Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pupil of My Eye

view form my balcony

view from my classroom

Today we had a great lesson on the community structure in the villages and the roles the different groups serve. There was one group that really peeked my interest and that was the women’s group. This is composed of all girls that have finished their schooling and are hence considered women. The reason I was so interested by this group goes back to the gender roles I discussed earlier. Women studies was one emphasizes in college and I have always been really interested in women’s roles in different societies. Here in Samoa they describe women as the pupil of their brother’s eye. You must also know that most men and women refer to each other as brother and sister, and have a lot of the same feelings toward the opposite sex in their village. That is of course if they are not pursuing them romantically. The pupil of your brother’s eye seems like kind of a odd way to describe the women but once it is further explained and elaborated on, it is kind of beautiful. Samoa culture seems to be defined more by family relationships then by what I would consider romantic ones. People are labeled, brother, sister, mother, father, and then on to the extended family. Hence the roles of women are not as wife or lover, but as mother and sister. They say that it is the role of the men to protect and provide for the women. This even includes cooking, a role that is considered very feminine in American culture. In a way they are treated like queens, always sheltered, protected, and provided for. But unlike queens who have only symbolic power, women, and especially women’s groups here have real power. It isn’t labeled or recognized as much as male authority and power, but it is a common expression that if you want something done you don’t go to the village council you go to the women’s council. The Samoan expression states that the father is the head of the family but the women is the neck, controlling the movement. In some ways I rebel against this idea, as I like to think of myself as a budding feminist and want to be treated as an equal. In other ways I do believe women should be cherished and maybe even at times protected. This Samoan way of life both appeals to my idealization of women, and the chivalrous expectations of men I have adopted after seven years in the South. I want to yell “heck yeah you should cherish you sister”, because women are badass! Then I hear the voice of feminist past and proclaim, “No I am not to be sheltered, not to be protected. I am a force to be reckoned with.” I have definitely come to accept the gender roles a lot more since I first arrived, although I still struggle with the limitations that the roles put on women. The great part is that there is a blooming call for equality here in Samoa. It is just a small movement and there is a lot of progress to be made, but it is very cool that for the first time in Samoan history women can be chiefs. Though I hope that even with equality Samoans will always keep their sisters in the pupil of their eye.

Random thoughts:
-I am missing silence a lot, it seems with twenty of us living in hall way together you don’t have much alone time. I have found some moments to just sit and zen out for a while an it is really helping.
-We have been together for a three weeks now and we are under a lot of stress, I am predicting possible drama on the horizon…. Lets wait and see who snaps first! Haha
- Finding it very hard to keep up with friends back home and feeling bad that I cant be there for them like I should but also realizing that my relationships are going to change and evolve and that is ok.
- Really nervous about going to the village on Saturday and possible not having internet for three months…. Definitely adds to the intimidation of going to the villages
- really excited to meet my host family, kind of sad we will all be breaking up into groups and I feel like I will miss the other volunteers not in my village. 

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