Summary of Bonnie Thornton Dill’s Work
In the work “Fictive Kin, Paper Sons, and Compadrazgo,” Bonnie Thornton Dill discusses the position of women of color in American society during the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century with references to their social responsibilities and role in a family. The author focuses on the life of African American women, Chinese women, and representatives of the Chicano culture to compare the life aspects with the situation characteristic for the white women in the United States during the discussed period.
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The author’s work is divided into three parts. Focusing on the life of the African American women, Dill pays attention to the concept of slavery as important to determine the role of the reproductive labor, patriarchal approach to family, and gender division of work for affecting the life of the women of color. Thus, Dill states that egalitarianism typical for the African American families had negative effects on women who were discussed as equal to African American men, and they had to perform as equal workers and also to concentrate on the household responsibilities. The African American women were not discussed as performers of the female roles in a family. They were sources of the labor force that is why the growth of slaves’ families was significant for the slave owners.
Chinese women in the United States suffered from the effects of cultural stereotypes. Girls in families could not rely on a good attitude because they were discussed as temporary family members. Many Chinese women became prostitutes in the United States, thus, the Chinese family could not develop in the country appropriately. More attention was paid to the role of the Mexican women in families as representatives of the Chicano culture and as the important elements of the large family networks. The author’s discussion of the role of women of color in families depends on the analysis of the existing literature on the topic.
Even though Dill focuses on the specific racial and ethnic groups to discuss the role of women in families, it is possible to examine the topic of the family more broadly and focus on such general sociological points as the role of race in a family, gender division of labor at home, equality and egalitarianism, family network, and kinship. From this point, race can influence the family development along with the culture, and the fact of belonging to the ethnic minority affects the distribution of the women’s role in a family as well as the social role.
Questions to Discuss
- How did the approach to egalitarianism in slave families influence the vision of gender labor division related to the role of women?
- What is the role of women to contribute to the development of ethnic minority families?