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1Heteronormativity and patriarchy are powerful and adaptive systems of domination that seep into our lives in ways both obvious and subtle. Across contexts and eras, people whose autonomy and self-determination are the most constrained by them —women, queer people, and those whose gender or sexual expression trouble the social order— have fought back. Whether through individual refusals to conform or through collective mobilizations, these people have questioned power structures in order to ensure their survival (Collins; Ferree; Paxton and Hughes). The richly variegated forms of their resistance reflect how other social locations, such as race, ethnicity, class, and nationality cut across gender and sexuality (Cohen; Hooks). These factors expose people to multiple levels of subjugation, shape their subjectivity, and inform their activism. Despite these differences, people have made significant progress toward positive transformation since at least the 19th century acting locally and across international borders. Examples include: accessing and shaping the political field through voting and constituency building; economic participation with the end of coverture and legislation against discrimination; sexual autonomy with the decriminalization of homosexuality, access to abortion, and the politicization of sexual violence. These advances are partial in many places and fragile everywhere. Those doing the hard work on the ground, whether they speak to us through the historical archives or in interviews, warn us against complacency.

2Those warnings are ringing especially true since the 2010s. In the Americas, Europe, and other locations, the political and cultural context has become increasingly mixed and in many cases cause for alarm. For example, the roll back of access to abortion in the United States, heralded as a triumph by an unabashedly sexist president, has been spearheaded by a Republican party whose anti-feminist and heterosexist agenda is gaining ground. These trends are not limited to a few isolated situations. Jair Bolsonaro, the current president of Brazil, openly calls for the elimination of queer people and has taken steps to subvert federal laws striving for gender and sexual equality. His actions have been accompanied by an uptick in many forms of violence, especially against transwomen of color. The migration crises in the Americas and Europe reveal how neoliberal economic policies, coupled with nationalist and imperialistic agendas, put women and sexual minorities in especially precarious situations as they seek refuge. In Europe, coordinated anti-gender movements, receiving support from the Catholic Church and various states, have successfully framed gender and sexual equality as an existential threat, uniting otherwise divided political actors (Kuhar and Paternotte). This movement is gaining traction globally, leading to the rollback or thwarting of progressive legislation, a hardening of anti-feminist stances, and a skepticism toward or outright prohibition of scholarship on gender and sexuality not only in countries including Russia, Poland, Hungary, or Turkey but also in Western Europe, Africa, and Latin America.

3Whether we call our current moment a time of backlash or something else—there is much debate about how to conceptualize such social change—it is clear that we need to be paying attention. This special issue, entitled “Resisting norms and confronting backlash: gender and sexuality in the Americas,” is an invitation to reflect on gender, sexuality, and dynamics of change at this juncture. The articles here reflect the variety of disciplines and perspectives of the readership of L’Ordinaire des Amériques, ranging from the social sciences to literature. In addition to the main articles, which I outline below, I invite readers to engage with two special contributions in the “Coin des curiosités” section. The first, “Contre les violences patriarcales ordinaires : #MeToo et #NiUnaMenos, voix des Amériques,” by Delphine Lacombe, is an important commentary on contemporary mobilization against sexual violence and the risks and advantages of activist strategies. The second is an online conversation between myself and Luisa Elena Molina, a Venezuelan scholar studying food security, that gives an account of life in Venezuela, particularly as it impacts women, in the context of political instability.

4The main research articles contribute to our understanding of gender, sexuality, and resistance in the Americas in specific ways. The first, “Colombia: the Peace Process, Gender Subversion, and Resistance,” by Olga González, examines the key role of women and sexual minorities, as well as issues about equality, in the peace negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government. These questions, and the activists fighting for and against their inclusion, highlight the place of gender and sexuality in the peace process more broadly. The second, “‘Women are those who lose their sense of shame’: resistance and fulfillment of gender expectations in dissident initiatives in a rural district of Argentina,” by Johana Kunin, studies the ways women reappropriate social norms about motherhood to realign gendered power dynamics locally. Similarly, Nuria Jiménez Garcia’s study, “‘I’m not gonna marry, no, I wanna have fun.’ Resisting as a single woman,” also analyzes women and patriarchy in relationships. Based on ethnographic observation, she reveals the ways in which single women of color in Oaxaca find and exploit “cracks” at the intersection of race and gender to redefine norms.

5In the fourth article in this issue, Mylenn Zobda Zebina, Myrhiam Thirot, Sylvie Merle, shift our attention to the Caribbean. In “Transactional Sexualities and Backlash in Martinique,” they draw on surveys and interviews with people about the kinds of sex they have in exchange for money or services. They analyze how criticisms aimed at marginalized people, especially gay men and foreign sex workers, flatten the range of behaviors and meanings along the spectrum of transactional sex. In the next article, “The pursuit and resignificance of the popular and the feminine on the healthcare market in Chile and Argentina 1850-1900,” Manuel Durán takes an historical perspective on gender and sexuality in medicine. His archival research reveals how men used social closure to create an occupational monopoly that explicitly excluded women from healthcare work in areas, such as maternal care, that had previously been their domain. Drawing on essentializing discourse about women’s “natures,” not dissimilar from language used today, men closed the doors of the medical profession. The final article brings us to North America and to literature. In her piece, “Deconstructing Gender Roles and Digesting the Magic of Folktales and Fairy Tales in Annie Proulx’s Omnivorous Wyoming Stories,” Bénédicte Meillon illustrates how the author wields the conventions of fairy tales to shift gendered expectations in her writing. This narrative subversion creates opportunities for new forms of storytelling that breakdown boundaries of gender and genre.

6I hope that you enjoy these pieces as much as I enjoyed editing them. At this point I want to thank all those who participated in making this issue a reality. It would not have been possible without the collective labor of many people, much of which is unpaid and gendered. For example, almost all of the anonymous reviewers were women. As we know, this kind of work is crucial for the advancement of scientific knowledge but is often invisible and, unlike the kinds of work that men in the academy tend to dominate, it does not necessarily help with promotion. I would like to thank them for their time and the precision with which they critiqued all the submissions. My very sincere thanks go to all of the authors, the editorial team and staff at l’Ordinaire des Amériques, the colleagues who translated the abstracts and titles. In particular I would to like thank, in alphabetical order, the people with whom I interacted with the most, including Stéphane Boisard, Françoise Coste, Françoise Gouzi, François Grosdemouge, Rodrigo Nabuco de Araujo, Angelina Peralva, Sonia Rose, Lorédane Saint-Blancat, Modesta Suárez, and Alexis Yannopoulos. Finally, I would like to thank my mother, Lania D’Agostino, for contributing the cover art.

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COHEN, Cathy J. The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

COLLINS, Patricia Hill. 2015. “Intersectionality’s Definitional Dilemmas.” Annual Review of Sociology, 2015, 41, no1, p. 1–20.

FERREE, Myra Marx. Varieties of Feminism: German Gender Politics in Global Perspective. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 2012.

HOOKS, bell. Feminist Theory from Margin to Center. Boston MA: South End Press, 1984.

KUHAR, Roman, and David Paternotte (eds.). Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe: Mobilizing against Equality. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

PAXTON, Pamela and Melanie M HUGHES. Women, Politics, and Power: A Global Perspective. Los Angeles, California: Pine Forge Press, 2007.

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Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer, « Introduction »L’Ordinaire des Amériques [En ligne], 224 | 2019, mis en ligne le 15 juillet 2019, consulté le 09 décembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Michael Stambolis-Ruhstorfer

Université Bordeaux Montaigne / CLIMAS

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