Challenges in the Caribbean

Topics: Family, Sociology, Gender Pages: 10 (3215 words) Published: February 10, 2006
Challenges in the Caribbean

The Caribbean is known to be a place that has been colonized, changed and heavily influenced. Upon the arrival of the Europeans, the Caribbean lifestyle was affected and changed forever. Along with the arrival of the European settlers, many of their values, customs and traditions were brought over. The peoples of the Caribbean countries that were brought over had roots tying back to Africa, China, India and Portugal. These groups of people were colonized by three of the most powerful countries in the world; Great Britain, Spain and France left such a big impact on the colonized countries that much of their influence is present in the Caribbean today (Hernandez-Ramdwar, Lecture, Oct. 10 2005). As many Caribbean countries have gained their independence from the colonizers, their influence on the Caribbean culture, traditions and societies is yet to be freed (Hernandez-Ramdwar, Lecture, Oct. 10 2005). As many historical events took place in the Caribbean, the social construction of the Caribbean lifestyle was altered. These social constructions involve the concept of a patriarchal society because they were challenged by structural functionalists' views and perceptions. As patriarchy faced many challenges in the Caribbean, so did the other social constructions that were affiliated with it. Matrifocality, constructions of masculinity and patriarchy are all reforms of the Caribbean society. Without the co-existence of one social reform, the others would not be able to exist. Thus, it can be stated that the relationship between matrifocality, constructions of masculinity and patriarchy in the Caribbean is that they all are interrelated and allow each other to exist; without the dependence and influence of one another, these social reforms would not have much significance to the Caribbean society.

In the 1940's, anthropologists, known as the structural functionalists, arrived in the Caribbean to analyze family structures in Caribbean societies. These researchers observed families in British Guyana, Barbados, Carriacou and Jamaica (Barrow, 420). Structural functionalists brought over their ethnocentric perspectives of an ideal family life in Caribbean societies. Because the Afro-Caribbean families being monitored were not "nuclear, co-resident or stable", the notion that nuclear families were not the norm in the Caribbean was established (Barrow 421). With this realization, the term "matrifocality" was used to describe Afro-Caribbean family structures, specifically in Barbados. In her article, Men, Women and Family in the Caribbean, author Christine Borrow argues that matrifocality is a "response to certain economic circumstances", which tales back to high male unemployment and increasing job opportunities for females (Borrow 421). The matrifocal family structure shifts the domestic and economic power from the male to the female in Caribbean households (Barrow, 423). As the Afro- Caribbean society builds on this structure, the development of female authoritative households becomes stronger. During the early stages of motherhood, the female finds herself to be dependent on her partners and the father(s) of her children. As the child develops into an adult and contributes towards the economic needs of the household, the female becomes an authoritative and decision making figure (Borrow, 423). Because females were in a dominating stage, this affected the notion of masculinity. Masculinity can be described as a social construction that deals with "how a man views himself and how he is viewed by others" (Barrow, 342). Barrow's article, Caribbean Masculinity and family touched on the constructions of masculinity in Barbados in the 1950's. Social scientists and anthropologists that arrived in the Caribbean conducted studies that explored the feelings of males in the social structure. Afro-Caribbean men in Barbados felt that masculinity involved the upbringing of children into a...

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