As a “1.5 generation” immigrant I have struggled with the role of women in society. I am a Bangladeshi-American. I hail from Bangladesh, but I was raised in the U.S. I believe women are critical enablers in a thriving culture. Suppressing women’s voice in a modern society shows signs of moral decay. That is my view based on living in the U.S. Yet I struggle to replace mental model of a woman I have witnessed through my Bangladeshi roots, where a good woman is a homemaker. Her primary responsibility is taking care of the household while the man is providing the main source of income for the family. A woman plays an indirect role in the decision making process, especially in public or formal settings. That is what is expected of an ideal wife.
Over the last few weeks I have been dealing with this concept one way or another. Discussion with my Greek girlfriend, my parents, and sisters have been colored by some of the things each one of us have experienced during this time frame. I think what I am experiencing is something common with people like me: 1.5 generation immigrants pushing boundaries. The question is how do you change people’s mental model of women’s role in society to one that wants to hear the women’s voice and their perspective not just in a family setting but also at the national or international setting.
Earlier this week I came across an initiative that is trying address some of these issues: Women & Girls Lead (you can read my summary of this in my recent blog post for Provisions Library). Personally, I think I’m going to start seeking some of the answers through dialogue and through art. I’ll start with more discussion with my girlfriend, sisters, and mother. I also want to watch Shirin Neshat’s film Women with out Men. Interesting? Check out her Ted Talk “Art in Exile”.