an issue that has been dissected so much that maybe it has gradually
become an old girl’s tale – don’t single women living in the city want
to settle down?
An episode of
Sex and The City screened
three weeks ago perhaps was a disturbing reflection of what women want.
Here’s a show which is supposed to be a
toast to singlehood. Yet, in the end, it turned out to be a modern-day
fairy tale with Carrie happily giving up her career for a man; and the
other three ladies leading blissful lives with their partners.
“When you are single in New York, there’s
no way to go but down,” Carrie said. Just seconds earlier, the camera
panned to a guest character cosying up with a short and balding man whom
she spurned earlier.
Does that mean women today, despite having
more choices than ever compared with their grandmothers, will somehow
still opt for a man instead of a career?
Two young Thai professionals gave me
delightfully frank answers.
“I do think that’s still how the majority
of women are. Why should we work? Let the men do the work and let them
feel egoistic about it! We can play the role of stroking their ego,”
said TV news anchor Veenarat Laohapakakul, tongue-in-cheek.
On a more serious note, she said: “I think
it’s partly societal, partly instinct, that contribute to my belief that
women will still opt for men over career. No matter how strong a woman
is, I believe that deep down, no one wants to be an old maid. It is a
personal fulfillment that career advancement cannot replace.”
Women, she said were pressured all the
time with the question “are you married?” especially when they touched
“The view that men should be the
breadwinner of the family is still true in most societies, so it is okay
for a lady to give up her career and let her husband take full lead
about income earning. And the word success for women is more burdensome
than for men,” said Veenarat, a lovely, well-educated Thai who speaks
“But of course, in the end, it boils down
to the individual. Most women try to find the middle path of
compromising love and a career. However, if this cannot be done, I’d say
that more often than not they just give up their job.”
On the other hand, she said
Sex and the City, did not
entirely reflect the attitude of Thai women because “I don’t think Thai
women discuss their sex lives as freely as the show’s characters.”
As pointed out by feature editor Veena
Thoopkrajae, Sex and the City
was a totally imported series which many locals could not relate to
although the friendship between the four women “certainly touches many
people, including me.”
“We can’t say we relate to their daring
lifestyle especially their active sex lives and the way they openly talk
about sex and men. But I think these factors are also what makes the
show click with most modern Thai ladies: they watch the show to see what
it would be like to live a life like Carrie Bradshaw’s and her friends.
And of course, we Bangkok ladies don’t really wear clothes as
fashionable as the characters but we’d love to do so.”
The show, she said, was kind of a fairy
tale if women’s ultimate goal was to get married.
“But I’d rather say the story evolves
around friendship. Friendship and true relations are the rare things in
this modern age. And if the four women got the best of both worlds, then
it can be considered a story with a ‘they live happily ever after’
ending,” she said.
In the old days, Veena said, Thai ladies
had no chance of getting formal education so they were not financially
“Back then, if you had a good husband
(preferably high-ranking officials), your life would be good. The
culture of having a man taking care of your life also promotes polygamy
and led many women leading miserable lives.”
“I think as Thai families become more
nuclear-based, everybody becomes more independent. Nevertheless, people
will look for relationships because they are not so close to their
parents, brothers, and sisters like the previous generations used.
“But having said that, there are some
exceptions as there are women who love their independence though they
are not the majority. I’d say a very small percentage of Thai women want
to stay alone.”
So, career or man? Men, somehow, have
clear ideas on what the Carries out there should do. Here’s a response
from a 37-year-old single man in KL who is into wine, women and Zara.
“I did not agree to what Carrie did. She
abandoned herself and her writing and followed the Russian to Paris. I
am sure his interest in her has a shelf life. She should invest in
“Men come and go, but Carrie will not. So,
go to Paris, have sex with the Russian, drink French wine, have a swell
time and then return to New York and be more famous as a writer.”
An article in
Daily Yomiuri recently noted
three popular terms in Japan this year to describe 30-something women -
makeinu (whipped dog),
onibaba (ogre-like older
women) and sonatian (fans
of Winter Sonata).
Whipped dogs refer to single and childless
women who are over 30.
Those phrases have evoked much debate in
Japan where women face the dilemma of marriage versus individualism.
It’s also a nation where the number of unmarried women in their early
30s has hit almost 27%.
So whether they are in the Big Apple, the
City of Angels, good old KL or Land of the Rising Sun, single women
remains a subject of fascination.