When we say that we can’t see the forest for the trees, we let singular details obscure the greater problem. We can conceive instances of violence perpetrated by men in this same way, as they often mask the pervasive cultural system that machismo sustains — that sinister place where dangerous and terrifying beasts are left to grow, waiting to attack.
Violence against women, violence against homosexuals, violence against transsexuals, violence against foreigners, violence against people of other racial or ethnic profiles, violence against those who carry different ideas and beliefs… Though the victims change, violence is a constant and the ‘man’ is always its auteur. And this is not a coincidence.
Culture at large is nothing but machismo in disguise. It is a series of values and ideas imposed from a male perspective, which are considered to be universal truths in every social context. Cultural hegemony is not merely about these guidelines and norms, but also about dictating narrow definitions for how to be a ‘man’ and what it means ‘to be a woman.’ Such codes enact explicit norms and guidelines for behavior. Society ‘mandates’ certain types of conduct, which time consolidates and reinforces through customs, traditions, and public perceptions. And despite everything, when there are behaviors that just don’t fit within this schema or can’t quite be controlled, normalized violence transpires to re-establish the "lost order."
"All violence, with all of its characteristics and circumstances, shares a common hatred of anything that’s different."
Machismo utilizes violence directly against everything and anything that challenges imposed identity standards. It isn’t so much individual punishment that machismo seeks — although that is clearly one of its objectives — but rather a general lesson for society. Machismo is directed, above all, at those who question masculinity and the values associated with it. Masculine identity has specific features: a heterosexual man, from the predominant racial group of his society, with recognizable status as a born citizen of the country, and with ideas and beliefs that are consistent with those of that specific place.
Therefore, they regard the existence of the foreigner, the homosexual, the transsexual, people from minority racial groups, the woman who breaks with codified roles, or people with differing belief systems, as an attack on their model identity and all the associated values that have been imposed by cultural hegemony, that is to say, by machismo. From there, discrimination and violence develop against the people from that group, and their alleged critique of the masculine model. The mere presence of these minority groups implies the infinite possibility of other competing models and references. And this possibility hurts machismo, especially since history has been constructed on the fallacy of a singular valid system: their own.
One of machismo’s tricks has been its ability to make believe that its influence could be reduced to a question of male and female identity. Consequently, for the majority of people, machismo is a discriminatory attitude towards women that only gets questioned when it crosses certain limits; for example, an especially lewd come-on, an obviously obscene joke, a random act of violence. This stance, however, simultaneously permits other less blatant come-ons, jokes and beatings to be acceptable within the confines of ‘normal’ society. Other acts of violence naturally follow, with the express goal of continuing to defend the identities that masculinity imposes.
For this reason, all violence, with all of its characteristics and circumstances, shares a common hatred of anything that’s different, and works towards the reestablishment of order and the prevention of the changes that difference ‘provokes.’
"Machismo does not put up with difference."
On innumerable occasions, we have witnessed, and have spoken about gender violence suffered by women, and we also see the same traits in homophobic and transphobic violence — such as that which hounded Alan and led him to suicide. The majority of these acts of violence are carried out or initiated by men in the name of a society planted firmly in androcentric priority.
As such, the majority of homophobic violence is instigated by men against gay men, as opposed to (straight) women, who generally don’t harass or assault women who identify as lesbians. Similarly, transphobic violence is also fundamentally carried out in the interest of men.
Straight men regard homosexuality as an attack on hegemonic masculinity, and respond with homophobic violence. In the same way, straight men commit violence against transgender people — they see a ‘man’ renouncing his masculine identity and, therefore, challenging the masculine hegemony. Similarly, a woman who tries to present herself ‘as a man’ could never be accepted by machismo, since such a performance exemplifies the completely artificial nature of machismo itself.
"Eradicating machismo and bringing equality is the only way to install peace and coexistence for all people."
Machismo’s violence develops from the ideas and values of a patriarchal culture that wants to punish those who stray from the model and teach a lesson to society through violence. Such violence targets anyone considered different. Violence becomes more intense in correlation to the size of the threat to the masculine status quo.
The fact that this violence is primarily carried out by men does not mean that such violence is natural to men in general. When trying to downplay the responsibility of violent men, it has often been said that they play out a natural condition of masculinity. This is the other illusion of machismo; it tries to make it seem like violent men are naturally violent, and that it has nothing to do with their culture. It tries to place the blame on testosterone or stress and, as such, hide the systemic ideas that permit and develop violence. Each act is rooted in the supposed truths that culture imposes on the identities of men and women.
Machismo does not put up with difference. For this reason, it has been dedicated to the constant creation of boxes, ‘closets’, and borders so that women, homosexuals, transsexuals, foreigners and people of other races and creeds steer clear of machismo’s streets.
When we look at instances of machismo violence, we are questioning the results without taking into account the causes. This will not end the violence rooted in machismo culture. Eradicating machismo and bringing equality is the only way to install peace and coexistence for all people, and to give them the freedom to decide how to develop their identity and choose their relationships.
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