What is a “macho” man?

ImageMachismo—the mere utterance of this word stirs up an array of emotions. For some, it evokes great male pride, and for others, it reeks of negativity and abuse. Growing up, I associated the word with one thing, wrestling. My favorite wrestler was Randy “Macho Man” Savage, and after watching Macho Man’s signature moves on TV, I would emulate them during matches with my younger brother and step-dad, proving that I too could be “macho.” At the time, this word “macho,” seemed to epitomize what I wanted to be—a fighter that was cool, powerful, strong, and in control. After all, these characteristics were not only being portrayed by my favorite wrestler, but they were also being acted out right in front of me by some of the males in my own family and community. I was being conditioned to be a macho man, but what does that mean? What is a “macho” man?

Many studies have been conducted to answer this very question, but a wide range of conflicting responses still exist. For every connotation of the word “macho,” there seems to be a philosophical debate. The literal definition, however, is difficult to refute. In simple terms, the word “macho” means one thing — “male.” The phrase “macho man,” therefore, is actually somewhat redundant because to be macho merely means to be a male.

The clash over machismo occurs when people begin to equate being male with being a man. Boys learn how to be a man from television, music, movies, literature, and most importantly from the other men in their lives. As they get older, however, each man must decide for himself what kind of man he is going to be. Will he place drugs and alcohol before his family, or will he come home eager to spend time with his wife and children? Will he be the husband who beats his wife just like his father beat his mother, or will he treat his partner as an equal and share household responsibilities? Will he gather with friends to make racist, anti-feminist, or homophobic jokes, or will he seek to be understanding of those who are different from him? Will he coax other young men to participate in chauvinistic practices, or will he serve as a positive role model, challenging traditional stereotypes? In the end, only he can decide.

For me, the wrestling fan, the decision came after much self-discovery. I came to the conclusion that I would embrace the idea of being macho—of being a male—without all the preconceived notions about what a man should or should not be. There’s only one problem, though, with not following preconceived ideas. There’s a lot of room for error when you have to figure out things on your own. So, although I have a clear picture of what kind of son, brother, friend, husband, and father I want to be, I still need occasional help and support from the men in my life to make sure that my picture remains in focus.

Every man should paint their own picture of what kind of man he wants to be, and if enough men paint with respect, then perhaps, a grand masterpiece of tolerance and nonviolence will be created in our communities.

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