The Girls

One, Kumari

Girls, you can’t smile, you can’t cry, and your feet can’t touch the ground, you need to be the goddess I worship. I worship your purity, until you are no longer pure, by growing up.

I’ve got to know the word Kumari in Nepal, the girl who is chosen to be Kumari is the living embodiment of the Goddess. The girls are chosen usually when they are 2-4 years old. The process will be based on a list of criteria, their castes, their physical appearance, and their personality traits. The chosen girls will be worshiped as the living goddess, they need to stay still and serious on many public occasions. They are kept away in the temples, accompanied only by their family members, the priests, and the staff in the temple, so they are not allowed to go to school or take part in common activities in society. I would assume the chances for them to make friends of their age would be much less than other children.

So a little girl’s physical body would be utilized/sacrificed/devoted for being the incarnation of a goddess for obvious religious reasons until she has her first menstruation because menstruation is considered impure, and then the girl will no longer be a living goddess, she then became a human being with pretty much an empty and confusing childhood.
I think we all can see some problems here, there will be a gap when you stepped down from being a goddess everyone worships to a normal teenager who needs to get going with their life. It is already a very confusing period of time to transition from a child to a grownup, regardless of from a goddess to a woman.

Many of the ex-Kumaris are proud of being a Kumari, at least it’s what they say. I guess it’s a bit like brainwashing, if you are told something repeatedly it is such an honor to give up part of yourself to fulfill a holy deed, and you’ll be proud, no matter what the cost is, especially when you are a kid, knowing nothing about the world, like a white sheet, taking in what’s been told to you.

The situations seem to be changing over the years, less family would send their daughter for the selection for Kumari, and it seems like now they can go to school and be allowed to make friends under certain conditions.

Two, 舞妓さん

Girls, in the name of art, devote yourselves, talk softly, work hard, put on makeup, dance with elegance, stay unmarried, and be a piece of art, the art of pleasing men.

舞妓さん(maiko san) are apprentices of geisha, the training includes traditional Japanese singing, dancing, playing shamisen, serving, and performing for the customers.

The teahouses in Kyoto take in girls who are 15, 16 years old for training, and the girls will stay in specific places called 置屋(okiya) for the training and their daily routines. They’ll drop school, and learn the maiko skills instead.

Maikosans need to speak in the tone of maiko, gentle, soft, with exaggerated femininity, and sometimes flirty. Their body languages need to be the same, gentle, elegant, delicate, and pleasant to watch. They need to work hard on traditional Japanese performances. Serving, playing games, and pleasing the customers at a party or dinner is part of their job too, they need to know how to entertain the customers who are usually mid-aged, old men.

They can’t use a cellphone, and they are not allowed to date, they can’t go to any shops with western style names(which can be read from left to right, in another way to interpret, most of the shops) when they are not on leave, which is two days a month. They will have to sleep on a hard square box instead of a pillow to maintain their hairstyle for a week-long from time to time. All the money they made goes to the teahouse they work for, they don’t get paid a salary. The young girls are also facing the risk of getting harassed by drunk customers. And once they get married, they can’t be maiko anymore.

When a young girl decides to chase a dream to be maiko, the image she has might be associated with its beauty, elegance, gorgeousness, glamour, and fame. The thing a 15, 16 years old girl may overlook is when she becomes a maiko, she becomes a piece of living art(if I put it nicely). The line between her individual identity and being a maiko gets so thin, she’ll be objectified and self-objectified if not careful. Having to drop school, and being away from secular society will not be helpful for making such a decision with 5 or 6 years of commitment or even longer. Maiko, as a traditional Japanese occupation, was to entertain, although it’s an artistic form of entertainment, and the way to entertain is to objectify yourself to fit in a certain performant form of femininity stereotype, a stereotype that men are pleased with, a stereotype which makes men more masculine in the contrast of the exaggerated femininity. And let’s not just yet talk about the future of being a maiko.

I’ve recently watched a show called The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House, which glamourized the life of being a maiko, it’s about a girl chasing a dream of being a maiko, she works hard to practice dancing, overcoming the difficulties such as the discomfort from sleeping on a hard square instead of a pillow, etc. With the support of her best friend on her side, she finally became an impressive maiko san, and became the star at all those parties. The director of the show is Kore-eda Hirokazu, who also directed Shoplifters and Nobody knows, he shows his tender feeling and empathy towards the characters in his films, but in his film, he doesn’t hide the cruelty coming from society. However, in this TV show, he hides away the cruelty, or just made a casual remark and moved on to the next lovely scene. It feels like in this show, he has used a camera and twisted reality, not completely, but just added a filter and made it far more ambiguous and glamorous than it should have been. That’s not hard to do, but as a respectable, influential director, I had expected a bit more social responsibility.

Three, bitch, slut, and victim

Oh girls, why don’t you protect yourselves and get pregnant?

Oh girls, it’s a sin to have an abortion. Look, how cute those babies are, and how cruel it is if you terminate the pregnancy.

Oh girls, why don’t you have an abortion, do you think you can bring up a kid by yourself singlehandedly?

There are always so many questions, and so much blaming for women who get pregnant unexpectedly, and a lot of times, the father is absent, like father is just a word in the air, he never exists. There’s another film I’ve watched recently which is like a punch in the face and makes my heart sink together with the characters in it. It’s Never rarely sometimes always.

The plot of this film is not complicated, it’s about a teenage girl who got pregnant unexpectedly, and tried to get an abortion without letting her parents find out. It has a simple plot, but it’s a film that is like an encyclopedia of the daily unpleasant nonsense, a girl, a woman needs to deal with. They are not severe by definition, but just like constant unpleasantness repeatedly happens and disgusts you all the time. Such as, the father of the baby never showed up; the girl was called slut even though she was the victim; some of the hospital staff tried to take the moral high ground to manipulate her decision; the store manager took advantage of her cousin and molest them from time to time; a drunkard in a train wank looking at her in the middle of the night; unwanted attention from a stranger who thought he’s closer than just a stranger and touched her cousin’s shoulder and asked her phone number; period pain, which apparently the least bad among all these; man who asks her and her cousin to hang out and it turned all he’s interested in is sex; bleeding, bleeding and bleeding from her vagina for all sorts of reasons; the local clinic gets the wrong test result, so she’s got a lot more moral dilemmas and consequences to deal with; etc, etc. I can totally sympathize, and I think many girls would too because things like those have happened and have been happening to many if not the majority of females.

What hurts most is what’s hidden in the title which the meaning is revealed by the director at three-quarters of the film. It’s the answers she can choose from for questions related to many ways she could have been hurt. And it’s always the girls who have to be questioned with a vicious intent by the questioner or not.

It’s a power play, men vs women, old vs young, girls, sometimes are not perfect victims, still, they are victims, although they don’t have to be.

Four, bad joke

“How many feminists do you think it takes to change a light bulb?”, a man asked me this question.

“As many as men”, I gave a random quick answer, I’m never really good at getting the answer for lame jokes, and it seems to be one.

“None, because they can’t change anything.”

“Feminists can’t change anything?” I tried not to be judgemental before I get a bit more context.

“It’s a joke.”

🤦🏻‍♀️ Such a bad joke… 🙄

I don’t claim to be a feminist(why does anyone need to be labeled with anything…) but I think at least the so-called feminists tried to change something, otherwise, it will never change. #girlshelpinggirls.

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