Friday, January 23, 2015

Eat Pray

On New Year’s eve, as we waited around the dinner table for the countdown to usher in the new year, we played charade. Soon we got tired of the guessing game. Before we adjourned to the courtyard to watch the display of fireworks, my younger daughter grabbed some pieces of papers and scribbled something. I did not ask her what she had written. It was to do with some New Year resolutions.

We often learn from our children. Earlier in the afternoon, I made a terrible mistake by saying,“ You know what ? There can never be gender equality…” The outburst was made when I became exasperated seeing that my younger daughter was  trying to juggle her time to meet a male friend who had trouble getting to their appointed place. Before I could explain and elaborate, my daughters were appalled and the disgust look on my younger daughter’s face made me feel rather ashamed of having uttered the statement. I am not saying that there are things that are exactly the male thing  and the others are exactly the  female thing.  Men and women have different attributes and as women become increasingly self-sufficient so we can guard our independence, we have to take care not to overdo things. I believe that due respect must be given to both men and women equally but the concept of gender equality can be abused by some men who are either misogynists or have been given preferential treatments in the families they have been raised in or that there is a lack of role models for them to act differently. 
Traditionally, the patriarch of the family has been brought up to be the breadwinner and the one whose words must be obeyed whether by custom or religion hence they  are somehow more aggressive, combative, predatory  and goal oriented generally. Although  women are now able to negotiate their roles at home and outside home, the domestic domain remains the primary responsibility of the women in general; consequently some working women find themselves having  to constantly juggle their time between their work, their household duties and their extra-curricular activities . It is important that men and women must respect that we all possess different attributes, strengths and weaknesses regardless of our genders, and in a healthy and working relationship, we must have sufficient regard to every individual’s right to lead the life they want for themselves.

On the plane, I watched a German comedy entitled “ Miss Sixty”.  As I write this , I recall that I did not get round to finish watching the film. The protagonist, a successful molecular biologist is forced to retire as she turns sixty years old. She decides to have a baby  using her frozen eggs from her youth.  She feels discriminated as a man of her age would not be ridiculed if he became a father at sixty but not for a woman. She also laments that a man could have  a career and a family while a woman cannot quite have it all.

In many ways, the society is getting more enlightened and both men and women are working towards eradicating gender bias. But because patriarchy has existed for so long, it takes time and conscious effort to change certain entrenched social expectations about how women should behave and what  men should do and want to do. I ought not have said what I said although my intention was purely maternal. I must not assume that my daughters do not already know what I know. I must not reinforce the presumptions and prejudices that I might have witnessed and encountered for my generation of women so as to give the next generation a chance to make gender equality sustainable and thriving.

 I resumed reading The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion from where I had stopped. It is hilarious and not sure why I had stopped reading it in the first place. Perhaps the timing was not right when I started reading it.

Don Tillman, a thirty-nine year old geneticist, devises The Wife Project with the help of his colleague at Melbourne University, Gene and his psychologist wife, Claudia. Don meets  Rosie who  is appalled when she finds out that he  is on a mission to find a suitable wife with a detailed questionnaire for that purpose.  Rosie responded upon hearing about the questionnaire,

I can only hope that enough women realise their civic duty and take the test.”
Rosie became angry and chastised Don for treating women as objects.

The question is : Has Don designed the detailed questionnaire to find a woman who might accept him or to find a woman whom he could accept? Don is socially challenged and has Asperger’s attributes. While Rosie fails on almost every score and does not meet all the  criteria for a suitable wife, Don gets himself involved in assisting Rosie in finding out who Rosie’s biological father is. As Don is wired differently, he approaches the Wife project in a methodical way. He also watches romantic movies in order to learn about social interactive behaviour. The story is a charming one and the fictitious character  endearing   indeed.

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