This study explores and analyses Hmong gender relations through traditional marriage systems, birth culture practices, socio-economic change, and modern educational development and their influence on issues of gender. The objective of the study is to assist in our understanding of the Hmong and their culture. This study will also be useful for understanding the Hmong women and gender issues. It will help Chinese scholars and Miao (Hmong) ethnic group of China to understand the Hmong of Thailand. This research is a contribution to Hmong studies, particularly for women and gender studies in Anthropology.
Theoretical and Methodological Framework
In the study of gender, it is important to consider all aspects of gender roles and relations. Some previous studies indicate the areas to be considered in pursuing gender studies. Donnelly, for example, indicates that “The study of gender begins with describing how tasks and skills, attitudes, responsibilities, power, and material possessions are distributed among males and females in a social group, and finding out the symbolic or prestige values assigned to them” (1994:12).
Gender studies are also concerned with race and ethnicity, and as Reid and Comas-Diaz (1990:400) suggest, “in gender studies which ignore race, ethnic studies which overlook gender present us with an incomplete and, possibly, distorted view of the behaviors we attempt to investigate” (Peplau, et al, 1999: 25). Gender ideology is also influenced by cultural factors such as religious beliefs, values, traditions, and behavior patterns of a group. Carole Wade and Carol Tavris point out that “a culture’s attitudes and practices regarding gender are deeply embedded in its history, environment, economy, and survival needs ”(1999: 20).
This study uses the theories of gender and ethnic culture, making use of socio-cultural analytical method as its tools. Central to the socio-cultural analysis of gender is the recognition that gender and culture are inseparable (Peplau, et al, 1999:34). This study uses anthropological methods of participatory observation, interviews, and questionnaires in field investigation. First-hand data was gathered from the Maesa Mai village (Blue/Green Hmong) in Mae Rim District, and Khun Klang village (White Hmong) in Chomthong District, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand. Over one hundred local people were interviewed, including primary- and middle-school students, graduate students, teachers, farmers, government officials, and traders. Of the interviewees, one-third were male and two-thirds were female. Field research was carried out with the aid of an interpreter. This research also draws on published and unpublished works about the Hmong of Thailand.
The Hmong Culture and Gender Ideology
The Hmong in Thailand
The Hmong in Thailand bear historical relations with the Miao ethnic minority of China. The migration of the Hmong into northern Thailand is thought to have