Information technology, television, and newspapers are altering the world at a rapid pace. When we talk about another culture now, we find that with increased education and the affect of the world becoming a global village; it is difficult to find a culture that has remained impervious to the western influences. Even in countries with supposedly same cultural values, the role women have to play are changing rapidly. The role of a wife is also changing and the very traditional roles are fast disappearing or can only be find in primitive or conservative families.
There are however, certain peculiarities, which are related to the cultural expectations and religious influences [Rashid, 2000], and even the families not practicing the old customs pretend to be following the traditional values to conform to the norm of the societies. In personal relationships, it is difficult to select a typical American culture for the Anglo-European families sharing the same religion. The institution of marriage, role expected from man and woman in family life has different meaning for different families.
In some conservative families, marriage still means ‘till death us do part’, while others may choose to live together for various reasons [SmartMoney, 2007]. Even the same sex marriages are becoming legal in more and more States. The institution of marriage is under threat in most of Western Europe and America. Economic independence, weakening of religious perceptions of marriage and social welfare state is removing most of the compulsions to make a failing marriage work and divorce rates are increasing at an alarming rate.
People living in other societies, are still under the influence of the values of traditional societies, religion plays an important role in the society and family life. The economic dependence of man and woman on each other, stigma attached to divorce, lack of social welfare system to take care of a split family and unacceptability of sex outside marriage have resulted in development of societies quite different from ours. As a result, many of the societies considering themselves civilized have role of women that would compare favorably with the Victorian concepts of role of women in European society.
There are also other cultures, which have imposed the values of middle ages where women have a total subservient role in family and social lives. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the women are not allowed to drive a car [Nasr, 2006] and the institution of polygamy is acceptable and practiced. This essay presents the role of woman as wife in other cultures. The impact of religion on family life in these cultures and changes in the societies with the penetration of media and international awareness on the role of women in the society are also discussed.
For this study, the original role of an Iroquoian wife (Native Canadian tribe), An Indian Muslim wife, a Saudi Arabian, and an Afghan wife have been selected. The Iroquoian Wife Before the arrival of Europeans in the American continent, the natives had a culture that was alien to European arriving in the continent. “Native-American family life was both different from and transformed by contact with European culture. British observers (mostly male) regarded gender roles and marital customs among the Indians as an abdication of men’s authority” [Redefining Family, 2007].
Over the years, suppression of the tribes, intermarriages, forcing European values on the Native Americans changed their culture. The role of women in Native society changed because of European subjugation and influences [Boyd, 1996]. The Iroquoian people native to Canada had a matrilineal system of tribe. In this system, the lineage of the family is traced to mother and not to father as in other societies. The ancient Iroquoian society could not be described as matriarchal as male members led the tribe but the women were considered guardian of the society [Aboriginal Women, 2007].
They selected the leaders (sachems) and ensured that sachems used their authority according to the tribal customs. Iroquoian women determined the norms of the society and ensured that the men followed the spiritual and social customs. As a wife, Iroquoian wife played a much more important role than the man. She did all the housework, produced food, looked after the children, made clothes and had an active role in social areas traditionally reserved for man in European society. She participated in ceremonies, gambled and took part in tribes’ professional activities [Aboriginal Women, 2007].
The European masters of the land soon dismantled this powerful role of Iroquoian wife in the tribal culture as they refused to recognized matrilineal system. Children of an Iroquoian woman marrying a white man were considered that of the man. Women under the new rules were judged as subservient to man and his property and over the years their role changed to one inferior to man [Aboriginal Women, 2007]. This shows the impact of outside influences on the changing role of women in the society and as a wife in a family.