restricted access 6 The Family across Borders
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183 Chapter Six The Family across Borders Exploring Gaps in Perception and Practice of Gender Empowerment Men are more machista in Mexico, and women are more liberal in the United States. First of all, the man here thinks he is very macho, no? He wants the woman to shine his shoes, iron, cook, treat him well . . . like it’s the obligation of the woman when in reality it should not be like that. . . . Because if you love your wife, you’re not going to want a maid, but unfortunately they, because of their machismo, feel that the woman has to do it. —Rita, a non-migrant woman from Michoacán This chapter explores the gaps in perception and practice of gender equality across borders and addresses the question: What contributes to the perception, as articulated by Rita above, that men are more machista in Mexico and women more liberal in the United States? To frame this exploration, I first review and assess the dominant scholarly view on the impact of labor migration and settlement on gender equity within the family. I then examine how Xaripa women’s perceptions of gender empowerment within the family, the adherence and practice of gender­ ideals, and the household division of labor vary across age cohorts and 184 The Xaripu Community across Borders borders. This exploration of familial authority and equity in the household division of labor will thus help illuminate the impact of trans­ nationalism on perceptions of family and gender equity across borders. Perspectives on Gender Relations within Immigrant Families Within gender and migration scholarship, the two most widely in­ vestigated areas have been the household and social networks. The question of gender empowerment has also been a central theme in this­ literature—specifically, whether migrant women experience some liberation from patriarchy when they migrate to the United States. Early scholarship noted that patriarchy within the family genders migration and determines migrants’ access to social networks, which affects their level of empowerment: women’s networks become broader and more diverse , creating better employment opportunities and thus independence from men (Hondagneu-Sotelo 1994, 121, 136, 138; Hagan 1994, 107–88; Menjívar 2000, 159–64).1 Consequently, migration and settle­ ment experiences affect the household patriarchy (Menjívar 2000, 162–63; Sar­ miento 2002, 160). Migrant sons also challenge their fathers’ authority (Grasmuck and Pessar 1991, 139–47).Women discover personal strength during periods of separation from their male family members (CurryRodriguez 1988; Hondagneu-Sotelo 1994) and eventually enjoy greater agency and opportunity after they migrate and settle in the United States because of its more open structure of opportunities for females (Grasmuck and Pessar 1991; Hondagneu-Sotelo 1994,2003; Rouse 1992). Roles also change along age lines: younger generations assume important roles within the family as translators and mediators in public spaces, while older generations lose social status upon settling in el norte (Menj ívar 2000; Espiritu 2003b; Rouse 1992). Ultimately, the youth are left to navigate two worlds, attempting to reconcile traditional family and gender ideals with the demands and practices of a new society (Toro-Morn and Alicea 2003, 204–7). More recent studies advance the idea that “gender [is] a constitutive element in immigration” (Hondagneu-Sotelo 2003, 9) and point to how labor migration and settlement experiences can alternatively empower The Family across Borders  185 women or reconfigure patriarchy within the family (Pessar 2003, 31). This scholarship tends to fall into one of several competing conclusions: immigration and settlement empowers immigrant women more than men (Grasmuck and Pessar 1991; Hondagneu-Sotelo 1994, 2003; Hirsch 1999; De Genova and Ramos-Zayas 2003; Rouse 1992); immigration and settlement intensifies the exploitation of women through the “double shift”2 (Alicea 1997; Fernández-Kelly 1983; Malkin 1999; Menjívar 2000; Palacios Franco 1987; Sarmiento 2002; Ybarra 1982; Zavella 1987); or immigration and settlement reconstitutes patriarchy without necessari­ ly eliminating it (Curry-Rodriguez 1988; Espiritu 2003a, 2003b; George 2000; Malkin 1999; Parreñas 2001b; Pessar 2003; Soldatenko 1991). The first perspective (that migrant women versus men are the winners in the reconfigured gender relations in the United States) remains the dominant scholarly and popular view regarding the impact of migration and settlement on the Mexican family and thus warrants careful review.Articulating this dominant position,Grasmuck and Pessar’s study of Dominican migrants (1991, 148–51) found that migration and settlement in the United States had empowered women with more household authority and a more egalitarian division of household chores than nonmigrant women in...


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