Gender Roles in Hispanic Culture

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  • 0:04 What Does 'Hispanic' Mean?
  • 0:35 Machismo and Gender Roles
  • 1:08 Traditional Gender Roles
  • 2:17 Women's Position in Society
  • 3:20 Change in Society
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

You may have heard many stories about gender roles in Hispanic culture. In reality, no single story can describe the varied aspects of gender roles in Hispanic culture. Let's look at traditional gender roles and how they are changing in Hispanic culture.

What Does 'Hispanic' Mean?

The word Hispanic, as it is used in the U.S., includes all people who speak Spanish, both in Latin America and Spain. With such a large population, gender roles vary from country to country, but also from city to city. Moreover, gender roles can vary from family to family.

This means that the aspects we discuss in this lesson do not apply to every Hispanic person, nor to any country in particular. To understand the whole picture of gender roles, we'll need to start by learning a key word.

Machismo and Gender Roles

Have you heard that men in Hispanic culture are very machista? The word machista can be translated as 'sexist' or 'chauvinistic.' This word describes men who are representative of a social attitude called machismo, which means sexism or chauvinism. Men who are machista are mainly characterized by being arrogant and possessive toward women. This attitude diminishes the female gender.

As we continue, you'll see that this key term has a lot to do with gender roles in Hispanic culture.

Traditional Gender Roles

Andrés is Hispanic. Today, he's out in the garage cleaning his car, and he is showing his son how he can help. His daughter comes out and is excited about helping her dad as well. However, Andrés tells her she should not get dirty. When she offers to put on old clothes, Andrés tells her that cleaning the car is a job for boys, not girls. His daughter asks why. Andrés' response is that girls are for the house, and tells her to go help her mom in the kitchen.

This scene is still emblematic of some homes in Spanish-speaking countries. Let's not judge Andrés too fast, though. He used to hear the same sort of thing from his mom, who used to be alarmed when Andrés would ask if he could help her in the kitchen.

This attitude that separates gender roles is typical of machismo, which is a social behavior. Surprisingly, it's the mothers who usually encourage this behavior in their children. Men and women may not even be aware that their attitude is machista.

This attitude influences the way men and women live. While it's not as common nowadays, there are still many couples that think a woman should be a housewife, and a man should work and provide for the family. However, these couples are becoming less common in Hispanic culture.

Women's Position in Society

Now let's talk about some aspects that are affected by machismo. Because machismo implies a diminishing attitude toward women, it influences many spaces.

Let's meet Tania. She is a teacher in an elementary school. On the way to work, men sometimes call her 'beautiful' or tell her things like 'I would marry you right now.'

'Cat calling' is not uncommon in many Hispanic societies. Gender roles are beneath the source of this behavior because men might feel entitled to cat calling. This bothers Tania enormously, but there is little she can do to stop it.

At work, Simón, a male teacher, often compliments Tania very openly on her body. She hates this. One day, a female colleague tells Simón to stop harassing Tania because she's bothered by it. Simón laughs and assures her that Tania loves his compliments. Women who work can be victims of very aggressive harassment.

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