Hmong Traditional Dance
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Hmong Traditional Dance

Hmong Traditional Marital Roles and the Pursuit of Higher Education for Married Hmong American Women by Mai Shoua Khang A Research Paper Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Master of Science Degree in .School Counseling Approved: 2 Semester Credits Dr.Beatrice A.Bigony The Graduate School Urliversity of Wisconsin-Stout May, 2010 1 who are challenges.These challenges, educational impacts, Hmong women in higher education, and changes needed to supp0l1 and advocate for Hmong women.

This researcher concluded that the importance of maintaining Hmong traditional gender roles overshadowed the importance of obtaining an education for Hmong American women.3 The Graduate School University of Wisconsin Stout Menomonie, WI Acknowledgements I first and foremost would like to thank my family for their constant support in my entire personal and educational career.I hold you all dear to my heaJi.

I love you all! To my parents: P.C.K.

and K.Y.X., thank you for your patience, strength, and love.Without you, I would not be where I am today.I will always remember your words of encouragement.I am very grateful for my brothers: T.K.and B.K., thank you for being who are you and for always believing in me.To my sisters: P.K., M.K., X.K., and M.C.K., thank you for filling my life with laughter and love.You all remind me again the strength and power of sisters and Hmong women.

Thank you to all faculty and staff in the MSSC program for your words of wisdom, leadership, and guidance.I will always remember your level of energy, strength, and encouragement of your students' learning.

Most impOliantly, I would like to thank my thesis advisor, Dr.Beatrice A.

Bigony for all your dedication, patience, and guidance throughout my research.

I am very appreciative and honored to have had the opportunity to work with you.4 5 Table of Contents ....................................................................................................................................................Page Abstract ............................................................................................................................................

2 Chapter I: Introduction ......................................................................................

: .............................7 Statement of the Problem .....................................................................................................8 Purpose of the Study ..........................................................................................................11 Definition of Terms ............................................................................................................13 Methodology ......................................................................................................................14 Chapter II: Literature Review ........................................................................................................16 The Hmong Household ......................................................................................................17 The Good Nyab and Wife ..............................., ..................................................................18 Gender Roles and Educational Values ...............................................................................22 Hmong Women and Education ..........................................................................................16 Chapter III: Methodology ...............................................................................................................24 Research Design .................................................................................................................24 Participants .........................................................................................................................25 Instrumentation ..................................................................................................................26 Data Collection ..................................................................................................................26 Data Analysis ....................................................................................................................27 Limitations and Weakness .................................................................................................28 Chapter IV: Findings ......................................................................................................................

31 Marital Expectations of Hmong American Women .........................................................

31 Table 1: Background Information of Informants ..............................................................32 6 Marital Expectations and Educational Pursuit .................................................................35 Hmong Women in Education ...........................................................................................

.40 Advocating Support for Hmong women ...........................................................................43 Table 2: Hmong Roles in Transition .................................................................................44 Chapter V: Summary .....................................................................................................................48 Discussion .........................................................................................................................

49 Conclusions ........................................................................................................................52 Recommendations ..............................................................................................................53 References ......................................................................................................................................55 Appendix A: Questionnaire/Survey Instrument............................................................................58 Appendix B: Consent Form ...........................................................................................................59 Hmong gender mainstream culture, cultural adaptation aI., 2003; Long, 2008; Timm, 1994).The son and his wife were expected to live with the family until they had some children of their own and were able to support themselves (Foo, 2002).

9 Traditional values of Hmong gender practices are often in opposition to modern mainstream U.S.gender values.In traditional households, Hmong men are more authoritative than women as men have more power (Yang, 2008).

Hmong men make most of the decisions for the family, resolve family conflicts, perform rituals and ceremonies for the family, and provide economic stability.Within the traditional household, Hmong women are valued for their work in performing domestic chores and caring for children and grandparents (Park & Chi, 1999; Culhane-Pera et aI., 2003; Yang, 2004).

In addition, needlework and embroidery of traditional clothing are performed by women.However, traditional work in the field of caring for and harvesting crops is usually performed by both women and men ("Hmong 1997).Women are also expected to be "good" or "dutiful" nyabs by respecting and performing their mother-in-Iaw's requests (Yang, 2004).This relationship and what it means to be a good or dutiful wife and nyab will be discussed in fUlther detail in the literature review.Unfoltunately, with the value and status placed on the male gender role, schooling (a successful and powerful accomplishment) has often been restricted to men (Yang, 2008).Women in Laos were often discouraged or lacked a suppOitive environment for their educational pursuits (Lee, 1997; DuongTran, Lee, & Khoi, 1996; Timm, 1994).The different perspective of gender roles in the U.S.has paved a road for Hmong women to seek out more opportunities to become more independent and empowered (Park & Chi, 1999; Foo, 2002).This has created some controversy among the older and more traditional Hmong as they see the younger women stepping outside of their gender boundaries.1997; Timrn, 11 gender expectations are stricter for daughters (Lee, 1997; Yang, 2008).Therefore, to be honored and respected, women must fulfill traditional gender roles first before pursuing educational oppOliunities (Lee et aI., 2009; Timm, 1994).

