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Posts Tagged ‘women’

Tai Chi

This is the view from my aunt’s apartment in Singapore. Almost every weekday morning, I could see this group of women doing their Tai Chi exercises. Tai Chi is a Chinese form of exercise that uses slow, meditative and controlled movements.

The tropical greenery around them enhanced my enjoyment of the scene.

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An acute observation led Mary Anderson to invent the windshield wiper.

The windshield wiper and the dishwasher were invented by women. I didn’t know that until I came across these facts recently.

Mary Anderson patented her invention of the mechanical windshield wiper in 1903.

The  idea came to her on a trip to New York City. According to the website About.com: Inventors: “Mary Anderson noticed that streetcar drivers had to open the windows of their cars when it rained in order to see, as a solution she invented a swinging arm device with a rubber blade that was operated by the driver from within the vehicle via a lever. The windshield wipers became standard equipment on all American cars by 1916.”

Josephine Cochrane of Illinois invented the first practical dishwasher in 1886. The first dishwasher was patented in 1850 by Joel Houghton but his machine which was a hand-turned wheel did not clean dishes effectively.

The care of her good china led a woman to invent the dishwasher.

The care of her good china led a woman to invent the dishwasher.

There is a twist to the story. Cochrane was not a harassed housewife with a household of children and chores that she had to tackle on her own. She was actually quite wealthy, and invented the dishwasher because her maids were chipping her fine china.

Her invention is described in inventors.suite101.com: “With the help of a young mechanic, George Butters, Cochrane worked in a wood shed behind her home. She measured the dishwasher and designed wire compartments to hold each; plates, cups and saucers. These compartments were then placed inside a wheel laid flat into a copper boiler. A motor turned the wheel while jets squirted hot soapy water from the bottom of the boiler and over the dishes. The user had to pour hot water over the dishes for rinsing. Later models included a self-rinse cycle.”

Well, I don’t have a maid nor a dishwasher. (In the US, unlike Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian countries, only quite wealthy families can afford fulltime maids). And on days when the dishes begin to pile up, sometimes I wish that I have a dishwasher sitting snugly in my kitchen.

It is a pleasant coincidence that I came across these facts as we move towards celebrating  International Women’s Day on March 8, a day which celebrates the story of ordinary women as makers of history, and the achievements of women.

I believe that each of us is born with our own unique talent. And many of us share this ideal: that every girl and every woman in any corner of the world will have the chance and the space to fulfill her talent or potential.

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clipvoteI have always been amazed how women all over the world make a strong commitment to vote.

I continue to be fascinated by the fact that across generations, even in countries where women are perceived to have a low profile in public life, women make the effort to make their way to the polling stations, and often stand for hours to make their voices heard.

My thoughts on this issue were awakened when I thought of my grandmother and grandaunt. Like many women from their generation,they were not highly educated and their lives revolved mainly around domestic concerns.

But when elections came around in Singapore, they were tremendously eager to participate.

On election day, you could feel the excitement in the household early in the morning. I remember watching my grandmother prepare for the event in the same manner as though she was going to a wedding. She would carefully select a kebaya (traditional Malay blouse) and a sarong from her cupboard. And before she left the house, she would don a matching selendang (scarf), and a dab of her favorite cologne. I imagine her friends did the same. At any rate, they were always the first to arrive at the polling station, well groomed and fresh.

Many years forward, I watched clips of Iraqis voting in 2005. I am against the war in Iraq, but I was still amazed at the womenfolk’s dedication in going out to vote, in what was said to be the country’s first democratic election in 50 years. And this week, the world saw the same enthusiasm from the women in Iran.

I believe the reason for this dedication is that for some women, voting is the biggest, or in same instances, the only chance for them to impact public life, or to have a say in it.

In general, women take part in the bluster and  intrigue of politics in much smaller numbers than men.  But women are experts at running daily lives, including navigating the nooks and corners of life  that are not glamorous but necessary for normal functioning. Perhaps intuitively, they know that whatever decisions made by the elected government will have repercussions that seep deep down into these nooks and corners.  And they will have the main responsibility to deal with them, away from the public eye.

And so, to all women voters in the world, past, present and future, and especially to those who have to walk longer or harder to get to the polling stations, we salute you.

Iranian women voting in the city of Qom. (Pic from TPM, Newscom/AFP)

Iranian women voting in the city of Qom. (Pic from TPM, Newscom/AFP)

Maasai women voting in western Kenya in 2008. (Pic from BBC News)

Maasai women voting in western Kenya in 2008. (Pic from BBC News)

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pony-_-cat3As Mother’s Day is celebrated throughout the world, women who do not have children may feel left out of the day’s celebrations. But I believe now there is a start towards an inclusion of women who are not mothers in the conventional sense.

After all, what is one of the most special attributes of a mother? A mother is a nurturer.

And most, if not all women, have the nurturer in us. If you have a pet, or grow plants, you are a Mom to these living things. If you are in a relationship, you nurture the hopes and aspirations  of your partner. And women nurture each other in our friendships and in our life journeys. We are there for each other, through good and hard times.

It’s human for some of us to feel a measure of sadness when we’re childless or missing our mothers on Mother’s Day. But instead, or at the same time, let’s celebrate the special quality we all share: that we nurture animals and people we love without expecting anything in return.

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(Photo from The Star)

(Photo from The Star)

On this home trip to Asia , while resting in a hotel in Petaling Jaya and surfing through the television channels, I was pleased to catch Zoom in @RTM featuring Sheila Majid.

I’ve always loved her songs, and they are among the ones that I listen to most in my life in California. Needless to say, living away from Asia, I seldom get to see her perform “live” over the television, so this was an extra treat.

You know how it is, listening to your favorite songs after a lapse of years adds another layer of memories and significance. And I can see that response on the faces of her many fans in the audience.

And it is always a pleasure to see a true professional perform with passion and authenticity. Additional, one always admire artistes and creative individuals who continue to reinvent themselves and at the same time, remain true to the style or essence that garnered them all their fans.

Sheila was all these on this show.

At the same time, she alluded to herself now being in her 40s and needed an occasional breather by changing her pace with slower songs. I bring this up, as I have observed and believe that many women hit the second prime of their beauty in their 40s.

It is not the kind of youthful beauty of a woman in her 20s . But it is a “fuller” kind of beauty. I believe that going through the rough and tumble and challenges of life, falling and getting up again adds strength, and a certain kind of radiance to a woman’s looks. Sheila has gone through such challenges, such as her very public divorce, and she has developed that “fuller” beauty.

Earlier in the day, I had savored a plate of Hainanese Chicken Rice, later watched the skyline of Kuala Lumpur. And to top it all with a performance by one of Malaysia’s and Malay songs’ best singers, made it a really enjoyable day.

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