The Status of Khmer Women
Sovereign, classic, sincere, superior, and elegant I was made to be as a Khmer lady; a requirement. Raised traditionally by a family whose very old school; moral which is taught and use every day; no excuse. Reputation and dignity is in the hand of a young lady; must remain virtuous to uphold the image of her family. From here I bow to you; my greetings...
Khmer women are compared to white cotton wools and Khmer men are compared to gems. My parent say, "when white cottons are muddied, it cannot ever be white or hold the same purity it once was again. Gems on the other hand could be washed and become more brighter." Therefore it is the woman RESPONSIBILITY to uphold her self image and family.
Her roles and behaviors greatly place a huge affect on the status of her mother, father, husband, and children. When image is lost or face is lost, her family reputation will be criticized. She is required to speak softly, walk lightly, be well-mannered at all time, stay in her home, and serve as a caretaker of her family.
Here are some expectation and roles every Khmer woman must know; useful for men as well:
Table of manners:
- Fairly formal
- oldest usually seated first
- Eldest person start to eat before the others
-When invited to a dining table, wait to be told where to sit
- Do not begin eating until the eldest person start
-Never be part of a discussion unless you are told
Gift from visitor or visiting:
- Gift are wrapped in colorful paper
- If invited to someone's home for food, take fruit, sweets, pastries or flowers.
- When giving gift use both hands and kneel
- Gifts are not open when received, gifts are open after visitor leaves
Meeting and greeting:
- Traditional greeting is bowing
- Respect must always be shown to the most senior person
- Use honorific titles when addressing people
In America today society, many Khmer-American woman has become more westernized and the roles of their duty is no longer used. But for most family they still enforce this such as my family for instant. My parent and grandparent strictly enforce this and still use it today. Khmer woman must know how to cook and know all the house keeping duties before she gets married. Grandma says, "if a Khmer woman do not know how to cook, keeping her house clean, or knows her duties, she will NOT become a good wife or a mother!" Westerner might not agree but in Cambodia, is true.
I must know how to cook, greet, speak, clean, and every other little things that my parent think it is very important for me to learn before I get married. Most importantly, they do not want to lose their face. Reputation is highly important because it is a combination of honour and dignity to uphold the family face.