Tourism, Women, and Power in Southeast Asia

Women and Power in Southeast Asia by Vago Damitio Society is a complex organism that reflects the diverse use of power by the individuals and groups within it. Sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle, power is coveted, used, exploited, and always present in all groups of human beings. This is a constant. What is not constant, … Continue reading “Tourism, Women, and Power in Southeast Asia”

Women and Power in Southeast Asia

by Vago Damitio

Society is a complex organism that reflects the diverse use of power by the individuals and groups within it. Sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle, power is coveted, used, exploited, and always present in all groups of human beings. This is a constant. What is not constant, however, is the place where the power lies. Power in the societies of the United States and Europe generally sits within the grasp of men. The same can be said of paternal societies such as China and Japan. This is not the case throughout the entire world. Southeast Asia has within its myriad societies, a myriad number of power structures and conceptions of power. Some of the most complex structures that envelop these power structures, are those that involve women and power in Southeast Asia.

There is no doubt that women have power in all societies, the question is how much? In the societies of Europe and the America’s, women have a history of being oppressed and disempowered. In order to have influence, women have had to work invisibly behind the scenes, or more recently, demand their rights and privileges. In many of the societies of Southeast Asia, this is not the case. In Why Women Rule the Roost: Rethinking Javanese Ideologies of Gender and Self Control, Suzanne Brennar explains one aspect why this is so:

Women’s control over their own desires serve to compensate for men’s lack of control (as the alternative representation has it), and by so doing preserve the assets that should properly be used to ensure the family’s security. It is the wife’s responsibility to do her utmost to ensure that her husband’s desires do not drain the family resources, while also doing everything in her means to increase these resources…(Brenner 1995:35)

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The Time of Rice

Time for Rice. Rice Time. The Rice for Time. Timing Rice. by Vago Damitio

It is easy to forget that time is a human construction. Not to say that things didn’t happen in a way that could be described as ‘time’ before humans were measuring it, but this is a very different thing than the way we think about time. In our world, we think of time as being measured and broken into bits. It has been said by philosophers that the past is always done, the future never arrives, and in reality, all we ever have is the now. Now is also known as the present. Some people even go so far as to say it is called the present because it is a gift. What we humans do with the gift of the present depends on where we live and what we have been taught to value. Throughout the world and particularly in parts of Southeast Asia, rice is one of the most valuable aspects of life. It too, is considered a gift. It is for this reason that many rituals, festivals, activities, and belief systems in this region are connected with the planting, transplanting, tending, and harvesting of rice.

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