1. She is the only daughter of a single mother. Her mother fell sick with poly- arthritis and became paralyzed when she was still a little girl. Her father left them and justified his decision by the pressure of having a son to continue the family line. “It’s better to fail two women than to fail all my ancestors and endure the weight they place upon my shoulders.” He probably had thought so. She takes care of her mother ever since, and when it was the time for her to marry, she herself made a tough decision, perhaps much tougher than the one her father had made. She chose to never get married, in order to be with her old mother who cannot make any single body movement without help. She has a son, though, the result of a deliberate plan. She knew for sure the short-term contracted worker briefly passed by her life would never come back and claim the child, which works perfectly for her, because she does not have to leave her mother alone to follow the norm of moving into husband’s family, but also have a child to fulfill her desire to be a mother. A single woman in a rural village, with a meager income of working in the construction site everyday and paddy fields, successfully takes care of both her paralyzed mother and young son. In a sense, she defeats fate, sickness, and the cruelty of patriarchy, and thrives on her own power, as whenever we see her, we always see a glowing smile on her face.
2. Unlike other single women in her village, she is very open about her family situation. But like most of them, she looks much older than her age, for all the burden, stress and pain she suffer from an unhappy marriage. At 42, she looks like a 60 years old woman. Her husband left her after the first child, who of course is a girl. He married another woman much younger than himself, had another three daughters, and desperately wanted a son, came back to her once more. Tolerant and scarifying, just like many other Vietnamese women, she forgave him, together they had one more child, who again is a daughter, and to completely prove his unfaithfulness, the man left once more, probably in the search for a son. Since then, she raised her two daughters on her own, with little support from family because they are just as poor. Most of her teeth have fallen off due to poor health, and with no access to opportunity and means of production, her brilliant daughter had to give up her dream of becoming a teacher because they couldn’t afford paying for university. She struggles, but she determines to send her second daughter to school, at least all the way through high school, because she values education and doesn’t want them to follow her path.
3. She has a very complicated situation, but a very cheerful personality despite her life tragedy. She divorces her first husband, with whom she has 2 children. The first son lives with his father. The son has married, has one daughter but got divorced and the baby girl is now living with her mother. He is very much a playboy and sometimes comes to his mother to ask for money. The second daughter, Thủy, dropped out at grade 6. Thủy is also divorced. She says her daughter is slow, but it’s common for divorced women to be conceived by villagers as not intelligent, slow or lazy. Thuy has started working in a factory about 20km from home a month ago and now she rents a room to stay there. Her youngest daughter is from another man. They have never been officially married, and now he is living in a province very far from Hanoi and doesn’t support her in anyway.
She was trafficked to China for 2-3 years and no one knows how she managed somehow to escape. Someone kidnapped her, the villagers reported to local police but no real effort was spent to search for her, probably because no one cared enough. After she came back, the Women’s Union helps by appealing their members to contribute their meager income to help her build a small house. All her children’s land is in her first husband’s village and the only piece of arable land she inherits is from her father.
4. The stories of these three women, although a bit outstanding from an average circumstance, are not that striking or rare. They reflect the hardship Vietnamese women endure, especially women in rural areas. Being at the low end of a patriarchy system, women’s welfare are not considered important, and most of the time, that’s what they think of themselves, too. The men leave them for various reasons, most of which are not their faults. They struggle and suffer but never blame or complain. On the one hand, they are weak because they accept what is done to them, but on the other hand, they are strong and even unbreakable. They are like grass, small and ordinary, but they can bear all the storms and survive whatever obstacle life throws at them.