Relative Status of Men and Women

In the Caribbean in general men enjoy higher social status in respect to the power to make economic and community decisions, and in their influence in religion, control of their sexuality, marriage choice, and divorce choice. Males are perceived as household heads despite the fact that women often make household decisions, raise children, and provide partial or total household economic support (Leo-Rhynie, 1997, p. 37). For the most part, West Indian American women enjoy greater social status than do their peers who remain in the Caribbean.

Caribbean women, as mentioned previously, are experienced in heading households and working outside the home before migrating to the United States; the percentage of Anglophone Caribbean women who participate in the labor force of their respective nations is higher than in most other sending regions (Kasinitz, 2001, p. 266). Immigrant women outnumber men in the current wave of West Indian immigration (Burgess & James-Gray, 1981, p. 87). Women's greater incorporation in the U.S. labor force has afforded them higher status and more decision-making power. The large numbers of West Indian women who are heads of households and single parents in the United States has resulted in a higher status for women and greater access to equality of sex roles for these women. Women who migrated before their spouses can achieve relative independence in the United States and opt not to sponsor their spouses. These women can also choose new partners if they so desire, and raise their children without the assistance of their previous male partners.

In the Caribbean, men enjoy greater freedom to partake in street life, public male camaraderie, and bar culture, and to establish notions of status vis-à-vis the concept of male "reputation." Women, on the other hand, are more bound to the home and therefore achieve their status through success in the realms of motherhood, domesticity, and the colonial/religious derived notion of the "respectable" Caribbean female. West Indian immigrant women still lament their husbands' extramarital relationships and tendencies to spend wages in bars (activities largely considered inappropriate for "respectable" Caribbean women, even in the United States) (Foner, 1986). However, for the most part, life abroad means that, because they work full time, West Indian women are more likely to receive help with household chores from their husbands and are treated more as equal partners.

When adult males are present in immigrant households, they still receive deferential treatment and some of the special privileges afforded to men in their homelands. These privileges include having wives and daughters prepare and serve their meals, and clean up after them.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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