An Historical and Contemporary Overview of Gendered Caribbean Relations


  • Dr. Sharla Blank Washburn University Department of Sociology and Anthropology Topeka, Kansas



Gender, Caribbean, women, sexuality, social class


This paper presents a broad overview of historical and contemporary gender and social class relations in the British, French, and Spanish Caribbean islands focusing primarily on Afro-Caribbean people. It begins with a discussion of gendered relations during slavery and then investigates gender roles post emancipation. Next, multiple aspects of contemporary West Indian family life are addressed including the prevalence of matrifocal households and child shifting. The important roles played by Caribbean female household heads are discussed in the context of patriarchy. Highlights include the significance of the maternal role over the marital, socializing youth, particular negative expectations each sex holds of the other, customary sexual behavior, as well as common relationship types. Varying aspects of women’s behavior according to social class is touched upon followed by a brief synopsis of the status of Caribbean women on measures of educational and work force participation rates; finally, a summary of the dearth of active women’s movements in the region is addressed. The paper provides an introduction to the intimate and working lives of Caribbean women and men.