Friday, August 26, 2011

Males eat first . . .

My mother-in-law used to tell me that during her early married years, living in an extended family in Springfield, Massachusetts, [and having recently arrived from Marash where they had narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Ottoman Empire's carrying out a planned genocide of the Armenian people,] the women would prepare dinner in the kitchen for the men who sat in the dining room, and after serving the men, if there was no food left, there was no food left. In other words, the women often went hungry. This occurred, of course, during the depression, she said.  But even so, it was hard to believe, because I had grown up well after the depression in a house where, granted, my mother prepared the meal, but we all sat and ate together, men and women, and there was always more than enough food for everyone.

Lions at Springfield's Science Museum. Aline & Raffi in foreground. Photo Credit: Marash Girl
Fast forward 30 years, and on that hottest day of this summer, which I spent at the Springfield Museum of Science with my grandchildren, I learned something about lions. According to a film on the wilds of Africa, baby lion and mom lioness hunt down the prey and present the kill to father lion who eats first while mom and baby watch, then mom, then baby eat. The explanation? The male lion protects the herd and must be kept strong or all would die.

Recently, WBUR reported on malnourishment in Africa. In the villages where there is often not enough food for all, it is the custom to feed men first and only if any food is left do women have the opportunity to eat, even when the women are pregnant or lactating.

I never learned whether this custom existed in Marash. I hope not. When I asked a friend from Turkey whether or not he had ever heard of such a custom existing in the villages there, he commented that such a custom would make sense (and mind you, this was male reasoning) in a society where hunting rather than agriculture was the main source of food.  But in Springfield, Massachusetts?

1 comment:

  1. the practice of men being served first was a hangover of islamic social culture. i remember reading a study as to why turkish men were inflicted with mouth and/or larynx, or throat cancer much more often than turkish women. the practice of serving the men steaming hot turkish coffee before the women were served saved the women from the high incidence of those cancers because their throats were not constantly being scalded. as the saying goes, 'the first shall be last, and the last shall be first'. islam teaches that women are inferior to men, in fact, that they exist for the pleasure of men. so, it is not a stretch for me to believe the above story, but what is disappointing, and terribly so, was that this hangover from islamic culture had not been dispelled from the first day in America. it grieves me to hear of such a story, that men could not divest themselves of the darkness from which they had fled, and a darkness that was all too visible in the sufferings of their womenfolk. i know the protectiveness my father had for my mother and my sisters, as well as the care my grandfather had for his wife, yepros, after yepros went blind at the age of 45. men's hearts are hardened if they do not respond to the light, the light of Truth, and the warmth of the embrace of our Lord, a warmth engaging enough to melt the coldest of hearts, and tender enough to soften hearts of stone. it is the work of The Christ, once embraced, that sunders the wall of darkness, a wall that vanishes when the light is allowed in. this story should act as a warning to all of us of the terrible acts and attitudes of which we are capable when we are not guided by the light of the Christ, but, instead, by the absence of light that girds any popular culture, moslem and non moslem.