Sunday, 16 October 2011

19. Who are women?

      I used to be angry when I heard ‘lady first’. Then I replied ‘hungry one first’ at any buffet. Now I was asked to write ‘Who is woman?’ So I apologize in advance if my writing does not fulfill your expectation.
      My teenage years were much influenced by religious books. I used to follow as Dhammapada told25. I never had my ear pierced after learning that men’s ears should not be charmed by any earring but by hearing knowledge26. But I never ever learned the pages for woman from Dhammapada.
      The only woman I admired is ‘Venerable Padhasari’. When she lost her whole family members for different reasons, she was mad even without any clothes on her body. But soon after she learned Godhama Buddha’s teaching, she became an enlightened being. What she had said influenced me a lot. I followed as what she had said. Then I never wear any flower on my head but only three noble Gems: Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha27. I never wear luxurious clothes, make-up or jewelry, but just five precepts28 as my shawl and sarong, seven jewels29 of a wise and holy person.
. . . .
      Therefore I don’t want to write about my feeling as a woman. I want to illuminate human beings who are recognized as women. There are only two kinds of human beings: man and woman. Let’s look about women.
      In BC 3500 in Egypt, women started to invent and have beer after making snacks from barley seeds. I could understand that like we eat coconut flesh and drink it’s juice. But I remember that I used to be anxious while I saw my Burmese young girls are drinking beer a lot since coca cola culture was changed into beer culture in late 20th century.
      In BC 3000 in china, Empress Si Linshi started raising silkworms since she loved to wear silk. It’s reasonable for a Queen whose need, not supplement, is wearing silk, and she raised silkworm for her need. Now in Burma, rough cotton wear become more popular than ever after importing a lot of that from Thailand. Ordinary women noticed that imported cotton is more expensive, so it’s like a luxury for them. So they prefer local cotton stuff for their need. So 21st century women don’t need the Empress to solve their daily basic problems.
      In BC 1850, in Egypt, women put honey and crocodile’s stool into their vagina to prevent pregnancy. Most inventions were based on needs. In my general practice clinic, I used to meet girls who asked me to give them injection to terminate their early pregnancies in this era of easily available, numerous condoms. I couldn’t understand them and refused to do. I have a question to ask them. “Are you even more outdated than the Egyptian women of 1850BC who knew to prevent pregnancy and invent stuff themselves?”
      In BC 1750, according to Hamurabi’s code, women could own and inherit properties. Before that, women were not like human beings; they couldn’t get any inheritance when their husbands died, and only their children were entitled. I had no doubt that issue was also appeared according to the time’s need. In 21st century, property is not in women’s hands, but in their mouth I suppose.
      In BC 1500, Heliopolis medical school in Egypt started to accept women students. There was about 650 years gap between the time of women making beer from barley and the time of inventing stuff for preventing pregnancy. But women who already had known how to prevent pregnancy had to wait 350 years to become medical practitioners. Today, in medical school, there are a lot of women students. But most of the famous and prestigious doctors and medical superintendents are still men. I hope that it shouldn’t be waiting another 350 years for women doctors to get the similar status like men doctors.
      In BC 776, women were not allowed to see nor compete Olympic games. Now our Burmese women use to watch international football matches, not with academic curiosity but with gambling interest.
      In AD 397, in Rome, Saint Folina built the first public hospital since she admired for setting up clinic for pilgrims for the Byzantine emperor. As women were allowed to learn medicine in BC 1500, men might get that chance very earlier than that time. But there were no public hospital those days, and only 1900 years after that period, the first public hospital was built by a woman. Even then most medical superintendents of 21st century public hospitals are not women.
      In AD 900, in China, foot binding since birth was popular for women. They wanted their feet to be like lotuses. In those days, only women with tiny feet in silk shoes could get a good husband. I don’t know if Empress Si Linshi noticed that her invented silk was useful for foot binding. After 3900 years, the empress’s silk was used for binding feet. It’s ridiculous.
