Cultural Expectations for Women within America
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Cultural Expectations for Women within America
Every year about a million immigrants come to America in hope to start a better life for their family. They leave with virtually nothing, just the clothes on their backs and a few, hard earned coins. As they start a new life here in the United States, most immigrants tend to notice the drastic differences that are present between their culture and Western society, particularly in the way women are supposed to talk and behave. In the excerpt from “Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts,” Maxine Hong Kingston addresses these hardships as a Chinese girl who is searching for her voice in America. During the excerpt, Kingston portrays fitting into these “cultural expectations” as absolutely necessary, as shown in the last paragraph in Page 10. She says things like “If you don’t talk… then you can’t be a house wife.” Or “Don’t you ever want to be a cheerleader?” (Kingston 10) At the time of this scene, the narrator was so sure that the American way was the right way, that she bullies a younger student into changing. Alas the student never changes and the narrator falls sick for a year and a half because of her ill actions. However, plenty has changed since that time of the Korean War (1950’s.) Nowadays, these expectations of what is an American woman are changing. Compared to the 1950’s, women currently are holding much more power, and are viewed as a superior sex symbol.
In the 1950’s, a woman’s life path was pretty clear cut, graduate from high school and find a good man while your ultimate goal is to start a family and maintain an orderly house. This is shown when Kingston says to the little girl “Some one has to marry you before you can become a housewife.” She says this as if becoming a housewife is a top priority for a woman. However presently, most women in America hold very respectable jobs and the role as housewife is slowly disappearing from American culture. Another example of modern day women showing strength is portrayed when the narrator’s mother goes on a cultural rampage and forces the narrator to go to the drug store and demand a piece of candy simply because the druggist missed the address of the house. This scene is shown in pages three, four, and five. By doing so the narrator comes off as poor and illogical.
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Keeping these cultural “curses” is a form of weakness, therefore showing that the mother cannot adapt to American society. In contrast, nowadays most foreign women do not keep such absurd cultural tendencies. They leave all those rituals in their country knowing that doing so will cause them to assimilate into American culture ultimately giving them a better chance to succeed.
In the 1950’s, women’s dress code was considered to be very modest. The trendy fashion was a full body dress that showed the ankles. Also, women were not publicized obliged to look pretty. This is shown when a young Kingston talks about her wishes for her body compared to the young child. “I hope I don’t have [her] neck, I wanted a stout neck… Her skin was fleshy, I wanted rough skin…I scratched dirt to blacken my nails… [I hated] her straight hair, turning with her head… I pinched her skin, you couldn’t even see her pores” (Kinston 8). Isn’t it ironic that all the characteristics that the young Kingston describes of the shy girl is actually what is considered pretty in modern day culture? In this day and age, almost all youthful girls in America strive to attain that perfect cover girl look. It is very rare to find a pre-teen girl who enjoys “scratching her nails in dirt” or wishing to have “rough skin.” This shows how much the expectations of women are drastically changing.
Reading this paper, one might be obliged to argue that assimilation is a bad thing and that it is important to keep a foreign nation’s culture, because without it, homelands are destroyed. This essay is not implying to completely abandon cultural traditions while living in the United States, just to keep it at home and practice rituals privately or with a group of the same kind. Doing so will ensure a better chance for an immigrant to succeed in this country. Also, this paper is not indicating that equality in women’s role is perfect, there is substantial room to improve. Women are still not being treated equally as their opposite sex peers.
There are significant changes in what was expected of women in the 1950’s and today. Women today are greatly preoccupied with beautifying themselves for the sole purpose of sex appeal and, hold much more power than their grandmothers in the 1950’s. America is described as the melting pot for cultures because it takes an immigrant’s traditions and melts them to form the American way. Women are an essential part of the United States culture and that will never melt away.
Essay on Gender Roles and Their Effect on Women
1525 Words7 Pages
Throughout the history of society, women and men both have faced the constricting roles forced upon them, from a young age; each gender is given specific social and cultural roles to play out throughout their lives. Little girls are given dolls and kitchen toys, little boys are given dinosaurs and power tool toys, if one was to step out of this specified role, social conflict would ensue. Contrast to popular belief, sex is a biological construct, and gender is a social construct specifying the roles men and women are to follow to be accepted into society as “normal”. The effects of gender roles have had on women have proved harmful over the decades. Although the woman’s involvement in society has improved throughout the decades,…show more content…
Throughout the history of society, women and men both have faced the constricting roles forced upon them, from a young age; each gender is given specific social and cultural roles to play out throughout their lives. Little girls are given dolls and kitchen toys, little boys are given dinosaurs and power tool toys, if one was to step out of this specified role, social conflict would ensue. Contrast to popular belief, sex is a biological construct, and gender is a social construct specifying the roles men and women are to follow to be accepted into society as “normal”. The effects of gender roles have had on women have proved harmful over the decades. Although the woman’s involvement in society has improved throughout the decades, patriarchy in society and oppression toward women are still prevalent through the social ideologies widely taught and believed throughout America, which has limited women and stereotyped them consistently. Since the beginning of society in America, women have held a subordinate role. Arranged marriages were prevalent in early America as well as widely practiced forms of gender roles. Women could not hold an education, work, or dress for themselves. Husbands ruled the family and their wives, and acted in ways as if they owned them. Often women were left in unhappy, abusive relationships for the sake of reputation. Divorce was illegal, and later on in America when legal, was looked down upon by a majority of society. Although some women held some