Esperanza is not a big fan of the gender roles that keep women in her community oppressed. Men on Mango Street beat their wives and daughters and confine them to the home. Just being a women is sometimes cause enough for abuse – a fact that we observe in the beatings that Sally constantly receives, and in Esperanza's rape. Esperanza offers us a critique of the way men and women relate to one another, and refuses to conform to the expectations placed on her sex by getting married or even acting in a feminine way. For our protagonist, defying gender roles and remaining independent is an act of rebellion, and a source of power.
Questions About Gender
Some critics have complained that Cisneros's portrayal of sexism in this novel is a slander of Latin American culture. Do you think that gender and gendered relations are linked to culture in the book? Is sexism portrayed as an integral component of Latino culture?
Women are constantly portrayed as occupying a place by the window in this novel. What does their position say about the role of women in this society?
How does Esperanza defy the gender roles that her society endorses? What effects does her refusal to abide by traditional gender roles have?
Chew on This
In The House on Mango Street, gender is portrayed as a social construction – something that people learn as they grow up, not something they're born with.
Men have it easy on Mango Street – it's much easier for the male characters of the novel to live up to the gender role prescribed for them than it is for women.