Gendered social norms, school violence and Capabilities in the State of Mexico

Covarrubias, Arlette; Caro Luján, Nelly (2014). 'Gendered social norms, school violence and Capabilities in the State of Mexico' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

The objective of the paper is to statistically examine the relationship between adolescent's beliefs in gendered norms and different types of violence (physical, mental, and symbolic), and in turn, with student's basic capabilities, in Mexican secondary Schools. In Mexico, violence within schools is a concern of great magnitude due to the escalation of the levels of insecurity in the country.  As Nussbaum (2005) elicits, violence affects several of the capabilities she enlists as the basis for an account of fundamental human entitlements such as: bodily integrity; emotions; the senses, imagination and thought; practical reason; and affiliations. Also, it also affects individual´s agency, through the influence of an individual´s sense of worth and self-esteem, or the capacity to define goals and act upon them.

Social norms, are informal moral rules (rules that are concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviour) sustained by a group of individuals in a society which are learnt in the process of socialization (Rutherford 1996). Gendered social norms refer to the behaviour expected from individuals depending on their sex (notions of femininity and masculinity). In Mexico, for instance, 'a manly man had to be a good provider for his family (as well as a heavy drinker, socializing mainly with his mates when not engaged with vigorous promiscuity). A womanly woman, on the other hand, was chaste and pure, the bearer of her husband's honour; she stayed in the home, cared well for him and their children, and had an enduring capacity for suffering' (Townsend 1999). These norms act as maps of adolescents' notions of femininity and masculinity.  If students (both boys and girls) do not conform to these norms, they can be subject to different sorts of violence such as ridicule, harassment and physical abuse by their peers. Thus the paper assesses the effect that the belief in gendered norms has on violence towards adolescent boys and girls and how, through these, several of their basic capabilities are curtailed.

To achieve this, a survey was constructed which contained information on the prevalence of physical, verbal and symbolic violence and of the prevalence of violence due to body image, classism, income levels and school performance. Four questions were included to proxy for beliefs in gendered norms, these were; whether adolescents believed women had to be the homeowners, whether they believed men had to be the providers, whether they believed that if girls were harassed it was because they didn't know how to make themselves respected, and whether they would like to have a gay friend. The survey also included information related to students´ socioeconomic situation, their grades, the quality of the relationship with their parents and teachers, alcohol and drug use, self-esteem and self-perception, and their desires and hopes about their future. Data was collected early 2014, from a representative and random sample of secondary school students (12 to 15 year old) in the State of Mexico, Mexico. 

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