I was intrigued by the discussion of motherhood that occurred in our last class. In many societies, ranging from the Igbo people in Nigeria to the Balinese, there is a great amount of wealth found in people; specifically there is a great amount of wealth placed on the number of people in a home. The larger the family, the wealthier the head of the household is. Eat, Pray, Love provides an example of the importance of children for the Balinese people. Gilbert states “The Balinese family unit, enclosed within the walls of a family compound, is merely everything—four generations of siblings, cousins, parents, grandparents and children all living together in a series of small bungalows surrounding the family temple, taking care of each other from birth to death. The family compound is the source of strength, financial security, health care, day care, education and—most important to the Balinese—spiritual connection” (256). The wealth in numbers allows for material, spiritual, physical, and mental wealth. Every generation is interacting. Every individual is contributing. Though there is a great amount of emphasis on having a home filled with people, there is not that same recognition for the women who give life to those people.
Because there is such an emphasis placed onto the family unit, women are often blamed when husbands and wives are unable to conceive. Women then become outcasts of society because they are unable to add to the wealth that is greatly desired. If the woman is unable to contribute to the family unit, than she does not deserve to be in the family unit. Wayan tells Gilbert “If it’s the woman, no problem—Wayan can fix this with ancient healing techniques. But if it’s the man—well, this presents a delicate situation here in the patriarchy of Bali…Men are men, after all. If no pregnancy is occurring, it has to be the woman’s fault. And if the woman doesn’t provide her husband with a baby soon, she could be in big trouble—beaten, shamed or divorced.” Women are treated as invalid machines that can be disposed of when they are not producing goods at an efficient rate.
Though there is a great amount of value placed onto the family unit, women do not share in that value if they are unable to conceive a child.