While at HWS, I am fortunate enough to live with someone from Vietnam. She is an international student and very knowledgeable about gender differences in both cultures. I was reading for this class and decided to ask what the differences were between American and Vietnamese cultures.
The one comment that sticks with me was about marriage and fertility. In Vietnam, a woman is expected to have children and if she does not have children, the woman will be dishonored. Such traditional values are usually kept in the rural communities however; they are lost in the cities. Vietnam is different in that most families in cities are still traditional. Cities, in Vietnam, are not modern cities and have grown with history and traditional values. In the case of Vietnam, many people in the cities are stricter than people in rural communities. One reason may be that more wealthy families live in the city and work to keep traditional ways for their family’s namesake. In keeping with the traditions, if a couple does not have a baby, it is always the women’s fault. The man is not held accountable. If he is married and problems with infertility arises, there is reason enough to ask for a divorce.
If you are not able to have children, you probably will not be able to get married. The traditions are that both extended families meet together and the mother-in-law pressures the couple to have children. If a women is thirty and not married she is considered an “old maid“ and will probably never get married. She will live either alone or at her parent’s house. If you are not married by age thirty then the society will truly look down upon you and will wonder what is wrong with you.
Along with finding a female partner who can become pregnant and the pressure coming from the mother of the male, there comes another challenge. The mothers of the sons are now pressuring the young men to meet young women before marriage to attempt to get them pregnant. The mothers often brag about their families and grandchildren to other mothers to cause jealousy. Therefore, to avoid a marriage where there will not be any children, the mothers are advising the young men to have premarital sex to try to get the young women pregnant. If the young woman gets pregnant then she should then be married. If the man’s side of the family approves of her and he asks her to get married she would have to. It is almost unheard of 24 or 25 year old to refuse a marriage. This is a quest for females. There is so much pressure from the families and society to get married, especially after age 24 or 25 and before 30 that they would almost have to.
As a young girl, she is taught that a perfect wife has three values. She is advised to be pretty, obedient and less intelligent than her husband is. That is what is expected of her then she has to worry about having children and if she is lucky enough one or both of her children will be male.