Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Tale of Two Families - Culture, Gender and Race Excluded

I want to try a little experiment. I'm going to tell you of two very similar families. I want you to guess which one is American and which one is Punjabi. I'm going to leave out all of what I believe to be identifying factors. Once you've read these, I have some questions I would like you to answer. Leave me a comment with your thoughts on which family is American and which is Indian.

Family 1 -
  • Lives in a joint family with one set of parents, a son and a DIL.
  • One of the parents works, the other does not. 
  • The son works, the DIL does not.
  • The stay at home parent does a little housework. The working parent does a little housework. The DIL does a little housework.
  • The adult married son comes home from work, stops in his parents room and spends a little time. He sometimes takes off his shirt while in there.
  • The adult married son often eats food in the parents room.
  • The adult married son and his wife both sit on the parents bed and socialize.
  • The adult married son and his wife sometimes sit or lay on the floor in the parents room and socialize. 
  • The male head of the family often gets up and leaves the room when the DIL enters.
  • The DIL spends most of her time interacting with her husband and the MIL.

Family 2 -
  • Lives in a joint family with two sets of parents, a son, a DIL and two children. 
  • Two of the parents work, two do not. (One parent from each family.)
  • Both the son and the DIL work.
  • The stay at home parents do the majority of the housework. The DIL does no housework.
  • The adult married son comes home from work, stops in his parents room and spends a little time. He sometimes takes off his shirt or changes clothes in there.
  • The adult married son frequently eats food in the parents room.
  • The adult married son and his wife both sit on the parents bed and socialize.
  • The adult married son and his wife sometimes sit or lay on the floor in the parents room and socialize. 
  • The male head of the family often gets up and leaves the room when the DIL enters.
  • The DIL spends most of her time interacting with her husband and the MIL.
Now, if you notice there are very few differences in those families. Despite the fact they came from two different places, cultures, races, etc. I also specifically avoided gender of the parents so as not to make this too easy for you.  Now for my questions.

Which family is American? Which family is Indian?
Which family is doing things wrong? What specifically are they doing wrong?
How would you feel about each family if you knew the mother(s) were the ones working and the father(s) stayed home?

Recently I was told that one of these families is completely wrong. Their way of life is not normal in any family in the world. I found it perplexing and I really had to stop and think about this one. I've yet to come up with an answer that isn't gender and culture tainted. I can't wait to hear your thoughts.

9 comments:

  1. Based on what I have experienced with India and Switzerland, I would say that Family 1 is American, because in the western mindset, all people pitch in with housework regardless of having a job outside the home or not. I also guessed the second family was Indian solely based on the kids changing clothes in their parents' room, this behaviour is too far out of the comfort zone and personal space respect in a lot of western countries.

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  2. I don't know but if you are suggesting that people working outside don't do housework in India then you are wrong or actually not fully aware.

    As far as the article go, this one was actually a very interesting read. I am not really aware of how joint families live in US. "Which family is American? Which family is Indian?" The honest answer to the question would be both can be Indian but since it is already mentioned that one is American, that means both can be American too :) lol. Other than just some guess I don't know how you can say one is American and one is Indian as there are too many similarities.

    "Which family is doing things wrong? What specifically are they doing wrong?"

    I just feel the one person who doesn't contribute to housework in one of the families should contribute unless her work is really very hectic or she has some health related problem, something like that. If she is healthy, stays at home and yet doesn't do housework then that is wrong.

    'How would you feel about each family if you knew the mother(s) were the ones working and the father(s) stayed home?"

    Nothing wrong, just different than what we commonly observe.

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  3. Alexandra MadhavanAugust 6, 2014 at 5:40 PM

    I would guess that family #1 is Punjabi because I have been told that a true Punjabi man would never live with his inlaws.

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  4. The two set of parents in the second example would be grand parents and parents of the man, I believe. It sounds more like those mathematical riddles. There is nothing much to choose between the two families. I believe that all members should contribute in housework irrespective of their gender, so in the the second case the DIL not working is kind of unjust for the other family members. Then there is a politically correct 'gender spin' that we give to everything these days. A man not helping out at home is misogynistic, conservative etc. but a women not helping out is not lazy/inconsiderate but doing something "empowering". Any bad attribute in the case of women is then turned into a virtue with this kind of 'engineering'. Sorry if I sound distasteful but we should start judging people by their acts and not their gender.


    We look at men as "providers" and women as "homemakers" so a man sitting at home, what should I say, does not look 'respectable' i.e. men staying at home and not doing anything basically being a 'couch potato'. That is not acceptable in any culture. I believe that men and women have special qualities. Women are excellent homemakers simply because they are more patient and can multitask perhaps because of evolution of nature. It is a quality which everyone should appreciate. This quality becomes more prominent and important with children. What a mother can contribute to a child life, nobody can. Men can adapt and contribute with parenting and housework, wherever they can chip in, but it not the same thing. Children need mothers more like a plant needs soil. A home also requires women. A home without women is like tree without leaves and flowers. That is perhaps why mother is compared to earth and father with sky and the child with everything in between. It is not about confining women and men to their traditional roles, but appreciating that both have special qualities for certain things without indulging in this nefarious 'engineering' which fashionable today. OMG, I kind of drifted away did I.

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  5. That's a very good observation. They were subtle key points. :)

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  6. I wasn't suggesting that people who work in India don't do housework and if it sounded like I was, I apologize.

    Your observations are very good. Both families could easily have been American or Indian. From my experience living in a joint family here both as a child and as an adult, I've witnessed that they're not much different from Indian families when it comes to the structure with the exception that traditional Indian families still have somewhat of a hierarchy present.

    I agree the DIL in family 2 should contribute. It's essential in any joint family setting that every adult contribute to the household in some way.

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  7. I find your comment the most interesting of all. I've never heard that but it really struck a chord with me and it seems to fit so well into the situation. It was a factor I hadn't known to include in the equation. It's got me to really thinking about things from a different perspective.

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  8. I agree that all family members should contribute but I personally would never adopt the philosophy of a woman staying home and doing nothing as being empowering. I know some feminists may feel that way but I do not. (I know you weren't implying that either, I'm just stating my view on that one.)

    We absolutely need to judge people by their acts rather than their gender/culture/etc. That's why I tried not to include any more of that than I had to in this post. I wanted to see how people thought if they didn't know the gender and culture. I didn't want anyone to be influenced by those things.

    I agree that men and women have different roles they're suited to generally. I think that historically these lines are heavily misunderstood. For example, I had a few Mexican friends and the wife once told me that in her culture (not sure if she meant Mexican or something smaller) the men did whatever they wanted and the women did all the house work including mowing the grass, etc. Her husband came home from work and slept all evening. Her son ran all over her like he wasn't subject to rules and respect, etc. In my culture the man typically mowed the grass and kept up with the yard and vehicles, not the woman. So that was hard for me to understand.

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  9. Hello American Punjaban


    I was actually replying that to Cyn. The later part of my comment was actually reply to the article. I should have mentioned that lol, sorry for that.

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