As a variety of commentators have noted, the U.S., faced with rising inequality and a growing perception that only the wealthy have benefitted from economic growth, has begun to witness the demagoguery and populist appeals believed characteristic of nations south of the border. This blog entry considers another similarity: the obstacles faced by women politicians advocating “within system” change aimed to benefit the disadvantaged; it considers the difficult political obstacles presented by powerful economic and political interests that manipulate misogynistic sentiments to block change.
This blog entry was inspired by recent events in Brazil—the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Rio de Janeiro. It also owes a debt to one of my graduate students (a Mexican), who took my Gender, Globalization, and Development course this past winter. His remarks, particularly when the discussion turned to the Mexican case, emphasized the importance of achieving a better grasp of exactly what men think and why they behave the way they do. He observed that the literature on globalization, gender, and development, while accurately pointing out all of the ways in which women are exploited, subjected and repressed, does not really illuminate the ways in which male identity contributes to the problem. True, everyone agrees that patriarchy is at the root of female oppression, and that it involves power. However, we need to know why patriarchy has been so enormously resilient. This question is especially puzzling since patriarchy, particularly in its extreme forms, is arguably counterproductive to everyone’s welfare.