Wednesday, January 28, 2009

"Our Culture" = Patriarchy? "התרבות שלנו"

While in New York this summer I was lucky enough to see the Broadway musical “In The Heights”, the plot of which involves an African-American who falls in love with a Hispanic. The latter’s family is patriarchal in the tradition of Hispanic families. Her father tells her lover angrily, “You do not understand our culture!”

Now, what does he mean by “our culture”? Our food? Our music? What’s to understand or not understand? Therefore, he can be referring to only one thing, i.e., “our culture” is code for “patriarchy”. Unfortunately, patriarchy typifies non-Western cultures, so that us Westerners are often accused of not understanding “X culture”, when what’s really going down is that Westerners are not patriarchal, which yes, we equate with progress.

It made me wonder what there is to admire in a culture wherein (as in “In The Heights”) young women are given approval for dressing sexily / provacatively / suggestively and for wearing shoes that might as well be stilts for how vulnerable these shoes make them. Where’s the female empowerment there? What’s admirable about this picture? Pray to a different God than I do? No problem. Eat monkey brains or other foods I find repulsive? I’m cool. Listen to atonal music? Go wild. But I find it difficult if not impossible to be relativist about patriarchy. Just sayin’.

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