The plight of women

EVERY single woman dreams of having a luxurious life. Women wish to acquire the best education for themselves, prominent jobs and live as they wish.

There are many women who are not destined to be a part of these dreams and desires. A very serious and sensitive issue often ignored by all.

Countless women in Fiji villages and many other parts of Fiji are unfortunate. They receive a patriarchal teaching from early childhood; grow up with the instilled belief that a woman’s nature is an inevitable consequence of her reproductive role. This kind of argument has been used throughout history and societies to validate women’s submissiveness, subordination, and self-sacrificing nature.

An ideal wife is projected to be devoted, passive, powerless, meek, charming, graceful, sympathetic, pious and above all pure. These expectations of women eventually lead them to dependence, desperation and depression.

The women in many Fiji villages and in many other parts of Fiji grow up accepting a patriarchal society’s accepted norms as the gospel truth and they strictly abide to the laws set out for them by the men. A loss of their identity is inevitable.

Several poems by South Pacific women poets highlight women sufferings which indicate that women need consideration and care. In the poem, My Husband by Momoe Von Reiche, a woman’s hurting is voiced when her husband verbally abuses her with being “black and ugly” as the backside of a dog or as having hair “like the tail of Ami’s old mare in the paddock”.

A woman is belittled by her husband who is attracted to white women and in the process a woman in such a situation loses her self-worth, dignity and develops an inferiority complex.

The poem My Guest portrays the theme of sexual expectations of a husband of his wife and to which his wife does not live up to. The wife competes with other women to keep her man. Her life is reduced to her success as a sex object and a child-bearer.

Another poem Silly Woman, berates a woman for allowing herself to be used as a sex object.

The women, through these poems, express their calamitous situation but are helpless to bring about a change in their lives as they conform to what they were taught to believe in.

Such women are always in the background, with no say in family matters and becoming self-sacrificing and long-suffering in nature. Their predicament is unlocked to the world through women’s writing as rightfully stated that literature is a window to the world and a mirror to life.

Men expect their wives to be ideal. Pleasing their men, casting their best and too gentle even to force their penitence for their harshness and women blame themselves for a sin not committed and pleads for forgiveness.

At any time, a woman still considers herself as a wife and is exceedingly devoted, loves with love that cannot tire but she loves alone. Women are intensively sympathetic, immensely charming, utterly unselfish, excels in the difficult art of family life. The women are so constituted that they never have a mind of their own or a wish of their own.

Women are considered worthless and are supposed to do men’s bidding. Women are puppets and the men are the puppeteers. The women swing and dangle in whichever direction men pull and manoeuvre their strings.

The barbaric traditions which some adhere to make men enslave their women and force them into alien roles. Men forget their humanity and bargain with the lives of their loved ones.

It has been drilled into women from infancy to respect and pay homage to male elders. To veto any of their decisions is seen as the height of insolence and a sign of moral and social disorder, a form of rebellion which the elders deemed imperative to crush immediately. As a woman, she was of no consequence, her opinion counted for nothing.

A law unto themselves, men’s words are commands, and women were born to obey. They decide upon and hold the girls’ and women’s fate in their powerful hands. Women and girls are not consulted on any subject because they are of no consequence, their thoughts and feelings are of no importance and readily receive chastisement for their actions.

Women and girls are considered as dumb servants to grace their households — obedient vessels even when they are blessed with agile brains. Men assume they are the supreme beings and they expect their wives to be dutiful and entirely pure.

Many women in our country have a mind-set that they are meant to be ideal daughters-in-law, devoted wives and self-sacrificing mothers. They are expected to be patient, kind, and be the moral compass of the home, there to charm, chide (gently), give and forgive.

The male-female relationship which exists in many Fiji societies is unsettling, at least from today’s perspective. Many women are trapped in the clutches of the social norms which entrap them to servitude.

Today, many women are still engaged in a deadly contest in their struggle for social and economic equality.

* Kamala Naiker is a member of the Language Department at the University of Fiji. The views expressed are the author’s and not of this newspaper.

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