From a historical perspective, violence against women and the LGBTQIA+ community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, and “+” for other possible associated identities) in Chile has presented itself and been understood in different ways. On the one hand, we have to take into consideration what Maria Lugones has named the “coloniality of gender” and how racism, sexism, and heteronormativity was installed from the colonial period onward, promoting specific violences against indigenous, black, lesbian, and trans women. Additionally, for a great deal of time, from roughly the colonial period until the 1990s, it was considered completely acceptable to use violence in the family and in intimate partner relationships to “correct” and punish women and girls. The Pinochet dictatorship (1973–1990) also adds another dimension to this discussion, as women were affected by gendered and sexualized state terrorism. However, the reappearance of strong women’s and feminist groups during the dictatorship also signaled a profound questioning of these types of gender violence, linking it to patriarchal structures and the need for democracy “in the country” and “in the home.” A similar effect was achieved by the emergence of LGBTQIA+ groups from the 1980s on, as they questioned the historic violence, hate crimes, and discrimination against gay men, lesbians, and, more recently, trans people. In both cases, then, pressures from social movement groups have forced the post-dictatorship Chilean state to pass laws and promote anti-violence public policy. For better and for worse, however, those anti-violence initiatives that have been most successful, in terms of visibility and public policy coverage, have generally centered on violences experienced by white-mestiza, cishet, urban women, particularly those that survive family violence. Historiographies on violence against women and the LGBTQIA+ community are relatively scarce, although there has been increased production in the last ten years, especially around the topics of women survivors of family or intimate partner violence and women survivors of torture and political prison.
Inés Pérez and Elizabeth Hutchison
The regulation of labor relations and social rights substantially changed workers’ lives over the course of the 20th century. Domestic service, however, was only poorly and belatedly protected under labor law, and its incorporation proceeded in a slow, ambiguous, and nonlinear manner. The specific ways in which domestic service regulation emerged in Chile and Argentina, respectively, offer insight into this process and also present some important contrasts, despite the nations’ geographic proximity. In Chile, although the rights recognized for household workers were limited, the Labor Code of 1931 included an article on domestic service. In Argentina, the first comprehensive regulation for this sector was a special statute sanctioned by decree in 1956. In both cases, the “special” nature of such regulation was attributed to the place of domestic service in family life. As domestic labor was reconceptualized through legislative reform in each country, household workers gradually came to enjoy some, but not all, of the rights guaranteed to other workers.
The 1960s in Argentina was a time convulsed by profound social, cultural, and political changes. Reflecting on the effect these processes had on the everyday, conceived as the spaces and routines involved in the reproduction of life that vary according to social class, generation, and gender, provides a valuable perspective for studying historical phenomena. It gives substance to and evidences the social nature of personal experience. Through that prism, the study of everyday life will be the gateway to understanding the turbulence produced by cultural effervescence, growing consumerism, the expansion of the media, the problems triggered by economic instability and escalating inflation, and the ruptures caused by political and social radicalization and the rise of repressive violence.
Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney
The official histories of family planning and reproductive rights in Chile started in the 1960s, with initiatives by Chilean doctors to reduce maternal mortality due to self-induced abortions; Chilean women’s mobilization for rights surged in the 1970s, and the concept of reproductive rights became the focus within health policy debates only by the 1990s. Specific Chilean political developments shaped these trajectories, as did global paradigm changes, including the politicization of fertility regulation as a subject of the Cold War. These same trajectories also generated new understandings of reproductive rights and women’s rights. The goals of preventing abortions and maternal mortality, of controlling population size, and of protecting families all contributed to the public endorsement of family planning programs in the 1960s. Medical doctors and health officials in Chile collaborated with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and founded the first Chilean family planning institution, the Association for the Protection of the Family (APROFA). Since 1965, APROFA, affiliated with the IPPF, has remained the primary institution that makes family planning available to Chilean women and couples.
The concept of “reproductive rights” is relatively new, globally, and in its specific national representation in Chile; questions of women’s rights gained unprecedented international prominence after the United Nation’s designation of the International Women’s Year (IWY) in 1975. International conferences, and the extension of IWY to a Decade for Women between 1975 and 1985, stimulated debates about policy norms that linked human rights, women’s rights, and the right to health to nascent definitions of reproductive rights. Just as international gatherings provided platforms for debates about rights, unparalleled human rights violations under military rule (1973–1990) interrupted the lives of Chilean citizens. Women in Chile protested the dictatorship, mobilized for democracy in their country and their homes, and added reproductive rights to the list of demands for democratic restructuring after the end of dictatorship. While family planning programs largely survived the changes of political leadership in Chile, the dictatorship dealt a lasting blow to quests for reproductive rights. The military’s re-drafted Constitution of 1980 not only compromised effective political re-democratization, but also imposed such changes as the end of therapeutic abortions, which have remained at the center of political activism against reproductive rights violations in the 21st century.
