Monday, 18 June 2012

Petticoat Government
By JDG/Jodge

I OFTEN spend my weekends at my Uncle Fred’s farmhouse. Both my uncle and aunt are dear to me but I have a closer connection to my uncle. Last Saturday, after eating our dinner, we talked in a gazebo built on top of a hill overlooking the farm. The distant sounds of bullfrogs provided simple orchestration along with the melody of the babbling moonlit man-made creek. The soft gentle breeze lulled me to the most serene state I could remember. But my uncle’s countenance was a contrast to the tranquility of the evening. I can remember how hollow his face was, how his eyes spoke of weariness, how his mouth twisted in the mockery of the shadows staring at us. He was once a handsome man, but now his face has become grim and bitter as if life played a dirty trick on him.

Attempting to slay the uncomfortable silence shrouding us both, I told him my younger sister would be marrying before this year ends. After a long moment of silence, he finally spoke, "Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes and hoping to get an eel." That was the incentive moment; it started the "pouring out of sentiments" and I became the grievance drainage. He spoke of his regrets of having married, "If I had been warned, I would have tarried. I would not have rushed into marriage. If I had been hanged when I married, my torments would have ended," he said. But he realized that it is now too late. His life is miserable, not much can be done, except on the mere acceptance that wedding and hanging are destiny.

I really do not know whether to empathize with my uncle or camp my self-formed opinions with regards to men-women domination with my aunt. I really think he is to be blamed. He is an obedient and hen-pecked husband. My aunt is a shrewish, termagant wife. Well, it is a tolerable blessing for an emotionally unstable husband. In that respect, I would admit that my uncle could have been thrice blessed.
My Aunt Claire is the embodiment of a petticoat government. Her dominion in their house is kind of political, she being the dominant figure, being superior over Uncle Fred. And that, as I can see, is demoralization to him. He has become an ordinary male staff of the petticoat rule.

Uncle Fred escapes household responsibilities; my aunt calls it indolence. He does not behave in the traditional ways of fatherhood. Aunt Claire is a symbol of all the values he rejects and all the responsibilities he ought to undertake. He is passive in his male role thus Aunt Claire is accorded with the functions that are (traditionally and technically speaking) for men: the hand that manages the people in the farm, the voice that the children listen to, the head that decides what is best for the family.

My aunt is wiser in decision-making. And she knows that he knows that too, so she has the nerve to openly tell him so. She stresses the issue on him and even proves it. She seems to be challenging the intellectual ascendancy of my uncle. And because he seems to have lost his self-esteem, he can not equate with her, thus he loses pride and confidence. I remember my aunt telling me that she has not met a man who is not intimidated by a woman’s intelligence, in reality. All right, she might be bragging. My mind played with the question, how in the world did they end up being tied into this hellish knot.

In fairness to my uncle, he has lovable traits too that make others respect him. He is a simple, meek, good-natured fellow. These made him likable to many of the fellows and children in the neighborhood. He responds to the needs of others; he does jobs for other women and plays with the children in the neighborhood. But with his family duties, he is impossible. My aunt often scolds him about his idleness and the devastation he is causing on his family.

I guess my aunt is left with no other choice but to invade my uncle’s territory. This may explain why Aunt Claire behaves like such a shrew and Uncle Fred has become hen-pecked. As she invades his territory, my aunt’s defense--a woman’s defense--would likely emerge as this: that if she seems to act aggressively or assertively or in other way unattractively, she acts as she must act. She acts as he forces her to act by his unmanly behavior; he shrinks from his responsibilities as a man. Traditionally, women are expected to fear their men, but in this family, there is a reversal of roles. My aunt as a scolding wife dominates the picture.

There are so many Uncle Freds and Aunt Claires in this society--a society that has countless assumptions about the relationships of men and women, a society that challenges familial and sexual roles, a society where the number of "housebands" is statistically escalating, a society where a considerable number of husbands are just male staff in a petticoat government.

Joan D. Gervacio, 26 years old is not sure whether she will become a shrewish wife but when she chooses her man, he should not be powerless, inadequate, or inefficient.

Petticoat Government by JDG/Jodge was published On-line at YOU (INQ7_net's Website for Interactive Youth), on July 26, 2002, Youngblood Section, Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Locations of visitors to this page
View my page on Friends of WAVES

View my page on CMU Alumni