Gender Role Conflict Related to Gender Role Norms of a Particular Racial and Ethnic Minority Group

African American, American Indian, Asian American, and Latino cultures have some gender-role expectations that, although found in the majority culture, exert even stronger pressures on its members. All four cultures typically expect females to fulfill a caretaking role, specifically, they are expected to care for younger siblings or the elderly. The stresses associated with being a caretaker are evident in the following examples from African American and Latino cultures.

Watson (1998) describes the caretaking responsibilities of young Black females and the negative impact of such responsibilities on their later relationships with men. Historically, African American women were forced to leave their children in the care of older female children who cared for their younger siblings while their mothers cared for the children of White slaveowners. Over time, such duties were performed for White employers. Because of their responsibilities to younger siblings, Black females were forced to put their own needs aside. Furthermore, greater parental attention was given to the younger children. Consequently, older Black females often failed to receive the love and attention that they, too, needed for proper emotional development. Sadly, these caretakers sometimes came to be perceived as cold and unfeeling. In their later relationships with men, they sometimes had difficulties because they were unable to express their needs or they concentrated excessively on attending to the needs of the male. Intimacy was seriously compromised in these relationships in which reciprocal caring was absent.

Heavy cultural pressures face Latinas too, whether they are Mexican American, Cuban, or Puerto Rican. These pressures can be summed up with one commandment: "Be a good girl!" (Garcia-Preto, 1998). Being a good girl means making motherhood one's major objective in life, protecting one's virginity, living at home with one's parents until marriage or college, acting like a "lady," and caring for children or the elderly. Garcia-Preto provides several case studies based on therapy with clients presenting a variety of gender-role issues. For example, a young Latina wanted to play sports after school. Initially, the parents would not allow the young girl to do so because of their cultural beliefs that girls should sit sedately, be quiet, and not be tomboys. On the other hand, at school the daughter was being encouraged to try out for sports because of her obvious talent and interest. In another study, Claudia, a 24-year-old Cuban, was the youngest daughter living with her parents. Although she wanted to move in with some women friends, she did not want to cause her parents worry. Her initial "solution" was to begin looking for a good man to marry so that she could move away. When she began to experience anxiety attacks, her friend referred her to Garcia-Preto. Still, another study focused on Celia, a 34-year-old "Lati-Negra" from the Dominican Republic. Celia had concerns about being a bad mother because she had to place her 2-year-old son in daycare so that she could go to her job.

Finally, Garcia-Preto discusses the additional burdens of cultural guilt placed on Latina lesbians. "Latina lesbians are perceived not only as rejecting the essence of being female, but as usurping male power; thus, they are a double threat to the culture" (p. 337).

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