This article is written by our guest writer, Ho Chi Sam.
The world is so much easily understood if we saw and believed in everything in binary opposites, and ideally, both ends/poles function in tandem, in contrast, interdependently, symbiotically, and eventually contribute to a whole, a stable system, a status quo.
Where does the woman stand in the world of binary opposites? For millennia, literature, rhetoric and discourses have by default refer to ‘humanity’ as ‘man’, ‘humankind’ as ‘mankind’, most random persons as ‘he’ (Freudian slip any one?). This whole, stable system and status quo privileges a dominant kind ‘ the male-oriented. It is gendered and sexed accordingly to toe the line of the androcentric, patriarchal and heterosexist establishment.
What I find puzzling is that women are often described in terms of their functions. A woman is a mother, a wife, a daughter, a child-bearer, a housewife, a slave, an asset, a tradable commodity. These identities are roles, spokes in the wheel of a dominant worldview, almost implying that women are functional to men.
The main problem here is: how do we actually define a woman? Is the woman an onion, with many layers of (male) meanings piled and ascribed upon her? Is the woman a jigsaw puzzle, with each piece equally as meaningful (to the man) put together (by the man)? Is the woman a paint mix of all the colours, eventually acquiring a shade of black, leaving no clue as to colours of which she was comprised?
I am a sucker for structure. Defining a woman is problematic. It’s like using a stick to draw a figure in a trough of sand. The stick and trough are already tools and apparatuses of dominant male ideology. Even the sand in the trough is limited in quantity because it is provided for you by the very ideology you are striving to confront. You could resist by drawing a different picture, but you are still limited by the materials bestowed upon you.