Challenging Chinoy Gender Norms

Traditions are a vital part of Chinoy culture. There are always rituals and beliefs to follow during important dates like Chinese New Year or even during celebrations like weddings and birthdays. Some might call it old school, but these traditions shouldn’t be forgotten because they are a unique aspect of Chinoy culture. What should be forgotten, however, are the gender norms that come with them. 


It’s no secret that Chinoy culture has many beliefs about gender. They are more common for the older generation, but they have been passed down enough for them to still be considered norms today. For example, most families want to have sons because they will carry the family name and possibly take over the family business, while daughters, on the other hand, are usually seen as the second choice to everything. There are times when it seems like Chinoy culture comes with an instruction manual that tells you what to do and how to act based on your gender, and this shouldn’t have a place in an age where the fight for gender equality is only just beginning. I already talked about the struggles Chinoy women face in a previous article, and now it’s high time to talk about the gender roles that both men and women are being boxed in. As we move on to another new year, let us leave behind these common gender norms in our culture: 


Attaching gender to certain activities

In this article, I talked about the common activities for Chinoy kids during summer break, and while kids may have a say in what activities they want to do, they are only permitted to do the ones that are typical for their gender. I personally was encouraged to take piano lessons instead of drum lessons because my ama (grandmother) said that drums are not befitting for a girl. There might be boys out there who have a passion for dance but are forced to do “more masculine” activities like martial arts or basketball. Even colors have genders attached to them, and any boy or girl who chooses pink or blue respectively would often receive unwanted speculations about their sexuality. Associating gender with certain activities is just a social construct, so we should stop making kids feel ashamed for choosing things that are not ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ enough. 


Expecting men to be natural-born businessmen

As mentioned before, men are expected to inherit the family business by default, but even if they don’t have a family business, they are still expected to become businessmen at some point in their lives. This puts immense pressure on men who want to pursue other career paths or men who are already content with their careers and do not feel the need to start their own business, especially since Chinoy culture tends to look down on people who remain as employees their whole lives. Just because there are many successful Chinoy businessmen doesn’t mean all men are automatically born with a business gene, and expecting them to start their own business despite not having the passion for it can sometimes be detrimental to their well-being and finances.


Making men feel obliged to pay for everything

When a man and a woman dine together, it’s expected that the man will be the one to pay, regardless of whether they are dating or not. It’s an unspoken rule, but it’s one that the younger generation rarely follows religiously. The elders would usually frown upon this and say “it doesn’t look good” because they believe a man’s willingness to pay says a lot about his ability to provide for his family in the future. However, that doesn’t make sense, especially if the men and women in question are both students or employees. Both are running on their allowance or salaries, so neither of them should be obliged to pay for the other’s meals just because of their gender. Men can pay if they want to, but the idea that they have to is an outdated concept because it implies that women are not as capable to provide for themselves and must therefore rely on men. Besides, always expecting men to be the breadwinners might only lead to toxic masculinity.


Expecting women to give up their careers

I already touched on this in my previous article, but the idea is that things are not as bad for women as they were before. Their education is no longer an option but a right, and they are free to study whatever interests them and pursue any career they want. However, it all comes with a time limit because they are expected to give up their careers once they get married so they can take care of their children. If they don’t have children yet, then they give up their careers to help with their husband’s family business, even though it might not be as fulfilling as their profession. This is true for my mom and my aunts, as well as for the mothers of my friends. In addition, single career women are constantly asked when they will get married, as if marriage is the highest achievement they can aspire for, while women who keep their careers after having children are accused of being  “neglectful mothers.” 


Assuming a woman’s success is owed to marrying someone rich 

Sometimes, people act as if the most interesting thing about a woman is who she married. It’s often the topic of conversation during school reunions or family gatherings, and it might even be a source of envy for some people. There are also times when a woman’s wealth and achievements are attributed to marrying a rich husband or sleeping around. This invalidates the capabilities of women, and what makes matters worse is that it’s usually the fellow women who spread this idea. We should normalize celebrating women’s achievements instead of assuming the worst. The cards are already stacked against them, and they should be supporting each other instead of finding reasons to drag each other down. 


Some of these gender norms are unique to Chinoy culture, while others are universal, but they’re all outdated either way. They are not traditions that need to be preserved but are products of sexism and gender stereotypes. They shouldn’t have a place in the 21st century, and we should contribute our efforts into eliminating them instead of allowing them to remain as norms.

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