Pobladoras, Indígenas, and the State: Conflicts over Women's Rights in Chile

Pobladoras, Indígenas, and the State: Conflicts over Women's Rights in Chile

Pobladoras, Indígenas, and the State: Conflicts over Women's Rights in Chile

Pobladoras, Indígenas, and the State: Conflicts over Women's Rights in Chile

Synopsis

Can laws, policies, and agencies that are designed to help women achieve equality with men accommodate differences among women themselves? In Pobladoras, Indigenas, and the State, Patricia Richards examines how Chilean state policy shapes the promotion of women's interests but at the same time limits the advancement of different classes and racial-ethnic groups in various ways. Chile has made a public commitment to equality between women and men through the creation of a National Women's Service, SERNAM. Yet, indigenous Mapuche women and working-class pobladora activists assert that they have been excluded from programs implemented by SERNAM. Decisions about what constitutes "women's interests" are usually made by middle class, educated, lighter-skinned women, and the priorities and concerns of poor, working-class, and indigenous women have not come to the fore. Through critical analysis of the role of the state, the diversity of women's movements, and the social and political position of indigenous peoples,of Latin America, Richards provides an illuminating discussion of the ways in which the state defines women's interests and constructs women's citizenship. This book makes important contributions to feminist studies, theories of citizenship, and studies of the intersections of class, gender, and race.

Excerpt

My objective in this chapter is to provide historical background for the relationship between women and the state in Chile. I examine the representation of women by the state (from above) and women's activism (from below) during the Allende, Pinochet, and Concertación regimes. I contend that two central changes mark gender politics in the contemporary democratic era. First, the state has committed itself to women's equality with men through the creation of sernam. For the first time in Chilean history, promoting women's equality is an explicit goal of the state. At the same time, differences among women have become increasingly salient. As women of distinct groups question the state's gender discourse, SERNAM's ability to represent women's interests is contested, and indeed, the very concept of “women's interests” is called into question.

I frame the discussion in terms of citizenship. Throughout the world, women's experiences of citizenship, both substantive and formal, have been different from those of men. Feminist scholars have pointed out that while the concept of “citizenship” proclaims a universalist notion of “citizen” as individual bearer of rights, not all citizens are granted rights at the same time or in the same order (Dietz 1989; Walby 1994). As Walby (1994) asserts, “Access to citizenship is a highly gendered and ethnically structured process.” For instance, as noted in chapter 1, women have often been granted some degree of social rights (under the guise of protection), while they are left to . . .

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