Friday, March 7, 2008

What Happens To The Widowers?

I have just finished bawling my eyes out from watching a movie. I currently have puffy eyes, red nose, and a slight migraine. Yes, today we shall be moving from NollyWood to Bolly Wood. This movie is called Water, written and directed by Deepa Mehta (I am her number one fan). Deepa Mehta is a staunch womanist who uses her movies to remove the covers of pretentiousness and conformance that lies behind the acceptance of certain cultural behaviors as normative. She uses her movies to tell Women's stories and she does it in such a powerful way. Someone, just accused me of intentionally picking movies like this so I can shake my fist at my screen. Na una sabi.!! (lol!)

This movie tells the story of Chiuya, who becomes a widow at eight and has to leave her family to go and live with the other untouchables in the outskirt of the city near the waters. (As a side note: Chiuya is Hindi for the word mouse and that name is definitely a right fit for her because she is as curious as the mouse with her constant questioning of traditions.) The movie is about her adjustment period and how she becomes entwined within the threads of daily living within the commune and how she gets to see the inner workings of religion and women within society. In the process, she makes friends with a young woman, and gets herself embroiled in her love story. This young woman eventually commits suicide because her lover's family were unwilling to accept the impending marriage of their son to an untouchable. This movie has so many themes, it discusses, the acceptance of self denial of women, women being vessels of traditionalism, the cross road of conscience and religion, and the implications of economic dependence on women and most especially religion.

In this movie, we see the cross roads of religion and money - as we see young widows being prostituted to wealthy men in the city and yet these widows are denied their inalienable right to life, liberty and most importantly LOVE. Chiuya, is eventually raped and one of her friend who finds out about the rape smuggles her out of the commune. One of the thoughts that struck me is that often times women are the vessels in which such traditionalism and bondage continues to grow. In this movie, the people who prostitute Chiuya are women, the staunch advocates for the continuance of such systems are women. Since, men are definitely enjoying (free sex), why should they complain?

After crying, it got me thinking about the widows in Nigeria and the rest of Africa, who are living the same story as Chiuya in which their voice is stripped, their rights are thrown away, and they are left to the caprices of in laws who can decide what they want to do or not do with them. In many cases, we hear stories of young widows being thrown out of her husband's house because she has no protection in form of a will. In the rural areas, many of these women, have no means of providing for their families, since some have no skill and they find themselves selling their bodies for money. I am left wondering who is there to tell their stories and fight for them.

I leave you with these questions - what happens to the widower? Why isn't he forced to live in a commune? Why isn't he treated as an untouchable? Why can he continue on with his life as though nothing substantial really happened? How do we go about fighting for the rights of these widows? Why are women often the vessels of the continuance of such societal bondage in Africa (Nigeria numero uno) and India? Could the continuance of this farce in certain countries be tied to the economic
situation in these countries? There was a statement made by one of the characters in the movie and I quote, " often times, religion is all about money"
PS: Ignore typos - I feel really sleepy now.
Have Your Say!

35 comments:

Jaybabe said...

Ehee Pamela! Why is it that you think what i'm thinkin? I was gonna talk about moving from Bolly to Nolly wood movies now! Dammmn! This gal!

Well i havent red the post as yet, was just paging my eyes up and down and some how i got the idea. I've started collecting Nollywoood movies too. Krishnar Kapoor has been my biggest fan ever since i was in primary school. I always waited for Eastern Mosaic every sunday.

Lemme go read the post now.

How are you galfrend?

pamela said...

lol..doing great now. That movie was so depressing...

:-(

Jaybabe said...

Oooops! Wanted to say From Nolly to Bolly wood.

Good to know you doing gr8.

I donno if we shud blame everything on culture. But somebody said its denamic. Why can't we change now! Why cant that kinda thing change in India? Coz i feel something like that still happens, especially in rural areas, where their whole lives depends on what their great- grand fathers led their lives.

In Africa, in my country, and maybe yours, a woman is made to wear black, for one year if not two, but if a man loses his wife, nothing is done, and when he re-marries or is seen with a woman within a small time, nothing is said. Can you imagine that, he can even be advised to look for a woman again? But if its a woman!...heeeeee...all hell brakes loose! God! Why? Why does a man have to be favoured in everything that is not right? When he comes home late, i'm not supposed to ask anything. When he goes out to impregnant another woman, i'm supposed to accept that baby into my own home? When he coughs i have to answer! Oh! No!

I'm telling you too, every movie that i watch, from Bollywood, i do cry too. Their movies are touching, educating, captivating and everything put in one.

Nice post girlfriend!.

Afrobabe said...

Hmmm...the movie sounds like an eye opener...as you said the problem in this issues is that it is usually caused by the ppl who know first hand what this women are going through...It is not only the problem of the 3rd world countries..

