Shock Jock Rails against Mexico's Modern Women

Article excerpt

Radio talk-show host Oscar Muzquiz is searching for "La Fodonga del Ano," or "The Female Slob of the Year."

On "Educating Your Woman," broadcast daily from this industrial northern city, husbands are invited to enroll their wives in the contest if they: sleep until 9 a.m., serve only packaged foods, watch TV all day, and rarely shave their legs.

"This is not life - living with someone who has become your greatest enemy," Mr. Muzquiz admonishes his male listeners. "Wake up, rise up ... and change your life!"

If Muzquiz sounds like Howard Stern in a sombrero, that's because, in part, he is. In addition to targeting the lazy housewife, Muzquiz crusades against "shameless" women who live independently, marry late, and work outside the home.

Social and economic changes in Mexico over the past three decades - from the increasing number of working women to the explosion of supermarkets, which cater to a rushed lifestyle - have transformed family culture here and left many men struggling to redefine their roles. Muzquiz's radio show is just one example of a country twitching as it witnesses a shift - some say the "Americanization" - of its family values.

"Men across Mexico are violently resisting this change," says Lourdes Plata Toledo, a well-known psychologist who counsels couples in a column in the Monterrey newspaper El Norte. "More women are saying, 'I don't need a man to support me. I don't need a man to fulfill me,' and men are thrown by this."

The backlash is apparent in popular TV shows, newspapers, magazines, and music. A nationwide ad campaign by the Monterrey- based bank Banorte, for instance, pictures a stretch of pavement littered with broken glass and a fallen lipstick. A message scratched below warns: "There are many women driving. Insure your car with Banorte!"

Meanwhile Brozo, the lewd clown who hosts the popular morning show "Early Riser," long maintained that his voluptuous and scantily clad "secretary," Isabel Madow, was the perfect woman - not just for her curvy frame, but also since she never uttered a word. (Ironically, she recently left the show to pursue a career on her own.)

Fresh tortillas only

"Educating Your Woman" draws tens of thousands of listeners across northern Mexico and southern Texas. Muzquiz and cohost Carlos Alberto Agundiz actively push for a return to times of old. Muzquiz is especially venomous toward wives who won't rise at dawn to make their husbands fresh tortillas.

The antics of Muzquiz and Mr. Agundiz have earned them the ire of women's activists across northern Mexico.

"It is lamentable such a program is broadcast in Monterrey in the year 2003," says Sister Marianela Madrigal, a nun who runs a center that offers women vocational training. "It reflects the terrible lack of effort to change our mentality from a macho patriarchy to one of equality."

According to the Census Bureau, more women are working outside the home in Mexico than ever before, especially in big cities like Monterrey.

Women now make up 32.3 percent of the labor force in the northern state of Nuevo Leon (compared with 29.9 percent nationwide), according to Mexico's National Institute of Geographic Statistics and Information.

A study by the Minnesota Population Center (MPC) at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis indicates that that figure has jumped 50 percent since 1990 and almost quadrupled since 1970. …