The boys’ club

Ah-hem- to all men in particular- exit this page now if you don’t want to hear some home truths about Nepal and men.

Since being with R, I’ve noticed how there’s a real divide in the way women and men socialise in Nepalese culture.

In Australia, groups of friends, comprising men and women, go out everywhere in public together- to restaurants, bars, parties, sporting events and even do road trips.

For R, he seems to find it quite strange that when my girlfriends invite me somewhere, they always invite Rabindra too, and there will be lots of couples out together.

He explained that in Nepalese culture, women and men don’t socialise much together- boys go to bars where there are rarely ever women there; and even when going out to a restaurant, their wives/girlfriends will usually not join them.

I think the exceptions are for things like anniversaries and weddings or having your friend and his wife over for dinner one night.

At first, it bothered me that I was never invited out with Rabindra. But then I realised it was because I would be the only girl there which would be uncomfortable for me anyway especially around lots of men drinking in a foreign language (fun much…I think not).

The boys' club at our house (sorry about my dodgy paint job with the faces)

I don’t have a problem with it now especially as Rabindra is getting used to the whole idea of men and women socialising together.

I’ve touched on this topic vaguely in my post “Being a woman in Nepal”

Recently, Rabindra and I were invited to his friend’s house with 5 guys and I was the only girl there because R’s friend’s wife was at work.

They encouraged me to drink and we all ended up doing shots, playing drinking games and having fun until the wee hours of the morning (although I stopped drinking a lot earlier than them!)

Then, with the same friends this week, Rabindra went over and they drank again, this time I couldn’t go cause I had charity meetings that night.

He told me that he felt sorry for his friend’s wife who was at home and wanted to hang out with them while they were all drinking, but she couldn’t because it would be deemed “bad” according to their culture. (She was not necessarily told by the boys she couldn’t take part but because she knew it would reflect badly on her husband).

I was shocked because just the other week, I was there drinking with them, breaking the boys’ club rules, not on my own accord but because they invited me.

When I asked R why, he said “coz in Nepal women shouldn’t do that- they serve the food but they don’t take part in the fun and drinking. Unfortunately that’s the way it is.”

R told me, “it’s different for you though because you’re not Nepalese”.

I’m not a feminist in the extreme sense at all, but this totally sat wrong with me.

It’s discrimination. It’s double standards. It’s the stupid boys’ club rules that made her feel alone that night.

Sometimes I’m not proud to be a white person. There’s a lot of greed, racism and suppression in the world against blacks/browns and white people are the cause of it.

But on this night, I felt proud to have white skin. Not because I got treated as one of the guys, but because in Australia, well for the most part, women are treated with equality and respect.

There are rarely double standards and we are not expected to act a certain way because we are women.

We have rights and that’s the way it should be.

We are given the same wage for the same job, girls will not be given leftover scrap food and precious baby girls are showered with as much love as baby boys.

I felt sorry for my friend’s wife. All I wanted to do was hug her and say “it’s just the way it is in Nepali culture- don’t get too upset about it. At the end of the day your husband treats you with love and respect.”

But I also know that even though it’s the way it is in their culture, it’s not fair and I can’t stop thinking about it.

What do you think about the boys’ club?

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This entry was posted in Cross-cultural, Culture, Differences, Inequality, Intercultural, Intercultural Relationship, Interracial, Nepal, Women and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The boys’ club

  1. Sara says:

    It’s really hard for me to hear about that operating in our age group…I’m used to it to varying degrees in the uncles and aunties, and the occasional “fob” cousin, but it’s hard to think of a generally reasonable person of our generation being party (however passively) to discrimination like that. If that doesn’t smack you in the face with White/Western/male privilege, nothing will.