I saw an american movie where female inmates were taken out at night to prostitute, this was done by the female wardens and if u refused u were starved and maltreated till you gave in...this was a true life movie..It took the courage of one woman for it to end.

Nyemoni said...

aww....how sad this all really is...but it is the plight of widows in 3rd world countries really...more shameful is the fact that women perpertrate these crimesagainst other women...Shocking really...It sounds like an interesting movie but I wouldn't like to watch it for fear of feeling depressed....what do we really do to alleviate this?

pamela said...

Jay babe: really, you have to say something when he coughs. LOL!! I am teasing. I used to blame these things on men until I started taking a closer look and I noticed that those who encourage the continuance and growth of these systems are often times women. Why? Because some of these women are gaining some form of power from it. That is an arena which either age/seniority or placement within the family has given them some form of control and they intend to exercise this control.



Afrobabe: Abeg, do you remember the name of that movie. I need another movie that will make me shake my fist at my screen.



Moni: I really don't know - that is the reason I am asking these questions.

Allied said...

I saw the movie and i also cried my eyes out!!
Women are the culpit and as well as vitims.. especially in India

pamela said...

allied: Even in Naija too. Seriously, when you see Nollywood showing overbearing mother in laws, it is not only show - those actions are very true.

Men - accept such behavior because in their thinking it is very normal. Tell me, who doesn't like being taken care of? Tell me who doesn't like being put up on a pedestal but the issues are if things are going to change in Africa or any part of the developing world, it starts from women saying -" enough, what the..., this isn't normal!!" Or if that is too much, women should begin questioning behaviors that are accepted so that arena can be opened up and we can start a conversation going....

A conversation often leads to action or often times change...

nneoma said...

Omigod! I just watched Water last weekend...it was quite random and its not your typical Bollywood film. Ok, I will go back and read your post now and make more relevant comments....

Jinta said...

erm, sorry, must confess i find it difficult enough to watch nollywood, talk less of bollywood, but to answer your question, widows and widowers are separated by their sexes (not condoning the culture of untouchables o)

pamela said...

huh jinta........

what do you mean seperated by their sexes??

Anonymous said...

what happens to the widower? Why isn't he forced to live in a commune? Why isn't he treated as an untouchable? Why can he continue on with his life as though nothing substantial really happened?

----------------------------

In most parts of Africa, men are the breadwinners and that means they are self-sufficient. So he has no reason for not continuing with his life. The underlying problem with African women revolves around education empowerment which, it turn, would enable them to understand their rights, use their academic skills to fend for themselves and become self sufficient. When a person is self sufficient, nobody can dictate how they should use their resources. This dictation and victimization emanates from women's inability to sustain themselves after their partners' deaths. I personally don't think punishing men would provide any viable solution, but rather an approach that seek to empower women through education and skills training has long term benefits.

About touchables/untouchables.... that's ancient tradition which should be discarded. I don't think such tradition should still be around.

Issa

pamela said...

issa: I never mentioned punishing men in the article. LOL!! But now you bring it up.....

Yes, Education and empowerment is key BUT that does not erase certain issues that I raised: a) women propagating such rubbish.

:P

:D

lol

ttyl

pamela said...

I will like to add that beyond empowerment via education - men should protect their family legally.


We have very educated couples in major cities around Africa who do not have a will and without a will, you leave the door open for 'trespassers' to come in and do all kinds of nonsense...

La Reine said...

It surely has to do with the 'man's world' idealism. I'm not saying there should be bra-burning feminist rallies, its just that some deep-seated beliefs would have to change, and I'm not sure how that'd happen really. Especially in mightyly traditional places.

Afronuts said...

WOw...thats a powerful movie. About time Nollywood made sense with movies with similar themes

pamela said...

la reine: Me I no wan burn my bra for any issue but I will like to add that I agree with you - it is a man's world but often times, the person who ensures that certain systems continue are women. I know that is a hard truth to swallow for many women but what it is, is what it is. Think about it? When it comes to certain traditional behaviors who insists that you follow it highly likely it is the women in your life.

afronut: We have a similar movie - widow. Personally, as I said in a previous post - I will like to see women taking control of certain situations. Simple, say you cannot dominate me or take over my space.

Jinta said...

i plead the 5th, pammy

Simi Speaks said...

i have heard so much about this movie. u have given me the motivation i needed. where can i rent the movie?

cant answer ur questions, tho. it is what it is.

anonymous gal said...

a bollywood fan! let me tell u a secrt the only time u see me at a cinema is if an indian movie is showin.

EXSENO said...

