Sara Elena Pérez-Gil y Patricia Ravelo (coord.), Voces disidentes. Debates contemporáneos en los estudios de género en México, México, CIESAS/Miguel Ángel Porrúa, 2004.

DA380901This compilation of essays assembles the efforts of different female experts that, from the specific look of their disciplines, examine diverse aspects of the gender — law and rights, nutrition, work, health, power, eroticism and identity — in the Mexican society. This way, are examined from the interdisciplinary — in different depths, angles and positions and with dissimilar methodologies — diverse social and temporary spaces where the relations of gender are the main focus. This way, from the Psychology, the Philosophy, the Sociology, the History, the Anthropology, the Economy and the Literature point of view, diverse issues arise so the epistemological references and the analytical instruments used, are discussed.

The quality of the gathered essays, in spite of their heterogeneity, provides solidity to the work, making it an important reference of the academic literature of studies of gender. For the presentation of the different researches this work was structured in an “Introduction” and six parts. In the introductory section, Salvador Cruz and Patricia Ravelo discuss “The current challenges in the studies of gender”, identifying the main debates and the contributions of this book; they also indicate that the gathered works constitute the final versions of presented documents, which were discussed and checked in seminars and conferences in the “Colegio de México”.

The work consists of 17 articles, some of them fruit of the field work for the making of a dissertation of grade; others are a project product of investigation that there have included a big part of the academic life of the authoresses; others developed from the theoretical reflections on diverse conceptual problems that face the studies of gender.

The first of the six parts is called “Epistemological Searches” and consists of two essays: “Gender and History. Towards the construction of a cultural history of the gender”, prepared by the anthropologist and historian Elsa Muñiz; and “The identity of gender. A debate to interdisciplinary” written by Carmen Trueba.

The work that Muñiz offers us is the result of her reflections concerning the present difficulties in the construction of a “history of the women”. She raises the idea of going beyond the category of gender and proposes the use of a culture of gender that allows recovering the political character of the analyses on the female condition.

Trueba, for her part, raises the exploration from different disciplines of the identity of gender, and for it she discusses ideas and proposals of Habermas, Berger and Luckmann, Heller, De Beauvoir, De Laurentis, Ortner, Rubin and Scott, in order to get a proposal founded on historical and political character.

The second part is about topics of “Legality, gender and ethnicity” and consists of four articles: the first one written by Carmen Ramos on “The legislation and representation of gender in the Mexican nation: the woman and the family in the speech and law, 1870 – 1890”. The second essay, “Indigenous Rights and women: old traditions, new rights”, written by Maria Teresa Sierra. The third essay is called “The silenced history: the role of the indigenous peasants in the colonial and postcolonial rebellions of Chiapas”, prepared by Olivia Gall and Aída Hernández. The fourth essay belongs to Pilar Alberti and writes on “The polyphonic speech about the indigenous women in Mexico: academicians, government and natives.

Ramos analyzes the nineteenth-century laws related to the women as a product and instrument of the patriarchy in view of the proposals of MacKinnon, examining the role of the State and the Church in the rules of the marriage links that was strengthening asymmetric relations among genders.

The article of Sierra analyzes the traditional character of the indigenous rights and way of affecting the life of the women in a context of hierarchies of gender, class and ethnicity. After checking the ethnographic literature, it raises that the indigenous women of different communities have adopted a critical position opposite to their own groups and authorities that represent the federal government.

The essay of Gall and Hernández does a critical review of the historiography related to the rural rebellions to emphasize the role, sometimes overlooked, redeemed by the women. Analyzes also the ethnographic studies in search of the feminine presence in the above mentioned movements up to arriving at the Zapatista movement, where the women played a fundamental roll.

