Married second generation South Asian women attitudes in navigating their life through both the Eastern (traditional) and Western (modern) worlds.

Samah Syed

Kristen Tole

March 13, 2015
University of Ottawa
Second generation South Asian women living in the western world must alternate back and forth between two expectations, trying to fit in society, while simultaneously pressured to retain all cultural and traditional practices from the eastern world. The conflict resulting from these competing identity expectations can result in emotional stress and confusion as these South Asian women struggle to belong to both communities however find themselves fitting in neither. Many second generations' South Asian women feel the tendency to attain multiple identity expectations prior to being married. Marriage, being highly venerated in the South Asian community, cultural expectations often weigh more heavily on these women's every day lives after marriage. The main objective of this paper is how married second generation's South Asian women attempted to navigate their life through impeding obstacles and demands in their role as the "daughter-in-law".
Maintaining cultural continuity through marriage and family relationships is crucial in a South Asian society . Consequently, South Asian parents and immigrants hold strong opinions and expectations about their children's mate selection. For South Asian women especially , mate selection greatly impacts them as "fears of cultural obliteration by Americanization" and "exogamy has pl ayed a large role in imposing constructions on the female gender role" (Das Gupta, 1998, p. 957) . E xogamy is defined as belonging t o a different ethnic group whereas endogamy for South Asian society is restricted to a hierarchy of who is acceptable to marry (B adruddoja, 2006; Basran, 1993) with " families preferring their children to marry within a field of eligible people defined by their own class, religion, caste, and region" (Basran, 1993, p. 347). Therefore , gender role construction begins by South Asian immigrant parents being watchful and protective in regulating the behaviors of their daughters as these daughters represent the purity and honor of the family name as well as their cultural lineage. After marriage, the in-laws monitor this gender role construction . The in-laws often take it upon themselves to re-socialize their daughter-in- laws on how to behave in their family unit. This in-law relationship is powerful, troublesome , and frequently heavily restricting for married South Asian women as well .
With much monitoring of their behaviors, second generation South Asian women often find themselves situated in a conflict between trying to fake an independent identity from their family obligations so that they can live, socialize, and compete profes sionally in the western society while simultaneously pressured to retain their eastern cultural heritage. This culture prescribes fixed gender roles and collectivist familial expectations in order to attract a suitable marriage partner and attain the cultural goal of becoming a wife and mother , so the couple can pass on the cultural heritage to the next generation. Finding the balance between these western and eastern identity expectations leaves many women shifting and negotiating their identity. For South Asian wome n specifically, their identity of being both South Asian and Canadian is constantly changing and conflict as they are trying to accomplish multiple expressions of who they are within both cultures. Dasgupta (1998) discusses how South Asian women are often limited in engaging freely within wester n society independently, and often restricted in making choices based on their free will. Instead these women must preserve traditions and customs that are "anachronistic" to maintain the cultura l value of being a "good" woman who maintains family tradition and honor especially. Also, growing up in the western world, ideas of gender equality influence South Asian women who "have to deal with gendered oppression within their own communities" (Bhatia & Ram, 2004, p. 229) . S econd generation South Asian women in endogamous marital relationships must negotiate the competing expectations of being a professionally employed women in the western world while simultaneously attempting to perform and maintain the cultural role of being a daughter-in-law in the eastern world.
Gender Differences
South Asian women are taught what it means to be a "goo d" girl who listens to her family, does not ask questions or challenges authority, and is