Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 33–52 | Cite as

Gender and Transnational Gossip

  • Joanna Dreby


Transnational social networks powerfully shape Mexican migration and enable families to stretch internationally. In an atmosphere of such high dependence on social networks, it would be rare for families not to be affected by the opinions of others. This article analyzes this often-overlooked aspect of social networks, gossip. I analyze gossip stories prevalent for one type of migrant family, those in which parents and children live apart. Drawing on over 150 ethnographic interviews and observation with members of Mexican transnational families and their neighbors in multiple sites, I describe both parents’ and children’s experiences with transnational gossip. I show that in a transnational context, gossip is a highly gendered activity with different consequences for men and women. Although targeting both women and men, transnational gossip reinforces the expectations that mothers be family caregivers and fathers be family providers even when physical separation makes these activities difficult to accomplish.


Family Gossip Immigration Mexico Transnational communities 


  1. Adler, R. (2004). Yucatecans in Dallas, Texas: Breaching the border, bridging the distance. Boston: Pearson, Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  2. Alicea, M. (1997). A chambered nautilus: The contradictory nature of Puerto Rican women’s role in the social construction of transnational community. Gender & Society, 11, 597–626.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aranda, E. (2007). Emotional bridges to Puerto Rico: Migration, return migration, and the struggles of incorporation. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  4. Ashforth, A. (2005). Witchcraft, violence and democracy in South Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  5. Ben-Ze’ev, A. (1994). The vindication of gossip. In R. Goodman, & A. Ben-Ze’ev (Eds.), Good gossip (pp. 11–24). Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
  6. Brennan, D. (2004). Women work, men sponge and everyone gossips: Macho men and stigmatized/ing women in a sex tourist town. Anthropological Quarterly, 77, 705–733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bourdillon, M., & Shambare, M. (2002). Gossip in a Shona community. Anthropology Southern Africa, 25, 78–85.Google Scholar
  8. Bryceson, D., & Vuorela, U. (2002). The transnational family: New European frontiers and global networks. Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  9. Cerrutti, M., & Massey, D. (2001). On the auspices of female migration from Mexico to the United States. Demography, 38, 187–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chavez, L. (1992). Shadowed lives: Undocumented immigrants in American society. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Google Scholar
  11. Cohen, J. H. (2004). The culture of migration in southern Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  12. Collins, L. (1994). Gossip a feminist discourse. In R. Goodman, & A. Ben-Ze’ev (Eds.), Good gossip (pp. 106–116). Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
  13. Cornelius, W. (2001). Death and the border: Efficacy and unintended consequences of U.S. immigration control policy. Population & Development Review, 27, 661–685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cornelius, W. (2004). Evaluating enhanced U.S. border enforcement. Migration information source. Report available at
  15. Curran, S. R., & Rivero-Fuentes, E. (2003). Engendering migrant networks: The case of Mexican migration. Demography, 40, 289–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. D’Aubeterre, M. E. (2000). Mujeres y espacio social transnacional: Maniobras para renegociar el vinculo conyugal. In D. Barrera, & C. Oehmichen (Eds.), Migración y relaciones de género en México (pp. 63–85). Ciudad de México: GIMTRAP and UNAM, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas.Google Scholar
  17. D’Aubeterre, M. E. (2002). Genero, parentesco y redes migratorias femeninas. Alteridades, 12, 51–60.Google Scholar
  18. D’Aubeterre, M. E. (2007) Género, prácticas matrimoniales y comunidad reterritorializada. Paper presented at the Latin American Studies Association Conference in Montreal (September).Google Scholar
  19. Donato, C. M. (1993). Current trends and patterns of female migration: Evidence from Mexico. International Migration Review, 27, 748–768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dreby, J. (2006). Honor and virtue: Mexican parenting in the transnational context. Gender & Society, 20(1), 32–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dreby, J. (2007). Children and power in Mexican transnational families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 1050–1064.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Dreby, J. (in press). Divided by borders: Mexican migrants and their children. University of California Press.Google Scholar
