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What We Learned About Sexism In Asia

Sexism in Asia - A Beach In Sanur

My current trip to South East Asia is a new adventure in many ways for me. It’s the first time I’ve really got out of my comfort zone and travelled in areas of Asia that aren’t Indonesia, where I spent four years as an expat. It’s the first time I’ve taken the plunge to do a proper extended trip encompassing many countries, instead of just focussing on one. But more relevant than that (for this article anyway) is that this trip is the first time I’ve travelled as a couple with my boyfriend Dean.
I’m not going to lie, there’s been some adjustment to this new situation, but some comedy as well. And the biggest cause for laughter (and perhaps concern) in our new travel arrangement is the blatant sexism I’ve come across now that I’m travelling with a big, strong man to look after me.

Cue the hilarity.

The Sexism Rules

(as encountered by yours truly, a weak and useless member of the female gender)

  • If walking together as a couple, harassment and business seeking of assembled tuk-tuk drivers and touts will only be directed at the man. A chorus of “You want tuk-tuk sir” or “Looking for accommodation sir” fills the air. Obviously, the woman makes no decisions regarding aforementioned tuk-tuk hire or accommodation. The man has it under control. (Secretly I love this one. Let him deal with the damn tuk-tuks).
  • In the same strand when a couple is having a conversation with a single person (i.e. bartering for a tuk-tuk) all responses, answers and other statements will be directed at the men, regardless of whether he asked the question or indeed said anything at all. Even if the woman persists in bartering a price, or has the audacity to try and participate in the conversation, answers will be more forcefully directed at the man along with a look that basically says: “Get your woman under control.
  • When sitting in a cafe having ordered a cup of tea (for the English man) and a cup of coffee (for the Australian woman) it is ALWAYS the man who receives the coffee and the woman the tea. This is regardless of the fact that the server may indeed be the same person who took the respective beverage orders. When the beverages are swapped across the table, looks or surprise and even condescension are directed at the man. Obviously he doesn’t have his woman under control for her to be wantonly partaking in the wild world of caffeinated beverages.
  • As the time comes to pay the bill at the restaurant, the bill folder will always be given to the man. No matter that the woman had her hand out requesting it, and her wallet out ready to pay while the man displayed no inclination to pay the bill (it being the woman’s turn to shout). When the man immediately hands over the bill fold to the woman, who then hands it onto the server with the money for dinner, the look is one of surprise. Of course the change still comes handed to the man. A woman should not be stressed with the difficult mental challenges of money.

Of course that’s just the beginning. Everyday we come across another funny situation like those listed above. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying anything critical to the people’s of South East Asia in terms of sexism. This is just a little comedy in cultural adaptation as witnessed by one traveller amidst the crowd.

So, ladies and gentlemen. What’s your experience with sexism in Asia?

This post originally appeared on BarefootBeachBlonde.com, the pre-evolved version of Maps And Mandalas. I’ve republished it here with its original date because I love it that much.

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