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Laws and International Laws

And That It Is Customs Makes It Law by Susie S. Porter

Susie S. Porter in “And That It Is Customs Makes It Law” highlights the class conflict and gender ideology during the 1880s and 1900s in Mexico. The laws denied females to take part in business thus restricting their roles to homes. The women during the period that tried to make living through their talents faced legal sections. Women struggled in the public space to receive the entitlement of working woman as it resulted in class conflict. Cultural understanding of woman during the period remained under constant flux. Practices of female seclusion remained visible during the period. However, the social relationships changed in upper and middle class as females represented them as working class. Society’s rejection of working-class women was the result of customs, suggesting it as immoral.

A woman during the period finds themselves with the predicaments and limited opportunities for survival. Women who were concerned about helping their families in miserable situations faced limitations. On government’s act of removing cake selling business of a poor woman Trejo wrote, “I am obliged to plead to the father of us the poor, that he concedes what would be for me a fortune, that I be allowed to sell my cakes, and God will compensate you for this act of nobility” (Porter 112). History of Mexico reveals that woman like Trejo struggled over defining working place for them. gender ideology resulted in class conflict as the municipal regulations promoted the role of the concept of working woman. The society played a significant role in creating gender stereotypes and beliefs, “a gendered space approach argues that specific spaces have become associated with either masculine or feminine attributes” (Porter 113). Women were not allowed to take roles outside the traditional rules of feminism. The customs associated business with masculinity and eliminated the similar opportunities for women. The social relationship between men and women was also dependent on the perceived differences between sexes. The customs were more focused on assigning power to the males and creating them as dominant members.

Changing roles of women in public sphere was the result of conflicting relationships between vendors and upper class. Several attempts were made to remove the feminine entry from public spheres but their recognition as working class increased with time. The struggles of vendors focused on receiving their rights and more specifically working rights. Trejo and other women wanted to change their lives by contributing to the society. They believed that only through work they could provide relief to their families and support them against poverty. The state took strict actions to remove women from public spheres as the laws instructed inspectors to remove the vendors fried, grilled food, coffee, and sandwiches because the majority of them were women. Irrespective of several laws passed to eliminate female vendors from municipal markets they continued to sell their food. Porter mentions that the women, “continue to abuse this tolerance, occupying large sections [of certain municipal markets], interrupting the passage of pedestrians” (Porter 120). Mexican women in 1903 were ready to accept all the challenges to gain recognition as working class. The presence of women in public spheres increased with time as more women started their vendor business. By the 1907 women developed strengths to deal with the social stigmas but were in no position of accepting strict laws.

Gender ideology was also apparent as the presence of women on streets was a direct question of morality. Women were able to justify their positions as the central cause for their existence in public spheres was money. Majority of the women engaged in vendor businesses were poor, widows and lacked financial support. Under such conditions, they exhibited high motivation to work for betterment. Their presence was not a question of morality but the rejection of the idea that woman can compete with men by taking similar roles. Immorality was a less relevant question for the males taking advantage of the women due to their repressed states. Males were reluctant to deny the rights of women even when they claimed in public spheres.

Gender ideology was the most prominent force in the promotion of such beliefs as for state and authoritative entities were not willing to accept new roles of women. Male tried to claim their rights to selling that played negative role resulting in feminine repression. They denied females of the same rights, moving them to the least profitable corners of the market. Porter captures the situation, “men in positions of power felt privileged to attempt to take sex from women who worked on streets regardless or their desires or marital status” (Porter 133). Males exploited females and tried to take advantages of the customs and laws. Customs put women in less favored state where they could not compete with males in public spheres. For years women accepted restricted working spheres because they lacked the power to claim equal rights.

Class conflict illustrates femaleness in many ways as it portrays the less favored position of women when compared to males. Females remained victims of social sanctions and customs that denied their presence in public spheres. The society was accustomed to seeing females in oppressed positions irrespective of their efforts and talents. Feminine struggles and consistent efforts to gain working-class status changed the social relationships. Males associated the working women with immorality and identified them as unrespectable. Females never gave up and used their strengths to make change by entering public spheres. Need for money and better life motivated women to work.

Work cited

Porter, Susie S. “And That It Is Customs Makes It Law.” The Working Classes and Urban Public Space 24.1 (2000): 111-148.



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