International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 every year. However, gender equality is not possible in a society that has been suffering from the contagious disease called machismo.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, machismo means exaggerated pride in masculinity, perceived as power, often coupled with a minimal sense of responsibility and disregard of consequences.
In machismo there is supreme valuation of characteristics culturally associated with the masculinity and a denigration of characteristics associated with the feminine. It has dominated Latin American politics for centuries. Military dictators of Latin America have typified machismo with their authoritarian approach to government.
It is difficult to get rid of the problem of tobacco, alcohol and drugs because these things are interwoven with masculinity. They have become signatures of machismo as these destructive elements show I-don’t-care attitude which is a characteristic of machismo as it is “coupled with a minimal sense of responsibility and disregard of consequences”.
Machismo is indeed a contagious disease that can spread quickly. It causes nasty symptoms in a society. For example, Dalits have been killed for growing a moustache and riding a horse because the moustache is a biological and horse riding a traditional symbol of masculinity. If a society is obsessed with machismo then the powerful people want to have a monopoly over these symbols to exploit others.
The humorous Bengali poet, Sukumar Roy made a dig at machismo in his poem gonf churi (Missing Whiskers). His son Satyajit Ray translated the poem into English. In the poem a man became hysterical about his moustache and equated it with his identity. He even went on to declare that his moustache is his master ~ “What man is to Moustachio :/ Man is slave, Moustache is master,/ Losing which Man meets disaster!”
In this kind of a society, the size of one’s chest, the length of one’s moustache and the roughness of one’s voice can become signatures of authority.
Some men prefer speaking in an affected voice either for the fear of being bullied as effeminate persons or to command other’s attention. Vikram Seth in his poem ~ The Frog And The Nightingale ~ highlights how the disease of machismo can be deadly and regressive. In the poem, a nightingale that had a beautiful voice became a victim of machismo. To imitate the baritone of a frog, the nightingale first had to lose its voice and then its life into the bargain.
Now, let us listen to a part of the poem to realize how destructive machismo can become ~ Next night when the Nightingale Shook her head and twitched her tail, Closed an eye and fluffed a wing And had cleared her throat to sing She was startled by a croak. “Sorry – was that you who spoke?” She enquired when the frog Hopped towards her from the bog. “Yes,” the frog replied. “You see, I’m the frog who owns this tree In this bog I’ve long been known For my splendid baritone And, of course, I wield my pen For Bog Trumpet now and then” “Did you… did you like my song? ” “Not too bad – but far too long. The technique was fine of course, But it lacked a certain force”. “Oh! ” the nightingale confessed. Greatly flattered and impressed That a critic of such note Had discussed her art and throat: “I don’t think the song’s divine. But – oh, well – at least it’s mine”. “That’s not much to boast about”. Said the heartless frog. “Without Proper training such as I – And few others can supply. You’ll remain a mere beginner. But with me you’ll be a winner” “Dearest frog”, the nightingale Breathed: “This is a fairy tale – And you are Mozart in disguise Come to earth before my eyes”.
The poem shows how a person can easily get swayed by the macho pride to become so insensitive as even the nightingale herself can treat her own song with contempt for its feminine quality!
Contagious disease called machismo