I’ve always thought Vietnamese women were strong. In the U.S., you rarely see women carrying a basket full of bricks on their heads, or pushing around carts full of garbage. Those difficult jobs are left for men back home.
In Vietnam I see it all the time. I’ve heard many stories about Vietnamese women war heroes.
The new generation of women have not lost this strength, I’m sure because I have seen it. But it seems that in modern society it shows up in different ways.
I’ve taught in Hanoi, as so many other foreigners have. And also learned a few things from my students. One of the things I learned is the difference between the roles between sexes. In one way, they seem to be much more strict than what I’m used to.
For example, yesterday a female friend of met me at my house for coffee. As we were leaving my house we decided that it would be best to take one motorbike. Since mine was already parked inside, we took hers. She drove. I was on the back.
As we approached the street, the woman who sells tea near my house made fun of me for being driven on the back of a motorbike by a girl.
But my feeling is that the attitudes towards such things are changing quickly.
While I was teaching, I met a number of bright, capable, strong-minded young ladies. I’m sure many of them will become very successful. I wouldn’t doubt that one of them could be Prime Minister one day.
This is a great thing, in my opinion.
On the other hand, as women start to become more financially successful, more independent and more self-assured, it will inevitably change Vietnamese society. Some of these changes will not be welcomed by everyone.
For example, it is a simple historical fact that around the world, once women begin to make more of their own money - maybe even more than their husbands - the divorce rate will go up.
A woman who is financially independent is much less likely to put up with a husband who does not treat her right. If she feels that she has the option to leave, she is much more likely to do so.
I know that The Family is, and has been, the cornerstone of Vietnamese society. But it seems to me that progress and development, things that everybody seems to want, will change the Vietnamese Family.
One of the most intelligent, young students I’ve ever had once told me that, although she loved her family, she also felt it was like a prison.
Now I’m not saying that all, or even most, women feel this way. But as the economic realities change in Vietnam, it will definitely have an effect on the Vietnamese family.
“Economic Development” and “Women’s Equality”: both sound good. I doubt many people would argue with that. But, unless this country is different than every other nation in the world, the “Vietnamese Family” will ultimately change along with the first two.
Of these three, which is most important?
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