Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

international women day burma

It’s already March 9 in Singapore. However, it is still International Woman Day in Myanmar. I am feeling daunting a whole day for the tragedy of Malaysia Airline and still hoping to witness some miracle for all people on board so I forgot to write something for International Women Day. Long story short, let me portray how majority of women in Myanmar are self-censored. 

If there was only one challenge to empower women in Myanmar, that would be their self-censorship instead of dominant men. Since we started to know how to interact with adults, we have been taught to give cream of the top to men. My mom would always keep the best part of chicken for my dad. If we were on menses, we wouldn’t be able to perform certain actions such as cleaning altar or taking Ngapi out from the pot. Another higher level of discrimination is rooted in an intangible quality called Hpon.

 Also, there is the concept of hpon (ဘုန်း; from Sanskrit bhaga), which translates to “power”. It is used as an explanation for the varying degrees of ethnic, socioeconomic, and gender differences between people in a society.[6]Hpon refers to the cumulative result of past deeds, an idea that power or social position comes from merit earned in previous lives.[6] This idea is used to justify the prevalent view that women are less equal than men, who are considered to have more hpon.

– Wikipedia, Culture of Burma

Basically, men has more Hpon power than women. Thus, they can’t touch inner wears of women as well as any kind of women clothes meant for lower body including longyi (traditional sarong), skirt, trousers, lingeries and you name it. (Yes, how do they take those off when they were in bed with their ladies!?!) To make it more sensible (be ware of sarcasm from now on), men couldn’t walk through if there are those women’s clothes hanging above them because it would make their Hpon level lower. international women day myanmarOn top of that, at many famous pagodas or Buddha stupas, women are not allowed to enter a “special area” that is closer to the Pagoda or Stupa. Only men could go and sit at such area even thought people would pray similar things and chant similar Dhamma. Upper level at Shwedagon pagoda and front areas at Mahar Myat Mu Ni Stupa and Inle Phaung Daw Oo pagoda are all meant only for men. Oh and we can’t offer gold leaf to certain pagodas in person – for e.g. Kyite Htee Yoe (Golden Rock) Pagoda. We have to pass it to someone who has men organs to offer it on behalf of us. But then, it is applicable only at certain pagodas especially at famous ones. Women can pour water above smaller Buddha statues in famous Pagoda compound. (Now, you get the point – how awesome logic of men in our country is!) Plus, polygamy is legal for Buddhist men which means it is criminal offence if a wife commits adultery while it is fine for a husband to sleep with someone else.

When you were raped, people would spare no time blaming on you how slutty you had been instead of wondering who the horrible culprit was. During Thingyan (water festival in April), it is absolutely fine for a man to vomit on pavement during hangover while it is considered disgraceful if a girl drinks. No man would ask permission to smoke around non-smoking people and it is stupid for a woman to smoke. Guys could run half-naked in public and they would call girls who wear mini-skirts slutty.

Growing up in such society, all girls, ladies and women are so used to the rituals of the society. They are always unconsciously prioritizing men just like healthy human beings effortlessly breath in oxygen. They believe that they are meant to live so. They believe that their daughters should follow the same way since their mothers followed so. They believe that men carried better karma than women thus they are always nobler than women.

The more disheartening thing is that when a man argues groundlessly or being narrow-minded, they criticize that man for “acting like a woman” မိန်းမလိုမိန်းမရ /mein: malou mein: maja/. When a man uses dirty tricks, women denounced him for “behaving like a woman”. When a man is cowardly, they suggest him to “wear a hta mane (Myanmar traditional sarong for women)”. I think nothing is sadder than to see the women who think women are creatures who debate groundlessly, who always play dirty tricks and who are cowardly.

When you urge some normal women to do something that society does not usually allow women to do, they would response with shocking reaction. The slogan “Women can’t do that!” or “This is a woman thing” has been nailed in their brains. When their husbands betrayed, they would think of best way to attract them back. Only few of them would take legal actions or further steps towards divorce because when you are divorced, all woman and men would blame on you. Married women also assume that they are the ones who have to do all household chores despite earning income together. Sisters always accept that doing the dish for their brothers is their duties from birth.

I have no clue how we could we get rid of women refraining from obtaining what they actually want. At the very least, I could teach my future daughters how to fight for their rights and more importantly, my future sons how to deal with women fairly.

 

**If you act inhumane towards LGBTQs, I warn you not to go ahead**

A gay couple recently celebrated their 10 years of love at a hotel in Myanmar. And everyone loses their mind on Facebook.

LGBTs Rights in Myanmar

After flipping through many nasty comments towards that couple who are also working for organisations fighting for LGBTs’ rights in Myanmar, I tend to realize a few points and I feel like jotting down.

