Just some thoughts on “Gender Equality and Family Dilemma”

This morning, while checking Facebook I came by a status posted by one of my friends:

“I believe in the proper education of woman. But I do believe that woman will not make her contribution to the world by mimicking or running a race with men. She can run the race, but she will not rise to the great heights she is capable of by mimicking man. She has to be the complement of man.”

This statement was made by M. Gandhi in his book about women’s role in the society.

Right after he posted this status on Facebook, there have been some comments, raising the opposite ideas to his.  One of them, which I think was well reasoned, is: “HMMMMM. I STRONGLY beg to differ. I think she gets the freedom of choosing how she wants to contribute to the world whether by running the race or being behind the scenes. And if it just so happens that she chooses to run the race, she should not be deprived of rising to great heights just because she is a woman who is not fulfilling her stereotypical roles in society. And just because the supposed “masculine” traits are more commonly observed in males does not mean that when a woman displays it, she is mimicking man.”

Well this is the choice of the woman to become a career woman or to a traditional one, who stands behind her loved one to support for his career. Sadly, this choice is always stark for girls. It is not always easy even for men to strike for work-life balance, let alone the girls coming from societies, in which the traditional roles of women are still deep-rooted. More importantly, I think this problem is not only the personal dilemma but also the concern of the society.

With regards to the personal aspect of this issue, I want to tell you some short stories.

First story is the advice of my mother. My mother used to say to me that to a girl, the most important thing is her family, more specifically, her husband and her children. A successful woman should be one, who can take care of her husband and bring up her children to be good people. No matter how successful in career path she is, she is still a loser if her children are badly brought up and her husband is not cared enough. According to her, a girl only needs to find a decent job, get a decent amount of salary so that her husband cannot look down on her. I believe that almost every girlfriend of mine has been told by her mother the same thing. A fact to be considered is that my mother is a housewife and she dedicated all her time and effort to family. She was always proud of her ability to bringing up her children better than many women, who are very successful in their careers.

Second story is the discussion that I made with my classmates. It is the discussion of girls in their 20s about the career orientation after graduating: Study further, pursue a degree of MBA or MSc, work in nonfinancial or financial sector, etc. Diversified as the topics are, they always converge on the age that we have to get married.

Third story is the constraint that Vietnamese women have to face: You should get married before 27 or 28 years old. The pressures from family and society exerted on these 27 or 28-year-old woman are quite substantial. Some women under the pressure from her family have to be in a hurry to marry and I do believe that all of them must get cold feet about the new lives they are about to enter.

I have met some girls, who are excellent at their study or work and currently have boyfriends. I really admire them. However, the thing that matters here is their future family life, which I cannot know about it at the moment. Girls have to face a lot of constraints coming from both society and themselves as well.

With regards to the society as a whole, first, I want to refer the article: Equality and the family dilemma

In the article, the author mentioned the tradeoff between gender equality and the family welfare or something like that.

However, one idea that suddenly comes across my mind is: “Have Vietnamese women got sufficient equality?” People often have an idea that Vietnamese women currently enjoy the gender equality as they are provided with equal chances to study in the university, with chances to get promotion in their jobs and they are not about to suffer kind of glass-ceiling stuff as their counterparts in countries like Arab Saudi or Middle East. Well, to a certain extent, Vietnamese women have get more rights to try what their grandmothers could not do in the past. However, I do believe that they have not gained sufficient equality. They have chances to try the jobs previously done by men only, but men do not try working the jobs of woman such as cooking, taking care of children. Many husbands have already helped their wives with housework; however, some of them do think that they are giving their wives a favor, not something that they are responsible for. Women, therefore, have to take a workload nearly twice as heavy as their grandmothers. They are not totally equal to men because they still have to suffer from outdated prejudice of society on the role of women. Their commitment to career is still confined by some barriers created by some pre-assumptions of society about what women should be.

According to the author, the divorce rate is positively correlated with the level of independence of women in the society. The impact of divorce on the society, more specifically, on the development of the children, as estimated by many scientists, is quite significant. The increasing divorce rate may lead to the increasing pace of emotional instability and crime rate. However, is it true to blame the increasing divorce rate on the increasing independence of women? I do not agree at all with the author at this point, however, I do think he has raised a concern about the development of society when women are more and more independent.

In my opinion, it is not the problem of tradeoff between gender equality and family development. Once the men are willing to share the workload with the women, and society tries to eradicate all of the outdated assumptions about the traditional roles of women in the society, the problem is no longer difficult to be solved. Thing that matters here is the fact that women with high level of financial independence tend to enjoy the single life rather than decide to get married. The refusal of women to enter marriage life would challenge the natural balance of society or society welfare coming from the seamlessly renewable generations. This phenomenon, in fact, has happened in many Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, etc. and it is really a significant concern of the society.

Coming back to the personal aspect, I am also confused on thinking of this problem. Almost every girl wants to enjoy success in both career and family life. Girls are not hesitant to dedicate their efforts to build up happy families. The success of the men, I believe, is considered by women to be much more of importance. However, from the bottom of their hearts, they also wish that they could do something special in their careers, winning the respect from their colleagues of opposite sex. They want to study further and gain some career success of their own before they retreat to stand behind the men they love. It does not mean that they are dependent on men but they are now playing the role of the supporters. Without men, they are still able to live on their own, but they prefer to help their men better provided that women also gain the respect from their husbands.Striking the balance between family and career is not difficult, however, there still exists the toughest obstacles for women to reach this balance: AGE. It is not easy to fall in love when you strongly focus on developing your career, and when you get some success in career, you are getting old, and it is not easy to fall in love at your 30s. There are a lot of outliers, I admit, however, these women must be extraordinarily lucky. 

Well, this problem truly drives me crazy in considering both aspects, and it leads to such a messy post with disorganized ideas. On reading the article, I recall one I have read some months ago: “The decline of Asian marriage: Asia’s lonely hearts”on The Economist. From the view of the policy makers, the independence of women is something of concern when the impacts of it on demographic structure have been able to see clearly in many countries in Asia.

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