The study of Alberti focuses on the analysis of the speeches in three groups: the academicians, the government and the indigenous women, studying them for decades and proposals. The authoress points out that the academic feminists answered to the demands of female natives with the increase of the researches which should speak about his conditions of their life, activities and needs; the government answered with the creation of diverse programs that attended this requests and needs of organization. The indigenous women generated a series of mechanisms to obtain voice and vote and recognition of their rights in different levels.

“Towards a criticism of biomedical paradigm” is the next part and consists of three articles: “Androcentricity in the biomedical system? …Some data, some hypothesis…” by Montserrat Salas. “The women and the nutrition: the predominant vision vs. an alternative vision”, of Sara Elena Pérez-Gil; and “Representations and practices about the health and the illness in a group of workwomen”, prepared by Josefina Ramírez.

Salas article puts on the discussion table several analytical categories used in the collision of her research issues, and in a very explicit form shows her methodological strategy on having raised that certain rules exist in the ritualized consulting room: male and female doctors, male and female patients must learn their rolls.

Pérez-Gil shares her reflections concerning the way in which the women have been studied in research projects and programs that apply in educational activities. She explains in what way women have been considered invisible as part of the per capita averages in food supplies since in the surveys the food consumption is not compared among gender, the information is not analyzed with a perspective of gender.

Josefina Ramirez, from a research of anthropologic character orientated to the search of the social meaning of the disease in a group of workingwomen, discusses the form in which the gender, the social class and the belonging to an ethnic specific group affect in a differential risk of disease and death among the population. The authoress focuses in the complexity of the axis women-illness-work.

The fourth part refers to the “Joint of spaces in the dimension of the work”, and initiates with the exhibition of “The women in the sociology of the work in Mexico: between the difference and the over sizing”, written by Maria Eugenia de la O; followed by the analysis of Maria Guadalupe Serna regarding “Women and managerial option: responses to a crossroad”; and it ends with the research work done by Maria de la Luz Macías on “The women work in the plastic micro industry of City Nezahualcóyotl”.

The analysis of the current expositions of the sociology of work in Mexico as regards of the women constitutes the target of Maria Eugenia de la O, who shows special interest on the phenomenon of flexibility. In her essay she examines the different expositions that exist in the available literature, both in the Sociology and in the Anthropology, indicating the existence of the segregation of works according to the gender.

Maria Guadalupe Serna’s article looks in depth the characteristics that take the activities made by women entrepreneurs and the way in that combine these responsibilities with their task in their private life. The implied difficulties are understood in this activity every time it gets out of debt in an area linked traditionally to the male jobs.

On having analyzed the female incursions in small-scale enterprises, stands out the fact that the motivation centers on economic aspects and is linked to the women initiative for having more control of their time, so that allows them to dedicate the necessary time to activities that they consider to be very important: their role as mothers and wives.

The authoress analyzes in detail the different reasons that encourage women to found small-scale enterprises, the conflicts with the partner, the supports that she gets form the partner and of the family members, the way in which they reorganize their time to attend all the needs of her husband and her children without neglecting the company.

The article of Maria de la Luz Macías Vázquez speaks about the every time major presence of the woman in micro- industries established in the east peripheral zone of Mexico City. The authoress analyzes the different conditions in which the women are inserted in this labor according to the type of enterprise: micro-industry or “family workshop”. In the first one she will receive a salary, but not in the second case. It seems worth commenting that this economic women activity turns out to be similar to other employments for the precarious and unstable situation, and that the women labor is valued by her workmanship, quality of big value for this type of work.

The penultimate part of the book, “Practices of domination and power”, consists of two essays: one of Patricia Ravelo and Sergio Sánchez focused in “The women in the unions in Mexico (an approach to the topic)”, and other of Griselda Martínez who presents an analysis on “Businesswomen and executives: Organization references and exercise of power”.

