Thursday, 7 May 2009

Another Compromise on Individuality

Another friend and colleague is leaving Hong Kong soon, simply because her husband's employer is relocating him to another country. She has no choice other than following him to wherever he goes.

When told about this earlier today, I felt very sad. I felt sad because a very good friend and colleague will be leaving. I felt sad also because she is forced to give up her life and career for the sake of her husband.

She is not the first friend of mine who has to make this extremely difficult decision, choosing to be a dignified and respected individual with her own thoughts, and a wife fettered by the obstinate social norm.

Perhaps I am too obsessed with my weird thoughts, but I do find it incomprehensible for me why women, rather than men, who are often put into such a difficult position and forced to make such an unreasonable decision for anything but their own good. Even more intriguing is the fact that most people, men and women, do expect women to subordinate themselves to their significant other. Or they should be prepared to give up their marriage and family as a punishment for violating their expectant role.

Why men are seldom put to a test like this? Why is it always the wife who has to give up her career, family and friends to follow her husband to start an adventure on foreign land? Why there are so few cases when the husband makes the decision to follow his wife wherever she goes? Does it mean men's existence is justified by nothing but their work? Is subordination an unbreakable curse imposed on women?

It also reminds me of the cover headline of a gossipy magazine I saw at the news stall the other day. A young local starlet is accused of causing the suicide of a middle-aged woman married to a rich man.

I can't tell you how much I hate the headline. Of course I don't know the facts, and I don't give a damn, but why blame the girl rather than the rich man who has every reason, both economic and physical, to have an affair? If the editor is bold enough to give a verdict notwithstanding the absence of evidence, why can't he/she be more sympathetic to the girl? Why jump to the conclusion?

When most of us in Hong Kong take pride in the rising influence of women on various fronts, especially when compared to the rest of the world, there seems little reason for us to be complacent. We are still far from shirking the influence of stereotypes to uphold the respect for individuality.

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