I’m a failure.

This according to Nyoman and Made the two women who own the shop over the road.

I am a failure because I only have a daughter.

‘You have more children soon yes?’ they ask.

‘Err no. Not planning on it,’ I say.

They stare at me with a mixture of pity and horror. ‘But you must have son,’ they say.

‘Why? I have a daughter,’ I tell them. ‘And she’s just as good as any son.’ But they can’t get their heads around this at all.

It’s so frustrating that this concept persists around the world. And it’s not just here. I get it at home too – from my father-in-law – who would dearly love a grandson to carry on the Alderson name. Fair-dos. But he best start looking to the other daughters-in-law. Cos this mare is done breeding.

When will it ever stop? When will the women of the world wake up and smell the roses? If even women think men are better, think they are not equal to men, then we are truly fucked.

But the really amusing thing to me is that the men in Bali are (generally speaking – but when do I do otherwise?) for the most part pale shadows of their women folk. It’s the women who do the back breaking field work whilst the men sit around stroking their cocks and yelling out transport transport to any Bule who walks past. I’ve met several powerhouse women running successful businesses (whilst also having to fulfill the needs of family and community) but am wracking my brains for an example of a man running a successful business. I can think of one – but he only got the money by gambling. And I’ve met a handful of Balinese men who’ve lost everything on cock fights.

It’s the women who seem to hold the whole of society here together – they cook, clean, work in the fields and on the roads, they look after the children and their in-laws, they spend days and days and even whole nights of each month preparing intricate offerings for the frequent ceremonies.

Yet their economic value is tiny compared to a man’s. A two minute taxi ride (only the men drive taxis here) costs the same as a day’s wage for a woman home help.

The women here rock. I haven’t yet met a Balinese woman who isn’t working flat out seven days a week providing for her family and community. And the men? Yeah, good question. Judging from the sheer number I see sitting around on doorsteps all day they’re not quite so busy.

But maybe the failure is on women after all. For failing to raise sons who respect women and treat them as their equals. For failing to raise daughters who believe in their self-worth. For being horrible to their daughters-in-law (they have to LIVE with their mothers-in-law here, and look after them until they die.  I haven’t yet met a Balinese woman who actually likes her mother in law. I guess the cycle perpetuates.)

I’m not sure what the answer is. But I think I’ve found my cause.


7 thoughts on “I need to have a son (apparently)

  1. Patty Bollin says:

    Hey Sarah,

    I just did a search for “Ubud, Pembantu” on the internet and your site can up! We fired our Pembantu and doing a mad search for a new one.
    Love your blog-I only hope that one of my babies is a boy so I won’t be a failure like you!?!?!? he he he


    1. boublog says:

      I just called to let you know that Kadek our pembantu has a cousin who might be good. think you might be meeting her tomorrow.

  2. Tara Lindis says:

    It’s a worthy cause – and so much larger in scope you have no idea. Read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (absolutely mandatory reading for any parent of a daughter, any woman or anyone who knows a woman). It reads quickly even as it breaks your heart and you start to get how much we take our feminist advances for granted ( you know, since I haven’t been recently beaten for defiance and being so bold as to look my husband in the face.)

  3. Jo Wilkie de Rosal says:

    its the same here in Guatemala but unfortunately the rich Latina women do not do much in helping the emancipation struggle. I have a smart, wealthy, educated, successful, beautiful friend who still rushes off to make sure her husbands lunch is on the table every day with her smiling and beautiful to present it to him.

    In the indigenous communities most women lose their virginity to a family member and they always travel in the back of the pick up with their babies in rain or dust with the men snuggling up front together. And yes they do all the work!

    My sons and daughter will be in Europe before they pick up too many notions of how things should be. My husband has hardly ever had a Guatemalan girlfriend probably for this reason but I imagine there are moments when I am being a bit too stroppy that he daydreams about a submissive woman!!

    1. boublog says:

      Wow – sounds grimmer than Indonesia. It’s funny you say that about taking your kids back to Europe because I do think ex-pat vagabond kids whilst having a magical life on the one hand can create monsters of them too. The things they pick up along the way about how to behave are quite shocking. And difficult to shift. How long will you be in Guatamala for?


  4. Jo Wilkie de Rosal says:

    well my husband is Guatemalan so I have been here 7 years. It is a country run by narco capitalists and one of the saddest histories on the planet. My husband fought against the genocidal fascists in the 80s and made a film about the civil war here. We think we are heading to Cuba next for 3 years, which is a whole new ball park but our stepping stone back to Europe. Luckily my husband appreciates that Europe is the best place for us to be with three children, but we need time to see what happens next. I am supposed to be starting a blog as everybody tells me I have to write about Guatemala and my life here as nobody knows what happened and is still happening and being a mother amongst the madness. THat is how I got to find this blog. I wanted to find people leading different lives and with that all important sense of humour! I have been enjoying it!!

    1. boublog says:

      I remember watching an amazing Guatamalan film about the civil war when I was in Mexico years ago. it was called something about a leopard? but I can’t remember the full title. I just know I’ve remembered that film for years and years. because it totally blew my mind. You should definitely write a blog – it would be fascinating. Let me know when it’s up and I’ll link to it.

      If you know the film I’m talking about please let me know!

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