Casalcalle Distinction

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CasalCalle Distinction

Traditional gender ideology is more difficult to document than many of the structural changes analyzed thus far, because it is rooted in women's dual productive/reproductive role. Traditionally, women are charged with primary responsibility for domestic chores and child care, whereas men are designated as the primary breadwinners. Designating men as primary breadwinners maintains male control over female labor and creates separate spheres in which women are confined to the private sphere while men control the public one of work and politics.

The public-private split in Western industrial society is even stronger in Latin America and the Hispanic Caribbean and dates back to the Spanish colonial casalcalle distinction, fostered by Catholicism, whereby women were relegated to the home and men to the street as a way of maintaining family honor and female virginity. This distinction was never fully followed by the poor and subordinated ethnic groups such as African slaves and indigenes, among whom women had to work to contribute to the family's survival, but it was upheld as the norm, and women's wage work came to be even more stigmatized than in more ethnically homogeneous industrializing countries because of its close association with these subordinated groups. For example, in Cuba in 1899, one year after U.S. occupation, nearly three quarters of all women wage earners, most employed in domestic service, were colored, although people of color composed only a third of the population (Perez, 102).

As more women began to enter the labor force and elite women were educated for professions such as teaching and nursing, the stigma of women's wage labor began to fade, but the boundaries between casa and calle or private and public spheres have not been eroded to the same extent as in advanced industrial societies, despite variation with class and race. The norm of the male breadwinner is so strong that even among the working class it remains the ideal, relegating women to the role of supplementary wage earners. This reflects socioeconomic differences such as the limited and more recent incorporation of women, particularly married women, into the labor force in Latin America as compared with the advanced industrial countries. It also reflects cultural differences rooted in gender ideology. Patriarchal laws championing the man as provider and protector still prevail in many Latin American countries, whereas the rights of women to divorce or equality before the law and to family planning or abortion are very limited. The patriarchal family is upheld by the patriarchal state, which is committed to the maintenance of certain gender, racial, and class hierarchies.

Even in Cuba, the Latin American country where the most radical measures have been undertaken to establish gender equality, women's domestic or reproductive role continues to be emphasized. For example, women are still barred from certain hazardous jobs for fear that the work will endanger their reproductive capacity, and until recently only women could take leave from their jobs to tend to hospitalized family members. The Family Code, though mandating the sharing of responsibility within the household, ...