Using the Example of an Asian Society, Critically Examine the Changing Role of Women in Pre-Colonial and Colonial Times in Order to Make Your Judgment.

Topics: Philippines, Filipino people, Colonialism Pages: 10 (3616 words) Published: February 1, 2011
8) For centuries, women have been missing from the manuscripts of historical tomes. When Southeast Asian women are mentioned, they are seen as having freedoms today because of the colonial interlude. Do you think this is true? Using the example of an Asian society, critically examine the changing role of women in pre-colonial and colonial times in order to make your judgment.

The assertion is inaccurate in that for some Asian societies, instead of empowerment, colonialism had in fact relegated women’s status in their environment. At the same time, it is unfair to assume that colonialism had no contribution to the development of women’s status given that different situational conditions would have garnered distinctive colonial policies, directing women’s roles in various courses. To illustrate this dilemma of colonial rule, we can probe into the Philippines’ history, whereby women underwent three broad stages of contradictory experience, pre-colonial and during the different occupations by the Spaniards and the American, in the 16th century and after 1898 respectively. We can not only dispute that the Filipino women enjoyed higher degree of equality to a certain extent pre-colonialism, they were also exposed to contrasting treatments during the two occupations. This dynamic history will eventually contribute to the rise of feminism in their country. The general traditional impression of women in Southeast Asia is that of a submissive and weak figure, confined to a domestic sphere (King, 2008) . This view is based on the assumption that the region is homogeneous, and lack substantiation of how different culture imposes different opportunities and constraints on female citizens. (Optional examples that of this proposition, where women was ill-treated) The idea of female subordination in some parts of Southeast Asia was only propagated due to imported philosophies that stressed patriarchy. Prior to that, women were able to outperform their counterparts in their own domains (Andaya., 2008) . In fact, the critical roles of women in the marketplace and the realm of religion prevailed in many traditional societies, in particularly in the Philippines. Acknowledging the fact that these domains might occupy relatively lower value in their society, it is important to consider these power statuses when judging the societal participation of women in history.

Prior to Spain’s occupation, indigenous women shared an egalitarian relationship with their male counterparts in the Philippines. They played a significant role especially in the spiritual domain where they could achieve status of a babaylan, a high priestess. According to Wall (1998): [Indigenous women] received equal inheritance, were given training on par with men, enjoyed the same rights as in the right to divorce, had the same succession rights as men for political leadership, were involved in managing not just the domestic economy but also the agricultural domain… And, it was fertility, not virginity, that was valued in that society. (para. 11). A woman could become chief of the barangay, perform the role of babaylan (priestess), hold property, and even name her own children (Blair & Robertson 1903-9:155-57). Women enjoyed substantial equality with their menfolk. They had the right to own property. They could obtain divorce and re-marry. In case of separation, they were entitled to a share of conjugal earnings; and to a share of the children. •Social restrictions were more tightly based on marital status: Prior to marriage, of course, they were under tutelage of a sort. They could not own property in their own right. They could not leave the household residence and make their home elsewhere. But once married, they were virtually emancipated, to the extent that they could trade with their own money and maintain an independent income from their business. (Fernandez 1976:19) Western laws diminished women's standing by substituting West-ern institutions for the...
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