Machismo Is Dead

Recently by Fred Reed: Vote?

I was delighted this morning to see a video on in which it was revealed that high-school students do not know what countries border on the United States, or how many states there are in what we think of, somewhat dubiously, as “the Union.” Decay and hopelessness warm a curmudgeon’s heart.

Regarding Mexico (which, for readers under thirty, borders on the US) I have noticed that many Americans seem to think that it is a land of machismo and oppression of women. This view is lovingly held by feminists, who really ought to find something better to do with their time. I like to think the worst of people and countries, and certainly it is the way to bet, but occasionally even a curmudgeon must submit to the predations of truth. The truth is that machismo is well on its way out. And good riddance, since it really was obnoxious.

The news yesterday was that the Partido de Acción Nacional, one of Mexico’s three main political parties, has nominated Josefina Vásquez Mota, decidedly a woman, as its presidential candidate. The US has yet to try such a dangerous course. I note that in Latin America, a region thought to be rotten with male chauvinism, Argentina has had a female chief executive (twice, Isabel Peron and Christina Fernadez Kirchner), Chile once (Michelle Bachelet), Brazil currently (Dilma Rousseff), and Costa Rica currently (Laura Chinchilla). So have England, Germany, the Philippines, India and, for God’s sake, Pakistan.

Now, it would be unreasonable to expect people who do not know where Mexico is to know much of social conditions in that country. (Over the years I have noticed that readers of this patch of the Internet know much more of the world than the boobitry at large, so I will direct this column at those of the puzzled who want to unpuzzle themselves.) By way of preliminary enlightenment, not all Mexicans sleep beneath tall cactuses while a burro waits patiently nearby. Most do, yes, but not all. There is a thriving market in plastic cactuses, to give people a place to sleep. And to answer a characteristically idiotic question I once received, “Does Mexico, you know, like have paved roads?” yes. Cars run on them.

But machismo. Both my stepdaughter Natalia, and my wife Violeta, report that when they are in the US, feminists try to extract from them tales of harrowing mistreatment in Mexico. They find this annoying and insulting.

I asked Natalia, Do you encounter discrimination in university, or for that matter anywhere else? “No.” I asked Violeta the same question. “No.” Thirty years ago, the answer would have been otherwise. This isn’t thirty years ago. You can find residual prejudice and dimwitted roostery among the very poor, but you need to hurry.

OK, gang. Pop quiz. Take out a sheet of paper. Which of the above is the victim of oppression? Hint: The one with Natalia on the right is the wrong answer.

I live in Jocotepec, a comparatively backward farming community (berries). Too many of the girls here get married at fourteen, to swains of sixteen, after which neither goes anywhere in life because they immediately have a baby. This is unfortunate, though changing, but it doesn’t involve discrimination against the girls. It’s just stupid.

When machismo flourished, women might have ten children. The husband measured his manhood by the number of his unrequested gifts to posterity, as if copulation were a rare and extraordinary talent. This has changed sharply. Google on “Mexican birth rate.” It has dropped like a prom dress.

I know quite a few women, not from rich families, who have six to ten siblings, but only two children of their own. If asked why, they give the usual answers common in much of the world. You can raise two well or ten badly. With two kids, you can have a nice house, but with ten you stay poor. If a man ever had a baby, he wouldn’t ask why women don’t want to have ten of them. Violeta attributes much of the crop to women’s lib. Today a woman can say, No, uh-uh, done that twice, enough. Among the large and growing middle class, they don’t have to say it. Almost everywhere, the best contraceptive is a good paycheck.

Sometimes it is a good idea to have a bit of perspective. Many countries exist which live up to the feminists’ horror stories of mistreatment. Mexico just isn’t one of them. Many Moslem countries engage in the genital mutilation of women. The idea would never occur to anyone here. In many Moslem countries, girls aren’t allowed to go to school. In Mexico, they are required to. In various countries, women have to wear black bags and cannot drive or even go out unchaperoned. Not a trace of this exists in Mexico.

Observably where I live, girls pour into the universities and then into the professions. They are not doing it by fighting courageously to overcome opposition from evil men. None I know reports any opposition at all. Natalia had a 97% average in high school and blew away the entrance exam, so the university gave her a 70% scholarship. If this is discrimination against girls, I’m a ham sandwich.

I can’t produce statistics on women in the professions in Mexico. Anecdotes, yes. My immigrations lawyer is female, as is the other one commonly used by expats. In eight years, I and my family have been to four dentists, three of them women; two ophthalmologists, men; two dermatologists, women; two optometrists, one a woman; a cardiologist, a man; a neurologist, a woman; an oral surgeon, a man; a male doctor and a female pharmacist. Again, anecdotal, but hardly representing an exclusion of women from medicine, which is a profession of high status. Machismo is a difficult thing to maintain in the presence of large numbers of female professionals.

As far as I can tell, Mexican women have thus far avoided the hostile, often Lesbian-driven feminism of the American sort, in which women look for slights as a barnyard hen pecks after bugs. I hear some of it on the radio, coming out of the University of Guadalajara. Maybe it will take hold. There is plenty of it among expat gringas here. Yet a female Mexican dentist seems to regard herself as a dentist and a woman, not as a gender warrioress constantly on patrol.

A little attention to a neighbor, please. Yes, Mexico has paved roads, and no, doctors don’t cure disease by sacrificing chickens, and kids have smartphones and steal music like everybody else and have rock bands and no, girls aren’t enslaved or imprisoned or kept in academic beknightedness. Just ain’t so.

Fred Reed is author of Nekkid in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well, A Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Bem, Curmudgeing Through Paradise: Reports from a Fractal Dung Beetle, Au Phuc Dup and Nowhere to Go: The Only Really True Book About Viet Nam, and A Grand Adventure: Wisdom’s Price-Along with Bits and Pieces about Mexico. Visit his blog.