Thesis: Cross-Cultural Studies of Gender in China Town

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Globalization's Effect On Gender Studies As Seen In Chinese Culture

Gender Prejudices in a Globalized World

Gender is an omnipresent reality that rarely stands alone; its interaction with race and social class forms the basis of future inequitable career orientation and workforce preparation," (Lakes & Carter, 2004: 190). Gender forces many into predestined roles which have been functioning within the society for years. Many immigrants within the United States are forced to deal with dual gender roles as a result of globalization and cultural immersion into American society. As I walked down Hill on a sunny Saturday afternoon I failed to realize exactly how far this extended into my frame of mind. Speaking with Nancy, a local student who lives and works in Chinatown, the problem of dealing with two gender roles became much more simplified in the idea that the United States also plays a role in the discrimination of women in a modern context. Despite the Western view that the realities of being female in a Chinese tradition remains a subservient role, many in American fail to see the similarities in our gender prejudices.

Women play a relatively insignificant role in traditional Chinese culture. They represent a subordinate role within their familial and external existences, (Zhou, 1992: 153). Traditionally, women had little influence in any aspect of their lives, even their most intimate events such as marriage were out of their hands. Female children were supposed to blindly obey their fathers. In fact, many in the Chinese culture did not even view their female family members as their own, "In the past, when Chinese women were born, their families did not recognize them as permanent members but rather as "belonging to other people" because they would eventually marry out of their natal families," (Zhou, 1992: 153). This means that little effort and resources were placed into female children's education and welfare on behalf of her biological family. Once they were married off, women were supposed to carry on the tradition of blind obedience, only replacing their new husbands in their father's previous role. This meant that women had little control over their own lives with little opportunities to sustain themselves independently.

Although many in the West tend to think that in traditional Chinese culture women were mainly confined to the context of the family household, they were actually part of the Chinese workforce long before entering into the United States. Because ancient traditions come from agricultural roots, women worked in order to increase the sustenance of the family as a whole through their help with tending crops and live stock, (Zhou, 1992: 154). Every tasks of life on a farm were shared by the women, on top of the heavy duties of keeping the household together. The main role in the life of an average woman in traditional Chinese society represented a fundamental support for the foundation of the family life.

In my walk around Los Angeles' Chinatown I spent the day speaking to several women regarding their understanding of their roles within a modern and globalized Chinese tradition. One interview particularly stood out from the rest of my conversations. A student, named Nancy Hsu, revealed to me not only the differences seen in her two combined cultures in terms of gender prejudice -- but also their similarities. Speaking to her forced me to think of the more covert gender allocations going on in the United States; and how they are hidden in disillusioned promises of equality. Nancy explained how she almost felt more comfortable in her traditional Chinese role of worker and family supporter, despite its limitations on her own ambitions, because she was not being lied to in this aspect. In modern U.S. society, however, she felt that the gender prejudice she faced was deeply hidden, and therefore also deeply disappointing.

However, after the country fell into Communist hands, the government forced many female workers into new urban factories and work houses in the nation's attempt to industrialize. This opened up more opportunities for women outside of the entirely subservient role previous allocated for them. Expanding globalization increased the nation's desire for industrialization and a powerhouse seat in the modern global economy. In the middle of the twentieth century, Chinese women saw much more available opportunities for them, despite the tough endeavors of still attempting independence in a patriarchal society, (Zhou, 1992:155). Yet, the traditional view of women within the culture remained relatively the same as it had been in previous generations. This forced women to have to adopt both a career outside the family while still maintaining their traditional role as the main family supporter at home.

As more and more female immigrants made the journey from China to cities like Los Angeles, many of them settled in cultural enclaves within a modern American city limits. This then just increased their role outside the home in a newly formed Chinese-American female labor force, (Brysk & Shafir, 2004:132). The span on globalization reaches deeper into the family unit with the immersion into American culture. Children have vast new worlds to explore within Los Angeles city limits. However, this is deeply juxtaposed with the remaining influence of the patriarchal traditions within the smaller city limits of the Chinatown district. Older traditions and cultural roles prevail despite the introduction to a more globalized way of life. This presents a strange context in which women must survive in within Chinatown because of the extreme familial and cultural ties they have with the ancient ways of their families.

Yet, despite what the West wants to believe, the United States also holds its set of gender prejudices which prove to place women at a disadvantage. Communities all over the country have pushed to get more equal opportunities for women in both a professional and educational setting, (Lakes & Carter, 2004:201). However, this has not fully curbed the lower wages offered to America's women. Throughout the United States, the salaries of mean still sore above those of women's, despite the cultural illusion that Western culture offers an equal opportunity for the female gender. As the West looks down upon many Eastern cultures for their blatant and open gender allocation for women, it fails to truly recognize its own paradoxal gender roles.

The changes seen in the gender roles and allocations within Chinatown represent a collision of two nation's gender prejudices. They are forced to deal with the work requirements of both their traditional Chinese culture on top of a budding feminist idealism seen in the United States. They work not only to support their families, but also to help provide a future for themselves and their other female relatives -- a future devoid of such staunch gender prejudices. However, they must still answer to the confining gender burdens which force them to remain quasi-subservient in a modern context. Their patriarchal Chinese traditions allocate them the same role as their ancestors faced before them; the United States allocates them a covert gender stigma of making less money for the same amount of work.

The changes seen in the gender roles and allocations within the Chinatowns of the United States represent an eagle's eye view of how globalization is affecting traditional Eastern, and Western gender prejudices. For generations, Americans rarely associated a female presence within Chinatown, mainly due to its immense force of male railroad workers and immigrants, (Zhou, 1992: 152). However patterns of immigration changed dramatically in the twentieth century with the arrival of much more female Chinese immigrants into the United States, spurring much more scholarly interest in Chinese women's role in the cultural collaboration which is Chinatown. Recent research has proven that Chinese women living within Chinatown's limits make up a large number of the area's "ethnic labor force," (Zhou, 1992: 152). In fact, many women migrated to the U.S. For… [END OF PREVIEW]

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