Friday, November 04, 2011

Women's Issues

What are the women's issues for American, African, and Chinese women?

Personally, for me as an American woman, the issue is how to define myself as a woman and self-define my role as a woman including how to have a voice to express myself.  I have so many choices that are my own.  I can have a professional career or be a stay at home mother.  I don't have to worry about money because I am confident that I will always have a job to support myself.  I can choose to get married or to remain single and can choose for myself who I date and love.  

Educated American women have many opportunities and the freedom to make their own choices to create their own futures.

In West Africa, during my two years there I saw so many issues that were fundamental to survival.  Education was not equally provided to all genders.  By the first year of middle school out of 100 students, only 20 were female.  By high school, the number of female students probably dropped to one hand.  Health care and health education was an issue.  I helped with handing out food to mothers whose babies were under-weight and mal-nourished.  Women had little choice in who they would marry and how many children they would have.  Women did a majority of the work yet didn't have control of money or have the opportunities to support themselves.  In West Africa, the issues for women revolved around how to survive the hardships of poverty while trying to keep their children alive.

In China, I asked my students what are the women's issues for young Chinese women and for older Chinese women.  In no order of importance, they listed the following problems:
  • working towards the position of women becoming more equal to men's
  • the lack of job experience
  • domestic violence
  • health
  • body image, losing weight, high heel shoes, companies hiring based on height and beauty
  • can't deal with stress as well as men
  • can't drink or smoke like men
They said that for older women the issue was the fear of being homeless.  If a woman didn't have a responsible child, then she would have to live in a home for the elderly where the conditions were very poor.

I asked Chinese teachers the same question.  They listed discrimination in the work place, marriage and mother-in-laws, and domestic violence as issues for women.  They further explained that women have a great pressure to marry and have a child.  If they don't get married or don't have a child, then society will think something is wrong with them.  Marriages often have a lot of conflict because of the family.  There is a saying that I have often heard in China, "You are not marrying a man but his family." 

In my opinion, Chinese women have more choices than African women but fewer choices than American women.  Chinese women are equally educated, have their own careers, and have their own money.  They, however, unlike American women have a greater pressure to get married and to have a family.  Because of this pressure, Chinese women tend to get married sooner and quicker.  They get married to men who might not be their first choice but choose a man whom the family supports.  Even with a cheating husband or a bad marriage, Chinese women will stay married for the sake of the children.

Women's issues are different depending on the environment, culture, tradition, and even the laws of the land.

1 comment:

M said...

neat post. It's so easy to forget how priviledged we are....