- Literature, Social Studies
- To provide an awareness of the construction and of gender roles and
their impact on Indian culture
- To compare and contrast with gender roles and issues associated with
those roles in America today
- To include literature that is written by women and includes women
protagonists into a male dominated World Literature curriculum
- To provide literature choices with varying ability levels and themes
- To use literature as a means to promote social change or to expose
- To use literature as a means to explore cultural aspects
Background information for teachers:
on Women's Employment
- Video: Modern Brides: Arranged Marriages in South
A look at two marriages in South India. One marriage is an arranged
marriage; another a self-selected “love marriage.” The video
touches on several issues surrounding gender roles and societal expectations.
Good for classroom use as well. Available through
Center for South Asia
- Video: Dadi and Her Family: A Rural Mother-in-law in North India.
Gender expectations are addressed in this video. Available through UW-Madison
Center for South Asia
- For Nectar in a Sieve: Various online sources available.
- For Shiva’s Fire: See suzannefisherstaples.com/shivasfire
- For general background see the online journal Kolam
- Women as Subjects. Edited by Nita Kumar. University Press
of Virginia; 1994. Various essays on gender covering such issues as
education, politics, violence, and kinship.
- Siva and her Sisters: Gender, Caste, and Class in Rural
South India. Karin Kapadia. Oxford University Press; 1996. Very
informative, well-documented look at South Indian women in regards to
caste issues; again education, politics, violence, and kinship are explored
in great depth.
- Women in India: Two Perspectives. Doranne Jacobson and Susan
S. Wadley. Manohar; 1999. Six essays on gender roles, significance of
rituals, experiences, problems. An excellent resource with an extended
reference list in the introduction (for those who would like to explore
Ask students to reflect on what they know already about the traditional
roles that women are expected to uphold in various societies. Ask where
students think these roles have come from. Ask about American women.
Do American women have more choices than women in other countries? Why
or why not? In what ways are they freer? In any ways are they more restricted?
How have women discarded the traditional role expectations that they
have been faced with? Why do some women choose to uphold traditional
roles? Ask students what they know about traditional roles of Indian
women. Before assigning reading let students explore various aspects
of cultural traditions in Indian society via internet searches. Ask
them to specifically note the role of women in each of the following:
The Hindu religion—gods
and goddesses: who holds power? How did s/he get that power? Religious
leaders: who holds power? Who constructed the stories? What roles do
women have in maintaining the traditions?
Marriage: Who decides
who one will marry? Is marriage considered a partnership? What is dowry?
How does dowry influence marriage decisions? How easy is it to get out
of a bad marriage? What is bride burning? How do men get away with this
practice? What is expected of a woman or what happens to her when/if
her husband dies?
Working women/Women and caste:
What do high caste women do? Do they work? Why or why
not. What do low caste women do? Do they work? Why or why not? Are there
differences in role expectations among various caste groups? How do
these differences influence maintenance or rejection of traditional
roles? How is this changing (or not) in light of increased educational
opportunities for women?
Clothing: The sari,
the salvar. Westernization of menswear while women continue to uphold
traditional dress: what does this say about society? Does it impact/thwart
gets to go to school? How long? Has this changed in recent years?
Why do some families choose to abort or kill their female offspring?
How do grass roots efforts to educate women influence poverty? How do
families change/ women’s roles change with increased affluence?
Folk Art: Bharatanatayam,
Terru kuttu, and Kolam
Women Helping Other Women:
NGOs, microbanking, medicinal gardening, Phoolan Devi: India’s
Women in Politics:
how did they get there? Is their power genuine? The 33% reserve system:
what is it? How well does it work?
After researching the various topics have
students report their findings in creative ways: demonstrations, videos,
dance, PowerPoint presentations, skits, etc.
I recommend a literature circle approach
for this unit. Present students with book options. There are many wonderful
pieces of literature that would work well in this unit. A few that are
readily accessible include the following. Nectar in a Sieve (Markandaya)
is a wonderful book for average to advanced students. Although some
teachers feel that it is old or overused, I recommend it for its timeless
themes and extension opportunities, its accuracy in portraying details
and struggles apparent yet in present-day rural life in India, and its
literary value—in both rhetoric and depth of content. Shiva’s
Fire (Staples) is useful for lower ability readers or those with less
motivation. There are many opportunities in this book to make connections
to various aspects of culture, especially traditional dance and the
Hindu religion. The God of Small Things (Roy) and Bandit Queen of India
(Devi) are recommended for advanced readers and emotionally mature students.
Divide students into reading groups based
on interest and ability levels. Each group would be responsible for
dividing their book into sections to follow a reading/responding schedule
as set by the teacher. Groups should assign literature circle response
roles to each of their members. After students read and respond to the
literature have them create interesting presentations of themes, issues,
character analyses, etc. to classmates to help promote inter-book dialogue
After group dissemination of materials, bring
the discussion back to whole group and gender issues again. Assessment
option: essays devoted to the struggles faced by the protagonists in
the novels. Some questions to consider: How did gender and the expectations
of society based on gender influence the options, actions, and responses
to conflict of the protagonist in your chosen novel? How might those
options, actions and responses have differed had the protagonist lived
in America? What are the advantages and/or disadvantages of the established
roles that your protagonist faced?
Amount of time:
2- weeks. Include reading days, group interaction days, video days (Two
Marriages, dance video clip), discussion days, pre-presentation days).
Cross References to other themes:
· environmental issues in India (water/drought)
· religions in India (Hindu, Muslism, Jainism, Christianity,
. Nectar in a Sieve, Markandaya
. Shiva’s Fire, Staples
. The God of Small Things, Roy
. Bandit Queen of India, Devi or Atlantic Monthly article "India's
Bandit Queen" November, 1996 issue;
Videos available from UW-Madison
Center for South Asia:
- Dance and Music documentaries
- Two Marriages
- Kolam clip
- Rock Quarry footage (women at work), CCD footage (women into microbanking
and medicinal gardening), Lady Doak lectures on women in India
Cross references to other discipline areas:
politics, social problems.
A. Reading and Literature Content Standard
Students in Wisconsin will read and respond
to a wide range of writing to build an understanding of written materials,
of themselves and of others.
12.1 Use effective reading strategies to achieve their purposes in reading
12.2 Read, interpret, critically analyze literature
12.3 Read and discuss literary and nonliterary texts in order to understand
12.4 Read to acquire information
B. Writing Content Standard
Students in Wisconsin will write clearly
and effectively to share information and knowledge, to influence and
persuade, to create and entertain.
12.1 Create or produce writing to communicate with different audiences
for a variety of purposes
12.2 Plan, revise, edit, and publish clear and effective writing
C. Oral Language
Students in Wisconsin will listen to understand
and will speak clearly and effectively for diverse purposes.
12.1 Prepare and deliver oral presentations appropriate to specific
purposes and audiences
12.2 Listen to, discuss, and comprehend oral communication
12.3 Participate effectively in discussion
E. Media and Technology
Students will use media and technology critically
and creatively to obtain, organize, prepare and share information; to
influence and persuade; to entertain and be entertained
12.1 Use computers to acquire, organize, analyze, and communicate information
12.2 Make informed judgments about media and products
12.3 Create media products appropriate to audience and purpose
12.4 Demonstrate a working knowledge of media production and distribution
12.5 Analyze and edit media work as appropriate to audience and purpose
F. Research and Inquiry
Students in Wisconsin will locate, use, and
communicate information from a variety of print and nonprint resources
12.1 Conduct research and inquiry on self-selected
or assigned topics, issues, or problems and use an appropriate form
to communicate their findings.