Gender Roles In American Culture
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How does culture influence gender roles?
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When the United States took control of Puerto Rico in , the island underwent another enormous cultural transformation. Suddenly U. English became a common second language, and has at times been proclaimed the official language. The U. American corporations set up shop, bringing with them an influx of American expatriates whose ways of dress, cuisine, and art were integrated into the existing culture.
Much of this influence came in the form of the military, due to the many military bases that were established on the island. Some people credit that influence on the relative stability and orderliness of public life, particularly as compared to other Caribbean islands. Inroads of contemporary American culture have been made into much of island life, but Puerto Ricans are fiercely proud of their Spanish heritage. Since becoming a U. Puerto Ricans are U.
The other half wants to become a U. When it comes to gender roles, Puerto Ricans are fairly traditional. However, as in the rest of the industrial world, women have made inroads into the formerly male world of business and sports, particularly in urban areas. Vestiges of machismo still exist. But in general, Puerto Rican men can be quite chivalrous in ways American women may be unaccustomed to. Having a bus seat relinquished for their comfort and the holding of doors are courtesies commonly encountered. Although weekly church attendance is far below that figure, the Catholic Church has great influence on Puerto Rican life.
Each town has a Catholic church at its center and celebrates its patron saint with an annual festival. Although many patron-saint festivals have become much more secular over time, they typically include a religious procession and special Mass to mark the day. It also observes multiple gods and combines elements of Catholicism. Once the United States arrived in Puerto Rico in , Protestantism began to grow on the island, and all major sects are represented.
The reciprocity of the gender roles is made clear by the hard facts of Indian demography: in most, if not all, Plains Indian societies in the mid—nineteenth century there were far more women than men. Women often died at an early age, worn down by a life of hard work and frequent childbearing, but men died in greater numbers and at earlier ages, victims of their dangerous occupations. Only in the late nineteenth century, when wars among the tribes and with the United States were curtailed, did the gender ratios equalize. By that time men and women alike were equally likely to die from diseases caused by poverty, such as tuberculosis.
The gender roles devised over generations by traditional Plains Indian societies persisted for so long because they worked to keep the family and the band or tribe intact. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, the Canadian and U. Indian extended families were to be fragmented into nuclear families, each occupying an individual allotment. These imposed changes were resisted, but Indian men's traditional roles were fast disappearing, and as the weight of supporting families fell increasingly on the women, so did relative power. This shift has continued to this day. On Plains reservations and reserves in the early twenty-first century, women are more likely than men to have completed high school and to hold jobs outside the home. They are often the chief providers for the household, while Indian men frequently take over the child care, cooking, and cleaning.
Such changes bring with them benefits, such as increased authority for women and closer father-child relationships for men, but they also bring the stresses of added responsibilities and altered self-images. David J. Wishart University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Albers, Patricia, and Beatrice Medicine. Billson, Janet Mancini. XML: egp. Image credits. Encyclopedia of the Great Plains David J. Wishart, Editor.