Ever since I was a kid, my parents talked about how lucky they were to call my brothers and I their three beautiful boys. Not only was it them, but family members, friends, and even strangers we would meet on the streets. Managers of stores when I went shopping with my Mom on the weekends, would be shocked when she would tell them that she had three children and that they were all boys. Their faces would light up and praise her for her “luck,” as though she had just won the lottery. I paid no attention to it and even felt innocently joyous for my parents because it was as though they had done something right by not giving birth to a girl. I put the word “luck” in quotes because this is the ideology of the culture that I grew up in.
In Myanmar, it is an old traditional belief that men are of a higher power, not just physically, but also in the sense of the human aura that dictates how much respect they must be given. We call this idea “hpone,” which roughly translates to the higher power and luck that men innately possess since birth. Of course, this is a superstition, and I grew up thinking and believing that I, as a man, also possess this unseen “power.” Little did I know that this false idea and superstition ran more profoundly than what I could comprehend as a child raised in a highly traditional society. We used the word in casual conversations when talking about gender and religion, and it seemed so harmless because as a young boy, it was like a superpower that I was assured I possessed. Why? Because I was not affected by this unlike other little girls growing up in Myanmar, with the idea that men are, in fact, higher beings who deserved more respect than them.
I remember the first time when I started questioning this ideology of “hpone.” My family and I would almost every week go to the pagoda on the weekends for our little weekly pilgrimage, serving offerings and donations for monks and different charities. There was always a line drawn for where people were to sit at these events, and men were always in the front while women were restricted in the back. I thought this was due to religion’s rules, but I soon learned that this was not religious, but instead rules that men have come up with throughout our history. How can you blame misogyny on Buddhism when there were female monks side by side with male monks during Buddha’s time? As I grew older, so did my knowledge and understanding of the world we live in, which gave me the courage to start questioning these ancient ideas. I bring this topic up now because women’s rights have never been more critical worldwide, especially back in my home country, where a violent military coup occurs.
Women from all backgrounds and ages have come out on the frontlines, protecting and fighting for the freedom of a society that told them that they were less than men and that they did not possess men’s capabilities. History was indeed made when the "Htamein Revolution" took place recently all over Myanmar. This historic day was led by the strong women of Myanmar, wearing and waving their longyis up high as flags with pride for our fight for democracy. It is an ancient belief that men are never to be beneath women’s clothes because it may affect and lower their “hpone.” Being the backbones of the nation and the intelligent women they are, they began to hang up their htameins and undergarments on street poles to defend against the misogynistic soldiers.
This movement truly worked as you can see many soldiers being hesitant to cross these lines, and had to spend time taking these items down, which bought peaceful protestors time to flee from the gun fires and illegal arrests. I have never been more proud of my people’s unity and intellect, especially the powerful heroines standing at the frontlines of our democratic revolution. Let’s remember and honor their bravery when we reach our victory and crush the misogyny behind like we will these illegitimate military terrorists.