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Vietnamese Traditional Gender Roles


In the modern world, it does not seem to be fair to define what each gender should and should not do. However, thousands of years ago, it was normal to have those barriers in every culture all over the world, and Vietnam was not an exception. The Vietnamese traditional gender roles were created, and although they have been less significant in many young people’s views, the former generations still have a strong belief in them.

Vietnamese Traditional Gender Roles: Women

Living in a patriarchal society of strong Confucianism values, Vietnamese women used to have many standards to live up to. Three Obediences and Four Virtues are what many Vietnamese women know by heart and have been passed down from grandmothers to mothers, mothers to daughters.

Three Obediences includes:

  • Until she is married, submit to her father as a daughter
  • After getting married, submit to her husband as a wife
  • In case her husband passes out, submit to her son.

Four Virtues are: (“Công - Dung - Ngôn - Hạnh” in Vietnamese)

  • Good homemaking skills: embroidery, sewing, cooking, especially raising kids
  • Beauty and Gentle appearance: taking care of their beauty, since it is also considered as the pride of their husbands. Women do not need to be too splendid, but being neat, clean and not sloppy is a must.
  • Appropriate speech: girls have to learn how to speak gently, unhurriedly, and respectfully at their young ages. If you watch some Best Vietnamese Movies, you could see that the female roles never raise their voices or speak too loudly.
  • Exemplary conduct: this virtue is usually seen as the most important one since it could considerably affect a women’s happiness in life. Her conduct is shown through the way she behaves and treats people around her. It is crucial for a woman, at home, to be respectful with the elder, considerate with the younger, obey her husband, take good care of her children, and live harmoniously with her husband’s family. When going out, she needs to act mild-tempered and modest.

vietnamese traditional gender roles women 1

Vietnamese women traditionally do all the housework

There is a Vietnamese saying that goes: the men build the house, the women make it home. Vietnamese women are traditionally expected to put their families as the first priority, over any other things such as education, passion, or hobbies. However, there were already many cases that women had to take care of the family business when their husbands were immersed in debauchery.

vietnamese traditional gender roles women 2

Not just the chores, Vietnamese women also might have to find ways to support her family.

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Vietnamese Traditional Gender Roles: Men

Compared to women, Vietnamese traditional gender roles for men seem to be less burdening and allow them to have more opportunities. A man is considered to be the face of his family. Sometimes, especially in rural places and countryside, people in his community would recognize his wife and children, or even grandchildren, through their relationships with him, rather than their own identities. The children would also take their father’s last name. In important ceremonies of the family such as weddings, funerals, death anniversaries, while the men are in charge of inviting, welcoming, and treating the guests, the women usually do not show up and only focus on cooking and cleaning.

vietnamese traditional gender roles men 1

In special ceremonies, men and women did not usually eat together at the same table

See also:

Vietnam Traditional Weddings

Vietnam Funeral Customs

However, together with the benefits, the men in Vietnamese traditional society have to live up to lots of responsibilities. Both of the spouses try their best to preserve traditional Vietnamese family values, but since the wife is expected to take care of the house and the kids, the husband then must become the breadwinner of the whole family. Due to this, sons used to be given more chances to go to school than daughters, since they were believed to be the ones who would bring both glory and money to their family after all.

vietnamese traditional gender roles men 2

A class in the old society. Only boys were allowed to participate

Vietnamese Traditional Gender Roles Have Changed

Nowadays, the boundary between what men and women should do has been blurred. Girls and boys are encouraged to follow their dreams and share their responsibilities at home. More and more Vietnamese women have joined the workforce and Vietnamese men now give a hand to build their home by doing chores and raising their kids.

vietnamese traditional gender roles nowadays

Boys and girls are given the same opportunities

Read more about Feminism in Vietnam

Summary of Vietnamese Traditional Gender Roles

Vietnamese traditional gender roles include many standards that society wants a man and a woman to follow. These roles are mostly about the responsibilities that each role has to do to keep the order of the family and the community when women are expected to stay home and take care of the house and men go out to earn money to support the family. In recent years, the roles have been balanced and both genders have more freedom to do what they want and be able to build their own identity.

For more information about Vietnamese Culture, don’t hesitate to check out our blog.

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