Sex in Revolution

Gender, Politics, and Power in Modern Mexico

Sex in Revolution

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 4 b&w photos Published: January 2007

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Mexico

Sex in Revolution challenges the prevailing narratives of the Mexican Revolution and postrevolutionary state formation by placing women at center stage. Bringing to bear decades of feminist scholarship and cultural approaches to Mexican history, the essays in this book demonstrate how women seized opportunities created by modernization efforts and revolutionary upheaval to challenge conventions of sexuality, work, family life, religious practices, and civil rights.

Concentrating on episodes and phenomena that occurred between 1915 and 1950, the contributors deftly render experiences ranging from those of a transgendered Zapatista soldier to upright damas católicas and Mexico City’s chicas modernas pilloried by the press and male students. Women refashioned their lives by seeking relief from bad marriages through divorce courts and preparing for new employment opportunities through vocational education. Activists ranging from Catholics to Communists mobilized for political and social rights. Although forced to compromise in the face of fierce opposition, these women made an indelible imprint on postrevolutionary society.

These essays illuminate emerging practices of femininity and masculinity, stressing the formation of subjectivity through civil-society mobilizations, spectatorship and entertainment, and locales such as workplaces, schools, churches, and homes. The volume’s epilogue examines how second-wave feminism catalyzed this revolutionary legacy, sparking widespread, more radically egalitarian rural women’s organizing in the wake of late-twentieth-century democratization campaigns. The conclusion considers the Mexican experience alongside those of other postrevolutionary societies, offering a critical comparative perspective.

Contributors. Ann S. Blum, Kristina A. Boylan, Gabriela Cano, María Teresa Fernández Aceves, Heather Fowler-Salamini, Susan Gauss, Temma Kaplan, Carlos Monsiváis, Jocelyn Olcott, Anne Rubenstein, Patience Schell, Stephanie Smith, Lynn Stephen, Julia Tuñón, Mary Kay Vaughan


Sex in Revolution is an important set of essays that explores the dynamics of both sex and gender in Mexico before and after the revolution. . . . This volume will become a fundamental reading assignment for modern Mexican history, as well as for courses in women in Latin American history.” — Donna J. Guy, EIAL

“[A] crisp, well-integrated set of articles focused primarily on the experience of women during and after the Mexican Revolution of 1910. . . . Instructors will find many of the individual essays in this collection useful for helping students appreciate the ways in which the Mexican Revolution was or was not a revolution for women. For those undertaking research, this engaging collection complements other recent work on the topic. . . .” — Katherine Elaine Bliss, Hispanic American Historical Review

“[A] must-read for anyone studying revolution and the politics of gender and sexuality. The editors brought together a superb group of scholars who reveal new dimensions of the history of the Mexican Revolution as they uncover women’s influence on the national project. . .” — Jadwiga E. Pieper Mooney, New Mexico Historical Review

“[A] valuable, fresh contribution to gender studies in Mexico from a perspective further removed from the revolutionary period. . . . [T]his is a remarkable volume for the scope and depth of its contents and analysis and for its documentation of the challenges by the women of Mexico to the entrenched social order. It represents a remarkable and commendable effort that contributes to our changing view of the Mexican Revolution and its long aftermath.” — Carmen Ramos Escandón, Signs

“As a feminist project, this collection of essays credits women of the post revolution as agents of the Modern state capable of challenging dominant patriarchal practices with significant performances resistant to traditional femininity. This text is well written, interesting, and a necessary read for understanding further a significant era in Modern Mexican history. It is an enlightening addition to any women’s studies reading list (undergraduate or graduate) and to any special topics course dealing with Mexican history, cultural identity or popular culture. This book is scholarly in tone, but is very accessible.” — Denise Menchaca, Feminist Review blog

“As part of a new wave of social and cultural histories taking gender as a primary mode of historical analysis, this sterling collaboration stands as an important contribution that will no doubt spark lively discussion and deepen our understanding of revolutionary Mexico.” — Andrew G. Wood, The Americas

“In Sex in Revolution Olcott, Vaughan, and Cano succeed in compiling a group of scholars and their essays that reflect the sociological and cultural contributions of this generation of women who fought on the battlefield of the Mexican Revolution (the soldaderas) and those that continued the battle for equal rights for women, irrespective of race or social status, in the social and political arena (e.g. las pelonas). . . . Sex in Revolution will undoubtedly interest scholars not only of Latin American history and cultural studies but also feminist researchers looking for a concise yet detailed account of modern Mexican feminist accounts.” — Cristina Santos, Canadian Woman Studies

“Olcott has decisively advanced the field in terms of substantive argument while setting new standards of theoretical sophistication, methodological accomplishment, and programmatic advancement. Most important, her conceptual approach holds promise for those in other disciplines, including political science.” — John D. French, Latin American Politics and Society

“One of the book ’s most notable qualities lies in the way in which it emphasises women ’ s agency in the re-negotiation of hegemonic gendered practices and cultural patterns in a variety of social situations and localities, thus contesting dominant narratives of the revolutionary period. . . . [A]n important contribution to discussions about historical patterns of gender, politics, and women’s agency and activism in Mexico.” — Daniel Nehring, Bulletin of Latin American Research

