In the Land of God and Man
Looking across the broad scope of international problems it is clear that women in all countries are marginalized by the simple reality of their gender. While the United States has adopted a proactive response to this reality—by instituting such polices as affirmative action and supporting a culture of political correctness—women of other, less developed countries have not been so fortunate. This is the subject of Silvana Paternostro’s look at life for women in Latin America in her book, In the Land of God and Man. Despite the fact that Paternostro grew up socially isolated from the realities of gender discrimination in Latin America—due in most part to her socio-economic class—after retuning to the region after twenty years, Paternostro is able to succinctly capture the social inequities that exist in this culture.
Considering Paternostro’s work more analytically, it becomes clear that the author’s thesis is predicated upon the idea that the Roman Catholic Church, the government and men dominate every aspect of female sexuality in Latin America. This issue has become so pervasive, that it has become central issue of public health for the women of the region. Because women are not taught to value their sexuality or for that matte anything about the realities of sex, many have unwittingly become the victims of sexually transmitted disease. Women are not taught to protect themselves, nor are they encouraged to discuss their sexuality openly. According to Paternostro women are placed into on of two categories, virgins or whores.
The sexual repression of women is not the only topic of repression that is discussed by the Paternostro. The economic oppression of women by men is also discussed in significant detail. Paternostro writes that “men are more than happy to continue to see women as wives, mothers, virgins, or whores, but not as engineers, journalists, lawyers, surgeons, or statesmen.” The sexual and economic repression of women in Latin American society has promulgated a situation in which women have become the lowest common denominator on the social scale. While women are needed to bear children and take care of men, they have been marginalized beyond animals.