  23. Ehrenreich, B., & Hochschild, A. R. (2002). Global woman: Nannies, maids and sex workers in the new economy. New York: Metropolitan/Owl Books.Google Scholar
  24. Esteinou, R. (2004). Parenting in Mexican society. Marriage & Family Review, 36, 7–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fine, G., & Rosnow, R. (1978). Gossip, gossipers, gossiping. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 4, 161–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fitzgerald, D. (2006). Towards a theoretical ethnography of migration. Qualitative Sociology, 29, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Fletcher, P. (1999). La casa de mis sueños: Dreams of home in a Mexican transnational community. Boulder: Westview.Google Scholar
  28. Fonseca, C. (2001). Philanderers, cuckolds, and wily women: A reexamination of gender relations in a Brazilian working-class neighborhood. Men and Masculinities, 3, 261–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fouron, G., & Schiller, N. G. (2001). All in the family: Gender, transnational migration and the nation-state. Identities, 7, 539–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Frank, R. (2005). The grass widows of Mexico: Migration and union dissolution in a binational context. Social Forces, 83, 919–947.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Goldring, L. (2001). The gender and geography of citizenship in Mexico–U.S. transnational spaces. Identities, 7, 501–537.Google Scholar
  32. Gonzalez-Lopez, G. (2006). Erotic journeys: Mexican immigrants and their sex lives. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  33. Goodman, R. (1994). Introduction. In R. Goodman, & A. Ben-Ze’ev (Eds.), Good gossip (pp. 1–10). Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
  34. Guendouzi, J. (2001). “You’ll think we’re always bitching’: The functions of cooperativity and competition in women’s gossip. Discourse Studies, 3, 29–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gutmann, M. C. (1996). The meanings of macho: Being a man in Mexico City. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  36. Hafen, S. (2004). Organizational gossip: A revolving door of regulation and resistance. The Southern Communication Journal, 69, 223–240.Google Scholar
  37. Hall, J. K. (1993). Tengo una bomba: The paralinguistic and linguistic conventions of the oral practice chismeando. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 26, 55–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hirsch, J. S. (2003). A courtship after marriage: Sexuality and love in Mexican transnational families. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  39. Hondagneu-Sotelo, P. (1994). Gendered transitions: Mexican experiences of immigration. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  40. Hondagneu-Sotelo, P., & Avila, E. (1997). “I’m here but I’m there”: The meanings of Latina transnational motherhood. Gender & Society, 11, 548–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Johnson, S. (1994). A game of two halves? On men, football and gossip. Journal of Gender Studies, 3, 145–154.Google Scholar
  42. Kanaiaupuni, S. M. (2000). Reframing the migration question: An analysis of men, women and gender in Mexico. Social Forces, 78, 1311–1342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kibria, N. (1993). Family tightrope: The changing lives of Vietnamese Americans. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Kroska, A. (2004). Divisions of domestic work: Revising and expanding the theoretical explanations. Journal of Family Issues, 25, 900–932.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Levitt, P. (2001). The transnational villagers. Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  46. Lindstrom, D. P., & Giorguli Saucedo, S. (2007). The interrelationship between fertility, family maintenance and Mexico–U.S. migration. Demographic Research, 17, 821–858.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mahler, S. (2001). Transnational relationships: The struggle to communicate across borders. Identities, 7, 583–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Malkin, V. (2004). We go to get ahead: Gender and status in two Mexican migrant communities. Latin American Perspectives, 31, 75–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Marcus, G. E. (1998). Ethnography through thick and thin. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Marroni, M. (2000). “ ‘El siempre me ha dejado con los chiquitos y se ha llevado a los grandes...’ Ajustes y desbarajustes familiares de la migración.” In D. Barerra, & C. Oehmichen (Eds.), Migración y relaciones de género en México (pp. 87–118). Ciudad de México: GIMTRAP and UNAM, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas.Google Scholar
