PUSHING BACK ON TRADITIONS
May 28, 2019
A Dongzhu minority girl in a remote village of Guizhou, China
There’s a traditional Chinese saying that —
“A woman must obey her father before marriage, she must obey her husband after marriage and she should also obey her sons after the death of her husband”
And — a daughter who is married off is like “spilled water” — she’s lost all value to her family and deemed worthless.
Such view that a woman has no voice, worth or status to her family is not uniquely Chinese. This tradition and attitude is still quite universal especially in many developing countries.
Society puts high expectations on a woman to deliver for her family’s happiness and well-being. Another Chinese saying even goes so far as to say “a wise woman knows how to cook up some rice without grains.” Really? She’s expected to perform “miracles” just like the story of the two fish and five loaves to feed the multitude? She’s the one to make “stone soup” for the survival of her children.
In my documentary SPILLED WATER, Professor Wu Qing said, “Mothers are the change-makers, they are the first teachers and role models for their children. Yet many of them are not educated and their work not acknowledged.”
As wonderful as cultures and traditions are to help us discover our identities, they are also treacherous for accepting being female deserves second-class citizenship. Worst, many mothers themselves are often perpetrators of horrific acts dictated by traditions they’re brought up with — that’s why abortions of female fetus, abandonment of baby girls, child brides, female genital mutilation, women trafficking … What is the future for our daughters?
It’s time to challenge traditions that condition our roles and worth without questioning.
It’s time to redefine our worth beyond being an economic transactional commodity for families — under the guise of traditions.
Gender inequity is a tradition that impacts on our health, rights, worth and social progress in more ways than one. To achieve a paradigm shift in the way society views the female gender, we must encourage and support women's education, activism, political and economic participation. In solidarity, we must push back on those traditions that limit us — and the momentum is gathering.