Daughters are not allowed as much freedom and leisure time as their brothers (Cerhan, 1990).Hmong girls are expected to perfonll well in school and, at the same time, fulfill the demanding responsibilities at home.Young Hmong teens have repOlied feeling torn between the two worlds of the American culture and Hmong culture because of conflicting expectations (Park & Chi, 1999; Duffy et aI., 2004).Consequently, the multiple roles expected of Hmong women are often burdensome and sometimes overwhelming as they search to find equilibrium between their gender and educational expectations, especially if they marry young ("Hmong Families," 1997).Therefore, the persistent value and practice for Hmong women to maintain their traditional gender roles seems to overpower the value and oppOliunity in obtaining an education beyond high school.There needs to be more research regarding the impact ofHmong traditional marital gender roles on Hmong American women and on their educational pursuits.The researcher believes that her research investigations will contribute to a fuller understanding of the struggles and realities faced by Hmong American women in traditional martial roles, especially those who are trying to balance their family values and expectations as well as their individual educational goals
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.This research is intended to contribute to the existing research on Hmong women, focusing on the challenges of malTied Hmong women as they combine individual educational goals with family responsibilities.Purpose of the Study The overwhelming pressures and expectations regarding gender roles and family expectations, which are performed by Hmong women, have been associated with psychological and the 1.What are the challenges that Hmong American women face in performing traditional marital roles? 2.In what do traditional marital expectations adversely affect educational pursuit among Hmong American women? 13 3.What are Hmong American women's perceptions and the perceptions they believe the Hmong community has of Hmong American women in higher education (beyond high school)? 4.What changes do Hmong women feel are needed to advocate support for Hmong women in their educational pursuits? Definition of Terms The following terms are defined for clarity in their use tlu'oughout this research to provide a better understanding of their context.Acculturation: "the process of extensive borrowing of culture when two or more cultures are in contact" (Ember, Ember, & Skoggard, 2005, p.xxv).Assimilation: "the process of absorbing or taking on the cultural values, attitudes, and behaviors or another cultural group" (Ember et a!., 2005, p.

xxv).Clan: "a set of kin whose members believe themselves to be descended from a common ancestor or ancestress" (Ember et a!., 2005, p.xxvi).

Culture: "the set of learned behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, values, and ideals that are characteristics of a particular society or population" (Ember et a!., 2005, p.xxvi).Extended family: "consists of two or more generations of male or female kin and their spouses and offspring, occupying a single household under the authority of a household head" (Nand a & Warms, 2009, p.156).originally migrated from China in the eighteenth century and settled in Southeast Asia" (Thao, 1999, p.2).

Hmong Americans: U.S citizens ofHmong ancestry Nyab: Hmong word for daughter-in-law 14 Patriarchal: "men have more status and power than women" (Culhane-Pera et a!., 2003, p.1S).Methodology Through reading and analyzing the existing literature, the researcher selected common themes and issues on how Hmong women are redefining their roles in the United States.The researcher believed that similar experiences and struggles would emerge from personally interviewing Hmong women.Likewise, the researcher felt that the obstacles and struggles experienced by Hmong American women might be better understood by allowing the voices of Hmong women speak of their experiences as they discussed their own realities.The researcher interviewed nine Hmong American women ranging from twenty-one to thirty-two years old.

Informants were met the following criteria: 1) cUlTently living or have lived with the husband's family; and 2) currently enrolled in or have completed their post secondary education in a two year community college/technical school or a four year college/university.Depending on the requests of the informants, the interviews were conducted by one of three means: by phone, email, or in person.Pre-determined questions were asked to help facilitate and provide direction regarding the individual experiences of these Hmong American women.

Then, the researcher used experiences shared 15 existing literature or provide different perspectives not yet discussed in the literature regarding the relationship between these women's marital roles and their educational pursuits.In her discussion and analysis, the researcher focused on the following themes surrounding the challenges and lives of Hmong women: Hmong martial challenges and expectations, the impact of gender roles on Hmong women's pursuit of their education, and the perception of Hmong women obtaining higher education.Additionally, the researcher provided suggestions given by informants for changes needed in order to advocate for and support Hmong women in their endeavors.

