They Said I Couldn’t Come

They said I couldn’t come. The fact that they said I couldn’t come made me want to come that much more. They had taken a choice that was mine to make and made it for me. They had taken away my freedom.

You know that thing where someone tells you that you can’t do something, so then you want to do it even more? That feeling in the pit of your stomach, when your freedom of choice is taken from you. On the surface, the West is described as a country where one has freedom of choice, but how deep do those roots run? By law, women have the right to equality, to make the same choices as men, do the same jobs, experience the same experiences, travel to the same countries, but once we are in those countries, once we are in those “less developed” countries, or countries where perceptions of equality differ, where traditions fluctuate and where perceptions of danger differ, do those Western notions of equality still apply? Do they still hold strong? The so-called equality that a Western man and woman purportedly share, let’s take that and transport it to Thailand, does the equilibrium hold fast under the Southeast Asian spotlight?

The taste of your independence being leeched is a strange feeling, and one that can motivate people to do strange things. I know people people who will stay in relationships just because everyone said that it was doomed; teenagers who will dabble in alcohol and drugs precisely because their parents forbade it; children who will climb trees because the sign prohibits it…the list goes on.

When is the defiance an inspired spark, the beginnings of individuality and inner strength, something that should not be squashed; and when is it something that needs to be tamed and discouraged?

Within love, there is often a storage dichotomy. You love me and so you want to protect me. You protect and therefore you suffocate. The saying ‘if you love something, set it free’ may be a cliche, but it is also true. Protecting your loved ones from things that you deem to be unworthy or bad is disrespectful, dishonest and to be frank, egotistical. Whilst we all want to shade the ones we love from the damaging rays of impurity and danger, cotton wool and bubble wrap is uncomfortable, sweaty and slowly squeezes the life out of you.

If you love someone then usually it is normal for you to have faith in them and their decisions, their morals and their choices. Therefore, to make a choice for anyone but yourself (or perhaps your children) is to raise your beliefs above theirs and rob them of that freedom, that right.

As an (almost) grown woman, I feel I understand at least some of the complex nuances of relationships. There is of course the strong, brooding alpha male type who both protects and rescues the delicate, weak and endangered beauty, but to be honest, that is beyond boring. Disney does it beautifully, let’s leave the imbalanced, gendered roles to them hey? When men make a decision on my behalf for my ‘safety’, yet simultaneously endanger other women, is that not rather contradictory?

At a family gathering, it was decided we would go to Pattaya after the evening’s dinner. As my youngest brother was only recently 18, it would be the first time going out to a nightclub with my uncle and two cousins. As someone who feels very strongly about gender rights and equality, I questioned whether I would be able to refrain from judgement in Pattaya and keep my statistics and opinions under wraps if I were to join my family troupe on their outing. Whilst I mulled this over and began to weigh the pros and cons in order to make an informed decision, I was informed that in fact, it was not my decision to make.

“Pattaya is not a place for women.

“Yes, Pattaya is not suitable for women. It is no place for a woman to be.”

“Yes, you are beautiful and if you came, a man would approach you and then we would have to step in as your male family members which would be dangerous and uncomfortable” etc.

Despite being the only one to have lived in Thailand for a considerable amount of time, being able to speak Thai, being a mauy thai fighter, but most importantly living with the ‘danger’ of foreign men on a daily basis, all of this was forgotten, or perhaps not even known by my family members. In trying to honour me, I felt dishonoured.

I think, however, that the biggest issue here is that these respectable men, in this case, my family members, were either blinded of their own accord, or due to ignorance, and therefore could forget that Pattaya is nothing but women. How is it that Pattaya is unsuitable for some women, yet suitable for others? Let us not forget that whilst it may be known as a place for men, it is built upon the backs of women. Does that mean that female Western family members are entitled to more respect and safety than the Thai women who work and live amongst Pattaya’s infamous ‘Walking Street’? Surely a mess of bars, clubs, massage parlours, mafia and brothels is not an ideal living situation for anyone. This black hole of western men and Thai workers would be nothing without an ever growing influx of women. It is sad that men with mothers, children, wives and daughters will simultaneously argue that Pattaya is unsuitable for those females that they respect and love, yet go on ‘boys nights out’ where they support an industry which undermines Thai and transgender women, and therefore negatively affects women collectively.

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