Applying a Source as a Lens Essay
The portable concept in this case is the illustration of the different attitude given to women in the society, which leads to them being treated differently. In Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You Fall Down, one can see the different treatment shown to girls even at an early age.
A placenta, which the Hmong people believed to be the jacket, holds an important cultural meaning. “They believe that even after death, one’s soul must travel back retracing its life geography until it reaches its beginning, which is the placentas burial place” (Fadiman 5). In this community a girl’s placenta is buried under the parent’s bed.
However, if it was a boy it would be buried at a place with high honour, near the base of the houses central wooden pillar where a guardian made his home. In this paper, we will discuss how this treatment of girls and boys continues in their lives and how this is reflected in the article by Deborah Tannen, “There Is No Unmarked Woman.”
The same different attitude women got is explained by Tannen in the Unmarked Woman. She describes a scenario of three women who were dressed differently, because the society expected them to be dressed like that. However, the most interesting fact is a simple illustration when a woman fills in forms in which she gives stories about herself as expected by the society.
She explains her first initial to the world that will judge her, in most cases a woman can either be a Mrs., Miss, or Ms. with each being a form of labelling. While filling the form, if a woman is a Ms. the equivalent of a male Mr., it shows a woman who is liberated or is a rebellious person depending on the attitude of the observer (Tannen 1). While in the case of the male gender, a simple Mr. in the form warrants no further explanation or judgment.
However, though Tannen closely shows the concept of a woman treated differently. Even in the case of Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You Fall down, it fails to explain why after the birth of Lia the family tried and saved a little money from the welfare cheques and was able to hold a celebratory party. “Everyone was happy and had come to celebrate their good fortune; they being favoured with a healthy and beautiful daughter warrant a misfit” (Fadiman 1).
Portray of gender inequality is evident in the beginning. In Fadiman’s (1), the first paragraph explains the chores that the mother Foua did. They included sweeping the house, cleaning, cooking, and going to the river with no help whatsoever from the husband or the sons, their work being to guard and protect the family (Fadiman 3).
In addition, a Hmong woman had a list of expectations given to her by the society especially if pregnant. “The woman was to ensure that her baby was healthy by paying close attention to the food cravings and being careful to where she went to avoid the dab, which might injure her” (Fadiman 2).
Failure of this, the society would blame her for either the death of her baby or any other deformity that would arise. At a state of labour, she was expected to give birth on her own whereby the husband only assisted when he entered to give her a cup of hot water or cut the baby’s placenta. Even then, he was to avert his eyes from her. The same expectations are in this century whereby a woman has to dress in a certain way in order to be sexy they transcend from such the times of the Hmong women.
This discrimination is explained in Tannens (2) where she decided to speak about the different observations she had made concerning the female and male in the society. As one man explained, she was male bashing, since she was talking about men when she was a woman. However, a perfect example is when the author Ralph Fasolds explains such a powerful analysis of the human behaviour no particular person seems to put a label on him simply because he is a man (Tannen 5).
This concept is further portrayed even when the Hmong moved to America, because of their culture and what was expected of them they found it difficult to adapt to the new medication system. As an example, we see a woman giving birth even at the parking lot because of their norm to wait until the baby is almost born (Fadiman 10). In Tannen’s she explained how in a bid not to conform to the norm, she usually uses the name Dr. (Tannen 4).
This concept, however, varies in Fadiman (2), unlike in Tannen’s where the woman is required to take the husband’s surname and in this case the woman maintains the clan’s name as her last name. It also varies in that after birth, the father of Lia is proud to have his daughter and calls her a good fortune, therefore, the attitude shown in this stance is that of honour.
The fact that they also were able to sacrifice their welfare money in order to host a party in her name depicts a progressive culture where they are able to celebrate having a girl; this could also be a sign of honour shown towards Lia. A comparison to this concept in (Tannen 6) is when in the last paragraph she talks of a journalist wanting to question her about the published book, this shows that the male realized her potential and was ready to listen to her point of view instead of judging from far; that shows a progressed society.
In conclusion, the concept of women treated with different attitudes and expected to uphold to a certain higher standard than the male gender is clearly shown by both writers. In each stance, the woman is viewed with different standards by Tannen, she explains it as being marked (Tannen 3). While in Fadiman, it is simply seen to be a culture that is trying to evolve following their move to America. It seems to be a difficult change for them (Fadiman 6)
However, as the society evolves, there is seen to be a change in the community especially male, who are now willing to listen to the woman’s views and honour them for being born. This is an important change for the society as a whole, even the medics seem to embrace this new culture as a way of thinking, like in the case of Dr. Fife when he ‘did not cut’ as the Hmong people explained (Fadiman 8).
Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures Paperback. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2012 Print.
Tannen, Deborah. “There Is No Unmarked Woman.” The New York Times Magazine 20 Jun. 1993: 1-2. Print.
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