Though humans are characterized as being particularly vain species, there are other superficial creatures. The peacock, for example, wows ladies with its enormous and extravagant tail. The multicolored plumage of the peacock offers a classical example of sexual selection as females swoon for the most ostentatious. But the bigger and more extravagant is only better up to a point: if the ornament becomes too large and colorful, it may become too heavy to carry. Or it may attract new predators. Or even both. As the saying goes, the pride comes before the fall as an advantage becomes the handicap. The masculine persona adopted by peacocks determines the speed of the evolutionary wheel for this bird: being the most masculine could help you prosper or flounder. That does not stop peacocks from perpetuating the cycle because in its long history, masculinity works to its advantage. Unsurprisingly, the story of the macho personality in peacocks manifests itself in the human story.
The Spanish term Machismo is used to describe this excessive masculinity that subscribes to the belief that males enjoy superiority over females. There have been many layers of meaning attached to chauvinism and macho personalities based on context and culture. For those who are quick to dismiss gender inequality as being a figment of sociological pressures, they are ignorant to the reality that gender roles are often universal and timeless.
Humans are apart of the biosphere and not above it. Therefore, evolutionary biologists believe that like peacocks use their tails to attract mates, people seek to spread a maximum number of their genes to the next generation. Physiologically speaking, men and women differ in many respects: for all intents and purposes, men can impregnate an unlimited number of sex partners throughout his life, while females conceive a limited number. In his book Our Inner Ape, primatologist Frans Waal explains that this unlimited potential to procreate for men and their bombastic libidos can be a disadvantage. After all, when a woman gives birth, everybody knows who the mother is. But, there is no insurance policy as to who is the father. From that perspective, men have always been sexually jealous. The nuclear family became advantageous for the human race because it was the most effective way of insuring security for the females and a way to pass genes for males.
How does this play into the macho personality? Evolutionarily speaking, machismo is rooted in entitlement. Men have to sacrifice their own unlimited potential in order to provide security for the female. As civilizations evolved, macho personalities and assigned gender roles webbed out into different facets of life, but the popular trend was that women became increasingly domesticated, while the males were deciders. As this system became concretized through culture, tradition, religion, and institutions, gender roles became increasingly identified. The idea that males and females are not equal is true: historically and physiologically, they have never been. But, macho personalities believe that it means males are more entitled to rule because they are more independent and stronger than their female counterparts.
Machismo still exists. Its development remains mostly due to socialization as gender roles are internalized and accepted. Gender archetypes perpetuate aggressiveness in males and passiveness in females. It reinforces the access of power to males and subject of power in females. It remains acceptable in many societies for males to physically and sexually abuse females in order to reinforce their dominance over females or, often times, reducing females to proxies by using women to get back at other men.
[ad#downcont]In many societies, the gender roles are shifting. Women and men alike are challenging basic premises’ and assumptions of gender roles. Women are kicking down more doors of power and academia. The rise of metro sexuality challenges common gender identities. Macho personalities are not going away, but machismo is being exposed as hollow.