Mexican-American Women's Role And Sexuality After The 1920s

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Mexican-American Women's Role and Sexuality after the 1920s

Mexican-American Women's Role and Sexuality after the 1920s


This excerpt from the magazine Far Eastern Economic Review graphically captures the multifaceted discrimination and exploitation faced by women.  Processes of political and economic transformation that have changed the face of the world over the past decades have had a profound impact on the lives of women.  Many of these changes have been positive.  Some, however, have strengthened the bonds of subordination and discrimination against women, restricting them from enjoyment of their economic and social rights.  Internal conflicts and wars have led to displacement and destruction of property and livelihoods, which place women in an ever more vulnerable position.  Military conflict also results in an increase in violence and crime, and women and girls become particular targets.  Extremism and religious fundamentalism deny women's autonomy and subject them to the most cruel and inhuman of punishments for “transgression” of norms laid out by those in power within the hierarchies that rule these movements. 

The rapid globalization of the world's economies has brought in its wake not only structural adjustment programs that weaken national economies and nation-states, but also promotion of forms of industrialization and agriculture that are more exploitative of both human and natural resources.  Statistics show that the female labor force is the most affected.  In addition, as the poor of the world become poorer, women become the poorest of them all; the “feminization” of poverty is a reality in the contemporary world.  A decrease in social spending—for example, on public health, education, transport, food and fertilizer subsidies—has been a critical part of the “structural adjustment programs” imposed on many countries by the international financial institutions.

Separate Spheres Ideology

The original scholarship about separate spheres argued that in a private and domestic realm, women developed authority and female networks that provided both social and economic support. This sphere was distinct from men's spheres, which were largely public and often political. In the late 1970s, Barbara Welter and Carroll Smith-Rosenberg demonstrated the particular nature of women's spheres as domestic, pious, pure, and submissive, yet also affectionate and loving. Nancy Cott further showed that women had used traditionally female qualities to influence the world around them. In churches, health and moral reform, benevolent associations, abolition and women's rights organizations, and their homes, women found a “doctrine of woman's sphere” that was not only open to them but also reserved for them.“For women who previously held no particular avenue of power of their own - no unique defense of their integrity and dignity - this represented an advance,” Cott argued. The woman's sphere also contained “the preconditions for organized feminism, by allotting a 'separate' sphere for women and engendering sisterhood within that sphere.” Although some subsequent scholars interpreted the notion of separate as completely divergent, and therefore accused it of being an inaccurate description of gendered experiences, the original scholarship never intended to mark gender disconnection.

Despite such clarification by architects of and commentators on separate spheres, debate about the usefulness ...
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