When Gabriela Godinez-Feregrino went to a fraternity party her freshman year, she was called “chica” and “mami” by white men. Eventually someone grabbed her inappropriately, and she left the party.
“Most of the objectification that I’ve experienced comes from white men,” Godinez-Feregrino, a senior studying integrated media, said.
Some Latino students and faculty have experienced a machista culture at Ohio University. Machista culture is defined as a culture with strong sense of masculine pride, according to Merriam Webster. Machista is synonymous with machismo, as machista is its adjective. Students and faculty are also using more inclusive terms to include nonbinary latinos such as “Latinx.”
The most machismo Godinez-Feregrino has experienced has come from white people and not in the Latino community, she said. She said machismo can be found in every culture because of the “sheer nature of the patriarchy.”
“It’s hard talking to people who you feel look like your father or your cousin or your next door neighbor and have them be sexist,” Godinez-Feregrino said. “Because while you feel like you might have found a brother in somebody, you ended up being just, ‘well that’s one less person who looks like me that I want to hang out with.’ ”
Godinez-Feregrino also experienced fetishism for both her Latin and bisexual identities. A part of machista culture includes moments when straight men sexually objectify women. Straight men would fetishize Godinez-Feregrino’s bisexual identity and suggest threesomes, and people who identify as LGBT would also fetishize her brownness.
“Definitely being a Latina, ... there’s always a chance you’re going to be fetishized for that,” Godinez-Feregrino said. “Like if you have your own porn category, you’re going to be fetishized no matter what.”
Daniel Torres, a Spanish professor at OU, left Puerto Rico in 1984 because of the machista culture. Torres said machismo was everywhere — in his family, in the university and also at social gatherings such as at church.
“It has gotten better and I guess I’ve gotten wiser, but I think it’s an intricate part of culture,” Torres said. “In a way I believe that I am a survivor of it.”
Machista and patriarchal societies have certain expectations of people and what it wants people to be, Torres said. It is expected of men to be in control of things, and he questioned that. As an openly gay man, it’s hard to fit within these expectations, Torres said.
When he first came to OU in 1990, one problem he saw was the idea of the “old boys’ club.” An old boys’ club is an institution or profession dominated by men, according to English Oxford Living Dictionaries.
delfin bautista, the adviser for Latino Student Union and the director of the LGBT Center, has advocated for more conversations on sexuality and gender. bautista, who uses they/them pronouns and the lowercase spelling of their name, has met some resistance because there is a discomfort when talking about sexuality in Hispanic culture.
“We don’t talk about sexuality,” bautista said. “You don’t rock the boat. Any topic that rocks the boat, you can’t talk about it.”
That discomfort is starting to shift as groups discuss using more inclusive language, such as using the term “Latinx” instead of ”Latinos.” Latinx also refers to a person of Latin American origin or descent but is used as a gender-neutral or nonbinary alternative to Latino or Latina, according to English Oxford Living Dictionaries.
People first used the “@” symbol in the term as “Latin@” as a way of combining the “o” and the “a” at the end of Latino or Latina to be more inclusive and recognize that masculinity and femininity should be equal. Some people, however, thought the “@” symbol reinforced a gender binary.
“What about folks that don’t live within that binary?” bautista said. “The ‘x’ has started to be used as a way of disrupting that and trying to be more inclusive to folks who live outside of a gender binary.”
Erick Meza, president of Latino Student Union, said he never thought about the word “Latinx” until college.
“In Spanish, anything that ends in an ‘o’ is masculine, but I never really thought about that,” Meza said. “It’s like saying ‘Latinos,’ you could be Latino and be a female and male. But I never thought that it would make people uncomfortable or make people not see it that way. … Having Latinx, I understand is more inclusive, but I didn’t really think much of it.”
The Latino Student Union decided to keep its name because some members decided Latino could be an umbrella term for everyone, Meza said.
bautista hopes the organization continues to revisit the issue and make the usage of “Latinx” a recurring conversation.
“We have a moment to be revolutionary and radical,” bautista said.