As I was told and taught, as many continue to practice, and some still hold as values…need to stop. We are the change, we are the generation who can change certain beliefs that needs shift. I love my culture and value who I am, where I came from, and those before me. What I speak of is in the Hmong culture there are certain practices that make “Women” feel as second class.
Here’s three I want to hit on, but just let me make this very clear! I am not speaking on behalf of the entire Hmong community. I’m not to bash on your beliefs. This is what I’ve seen, witnessed, and felt!
Whether it’s a spiritual ceremony, new year, graduation women take on the role of food prep, cooking, serving and cleaning. While men socialize or do heavy lifting when asked, women prepare everything. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things that men will do with prepping, like butcher when it’s necessary as to play homage to another. I only speak about gatherings because in one’s own home the man (husband) will help.
Women gather all recipe ingredients, pick up needed materials, set up tables, place table settings, place chairs out making sure there’s enough. This is no buffet style type meal, it’s family style type setting x20, depending on how large the event is, sometimes more. When all is set, the men sit, continue their talks and eat.
Women from the side make large setting, the buffet style on their own separate table. Most of the time, there are no chairs and they eat while standing. The women feed their children from this table as well. Making sure they are fed before even thinking of eating themselves. Women stick close by the area because as soon as most of the men finish, women clear the tables. Food is cleared from plates, dirty dishes gathered, and napkins and unfinished drinks thrown out. Dishes get washed, tables wiped and put away, chairs put away then women are welcomed to take left overs home. Women can simply help themselves or other women will pack them to go for one another.
When a girl marries, she now belongs to the man’s family and clan. She gives up her family and his family becomes priority. Visiting of her family is at the agreement of the couple. If the wife’s family and husband’s family should both be holding events on the same day, people frown upon the couple if they choose to go to the wife’s family event. This only plays out as boys are raised to carry on the name of the clan and considered to take care of their parents as they age.
Words that are spoken to married women…
- “they” (as in her family) are no longer your people.
- “they” (as in his family) will take care of you now. If there’s trouble in your life you should consult with the elders of their clan first.
Death and Divorce
It is the husband and his clan to be responsible for funeral arrangements if the wife should pass away. When they married, she became part of them, part of their ancestry. There is a strong belief that if a couple is to get divorced, no one (in our words) will bury her head. Meaning, she will not be able to cross over and reincarnate. She will not have the proper death rituals done for her soul or receive proper burial.
If a couple should get divorced, it somehow always seems to be the women’s fault as she wasn’t able to satisfy the man of fulfilling out wifely duties. Yet men who caused a divorce by infidelity isn’t looked down upon or questioned when a divorce takes place even when everyone knows. Some going as far as the wife not being able to fulfill her role which lead the husband to search outside the marriage.
It is tradition that if a divorce goes through, the man and family must return the wife back to her family to let her know we no longer want her. A women’s family will usually not allow her daughter to come back and live in their home until this is done. This coincides with the thought that, once she married him, she became a part of his spirits. Her spirits went with her to become part of his and for spirits to not be disturbed, it must be announced as such.
Children are usually split with sons going to the father and daughters to the wife. Again, boys by way of carrying on the name. Daughters to the wife to continue teaching them the roles of how to one day be a good wife and mother. If one day those daughters of the divorced woman should one day get married and her relationship is rocky, guess who gets the blame? Yes, that divorced woman that couldn’t teach her child how to be a good wife because, well look at her, her ex-family didn’t want her either and sent her back.
Today marks the 98th year since the 19th amendment granted women the right to vote. Perhaps this is what irked me to confront this head on. One gender able to make miraculous movement nationwide, I believe one community can start to build and learn from each other for a better tomorrow.
I can’t help, but take it in from all sides, all views, all beliefs. This is what we learned, what we know, what we keep doing. The cycle will continue if no one speaks it first.
We are the generation to change this, but it will take many to move mountains.