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Feminism in Latin America Research Paper

Introduction and background information

The domination by males in societal institutions has a long history. In many cultures, men have controlled and ruled in many societal aspects while women do more work with minimal recognition and little or no economic rewards. Gender inequality has major societal implications.

The Latin American culture is majorly shaped by the Spanish culture and the Roman traditions. The Spanish way of life was extremely patriarchal and women were regarded as chattels. Women could not even make decisions regarding their own grooming leave alone entering into professions.

Nonetheless, drastic changes are evident, especially in the Western society. The change and strive for gender parity emanated from romanticism phenomenon of the Victorian era. In addition, urbanization and modernization have brought major changes and milestones in the struggle for gender equality and equity.

Feminists and feminism movements endeavor to ensure that the female gender is no longer objectified but rather be transformed to subject. Feminists argue that the transformation of women should involve enlightening and empowering women while making their issues the center of interest (Lay and Daley 49-61). It is worth noting, however, that not all politically or socially active women are feminists. A number of groups involving women have been formed with no feminism agenda.

This research paper discusses feminism in Latin America, paying considerable interest on how feminism movements have affected/influenced progress in Brazil. It is imperative to note that feminist movements played vital roles in liberating and democratization of Latin American countries (Chinchilla 291-310).

The history and evolution of feminism in the Latin America

There are no clear consensuses among scholars about the origin of feminism movements in the Latin America. Some scholars believe that feminism in the Latin America was imported from the west and it happened as the second wave of global feminism movements (Montecinos 175-199). Other scholars believe that feminism, as an ideology, emerged in the Latin America independent of feminism movements in other parts of the world. As such, feminism movements in the region were instigated by regional gender imparity and cultural injustices against women (Montecinos 175-199).

Nonetheless, feminism movements surfaced in the middle of the 20th century campaigning for identity and equality of women in Latin America (Montecinos 175-199). Feminists from the middle-class societies were some of the pioneers in feminism movements in the 1960s. Most of the movements fought for gender parity, especially in professions. It is worth noting that these groups adopted both peaceful and violent guerillas to pass their agendas to the society.

The spirit of the movement, however, was relatively weakened in the mid-70s by the neoliberalism in the Latin America. Neoliberalism of Latin American resulted in leadership paradigm shift. Dictators who thwarted labor movements and feminism organizations ruled many of the countries in the region. The dictatorial regimes used family values to make the society anti-feminist. In addition, labor unions’ leaders faced arrests and torture (Safa 354-369).

The early 1980s saw the fall of dictatorships and democratization of the Latin America. Feminism movements regained their energy and championed against gender-based violence. In addition, feminism movements aided the democratization processes in the region. Women headed many human right groups and, therefore, feminism was integral in the democratization of the Latin America.

Although there was a slight decline in feminism movement activities in the 1990s, female participation in politics was still apparent. Currently, it is observed that women play vital roles in the region’s political leadership. For instance, more women than men attend political meetings in Latin America (Espinal and Zhao 123–138).

The bases of feminism

Feminist movements in the Latin America resulted from a number of injustices to women (Safa 354-369). Additionally, factors such as authoritarian rule, economic crisis, and male dominance led to the emergence of women’s social movements. It is worth noting that economic crisis and dictatorial leadership had adverse implications on working classes and, therefore, women were directly affected.

Many Latin American countries were struggling to offset debts by adopting programs that rendered women unemployed or underemployed. In addition, there were sharp declines in wages while basic subsidies were done away with. Social amenities such as public schools and public health facilities were affected by the withdrawal of government subsidies.

According to some stakeholders and major participants in the initial movements, post-suffrage feminism in the region was categorized into three major streams. These major organizations included feminists, women politicians, and women from the popular classes.

Social issues that feminists’ movements were concerned with included the women role in maternity issues, reforms in divorce and separation legislation, equity and equality in payment relative to male counterparts and women’s personal autonomy. In addition, feminists in the Latin America wanted to change the societal image and perception of women. For instance, they wanted to change the sexist portrayal of women in the society, especially by mainstream media.

For some feminist movements, the major concern was the lack of women representation in the political arenas. As such, the political feminists had the main agenda of increasing women’s access and participation in the region’s politics and policymaking.

The feminists from the popular classes, on the other hand, endeavored to bring drastic reforms in socioeconomic issues such as economic survival and empowerment for women and racial/ethnic equity. As such, it is apparent that different feminist movements had different goals.

It is imperative to note that many feminist organizations were short-lived but their issues and goals were replicated in new organizations, and their legacies retained. For instance, The Salvadoran Women’s Association de Demandantes (an association that fought for child support) had a short life but with major impacts on legislation in El Salvador. The movement collaborated with feminist legislators to pass reformist legislations in favor of child support. Some of the laws linked to the association include the declaration by prospectus politicians on their child support payments before assuming offices. Additionally, the association was responsible for reforms pertaining responsible paternity, voluntary motherhood and access to safe abortion legislation.

The Cuban organization Collectivo Mangi’n is another example of short-lived feminist movements in the Latin America but had profound and lasting impacts. The movement was based in Cuba and was against the negative and sexist portrayal of women. As earlier mentioned, sexist portrayal of women was a major concern for feminist movements in the Latin America. In Cuba, women’s sexist portrayal was evident in mainstream media and even in the school curriculum. The movement fought diligently but was but was disbanded by the Cuban Communist Party.

