VietnamCulture and HistoryHow Have Vietnamese Traditional Gender Roles Changed

How Have Vietnamese Traditional Gender Roles Changed

In the modern world, it does not seem fair to define what each gender should and should not do. However, thousands of years ago, it was normal to have those barriers in every culture all over the world, and Vietnam was no exception. Vietnamese traditional gender roles were created, and although they have been less significant in many young people’s views, the former generations still strongly believe in them.

Vietnamese Traditional Gender Roles: Women

Living in a patriarchal society of strong Confucian values, Vietnamese women used to have many standards to live up to. Many Vietnamese women know the Three Obediences and Four Virtues by heart, and they have been passed down from grandmothers to mothers and mothers to daughters.

Three Obediences include:

  • Until she is married, submits to her father as a daughter
  • After getting married, submits to her husband as a wife
  • In case her husband passes out, submits to her son.

Four Virtues are: (“Công – Dung – Ngôn – Hạnh” in Vietnamese)

  • Good homemaking skills: embroidery, sewing, cooking, especially raising kids
  • Beauty and Gentle appearance: taking care of their beauty, since it is also considered as the pride of their husbands. Women do not need to be too splendid, but being neat, clean, and not sloppy is necessary.
  • Appropriate speech: Girls must learn to speak gently, unhurriedly, and respectfully at a young age. If you watch some of the best Vietnamese movies, you will see that the female characters never raise their voices or speak too loudly.
  • Exemplary conduct: this virtue is usually seen as the most important one since it could considerably affect a woman’s happiness. Her conduct is shown through how she behaves and treats people around her. A woman at home must be respectful of the elder, considerate of the younger, obey her husband, take good care of her children, and live harmoniously with her husband’s family. When going out, she needs to act mild-tempered and modest.

There is a Vietnamese saying that goes: The men build the house, the women make it home. Vietnamese women are traditionally expected to prioritize their families over other things such as education, passion, or hobbies.

Vietnamese Traditional Gender Roles: Men

Compared to women, traditional Vietnamese gender roles for men seem less burdensome and allow them more opportunities. A man is considered to be the face of his family. Sometimes, especially in rural places and the countryside, people in his community would recognize his wife and children, or even grandchildren, through their relationships with him rather than their identities. The children would also take their father’s last name. In essential ceremonies of the family, such as weddings, funerals, and death anniversaries, while the men are in charge of inviting, welcoming, and treating the guests, the women usually do not show up and only focus on cooking and cleaning.

However, together with the benefits, the men in traditional Vietnamese society have to live up to many responsibilities. Both spouses try their best to preserve conventional Vietnamese family values, but since the wife is expected to care for the house and the kids, the husband must become the family’s breadwinner. Due to this, sons used to be given more chances to go to school than daughters since they were believed to be the ones who would bring both glory and money to their family after all.

Vietnamese Traditional Gender Roles Have Changed

Nowadays, the boundary between what men and women should do has been blurred. Girls and boys are encouraged to follow their dreams and share their responsibilities at home. More and more Vietnamese women have joined the workforce, and Vietnamese men now lend a hand in building their homes by doing chores and raising their kids.

Summary of Vietnamese Traditional Gender Roles

Vietnamese traditional gender roles include many standards that society wants men and women to follow. These roles are primarily about the responsibilities that each role has to do to keep the order of the family and the community, such as when women are expected to stay home and care for the house. Men go out to earn money to support the family. In recent years, the roles have been balanced, and both genders have more freedom to do what they want and build their own identity.

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