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Sexism in The House on Mango Street from Sandra Cisneros Essay

What’s Sexism?
The word “sexism” became widely known during the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s. At that time, feminist theorists explained that oppression of women was widespread in nearly all human society, and they began to speak of sexism instead of male chauvinism. Whereas male chauvinists were usually individual men who expressed the belief that they were superior to women, sexism referred to collective behavior that reflected society as a whole.

Sexism is a form of discrimination based on gender. While many people use the term specifically to describe discrimination against women, it can also affect men, intersexuals, and transsexuals, along with individuals who “eschew” traditional gender roles and identities. Sexism includes attitudes that support discrimination, such as stereotyping sex roles and generalizing an entire gender.

It can be rooted in cultural traditions, fear, hatred, or superiority. Members of the same gender often criticize themselves with arguments which are rooted in sexism without knowing it, as for example when women criticize each other for being too masculine and defying traditional ideas about gender roles and how women should behave.

Sexism in Mango Street.

Discrimination on the basis of gender can take a wide variety of forms. For example, some people believe that women should stay at home to focus on rearing children and keeping house, rather than pursuing professional careers. In the most violent instances, it can also drive to gender violence cases. These two forms of sexism are very conspicuous in The House on Mango Street. The sexist prejudice is clear right from the beginning of the novel. On page 10, Esperanza, the narrator, explains the meaning of her name with the connection to the Chinese culture, and she says “I think this is a Chinese lie because the Chinese, like the Mexicans, don’t like their women strong”.

In many of the next chapters, we can see that some men on Mango Street beat their wives and daughters and confine them to the home. On chapter Boys&Girls, the “separate worlds” inhabited by boys and girls is a metaphor for the sexism and stereotypes that the narrator confronts and longs to escape.

The narrator speaks with great irony when describing her brothers’ hypocritical treatment of her and Nenny: “They’ve got plenty to say to me and Nenny inside the house. But outside they can’t be seen talking to girls.” On the Chapter Alicia who sees Mice, we can perceive that the character from Alicia is beaten by her father, as it says “Alicia is afraid of nothing except four-legged fur. And fathers”.

Another beaten character is Sally, which says to Esperanza “He never hits me hard” referring to his father, and then lies at school saying that she fall or something in the way. Later in the book, on the chapter Linoleum Roses, we find out that this character, also escapes from her beating father by getting married with an older man. But this isn’t a real escape because although she can find relieve on having material possessions, her husband is as violent as his father and he doesn’t let her go out from home and nobody can visit her unless he’s working.

This is an example of the slavement and confinement that sexism can cause. We can also see machism reflected on Rafaela’s character, whose husband confines her home and doesn’t let her out, so she dreams of being Rapunzel and asks the children to buy juice for her through the window. We can see Sandra Cisneros feminist ideology from the beginning of the book, then she dedicates it “A las mujeres To the women”. Besides, she offers us a critique of the way men and women relate to one another, through Esperanza’s character, which refuses to conform to the expectations placed on her sex by getting married or even acting in a “feminine” way.

We can think that defying gender roles and remaining independent is an act of rebellion for Esperanza, in the context of Chicano society. The clearest example of this is on page 89, when Esperanza says “I have begun my own quite war. Simple. Sure. I am one who leaves the table like a man, without putting back the chair or picking up the plate.”

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