COMMENTARY: It is time for political candidates to start talking about patriarchy, colonization and structural racism in New Mexico. As the 2018 election cycle approaches, we at NewMexicoWomen.Org (NMW.O), a program of New Mexico Community Foundation, believe that policymakers, elected officials and those running for office have a responsibility to not only discuss these topics, but also include them as core campaign messages.
New Mexico has a perennial place at the bottom of the nation when it comes to health and quality-of-life outcomes. As of 2015, New Mexico’s rates of women living in poverty were the worst in the country. We know that there is no silver bullet to solve these entrenched and complex issues — but to begin to address them, the conversation must focus on root causes.
To that end, NewMexicoWomen.Org teamed up with scholars from University of New Mexico to examine the status of health equity and economic security for women in New Mexico. We engaged with women and communities around the state on this topic and discussed some of the factors shaping their lives.
The results of the research were clear: The social structures and contexts of “where and how women and girls live, work, learn, pray and play” [Michael Marmot et al., “Closing the Gap in a Generation: Health Equity through Action on the Social Determinants of Health,” The Lancet 372, no. 9650 (Nov. 8, 2008):1661–1669] have an enormous role in determining our well-being.
As such, we know that health and economic security are shaped by factors including, for example, one’s race and ethnicity, whether one lives in a rural location, whether one lives near a uranium mine, or whether one speaks English as a second language. Another significant finding was how historical trauma, a byproduct of colonization, is linked to embedded inequities and disparities for women and girls across New Mexico. Our research also suggests that patriarchy and structural racism are key causes of inequity in New Mexico.
More specifically, the research demonstrated that health and economic outcomes are worse for women of color – Hispanic, Native American and Black women are faring worse in New Mexico than their White counterparts. NMW.O contends that deeply rooted structures, systems and social determinants have led to and continue to perpetuate this disparity.
In other words, these root causes have real and lasting effects today on women’s daily lives.
These topics are seldom at the heart, or even at the margins, of mainstream political discourse. At the same time, to affect long-term change for women and girls in New Mexico, and communities in general, we have to acknowledge these histories and enact policies that explicitly take them into account. We are, therefore, calling on policymakers, elected officials and those running for office to start talking about the effects of patriarchy, colonization and structural racism in our state.
To focus on gender justice is to acknowledge that race, class, history, immigration status, sexual identity and the environment have enormous and inextricable effects on health outcomes and quality of life for women and girls across the state. We believe that this is the heart of gender justice in New Mexico.
On June 5, NewMexicoWomen.Org published a two-part research report called “The Heart of Gender Justice in New Mexico: Intersectionality, Economic Security, and Health Equity,” examining the intersection of health equity and economic security for women and girls in New Mexico. Click here to read it.
Sarah Ghiorse is the program director of NewMexicoWomen.Org. She has a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies and a master’s in social and cultural anthropology. Fatima van Hattum is the program manager of NewMexicoWomen.Org. She is also a PhD candidate in educational thought and sociocultural studies at University of New Mexico. Renee Villarreal, a multi-generational Nuevomexicana, is the director of community programs at the New Mexico Community Foundation. She is also a councilwoman for the City of Santa Fe. Agree with their commentary? Disagree? NMPolitics.net welcomes your views. Learn about submitting your own commentary here.