Limits On Gender Domination: The Dynamic Duality of Modernity: Feedback loops in Social Structures 2011

HIST 652       Women in Modern LA       Dr. Liz Hutchison    Timothy Sipp                       2/3/11

Response Paper 1: Chad Black’s Limits On Gender Domination: The Dynamic Duality of Modernity: Feedback loops in Social Structures

            Black’s assessment in Limits on Gender Domination of the need to re-evaluate the normalization of patriarchy in the historiographies of Latin American Women, specifically those in Quito, Ecuador is both compelling and enlightening. Black shows us through hundreds of legal findings from original sources that women, though not equal by any means, weren’t completely powerless and subjugated to male dominance as has been previously suggested. In fact women’s aptitude in self-representation and advocacy points to the existence of cultural awareness of gender politics as a vehicle of agency implicit within colonial and immediately post-colonial law.

            The transition to a “modern bureaucracy” that privileged the male citizen of a nation-state served to institutionalize the subjugation of women, but due to an extensive cultural history of customary practice throughout colonial and post-colonial Quito, women maintained some of their inherited de facto turned de jure agency. What is most interesting is the practical approach of the magistrates of colonial and post-colonial Ecuador, to adjudicate cases based on an ever-expanding body of precedent rooted in case-specific circumstances. These exceptions made by judicial discretion formed the basis for female agency within the law and their normalization into the systemic social structures further empowering women to self-advocate.

            The push towards centralization by the Bourbon’s necessitated the social control device of patriarchy for simplicity as well as selfishness and utilized the Iberian Catholic constructs of male privilege. But the institutional memory of women as their own advocates was never fully eradicated by this “malformed modernity”. According to Black, gender became more of a tactic in determining legal cases, while consolidating the subjugation of women structurally, constraints were also placed on the power of the dominant. So, just like several other potential aspects or “nodes” could positively or negatively effect the outcome of a civil or criminal case, gender became a method of identifying and qualifying legal status. While simultaneously granting women basic rights, this bureaucracy also sought to disenfranchise women from expressions of political and economic power devoid of male participation/authority derived in large part from the Catholic Patriarchal system.

            While the colonial and post-colonial records show women of diverse socio-economic status making claims in courts, the women most able to affect favorable legal rulings were women of higher socio-economic status and educational opportunities. This finding is most reasonable and follows that economic empowerment as well as awareness coupled with educational opportunities lead to more active self-advocacy and assertions of political will.

            As eminent French Sociologist Michele Foucault noted;  the consolidation of power and the subsequent bequeathal of “rights” to offset centralization of political power to the nation-state should focus on constraints and compromise instead of law as enumerator of acceptability. The inherited late Spanish-colonial legal system was that model of constraints and compromises determined by specific circumstances instead of rigidly codified fiat. The Bourbon institutionalization of Patriarchy and Filial Piety succeeded in altering the historical record and social constructs of contemporary society, but it did not eradicate the deep institutional memory of customary practice of the law for the women of Quito, Ecuador.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *