Teaching Gender, Health, and Reproduction in Latin America, 1980-2000

Well, among the modern teaching modules that I use in the syllabus of teaching women and gender in in world history is one on gender and health in Latin America. And it's a module that encourages students to think about health more broadly, not just the absence of disease but also mental health and kind of in general what we think of as kind of lifestyle issues. So the sources in the module include things related to what we think of as kind of women's health, but also sexuality and reproduction, things having to do with prostitution domestic violence, birth control, abortion, and maternity leave. So again women's health very broadly and you could depending on how you want to where you're going with your class, what kind of class that you were teaching, you could look at this as an aspect of health. You could also use the unit and frame the kind of as reproductive reproduction um about domestic violence about violence against women in general the authors of the unit also encourage students to think about issues having to do with women of different social groups within Latin America. In other words, rich women and poor women, indigenous women, and urban women, but we now today kind of in in women's gender studies called intersectionality. In other words how different kinds of structures and hierarchies of oppression and power intersect with one another to shape people's experience. It's an old enough module that they don't use the word intersectionality, but students would understand that right away. When I'm teaching women and gender in world history one of the things I often try to do for certain as we kind of move into a more modern era I try to if we look if the unit is looking at something from another part of the world. In other words not from where they are which is all in this I try to have students make comparisons with say something that's going on. So for example um when I teach this module as part of women's history I make the focus not health necessarily, but sexuality and reproduction. So what i have to the students too they're using online resources here with world history commons so what i say is okay well let's try to figure out let's try to make some comparisons um with the latin american material that's from the late 20th century on early 20 in here and sort of what's going on today um and i'll just predict that in the future because i've been teaching i've been teaching for 40 years there has never ever ever been a time when sexuality and reproduction are not in the news i mean never um and they'll never will be going forward in the future so whatever's happening as we think about what's going to happen with abortion in this country or with other issues having to do with reproductive rights or with violence or sexuality um that that having students then be able to take the sources that are in the unit and the issues that are brought up in the sources is something that and then kind of compare them with what's going on today. So for example one of the sources in that unit is about maternity leave and what is the one of the maternity policies in various kinds of places including Cuba. So I tell my students well what's what's the matter what's the maternity policy of the United States and most of them actually don't know that we don't have, like we're the only country in the entire industrialized world that doesn't have mandated maternity. So that we have a worse maternity leave policy than Cuba which surprises them. It's also sort of sometimes fun to say, okay like look it up and that means that students can take out their cell phones which they already have out in class and you're telling them to use their cell phone to to uh to look something up which they always think of as fun. The materials that are there but they're historical they really offer really excellent opportunities for making comparisons with whatever happens to be going on right now in the community in which your students wherever you happen to be teaching which students are embedded. I think sometimes that's also a good thing to do is to say, okay well world history sometimes we think of those giant movements of peoples and these giant patterns of things like that but to try to then try to simply say well you're part of world history too you sitting in my classroom are part of world history. And how is what's going on generally globally what is the impact that it has directly here wherever you happen to be sitting and also then what's the role of whatever is going on in your place. How does that contribute to whatever larger trends you find reflected in in in the kind of materials that that you're using here.