Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kanwal Rahman, July 15, 1999. Interview K-0817. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A liberated woman maintains her belief in a patriarchal family structure

While Rahman is "very liberated, even by American standards," she confesses that she accepts a patriarchal family structure, because that model is so engrained in Bangladeshi, and even human, culture. While she would expect her husband to help her with household chores, she would also expect him to be the family breadwinner.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kanwal Rahman, July 15, 1999. Interview K-0817. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Do you feel—? I mean, coming from a very patriarchal, male-dominated society, like India, Bangladesh or Pakistan, do you feel that being in this culture has changed your expectation of relationships between men and women?
KANWAL RAHMAN:
Tremendously! But not totally to the point of equality. I, er. . . a lot of my American friends find me ext, not extremely, pretty liberated— even by American standards, but I explain it to them that that's not liberty, that's basic human rights as a, as a, as a human being, as an individual. If I, but—.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
Could you give an example?
KANWAL RAHMAN:
Example, like—. Ahm. . .. For example, I have a—. Oh, this a sergeant I, who works at the place that I work at and, we make conversation, and he says well, what would you do—? Er. . ... I said well, if my husband goes out so many hours a day and with his friends, then he shouldn't mind if I also go out with my friends so many hours as long as I know, he knows where he goes. If I can cook and clean after I come back from work, then I expect my husband—regardless whether he's American or India, or Bangladeshi—to come and help me with the same, and, and, and then, er. . ... because, you know, otherwise it gets too much for one single person. Then he, then that person—maybe because he was in his forties, or late forties—he says you're very liberated, you know, even by American standards. A southern girl from these parts wouldn't—, say that, or expect that. I said, I said I don't believe that. Anybody educated, or anybody who has some feeling of independence already established within their personality, would expect that, regardless of where you, er. . . he she is from. And, ahm. . .. . . patriarchal family is fine, but I guess it's the feeling of insecurity and being used to a patriarchal society, I still assume that it's the male's—which I don't see in America al the time—to look after the family or household, because that's the role that had always been playing from the very beginning. Even from, ahm. . .. Pre-historic times. The men went out and hunted and brought the food home, and the women did the nurturing and the cooking, or whatever, grinding—. If you see those roles, those roles haven't really changed and I, hundred percent do not believe that, you know, that, it's fifty-fifty—. Okay, it's fifty—. If you're earning well, fine. But still it's the male's role to take care of the wife. Ahm. . . and be there for support—, and you know, be the major supportive role. If not financially, but even emotionally, er. . ... but as an emotional stalwart, I mean, he has to be there. And I don't believe in single mothers, or single parents bringing up—. If it happens, it's very hard work for the mother, but usually—. I mean, it's just not—.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
It's not something you would opt for, but if—.
KANWAL RAHMAN:
But if it happens, I would probably do my best to rear the child the best, but I could never even visualize myself as a single mother.
RAJIKA BHANDARI:
Out of choice.
KANWAL RAHMAN:
Out of choice! Exactly.