An interview with Abigail: rejecting gender roles and embracing free choice in Mexico

By Roni Roseberg

If you enter the laboratory in the medium-sized Mexican city where Abigail works full time, you’ll we met with professionalism and a friendly, positive attitude.

As I am a regular at her workplace, we chat about life as she draws my blood.

Abigail represents a new generation of women, particularly in in Mexico, where tradition reigns strong. And for that reason, I ask to interview her.

She readily agrees, and immediately sees that her views could be helpful to women anywhere.

As we continue to talk, I learn that Abigail loves her work, and as a single mother with a little girl, has a lifestyle that she’s thankfully very happy with.

I ask her if she has been pressured by her parents, who help out with the toddler, to marry her boyfriend, and she says no. Curious to know if she’d like to get married, she says: “Maybe, in the future.”

She feels completely free to make that decision or not, and has her family’s backing to take her time contemplating a commitment to the man in her life. It’s refreshing and encouraging.

Here in Mexico (as in many other countries across the globe), this kind of personal freedom is becoming more common.

Yet, I still consider it unusual. Mexico is a country where, not so long ago, and still in certain regions, the church and its prescriptions for a moral life, have been significant for hundreds of years.

Religion plays a central part in the lives of people across Mexico.

A catholic country, the church still holds deep meaning for many Mexicans. In fact, US-based research has shown, for example, that Mexicans living within Mexico itself hold a higher degree of “traditional” values than those based in the US. 

So, I ask Abigail about the messages she received in her early years regarding the role of women, from family, school, and church.

She says that her religious education emphasised the need for women to have families and be loyal, obedient wives and mothers.

Stronger yet however, was her parents’ message that she and her two brothers could be whatever they wanted in life by working hard. There were no specific gender roles in their household and all members of the family merited equal respect.

They supported the idea that each individual could decide to marry or not, and that family size was a personal decision. When asked today how many children she wants, Abigail says: “I want the number of children I can support with an excellent quality of life.”

As a woman, this is refreshing to hear! And of course, it’s all down to positive role models.

Abigail fondly remembers an inspirational a teacher of hers, a single mother who told her students: “Marriage is not necessary. You can do what you want to do.”

Abigail’s family also supported her with her higher education and professional choices, even if they did not agree. As a result, they were there for her when she faced any barriers.

Abigail learned to speak up for herself, and today works in a field she loves.

I ask her to compare her life to the lives of her grandmother and mother, perhaps the clearest way to see changes in women’s roles over the years.

Her grandmother, bound by strict societal norms, had little freedom or decision-making power.

Her husband made decisions about what food was served in the home, what clothes were worn, and how many children to have. A lack of “compliance” on his wife’s part could result in violence.

Abigail’s mother grew up influenced by the church, and was therefore also taught to “be of service to her husband” and produce children. Those that didn’t risked being classed as “useless” by society.

However, she managed to carve a new kind of life for herself where she is much freer than the previous generation. And these changes over the generations are clear to see.

Social attitudes are changing across Mexico, with women able to make more informed choices about their lives.

Despite being only 28, Abigail’s maturity shows. She learned from earlier relationships what she wants and expects from her partner. She feels love is not an emotion, but a daily decision to renew the commitment.

She has no regrets; she lives with her toddler’s father with no current plans to marry. She feels no obligation and focuses on mutual respect, responsibility, flexibility and growth in the relationship.

Comparable to the way she grew up, Abigail and he share the housework and parenting. She feels at peace with life.

When I ask Abigail what kind of future she wants for her daughter, she says: “I want her to have confidence to be whatever she wants to be.” Confidence of course is a great gift that we mothers, sisters and friends can give to each other.

Abigail’s message to women is one that we can all embody: that we need to emulate strong women who are successful at surviving.

We can overcome obstacles. We can get ahead, and we can move forward.

As women, we have to be tough and take a bite out of life with no regrets. We need to break the chains that society – and ourselves – create.

Many of us are still fighting to find some keys to happiness, yet Abigail has found those that work for her.

And this is the critical point: Abigail recognises and lives what works for her, not what others prescribe. Her example is not just of what is happening in Mexico, but everywhere.

And so, ladies: this is our time, a time of change. Grab the bull by the horns and live your life on your terms.

As, I’m sure Abigail would agree!

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