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Monday, October 12, 2009

Romance Stories

Starting last week in grade 8 my students and I have been talking about “romance”. To start the unit, some questions to be answered are:

  1. Have you ever fallen in love?
  2. Do you consider yourself as a romantic person?
  3. What romantic thing have you ever done so far?

The background: there are five students in grade 8, two boys—around thirteen years old; three girls—around twelve till thirteen years old. Except one girl who has got her period, apparently the others are really too young kids to talk about romance. It is understandable then if they could not give satisfactory answers for those abovementioned questions. Even, they have not undergone to have a crush on any girl/boy yet.

The following reading passage to discuss was an excerpt of a romance story. Romance stories have some ‘guidelines’ that must be followed by writers; these guidelines are exactly like stories depicted by melodramas: the men are very good-looking, macho, masculine, rugged, protective, strong; the girls are beautiful, delicate, vulnerable, feminine, dependent. The reading ends up with the guy proposing the girl who shyly accepted the proposal happily.

One female critical student of mine criticized it, “How could the girl accept the proposal? In the beginning of the story it was illustrated that these two people didn’t know each other. How could she accept a stranger to be her husband?”

(Read it => this girl hasn’t been introduced into patriarchal culture that adores marriage—the so-called imprisonment for articulate women according to radical feminists :-P)

Therefore then I explained the fact that we live in a marriage-oriented society. Women who have reached a certain age bracket will feel uncomfortable if they are still single. It is because society will cruelly besiege her with question, “When will you get married?” Society will speak behind her, or even in front of her as someone unwanted. This is really hurtful to some people so that to stop this, they then grab anybody to marry.

Then the critical student said, “I remember what happened to my housemaid. At that time she was 31 years old, still single. One time she was invited to be back to the village by her uncle. In fact then her uncle asked her to marry a guy, a total stranger. And to my surprise, she just accepted it. I didn’t get it at that time. How could she marry a stranger? Wasn’t she happy to be single? Was it because her uncle forced her to get married?”

Perhaps …

Perhaps also in fact she didn’t feel comfortable due to social pressure to single women.

“Why is society so mean, Miss?” she asked me.

I could not give my students a satisfactory answer for this question.

One question written under the reading passage is “Why do romance stories stop at the proposal or wedding parties?”

Surprisingly, my students answered, “Because they do not want to tell stories about sad things. You know there are many problems happen in a marriage: a husband beats his wife, a husband marries another woman, blah blah blah …” This is supposed to be uttered by feminists, not by a thirteen year old girl, who doesn’t know marriage-oriented patriarchy yet.

“This story is so yucky, Miss. Can we just skip this unit talking about romance? We don’t like it.” a student said.
Oh well, of course I cannot. :)
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