The Role of Dominican Women Before and After
The role of Dominican women in Washington Heights has not changed much from their role in the Dominican Republic. The reason for their immigration to New York is to have equality in the workforce that they did not enjoy back home.
A dominant sexual culture existed in the homes of the Dominican Republic. Men were the dominant decision-makers and the financial providers, as women’s sole responsibility was in the domestic sphere. Since the woman's work is considered “inferior” for men to do but important and “exceptional” nonetheless, they entered the work force to add to the traditional roles of women, such as cooking, sewing, and taking care of the children (Weyland 346). The conditions of the work area were poor and were also segregated, but they wanted a feeling of gender-identity other than being like housemaids. The women struggled to rebel against the dominant male society by working in the labor force and at the same time trying to balance the work waiting for them back home.
The gender inequality in the Dominican Republic encouraged large numbers of women to migrate to the United States, with New York’s Washington Heights accepting the greatest influx of immigrants. The high demand for women in the international labor market helped create state policies that favored their immigration into the country. Immigration gave women a chance to escape from male dominance and to improve their status and importance that would affect the future; if not theirs, then their children’s. Their increasing influence gave them power in decision-making in their homes and with their domestic responsibilities. However, problems arose when visas were granted to both spouses, which reunited the couple in New York, and meant women would experience male dominance in the household again. Women would experience a double burden of their roles as household manager and provider. Single women especially had no choice but to take on both roles because their work was the only income source.
In the 1980’s, businesses expanded and replaced Dominican women labor with “offshore zone women” labor (Weyland 348). When the New York economy entered a recession in the 1980’s, many women lost their jobs and entered the welfare system. This was a benefit for many women since the government can provide for them and at the same time be at home to take care of the children full-time. Women saw this as a resignation from work because they believed they were hired as inferior labor and were laid off for the same reason. They felt their new sense of labor identity was not good enough.
Today, education is greatly influencing the role of women. Women who complete college are more likely to have respectable roles in the household and society than those who do not. A small percentage of Dominican women have been entering the political system, the education system, the business world, the medical field, etc. There are a big percentage of women that are still struggling for power in their household, but they are gradually gaining influence day by day.
By Sara Elzeftawy
Weyland, Karin. Dominican Women: International Migration, Class Gender, and Cultural Change. UMI Company, 1999
Maiquez, Alfredo. "Local Women in Their Shop on Avenida Duarte." Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd. 2006 <http://sg.travel.yahoo.com/guide/caribbean/dominican_republic/image3.html>
Wagner, Horst. "IFAD through Photography - Dominican Republic." IFAD
International Fund for Agricultural Develpment. IFAD. April 2006 <http://www.ifad.org/photo/region/PL/DO.htm>
Zinckgraf, Sarah. "My Mission to the Dominican Republic." Panther Valley Ecumenical Church. 2000-2005 <http://www.pvem.net/missions/dr.htm>
"News and Events 2003." Women and Health Center. March 2006. University of Puerto Rico. March 2006 <http://whcpr.rcm.upr.edu/news2003.htm>
For More Information on Dominican Women:
Pessar, Patricia R. A Visa for a Dream: Dominicans in the United States. Allyn and Bacon, 1995
Grasmuck, Sherri and Pessar, Patricia R. The Dominican Republic: The Gender Politics of Settlem,ent Versus Return. Teaching for Change, 2005