    I think that the boys’ club operates still in most cultures (I can speak for the US; for example, women are still not typically paid the same wage for the same job, but at least they’re embarrassed enough to hide it now), but it’s lessened and gone underground. I also think most Western cultures were just as sexist a few hundred (or even fifty) years ago…which is why I think most women define themselves as feminist when they compare it to a blatantly sexist society (even if they think current Western societies are nonsexist enough). It’s hard to know how to respond, because you have to balance respecting the context of other cultures (i.e., not pushing colonialism) with standing up for basic human rights…and who gets to say which is which? There’s no easy answers…

    • It does smack me in the face as discrimination but rabindra didnt want part of it and that’s why he felt sorry for her. he said while it’s a reality and it happens, he’s glad i don’t have to face that. And he said that if we have daughters, he doesnt want his daughters raised like that.

      In this case, the girl herself chose to not get involved because she didnt want to embarass her husband- it’s not that they told her she couldn’t. It’s just what’s “expected” from women apparently. you are right, it’s a touchy topic and I don’t want to criticise the culture but i find many aspects hard to get my head around…

      • Raj says:

        I’d say in western countries theres another type of discrimination which I will call the “mainstream” club. This type of discrimination happens at nearly every party. Blacks and whites will hang out together and you will usually see the odd Indian or Middle Eastern MAN ignored and shunned in the corner. Everyone faces discrimination, get over it. You have it better than most!

    • Kiki says:

      This Raj guy is going off tangent here. I don’t see why Sara or any woman who receives sub-standard social treatment should “Get over it” as he put it.

      I’m a Nepali girl and it infuriates me when guys expect their girlfriends or wives to watch them having fun from a corner.

  2. Abby says:

    That’s a very eye opening topic, Casey! I haven’t experienced anything like it before. I’m not sure how I’d feel about it.

  3. Roshan says:

    It happens a lot in Nepal unfortunately. The society here is based on Patriarchy and often rooted by male chauvinism. Fortunately the newer working generation (meaning both male & female working) are opening up and are more conscious of equal rights in the minor details of life.

  4. Well, I also don’t get that much invited by the ‘boys’ club’ of my husband and I don’t really mind that. I think that the fact that I don’t drink alcohol is a factor in that. Maybe I’m getting a Nepali wife treatment. 🙂 I know that lots of Nepali’s respect me for that decision hower they find it really weird because all the gori’s drink.

    Especially the older (even sometimes younger ) Nepali generation finds a women drinking alcohol not done.

  5. ~rangi-changi~ says:

    My husband acts like a bahun in some ways, pure veg, has never touched alcohol, and I have never encountered this ‘boys night’ behaviour. When I stop to think about it the sexism in Nepalese culture really bothers me, but then we have our own versions just as bad(the emphasis on ‘hotness’ as the end-all be-all for women). I recently read a book called ‘In Search of the Medicine Buddha’ and the chapter on women’s health in Nepal really floored me. There is such an emphasis on having a son that a woman will give birth to daughter after daughter until she has that precious son – if she cannot have children then the husband has the right to divorce her. As a childless woman over 40, if I were Nepalese, I would be shunned I am sure. As it is, it really bothers me when dealing with Indian and Nepalese women and the first question they ask is how many children you have and ‘none’ is clearly the wrong answer. I think women would rather have children they cannot afford to feed even if they end up begging in the street, sniffing Dendrite cement,(as I have seen in Ktm) rather than making the (for some) smart decision to remain childless if they can barely afford to feed themselves.

  6. Kay says:

    I think you have every right to be offended! I’m quite offended as well and I am Nepalese! Though this story did remind me of a similar one concerning my parents! When my parents got married (arranged) in the early 80s, my dad would hang out with his guy friends and leave my mom at home. She finally put her foot down saying either he take her along or stop hanging out with his friends. Years later, my dad told me that his main concern was that she would get freaked out by his friends. Turns out he did take her once and she did get freaked out–haha.
    But this is the first time I’ve heard that Nepali women are discouraged from drinking alcohol. Most Nepali girls that I know in Canada (though 90% of them are university students) are really into the party scene. My grandma, who’s like 80 years old and still frowns when you don’t follow the period rule, has a glass of wine with dinner.

