The Political Performance of Motherhood: Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo

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The Political Performance of Motherhood: Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo During the Argentine dictatorship known as the Dirty War (1976-1983), thousands of people were systematically abducted by the government in order to eliminate all opposition to the regime. These "disappearances," which the dictatorship never admitted to committing, happened across class and age lines, but most of the kidnapped were young students and blue-collar workers. Despite the fact that associations and meetings of any kind were forbidden, a group of housewife mothers decided to protest the disappearance of their children. They began to gather every Thursday afternoon at the same time in the main square in Buenos Aires, Plaza de Mayo, walking alone or in pairs…show more content…
Furthermore, the Madres' struggle only makes sense as it relates to their maternal identity: "[t]he kidnappings were brutal assaults [...] against their role as mothers," according to Marysa Navarro. "Suddenly deprived of their children, their lives had lost their meaning" (3). The Madres uprising was as much about recovering their children as it was about regaining their identities. The success of their movement was only possible thanks to what Taylor calls its "highly theatrical" (4) nature. Although the Madres were not impersonating something they were not, they exploited the stereotypical characteristics of motherhood, particularly when it came to dress, to obtain their goals. Paradoxically, the highlighting of their status as outsiders in the political system actually allowed them to enter the system. In Portillo and Muñoz's documentary, the Madres march in the streets in their trademark white kerchiefs. But that is not the only visually homogenizing factor present in the hundreds of women, from all socio-economic backgrounds, that are shown in the movie. Most wear conservative skirts and hold large handbags; many wear eyeglasses. The result is striking: the Madres look old, frail, and powerless. According to Taylor, this "uniform" forms part of the carefully constructed image of the Madres'. These women have "recount[ed] how they dressed down as dowdy old women and became quick-change artist—some of them slipping on less traditionally
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