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Scholars Day: April 15, 2009

Working Together: The Meaning of Equality in Contemporary Thai Marriages

In Thailand’s recent history, gender role norms concerning women’s ability to work outside their homes have been loosened in the face of industrialization and increased internal migration. Ethnographic research in a Bangkok slum community reveals consensus on the positive nature of recent changes, particularly in terms of women’s rights. It is claimed that women are no longer “the hind leg of the elephant.” Husbands and wives provide explanations of how couples today need to “work together.” Yet, my interviews and observations contradict perceptions and opinions of increased gender equality. Men and women possess varying definitions of women’s rights and the desire to be egalitarian is not easily adopted into family routines, where wives continue to be valued as mothers, despite now being also wage earners. This research emphasizes the complexity of social change, particularly when "progress" is understood to be about values rather than power.

Presenter: Pilapa Esara (Faculty)
Topic: Anthropology
Location: 120 Hartwell
Time: 9 am (Session I)