with the males. Therefore, in the relationship between gender and age, gender takes priority over age. Younger men have more authority than older women. These distinctions in social status and rank for the Hmong are fundamental to their social structure and social organization.
In the Hmong society, gender inequality begins at birth with the burial of the placenta. A boy’s placenta is buried at the most important part of the house, near the middle place where the spirit of the clan resides. On the other hand, a girl’s placenta is buried under the bed of her parents where she was conceived, so that the girl will grow up to have many children. Although today, many Hmong women give birth at the hospital, and have discarded the convention of burying the placenta, inequality in gender ideologies still remain, especially in the remote areas.
The prototypical gender image of man and woman in Hmong culture is father and mother. For all Hmong men and women, the goal in life is to find a spouse and reproduce offsprings, since marriage and reproduction contine the male descent line and the personal completion of everyone’s duties in life. Gender role is one of the first identities that human beings acquire, first through investiture, and then through socialization. To be a good man, he must be strong and intelligent. He must work hard and not be lazy. He must have responsibility for his family. He must not mistreat his wife or children. He must love and care for his parents and know the rituals needed to ‘feed’ them after they die. He must not use drugs.
On the other hand, a girl is trained from birth to be a good girl. A good girl must be adept at needlework. The Hmong girls begin to learn needlework as early as six to seven years of age. After marriage, a woman must become a good wife and mother and satisfy her husband’s family. She must respect her parents-in-law and all the other elder people, bringing honor and respect to her natal family and husband. Moreover, she must behave according to the traditional customs and habits. A good temper and work skills are the characteristics most valued in a young woman. A good woman must work hard in the fields and in the home. She must also bear many children, especially sons, and she must train these children very well.
Significance of marriage
Marriage is the most important goal in life for the Hmong, since it is the vehicle for parenthood and the continuation of family, lineage, and clan. Marriage is the precondition for a woman to shift her social status. For the Hmong, a girl must marry someone, or people will think there is something wrong with her if no man marries her. In the Maesa Mai Village, one spinster at the age of 30, who was a drug addict in the past, said that she would only become a good housewife if someone marries her. The Hmong girls are afraid of being spinsters. A girl who cannot marry is considered