  7. Taswin says:

    And R’s friend’s wife still took it upon herself to serve these guys food…?

    The thing that gets on my nerves when I’m in Nepal is not necessarily the segrated socialising (I’ve only been to mixed gatherings and parties…obviously ;)) but the fact that when they occur in somebody’s house women are often expected to put the men’s needs before their own, like serve the men food before disappearing to another room. Because you know, men can’t serve themselves. And this expectation comes from both the men and women, seems like these gender roles are deeply entrenched. (Not saying women don’t have fun at all in these gatherings, they love getting together with the girls too, it’s just that ever-present unequal division of labour). I haven’t experienced this kind of behaviour with younger people though, and have often socialised (including drinking) and travelled/trekked for weeks at a time with cousins and their friends in mixed groups. I think younger people are conscious of levelling the playing field a bit.

    From what you’re saying though, better not to be invited to the boys club and let them serve themselves!

    That said I don’t think Australian society is 100% equal. Female dominated, caring type professions (teaching, nursing, social work) are still relatively underpaid compared to male dominated ones, and even in ‘feminine’ professions top management is often male! In my line of work, there is definitely a boys club to contend with, it’s really depressing that highly-educated people reproduce such attitudes.
    Thanks for the post!

  8. White Bhabi says:

    I’ve experienced that too. My hubby thinks he’s going here there and everywhere and tries to use the excuse that ‘women can’t go there’ and I don’t let it slide lol. I told him point blank if he wanted life that way he should have found an Indian woman and that since I’m in India and I’m white I’m not afforded the same luxuries as a Indian woman would so I’m not taking the bad crap an Indian woman would be dealt either. It took a lot of discussion but we did reach a common ground on this issue.

    Now I’m all for guys having a guys night out once in a while, but only if the wife can have the same type of girls night out. You’re in Australia. There is no reason his wife can’t go out with another female and have a girls day. Maybe you should call her up and invite her out. Go get your nails done, do some shopping or have dinner. Maybe that can be the plan for their next guys night and someone else can do the serving instead of her. They won’t see that coming until it’s too late lol.

  9. Prayash says:

    My sentiments are in line with what Taswin has said already but I’d repeat them anyways.
    There’s a lot of socially accepted norms in our Nepali culture that is plainly anti-feminine. To this day, most of the Nepali get-togethers in this foreign land which is very age-diverse quickly ends up in a group of men and a group of women. Both women and men tacitly agree that women serve and men are served. People are collectively more dismissive of an opinion put forth by a woman and sadly enough that seems to ring true even for women. So much drama really!!! Having said that there are things that I like about our culture when it comes to gender roles as well.
    I’d have to disagree with the author of the blog in “We get same wage for the same job” in Australia statement. I had a hard time believing that and I ran a couple of google searches for stats in Australia —
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_pay_gap#Australia
    For the most part though, I agree that Western societies offer better opportunities and rights to women than the developing countries. I hope you guys reach some sort of an agreement/arrangement on how to deal with the boys club situation. Getting served and drinking beer with friends does seem quite tempting now 🙂

  10. Padmini says:

    My Nepali boyfriend’s sister told me that in Nepal, yes the women stay in the kitchen and don’t partake in the partying that the men do, but that there is a lot of women only partying that stays confined to the unseen world of the kitchen. Seems like a true sorority. I don’t know how to adjust to it because as an American (and a tomboy at that) I’ve never been one to fit in with a gaggle of girls.

  11. Bex says:

    Im married to a Nepali guy, he’d been living in Australia for over 2 years when we met and he’s quite used to our culture. He’s left Sydney to live up the coast with me and my family so he doesnt really have his Nepali boys club here, but he needs male companionship a lot, and although he never says I cant go with him, I feel sometimes like I cant give him the company he really wants. I also feel like its taking him some time to realise my opinions and advise on things are as valid as a mans….

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