Friday, March 18, 2011

Applying Many Aspects to My Life By See

Throughout my entire life, I never really thought about gender roles and never really applied any theory to my life. I probably did but it wasn’t a big deal to me at the time. Taking the SWK280 course, I realized that almost everything relates to me and my culture. For example, I grew up in a patriarchal culture because the men seem to do everything in or out of the house. “Because patriarchy is male-centered, women and the work they do tend to be devalued, if not made invisible” (Johnson, 2010, p. 157). The Hmong men are being self centered, many Hmong women suffered and had many of their rights taken away. For example, as young Hmong women marry, their rights are taken away. They cannot do certain things like dancing in front of Hmong parents or stay out late because they have to cook for their in laws.

Although Hmong men never really meant to do any harm, it still happens. Because of this, I feel that women should have the rights to do what it is that they desire. In addition, I grew up with structural roles. Some of these roles are being a daughter, sister, and a Hmong woman. I have the role of doing chores around the house while my brothers don’t do anything. In addition, I have to respect everyone and am not able to speak my mind. Most of the time, I feel trapped within my own culture because I’m always kept inside and don’t get to go out and explore. I’m pretty sure most Hmong women would feel the same way as I feel.

Although some people might say this is unfair, it makes sense to me and my culture. For one reason, I was born into a family where I was taught my roles. I was kept inside because my family wanted to protect me from harm. In addition, over the past years the Hmong culture has (sort of) evolved and is more open. For example, many Hmong women are able to go out of state and study and are able to explore the world by themselves.

Johnson, A.G. (2010). Patriarchy. In P. S. Rothenberg (Ed.). Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study (pp. 153 – 162). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.


  1. See--

    Thanks for sharing your insights. What I found especially thought provoking was your connection to your Hmong culture. As I read your post, I made some connections to Mexican culture. From what I've observed in Cuernavaca and read in literature on Latino culture is that many connections can be made between machismo and what you experienced growing up. Here too (along with other parts of our globalized world), cultural norms are changing and humanity is making strides in equality between the sexes. For example, after raising children and attending to her family all her life, my host mom has enrolled back in school to finish her degree and go work, "to be in the world."

    Thanks for your candid reflections and opening up to your culture.

    -Billy Hamilton

  2. I really enjoyed your blog, See! I related to you in terms of gender roles. I too was taught to be modest, stay home, and become a wife and a mother at a young age. I think it's interesting how much our cultures have in common regardless of their geographical location. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi See!

    Thanks for opening us to us about your culture!

    Although you have acknowledged the disadvantages of the gender roles within Hmong culture, I also see many strengths in your culture. For example, the centrality of family in Hmong culture is something that I envy. I think family is losing importance in the individualistic dominant U.S. culture. I wish I were close to my cousins, but I'm not- I think it's really cool how important extended family is in both the Hmong and Mexican cultures.

    You also said that your parents really wanted to protect you as you grew up. I think that's a great example of how people from different cultures can interpret the same situation differently. What I might see as a restriction of freedom, others might see as a manifestation of familial love.

    Thanks again for writing!

  4. See,
    Thank you so much for sharing about your personal experiences about gender roles.

    I have seen gender roles in Mexico that are similar to the gender roles you experienced growing up. For example, I went to a family gathering on Sunday with my home stay family. All of the women prepared the meal while the men sat outside. Furthermore, the women ate in the kitchen and served the males, while the men remained outside. Although I have seen traditional gender roles, I have also seen the changing gender roles during my time in Mexico. My host father helps to raise his grandchildren and will help my host mom prepare meals when she has to work late!

  5. Thanks for sharing See. Coming from a Hmong family myself, I know how it's like. Back then parents would treat gender differently and I agree with you that they some how has changed. Now a days my parents would let me go out more and I'm living on my own at college so that was a big change. I think that since we are in a new soceity and we as Hmong people are starting to adapt to the new culture that our parents are starting to be lay back a little when it comes to education and getting a degree. I have grown up learning the things that you have learned doing around the house and being respectful to the elders and how we treat others. But I'm grateful that my parents has taught me this and that I will always live with it. Thanks for sharing your story with the rest of us!

