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Gender and Sexuality in Brazil since Independence  

Sueann Caulfield and Cristiana Schettini

Over the past forty years, increasing attention to gender and sexuality in Brazilian historiography has given us a nuanced understanding of diverse ways in which women and men in Brazil’s past experienced patriarchy, racism, and other forms of oppression. As gender historians have shed light on how racialized and patriarchal gender and sexual roles have been reconstituted in different historical contexts, empirical studies in the field of social history have focused primarily on the historical agency of women, particularly non-elite women, who lived within or pushed against the confines of prescribed gender roles. Pioneering histories of sexual minorities have accompanied this trajectory since the 1980s, although this subfield has grown more slowly. A few nodal themes help to explain transformations in gender relations during each of the major periods of Brazil’s social and political history. Under the empire (1822–1889), honor is the entryway for analysis of gender and sexuality. Gendered standards of honor were critical tools used to mark class and racial boundaries, and to traverse them. Historians of the imperial period also stress the centrality of gender to the social, cultural, and economic networks built by members of various occupational, familial, and kinship groups. During the First Republic (1889–1930), the focus shifts to state vigilance and social control, together with debates over modernization of sexual and gender norms, particularly regarding urban space and prostitution. In the Vargas era (1930–1945), patriarchy and racialized sexuality formed the core of intellectual constructions of the nation’s history and identity, at the same time that homosexuality and women’s and worker’s rights generated intense debate. A new emphasis on domesticity emerged in the context of developmentalism in the 1950s, helping to spur a reaction in the form of the counterculture and sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. The dictatorship (1964–1985) went to great lengths to suppress challenges to gender and sexual norms as part of its broader strategy to demobilize society and repress oppositional political movements. These challenges reemerged in the 1970s, when feminists and sexual minorities gained much greater visibility within a new wave of social movements. The 1988 constitution articulated these movements’ aspirations for social justice and equality through its foundational principal of human dignity. Significant legal changes followed over subsequent decades, including recognition of equal labor rights for domestic and sex workers, affirmative-action policies, and the legalization of same-sex marriage, in 2011. Despite notable setbacks, the momentum toward gender and sexual equality at the start of the 21st century was remarkable. This momentum was halted by the political coup that ousted the first woman president in 2016. The anti-feminist mood that accompanied the impeachment process underscored an overarching theme that runs through the historiography of gender and sexuality in Brazil: the centrality of gender to the major legal and political shifts that mark the nation’s history.

Article

Gender, Sexuality, and Identity in 20th-Century Costa Rica  

Patricia Alvarenga

Proposals challenging male authority gained strength in Costa Rica during the 20th century and, especially at the turn of the 21st century, and questioned naturalized sexual and gender identities. The effects of these discursivities are varied. The experience of feminists, of middle-class women outside these discursivities, and of women of the subaltern classes demonstrate the plurality of meanings attributed to gender relations as filtered through subjective experience. The introduction of alternative identity proposals destabilizes the established parameters of sexual and gender identities, but, at the same time, produces new conservative discursivities that limit the potential for change. Two feminist movements, one that reached its peak in the 1920s and a second that arose in the final decades of the 20th century, brought about substantive changes in female identities, revealing the power relations that underlie the discursive representation of patriarchal power as eternal and immutable. An assessment of contemporary feminism based on the experiences of its protagonists shows the movement’s significant gains as well as the challenges and weaknesses it has faced over its history, the most important of which may be how to reach beyond the sphere of well-educated, heterosexual, middle-class women. In conclusion, public discourses that have politicized gender and sexuality in Costa Rica are creatively constituted in the social world, according to what changes appear attainable at different moments of history. Carved out by actors committed to change, these discourses have achieved substantive transformations in institutional structures and subjectivities. However, present experience shows clearly that every affirmation of identity is precarious, and that the gains achieved require the ongoing, active engagement of civil society.

Article

Women, Drugs, and Violence in Sinaloa  

Elaine Carey and Patricia Figueroa

As the United States approaches the fiftieth anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s war on drugs and Mexico is going through the second decade of its war on drugs, the costs and ever-escalating violence are difficult to ignore. Despite the arrests, extraditions, and successful prosecutions of leaders of drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), the trillion dollars that have been spent in the United States and Mexico have done little to undermine the drug demand in the United States or protect Mexican citizens from increasing violence. With former Mexican president Felipe Calderon’s declaration of his own drug war, women have borne the increasing brunt of that violence. Certain women benefit from the lucrative drug trade due to their families’ involvement. Throughout the 20th century, women developed DTOs, but women have always had to fear violence from male competitors and law enforcement. Yet the majority of women who experience the drug trade experience it as users and victims. DTOs and their collaborators among the politicians and the police have acted with impunity. While legitimate actors such as police and politicians claim their support for security measures to protect women and children, these same actors have provided little empathy and support for victims. Women are both combatants in the drug trade and its collateral damage. Their experience with impunity combined with a lack of empathy for the countless victims on both sides of the border has led to a growing sense of hopeless along with growing resistance. Keyword: drug-trafficking

Article

Women Filmmakers in Argentina  

Ana Forcinito

This article offers an overview of some of the most important Argentine women filmmakers along with some tendencies that could serve to organize four decades of films, shorts, and documentaries. The article also examines some of the main paths that women filmmakers have taken in their revision and transformation of the relationship between the visual/aural dimension of cinematographic language and the patriarchal regime of the image and the voice. The films discussed in this chapter challenge the still-dominant masculine visual regime through aesthetic projects that reveal the worlds made invisible and erased by marginalization, authoritarianism, violence, sexism, homophobia, abjection, racism, inequality, discrimination, and impunity. Feminism is undoubtedly a vital framework for analyzing the history of women filmmakers in ArgentiIt appears sometimes at the center of the audiovisual project and, other times, outside the frame. This article explores the intersections among different aesthetic concerns, and in particular attempts to show that the discussion of women filmmakers in Argentina should not be limited to only two or three names but should include a vast number of women filmmakers and their innovative visions. From the first decades of the Twentieth century to the present, Argentine women filmmakers have taken different paths in their revision and transformation of the relation between the visual/aural dimension of cinematographic language and the patriarchal regime of the image and the voice. The feminist dimension of some of their films has challenged masculine and heteronormative norms through aesthetic projects that revealed what remained invisible and erased by authoritarianism, violence, sexism, homophobia, abjection, racism, inequality, discrimination, and impunity. Feminism—expressed in different waves of the feminist movement and with different degrees of intersectionality— is undoubtedly a vital framework for analyzing the history of women filmmakers in Argentina. It has framed the aesthetic concerns and the innovative visions women filmmakers have been proposing about the domestic, the intimate, and the political.