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Thứ Sáu, 23 tháng 3, 2012

1. One time I was talking with a foreign friend, she asked about my family and I told her I have a 3 years old niece. Trying to practice the little Vietnamese she has learnt, she said "oh, so she would call you cô then". I laughed at her eager attempt and corrected that my niece calls me "dì", because I am her mother's younger sister, and "cô" is used for her father's younger sister only. Of course, my friend once again complained about how complicated the family nouns system in Vietnamese is, and how difficult it is for people with little awareness of family relation from other cultures to learn the language that is filled with relatives terms. For me, it was a moment when I realized how deep patriarchal thinking runs in our minds. Whenever we talk with a strange woman about our parents' age, by default we call her "cô", i.e. we conceive the world in terms of our fathers' bloodline. Maternal family is considered "external" while parental family is considered "internal". And the old saying goes: "Daughter in law is your real daughter, son in law is forever a guest".

2.  It's been almost a year now since I came home. I have been reintegrated into family life, which means that my brother would sit still while I clean the dishes, or I can stay in my room when he carries something heavy. These are parts of normal socialization that everyone understands and expects. I don't think gender equality means my brother and I need to break tasks like dish-washing and carrying heavy stuffs into absolutely equal halves.

When my brother was in grade 9, he was bullied in school, and my father was mad not because  such a bad practice was prevalent but rather because his son was weak and not manly enough. He saw it as a personal problem, and told my brother to man up, to act aggressive, and fight back. I never have such a problem, so I never know what I can and should do if someone bullies me. In a boys' world, there is only one solution: to use your fist.

3. A few days ago I saw on facebook a picture of a little girl with some caption explaining that she was dropped in front of pagoda. She was raped brutally and her private part was bleeding very bad. The girl is about 4, crying all the time and scared of all strangers. She was kidnapped and to this moment, no one knows about her family's whereabouts yet.

Stories like this are not common, but not rare either. What caught my attention is how facebook users respond to the image. Most express their sympathy to the child and anger to the violator. However, the discussion goes something like "he must be mad", "he must have watched too much porn", "he must have some mental problem, no normal human being would do something like this". The majority of commentors are women, and they also talk about how the child is not older than their own daughters.

The problem here, I guess, is that people make this case, as well as the criminal, exceptional. By granting him some special conditions of mental illness, or under the influence of some stimulation, being it porn, bad moral character, or a wrong upbringing, they make him excusable. By refusing to see him as a normal part of society, and acting out of rational thinking like any ordinary human, they distance the raper from themselves. As long as people deny the real source of dreadful act like this, namely, conventional beliefs and cultural values that make women and girls objects for men, especially sexual objects, and worth less than men, cases like the little girls will continue to happen.

4. I have seen a young man taking care of his young son while his wife ate her meal, but older men teased him for bringing the boy to a men's table. I have also heard of mother in law scowl her daughter in law for letting the husband wash her clothes, men who could not participate in any social events in their villages because they are not seen as a man (human) and suffer from constant public humiliation until they get a son. And of course, there are women who do not dare to get off their high heels even when their bodies hurt because they will not be feminine enough.

Gender equality should simply mean that both women and men are free to do what they want regardless of their genders. I don't think we can solve women's problem without liberating men, because no one is inherently bad, the majority of us only do what society teaches us to do. It is not one crazy man who raped the little girl, it is the whole system, even those sit at their computers  typing sorrowful words.

http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_porter_a_call_to_men.html  (this talk makes me cry)

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