There’s something to be said about a couple walking into a restaurant, and the waiter immediately greeting, and standing by the man and asking for his order. It sounds ridiculous to be picking apart such a seemingly inconsequential scenario, but honestly think about the last time you walked into a restaurant with someone of the opposite sex. If you were the male, did the waiter approach you first, and ask you for the order, for that matter did the waiter looked to you for a confirmation once the female ordered. How about at the end of the meal? Did the waiter give you the bill, did the leave it in the middle, or did they give it to your female companion?
Here in the US we don’t like to say that we are a patriarchal society, no we like to identify with everything other than gender. We say, we are a free society, a melting pot, a place of opportunity. And we may very well may not be a patriarch, but if you compare America to a matriarchal society…well we certainly aren’t that either. Maybe we’re in between, and it sounds pretty good, but I don’t think we are seeing that we lean more towards the patriarchal side than the matriarchal.
In all the places I’ve been to I have never been treated or as respected as when I was in Sri Lanka. Growing up in the USA, and traveling to various countries with my family I never questioned why a waiter did not acknowledge my mother the way they acknowledged my father, mainly because they assumed he was the one with the money, I suppose. But there are many families where the woman holds the money, for that matter there are families where there is only a woman to lead the family, however they aren’t respected as such.
Many would say I’m being nit picky but I guess I had my first taste of social respect from someone and I loved it. Sri Lanka is a total matriarchal society. It doesn’t matter who makes the money, the man, the woman, or the child. The woman is acknowledged just as much as the man. When we would walk into a restaurant my mother was greeted first, she was the one they asked for the order, and she was the one they brought the check to. Think about it for a second, process it.
My mother and I found it incredible, that for once her opinion, her standing mattered when next to my father. We actually found it funny that the waiter didn’t even listen to my father for his order unless it came from my mother. Now we probably shouldn’t have laughed, but it was treatment that the two of us had grown accustomed to anywhere we had gone before. It was only in this beautiful island where the roles had been switched, where we were no longer inferior, however miniscule it seemed, but superior. And the term that was used to address us? “Madam”. Everything that was asked began with “Madam.”
“Madam, what would you like?”
“Isn’t this nice Madam?”
“Madam, is this okay?”
“How is everything Madam?”
Now this restaurant scenario only hints at the way society truly regards male and females. The United States still hasn’t a woman president. Sure there are female governors, senators, and representatives, but President? Sri Lanka was the first country to have a female President. Yeah, if anybody was wondering where the ball got rolling for women politicians, it wasn’t Indra Gandhi, female Prime Minister of India. No, Sirivamo Bandaranaike was elected President of Sri Lanka in 1960…It’s been over 55 years since she was elected and our country has still struggled and failed to elect a female president.
I’m not going into this year’s election because that’s beast on its own, but I’ll ask you all this, what if more women ran for Presidency? Would our votes differ? These past few years we had Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina running on opposite ends, but what if there were more? Think on it.
Now returning back to my father’s homeland, one thing I found really impressive is that this is one of the very few countries where I saw women not being harassed by strangers, family members, and friends about not getting married. There are many female members of my family that have not gotten married and are perfectly happy and I find that admirable because almost everywhere else in the world women are pitied, argued with, and condemned for not getting married. Why? Because it is assumed and taught that men will provide financial, physical, and emotional security…but women can provide that for themselves as well. It’s her decision whether she wants to seek those goals with someone else or not. As a young woman I do want to grow up and get married but I’ve been reminded on more than one occasion that I can be intense and a little intimidating but honestly…I want to be able to provide myself with that financial, physical, and emotional security with or without a man. It would be nice to have a meaningful and strong connection with someone but I don’t want my future to be pitied or condemned if I were not to get married.
Hell, a woman who is raising her own kids on her own is pitied or condemned by strangers on the streets in our own country. Some see her as in need of help in supporting her family, but she could be just as capable of a man as providing for her family. Would there be more stability with someone else helping her out, maybe, maybe not.
If we as America don’t want to label our country as a Patriarch or a Matriarch then we need to find a balance between the two. We can’t lean part way towards one end and say that’s not what we are. We need to start accepting that men and women both can have money, intellects, and equal standing in class and society. We may be a melting pot of cultures, a place of opportunities, and a place of freedom but if we are to be judged as a Patriarch, Matriarch, or neutral…? We would most definitely be classified as a social Patriarch.
You don’t always see a problem until you’ve seen something opposite to it. I didn’t completely grasp how deeply ingrained this inequality of male and female standing in America until I saw the opposite end of the spectrum in Sri Lanka. If anything Sri Lanka is modeled quite nicely off of the beautiful Elephants who inhabit the island. Only Females are in a herd of elephants, and the grandmother is the one who leads them. Of course there are baby boy elephants but after a certain age they go off on their own. No other animal really does this with their groups. Sri Lanka is the elephants of human societies.