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Children and the benefits of gender equality: negotiating traditional and modern gender expectations in a Mexican village

Milićević, Zorana (2014) Children and the benefits of gender equality: negotiating traditional and modern gender expectations in a Mexican village. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The transformation of traditional gender ideology has been actively promoted in Mexican society over recent decades. While adults’ renegotiations of traditional ideals and their efforts to forge modern relations have received significant ethnographic attention, little is known about how children in Mexico engage with the contradictions inherent in the coexistence of old and new expectations. This thesis, based on twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork, explores children’s readiness to resist gender divisions and embrace gender equality in the Mexican village of Metztitlán in the state of Hidalgo. The research focused on the, often contradictory, information that was made available to children at home, in the neighbourhood and in the school setting and on how children, aged between six and eleven, negotiated expectations that concerned aggressive behaviour, toy use and the division of labour. The thesis asks whether children regarded gender divisions as problematic and, if they did, whether this translated into readiness to resist traditional expectations through everyday interactions. It pays particular attention to how different kinds of audiences both influenced and were influenced by children’s resistance to gender divisions. The finding is that in domains, such as toy use or the division of labour, in which egalitarian alternatives to traditional expectations were available (e.g. through schooling), most girls and boys, in conversations with the anthropologist, expressed their allegiance to gender equality. However, children did not put these attitudes to work through interactions with peers and adults unless they found personally meaningful advantages in egalitarian arrangements. When they recognised tangible benefits of equality, they not only showed readiness to resist traditional divisions themselves but also to encourage adults to do the same.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Zorana Milićević
Library of Congress subject classification: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1201 Latin America (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Harris, Olivia

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