Presentation on theme: "Presentation for The Development Studies Association Conference 2012 Rural-Urban Low-Income Migrant Men as Husbands and Fathers in Vietnam Catherine Locke,"— Presentation transcript:
Presentation for The Development Studies Association Conference 2012 Rural-Urban Low-Income Migrant Men as Husbands and Fathers in Vietnam Catherine Locke, School of International Development, UEA, Norwich, UK. Nguyen Thi Thanh Tam, Institute of Family and Gender Studies, VASS, Hanoi, Vietnam. Nguyen Thi Ngan Hoa, Centre for Gender and Family Studies, SISD, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Presentation for The Development Studies Association Conference 2012 Rural-Urban Low-Income Migrant Men as Husbands and Fathers in Vietnam Catherine Locke, School of International Development, UEA, Norwich, UK. Nguyen Thi Thanh Tam, Institute of Family and Gender Studies, VASS, Hanoi, Vietnam. Nguyen Thi Ngan Hoa, Centre for Gender and Family Studies, SISD, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. This research was funded by grant RES from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Department for International Development (UKaid) of the UK. Neither the ESRC nor DFID bear any responsibility for the views expressed here nor for any errors therein. VIN GIA ĐÌNH VÀ GII INSTITUTE FOR FAMILY AND GENDER STUDIES
In Vietnam: Rapid increase in rural-urban migration since transition to market socialism (doi moi) + Increasing feminisation of migration flows Focus has been on reversals of traditional patterns and what these mean for masculinities (eg. Resurreccion and Khanh 2007) Now though, there are a wide range of gendered family arrangements around migration and these too have implications for masculinities. Migration Studies more generally: Exploration of what migration means for gendered family roles and identities has focused mostly on women and their experiences of motherhood and marriage internationally Moral panic about male migrants (errant, neglectful, disengaged): For men too making a life (Whitehead 2002) is about creating/sustaining family relationships. Crucially gendered power relations involves mens control over as well as care for wife and children. Being a migrant is about as well as in tension with being a good father or husband. Concern about a possible crisis of masculinity: in the context of feminisation of labour markets, rising economic difficulties, increasing aspirations/consumerism, and pressure to maintain family values.
Emerging Masculinities in Vietnam Masculinity defined in terms of patriarchal roles (Vu Hong Phong 2003) and close linkage between men roles in the family and their role in society and in nation-building (Phinney 2008, Wisensale 1999). High expectations of filial respect, gerontocratic control, and men s structural superiority to women create the conditions for the wife to fulfil her mothers roleTransition and the Happy Family s Campaign reinforced patriarchal roles: men should be the pillar of the family with prime responsibility for breadwinning. M en should create the conditions for the wife to fulfil her mothers role (Wisensale 1999:607). Vietnamese family values seen as protecting society from foreign influences. Stereotypes of male migrants associate them closely with the social evils that come with uncontrolled urbanisation (temptations of alcohol, CSWs, drugs and profligate spending). New hooking economy promotes homosociality and class differentiation. This is played out in new masculinities performed through the leisure consumption of commoditised food, alcohol and sex (Nguyen Vo 2008, Phinney 2008).
Methodology Part of a larger dataset of 77 qualitative life histories of women and men migrants to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh (collected in 2008). All low-income, rural-urban migrants with at least one child under 8 years of age. Purposive sample to capture range of different family strategies. Two stage interview: SSI + narrative interview. Secondary data and key informant interviews. Sample bias: men with disrupted marital histories reluctant to participate, those who did presented themselves as victims blaming their spouse for the disintegration of the marriage. Reflexivity: Tam and Hoas identity and its impact on the research. Extensive experience and those few interviews done by a male interviewer not substantially different. Ethnical approval in Vietnam and the UK, full confidentiality and pseudonyms used throughout. Data lodged with the ESDS in UK for use by other researchers. Outputs and further details available at
The Sub-Sample of Male Migrants to Ho Chi Minh Migrants to Ho Chi Minh come from all over Vietnam Dramatic variation in rural-urban gap in socio-economic circumstances Those from poorer rural situations are more likely to aspire to settle in HCM. Those from Red River Delta less likely to, can only go home at Tet. 20 migrants grouped in those with: visiting marriages (Wife and children left-behind) (Chi, Chuyen, Can, Quang, Vu and Thuat) remote parenting (Migrating with wife, children left-behind) (Sau, Toan) making a life in the city (Migrating with wife and children) (Huy, Quan, Thanh and Duong) nobody in the family lives together (Wife migrates alone, children left-behind) (Tuan, Long, Vinh, Khanh, Hung, Sang, Viet and Vinh) Trajectories of their life histories: Ever-migrant women not seen as desirable wives by never-migrant men (rurality/feminitiy/virtue), spousal togetherness most important immediately after marriage before a child is conceived, childbirth is a trigger for migration. Having young children and being relatively newly married is the window of opportunity for using migratory livelihoods to try to make a step change in quality of life.
