Tuesday, February 10, 2009

But are they emancipated enough?

A friend from Sweden called me yesterday, seriously alarmed: her daughter was planning to move to Singapore.

I did not, at first, get the cause of her alarm. Singapore is a vibrant, interesting city. Yes, it is very expensive to live there as an expact, terribly hot, terribly humid and terribly overcrowded, like most cities in Asia, but it is sort of civilized (save for their penal code, with its crudely medieval punishments like caning etc.) and could be fun. So what's the problem?

Her daughter is single... and a corporate executive... a single (heterosexual)female corporate executive.

"Who is she going to date there?" her mother asked me.
"Will she ever have a chance to marry, perhaps have a child, if she lives there"???

Now I understood her concerns.

If her child was a guy, a single male corporate executive, there would be no problem.
He would have plenty of opportunities.
He could date Asian women, be they ambitious corporate executives (there is a growing number of them, there) or old-fashioned (= professionally unacomplished) gals.

Most cultures in Asia - like in Latin America - have that in common: their lack of emancipation. Even a veneer of emancipation, if exists, is still (?) very, very thin.

Not good places for truly emancipated and professionally accomplished women to have a work-life balance, I had to admit.

And no, my friend's concerns have nothing to do with race (at least I hope they don't).
They are all about culture, ingrained, badly traditional culture, defining women as subservient (though sometimes luxurious) appendages of men.

Are there Asian or Latin men emancipated enough to truly appreciate a professionally accomplished woman? Without - subconsciously - expecting her to serve him: put a dinner on the table, make sure that the house is clean, in short to manage the household in addition to managing her job? Instead of equally sharing the household management duties with her?Hmmm. Very, very few, I am afraid.

Such culture clashes are still happening even in Europe and in America, where emancipation often seems only skin deep, despite it being proclaimed for a lot longer than in other parts of the world, so long that it already should be the norm, should feel obvious to all concerned... but, sadly, it is not.

I still remember vividly my own failed attempt at forming a relationship with a cultivated (I thought), highly educated and worldly American. On the surface, we had lot in common: interests, world outlook, wanderlust... but not the level of emancipation.
I could hardly believe my ears, when he proposed... with a disclaimer: he would be the decider. He would give me every consideration, he said, but he would be the decider.
At first I thought it was a joke, so caveman it sounded, and I laughed, amused. But he was serious, a barbarian at heart, despite all his education and his polish of civilization and worldliness.

So what a chance my friend's highly emancipated daughter would have at any personal happiness living in a very nonemancipated culture???


Anonymous said...

The thing to keep in mind is...SHE CAN COME BACK! Moving anywhere is always an adventure of sorts (as is travelling) and that is part of the lure. Maybe mama wants her to have babies and husbands and maybe she wants an adventure for a few years and isn't thinking farther than that! katrina

Minerva said...

Yeah, seems like you are right, Katrina and she just wants an adventure for 3-5 years. It is sad, though, that emancipated women have so few personal choices.

Ewa said...

I believe, that sometimes it is surprisingly positive experience to see the male-female relationships from new perspective.
Sometimes enlightning.
I know a Polish lady, married in Poland, she is a pilot (profession emancipated enough, huh?)and abt. 15 years ago went to Singapore. She never returned. Didn't get divorced. There is something that makes her happy there. So you never know what is awainting you in life...

Minerva said...

Ach, yes, Ewa, I agree, anything might happen. But since you said yourself that her experience was SURPRISINGLY positive,one wonders of the probability of it happening more often than not, of it becoming a STANDARD. I think statistics, not miracles... so let's be gracious for miracles when they happen... especially on St Valentine's Day and let amor conquer omni! :-)