Posted by: Rachel Baker | April 5, 2015

A Timely “Tour”

Happy Easter, everyone!

It is fitting that my visual map and narrative tour be centered around my family on this holiday. Like many families, mine had an Easter get-together – this year hosted at my grandparents’ house. The key attendees included my grandparents, parents, uncle, cousins, and myself (not to forget my grandparents’ dog and cat).

Visual map of my grandparents' house at Easter.

Visual map of my grandparents’ house at Easter.

Going to my grandparents house is nostalgic; countless family celebrations and gathering have occurred there over the years. My grandparents live in a nice home on 2.5 acres of Pacific Northwest-wooded property. The main living area of the house is the upstairs floor, with a sprawling living room, formal dining room, kitchen, dining nook, and family room, which are all flanked by what looks like a wall of windows. However, when 16 people gather for holiday festivities, even a relatively large house can seem crowded – especially with children and pets running around, a baby screaming, TV playing, and various “trinkets” littering almost every horizontal space.

It is no wonder that as Grandpa has aged, he has become less social, now choosing to sit in his recliner in the living room, away from the main activity in the family room. My grandma, on the other hand, can always be found in the kitchen. She seems to never sit, instead “working her fingers to the bone” – literally. My mom, oldest girl cousin, and I help Grandma prepare the meal. The men and other cousins sit in the family room, talking or playing games.

What is the reason behind this? Why are the women working while the men talk and teenagers/children play?

I believe there is more to the situation than simply the fact that my family is very “traditional.” I believe cultural ideology plays into the situation, as well. With a strong Southern (United States) and Japanese heritage, my family is deeply rooted in patriarchal notions. The rules and values come from the top (men) down (women and children). Status traditionally is given to the oldest son in the family – called the “chonan” in Japanese.

The patriarch snow monkey, Japan.

And that is what my grandfather is – a chonan. He is the eldest son, and he takes it very seriously. It may seem strange, but I sometimes imagine my grandpa as a solitary patriarch snow monkey from the mountains of Western Japan. Perhaps that is a part of the reason why our family functions the way it does.

From these observations, I believe that a research question of interest is: How do gender roles in different cultures affect family interactions in the home?

(This post is for Week 1, based on Exercise 4.2 of the book Qualitative Research Methods: Collecting evidence, crafting analysis, communicating impact.)

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