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Patriarchy and Immigration:

Patriarchy or male dominated society can occur on many different levels. When immigrants migrate, they often encounter new norms and values that differ from those experienced in their sending countries. This can range from everyday mannerisms such as learning socially acceptable forms of etiquette to linguistic acculturation. If you recall, most post 1965 immigrants arrive largely from Latin America, Asia and the Caribbean. These locales are considered patriarchal societies based on household gendered norms and economic gendered division of labor within these societies. Did you know that Colonialism and Imperialism, historically common to these three regions, supported patriarchal division of labor? For example, slavery in the Caribbean was similar to slavery in the U.S. in terms of the gendered division of responsibilities. Slave women were more likely to cook, clean, provide carework while men provided hard, manual labor. Yes, slave men and women worked in the field but the slave masters were careful about separating them by sex.

Now, what about the current state of gendered immigration? Well, we have to think about the historical conditions that have affected groups and individuals—and conditions that continue to affect them. Globalization has become the hallmark of economic development in the developing world and has led to many cultural shifts within the household, families and in wider societies throughout the developing world. How has this nuanced form of Colonialism/Imperialism shaped norms and values about work?

When I was in college, I read an ethnography entitled High Tech, High Heels. This book was about how opening a data information office in Barbados changed the lives of young women and challenged the structural norms for women living in Barbados—a patriarchal society. How many of you have ever reached an off-shore data facility when calling to book a hotel stay or obtain credit card information? Just recently, I called a well known hotel’s reservation desk and was connected to a woman in the Philippines! I asked her if she was onsite and she confirmed her off site location.

Globalization and the creation of new industries that employ women into wage labor and the global marketplace has now shifted norms that bound women to reproductive or household labor. For middle-class families who still maintain male-headed households, women often provide carework or informal work (such as selling homemade goods) in the market. But their decisionmaking power is usually limited because their husbands are making the bulk of the income. Sure there is variation and no two households are alike. One home might be more egalitarian than another. However, to what extent to patriarchal conditions dominate the lives of people in the third world and how does this change after migration?

What occurs after migration?

There have been many studies that point to the need for looking at immigrant women’s employment in America as a mechanism for increasing women’s decision making power within the household—and in general. But is financial gain equivalent to equality? Not necessarily, the double-even triple shift applies to immigrant women. Working outside of the home, then coming home to provide carework and then possibly attending school or another form of vocational training affect the lives of immigrant women in America.

Social Class and Racial Differences

It is important to remember that immigrants vary by class, reception and social policies (such as anti-terrorist laws) that affect their incorporation in America. Also, as radicalized immigrants or immigrants of color incorporate they are often affected by their skin color. West Indian immigrants of African origin usually have to contend with being labeled as Black or African American which does not represent the rich history of their ethnicity. All of these social conditions affect gendered immigrant incorporation. Think about women who don’t speak English or speak English less than their husbands? Are they more likely to work within ethnic communities? Let us remember that there are professional women who are immigrants, such as doctors. However, their gendered plight remains somewhat similar. Although highly educated men maybe more likely to share in work at home, this definitely varies by ethnicity and culture so it would be unfair to state that increase education will lead to egalitarianism.

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