The Ungovernable Female Agency: Ingobernable and Resistancia

The Ungovernable Female Agency: Ingobernable and Resistancia

Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 35
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4829-5.ch009
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By following McNay's conceptualization of agency and adapting Mills' feminist stylistics, this chapter examines the creation of female agency and subjectivity in the Mexican political drama Ingobernable [The Ungovernable]. The series has two complete seasons and 27 episodes so far. The plot revolves around the actions of five women, who can be identified with their unexpected and unanticipated as well as disobedient and resistant behaviors at varying levels. Each woman has different relations with power; however, all aim to engender change within the established order. Here, the author proposed a multi-layered method for analyzing female agency and subjectivity in the series by weaving the analysis through women archetypes from Mexican history and argued that female agency is created through audacious and cautious actions in Ingobernable which exists in-between these two action-based tensions.
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Feminist theories of agency seek to understand possibilities for women to express their genuine needs and concerns, as well as criticizing social, cultural, and political institutions in male-dominated societies. These theories also explore the possibility of mounting active resistance. As McNay (2000, p. 10) asserts, “a revised understanding of agency has long been the explicit or implicit concern of feminist research devoted to the uncovering of the marginalized experiences of women.” Morales and Menendez (2016) summarize McNay’s -what they call- “three inter-related conceptualizations of agency” as the “capacity to manage actively the often discontinuous, overlapping or conflicting relations of power”, the “ability to act in an unexpected fashion or to institute new and unanticipated modes of behavior” and the “political dimension of agency: the capacity of the individual to engender change within the socio-cultural order” (p. 538). Such an understanding of agency and its relation to power also contains the contingencies about resistance(s) against the existing male-dominated social structures. Tulloch (1990) reminds us that the “relationship between ‘agency’ and the ‘bounds’ of social structure is always a dynamic one (‘subjects’ are, in other words, never simply ‘positioned’ as ‘effects’ of structure)” (p. 13).

Deriving from McNay’s definition of what agency means for women in male-dominated societies, the very idea of ‘ungovernability’ becomes an important concept in a number of political contexts. According to the online Merriam-Webster (2020, n.d.) dictionary, the word ‘ungovernable’ means “not capable of being governed, guided or restrained”. I believe that in terms of discussions around women’s agency, ‘not capable of being restrained’ would hint at how patriarchal societies approach women claiming their agency and why women’s experiences are marginalized. Both capitalism and patriarchy operate by aiming to keep women under control, and by permeating every single mode of behavior to ensure the continuance of the established order. Any mode of behavior or way of being that cannot be defined within this ‘governable’ framework, threatens the pervasiveness of the dominant ideology. Therefore the ‘ungovernability’ of the female agency is the biggest threat to the capitalist-patriarchal societies, for it cannot be restrained and always has an element of unexpected and unanticipated resistance inherently embedded within. Which, in turn, may and most probably will aim at engendering change within the socio-cultural order.

In this chapter, I will be examining the creation of female agency and subjectivity in the Mexican political drama Ingobernable [The Ungovernable]. When I first started watching the series, I thought it would be nothing more than a modernized version of the Mexican telenovelas I was familiar with from my childhood. I just needed something to keep my mind busy, and I also wanted to hear some Mexican Spanish to recall fond memories of Mexico, where I spent two fabulous months wandering around the whole country and learning about its culture and history. After watching the first episode I realized that I was wrong, and devoured two seasons in a couple of days, thanks to my binge-watching habits and dedication. I think it was about the end of the first season when I decided to write something about this series in order to describe how a woman’s agency is constructed not only for one female protagonist, but for all of the women characters. The meaning of a text is always the artifact of the audience’s state of mind at the time of receiving and interpreting a singular cultural product, something similar to what Williams (1961) would call the ‘structure of feeling.’ In my case, I was at the precipice of questioning the ‘penalty of agency’ (Rudman & Glick, 2001, p. 743, 759) for women in leadership positions in academia. So, I believe I would not have felt that strongly about this series at any other time, but at that exact moment in time, it had an eye-opening effect on me. Thus, not only did I want to examine how the female agency is constructed in the series, but I also wanted to explore the link between the protagonists and women archetypes in Mexican history.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ungovernability: Resisting the socio-political norms that attempt to keep individuals under control.

Cautious Action: A compelled action that is the result of inner deliberation, contemplation and hesitation.

Audacious Action: An unanticipated action that is taken impulsively and bravely based on prior experience.

Female Archetype: A female figure historically representing womanhood and feminine behavior.

Actual Gap: Acting in a manner of choice which has no reference in society’s accepted notions of gender-specific behavior.

Female Agency: Women owning their own actions and voice in a male dominated society.

Transitivity Analysis: An analytical method to study how actions are represented in a text, an analysis of who does what to whom.

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