Classic patriarchal view of masculinity and mens migration? Centrality of breadwinning for masculinity the father is the breadwinner of the family If not, hes not a good fatherChuyen: Because the father is the breadwinner of the family he must have a job and income, must make money to support his wife and children. If not, hes not a good father I am economically dominant so I am the person who makes all decisions and I am not the one that is controlled by my wifeTao: I had to go out to work; I had to work in order to support my family… …I play the major role in the family. I am economically dominant so I am the person who makes all decisions and I am not the one that is controlled by my wife. They think I cannot earn much money no one can come in or go out whenever she wants.Toan (b): Do you know how many men in my village are migrating to big cities looking for jobs like me? But none of their wives want to get divorced! They [his divorced wives] think the grass is greener on the other side of the hill. They think I cannot earn much money then they try to speak ill of me behind my back.…. my house is not a market; no one can come in or go out whenever she wants. Even a market has its own rules and regulations…
An alternative migrant masculinity? always shared our thoughts understood each otherDung If my wife no longer loves me, its life. I never think of this end as we were together in the most difficult time and always shared our thoughts. We understood each other very much. Thats my belief. In case of her changing I have to accept it. Trust in wife grounded in their in their love for one another (not in loyalty, virtue or male control) A man needs to be tolerant.Masculinity is defined not in terms of authority but in terms of forbearance. Dung: A man needs to be tolerant.
Challenges of poverty for achieving desired masculinity? Male migrants are absent, creating challenges to fulfilling their family roles as sons, husbands and fathers, and these men work in low-income jobs which creates difficulties meeting rising expectations for material incomes. Chuyen: …bring a good life to his parents and wife and children even though his family has difficulties. Men borrow money in the city to send or take home if they had not managed to make/save enough. Fear of their own illness curtailing their provider role. becauseThanhs separation, after a serious illness his wifes relatives advised her to divorce me because it was expected that I would die. Hard work and emotional deprivation certainly, but crisis of masculinity? If there was one for most of these low income men, then it revolved around failure to balance the responsibilities and to fulfil masculine family duties and was compensated for by leading a good life deserve the trust I can doChuyen says: Its truly difficult for me to fulfil those duties [of being a father and a husband] because Im not living with my family. But the best thing to do to deserve the trust of my family is that I must lead a good life, make a lot of money to take care of my family, which is something I can do
Leading a good life Only when he loves his wife and children, can he manage to support his wife and childrenVinh: As a father, he must love his wife and children. Only when he loves his wife and children, can he manage to support his wife and children… …If he is not faithful to his wife, he will not love and care about his wife and children and he cannot take care of his family well. because [of] my wifes willing[-ness] to sacrifice herselfChuyen: because [of] my wifes willing[-ness] to sacrifice herself for my family since we got married, and this is what makes me unwilling to do anything wrong for my wife… we worked hard in order to better our family lifeduty moneyconscience disease disgracefulSau Frankly, we came here to earn money for our family, so we all the time thought about our family and children; we worked hard in order to better our family life. As a husband, I had to fulfil my duty towards my family. I didnt have money to spend on having sex. Firstly, the conscience didnt let me do it. Secondly, I was afraid I would catch a disease, if I had sex with others; at that time, I would feel very disgraceful before my parents and relatives in the home village.
Being a Migrant Father/Husband Vinh says that A good father is always respected by all people. Only when he keeps his mind in earning a living; he loves and cares about his wife and children; he takes care of his family well; and he respects others, he will be respected by all people. If he is not respected by others, how can he be seen as a good father! Demonstrated by visiting regularly, keeping in touch, sending/bringing adequate remittances, etc. M]igration makes me neglect to look after and take care of them and I am a bit far away from them sentimentallyToan b: [M]igration makes me neglect to look after and take care of them and I am a bit far away from them sentimentally… I cannot always be with them to bring them up to have heart-to-heart talks to them… I am working and living far away from my children and I think it is difficult for me to compensate for their lack of affections and fatherhood. fatherhood plays an important part in bringing up children not obey me and my wife…You see, fatherhood plays an important part in bringing up children therefore I am so afraid that they will not obey me and my wife when they grow older. Shaky gender roles (Resurreccion and Khanh 2007:215)
Keeping the family together Viet : When husband or wife has to go away to earn money for the family, and thus their relationship does not kept as good as before, or the husband or the wife has an extramarital relationship, the marriage cannot be seen as good. When children live far from their parents, they cannot be care[d for] and brought up well. The marriage will not be good, either. not a good fatherSau: I am not a good father, because I do not have conditions to take care of our children well. Because I am poor, I have to work far from home. In reality, I love our children a lot. I do not dare to spend money and I always try to minimize my expenses, in order to save money for our children. Because they do not have their mother to take care of them now, I try my best to do it for them. I have been trying to earn money, to provide them with food and clothes. Regarding to daily care of them, I depend on my mother for it. Although I myself know that it is not the best way to bring up our children, I have no other choice I feel that I am so useless that I cannot do anything for my wife and daughterHung I am a father but I cannot take care of my daughter… I havent done anything for my family: thats why my wife had to work far away. This means I havent fulfilled my duty towards my wife. I havent done anything for my parents either; on the contrary, they have to do things for us. I feel that I am so useless that I cannot do anything for my wife and daughter
Conclusions Migration for men in their peak child bearing/rearing years represents a major threat to masculinities that are closely defined with fulfilling family roles. varying interpretationsClear evidence of varying interpretations of what it means to be a good father and husband with important implications for gendered power relations round migration. cautionWhilst more traditional family arrangements appear to fit more patriarchal interpretations better, great caution is needed in reading-off specific interpretations of masculinity from any set of gendered family arrangements. Some adaptive strategies maintain positive family values. These are reinforced by (narrower) official ideology which obscures masculine desires of migrants for everyday intimacies of being a father/husband that come from living with children and wife. crisis of masculinityMale migrants who cant even in a minimalist sense keep the family together experience profound sense of crisis of masculinity, but do not necessarily resort to hyper-masculine behaviour.