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date: 07 December 2019

Summary and Keywords

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.

Keywords: traditional gender roles, right-wing women, military coup, political participation, anti-Marxism, recent history of Chile

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