      In AD 1004, a Japanese woman writer, Murasaki Shikibu wrote a novel ‘Romance of Genji’. It was established as the most ancient novel in the world. She wrote poetically about Prince Genji and his love stories in the palace. She was a concubine in that palace and her novel was based on her diary. Women used pen to express their existence, ability, feeling and desire because they were not allowed to express themselves publicly. Though they couldn’t compete in the Olympic, they could use their pen.
      In AD 1220, women were not allowed to learn medicine in French universities. (2700 years ago there were already women doctors in the world.) In AD 1390, in London a medical practitioner needed a degree from university. At that time women were not allowed to learn at the university. So there was no woman medical doctor in London those days. But Korean women refused together to be served only by man doctors, and in AD1406, Korean women were allowed to learn medicine. In 21st century, there are a lot of male gynecologists and women orthopedic surgeons. But there are most men in the positions of health policy.
      In AD1821, in Columbia, women were allowed to be university students. Actually women have only had the chance to graduate from universities and colleges for less than 200 years. But a woman greatly wrote the most ancient novel 1000 years ago.
      In AD1840, in London the first World anti-slavery convention was held. Lucrecia Mott was also active for the anti-slavery activities, but she was not allowed to attend this conference because she was a woman. So her friend, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and she initiated and facilitated the organization of the Seneca Fall’s Women’s Rights Convention, which discussed social, religious and general administration issues, held in 1848. 160 years later, the Seneca convention is used to say women have achieved nearly equal rights like men. But it’s really only chance in the field of physical competence, not in the field of moral and intelligent competence and representative opportunities.
      In AD 1854, in Crimea war, Florence Nightingale helped the injured and could reduce the mortality rate from 47% to 2.2%. In AD 1860, 16 women climbed up to the top of mount Fujiyama. These only demonstrate women’s physical power.
      In Ad 1868, in Thailand, Amdangamunam refused to marry a man proposed by her parents. To ratify this chance legally, she asked the King to amend a law to allow a woman to choose her own spouse. 25 years after that event, in 1893 in Netherlands, women got the chance to vote. This was very first country in which women could vote. In 1896, in America John Hopkins medical school was sponsored by a woman. Her aim was to allow both man and woman to attend school together. In AD 1898, Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote ‘Women and Economics’. She pointed out that if women were uneducated, nation’s economy would be ruined. 19th century was the century with a lot of changes for women.
      In Ad 1956, Golder Meir became the first woman Foreign Minister in Israel. She was the only woman in the cabinet. In 1958, women could be the members of the Parliament in London. Women got high positions in administration and management. This point was published widely, and that also meant this news was extraordinary. In 2000, in Canada Beverley McLachlin became the first women Chief Justice. In 1930s, in Canada, a woman was considered ‘not a human being’. After 70 years, the law was changed.
      Anyhow it is certain that everything is impermanent. Any history recorded proves that impermanence. There was also impermanence illustrated throughout our observations about ancient women’s history. Women made changes for themselves and were also made by changes.
      Yes, of course. Women are human beings who do and feel.
      The given assignment’s title is ‘Who is women.’
      You, readers, already accepted me as a woman. So what I have written here are the feelings of women. So, do you agree?
 Ma Thida (Sanchaung)
This was an assignment by a publishing house. All together 11 women writers wrote under one title, ‘Who are women?’  That book was published in late 2004.
This was translated by author herself and polished by Thanda Aung/Tammara Ho.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry, this work gives me ample knowledge, but lack aesthetic landing. I could not feel this as a short story and I'm more convenient to observe this as an article or some sorts.

    You mention a lot of women when there're citations, but you forgot to give the name of the woman who wrote the first novel 1000 years ago.
    All and all I recognise that you did a lot of research which was, in deed, admirable to take responsibility what you've written. Academic weight is much heavier than that of aesthetics' and story should get more plots woven by irony, climax, and resolution etc.

    Well, if my remarks sound a bit critique, sorry again. I appreciate your effort. Please try your best.