In the reading by Waldinger and Lichter, it talks about racial conflict and gender in the work force.  Different cultures have different standards of what is socially acceptable, and what their status is in comparison to the other gender (Waldinger & Lichter, 2003). The female hospital HR manager emphasizes “the problems that arise when ‘men who come from cultures [where they are told] that they are superior and women are second-class citizens all of a sudden have a woman supervisor and have a real tough time taking directions from a woman.’  She continued: ‘They’ll do it, but they will do it with a chip on their shoulder, or they’ll do it and sabotage the work to make her look bad, or whatever’” (Waldinger & Lichter, 2003, 187).

In comparison, I can even see this in my own place of work from time to time.  Many people I work with have moved from different countries to New York City.  It has been said that men in certain ethnic groups have grown up thinking that men are supposed to be dominant and women are supposed to be passive.  Conflicts have been known to arise between a group of male Bengali waiters at my job and our female catering manger.  She would confide in me and say that they would not listen to her, or find it comical when she tried to assert her authority.  She felt that it was their culture that caused them to act this way.  Changing gender roles is definitely an issue that transcends culture, but there seems to be noticeable trends within cultures as well.

Another example I can think of is a conversation that I had had with one of the women that does coat check at my job that happens to also be Bengali.  One of our supervisors is quite affectionate with many people in the restaurant, giving hugs frequently.  This woman had expressed a concern with this, because she said that the other Bengali men would look down on her if they saw this man hugging her.  She felt that she would be seen as promiscuous and they might question what kind of relationship was going on between them.  It bothered her so much that she told me that she went to our supervisor and told him that he had to stop, because it was essentially tainting her image.  He readily complied with her request.  This kind of conflict is hard to address, because it is not correct to tell someone that their cultural beliefs are wrong, but it is also not appropriate for individuals to treat a supervisor or co-worker differently because of sex differences.  This could also be tied in with cultural expectations, and thoughts on what is expected of a worker and what is a proper way to act.  One person’s politeness is another person’s thoughtlessness (Waldinger & Lichter, 2003).  In addition, it also has to be noted that it is not fair to assume that all people of a certain group have the same beliefs on topics such as gender roles.  The question I am left with from this discussion is how do we balance having a tolerance for many different beliefs, with having an intolerance for behaviors that display preference for  a certain gender or race?  In other words, we tell people that they can believe what they want, but that they have to act in a way that is consistent with what mainstream society believes is acceptable.

Waldinger, Roger David; Lichter, Michael Ira. How the Other Half Works : Immigration and the Social Organization of Labor. Ewing, NJ, USA: University of California Press, 2003.

2 responses

  1. Marugeist says:

    I had the same kind of thoughts and questions after reading “How the Other Half Works : Immigration and the Social Organization of Labor.” the problem I see in perhaps most people is that they have a hard time accommodating to a different culture or beliefs. The reality is that the case of race or gender as it is discussed in this reading is to me a mistaken belief that is perpetuated generation by generation many people of other cultures realizing it. male chauvinism or chauvinism of any other kind is simply wrong regardless of what culture, ethnic group religion or sex a person belongs to. In the case of gender what should matter when it comes to managing, organizing, achieving, promotion or authority should be based on a person’s ability to perform; to contribute to society and not based on the same old wrong beliefs of superiority based on gender or race. At the end, limiting someone’s ability to develop to his or her full potential because of his appearance, not only affects that person, but the society as a whole which could beneficiate from his or her achievements and abilities. To conclude is not about tolerance as you ask, what should be changed is not the things others think to be wrong when they are right, but to change those customs or beliefs of those who are wrong. Dharma: Do what is right!

  2. audreyzap says:

    I agree that it is someone’s culture and beliefs about gender affect our behavior towards each other. Growing up my father always expected my mother to cook and clean for him. I watched in annoyance as he bickered about his justifications for the way he acted. My parents came here in the 1980’s from the Dominican Republic so they still have very strong ties to their culture. This situation with gender I can see spilling onto the workplace. I had an experience where a male security guard disliked taking orders from me because I was a young, female assistant manager at a clothing store. So I think this situation can also be applied to ageism being that the norm for positions of power come with age. Apparently in my situation, he was older so he didn’t have to listen to me though technically I was his boss. I think if it had been a male manager, he wouldn’t have put up such a fight.