- Changing Men and Masculinities in Latin America
Changing Men and Masculinities in Latin America is an innovative work in a still-emerging field whose contributors reflect "the diversity of approaches to the study of men and masculinities in Latin America" (2). Among the authors are nine anthropologists, three historians, one specialist in gender studies, one in sexuality studies, and one who is chair of a university department of sociomedical sciences. In addition, nine of the sixteen are from the region and thus offer a Latin American perspective.
The first two articles in the volume provide an introduction and a review of contemporary perspectives on masculinity. Subsequent articles are grouped into three categories: five appear under the heading "Urban Men and Masculinities," five under the heading "Representations and Practices," and four under the heading "Sexuality and Paternity." The articles run the gamut from gender identity among Peruvian males to rape and politics in Argentina and child rearing among Chilean fathers. All the articles were written or revised specifically for this volume and follow upon a conference on "Male Friendship and Homosociality in Latin America" held at Brown University in April 2001. Stanley Brandes delivers this book's underlying thesis when he quotes from editor Matthew C. Gutmann's 1996 book on the meaning of macho: "There exists no stable set of determining and essential gender qualities that can adequately capture the situation for the region [Mexico and Latin America] as a whole; relentlessly emergent gender variations see to that" (174). This volume does not attempt to synthesize research in order to espouse a new theory on masculinity. Instead it describes these variations and all their complexities.
The articles offer a diversity of methodologies and writing styles. Some are based upon literary analysis, others on personal interviews, archival research, and epidemiological studies. Some articles utilize the MLA and others the Chicago style of footnotes and citations, which can be confusing if one is looking for references. This eclectic mix, which is intentional, is the source of the book's strengths as well as its weaknesses. [End Page 102]
The eclecticism is a strength because the authors seek to dispel, as Gutmann says, "some of the more outrageous (and racist) generalizations about men and women in Latin America" (12). One such generalization involves reliance upon dichotomies: active/passive, macho/maricón, even masculinity/femininity. "Masculinity is not an essential or static quality but a historical manifestation, a social construction and cultural creation," writes Mara Viveros Vigoya in her article "Contemporary Latin American Perspectives on Masculinity" (37). She emphasizes the need to link the study of masculinity to questions of race, ethnicity, and class as well as economic and political transformations occurring in the region. This leads to what she refers to as multiple meanings of masculinity. Indeed, the articles identify many different "masculinities." In "Melandros, María Lionza, and Masculinity in a Venezuelan Shantytown" Francisco Ferrández mentions "wounded masculinity" in describing why E.H., a melandro, or street-smart thug, of a Venezuelan shantytown, felt he had to take revenge on the man who had beaten his mother. In "Barbudos, Warriors, and Rotos: The MIR, Masculinity, and Power in the Chilean Agrarian Reform, 1965-74" Florencia E. Mallon identifies "revolutionary masculinity," "transgressive masculinity," and "hegemonic masculinity." Within these categories she further distinguishes "hegemonic revolutionary masculinity" and "transgressive working-class masculinity." In "Men at Home: Child Rearing and Housekeeping among Chilean Working-Class Fathers" José Olavarría also uses the term "hegemonic masculinity." These authors, like Meno, when asked by Socrates to define virtue, reply with a swarm of meanings. Some readers, like Socrates, may be dismayed that they cannot find one single meaning for the term "masculinity." While that is a worthy goal, this book provides much of the information about the varieties and complexities of the term that must be understood before any consistent definition can emerge.
Another strength of this volume is its recognition of the dynamic nature of the concept of masculinity. Articles in the second...