that the fear of being perceived as vulnerable or weak can also keep men or boys from asking for help.
Not allowing boys to show emotion can have devastating effects that can last a lifetime. Warren Reed, an African American security guard living in Los Angeles, says that when he was a child growing up in rural Louisiana, his mother and sister discouraged him from playing with girls. He feels that his family expected him to be tough and hypermasculine, even though that was not who he truly was. Because he felt misunderstood by his community, he became very withdrawn. “It affects me to this day,” he says.
Repression can also be incredibly detrimental one's health. Falcov says that repression and denial can cause many health issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and back pain. According to the article " Hispanic Masculinity: Myth or Psychological Schema Meriting Clinical Consideration,” a growing body of evidence also reveals that chronic repression of anger is associated with cancer, asthma, higher levels of cholesterol, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and insomnia.
2. Encourages Aggression and Violence
“Tendency towards domination and violence also has negative consequences for the machista man,” says Falicov. She believes that perpetually being in defensive mode can make these men unable to relax. Not only that, many times macho men are compelled to fight to defend their hurt pride, which can lead to physical injuries.
Tribble says he witnessed this sort of propensity for violence when he managed movie theaters and had to deal with many teenage boys. He says that if these young men felt that a customer had disrespected them, they immediately wanted to fight back. “At a certain point, you're no longer in a school yard,” Tribble says. He believes that part of the problem is that young men don't ever see the consequences of violent behavior in TV or film. “It's not surprising because they're being taught that being aggressive is going to get you good results.”