Supported by a multiclass alliance including the working class and some sectors of industry and the military, Juan Domingo Perón’s government (1946–1955) industrialized the country, modernized and expanded the state, transformed local and national politics, empowered the labor unions, and substantially improved the standard of living. Perón combined a strong nationalistic and anti-oligarchic discourse with concrete material benefits like high wages, the expansion and consolidation of the retirement system, paid vacations, housing subsidies, and full employment that ensured the political support of large sectors of the working population. Like the workers, various other traditionally disenfranchised social sectors took center stage. The very poor became the main beneficiaries of the charities run by first lady Eva Perón; women won the right to vote with a law passed in 1947 and were mobilized and politicized by the Peronist Party; and children were recognized by the government as the true heirs of the new Argentina built by Peronism and thus subject to co-optation and indoctrination. At the same time, internal migrants, attracted by the promises of a better life and industrial employment, left the countryside and small towns in the interior for the cities, propelling a profound process of urbanization. The cultural, social, political, and economic changes that marked the Peronist years had major consequences for gender relations, roles, and identities, transforming the ways of being a man or a woman in mid-twentieth-century Argentina. Those changes profoundly reshaped discursive and symbolic representations of masculinities as well as social and cultural expectations of manhood across different social classes while creating the political, social, and economic conditions that facilitated the transformation of masculinity as a lived, everyday experience.
María Stella Toro
Right-wing women in Chile have received relatively little historical attention, and while they have engaged in many public activities, they have usually been seen as a complementary political force, lacking independent agency and relying on directions from party leaders. This perception is related to the denials that such women usually make of their own impacts, justifying their presence in the public arena as an “obligation” to mobilize for the welfare of others, in this case, family and country. This sort of political engagement ebbs and flows according to particular political circumstances, evoking symbols, images, and discourses that have been used at different times. One example is the way that women took to banging on empty pots during the marches against the Popular Unity (Unidad Popular) to express their discontent and their inability to properly care for their families.
The triumph of the Popular Unity coalition in the 1970 elections, led by socialist Salvador Allende, was met with dogged opposition from conservative women who took to the streets even before Allende’s victory was ratified in Congress. Between 1970 and 1973, women involved with political parties and right-wing ideas mobilized both in the streets and in the media; as in the case of EVA magazine, organizing spaces were configured under the discourse that, as mothers and housewives, they were called to defend the country from Marxism, suggesting that women were “naturally” endowed to protect the freedom and democracy that they believed was threatened by a leftist government. Such activism, however, was rooted in a sense of emergency and was never intended to be long-lasting, and it ended abruptly after the 1973 military coup.
The actions of right-wing women raise various questions, particularly regarding the political subjectivities that they constructed, their motivations, their political conceptions, and their self-conceptions. These questions, among others, help us understand Chilean women beyond the traditional roles that they struggled so hard to preserve. The idea that their activism was solely a response to the manipulation of other political forces does not explain the complexity of the processes developed by conservative women or their presence in different historical moments. Thus, it is important to reflect on the inherently political characteristics of their engagement, notwithstanding their consistent denials of partisan considerations.
In the first half of the 20th century, Uruguay was a relatively educated, democratic, and politically progressive South American country, and women there used old and new media for professional and political ends. Radical, Catholic, and liberal feminist women all utilized print media to promote their views and build support for their respective causes in publications aimed at both female and general audiences. Anarchist feminist María Collazo, for example, edited an important publication, La Batalla, from 1915 to approximately 1927. By the late 1920s, radio was an emerging mass medium, and women activists, journalists, and others sought to make their voices heard, literally and figuratively, on its airwaves. Starting in 1935, those airwaves included Radio Femenina, the first all-woman format radio station in the Western Hemisphere. One of the voices heard on Radio Femenina was Dra. Paulina Luisi, Uruguay’s leading feminist activist, who became a powerful voice of both the Socialist Party and the politics of the Popular Front in the late 1930s and early 1940s.