The researcher anticipates that her findings will help guide educators towards a more comprehensive understanding and awareness of the multiple roles impacting Hmong American women, making educators better prepared to work effectively with Hmong American students that may be facing gender expectations different from their non-Hmong peers.

et ai., 17 The Hmong Household The patriarchal Hmong household has been traditionally structured through extended family members: parents, grandparents, unmarried sons and daughters, married sons and their wives, and the grandchildren living together (Greaves, 2002; "Hmong Families," 1997; Park & Chi, 1999; Culhane-Pera et a!., 2003).Family is most important and is valued as a collective unit, emphasized through working closely with one another focusing less on the individual self (Hendricks, 1986; Tatman, 2004; Duffy et a!., 2004).

Men are looked upon for guidance and wisdom as men are more highly respected and valued than women.Therefore, fathers are seen as the heads of the households with authority to make the major decisions for the family (Vang, 2008; Timm, 1994).

Nevertheless, mothers are also highly respected and have great influence.

By sharing their perspectives, wives have power to influence the decisions of their husbands.Positive relationships between mother-in-Iaws and their daughter-in-laws are highly valued and respected.The daughter-in-Iaw's relationship with her husband's family is seen primarily as one to help the mother-in-law with domestic household chores.

In the nyab's unique relationship to her husband's family, the mother-in-law is valued as the head of the household (Long, 2008; Timm, 1994).The household is where Hmong cultural values are rooted and where traditional expectations and responsibilities for both genders are learned and practiced.Thus, the cultural roles and responsibilities of Hmong men and women are taught and exemplified early in the home (Lo, 2001).The symbolism and practice of Hmong gender roles begins with a traditional practice at bitih known as "The Burial of the Placenta." In villages, the of a boy is buried by the house's central post to symbolize suppOli for the family linage once he has matured Long, 2008).martial roles, years old does not allow time or energy for Hmong American adolescent women to pursue educational opportunities.21 Fortunately, more and more Hmong families are encouraging and supporting high school completion before maniage (Long, 2008).In addition, parents often lecture their children about the importance of education.Nonetheless, many Hmong adolescents are still marrying at early ages (Yang, 2004).This maniage practice suggests then that early marriage and motherhood in the Hmong culture is still highly valued (Lee, 1997).

Building family relationships and continuing the family clan takes priority over fulfilling personal and professional aspirations.Education is encouraged as long as it does not interfere with family responsibilities (Cerhan, 1990).Maintaining traditional gender roles remains a higher priority for women than men, resulting in educational and personal aspirations often being delayed while women fulfill their gender roles within the family household (Lee et aI., 2009).It becomes a two world reality struggle for Hmong American women because they must learn to balance their traditional martial roles with educational commitment.Family expectations and responsibilities compete with educational commitment as both may be equally valued but each requires much time and effort (Waite & Moore, 1978; Lee, 1997).Historically, education was not readily accessible to the Hmong.If opportunities for education did arise, they were only extended to boys in the family.Such opportunities were often not valued or encouraged for girls as their roles were focused on duties and responsibilities in the home (Timm, 1994; Yang, 2008).However, today many Hmong parents in the U.S.value the impoliance of education for both their sons and daughters even though educational obtainment is still often postponed at a higher rate for women than men due to women's obligations expected in the home (Lee, 1997; DuongTran et aI., 1996).22 Nevertheless, Hmong adolescent women who have dropped out of high school are also returning, completing high school and continuing their post secondary education (Lee, 1997; Long, 2008).

However, even as educational opportunities become more widely accepted for Hmong women in the U.S., strict traditional Hmong gender roles are still emphasized by Hmong parents and continue to playa key role in Hmong women's educational attainment (Lee et aI., 2009).

Hmong Women and Education Education is a way to free the mind to explore many opp01iunities and possibilities.Education becomes a resource that opens doors and introduce possibilities that perhaps would be otherwise closed and soon forgotten because offamily responsibilities.However, in Laos, those that were privileged (either from a wealthy family or simply being a son) were more likely to receive an education; and the less unfortunate were defined by the responsibilities of their traditional gender roles (Foo, 2002; Yang, 2004).

As Hmong women commit to and strive for education, they must still learn to carry themselves dutifully as good Hmong women.

Traditional gender practices and expectations for Hmong women (early marriage, domestic household chores, and family commitment) are still highly valued by the older generations (Lee et aI., 2009).However, with more and more young Hmong women pursuing educations, traditional Hmong gender roles are now being questioned and challenged by women who have gained a greater sense of personal self-worth and independence through their education (Yang, 2004; Lee et aI., 2009).Higher education and the and the 26 informants were known acquaintances of the researcher.The remaining four informants were referred to the researcher through friends and family.InfOlmants met the following criteria:
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