Women Taking Up Untraditional Gender Roles
From 1976 to early 1980s, Argentina experienced what is nowadays known as the Dirty War Period. During this time, there were many lives that were lost, property destroyed and numerous human rights violations were committed by the military of the Argentine government. The women, mostly Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, became the first group to go public concerning the atrocities that the government in Argentina was committing against its people. These women were protesting against human rights violations and this made them defy the limitations that were culturally set women and mothers in Latin America.
The women became the first to mobilize and demand for information from the government concerning their children who were said to have disappeared. In the process of such protests, they also made it known both at the global and local levels the extent of atrocities that their government was committing against its own citizens. The main objective of this paper is to analyse the untraditional gender roles taken up by women during the revolution in Argentina.
Bouvard asserts that women revolution movements in Latin America attracted diverse groups of women aged between 20 and about 60 years old. These women were committed to change in their societies especially on government operations. Their activisms were upheld even in times when they faced possible government reprisals (Bouvard, 38). Most of these women came from different fields such as education sector, workers, students, peasants and homemakers. The reasons the mothers could be said to be taking up untraditional gender roles can be attributed to the specific goals and objectives there focused more public rather than housekeeping roles.
It is a fact that in the traditional setting, it was the responsibility of men to form social movements, which advocated for the rights of different members of the society. Women were left to handle matters related to housekeeping and child rearing (Bouvard, 10). The decision by women in Argentina responsibilities traditionally assumed as those of men was attributable to the fact that they were unable to perform their child bearing and caring role since the government had introduced a policy that brought the disappearance of children and husbands. The disappearance of numerous people that had characterized the dictatorial government in Argentina brought with it some form of paralysis in the society (Bouvard, 55).
The dictatorial military government engaged numerous leaders of opposition in fights that were on numerous occasions accompanied by abduction and disappearance of opposition leaders. It was however, the reflective power of mothers which began to publically challenge the government. This group of housewives and mothers, just as the Rosentrasse wives, formed a movement known as the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. This was a unique movement since its power was founded on motherhood which was, in most cases, nonviolent (Bouvard, 57).
These mothers’ in their protests were representing the pains that mothers all over Latin America were facing due to the existing laws of that time. This was uncommon of women since traditionally, women in Latin America, especially mothers had restrictions to only exit in the private. Those who were on the public realm were considered as prostitutes. Good mothers in this culture were supposed to be invisible. Mothers in the revolution curved out a new responsibility for themselves where they would not only cease to be invisible, they would also engage in activities that involved negotiation and riots against men other than their husbands. They developed a double identity which was based on motherhood but not no longer private (Bouvard, 77).
The success of the movement was highly dependent on the fact that it embraced unity among women. This was especially in the performance of their role as mourning mothers. This was despite the fact that they were contravening the notion of good mothers by going to the streets. The fact that they were playing their motherhood roles was clear indication that the title mother could not be taken away from them (Bouvard, 14). The intensity of women revolution was heightened by constant abduction of the movement’s leaders and the disappearance. This aggravated the uptake of other untraditional gender roles which was the absolute necessity using their voices to echo the need for freedom and elimination of any form of human rights violations (Bouvard, 14).
The media during this time had developed some fear of due to the possibility of reprisal in case they had to broadcast the activities of the demonstrating women. It became the responsibility of these women to use their actions as tools for airing their views. In some instances, the mothers could present their dissatisfaction against the government by word of mouth. According to Bouvard (33) the government had decided that it should develop propaganda machinery aimed equating political defence with subversive social deviance. The government called that group as the crazy ones. This was a deliberate ridicule aimed at developing a tactic that could isolate and weaken the mothers also served as a warning. Such a tactic was to warn those interested in the formation a group with an objective of opposing the ruling regime (Bouvard, 44).
Despite the threats charactized by the disappearance of women who belonged to this group, the mothers understood the essence of participating public discourses. They maintained public consciousness and recognition of their active role in the movement was taking up numerous human rights initiatives. The mothers decided to publish their own newspaper. In their monthly publications, they included a back page which the military men that had committed the highest number of atrocities were listed as great oppressors.
In an attempt to end the military regime that had characterized leadership in Argentina, the mothers decided that they would only leave Plaza de Mayo only when they are either killed or the truth concerning the whereabouts of those who had disappeared. In addition, they demanded that any military official who had tortured or killed any civilian would be punished (Bouvard, 67).
In conclusion, the role of women in avocation for the rights of those involved in fights against regimes in Argentina can be attributed to the fact that most men were absent to take up their roles of ensuring the safety of the community. Women, especially, potential and actual mothers found it difficult to perform their motherhood responsibilities due to the paralysis that the disappearance of children and men had caused in the society. The mothers took to the streets in defence of their country. Unlike the military, their desire was to ensure that proper information was given concerning the dead and the imprisoned. In addition, they were demanding for proper governance in Argentina
Bouvard, Marguerite G. Revolutionizing Motherhood: The Mothers of the Plaza De Mayo.
Wilmington, Del: Scholarly Resources Inc, 1994. Internet resource.