“The essays in Sex in Revolution provide intriguing case studies of the complex intersections of ‘gender, politics, and power’ in twentieth century Mexico. . . . Historians of modern Mexico and modern Latin America as well as scholars interested in the history of women and gender will find it an invaluable resource. Sex in Revolution is likely to be a staple in graduate seminars for years to come.” — Robert Buffington, A Contracorriente

“This is a truly superlative volume which will be required reading for anyone interested in Mexican history of the intersections of gender and revolution. Sex and Revolution transforms our understanding of the Mexican Revolution, underlining in the process the indispensability of gender as a category of political analysis. The book has much to offer both the generalist and the specialist, and is accessible enough for undergraduates. Every single chapter is of exceptionally high quality, and this is a valuable contribution that will set the standard for work in this field.” — Nicola Foote, Canadian Journal of History

“This long awaited volume exceeds all expectations, advancing simultaneously the field of gender history, our understanding of modern Mexico, and its place in twentieth century global history.” — Stephanie Mitchell, Journal of Latin American Studies

“This anthology touches on a wide range of themes: female colonels in the revolution, machismo applied with scissor snips in Mexico City, the cinematographic treatment of indigenous women, divorce in conservative circles, women’s education, the construction of new families, labor-union life, rationalized sex, activism among women in Catholic and rural organizations, and sexism in the Popular Front. Despite the variety, the book offers a complex, coherent panorama, energetically distancing itself from generalizations. It is well known that God, the devil, and attentive readers are in the details.” — Carlos Monsiváis, from the foreword

“This path-breaking book fundamentally changes our view of the Mexican Revolution as a man-made affair. The women who struggled against patriarchal authority as workers, teachers, feminist activists, soldiers, peasants, students, and mothers come alive in these pages—as do their adversaries. The chapters brilliantly mesh theoretical analysis with fine-grained historical accounts of gendered challenges to Mexico’s social order. This book’s importance reaches far beyond the Mexican case as it grapples with universal questions of authority, gender, and revolution.” — Elizabeth Dore, author of Myths of Modernity: Peonage and Patriarchy in Nicaragua


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jocelyn Olcott is the Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of History at Duke University. She is the author of Revolutionary Women in Postrevolutionary Mexico, also published by Duke University Press.

Mary Kay Vaughan is Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her books include Cultural Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants, and Schools in Mexico, 1920–1940 and (with Stephen E. Lewis) The Eagle and the Virgin: Nation and Cultural Revolution in Mexico, 1920–1940, also published by Duke University Press.

Gabriela Cano is Professor of History at Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico City. She is a coeditor of the multivolume Historia de las mujeres en España y América Latina.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Foreword: When Gender Can’t Be Seen amid the Symbols: Women and the Mexican Revolution / Carlos Monsivaois 1

Introduction: Pancho Villa, the Daughters of Mary, and the Modern Woman: Gender in the Long Mexican Revolution / Mary Kay Vaughan 21

Part One: Embodying Revolutionary Culture

Unconcealable Realities of Desire: Amelio Robles’s (Transgender) Masculinity in the Mexican Revolution / Gabriela Cano 35

The War on Las Pelonas: Modern Women and Their Enemies, Mexico City, 1924 / Anne Rubenstein 57

Femininity, Indigneismo, and Nation: Film Representation by Emilio “El Indio: Fernandez / Julia Tunon 81

Part Two: Reshaping the Domestic Sphere

“In Love Enslaves...Love Ber Damned!”: Divorce and Revolutionary State Formation in Yucatan / Stephanie Smith 99

Gender, Class, and Anxiety at the Gabriela Mistral Vocational School, Revolutionary Mexico City / Patience A. Schell 112

Breaking and Making Families: Adoption and Public Welfare, Mexico City, 1938–1942, Ann S. Blum 127

Part Three: The Gendered Realm of Labor Organizing

The Struggle between the Metate and the Molinos de Nixtamal in Guadalajara, 1920–1940 / Maria Teresa Fernandez-Aveces

Gender, Work, Trade Unionism, and Working-Class Women’s Culture in Post-Revolution Veracruz / Heather Fowler-Salamini 162

Working-Class Masculinity and the Rationalized Sex: Gender and Industrial Modernization in the Textile Industry In Postrevolutionary Puebla / Susan M. Gauss 181

Part Four: Women and Revolutionary Politics

Gendering the Faith and Altering the Nation: Mexican Catholic Women’s Activism, 1917–1940 / Kristina A. Boylan 199

The Center Cannot Hold: Women on Mexico’s Popular Front / Jocelyn Olcott 225

Epilogue. Rural Women’s Grassroots Activism, 1980–2000: Reframing the Nation from Below / Lynn Stephen 241

Final Reflections: Gender, Chaos, and Authority in Revolutionary Times / Temma Kaplan

Bibliography 277

Contributors 303

Index 307
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3899-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3884-0
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