Today, men’s health includes physical, mental, and social well-being. Having ‘healthy’ beliefs about masculinity is definitely included yet so much of the time, it isn’t cultivated starting at a young age. Times are changing — and ‘gender inequality’ is a social issue aimed at women but affects men’s lives as well, everywhere including the home. Which brings to question – how can fathers model their behavior to empower their daughters and empower their sons towards healthier views of gender? What views do Latino men as fathers hold on masculinity that could be obstacles, barriers or cycles to our mental wellness and wellness of others?
In the Latino community, embedded in nuestra cultura is machismo. Machismo includes negative social norms that are aggressive, sexist, chauvinistic and include displays of hyper-masculine attitudes and behaviors. Evident in Latin American music and media – news, television shows and movies, are displays of machismo perpetuating harmful gender roles and stereotypes we see daily and so do our children, girls and boys. Domestic violence, a social issue in the Latino community is rooted in unhealthy masculinity as well. Dissecting machismo and extracting a more positive concept like caballerismo – where hard work, protection of one’s family and friends need to be explored and perhaps be the positive focus in our community vs. the negativity of machismo.
One unhealthy masculinity belief and a machismo high-risk behavior is when men do not visit health care practitioners or doctors, therapists for reproductive health advice and exams, physical and mental health issues because it is associated with ‘weakness’ and vulnerability. Self-care can be the most empowering thing men can do for ourselves AND families. Embracing vulnerability is not easy, but necessary.
Many men from an early childhood are told to be ‘brave’ signaling that any vulnerabilities or weaknesses are not acceptable. Internalizing and deferring feelings can be harmful in the long run. Today, young boys, our sons and men in general, can express themselves more freely, find healthy outlets to share feelings and gain self-awareness through the process. In addition, young boys must learn to engage their behaviors towards the opposite sex differently to see girls and women as human beings and worthy of respect and equality. Treating women and everyone with equality in mind.
Film by Promundo
When men are engaged in gender equality – men’s lives improve as a result, they become happier and live longer.
As a society in whole, much needs to be done to support men as fathers, including education and awareness of parental leave policies and more work-sponsored parental programs for fathers. More on this later on LatinoDad.
As stated in the Promundo film, “Men change when we change the world around them.”
For fathers, it can definitely start at home.