The power of women under Myanmar’s military coup

Why are people in Yangon and elsewhere hanging up women’s skirts?

See cultural anthropologist Melford Spiro’s classic work [Kinship and Marriage in Burma: A Cultural and Psychodynamic Analysis ,1977]:

“In Burma, the primary reason offered for male superiority is the belief that men possess that innate, inborn quality, known as hpoun…[it] is a psycho-spiritual quality, an ineffable essence, which invests its possessor with superior moral, spiritual and intellectual attributes…(p259)

“The vagina…can be a threat to the very source of a man’s strength and power, his hpoun…if the lower part of a woman’s body is higher than a man’s head (the most sacred part of his body), his hpoun can be importantly diminished, if not destroyed” (p236)

“the threat from the vagina is so powerful that the same precautions apply to the woman’s skirt…a man’s hpoun is endangered merely by walking underneath a skirt hanging on a clothesline” (p237)

So the security forces are afraid of walking under a woman’s skirt. Women know who holds the real power in Myanmar.

As some readers have pointed out – for the military, its not simply bad luck to walk under a woman’s skirt but some soldiers believe they may die in battle.

As other readers pointed out, however, the military has lost its moral superiority (or hpoun) long ago, so perhaps male soldiers have no hpoun left to lose?

And finally, so much of what is happening now has resonance with the past. Who could forgot that in 2011, General Than Shwe and his officers turned up to a state dinner in Naypyidaw wearing women’s acheik (longyi, or long skirts worn by women on celebratory occasions) on national television.

While no official explanation was given, this act of cross-dressing was understood to be yadaya, or an act of superstition. To counter the predictions of fortune tellers who believed a woman would one day lead the country, Than Shwe engaged in this ritual to attempt to prevent the misfortune from coming true. Clearly, it didnt work.