The Fruitful and Conflictive Relationship between Feminist Movements and the Mexican Left

By Damian, Gisela Espinosa | Social Justice, Fall-Winter 2016 | Go to article overview

The Fruitful and Conflictive Relationship between Feminist Movements and the Mexican Left


Damian, Gisela Espinosa, Social Justice


This article describes the Mexican feminist movement over the last four decades as a multifaceted entity situated on the periphery of a multi-centered patriarchy, a subject that cannot be restricted to a single identity or political project because it is produced by a power that shape-shifts over time and depending on social context. The development of female malaise, identity, collective imagination, and social action is expressed as multiple paths toward destroying unjust genderrelations and producing more egalitarian and liberated relationships between women and men, either as an independent agenda or by integrating gender struggles into mixed organizations and more general projects for social transformation. (1) This definition of feminism allows the inclusion of processes commonly excluded from historiography and obliges us to use the plural, Mexican feminisms.

The emergence of diverse feminist subjects has not been easy to understand or accept; feminisms have cleared their own paths through tense but rewarding relationships between distinct feminist viewpoints and between them and the social Lefts. Female subversion destabilizes the social order on several levels: the grand patriarchal capitalist power and the small but profound masculine strength within the couple, the community, and social organization. At the same time as feminism jumbles the global sex-gender system, it also disturbs its molecules--the closest and most intimate spaces--generating conflict between brothers and sisters that share a subordinate position in the macrosocial order. In this chain of tensions and powers the women's emancipatory processes are generated, and are also located in diverse dimensions and spaces.

Here, I give priority to the analysis of the popular and indigenous feminist currents, which are omitted from a historiography of Mexican feminism (2) that tends to focus on historical feminism? a branch that emerged during the 1960s in liberal middle-class urban sectors, and whose vision, with renewed voices, is sustained to this day.

I focus on popular and indigenous feminisms because they represent an "other" to historical feminism and, in my opinion, have greater emancipatory potential be cause the politicization of the gender/class and gender/class/ethnic injustices that intersect in the lives of their protagonists allows the development of proposals for radical change that seek to transform the deepest fabric of female subordination. In this perspective, historical feminism, which focuses on women as individual subjects in the struggle for gender rights and claims, hegemonizes the historiography of Mexican feminism from the 1970s through the mid-1990s. However, since the early 1980s, arose various feminist expressions have gone unrecognized by historians of feminism. As essential as historical feminism for understanding the expressions of the feminist movement are the popular movements, whose revolutionary "class" perspective was key to popular feminism, along with indigenous movements. They sought to overcome an economistic and dichotomous view of social classes to support a world inclusive of many worlds, within which indigenous feminism could develop. Popular and indigenous feminists are in dialogue with and coincide or confront historical feminism and the Lefts to which they belong. Through agreement and discord, they generate their own narratives, listen, question, defend, and modify their discourse and the discourse of their interlocutors.

Historical Feminism

The 1960s was the scene of the first wave of Mexico's developmentalism crisis, strong popular response, and new forms of political activism. These "awakenings" began with the Mexican Student Movement of 1968, which broke down the corporate control of the official party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party) and constituted a new Left. Independent labor unions, the boom of the agrarian land movement, the emergence of the urban popular movement, and a critical and committed student movement simultaneously challenged the Mexican capitalist and political systems. …

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