Thursday, June 16, 2011

So, are we equal yet?

Nope, unfortunately.

There has been a lot of talk just lately about the disparity -- in publicity, prize giving, reviews and so on -- between books by women and books by men. If you haven't been following this discussion, take a look here  for links to topics and blogs.

This post of mine is not a blog about writing, however.  It's going to be about swimming. Years ago, I remember reading about a man (back in the 19th century) who was shocked at what happened after a shipwreck within sight of the coast of Britain. Men made it ashore safely; most of the women did not. The reason was easy to find. Women in those days could not swim. They were also hampered by cumbersome clothing, long skirts and lots of petticoats. As I recall, and my memory might be playing tricks on me, the man then decided to do something about it and began a campaign to teach women to swim.

Today, I was watching a news item on TV about the Australian Surf Life Saving Association teaching children to swim in Asia. Why? Because thousands of Asian children die of drowning every year. It is the most common cause of death in Asian children. Why? Because they are often close to water and yet have no adult supervision. And of course, most of them cannot swim. This new program has already had huge successes where it has been started, which is admirable. It is a wonderful initiative.

One of the problems I can see with this program, though, is it will probably not benefit girls as much as boys. Why not? Because in Asia, girls -- discrimination starts early -- are often not encouraged to expose themselves in any kind of clothing suitable for swimming; and swimming is seen as a male prerogative anyway.

My husband can swim after a fashion. Self-taught, he learned from dipping into the irrigation channels and streams around his kampung when he was a kid. None of his sisters EVER did that.

Women in Asia are being educated as never before. The new generation is even surpassing the men in academia -- yet they still often wear restrictive clothing at odds with their jobs, their lifestyles and of course, the climate. They still do most of the housework and much of the childcare. Their religions still teach  them -- as fact -- stuff made up by men who had no legitimacy except what they gave themselves as interpreters of religious texts; men who imposed their own cultural practices on future generations of women because it suited their selfish need to be waited on.

I hope Asian women wake up to the many, many ways they are being brainwashed.


Helen V. said...

That is quite shocking but I'm not surprised. My parents used to have female Asian university student as boarders back in the seventies and eighties and none of them could swim. I got the impression that even wearing body covering garments to splash around in our pool would have been frowned on in their home lands.

Anonymous said...

Women, generally young girls, in my society these days are as you say being brainwashed, they are wearing clothing to cover their bodies. NOT because of religious reasons, but because their family/relatives/friends wear it like so.

Yes they should not be brainwashed by societies, they should wear what they want for their own beliefs. However I'm talking about Asian women in western countries, not in Asia.

The Asian women who are laughed at and discriminated for wearing what they wear, it only strengthens their faith, and thus young girls have been brought up to wear such clothes to show steadfast in a mocking society.

Some religions you refer to; which require women to cover their bodies, contrary to what you may hear are treated well. It is not about being equal, because men can NEVER be equal with women, E.g. Men cannot give birth. But it is about being TREATED fairly, and now it comes to: What is the definition of fair? Their is inequality in all societies, in Asia, in Western countries, even in the south. But we look over it, because we think its "fair". Your "fair" may not be another person's "fair".

~ From a 16 year old British student.

Glenda Larke said...

Hi British student. Thanks for dropping by.

Not sure that it's a matter of being fair (although that is part of the same thing) -- I think it's more a matter of having a choice. A real choice. It's no choice at all if you have it legally, but not within the family or the culture.

My annoyance with a lot of these taboos is that they aren't religious. They are cultural. For an Islamic example, you won't find much in the Qu'ran about women covering themselves, other than the admonition to be modest and cover their 'awrah, (or aurat). All the definitions about what constitutes modesty are added later, including the definition of "aurat/'awrah", and it was men who made these rules based on their cultural traditions, not on religion.