Gender Roles in the Hmong Community
by Gokia Vang
The word ‘gender’ is simply just a classification of our sex, not a classification of our equality.
First Question: “What do you classify yourself as, and what are you expected to do?”
Second Question: “In general, does females or males have more pressure in the Hmong community?”
I’ve heard countless yells from my father saying, “You should cook. You should clean. You should do the dishes.” I’ve always thought to myself, ever since when should I do these things. Ever since when was I expected to do certain chores? I can’t simply tell a male that they should do certain things. I don’t tell them that they should cook, clean, or do heavy duty chores. I can’t. And even if I was able to, I would deemed as ignorant, ill-mannered, and simply lazy. Just because I want to be fair doesn’t mean that I’m lazy or anything else other than wanting gender equality.
Gender roles has been a great issue among the Hmong community. Gender role is a huge part of the Hmong people as it is also a big part that makes up our culture. And generally, the Hmong culture is what unites my people, but it’s also what sets us apart. What I mean by ‘culture setting us apart’ is not about our culture beliefs that separates us, but more of our expectations of one another. Females are expected to do house chores and “lighter” work while men are expected to do “heavier” work. From my standpoint, a woman in the Hmong community has more pressure on her than a male would generally have. This creates a division of hierarchy in the aspect of gender power. In this case, (in the Hmong community) male are seen as “higher” and worthier than females. They definitely hold more power.
I’ve interviewed a couple of young females. The first question I asked was “What do you classify yourself as, and what are you expected to do?” One of those young women that I interviewed wrote “I am a Hmong-American woman who is expected to become a perfect housewife.” Another wrote “I am a Hmong daughter and I am expected to become a Nyab (Hmong word for ‘housewife’) for the price of $5,000!” These two quotes are similar in the way that they are both expected to grow up to become the wife of another. Not to grow up to just be a daughter, but to grow up learning the skills of how to become the ‘perfect housewife.’ It’s saddening to think that some or most young Hmong girls are grown up that way. And learning the ‘skills’ of becoming the ‘perfect housewife’ isn’t that easy either. You have to learn how to cook, expected to do things a certain way, and expected to act a certain way even if that’s hiding who you really are. More importantly, you’re expected to know your manners and look presentable to the elders.
My second question was “In general, does females or males have more pressure in the Hmong community?” One of the young female that I interviewed wrote “Hmong women are more pressured because we have to hold a good reputation.” Another wrote “Hmong women have more pressure because we are expected to act a certain way and suppress our feelings in order to NOT shake the men’s masculinity!” The similarity of what they wrote is that females have to act a certain way to keep a good reputation of the men in which creates the hierarchy of males and females. When females have to act a certain way to please others, it shows that males have more power to control the females. They can overpower to control a female’s actions or feelings. I’m not saying that all is given to the men in this situation, but most are controlled by them. If a woman doesn’t listen the words of a man, she would be classified as rude. Who would want to be called rude right? That’s why so many women act a certain way to not be classified as rude, ignorant, and ill-mannered.
Today gender inequality still exists. It exists not only in the Hmong community but also in the society that we all in live today. In the Hmong community, women hold less power and are pressure to do things a certain way. We all must realize that females and males should be treated equally as we are no different other than the sex of our identity. The word ‘gender’ is simply just a classification of our sex, not a classification of our equality.