Patriarchy and male-dominated societies are largely regarded as feminine issue, a topic that is relegated to women’s studies classes. Everyone knows that the myth of male superiority hurts women, but few people realize that the myth also hurts men. As Latin American societies went through the independence years and adopted (at least partially) Republican styles of government, the policy of patriarchy was supported by the state and became more and more entrenched in society. The movie Camila, which takes place in post-revolutionary Argentina, illustrates not only how this shift hurt women, but how it restricted and punished the same men who supported the system.
In Camila, the influence of gender stereotypes on women is evident. Camila is expected to either marry or join a convent, the only two options her father, and the state, leave open to her. But just because there are two paths does not mean Camila has a choice in her fate. Although prior to the period of independence women were allowed to choose their husbands, the shift in government cemented a father’s rule, giving the father of the family control not only over his children’s decision to marry but also who they would marry. Camila’s decision to abandon these two options for a third option that she chooses herself is akin to treason. She completely disregards the gender structures of her society, marrying who she chooses and defining marriage by her feelings rather than ceremony or legality. Because her marriage and sexuality are not sanctioned or controlled by society, they are dangerous. This, more than anything, is what leads to her death, even though she is pregnant. Because women have no control over their children and priests cannot claim heirs in their position, Camilia and Ladislao’s child has no legal authority figure. He/She was conceived outside of the consent of the state so not even the state can control it. The unborn child becomes a symbol of rebellion and the limitations of the state and must be destroyed along with its wayward parents.
But the men in the film also suffer from the restrictive gender roles set down by the state’s commitment to patriarchy. In the film, there is only one type of manhood, a manhood that conforms to the state. Just as any variation from state supported womanhood (ie married motherhood) is punished, any deviation from the model of “father as king” is also discouraged. Camila’s father is expected to rule his family, benevolently if possible but harshly if necessary. The family was a microcosm of the state and disorder in the family translated to disorder in the state. When Camila runs off with a man who cannot marry her, her father can be held responsible for not ruling his family properly and contributing to the weakness of the estate. His letter to Rosas, which insists on his daughter’s innocence, is as much about protecting himself and his family as it is protecting Camila. The detrimental effects of Camila’s decision can be seen in the end of her sister’s engagement to a prominent official. Camila’s behavior ultimately hurts her father’s position and his family ties because he is being held responsible for the actions of a free-thinking human being. Being in total control often means being held accountable for the actions of others, a task that few men think about when they support a patriarchal system.
Ladislao also obviously suffers from the same system. A common theme throughout the film is the dangerousness of women, how they will lead good men astray. It can be argued that one of the reasons for priest celibacy is to keep them away from the physical influences of women, who are morally and socially inferior. When Lasdislao gets too close to Camila, breaking the restraints society and the church have placed on him, he is severely punished. The only option to restoring his and Camila’s honor (marriage) is denied to him by the church and reinforced by the state. Futhermore, like Camila’s father, Ladislao is held responsible not only for his own actions but for Camila’s. Ladislao is blamed in propaganda and Camila’s father’s letter as the instigator of the affair because society cannot recognize the free will and desire of Camila.
Ultimately, characters of both genders suffer under the system of patriarchy present in Argentina after independence.