Thursday, December 01, 2005

Feto ka mane?

Last night’s “mikrolet” journey home produced a memorable moment. My fellow Timorese passengers were talking amongst themselves and asked each other, is the “malae, feto ka mane?” (foreigner, female or male?). Admittedly it was dark and I have very short hair so they can be forgiven for their confusion. However, Timorese insist on speaking about you in Tetun assuming that you cannot understand a word. When I piped up “hau feto” (I am a woman), they were shocked. The “malae” speaks! They all giggled. They then went on to ask where I lived. Upon reflection, if I were just ten years younger, I would have been really offended to have my sex questioned but with age has come a greater acceptance of myself. Now I just see it as really funny that because I do not conform to the female norm, Timorese have to ask themselves “feto ka mane?” It’s also a very good indication of how stifled women are in this society: they do not have the freedom to express their individuality and must adhere to very rigid ideas of what it means to be female. Otherwise they risk social exclusion which in a highly communitarian society such as Timor would have tragic consequences.

Category: Timor-Leste (East Timor)

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