Writing Rights Ltd
Journalist, Campaigner, Director of Writing Rights
This article was originally published on the website of the Hay Festival - here.
“Men are not born men, they are turned into men,” said the author and journalist, referring to the socialisation of young boys, often characterised by cruelty and repression. She rejected gender essentialism, on the grounds that science has disproven ideas of inbuilt masculinity: “There is no machista chip in the brain.”
Cacho spoke about the toxic effects of this socialisation for how men relate to women, as well as other men: “Men are afraid of other men, particularly in Mexico.” She criticised the excuses given to men for misogyny and aggression, like loss of control or being a ‘man of one’s time’: “It often just means they are supermachista.”
#EllosHablan is Cacho’s 14th book: a collection of detailed interviews with men from a variety of social, religious, and ideological backgrounds. These men anonymously shared their experiences of maleness and manhood, from childhood onwards: when they were first told they were male, when they became ‘boys’, what that meant to them – and what it means for them now.
Cacho explained how she had decided to remove herself from the narrative as interviewer, leaving only the voices of her interviewees. This was key in a context where they have felt unable to speak, silenced by the expectation that men do not articulate suffering or vulnerability: “Machismo closes its doors to those to open up,” she said.
When asked by Lafuente whether she was optimistic, the author described the often-moving emotional development she saw in her interviewees: “The hope lies in men talking more.”
Only one month ago, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that Cacho’s own human rights had been violated by the Mexican State in 2003 when she suffered arbitrary detention, torture, and gender-based violence following the publication of her book, ‘Demons of Eden’, an exposé of child exploitation in the state of Quintana Roo.
“This book constitutes a question: how will we do it? How will we overcome this power?”