In 1989, there were around 20,000 registered Romanian refugees in Hungary, who had fled their home country because of the Romanian dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. My mother was one of these individuals. She escaped at night in the pouring rain when she was 18 years old, and was determined to meet up with her mother, who was already in Hungary. However, for their protection, she did not inform either of her divorced parents (one of whom was still living in Romania) of her plan until it was already executed, and she arrived on my grandmother’s doorstep. When comparing her 18 yearold self to my present one, I am often taken aback at the strength she possessed, and how privileged I am to have been raised by her.
While my mother harbors no resentment, her mother’s departure to Hungary without her shaped their relationship and in turn, shaped ours. Despite the complex situation with her parents, family was my mother’s top priority. She made sure that it was the central focus of our European American household, which was challenging in a country where work and wealth tend to overshadow family. Her experience as a refugee caused her to never accept the idea that a woman was lesser or incapable. However, Romanian parenting was noticeably gendered. Mothers were expected to stay home for the first seven years of their child’s life. When a child was misbehaving or ornery, it was said that, “the child didn’t have their seven years.” My mother applied this concept to a more progressive framework, and stayed with me until I was four, then found work within walking distance of our home. I am extremely grateful for my mother’s involvement in my life, although her assumed obligations as a Romanian mother could be viewed from various perspectives. A Feminist Anthropologist would examine the gendered cultural expectations, and the androcentrism deeply rooted within generations of Romanian culture. A mother’s workplace was likely to keep her position for her during these seven years, however a father was never expected to take leave from work to raise his child. These expectations would support the feminist anthropologist’s view that everything is gendered. A contemporary feminist anthropologist would also look into the familial hierarchies and opportunity inequalities that existed for women in the workplace during Romania at this time, and in present day. They would also look at the dualities of my mother’s fierce independance as a refugee, and her obligations as a woman.
Structural functionalist E.E. Evans Pritchard would look at the role of mother in Romanian society as a social structure that is dynamic, for instance the adaptations my mother made after having a child with an American. Structural functionalists would be interested not in the universal role of mother, but instead the specificities that pertained to Romanian motherhood during my grandmother’s and mother’s eras. They would not assess cultural norms, but rather societal ones, and the complex relationships between mothers and daughters, as well as other members of the household.
1 http://articles.latimes.com/19890919/news/mn112_1_romanians, accessed 7 October 2015.
2 http://anthrotheory.pbworks.com/w/page/29532632/Feminist%20Anthropology, accessed 8 October 2015.
3 Lecture, Professor Carole McGranahan, ANTH 2100 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, 7 October
4 Lecture, Professor Carole McGranahan, ANTH 2100 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, 7 October