  6. See, thank you so much for sharing your culture with us!
    This semester in Mexico has opened my eyes to the ´Machismo´ and the gender roles that continue to be present within the culture here in Mexico. Although there have been incredible advances toward gender equality, the women here are still fighting for their rights and freedoms as women and individuals. (Which we also see in the U.S.)
    Personally, I feel incredibly privileged to be a young woman and to have the opportunity to pursue my dreams and goals!!

    Thank you again for sharing!! Good luck with the rest of the semester! Enjoy enjoy

  7. Interesting post. Thanks for sharing with us!
    I definitely have felt more exposed to the many priviliges I have because of my culture, and it has become even more obvious in studying here in Mexico. The privilege of being able to study in another country for example, to live outside of the United States, without having to go through hell to get here, is a very different experience for most people trying to get to the United States. This shows the privilege of travel, and I am definitely pursuing it because it is a dream of mine. In my own personal experience, in my family, I was always encouraged to do whatever I wanted and to go out and explore, although since my travel days have begun, my parents have been a bit more cautious but still encouraging. Also, as a woman, along with the other women in the program, we can feel very objectified by the men around in the city, out on the streets. We stand out because we look different, and perhaps act differently as well. There are many pieces to the puzzle which go into culture, and it is always interesting to look at the pro's and con's and differences of opinion of which each perspective creates.

  8. See,
    The amazing thing to me is that people are taking time to think about gender roles and how they are changing today. I think that there is a growing awareness of this today that went unidentified for many years. This has a great deal of importance as to how we operate within a family structure. I can definitely see a difference in how I function as an individual outside of my family and how these gender roles have been ingrained in me. I don't want to say I outright rebel against what I was taught but the way me and my significant other operate is different then my parents. For example in western culture the female typically cooked, cleaned, and did "household" chores. We operate on a more balanced system as to we trade chores that we don't mind doing such as I cook, do laundry, iron, grocery shop in exchange for not having to hang clothes up (one of my least favorite pastimes) and I don't even touch any of the finances because I am not very organized. I guess it is interesting to see how these things change and are constantly evolving throughout every culture.

  9. Hi See,
    Thanks for the post it is very interesting to her your views about your culture and upbringing. The way you were raised was very different to the way i was. I grew up in a more matriarchal house hold, with a mother who was less protective of us and let us "explore" the outside world for our selves. I see the pros and cons in both ways of child rearing, and think there is probably a way to find a happy medium in my personal opinion. Thanks for sharing this with us.


  10. See,
    I think you should be proud of your culture and what makes it distinct from others. I believe that part of the way you feel about your culture is becasue you are surrounded by different cultures in which the rules are different, making yours seem hard to follow. I believe that like many issues between and among cultures, there will continue to be change within the Hmong culture.


  11. See,

    Thank you so much for your post. I agree with you that gender roles was not a topic discussed when we were younger. Instead, they were just part of the norm in the family and culture. My parents had distinct roles in the house, but I never thought of them based on gender until I grew up. I had always thought they liked those jobs the best and that's how they divided work. I think its fascinating the point you brought up, that we aren't really taught that these roles are based on gender norms in a culture. Its interesting to look back on our life with all the knowledge we have gained through this class and others and apply what we are learning. Thank you again, it definitely gave me more things to think about in my life!


  12. See-

    Thank you for your wonderful honest post. I found it refreshing that you were able to examine your Hmong culture and confront how gender roles in your culture oppress Hmong women. As an outsider it is always easy to judge and respond with an attitude that all women should be afforded the same rights no matter what culture they belong to. But, as you point out, among your culture these roles make sense and are followed for protection.

    I think it is incredibly brave that you are able to question your own culture and the roles that are expected of women. While reading your post I felt sad because I feel that all women should have the right to "do as they desire" like you say. All women should be able to explore, speak when they want, and not "feel trapped."

    All of these things seem like basic rights, but obviously not for women in the Hmong culture. While I wish the gender roles could be different for your culture, I have to be careful. My social work classes have taught me that cultures can be complex and unique and individually they need to be understood and respected. The gender roles for women in the Hmong culture seem complicated and very traditional and ones that while I may not agree with, I must try to understand.

    I applaud you for taking a deep look into you own culture and questioning the roles and rules by which you have been taught- that alone takes great strength. Your post acknowledges the fact that some Hmong women are now able to explore and go on their own. To me that signals accepting change, which may be the greatest cultural trait of all.