How Meets West”, authors Valeria Steele and
How Culture Shapes Gender Roles These last few weeks our English class has read and discussed many essays which have shown how culture can shape gender roles. Three particular essays discuss how parents in want to find good providers for their daughters.
Different cultures have different rites of passage for their daughters in which the goal is to enhance the desirability of the girl. The customs of female circumcision, foot binding and arranged marriage are three examples of genders roles being influenced by culture in different ways yet, ultimately, for the same purpose.The circumcision of young girls as discussed in “The Tragedy of Female Circumcision” by Waris Dirie, is a practice that goes far back in Middle Eastern culture. Though considered mutilation in most other cultures, in Somalia it is what is done. Dirie’s mother, her grandmother and her great grandmother were circumcised so that is what her mother had done to her. Through circumcision the daughter will be considered clean.
She won’t desire sexual pleasure and won’t betray her husband. Therefore, she is now marriageable. Along the same line, China had an old custom of foot binding, a practice that lasted one thousand years.In “China Chic: East Meets West”, authors Valeria Steele and John Major discuss the different dynasties of China along with their varying probable reasons for foot binding. In the Song Dynasty, in 960 AD, erotic poetry spoke of women’s tiny feet and hesitant gait, which made the men feel strong and masculine. Much later, in the 1600’s, the authors speak of how women were proud of their small bound feet.
The prayed to the Tiny Foot Maiden in hopes of having beautiful bound feet that will prove their virtue and thus attract a good husband.Not as extreme as the previous two examples, but equally relevant, is the custom of arranged marriages. This is a custom that has been practiced for generations in India. In her essay, “Arranging a Marriage in India”, Serena Nada gives an enlightened perspective of this custom. Nada found that young women today still have their marriages arranged by their mothers. It is what they have learned to expect and they, usually, accept and appreciate the help finding a suitable match.
Girls are taught to be demure, hold their tongue and how to take care of the home.The mothers know that the boys’ parents are looking for domestic abilities, attire, beauty and the ability to get along easily with others. These are some of the top characteristics that will bring the daughter the desired suiters. These three examples, female circumcision in Somalia, foot binding in China and arranged marriage in India show how cultures can and do shape our perceptions of gender roles.
Women have historically and globally molded both physically and mentally by their parents with the sole purpose of finding them a husband. Is it time to let women live their lives in the own way?