  51. Massey, D., Alarcon, R., Durand, J., & Gonzalez, H. (1987). Return to Aztlan: The social process of international migration from Western Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  52. Massey, D., Durand, J., & Malone, N. (2002). Beyond smoke and mirrors: Mexican immigration in the era of economic integration. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  53. Melhuus, M. (1996). Power, value and the ambiguous meanings of gender. In M. Melhuus, & K. A. Stolen (Eds.), Machos, mistresses, madonnas: Contesting the power of Latin American gender imagery (pp. 230–259). London: Verso.Google Scholar
  54. Menjivar, C., & Agadjanian, V. (2007). Men’s migration and women’s lives: Views from rural Armenia and Guatemala. Social Science Quarterly, 88, 1243–1262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Min, P. G. (2001). Changes in Korean immigrants’ gender role and social status, and their marital conflicts. Sociological Forum, 16, 301–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Mitrani, V. B., Santisteban, D. A., & Muir, J. A. (2004). Addressing immigration-related separations in Hispanic families with a behavior-problem adolescent. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74, 219–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Morreall, J. (1994). Gossip and humor. In R. Goodman, & A. Ben-Ze’ev (Eds.), Good gossip (pp. 56–64). Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
  58. Mummert, G. (1988). Mujeres de migrantes y mujeres migrantes de Michoacon: Nuevo papeles para las que se quedan y las que se van. In T. Calvo, & G. Lopez (Eds.), Movimientos de población en el occidente de México (pp. 281–295). Mexico: Centre d'Estudes Mexicaines et Centramericaines and El Colegio de México.Google Scholar
  59. Newman, K. S., Fox, C., Harding, D. J., Mehta, J., & Roth, W. (2004). Rampage: The social roots of school shootings. New York: Basic.Google Scholar
  60. Oropesa, R. S. (1997). Development and marital power in Mexico. Social Forces, 75, 1291–1318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Paredes, A. (1967). Estados Unidos, México y el machismo. Journal of Inter-American Studies, 9, 65–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Passel, J. (2005). Unauthorized migrants: Size and characteristics. Pew Hispanic Center, Washington, D.C. Report available at
  63. Paz Soldan, V. A. (2004). How family planning ideas are spread within social groups in rural Malawi. Studies in Family Planning, 35, 275–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Perez, G. M. (2004). The near northwest side story: Migration, displacement, & Puerto Rican families. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  65. Pew Hispanic Center. (2005). Survey of Mexican migrants. Report available at:
  66. Pribilsky, J. (2004). ‘Aprendemos a convivir’: Conjugal relations, co-parenting, and family life among Ecuadorian trasnational migrants in New York City and the Ecuadorian Andes. Global Networks, 4, 313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Salazar Parreñas, R. (2001). Servants of globalization: Women, migration and domestic work. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  68. Salazar Parreñas, R. (2005). Children of global migration: Transnational families and gender woes. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  69. Sayer, L. C. (2005). Gender, time and inequality: Trends in women’s and men’s paid work, unpaid work and free time. Social Forces, 84, 285–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Schiller, N., & Fouran, G. (1999). Terrains of blood and nation: Haitians’ transnational social fields. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 22, 340–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Schmalzbauer, L. (2005a). Searching for wages and mothering from afar: The case of Honduran transnational families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66, 1317–1331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Schmalzbauer, L. (2005b). Transamerican dreamers: The relationship of Honduran transmigrants to the ideology of the American dream and consumer society. Berkeley Journal of Sociology, 49, 3–31.Google Scholar
  73. Schmalzbauer, L. (2008). Family divided: The class formation of Honduran transnational families. Global Networks, 8, 329–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Smith, R. C. (2006). Mexican New York: Transnational lives of new immigrants. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  75. Stevens, E. P. (1973). Marianismo: The other face of machismo. In A. Pescatello (Ed.), Female and male in Latin America: Essays (pp. 90–101). Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
  76. U.S. Census Bureau. (2000). Census of population and housing summary file 3. Report available at:
  77. Van Vleet, K. (2003). Partial theories: On gossip, envy and ethnography in the Andes. Ethnography, 4, 491–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. West, C., & Fenstermaker, S. (1995). Doing difference. Gender & Society, 9, 8–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. West, C., & Zimmerman, D. (1987). Doing gender. Gender & Society, 1, 125–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyKent State UniversityKentUSA

Personalised recommendations