Change in Attitudes Beliefs and Practices Regarding Gender

During British sovereignty West Indian women and men were influenced by colonial gender constructions whereby domesticity was embodied in the colonial female. Under this gender framework, West Indian men, although subordinate to the colonizers, had more freedom than women and were able to define themselves around a male camaraderie which existed beyond the confines of the home.

West Indian migration to the United States is usually characterized in two periods; pre- and post-1965. Research has shown that West Indians who migrated in the first wave were already challenging notions of how proper West Indian men and women should behave. Although during the early 20th century West Indian men were thought of as heads of households and leaders in public and political realms, female immigrants of the time were instrumental in forming crucial social networks which influenced the formation of distinctly Caribbean communities in New York City (Watkins-Owens, 2001). Early immigrant women were also largely responsible for the formation of rotating credit unions (informal savings systems), which to this day remain valuable resources for New York's West Indian immigrant families (Watkins-Owens, 2001). Women's migration and involvement in establishing and maintaining social networks, in child fostering, and in organized public resources such as rotating credit unions and boarding houses challenged the colonial notions which subordinated them (Watkins-Owens, 2001). During the early 20th century, West Indian women's social activities were often directed toward social welfare while their male counterparts focused on forming organizations directed toward political influence (Watkins-Owens, 2001, p. 44). Women's significant involvement in labor and political groups, both in the past and during the current wave of migration, remain largely undocumented (Watkins-Owens, 2001, p. 44). However, it is evident that West Indian women, by migrating without their spouses and through examples such as their work outside the home and their roles as heads of households, demonstrate changing attitudes towards gender construction. Moreover, immigrant men are also demonstrating new attitudes. This is evidenced in their increased participation in the domestic realm in general, and in child rearing in particular.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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