Posted May 12, 2015 from United States
A Dongzhu minority girl
A Dongzhu minority girl in a remote village of Guizhou, China

There’s a traditional Chinese saying that —

“A woman must obey her father before marriage, she must obey her husband after marriage and she should also obey her sons after the death of her husband”

And — a daughter who is married off is like “spilled water” — she’s lost all value to her family and deemed worthless.

Such view that a woman has no voice, worth or status to her family is not uniquely Chinese. This tradition and attitude is still quite universal especially in many developing countries.

Society puts high expectations on a woman to deliver for her family’s happiness and well-being. Another Chinese saying even goes so far as to say “a wise woman knows how to cook up some rice without grains.” Really? She’s expected to perform “miracles” just like the story of the two fish and five loaves to feed the multitude? She’s the one to make “stone soup” for the survival of her children.

In my documentary SPILLED WATER, Professor Wu Qing said, “Mothers are the change-makers, they are the first teachers and role models for their children. Yet many of them are not educated and their work not acknowledged.”

As wonderful as cultures and traditions are to help us discover our identities, they are also treacherous for accepting being female deserves second-class citizenship. Worst, many mothers themselves are often perpetrators of horrific acts dictated by traditions they’re brought up with — that’s why abortions of female fetus, abandonment of baby girls, child brides, female genital mutilation, women trafficking … What is the future for our daughters?

It’s time to challenge traditions that condition our roles and worth without questioning.

It’s time to redefine our worth beyond being an economic transactional commodity for families — under the guise of traditions.

Gender inequity is a tradition that impacts on our health, rights, worth and social progress in more ways than one. To achieve a paradigm shift in the way society views the female gender, we must encourage and support women's education, activism, political and economic participation. In solidarity, we must push back on those traditions that limit us — and the momentum is gathering.

The Path to Participation Initiative from World Pulse and No Ceilings

Comments 5

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Yvette Warren
May 12, 2015
May 12, 2015

You are so correct, Phoenix, and World Pulse is a beautiful way to bond to a network of sisters and brothers who will join hands and push together. 

Thank you for your insights.

May 12, 2015
May 12, 2015

Hello Pheonix, 

Interesting views and something that has been going on for long time but doesn't seem to get the momentum it needs. But good that it is not forgotten and more information and stories like yours are made to keep educating the people. 

I believe that tradition is part of who we are but then again it can be changed -- it's not etched in stone like my mom used to say but rather a living experience that should be kept alive and raised to be used for the betterment of the people. That is why I agree with your thoughts on challenging it and allowing it to benefit women and make us equal citizens of the world. 

Thanks for this interesting piece. 


Tan Ching
May 16, 2015
May 16, 2015

I do not know why women are often expected to sacrifice themselves for family's sake tradionally, e.g. like giving up their education and to go out to work or help out home's chores  so that the brothers have more resources for higher education when family finances are tight..or in other situation such as when a woman gets married and have children, many times they can be expected to give up their careers to take care of children instead of finding alternatives so that they can remain working.

Deborah Dauda
May 22, 2015
May 22, 2015

Hello Phoenix:

Thank you for your post. Culture and traditions are essential and a critical component for life, as a continuum. however,  as you mentioned, if a cultural practice violates or infringes on the right of women and girls, then it must be challenged and the system must be distrupted. Creating change requires a collective effort of men and boys as well in order for it to be sustainbale.

I applaud your work and look forward to reading more about the impact of your film.

Many blessings,


Pushpa Achanta
May 24, 2015
May 24, 2015

Dear friend,

I admire your courageous and candid expression on the crucial issue of gender discrimination that exists everywhere. Let us continue to fight it through our words and actions.

In solidarity,