Interesting article about the power dynamics in a small coastal village in South Korea where the women make the bulk of a family’s wealth by diving for shellfish.
Like their sisters throughout coastal areas in East Asia, the sea women here spend their days diving into the sea with no breathing devices, simply holding their breath for minutes as they comb the sea bottom for shellfish.
Women, whose bodies are thought more able to spend long hours in the cold water, experts in the subject say, have had a monopoly on this business, so that the sea women have long enjoyed an uncommonly powerful position in otherwise male-dominated societies.
It reminds me a bit of the diving culture in Egalia’s Daughters, and is a good example of how you can alter the language of how you speak about a skill and emphasize that one sex is innately “better” at that skill than another. You don’t realize how tied you are to the language of biologically determined skill sets until you see someone else flipping it on its head.
The really interesting part here is that women, because they make the majority of the money, have traditionally held more power over what’s done with that money. Which is a good testament to why women can’t really acheive total equality until we receive equal pay for equal work. As more and more men are getting jobs in tourism, the power dynamics in the village are changing. Now that men are making money, they’re getting a voice at home.
My favorite quote from the whole article? This one, hands down:
“Even though he was a man, he was more like a woman,” she said. “He was so nice and tender. He was very feminine. I couldn’t tell the difference whether he was male or female. So I never begrudged having to feed him.”
I’m so cribbing that line in my next book… heh heh