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(3) Responses and reactions to male chauvinism
     In the nineteen-twenties, after the First Great War, natinalist movements began to again momentum. Women freely participated in the movements and it was then that women were encouraged to come out from the narrow precincts of their homes and contribute towards the national cause.
     The idea of women doing their share of work in the political field was widely propagated through newspapers and magazines were The Sun and The Dagon. They commanded readership both among the young and old. The reading matter consisted of short stories and articles of general interest.
     In those days, many parents of growing children had already decided that anything that did not come from Buddhist scriptures was trash and not fit to be ready by anyone. There were many homes where even prestigious magazines like the Sun and The Dagon were not allowed.
     Editors therefore put in articles that would help and instruct young people to be better persons, so that the magazines would be regarded with a little more favour by the parents.
     Somewhere in 1924-25, The Dagon began publishing a series of articles by Ledipandite U Maung Gyi, a scholar, poet and writer. They were life stories of the Buddha's women disciples, retold with a special slant on human interest. These stories were avidly read and since they drove home the point that there is no discrimination of sex in Buddhism, they were greatly appreciated by girls.
     It was the same Ledipandita U Maung Gyi, who also ran another series of articles in the Dagon. The style of the articles was epistolary, a lady from Yangon writing to another lady in Mandalay, who wrote a reply in the next issue. Later, many "ladies" from other towns joined in and the letters became a popular feature.
     For quite a long time no one besides the editors knew that the sedate scholar U Maung Gyi was the author of the series.
     It was indeed the ingenuity of U Maung Gyi, who in the role of "ladies" captivated the readers with the breezy, gossipy letters which became a source of information not only on arts and letters but also on the local histories of the places which are supposed to be the ladies' home towns.
     To all this was added the feministic flavour as some of the letters dwelt on the achievements of the women in history. It was a decided departure from the writings of yesterday-those which ran down women. It seemed that women had begun to be appreciated as a potential force, especially in the country's struggle for independence.
(4) Education of women-a sheer waste?
     Whatever opportunities the education system in the colonial days had to offer, sending girls to school to get "modern education" was popularly considered a part of the grooming to be wife and mother. It was a final polish for potential husband-catchers.
     Marriage was the only career for women. That was the normal pattern. But outside the family circle, forces were at work. Contemporary writings exhorted women to come out and use their talents in the service of the country.
     Magazines and newspapers often featured news stories of Myanmar women who achieved success. Women like for instance, Dr. Daw Saw Sa, Dr. Daw Yin Mya in the field of medicine, Daw Me Me Khin and Daw Phwa Yin in the legal profession, Daw Mya Sein, an Oxford M.A., who represented Myanmar at the League of Nations Conference, and Daw Sann, the first Myanmar newspaper-woman.
     There were inevitably, some girls who were impressed by such examples, and they aspired to higher education and achievement. Parents were not too willing to continue the girl's schooling after eleven plus. The main reason was that education was expensive and the boys needed it more than the girls, who would eventually find husbands to support them. Boys, on the other hand, had to be bread earners of the family.
     Under such circumstances, any girl who was bent on continuing her studies had to prove herself, by competing hard with the boys. She had to show that she could do "better" than boys. "As good as" was not good enough. She had to pass every year with credit, only then would she be somewhat grudgingly considered worthwhile to be given "modern education."
     At school, she had more battles to fight. Chances were that she might have to go to a boy's school, as those exclusively for girls were not many, usually none in small towns. So, she found herself with one or two other girls for company in a class of thirty or so.
     After putting up with class-room bullies' teasings and pigtail-pullings, and having her ribbon bows snatched and stolen, the only thing she could do was to beat the boys at lessons, beat them right and left.
     Most girls did not think it worth-while to go against such odds, so they, perhaps wisely, gave up early and started being nice young ladies at home. As for the girl who went no with her studies, her troubles had just begun. Gaining credits at school did not find favour either with the family or friends.
     "She is so clever, what a pity she's a girl.... if only she were a boy!" was the refrain played on with the most exasperating repetition. Nor was this all; always in the back-ground was the non-stop reminder: girls must be trained to be good housewives, or else.
     Having to study for exams was no excuse for the girl to be exempted from household chores, which was a must. With whatever time and energy left over a girl was expected to do will in studies. Either she passed at the end of each school term, or she left school and stayed at home.
     Once a girl gor over the hurdlers and went as far as atriculation, she faced more problems. It was usually not possible for the family to send her to college to be, perhaps, another Daw Mya Sein or Dr Daw Yin May. "There are boys-they must be given the best education the family can give." Sounds reasonable, but there was something else.
     It was the barrier against economic freedom for girls born into middle class gentility-daughters of government officers and landed gentry. There was snobbery which decreed that no daughter must go out to work. If she was given "modern education" it was to make her a fine lady, a worthy wife of an officer, perhaps.
     So the girl lost the much commended freedom of Myanmar women who held retail trade or kept a shop. She had no choice but to try and catch a suitable husband, since any ordinary office job like that of a clerk, or a typist would be below the family's dignity. Problems faced by women who had no means to rise up to be a Dr. Daw Yin May or a Daw Mya Sein were many. These, I shall present in my next article-Myanmar Women and Careers.
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