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Plotting Women: Gender and Representation in Mexico Essay (Book Review)

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Updated: Jun 23rd, 2022

Experts from human rights organizations note widespread violence against women in Mexico and frequent cases of gender discrimination. Although the country has adopted a federal law aimed at strengthening women’s rights, the situation remains challenging. Although inequality has tended to decrease throughout history, it continues to persist in many forms, including inequalities in women’s political representation and participation and gender gaps in many aspects of life. Jean Franco, in his book, raises the issue of gender prejudice against women in Latin America. The book under study is a re-evaluation of Mexican culture, which asserts gender as an integral part of Latin American literary studies.

Jean Franco is a British academic, and literary critic known for her pioneering work in Latin American literature. The critic is currently a Professor Emeritus at Columbia University (Rogers, 2001). Jean Franco’s research and works are extensive and well thought through. She was among the first English-speaking Latinos to write seriously about Latin American literature. She has focused on writing about women and their rights and is a pioneer of Latin American cultural studies.

Jean Franco explores the struggle of Mexican women to gain power in relation to aspects of life such as religion, nation, and society. The author also examines the works of women whose works had the opportunity to appear before readers only through famous male writers’ names. In the book, Jean Franco uses a large number of feminisms found in clearly harsh and unpleasant situations. This book provides the basis for a new view of the theory of feminism, as more comprehensive and less ethnocentric.

The book “Plotting Women” is a detailed and, at the same time, fascinating study of the introduction of Mexican women in a world dominated by men. The central part of the given texts in the book is a study of the works and lives of writers trying to take an honorable place in the world of men (Franco, 1989). Along with women writers, Franco explores non-traditional genres, such as seventeenth-century nuns’ autobiographies, the art, and the writing of controversial female figures in history.

However, despite the use of historical works and materials from the Mexican archives, the book cannot be called historical. The critic does not consider the significant changes in the role of women in the literary and public spheres. At the same time, the author emphasizes the continuity of the problem of the gender gap among women from the seventeenth century to our time. In the work, Franco points out that she is “not trying to write a history of women and writing in Mexico” (Franco, 1989). The author, in turn, refers to the moments when dissident subjects appear in the world of literature and when the struggle for a change of power breaks out.

I believe that Franco’s work is valuable because it examines the specifics of Latin American feminism in its relation to the social and religious context. To support the arguments and the point of view expressed, the author uses examples from Latin American history, making the book more exciting and valuable for readers. Franco’s point of view is fascinating when describing religion as the dominant discourse in analyzing the women’s discourse of New Spain in the eighteenth century (Franco, 1989). The critic says that the gender gap appeared because women were excluded from religion because of their emotionality. In his book, the author also asks about the role of mysticism in society under consideration. The existence of this aspect was controversial since the society of that time was dominated by religious discourse. The paper examines whether mysticism was a sublime modality or a religious sentiment that helped women integrate into a religious society.

Of particular interest in the book is also the part that describes the outstanding female figures of the twentieth century. Here, the author explores two leading women, Antonieta Rivas Mercado and Frida Kahlo (Franco, 1989). Even today, the names of these women are widely known and cited as examples of people who have made a great contribution to the feminist movement. Despite the very different stories of the two women, Franco sees the close influence of men on the events of their lives. In the case of Mercado, the author sees the reason for her death as an attempt to separate herself from the male world, and Frida, who managed to do this, on the contrary, flourished in terms of artistic life.

Jean Franco’s book is a scholarly, original, and provocative work that, however, cannot be called purely historical. In the research, the author considers the importance of the role of women in full-fledged formation in society. This work is of great value, as it may be of significant interest to students who study Mexican culture and its history. Franco’s work is a valuable source, as it provides information about women’s struggle for a place in the world of men since the seventeenth century and helps to understand the essence of the problem in more detail.


Franco, J. (1989). Plotting women: Gender and representation in Mexico. Columbia University Press.

Rogers, V.D. (2001). Jean Franco’s Lifetime of Critical Passions. American Quarterly, 53(3), 511-517. Web.

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