The patriarchy in Vietnam is a common kinship system in which an individual’s family membership derives from and is recorded through his or her father’s lineage. It generally involves the inheritance of property, rights, names or titles by persons related through the male line.
The precursor of patriarchy in Vietnam – the matriarchy
Before the patriarchy in Vietnam became popular, there was another system of family lineage called matriarchy.
Since the Stone Age, men hunted and protected herds – clans while omen gathered and cultivated to ensure food supplement. The latter also educated their children, looked after houses, handled housework and regulated relations between members. The source of food harvested by women is less precarious than the hunting products of men. Gradually, the mother played a more important role in the family than the father that created the matriarchy.
Furthermore, men used to leave home for a long time for hunting so that children were born without knowing anything about their fathers. Even the mothers couldn’t remember who was the father. Little by little, the role of men in the family became less and less.
What’s more, there are many legends containing the female bloodline. In “Au Co – Lac Long Quan”, a legend about the origin of the Vietnamese, the bloodline of Lac Long Quan, the husband, followed to the mother line. That’s why Lac Long Quan, the son of Dragon God’s daughter, told his wife: “I am a dragon, you are a fairy”. Then, all the legendary kings of the beginning of Vietnam enthroned in their motherland. The last part of the legend also indicates that when they broke up, only 50 sons following Au Co Mother were allowed to stay at motherland, and the firstborn son became the first Hung King; while 50 sons following Lac Long Quan must leave to the sea.
How the family system changed into patriarchy in Vietnam
When it came to the age of metal and heavy work, there were new changes in society. First of all, it changed the social status of women. The appearance of agriculture using plows, animals breeding, and handicraft required the strength and experience of men. Plus, thanks to high productivity, men produced not only enough for them but also to feed the whole family. The economic background of the men in the family had steadily expanded. Due to the surplus product, the men began to care about inheritance. Besides, stable monogamy marriage led to the fact that children knew their fathers, started the male bloodline and the inheritance from their fathers. The family of patriarchy in Vietnam has gradually replaced the matriarchy.
In the matriarchal society, women rights were about equality and respectability. On the contrary, the patriarchy in Vietnamprovided men unlimited rights. It started from the right to assigned labors in a family, then spread out to society. He turned other family members into dependent people. By having experiences in farming, the man at first had the right to set up the working process for the family. Then finally there was the right to act on behalf of the family in making important decisions and communicating with neighbors. Thus, along with the patriarchy, there was gender inequality in Vietnam.
Confucianism affected the patriarchy in Vietnam
After 1000 years of being dominated by the Chinese, the Confucianism had influenced the patriarchy in Vietnam a lot. In this period, they set up the “woman standards” including four characters: Cong, Dung, Ngon, Hanh. It said that Vietnamese women need to stay behind backing up their husbands. Next, they had to fulfill all of the housework duty such as cooking, cleaning, taking care of children. In addition, after getting married, instead of moving out like the ancestors, the women had to stay with the husband’s family and take care of not only the parents-in-law but also the relatives of the husbands. From this moment, children had to take after their fathers’ last name.
To boost the male power of patriarchy in Vietnam, the Confucianism didn’t allow girls to go to school. Hence, the Vietnamese women couldn’t go to work too. That’s why they all got married when being teenagers because they needed men to lean on. Due to the empty budget, women in this period had no right to show their opinions. They need to follow whatever their men said. This dependent lifestyle went along with a Vietnamese woman for thousands of years until the feminism exploded.
The modern patriarchy in Vietnam
During the wars, the roles of the women enhanced leading to a decrease in patriarchy in Vietnam. Many revolts were led by women such as Trung sisters. Additionally, there were lots of soldiers, nurses, doctors and commanders who were female.
However, by the 21st century, the patriarchy in Vietnam is still alive in a modern way. Firstly, In Vietnamese culture, the eldest son assumes the duties of his father’s business when his father dies. It’s a pity for a family without a son because it means that family will disappear forever and no one will take care of the ancestors’ altar. Plus, the daughter will follow her husband when she gets married and all of her children following the father bloodline.
The patriarchy in Vietnam also expresses by the way a family set up the meal. It might be “lady first” somewhere else except for the Vietnam dinner. Men always sit at the beginning of the table and women have to serve them first. In a few people’s mindsets, there still is thinking that men are the ones who go out to make money, and women’s duty is housework.
The upgrade of patriarchy in Vietnam
In Vietnam during the 1960s and 1970s, the newly-powerful socialists promoted equal access to education for men and women. The reunification of North and South Vietnam after the Vietnam War, in 1976, also allowed women to take on leadership roles in politics. In the trend of integration, Vietnamese women continue to overcome all prejudices and challenges, contribute positively to social activities. Women also maintain their influence in many fields which were previously only for men. More and more women become politicians, famous scientists, and managers.
Besides, in the family, though the patriarchy in Vietnam still assumes that housework is female work, Vietnamese men usually give a hand in. They are aware that taking care of children or cooking or cleaning the house is not only the wife’s work. The wives nowadays make money and share the financial burden with them so they need to share the housework too. Childbirth, which is women’s job, not only the wife but also the husband has days off to handle everything.
Through years, the patriarchy in Vietnam has changed itself to be more reasonable and up-to-date. Despite some drawbacks that prevent the women development, its nature is about the stronger protect the weaker. The family is where men provide their women with shelter, food, and protection.