The first article analyzes the different theoretical approaches used to come closer to the study of women participation in the unions. For the authors, the impulse for the interested investigators in tackling the study of such aspects was to put to the overdraft the situation of political and social inequality of the women; also, that the sectors on which the research focuses are teachers, seamstresses, workers of bonded assembly plants and of the car and textile industries. It is also mentioned a research on the idea of creating a union of Domestic Employees; after enumerating the studies on this matter, they suggest to extend the frames of analysis and not limit them to the study of the women as victims.

Griselda Ramírez, carries out exactly the type of analysis that Patricia Ravelo and Sergio Sánchez consider to be necessary: to emphasize the areas where the women exercise the power in public spaces, since this reflects a cultural indisputable change and shows that an irreversible process of appropriation has begun and conquers of spaces socially protected for men. This work reveals a lot of energy and enthusiasm on having done assertions as the following one: “… that today, the sexuality constitutes a women’s instrument that adds to other strengths developed by women who gain access to power.” This essay approaches the businesswomen and women executives who have broken with the traditional stereotypes to become a part of the labor market and the processes of modernization of the cultural backgrounds, controlling the reproductive functions and this way break what she calls the “crystal roof”; that is to say, they are women who happen to be leading characters in the development of their own life projects.

Finally, in the part “Construction of masculinity and eroticism” three authors are registered: Mariángela Rodríguez refers to a research carried out in Los Angeles, entitled “Performance of generic stigmatized identities.” The second one, “The quebradita: musical rhythm of Mexicans”; belongs to Susana Báez and writes about “Masculinity: madness or solitude? Two stories of Sergio Pitol” and the article of Rafael Montesinos about “Eroticism: Essay on the symbolic relation between the genders.”

The first article analyzes a popular Mexican dance of the border, which was created to displace the violence of the bands to the symbolic area. In the analysis of this dance the authoress departed from the proposals of Bourdieu, pointing out that the position adopted by the dancing partners communicate symbolically the failure and the control of the feminine sexuality by the men and the acceptance — unconscious — of the masculine hegemony.

The second article departs from the idea of which it turns out to be essential to incorporate the masculinity in the feminists literary analysis; Báez considers this to be fundamental, since in the stories that she analyzes, Pitol attributes to men situations that traditionally have been applied to the women, as the solitude and the madness.

After studying two literary works using Foucault as framework, the authoress indicates that although the writing of Pitol has been considered to be misogynous, the study of these two stories offers the possibility of conceiving different masculine identities or masculinities different from the hegemonic ones. His work is very interesting because he invites us to reflect if these two stories represent a sample that androgyny exists.

In the last article, starting form some proposals of Bataille and certain ideas of the sociobiology, which postulate that the nature of the human being is violent, but thanks to the mediation of culture and civilization there is imposed on the individuals a series of principles, values, norms and behavior that contain the sexual impulses. It is also emphasized that the rationality imposed on the individuals at work represents a bounding for the physical violence and that the eroticism expresses itself from the improvement of the personal being; for it, the improvement of the social ban assumes the displacement of the movement towards the merger of a subjective construction that means the desire, the merger of the bodies at the sexual act.

More than to be based in a study of case, the article of Raphael Montesinos focuses on the thought of some ideas -eros, sex, violence – suggested by Alberoni, Bataille, Baudrillard , Giddens and Paz.

Dissident voices is a work that will become a forced reference concerning topics so diverse as identities of gender, legal speeches on women, the role of the feminine sex into the rebellions of the Cologne, the women and the health, the conceptions of the illness between the workers, the women into the sociology of work, businesswomen, women and unions in Mexico, the creation of the generic identities in a frontier dance, the construction of the masculinities in the literature, and the relation between violence and eroticism in the human beings.

It is a work that stands for the quality of the authoresses including, the strength of the research the novelty of the approach, the original of the input, the depth of the analysis, the proposals and arguments, it is, in fact a collection that will become an indispensable tool to all experts that want to come closer to the problems described, either if they agree or not with the conclusions.

Autora: María J. Rodríguez-Shadow, DEAS-INAH
Translation by Carmen Martí Cotarelo

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