The Hmong culture is very patriarchal. The men make the rules and the women follow them. The men are the clan leaders. The men are the head of the families. The men make all the “big” decisions. Sons are valuable assets to a family because they are the ones who will carry on the clan name and are expected to take care of the parents in old age.
Women are viewed as second class. Our role is to simply take care of the men and bare their children. Daughters are not desirable because once we’re married, we belong to our husband and take on his clan name. Women are considered properties of their husbands. Thus, there is a general lack of respect for women and our opinions. (Too many times have I heard the commonly used phrase, “You’re just a woman; you don’t know anything”).
The Hmong society has very rigid gender roles. A man should be strong and never show emotions. A man should have a job to support his family. He is the “man of the house.” He should put his wife “in check.” A man is in control, he is never at fault, and he is always right. A man’s needs are above that of a woman.
A Hmong woman should be submissive, listen to her husband, and know her place. She is not encouraged to have an education or a job, although this is changing in America. And because of this change, it has caused a lot of conflicts in marriages where the husband still holds on to traditional norms or is slow to assimilate. And in order to control his wife from being educated and/or independent, a Hmong man may resort to domestic violence.
The Hmong put great emphasis on their families, clans, and the good of the group as a whole. Every major decision made by an individual should be based on how it will benefit the family, not how it would benefit the individual.
Reputation and “saving face” are valued above all. You should not do anything that will taint your name or the name of your family. Until you are married and make a name for yourself, you hold your father’s reputation. If he is a bad person, people will attach his image to yours. If he is a good person, you will be viewed as a good person and/or people will have high expectations of you to uphold your father’s honor.
Disclaimer: Women can and do abuse, but statistics have shown that men abuse more than women. That is the reason why the language in this post is gender-specific to men as the abusers. Additionally, domestic violence can happen in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships and marriages. Although homosexuality exists in the Hmong, it is still very taboo. Hmong marriage dynamics are set up for only heterosexuality with very specific gender roles—the wife serves the husband. And because traditional Hmong culture revolves around heterosexuality and procreation, I will only be focusing on heterosexual Hmong couples.
How do you think a patriarchal society and high values of family and reputation affect victims of domestic violence?