21 September 2005

All cultures have lesbians

I saw a great film last night at the AFF called Saving Face. It was a comedy about a Chinese American lesbian who has been hiding her life from her family and community and it all starts to unravel when her widowed mother shows up on her doorstep, pregnant, having been kicked out of her father's house.

Hijinks ensue. Seriously, if you don't mind some hot girl-on-girl action, check it out. It's pretty funny, and the cast is really well chosen for their roles. Vivian makes me want to punch her, but the rest are all really engaging.

My point: There's a scene when the pregnant mother is being dressed down by her father. He goes on about what a disgrace she is, how her honour is ruined and how she has shamed the family. This is when I had my little epiphany. Obvious to many, but sometimes you need to put things in front of people to make them click.

Often people will point to certain religions as examples of oppresive behaviours toward women. Two that come to mind are extreme right-wing Christian groups and extreme Muslim groups. The former in Western society as advocates of the anti-abortion and anti-birth control movements, the latter in the Middle East as having regimes that keep women out of the workforce, and as the property of men (note: this is a basically another bastardization of the Koran/Qu'ran -- it doesn't say to keep your women locked up at home and you have to let people rape her if you do something wrong).

But, you know what? It's really everywhere. And it's not just based in religion. Even though Andrew and I even had a debate (which I won) about how Christianity (early Roman Catholic church) corrupted women's traditional role in (Western) society in favour of giving all the status and power to men. This is another debate for another time.

What struck me last night is that what happened to this pregnant mother is exactly what happened to the character Missy on Jack & Bobby. She was a minister's daughter. I think the presumption was supposed to be that he was evangelical, because they're the acceptable punching bag these days. Missy was not a "good little Christian"; she ahd sex. Then, she got pregnant. She originally blamed it on Jack because she knew he'd do the right thing (i.e., marry her). When the truth came out, "The Rev" kicked her out until she was absolved of her sin. Apparently, this means two things: a) get married; b) get rid of it. So, Missy got an abortion. (Much easier then labour and adoption, plus, c'mon, we're on a schedule people! We have to solve this before the season ends!)

The mother from Saving Face was offered similar choices. "Don't come back without a husband!" Her daughter and others ask her if she's going to keep it. The whole community knows the quandary: She's a whore if she keeps it, she's immoral if she gets rid of it, and without a husband, she's a dishonour to herself and her family.

Did I mention that this is a comedy? It really is. I swear!

My epiphany? Oh, yeah! Other cultures do this too. And it's not based in religious dogma.

It is still based in a women-as-chattel mentality that relegates us to "weaker sex" status, but living in a culture where all the arguments for limits to personal freedom and civil rights seem to be based in religious doctrine, I guess it's easy to forget that it's not the only reason for the battle.

I know a little about how the aforementioned extremist Muslim culture grew to push women down so much; about how women used to be prized as opposed a burden and a shame. I don't know how it evolved in Chinese culture (apart from scattered references in Mulan) or how prevalent it is contemporarily. I also don't know how it affects social debate (of which there is very little in a "Communist" dictatorship, I understand).

All I know is that, in the same way that Fire opened my eyes to homosexual struggles in India (in a much more tragic story), Saving Face reminded me that not all morals or values are institutionalized in religion.

Not bad for a comedy about some hot lesbian lovin'.

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