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SPAIN: Carnival (carnaval) in Spain - sex inversion

After all the posting about tattoos, we come to cross-dressing at carnival, which, as John Heelan points out, has received the scholarly treatment tattoos await: "David Gilmore's study Carnival & Culture -sex, symbol & status in Spain (Yale University .Press, 1998) addresses in some detail the question of carnival sex inversion in Spain. He suggests that the practice shows an ambivalent relationship to women, especially to the mother. It is a mixture of misogyny and reverence with sometimes gender identity undertones.

Gilmore emphasises the dominance of the Andalusian mother over the rearing of her male and female children, with little assistance from the father, resulting in an ambiguous relationship between son and mother. The son has an undying love tempered with a strong resistance to the role of the mother as a "power base". He comments "The resultant hypermasculine displays of machismo may be regarded in this light as "masculine protest... against inherent feminine wishes and identification retained from infancy" (p.80).

RH: All this sounds dubious to me. Cross-dressing occurs in all societies, so is Gilmore's explanation universal? The correlation between cross-dressing and machismo seems to me odd. Oh, well. This is cultural anthropology.

Ronald Hilton - 8/6/03