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Maquiladoras And The Exploitation Of Women's Bodies

1446 words - 6 pages

Maquiladoras and the Exploitation of Women's Bodies
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In a changing economic and political climate gender stereotypes in Juárez, Mexico refuse to change. With an increasing number of women forced into the workplace in maquiladoras(1), men's position and women's assumed position in society is being challenged. This changing economic environment in an unchanging cultural environment is part of the reason that young women are disappearing being raped and mutilated before ultimately being killed and "abandoned like meat by-products in the desert" (Pérez, March 2004). These women's bodies are entering unknowingly and unwilling into a war about cultural norms and a changing economic atmosphere.

The exploitation of and war on women's bodies in Juárez was set in motion long before they began being murdered in large numbers; it was instigated in the maquiladoras were they were working. Juárez is a popular site for US Fortune500 companies to place factories that have very law cost and optional taxes. The more than 500 maquiladoras operating in Juárez have drawn an influx of Mexicans who hope to get rich quickly. While the workers in maquiladoras are better of financially than they would be anywhere else, the maquiladora environment and cities are far from ideal. Maquiladoras employ mostly young women.(2)

In a machismo culture women are preferred to men as workers in the maquiladoras because they can be paid substantially lower wages, while they also have better manual dexterity. Years of sexist attitudes have created an environment where this pay gap not only possible but entirely acceptable. The average wage is from four to seven dollars for a nine-hour work day and there are no benefits offered to workers. Not only do these US run factories play into the Mexican stereotype of women's inferiority, they also use stereotypes about women's abilities and characteristics. Women are believed to have greater manual dexterity than men and they are therefore preferred by companies who want to maximize their production. Women who are hired for their supposed superiority to men when it comes to manual dexterity, a trade essential to a maquiladora worker, are ironically paid much less despite their valued trait. It is clear that the degree to which the women are devalued is far greater than the degree to which their ability and production is valued. Women's bodies are being exploited in factories where they are being paid ridiculously low wages based on a cultural belief that men superior to women, that women belong in the household and that men belong in the workplace. They are then paid significantly less partly to reinforce this ideal—to keep men as the leaders of the household--and partly in order to reinforce the stereotypes about the submissive and inferior nature of women.

Women, particularly mestizas(3) , are also favored because of "cultural upbringing that encourages total serviceability" (Castillo, 2004). Women in Mexico...

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