Feminism and women political/social activity in Latin America

It is imperative to note that not all politically or socially active women in Latin America were feminists. However, some political activism among many women had feminism inclinations. Some of the political movements that had no feminism inclinations whatsoever included the Federation of Cuban Women.

The propensity to link politically active women to feminism is apparent but it would be inaccurate to say that all women in different movements in the Latin America had feminist agendas. Another perfect example of socially/politically active women movement that had no feminism agendas includes the Committees of the Mothers of the Disappeared. The movement was extremely active and had many members during the regional dictatorship era. Members of the movement had the sole purpose of looking for their disappeared husbands, brothers, and sons. Nonetheless, some women political movements mimicked feminist movements.

Feminism and its movement in Brazil as a case study

The contemporary feminism in Brazil has its roots in the mid-1960. The movements of the 70s were characterized by political repression. Feminists in that era endeavored to attain women recognition and political freedom from dictatorship and capitalism (Beltrão and Alves 1-32). While some scholars argue that the Brazilian wave of the 1970s emanated from the western influence, others believe that feminism in Brazil was instigated by local social inequalities and gender imparity. However, Brazilians interacted with foreign feminists, especially militants in exile (Beltrão and Alves 1-32).

Like in many Latin American countries, Brazil was under a military dictatorship for more than a decade. During the dictatorship era, human rights movements were banned and their activities criminalized. Most of the feminist movements’ leaders were arrested and tortured. Some managed to go to exile where they interacted with other feminists (Beltrão and Alves 1-32).

The military dictatorship in Brazil ended and feminist movements reemerged. They were commonly referred to as new social movements. The movements had different feminist goals.

Some movements were against economic policies like reductionism. As such, they participated in the union struggles for economic reforms.

Further, feminism movements played important roles in the democratization of Brazil, especially the fights for non-hierarchy democracy.

Later, in the early 90s, many feminist movements disintegrated. The lack of core formalized hierarchies and groups are linked to the collapse of a majority of the movements. Militants of the dissolved feminist movements were incorporated into government organizations while others became scholars.

Nonetheless, some feminists groups became established and registering as non-governmental organizations (NGOs). As NGOs, the groups continued to fight for women recognition while getting financial support from international donors (Beltrão and Alves 1-32).

Feminism and the progress of Brazil

Currently, feminism in Brazil is made up of groups, movements, and NGOs that focus on propelling feminism agendas while involving themselves in academia. Feminism in Brazil incorporates three spheres, including feminism movements, the government, and the academic sphere (Maluf e36–e51).

Civil government has had influences in feminism in Brazil. The creation of the National Woman’s Right Council embraced feminism movements by incorporating some of the movements’ militants (Maluf e36–e51).

Feminists played a key role in the drafting of the Brazilian Constitution. As such, human rights are sufficiently incorporated in the Brazilian Constitution. In addition, Feminism movements can be linked to the creation of the quota system to allow more women in political the arena.

The government sent some delegates to the UN meeting in Beijing in 1995. The delegation had a considerable number of feminist activists. In addition, the government helped in accomplishing some of the feminists’ agenda. For instance, the public hospitals were required to offer legal abortions, a move that faced harsh criticism from the society and religious groups (Maluf e36–e51).


The male gender has dominated in various sociocultural and political aspects in many societies throughout the world. For a long time, women have been victims of gender imparity. As such, they work hard, have more responsibilities but they get minimal compensation or recognition.

However, the romanticism era brought a paradigm shift that brought about feminism. Feminists endeavor to ensure that women are given their due recognition while striving to realize gender parity.

The Latin America has a rich history of feminist movements. The movements emerged in large numbers, especially in what is considered the second wave of feminism.

Feminist movements have notable implications in the Latin America region. This paper has discussed feminism movements in the Latin America. Decisively, feminism has played key roles in the history of Latin America. A number of legislation reforms can be attributed to feminism agendas. In addition, feminism played a major role in the democratization of the Latin America region from dictatorial regimes. It is apparent that not all politically/socially active women are feminists. Women groups with no feminist agendas have emerged in the region.

The paper has paid a key interest on feminism in Brazil. It is evident that feminism has helped in shaping the political, social, and economic status of Brazil. Feminist movements have helped in the stabilization of Brazil after the military dictatorship. The movements have also influenced the formulation of many policies pertinent to the feminism agendas. Feminism has drastically increased women participation in the Brazil’s political and social arenas.

Works Cited

Beltrão, Kaizô Iwakami and José Eustáquio Diniz Alves. “Reversal of the gender gap in Brazilian education in the 20th century.” Cadernos de Pesquisa, 39.136 (2009): 1-32. Print.

Chinchilla, Norma Stoltz. “Marxism, Feminism, and the Struggle for Democracy in Latin America.” Gender & Society, 5.3 (1991): 291-310. Print.

Espinal, Rosario and Shanyang Zhao. “Gender Gaps in Civic and Political Participation in Latin America.” Latin American Politics and Society, 57.1 (2015): 123–138. Print.

Lay, Kathy and James Daley. “A Critique of Feminist Theory.” Advances in Social Work, 8.1 (2007): 49-61. Print.

Maluf, Sônia Weidner. . 2016. Web.

Montecinos, Verónica. “Feminists and Technocrats in the Democratization of Latin America: A Prolegomenon.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, 15.1 (2001): 175-199. Print.

Safa, Helen Icken. “Women’s Social Movements in Latin America.” Gender and Society, 4.3 (2009): 354-369. Print.

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