Marianismo is the inverse or female equivalent of machismo in Latin American folk culture, that is it is the embodiment of the feminine rather than the masculine. It is the cult of feminine superiority. Evelyn Stevens states: "it teaches that women are semi divine, morally superior to and spiritually stronger than men." The ideas within marianismo are that of feminine passivity and sexual purity, but are not exclusive to these ideas. There is power in marianismo that stems from the female ability to produce life.

This term supposedly derives from Catholic beliefs of the Virgin Mary as both a virgin and a madonna. According to the New Testament, she was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. She was eventually given the title Mother of God, thus a subject of veneration and admiration. From this is derived the idea that an ideal woman should be spiritually immaculate and eternally giving.

This ideal woman is emotional, kind, instinctive, whimsical, docile, compliant, vulnerable, and unassertive. She has a higher status in the community if she has children and is a caring mother. She is also pious and observant of religious laws.

A common tendency in "marianismo" is that the wife or woman is to remain sexually pure and abstain from sexual activity unless explicitly for becoming impregnated. The male wants a "Marķa" for a wife- to raise his children and be a spiritually pure and submissive example, but he is also free to express his "machismo" in having side romances in which his masculinity can be conveyed.

Origin of the term

"Marianismo" comes from the Virgin Mary (or "Maria"). It is the supposed ideal of true femininity that women are supposed to live up to--i.e. being modest, virtuous, and sexually abstinent until marriage--and then being faithful and subordinate to their husbands. In essence, "marianismo" is the female counterpart to "machismo," and as such, probably originated during the time of the Spanish conquest.Marianismo: Origin and Meaning

"Marianismo was first used by Elsa Chaney in an article by that name. It was in direct response to the male word machismo and was meant to explain this interesting female phenomenon in Latin America in which women were either saints or whores."Marianismo: Origin and Meaning

"In their book "The Maria Paradox: How Latinas can merge old world traditions with new world self-esteem" (1996, G. P. Putnam), Rosa Maria Gil & Carmen Inoa Vazquez suggest that the concept of marianismo was first discussed in the academic literature in a 'ground-breaking essay written by Evelyn P. Stevens in 1973' and that it has also been further discussed by academicians such as Sally E. Romero, Julia M. Ramos-mcKay, Lillian Comas-Diaz, and Luis Romero. In their book, Gil & Vazquez use it as applicable across a variety of Latino/a cultures."

Marianismo: Origin and Meaning

"There have been some responses in the literature to the concept of marianismo that point out that its model of/for women's behavior is very class-based. In other words, the rather sheltered existence, with men doing the hard work, etc. in exchange for the pedestal that women are supposedly on, is a life that rarely exists, particularly for the majority of peasant, poor and working class women that make up the population of Latin America. Remembering Stevens' article, most of her data came from middle class Mexican women."Marianismo: Origin and Meaning

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