Oh yes, I saw the trailer of this movie several months ago, but I didn't now that the young woman eventually committed suicide. How sad, now I don't think I want to see it.

guerreiranigeriana said...

i would say i will check out this film...but since you cried, i am certain i will too...and i try to stay away from films that i know will elicit such strong emotions from me...

...as for the issues you brought up...i'm tired o...i'll hit you back...

Rayo said...

I've actually been meaning to watch that film...you just reminded me about it.

I'll rent it tonight and come back to comment on it.

nneoma said...

i forgot to respond to the issues at hand....

I think the greater issue at hand is this notion of who a woman belongs to. It seems as if in this movie, ownership is passed from the parents of the girl to the husband. Once the owner dies, there is no one to take up ownership of the woman afterwards...and that is what creates the pathetic situation that widows find themselves in.

The concept of being "owned" is pervasive, at least in Igbo culture, the culture that I am familiar with. I have heard many times that an Igbo girl belongs to the father initially and then once married, she then belongs to the husband. In regards to personal experience, I have had uncles "advise" my father not to make extra efforts in regards to my educational and career goals because one day I will get married and belong to the husbands family and all that effort will be wasted. Fortunately, my father thinks otherwise, but my uncles are not alone in this position.

Who does a woman belong to? Why can't a man equally belong to someone? I think once we get over the fact that a woman is defined not by her marital status, we can then address the ills of female widowhood.

Interesting topic....though

Ms. Catwalq said...

I have seen the movie and you should go research on all the controversy surrounding its release. I am am a die-hard Mehta fan.

What happens to widowers?: Nothing.

princesa said...

Seen the movie and liked it.

I think it was part of some old indian culture that has since been eradicated. Correct me if am wrong.

Did u see how sexy John Abraham looked? Okay i am missing the point here,lol!

pamela said...

Jinta: Plead the 27th if you want to.


Simi: You can rent the movie from anywhere.

anonymous gal: lol!! But this isn't a typical bollywood movie

Honeywell said...

the movie sounds really good... the prob is, i honestly cannot stand to watch a movie where a woman gets raped.... but anyway, you raise some very good questions. why aren't men the sufferers of all these social ostracisms? the fighting for the rights of widows will start from the older women. Most of the time, it is the mother in law of the widow that throws her out. i wonder why they do that, after all, are they not fellow women? Men do not care either way, so the correction has to come from the older women first.

pamela said...

exseno: You have to see it. It is really good.

guerria: how you doing??


rayo: I want to know what you think.

pamela said...

nneoma: thank you. Pammy belongs to Pammy. end of story.... lol.


ms catwalq: ms mehta is always embroiled in some controversy concerning Indian Culture - she is simply great..... she says it as it is ....I admire her too.


Princess: that culture is very much alive and kicking. I don't think they burn women up, at least I hope not...but widows are still second class citizens in India and the rest of the developing world (Nigeria inclusive).


honeywell: But these Older women will not correct anything because they enjoying priviledge and power...

Uzezi said...

have not seen that movie oh!

but, really it's a pity that a widow is much more helpless than a widower. blame it on families who leave the widow and her kids out. blame it on our judiciary system also. in the nearest future, court ruling will be taken seriuosly where a will wasn't written.

pamela said...

uzezi...I am waiting for that to happen. But, I doubt it. What will be the basis of the court ruling if there is no formal documentation stating the wishes of the dead person.

Men just need to step up to the plate and do the right thing.

guerreiranigeriana said...

back...took a while...this one required some deep thought and my mind has been all over the place...i think nneoma hit on some salient points...exploring it some more, women have mostly been excluded from working (much more in the past) and thus were relegated to household roles which did not allow them to be self-sufficient, economically...thus, when her husband/provider dies, she is now a burden...when a man's wife dies, he is still a provider and can easily seek another woman to 'provide' for...the issue of ownership and treating women as property...it's easier for a cattle raiser to find new cattle and move on with his life, if his first stock of cattle died than it is for the cattle to find a new owner to house, clothe, feed, and maintain them...

...i find it interesting that women continue to represent so many things which give men the 'license' to act in 'our' best interest to protect the integrity of the nation/community/family...its how you get honor killings or other nonsense...don't know how or when women were made to represent these things...dunno how we change it...ok, i am lazy to think about it now...but this was a thought-provoking piece...i enjoyed o!!!...and yes o, religion is about the money o, plain and simple!!!!...lol...

pamela said...

true talk...

As I said, "Pammy BELONGS to Pammy"

LOL!!

Oluwatoyin Ajao-Dawodu said...

Great topic. Trust me, this question has being plaguing my mind for a long time.

Most often women are to go through harmful traditional practices after losing thier husbands while same is not expected from the widowers.

Apart from some families I heard from that woudl demand the widower perform some cleasing rite or drink the deceased bathing water.

My dear all these stuff are backward. We need to wake up.

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