Culture, politics and daily life in Mexico from a gender perspective

Received: February 26, 2018

Acceptance: January 6, 2019

Género en la encrucijada de la historia social y cultural de México

Susie S. Porter and María Teresa Fernández (eds.), 2015 El Colegio de Michoacán / CIESAS, Zamora, 364 pp.

Wn 1854 Jules Michelet published The women of the revolution, a book in which he argued the intermittent ability of women to participate in political-social activities, as they lost their reason every 28 days due to the periodic "illness" to which their own biological constitution condemned them.

Despite the controversy that Stuart Mill started against what Michelet argued, his views prevailed for almost a century, until, in 1949, Simone de Beauvoir published The second sex, a work with which he destroyed from its roots the micheletian biologic deception on which the genetic irrationality of women was founded, an idea that, as incredible as it may seem, survives to this day in many men and not a few women of all social groups.

On the other hand, and also from the middle of the 19th century, Karl Marx and Federico Engels, through the conceptual framework of historical materialism, made society the center of the historical process, a change of subject that to this day exerts a great influence on thought. that serves as the foundation for many of the ways of conceiving the historiographic task. But, in addition, these same thinkers gave artistic manifestations the rank of work, consequently, of social products, and not only of individual talent and genius.

Due to its direct relationship with language, and therefore with thought, literature has acquired a special value, in particular the novel, because according to Marx and Engels, in this genre of writing it is possible to observe the interhuman relationships that are established at a given time, notwithstanding the differences between social, political, economic, religious and cultural media, for which they ensured that the knowledge of social history offered by a novel - those of Honorato de Balzac, in his time - is much deeper, richer and more varied than a historiographical treatise on the matter.

I mention this with the sole purpose of highlighting the temporal coincidence, on the one hand, of the consolidation of the biological origin of the social obstacles that have opposed the full development of women, as a group that makes up that slightly larger half of the human race. , and on the other, the origin of the efforts that have been made from the social sciences and humanities that have best armed themselves with solid theoretical and methodological foundations to thwart such prejudices.

So the first thing I want to establish is that the collective work Género en la encrucijada de la historia social y cultural de México is directed, above all, to the frontal combat against prejudices, biological, social, religious or of any other kind, which historically have prevented, and some still do, the full participation of women in public life, at the same time as it is an effort to penetrate deep into the historical thickness that corresponds to them in their own right.

Susie Porter and María Teresa Fernández Aceves deserve, therefore, sincere congratulations for the wisdom they had in carefully searching and finding the collaboration of Marie Francois, Laura Cházaro, Sonia Hernández, Sonia Robles, Elissa Rashkin, Isabel Arredondo and Sara Minerva Luna You will elizarás in the preparation of a volume of 360 pages whose title I consigned lines above.

To achieve this, these intellectuals devoted themselves to the analysis of different facets that contribute to shaping what in the abstract we call society, which they were in charge of giving concreteness by naming each individual or collective character that makes it up, at the same time as they reconstructed the historical-social fabric that these characters helped to weave with their effective performance.

This common effort means a great step towards the full incorporation of women, not to history as concrete events, since they have always participated in them, but to written history that aspires to the category of social, but which has just begun to develop. To achieve this when the narrative axis was focused on women and on the female aspirations, a perspective that avoids, on the one hand, their appearing as an appendix of men, and on the other, that they are segregated; rather it allows both sexes to figure in an equal relationship.

Género en la encrucijada de la historia social y cultural de México It is a mature product of more than half a century, throughout which the need to overcome the low importance of women in traditional historiography, whose production was governed, in general, by models imposed by men, has been insisted upon. which led Simone de Beauvoir to affirm that “it is not the inferiority of women that has determined their historical insignificance: it is their historical insignificance that has destined them to inferiority” (Beauvoir, 1990: 223).

By "historical insignificance" should be understood the scarcity, bordering on the absence, of documentary records, written traces of all kinds, which testify to the effective participation of women in public and social life, ultimately, of their co-responsibility in the construction of the history. Here it is necessary to emphasize that “to express a fact and transform it into an event, the mediation of language is essential. It seems that the event is constructed twice. Not only by the historian ... but also by the group or individual who expresses himself at the moment of the events and thus creates the source of events that the historian will use ”(Riot-Sarcey, 1988).

Of this creation and search for sources to feed the writing of history from a gender perspective, the overwhelming critical apparatus that is gathered in this work gives evidence. I must warn potential readers that it is essential to refer carefully to the "Introduction" to fully understand not only the problems that the irruption of the concept of gender has posed to the ways in which, until the last third of the last century, The investigation and writing of the social sciences and the humanities had been practiced, but also the solution proposals that for such problems arise from the application of the concept of gender as a category of analysis.

Although both in this section, as in each of the nine chapters that make up the work, the sources that support the arguments presented in them are reported, it is very useful to refer to the general bibliography to realize of the impressive number of repositories, books, articles and documents that underlie the entire volume. Right here is the explanation of the internal congruence of the content, which allows us to conclude that it is not a book that is composed of a series of texts without further articulation with each other, but rather a coherent work, the product of a long and deep theoretical, methodological and empirical work that, as confirmed by reading the book, the authors have developed together.

This arsenal of data, apparently dissimilar to each other but analyzed from a gender perspective, has made it possible to overcome the concept of exceptional women with which those who managed to overcome social prejudices and stood out in fields of public life that were classified were tradition tried to assign exclusively to men: war, politics, professional and even artistic practices, to name just a few. To put it briefly, the achievements of some were only recognized because their conduct in these fields was similar to that of men, with which the women who excelled in their activities were denied the recognition of their own feminine motivations, and the others, busy with the basic, daily tasks assigned to them by the one-eyed social tradition, remained on the margins of history.

It had been overlooked that, according to Georg Lukács, daily life is the layer that constitutes the nurturing land for scientific advances as well as for artistic works, since they feed on it and return to it to enrich the culture of humanity. in all its manifestations.

It was from the apparent smoothness of everyday life that the authors of Gender at the crossroads… They unearthed female collectives such as washerwomen, Catholics, workers, workers and singers, as well as individuals such as Belén de Sárraga, a freethinker or atheist, according to some, and the filmmaker Juliette Barrett Rublee, to present them to us in a different light, with new textures and qualities .

Said in this way, the above is nothing more than an insignificant list with no obvious links between one and the other. Even so, it must be borne in mind that history is a relational discipline, and therefore one of its essential tasks is to find relationships where apparently there are none.

Hence, I have decided to end this review with a mention of the relevance of the title. Although a bit long for my taste, there was no way to account for the general content of the volume in which politics, economics and art are intertwined, elements whose harmonious march is essential for the healthy development of what we call culture and what it is. singles out a given society and gives it its signs of collective identity, of which the book gives us an example Gender at the crossroads of social and cultural history in Mexico.


Beauvoir, Simone de (1990). Le deuxiéme sexe, vol.1. París: Gallimard (Publicado originalmente en 1949).

Riot-Sarcey, Michéle (1988). “Les sources du pouvoir: L’évènement en question”, Les Cahiers du Grif. Le genre de l’histoire, trimestral, primavera, núms. 37-38. París: Editions Tierce, pp. 30.


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