Many Myanmar can’t differentiate between Gays and Transgenders

Every thing is all the same for them. Some people complain while both of the couple wore traditional groom suites instead of one came up as the bride. Some pointed out that gays in American movies do not act like women and others criticized a gay should only be acting as Khin San Win, a famous transgender make-up artist.

Confusing, I know. But most of them do not have slightest clue on LGBTs which is sad.

They believe as if Buddha taught that gays in this life have raped others in past lives

I have been trying to find reputable English source that shares the exact sentiment. I found none so far.

That is copy-catting western culture, they say.

I believe we cannot trace back who was first ever LGBTQ in this world. I am pretty sure there are mentioning about gays in Pali Canons. I wonder how did they form such opinion claiming acting as LGBTQ is westernization.

It is against law.

The infamous Section (377) in Myanmar restricts people from having “abnormal” sex. It can be punished up to 10 years of jail sentence or life imprisonment. The catch is that it is punishable only when there is proof that they did exactly what mentioned in the section which means polices can’t grab a random gay couple and jail them just because they live together. I guess many people forget this part. Plus, it restricts not only gays but also straight people from performing “abnormal” sex, too. Blame the British, seriously.

The rest of the accusations share more or less the same points with homophobes in other countries such as “It is unnatural!”, “Gays are disgusting!” or “It is disgrace!”. Here’s a bonus point.

It is where conservative people following either of three more dominant religions in Myanmar – Buddhists, Muslims and Christians agree!

 

I’ve once written about it here. And in above clip, you might be able to visualize it more. 🙂

You might have read DOs and DON’Ts in Myanmar somewhere on Internet. But those are for the convinience of tourists and only very few visitors care for what locals would think for their acts during their stay in Myanmar.

This video is just to let you know what you should not do in Myanmar not to make locals feel that you are not paying respect to their culture.

DISCLAIMER : These are my own thoughts based on my experience as an average Myanmar citizen who come from a mixed Bamar family. The habits and perceptions of Myanmar people may vary from time to time and people from different states and divisions may have different cultural habit and society values.

Or should I have titled it as “Tolerance and Respect” instead to make myself sounds like a optimistic stuffed with positive imagination where no sun sets?

I have been asking a question to myself.

I have to admit that my mindset on racism and discrimination is being changed from time to time. Being said, I am not one of those easy pickings to change my hypothesis with a note or two on Facebook. But then again, I could not answer the above question….. yet.

This starts from a personal feeling – an unpleasant mood when I read the headlines saying my people are not tolerant at all – which I wish to deny. Concurrently, I have been reading many hatred comments regarding almost everything on Facebook and I can’t even read some of those till the end as those are too much for my eyes to swallow. Then I think, rethink and rethink. Where on earth those hatred comments came from!?

Intolerant people. Yes, I agree. It obviously seems that at least half of people in Myanmar online community are intolerant. They are not fond of things that are against with their religion, thoughts that are in common with their belief and news that they believe affecting  the sustainability of their culture. For instance, you would see their Facebook flooding with screams and shouts after a news about shoes with Buddha images or a foreign couple acting weird at Shwedagon Pagoda. They think those are insults to the religion they believe in, threats to what they value and humiliation to their culture that they have been grown up with. When it hurts their feelings, they couldn’t shut their mouth. They become to believe that silence could kill their culture and religion. They think they should act before things are getting worse.

On the other hand, apparently, other people take them as intolerant people. For those who think Buddha’s face is just a decoration item, putting it on shoes or even on bikini is nothing harmful. It’s not even a question. They may use it for fun as they are not intending to insult anyone. They would think in a way that why Buddhists seem so angry if Buddhism is a peaceful religion. And they start to define those Buddhists as intolerant people because they cannot tolerate what people did to the symbols of their religion. Talking about Shwedagon, it is an incredible place. People who do not follow Myanmar cultural aspects closely might even take it as a picnic spot. They might question “What’s so wrong with lying down with revealing clothes, hugging each other with this stunning view of giant pile of gold?” Again, whoever criticize them become just intolerant people who do not have knowledge of other cultures and forms of freedom.

My own thoughts are mixed.

  • If people do not do any acts that could be an insult to another group of people in anyway, there would be no intolerance.
  • If people do not bother what others do to their culture and religion and ignore all the disrespect, there would be no intolerance.

6-2 is 4 while 2+2 is also 4. I am nowhere near to let people know what should be the way to go. For me personally, as long as I am a devoted Buddhist in my own opinion, I would ignore all those stuffs what people do to Buddha or Myanmar. I have seen a little kid on Instagram who names himself as “Shwedagon1”. When I pointed out that what would he feel if I name my Instagram account as “Catholic Church1”, he replied that those were two different things which left me speechless. I finally become to understand that west cultures is way too different from that of east that it would take a century or two to make them understand the way we think on religion or cultural related stuffs. If so, why should we bother to blame others for doing things that we have no control over?