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Beyond Gender Dichotomies: Toward a New Century of Gendered Scholarship in the Latina/o Experience

  • Maura I. Toro-Morn

Feminist scholars frequently describe gender as “like fish talking about water” (Lorber, 1994, p. 13). Indeed, gender is one those social categories we take for granted and we tend to assume it is “bred into our genes.” In fact, “most people find it hard to believe that gender is constantly created and re-created out of human interaction, out of social life, and is the texture and order of that social life” (Lorber, 1994, p. 13). Today, there is scholarly consensus that gender is a human invention and that whether we recognize it or not, we are constantly “doing gender” (West & Zimmerman, 1987). This recognition represents an important contribution of the “academic feminist revolution” (Stacey & Thorne, 1985) that swept the social sciences and humanities with varying degrees of influence in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For those interested in doing research about gender, today there is a battery of concepts and theories to help us describe, analyze, and explain how gender is socially constructed and (re)produced at both the individual and institutional levels (Lorber, 1994); how gender intersects with social class and race to create complex hierarchies of power and inequality (Acker, 2000; Glenn, 2000; Hill-Collins, 2000); and the consequences of gendered systems for families (Roschelle, 2000); institutions (Martin & Collinson, 2000; Scott, 2000); and the global economy (Moghadam, 2000). We know that when we describe gender roles at the individual level, we might be drawing on one’s gendered identity, sexual orientation, and gendered beliefs, among other conceptual categories (Lorber, 2004). We also know that gender functions as a system of social stratification that generally privileges men and that exists with its own gender ideology, gender imagery, and gendered processes. Finally, gender is an institution that structures every aspect of our lives, most principally family life through the gender division of labor. Feminist scholar Judith Lorber (1994) connected the various levels of analysis in the following way: Through face-to-face interaction, individuals enforce gender norms and expectations, and, in the process, construct gendered systems of dominance and power. This chapter seeks to deconstruct the stereotypical notions of how gender operates in the Latina/o community and attempts to map out a new scholarly agenda that is attentive to gender as a socially constructed category that is relational, contested, negotiated, and historically grounded. A popular idea in both the social science literature and popular media is the notion of Latin America and Caribbean societies as steeped in traditional gender roles with a rigid division of labor. The tendency is to describe Latina/o gender roles as relations between men and women frozen in time. The notion of the public/ private (calle/casa) spheres of social life is central to this view. The mapping of gender roles into the public/private dichotomy places men in the public world of politics and women in the private, domestic, and, presumably nonpolitical world of the home.

Keywords

Gender Role Gender Identity Dominican Republic Gender Relation Gender Ideology 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maura I. Toro-Morn
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyIllinois State UniversityUSA

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