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Mimishu1995's avatar

Is this story sending the wrong message (details inside)

Asked by Mimishu1995 (18964points) 3 weeks ago

I was helping my brother with his literature lesson. He was analyzing a story from the 1980s, when my country had just won the war and the economy was a mess at least that was what the textbook says. The story is about a photographer who needed a nice photo for his company’s calendar. He went to a beach and took a photo of a houseboat on the sea. Then he witnessed a series of domestic violence on the houseboat: the husband beat and threatened his wife, the son fought with the husband… All the while the wife did nothing and even made it out to be the son’s fault for fighting with the father. A few days later the violence escalated and the photographer called the police on the family. The police put the husband in detention and persuaded the wife to divorce him, but she refused, saying that she needed him to maintain the houseboat and she was “destined for hardship” so she had no right to complain. She also told the police that she actually experienced happiness when she saw her children eating good food. The court section ended with the family going back to the houseboat and the police learning a hard lesson of being more open-minded.

Now this is where I seem to have problems with. My brother was taught at school that the woman was on the right and the police was too rigid in their judgement to consider this scenario. But I don’t think I agree with this. I just have this feeling that the woman was displaying dangerous traits of an abused victim. She tried very hard to find reasons for the violence of her husband and vague happy memories, things like “he’s actually a good man” or “I deserve it”. She also seemed to believe that he was the only one for her and it would be worse if she left him.

I know this is a story written in a different time period with different perspective, but I just don’t think this is a good message for the current generation. I don’t know, maybe it’s my own history of emotional abuse that makes me so sensitive to these things.

So, what do you think about that story?

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6 Answers

Nomore_lockout's avatar

I think that the more things change from one culture to another, the more things stay the same. If I had read that story, not knowing you are from Viet Nam, I would think it happened in the States some where. That shit happens all over the world, and the results are often the same. I’ve known some cops in my time, and they say the worst calls they ever got were domestic violence situations. Because at times, the man and woman both turn on you. I don’t see that the Police in your country handle it any differently than American cops do. And there really isn’t much police can do in a situation like that, if the woman won’t follow through and press charges. Just promise me now, that you wont ever put up with crap like that from a man. OK?

KNOWITALL's avatar

I agree with you it’s an old-fashioned mindset and the children could take the wrong lesson from it.

flutherother's avatar

It is very peculiar and wrong to teach children that abuse should be tolerated. I hope the school is using the story as a history lesson rather than advice on how we should live our lives.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Mimishu1995 Does Vietnam have a support network for abuse victims?

Mimishu1995's avatar

@Nomore_lockout And there really isn’t much police can do in a situation like that, if the woman won’t follow through and press charges.

What bothers me more about that story is that it is making it look like the woman was right not to press charge and the police were wrong to pressure her into divorce. There were parts when the police asking about the husband’s past dust, like whether he sided with the Americans during the war, making it look like the police were out of touch with reality. And the reason why the husband was so violent and the woman was so protective of him is because as taught by the textbook they lived in poverty. OK, I may give them that. But it doesn’t mean the abuse just somehow disappear and the woman stops being a victim.

Just promise me now, that you wont ever put up with crap like that from a man. OK?

I can critique a textbook independently from what it wants me to think, so that :)

@flutherother I hope the school is using the story as a history lesson rather than advice on how we should live our lives.

The textbook never says abuse it ok, but the core message, according to the textbook, is that we should look at life with a more open mind, and the police is there to be an example of what not to do. So I can see the implication here is that the woman was right and the abuse was justified. This is what bothers me.

@KNOWITALL There is this organization called something like “Women and children association”, but as far as I can tell, they are more responsible for raising awareness of domestic violence than actually doing something about it. And unless things get too physical, most abuse just stay under the radar, because a lot of women act similarly to the woman in the story.

I should explain something very culture specific that adds more context to the reasoning of the woman. Regarding love and marriage, there are two concepts in our culture called “duyên” and “nợ”. What they mean varies from people to people, but to put in simply, “duyên” basically means two people destined to bond with each other, most likely from something in their past life or a supernatural force. And “nợ” basically means that you are somehow indebted to your partner, most likely because of something in your past life, and now you have the duty of paying off that debt for your partner. This leads to a bizarre situation when a person no longer feels like they are compatible with their partner (or no longer has “duyên”), but still decides to stay anyway because they still have “nợ” to fulfill, and thus explains away all the discomfort in the relationship as necessary hardship. Another bizarre thing is that it’s usually the women who hold onto these concepts. I don’t see men being as attached to them, although they are supposed to apply to both sides.

A lot of marriages, especially that of the older generation, operate within these concepts, and I can also see bits and pieces of them in the woman’s story, along with the outdated mentality of a wife’s duty of being obedient to the husband. The two concepts are generally accepted as virtues in our culture. This also explains why a lot of people don’t press charge over domestic violence, because they feel shameful that the violence happens in the first place, which means they somehow fail to fulfill their “duyên” or “nợ”. Add that to the traditional belief that a wife is supposed to be a good peace-keeper and you have the reasoning of the woman in the story.

To me personally, they are beautiful concepts and a good recipe for a long-lasting marriage, in paper. In practice, they are a very limiting belief and lead to horrible situations like the one in that story.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Mimishu1995 I understand. It’s also a religious concept here that a woman is subservient to her husband if he is subservient to God. Divorce is still considered a failure but in cases of abuse, the stigma is definately less.
I live in the more traditional area in the middle of the country though. We have a flawed system but many safe secret houses for women and children.

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