Men’s and Women’s Relationships are Changing in Mexico

Posted On: 03/8/14

By Lázaro Martínez and Astrid Velásquez

Since the 1980s, formal “man and woman” relationships have been changing in Mexico. It was during this decade of economic crisis that many paradigms shifted. The economic crisis contributed to accelerating changes in the male and female traditional roles, mostly due to increasing female participation in the workforce.

This change triggered the empowerment of women, not only in the economic or labor context, but by creating a type of “gender balance.” Some of the most relevant changes are:

  • Increased presence of women as chief of the household, meaning women earning more money than men. (Just like that old saying: Who pays the piper, calls.) Currently there is one female directed household vs. four directed by men.
  • More men participating in household chores, like cleaning, taking care of kids, grocery shopping, etc.
  • Women being explicitly more sensual and sexually proactive: the “approach” is no longer only in the hands of males.

During this decade and the ‘90s we saw an increase in the number of women smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages. For example, tequila consumption exploded during the ‘90s when women started drinking it because it was totally a “manly” beverage. Tequila also became one of the few products that provided a sense of Mexican identity. (The economic crisis turned into a moral crisis, where no government or institution in the country was believable or trustworthy, and where traditional roles were broken. Tequila brought back a little of the pride of being Mexican … which by the way, was a brilliant marketing approach.)

On the other hand, economic troubles in the household and work environment contributed to increased stress levels that ended up in arguments and discussions among couples (66% of people saying they had felt stressed in the past month or more). Empowered women were no longer willing to maintain their traditional role of submissiveness. And men felt lost in terms of knowing how to communicate with their female partners.

The level of divorce increased almost 50% during the ‘90s. And during the past 15 years, we’ve seen a dramatic drop in the number of “regular” couples or families living together, with an increase in other types of households:

  • Traditional families (mom, pop and kids)  dropped 8.2%
  • Gay families increased 22.7%
  • Single mothers increased 20.7%
  • Single male households increased 15.7%
  • One person households increased 28.1%

Couples seem to be avoiding commitment, not only because of the uncertainty of the implications of living together as a couple, but also because of the uncertainly of living in Mexico.

There also is a tendency for “utilitarianism” to prevail; people keep only those roles and behaviors that are useful. (This is also reflected in their consumption patterns).

So, we know that Mexico is changing: the female and male roles are being modified and consumption behaviors are shifting.

We need to keep an eye on how Mexicans are feeling in order to understand their consumption preferences and predict their future needs.

Lázaro Martínez and Astrid Velásquez are partners at NODO Market Research in Mexico. NODO is a full service research company with local offices in Mexico and Colombia and covering all of Latin America.

During the past 12 years, NODO has been studying the “social mood” of consumers and shifts in how they feel. It uses this information as a key aspect to understand purchasing behavior, advertising preferences and new trends in the market.