Gender equality Gender equality is an issue constantly in conflict within societies of Eastern and Western countries. Although Vietnamese women living in the United States have equal access to jobs and education and are able to be independent, they still choose to "incorporate the new realities of their lives into the ideological confines of the traditional family system" (Kibris 109). Tradition mandates that women are the support system of principles and values of the traditional Vietnamese family system (137). While Vietnamese women are more reserved and submissive to their husbands, Vietnamese-American women have discovered the strength and power to be the central figure within the newly defined collective household in order to survive and provide for the children's future. According to Confucianism, the family line is patriarchal and the man is to be obeyed. Women were expected to follow the three respects-her father, her husband and her eldest son; if not, the consequences were severe.
Having women stay at home with the children is a way of life in mainstream Asian countries. In Asia, a woman would not and could not leave her parent's home until she is married, then she would live with and care for her husband's family. An unwed woman living on her own would be considered shameful and disgraceful to her family in Asian culture. Unlike the strict traditional ways of Confucianism, Vietnamese families are orderly and emotional (Freeman 88). Within the traditional Vietnamese family, the "disciplined authority of and obligation to the father, but also, sentiment and affection are associated with the mother" (89). Asian women, in general, are taught to be reserved and to keep thoughts and experiences private in order to avoid losing face and embarrassing the family; however, "more respect for the rights and powers of Vietnamese women" have contributed to a Vietnamese history inclusive of strong, intelligent and decisive women such as the Truong Sisters who fought and defeated the Chinese to regain Vietnam's independence in 40 A.
D. Traditional femininity is to be expressed through modes of dress, movement, speech and actions; to an extent this is also true of Asian-American women in modern society. Although a traditional Asian women's timid behavior leads to a lack of individuality and self-confidence, Asian-America women have begun to shed the belief of fate, destined misery, and strive d to speak their own minds. If women are given opportunities to pursue careers, they are expected to fulfill positions as nurses, textile workers, or teacher because women are supposedly more caring and nurturing.
The working wife/ mother is also expected to cook, clean and care for the whole family while the husband only needs to work. Although Asian-American women in America must live up to the same expectations as men do and still be able to have dinner on the table, their contemporary counterparts are more self-sufficient and takes part in making family decisions. Asian-American women can be anything in America because American society and law gives both men and women the opportunities to choose their own destinies. My mother, a refugee from Vietnam, still struggles with the idea that I am so indifferent to what others say about me, especially elders who say I am too bold and disrespectful. Although she, herself, raised me to be strong and independent, I am not supposed to express myself in front of elders (Nguyen 7). My mother did not come to this country in search of the "Gold Mountain" but she wanted me to have more opportunities than the war-stricken Vietnam could have offered; however, I do not think she realized that it would mean giving up the more traditional customs of honor and respect from the native motherland.
In America, women have become much more aggressive. Asian-American women are socialized to want empowerment and demand equality (Aguilar-San Juan 155). Although some Asian Americans are still incensed with the idea that women could become dominant, many are starting to realize that the Asian-American woman's independence is of great benefit to the family as a whole. Asian-American women are able to enjoy the best of both worlds.
They are independent of the oppression from society but they still sustain unique qualities of traditional Asian women. Men and women should both strive to be independent and at the same time show loyalty and devotion to their families.