Gender Roles in Mexico

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Gender Roles in Mexico
This essay explores a number of issues relating to Gender Roles in Mexico. I have tried throughout to maintain an academic tone and reference accordingly, but in reality this is a reflective piece on a subject about which I feel strongly, and I’m sure it will read as such. In terms of research, I have used a combination of academic texts, a group interview and my own experience. The interview was conducted in a conversational manner with three Mexican women. They are all university students between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two, from reasonably well off families, and as such I cannot claim that they are in any way representative of the Mexican population as a whole. One of the points raised during the interview was the idea that, while Mexico still has a long way to go in terms of gender parity, things are in a constant state of change. For this reason I decided to investigate some of the historical developments that have created the situation we see today. Gender roles, and more generally the family unit, are deeply ingrained within Mexican society, and whole volumes could be written about their origins and development. The analysis here, however, will be restricted to two policy changes during the 20th century which have been identified by feminist scholars as particularly important in shaping the norms that define the modern Mexican family. Vaughan (2000) notes that during the first half of the twentieth century Mexico was relatively progressive in throwing off nineteenth century patriarchy. She cites a worldwide trend away from a completely male centric model towards a more modern archetype, in order to cope with seismic changes in the global economic system. Jargon aside, it was recognized that basic levels of education and agency for women were now an economic necessity rather than a high minded ideal. Mexico’s relative progress in this area, according to Vaughan, was due to a need to control and placate a rebellious peasantry. It’s important to note here that this was a change purely in policy, and not representative of popular opinion at the time, but it did provide the beginnings of a legal framework in which a degree of female emancipation was possible. We can perhaps see these themes continuing in modern Mexico, which to an outside observer could seem very progressive: many women in higher education, a female presidential candidate, but that does not necessarily have the underlying cultural values to match. A second policy event occurred in the late 1950s, when a series of judges ruled in favour of women complaining against the treatment they had received from their in-laws (Varley 2000). Prior to this point, a married woman in Mexico became part of their new husband’s family; it was common for married couples to live with the husband’s parents, and in many cases women were treated as little more than servants. This ruling at first glance appears to give women greater agency, and to a certain extent that is true, but as Varley points out, it has also helped to define and strengthen the nuclear family that is so central in Mexican society today. This family structure in turn solidifies gender roles and has made further emancipation more difficult. Academic works such as the two cited above can often lose connection with the real world as their authors theorise and pontificate It should also be noted that neither are written by Mexican scholars and that feminist theory is one of the academic areas that has suffered the most from outside academics misinterpreting what they see in other countries . As such, their conclusions should be taken with a certain pinch of salt. However, I do think that the trends that these events helped to initiate can be seen in society today: an outward progressivity underpinned by some very conservative ideals and an overwhelming emphasis on the nuclear family unit. With the historical background addressed, albeit briefly, how then can we characterize the...
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