Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Women learn to defer to men, even when they disagree with them.

In 2000 I visited a very poor village in Makassar Indonesia, where they fish using traditional boats but not so traditional methods. Their boats carry dynamite to bomb reefs for fish. Cyanide is also used to kill fish for an easy catch.

My co-researcher and I walked along the harbour, which is filled with big pretty fishing vessels, and passed a whole slew of tiny fish, only a few centimetres long each. We climbed down the docks into the village, where the first sensations are the smell, then the sight, of a huge pile of garbage.

The houses there are tiny wooden huts with thatched straw roofs. They have two floors each, the bottom one for sitting, cooking, and eating, the top for sleeping.

The children went crazy when they saw visitors, dancing all around and smiling at us.
We were directed to a certain house where we met a very pregnant woman with runaway teeth. She was surrounded by beautiful children. We had to wait there a while for her husband to come. At first she would not talk to us without him because he is a very respected member of the community. But while we waited, she spoke to us about the well-water, which is salty, and costs 25,000 rupiah per month, which is a lot of money for a villager.

The house had a concrete floor and was very dusty, like the rest of the village, which is unpaved but also unplanted. The only light in the house was a very large television. There was a baby hammock hanging from the ceiling, and in it was a 4-year-old. He just hung there sleeping for the whole 90 minutes we were there, completely unconscious despite noise that could deafen the dead.

When the husband came, he talked mostly about money, or lack of it, and about tough times in the rainy season, when most fishermen take loans and have trouble covering them with interest. Being a boat-owner he was in better condition than most of the other villagers, who work on the boat for a small wage.

When I asked him which 'environmental issues' most affected his fishing, he did not understand the term in English nor in Indonesian.

While we spoke to this man his wife, who had been very friendly and talkative in his absence, was suddenly very quiet. According to other researchers I’ve talked to, this happens all the time. You can meet with a group of 30 women and one man, and the man does all of the talking. Have the man leave, and the women all contradict whatever the man has said. They’ll tell you he doesn’t know anything about the day-to-day running of the village because all he does is fish, eat, and sleep.

[You're assignment, fair reader: write a sentence with the word 'slew' in it.]

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It's funny you should offer this challenge because I recently wrote a eulogy about exactly this topic.

"Slew was one of the few people who truly understood my ranting at high school. He died yesterday at the hands of a dragon because of a poorly chosen weapon for self-defence against the same: the flesh of the giant aquatic Brazilian centipede.

Slew, may the memory of your achievements be unlike that of Too Live Crew. We wish that better decision making will guide us longer than it did you and thank you for your outstanding contribution to the science of understanding unusual methods of dying.

God bless.

Two instances. Count 'em.
2 instances, but boy what a lot of sentences. Still, I'm duely impressed. May Slew receive the Darwin award he so richly deserves.
hey look at my new post at the 'crazy gay haters blog'. (there's a link through my cult )

also Benjibopper, you must join us, all the cool kids are doing it. ( even reverend tim my favorite aquisition)Its not addictive, and still contrary to popular belief, is not a gateway cult.

I really enjoyed this post of 'everyday' life in indonesia, or at least, a real insider view.

I'm not interested in the glossy stuff, or the fabulous islands, etc. I much prefer your stories to those.

David slew Goliath.
OMM you forgot to say 'slew'. But you sure slew the gayhaters, nice work.

HS thanks for those very kind words. This is part of a much longer essay about the women's movement in Indonesia but I'm wholly unsatisfied with it. Still, this is my favourite bit.
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