Gender is a Social Construct: the Perception of Gender in Mexico

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Gender is a social construct, where we are expected to behave according to our society and culture’s gender roles. From an early age, we are educated by our primary agents to behave like we are “supposed to,” to fit in with our secondary agents. We quickly learn that it is easier to conform to the traits and behaviors that are associated with being masculine or feminine to avoid confrontation. However, conforming to the gender roles influence how we perceive ourselves and others. Conforming can prevent many of us from recognizing our true potential.

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Mexico is considered a patriarchal culture; it is completely normal for men to have authority over women. Although, socioeconomic class and region are a factor on gender roles, the majority of households in Mexico have a male dominated structure. The head of the household is the primary income provider and decision maker. The cultural standard for men is to be masculine, self-reliant and dominant. These set of attributes are known as ‘machismo’, which is a way of living in many Latin American countries. Thus, the ideal women is heavily influenced by The Virgin Mary, who symbolize the epitome of femininity. Women are expected to be modest in order to dedicate themselves to their family. Their general duty is to be the homemaker, to be a “virtuous” wife, mother and daughter. Such concept is established from mothers to daughters, teaching them how to become a housewife, how to clean, cook, and take care of a man. Although, fathers do push their daughters to finish their education, they prefer that their daughter marry a “good man” with a future and money.

The authority that men have over women can lead to domestic violence. My father was raised believing that machismo was the only way to protect and defend women. When my parents got married, he followed the macho behavior he was raised with. Men are supposed to be the providers, and women should be stay-at-home mothers that cater to their men. Since my father was providing for his family, he felt intitled to certain liberties that he prohibited my mother from doing. He had the liberty to go out, have fun, and distress, while my mom had to be at home being an honorable wife. After my sister was born and many debates, my parents agreed that it made sense economically for my mother to go back to work. However, that was not her only job, she had to come home to cook, clean, and take care of her children. My mother did not complain for many years, she was young, naïve and believed this was the way one should live. Nevertheless, my parents were not prepared for the culture shock they were going to face when moving to the United States.

When we moved to the United States, both of my parents started working and trying to establish a better home and future for our family. My father had to work through some insecurities to “allow” my mother to work and have a social life of her own. My parents raised my sister and I on many Mexican values which intertwined with the American culture. Growing up we had curfews, even now at age 23 I still have a curfew, we are expected to clean, cook and provide for ourselves. Although, we don’t have brothers, we have witness how differently the men in our family are treated. Our male cousins get a more lenient treatment, no curfews, they aren’t expected to clean or help around. The way family members talks and approaches younger women in the family is completely different than the when speaking to the younger men. Most of the talks family member have with the younger women, are about relationships, the way their bodies look or should look, how to stay pure and to abstain from pre-marital sex. None of those issues are brought up to the young men, they are interrogated about their future plans for a career, job or how to maintain healthy sexual relationships.

Furthermore, growing up as a Mexican woman has being challenging because of certain gender stereotypes that have hinder my own personal growth. Being in my early 20s, there has been talk about when will I be ready to settle down or when will I meet “a nice boy” to build a future with. In some occasions, my mother has pointed out that the way I look, dress and my how weight has obstructed my opportunities to “get” a man. “You should wear a little more make-up” “You should go on a diet and lose some weight” “You should try and look more feminine”. Those are a few of many comments my mother has told me, which they have not been great for my self-esteem. From a young age we are taught to sit with our legs crossed, to not wear reviling clothing, not to chew loud, burp, and to watch how we talk. To follow these rules so one could be a proper lady and be desirable. These cultural and gender norms tries to make women feel little, diminish any dominance

At work I’m surrounded with men, I’m a receptionist ( a women’s job) at a car dealership ( a men’s job). Although, my coworkers are very nice, they has been instances that I have overheard sexist jokes. They do hover over me when I speak with customers, like if I’m a defenseless woman that cannot do her job. I do get pick on at time about why I make some decisions and I do have to stand my ground on why I do what I do.

When I used to play soccer, my mother hated it. She believed it was to harsh for a young girl to play. I used to come home with bruises, scraped knees and at times with injured ankles. My father said it was part of the game, but my mother hated that it made me look more like a men. In my friendships, I had to be extra careful when going out with guy friends. Never to drink too much or do something that made them think touching my was accepted. I have lost friendship because men taught that it was okay to make a move just cause we were good friends. I witnessed a time when one of my sisters friend was touched by a male friend, and she told him she didn’t like it. He seemed confused and offended, he asked why and said she shouldn’t feel weird cause he was a friend. She had to justify herself that she didn’t like it no matter who it was. He got all upset about it and questioned their friendship. Can’t be friends’ with a guy because they mistake friendship with an opportunity to make a move on you.

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