Term Paper: Discloses

Pages: 12 (3175 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports - Women  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] They move beyond traditional that patriarchal distinction of virgin and whore in their analysis, demonstrating how gender is always more complicated than this, even when their subjects are themselves inclined to divide the world of women into such neatly opposing categories.

Guy, Caulfield and Seed remind us that the choices for women have, across both time and space, almost always been far more constrained than the choices that men have. They have in fact all too often been reduced to a single pair of opposing choices: The pure or the corrupt, the white or the black, the chaste or the sexual - the virgin or the whore.

Thus they help to limn for us a world in which for women gender has created a clear-cut set of choices while for men gender has allowed for a far greater degree of ambivalence. In other words, it is not simply that gender offers to women bad choices but that it offers fewer choices. Social relationships for women are forced into an artificial simplicity because of their gender, while the Social relationships into which men can enter are far less keyed to gender and therefore more ambiguous, more "open."

Mexican, Brazilian and Argentine cultural systems are certainly not exempt from this tendency to place women on one side of this dichotomy or the other. Moreover, but in the case of these three nations this division of the female half of the population into the chaste, good woman and the terrible promiscuous one becomes complicated by issues of race (and racial purity), by the historical condition of colonization and post-colonization, by the partial displacement, partial incorporation of native belief systems by Catholicism.

These authors help us to understand that attempts at creating strictly separated divisions between the genders is in some way an attempt in each of these nations to compensate for the fact that race cannot be so clearly defined. Each of these nations contains a large mestizo population, a social category that has traditionally been seen as the negation of "whiteness" or European-ness.

In a world in which race cannot be used as a signpost in determining (both a priori and a posteriori) the nature and dynamics of social relationships, gender must step in to do double duty.

In fact across most of Latin America, it has long been the case that race has relatively little to do with genetics and less to do with skin color. While someone with red hair, very pale skin and green eyes would be unlikely to be called either "mestizo" or "negro," almost anyone else might be because the term is used as a way of designating power relationships between and among people more than it is as a way of saying anything about a person's ancestry.

Ironically, who are the most clearly non-negro in some sense - those who are most purely indigenous looking in appearance - are generally not considered to be "negro." This makes sense to an American, because Indian and black are not the same categories in the United States, but this adds an additional complex dimension to the use of identity in Latin America, where the term generally equates to non-white and poor. Indians are both non-white and poor, and yet do not usually possess mestizo-ness.

Constructed identity" is perhaps the most important phrase in coming to understand Latin America as these three authors present different aspects of it, for the complex world of Latin American cultural norms and personal identity that they reveal is one in which identity is immensely fluid, changing far more rapidly over time than Americans are used to having their own identities change. The most interesting aspect of these book is how the authors describes the ways in which people's sense of self - including their sense of their own race - are constantly shifting.

This quagmire of identity for the powerless especially tends to result in a hardening of gender barriers and ideal behaviors for gender that might well be invisible to us because they so closely conform to traditional ideas about gender identity. Scott's theoretical framework, tied to the historical and ethnographic detail of these three narratives, helps us to understand that gender is not a static category but one that is continually redefined over time - and in large measure in relationship to other categories of identity such as race.

While it is no doubt true that for people in every culture on earth their sense of identity shifts at least slightly given the social milieu that they are in (for identity is of course shaped by those that we are with), the shifts that occur in the three groups of people in these cultural histories seem to be strikingly great. It is difficult to understand from the outside how such constantly negotiated and renegotiated definitions of self can be maintained without psychological damage, and indeed the authors' descriptions of their subjects and their lives suggest that they do suffer from having, time and time again, define who it is that they are in terms of gender identity as well as race - two relatively fixed points of identity for Americans.

Gutierrez's history of the post-contact Southwest concentrates somewhat less on gender than the other three, but his work certainly does not ignore the importance of gender as a characteristic of history. However - and while this may in part reflect his own views it seems more likely that it is a reflection of the "real" conditions of the world that he is examining - gender seems more tightly bonded to either social categories in this world, including age. It seems less likely to be considered separately when assessing a person's role.

By his careful attention to gender and age along with race, Gutierrez is able to help us understand both the particular complexities of this moment in history and also allow us to see the ways in which they are linked to larger issues of power in human society. There are particular reasons why some have more power than others in the world that he is examining, and he is careful to let us see why this is. Essential to this task is his ability to let us see the relationships of power that existed before European contact; relationships that were of course disrupted by that contact. And with the rewriting of such power relationships (which were built on vectors of age and generation and ethnicity) the whole society had to change.

From birth until death every phase of a Pueblo Indian's life was marked by rites of transition and incorporation. Before children of either sex could be considered adults they needed a host of essential. Girls needed religious fetishes, esoteric knowledge in curing, pottery production, household construction, basket making, and a husband. Boys likewise needed sacred fetishes, knowledge in hunting, warfare, curing, rain-conjuring, and a wife. Boys and girls, however, were incapable of obtaining these goods for themselves. Seniors had to secure them for their children and did so be offering gifts to those seniors who could provide the required goods.

Each of these books requires that we reconsider the nature of what it means to write a history of a particular place and time. Each too requires that we be willing to give up some most-likely still cherished notions of what it is that history can offer to us.

In each of the worlds gender is a defining aspect of all social relationships, but it is not a simple hierarchy in which women never have power and have no possibility of defining themselves as agents. Rather, it is a world in which gender lays so many constraints on the type of social relationships into which women can enter that few find themselves able to move beyond "virgin" or "whore" or other imposed categories.

We all have fond memories, no doubt, of childhood when the world seemed simpler. It is, indeed, simpler, if we believe that there is only one true story to be told about any one set of events - and simpler too if we can discard ideas about gender and race.

It is only the modern that ever becomes old fashioned," wrote Oscar Wilde in 1891, and standing as we do on the other side of the great wave of modernity from Wilde we can see how prescient he was. For the essential questions and concerns of modernity now seem both quaint and dangerous to us in post-post-modern, post-millennial age.

We no longer believe in the kind of agency, the kind of new world order, the kind of work or leisure, war or peace that scholars looking to the future from the end of Queen Victoria's reign to the beginning of the Cold War saw. Our world is infinitely more fragmented, vastly more complex, stripped of deep currents of optimism, more connected.

We look to the future and fear clutches at us and the frail straws of hope that we gather about… [END OF PREVIEW]

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