The Systematic Destruction Of Women's Agency In Juárez, Mexico

4466 words - 18 pages

The Systematic Destruction of Women's Agency in Juárez, Mexico

As citizens, people rely on the state as an agent that acts on their behalf, by providing them with benefits such as basic protection. However, the state itself derives its power (or agency) from the fact that its citizens give up some of their individual agency in exchange for the benefits that belonging to a state provides. People are, thus, both the creators and the subjects of the state. In Juárez, Mexico the state has been shaped by a patriarchy that is very oppressive to women. The women are then subjects to this very oppressive state. Virginia Woolf claims that these women can gain agency and freedom by obtaining ...view middle of the document...

Women are constricted to the private sphere according to Mexican culture. The women give up their rights to be in the public sphere with the hope and understanding that they will be protected in the private sphere. They, however, do not receive this protection. Men can essentially beat their wives with no consequence. Additionally, rape laws are very lax. In 2002 a new state law in Chihuahua, Mexico, where Juárez is located, proposed that the sentence for rape would be reduced from four years to one year if a man could prove that a woman had provoked him. This proposed law "Chávez and her allies argue, shows the root problem behind the Ciudad Juárez murders -- that, in a society where men cannot be charged with raping their wives and domestic abuse is rarely prosecuted, authorities simply do not take violence against women seriously enough." Laws similar to these set up a very restricting climate for women and a very comfortable climate for men. Men are assured that the law is on their side and that they are guaranteed a huge amount of agency.

It is within a climate where women have no agency that in American companies began placing their factories in the small border town of Juárez, Mexico. Juárez is a popular site for US Fortune500 companies to place factories that have very low cost and optional taxes. The sheer poverty of Juárez substantially lowers the amount the companies have to pay workers in comparison to in the United States. This financial motivation is also the leading reason that maquiladoras employ mostly young women. Women are preferred to men as workers in the maquiladoras because they can be paid substantially lower wages. The average wage is from four to seven dollars for a nine-hour work day and there are no benefits offered to workers. Years of sexist attitudes in the United States have created an environment where this pay gap still exists. The wage gap is therefore expected to appear in Mexico as well. While these companies still discriminate against women it is an American stereotype of women from which they are working. American women have been financially independent for decades and therefore have achieved the agency that Woolf refers to. Women have reached such a state of agency that they are past the struggle of making their way into the workplace and are now in a position to fight for equal wages. This position is similar to the situation that Woolf describes in Three Guineas. The women of Juárez on the other hand are still at a point where they need to fight their way into the workplace. It is an anomaly that the women are beginning to find positions in these factories in the first place. I believe that before the introduction of foreign factories into Juárez women rarely would have considered leaving the home to work. But, because the factories are motivated solely by money a man's work is not valued because it is too expensive.

It is this financial motivation that causes a system of giving up agency and...

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