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Thread: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

  1. #91
    FORT Fogey libgirl2's Avatar
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    Re: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

    Quote Originally Posted by MizDaisy View Post
    I'm sorry you assumed my statement about primitive cultures meant that I was "labeling entire cultures" because that certainly was not my intent. My interest is in the lack of educational opportunities available to gypsy girls due to the culture's disinterest in having them learn anything beyond reading and writing, not a comparison of the merits of one culture's art to another. These girls are taught from early childhood that their goal in life is to marry, produce children, obey their ofen abusive and thuggish spouse, and endlessly clean, clean, clean their trailers. As we have seen on the show, these girls are already caring for their siblings and cleaning their trailers before they're married, so they're well trained for the life their culture expects of them as wives.
    They do keep a clean trailer!
    "To err is human, to arr is a pirate"

  2. #92
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    Re: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

    I am sensitive to phrases like "primitive cultures" and some forms of art being labeled as "great" simply because anybody who works with the folklore or folk arts of any culture is constantly coming up against comments like that used to dismiss art forms that aren't highbrow enough for the people making said comments. I'm so tired of hearing "that's a great story--someone should write it down," as if the story they just admitted appreciating had no chance of surviving (even if it already had survived for some time without their knowledge) without being written down or somehow would automatically have its importance enhanced just by being written down, even though plenty of ineffective stories have been written down and haven't been improved any by appearing in print. It's also really frustrating trying to convince people who are clearly masters that what they do is intrinsically important and artistic, even if it doesn't match what the majority of the population thinks of when they think of art. There's just something galling about those who assume that even a bad opera beats a good folk song, simply by virtue of its form too.

    That's why I said it's a little unfair to assume that gypsy culture has not interest in the arts (in fact, there's a big international Roma Gypsy art festival that started five years ago and the official website for the Irish Travelers has a section on music that includes recordings of their folk songs, mostly done by women). Their pony carts alone show that they can do--it's just a different kind of art. I don't disagree that there are many aspects of their culture that are unfairly sexist. I don't disagree that education in is important or that people can't benefit from learning about all kinds of different art forms. If I did disagree with that, I'd really have to find myself another line of work, toss my piano in the trash, have selective amnesia about all the theatre I've been in and seen, and stop buying so much art of all kinds. I just thought it was a bit much to say they had no interest in the arts or to write off what interest they had as insignificant because even primitive cultures can produce art. Primitive is, unfortunately, one of those words that definitely has a negative connotation when applied to a culture. Certainly it's not regarded as a compliment to tell someone his/her culture is primitive and the production of art forms is a sign that a culture has an aesthetic sense and concerns beyond mere survival, which are characteristics that are typically lauded--in other words that they're not just "primitive."

    I'm sorry if I jumped to a conclusion about your intentions but your comments came smack on the heels of my trying to point out that there is evidence of gypsy art even in MBFGW. That made me think you were dismissing their artistic production as insignificant because it doesn't match what's typically taught in Art 101 but that evidently was not your intended meaning.

  3. #93
    FORT Fogey nanarama's Avatar
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    Re: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

    I'm sorry if I started the whole "art and literature" discussion by my comment earlier on referring to their lack of education.
    There is great validity in folk art as well as oral traditions. There was certainly no intention to belittle that.
    My feelings about the gypsy culture began at the onset of this show with great sympathy for a people who have been and are discriminated against. That is always painful for me to see and "gets my dander up," as we might say in the South. As I have watched the show further, some of the attitudes of the people began really bothering me. One of those would be the sexist nature of their culture as you just mentioned. The episode where the man went to the fair and left his wife at home but then called her to bring him dinner was particularly offensive and was key in my feelings towards their culture shifting. Maybe his was an uncommon attitude and so that's unfair, but that wasn't the impression I got from the show.
    Then when I read the quote from the gypsy king who said that education wasn't needed - they just needed to be able to read and write - it made me very angry. In our culture, things certainly aren't perfect but one good thing we have is compulsary education. We are required to learn beyond just the bare basics. We must study history, geography, mathematics and yes, art and literature. As we learn, it helps us to understand the world that we live in and nourishes our souls. I didn't finish college, but still love to learn and read every day as well as watching educational show (beyond reality tv, believe it or not!) and attend museums, plays and concerts when I can. It makes me sad to think of a whole group of people who are basically denied that opportunity. They likely don't know what they're missing, but don't even have the chance to find out. How many people had no idea that they enjoyed something in the arts, for example, until they were exposed to it - often in a class at school.
    Then the more we know, we often feel moved to make a contribution to society. Contributing enriches our lives as others are enriched by those contributions.
    Yes, there are plenty of shallow people in our culture, and education doesn't guaranty Madam Curies or Albert Einsteins, but it does give us a chance to be contributing members. I feel sad to see people denied that chance who might otherwise have some great potential.

  4. #94
    Christian,Mom,Teacher mom2's Avatar
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    Re: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

    Denying their youth, especially females, educational opportunities is abusive. It keeps them "in their place", and doesn't let them dream for more than scrubbing after their husbands and kids for the rest of their lives. It's slavery.
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  5. #95
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    Re: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

    Yes, there are plenty of shallow people in our culture, and education doesn't guaranty Madam Curies or Albert Einsteins, but it does give us a chance to be contributing members. I feel sad to see people denied that chance who might otherwise have some great potential.
    Thanks, nanarama, your entire post expressed what I was trying to say but in a much better way. I started watching this show for the trainwreck factor but found myself feeling sorry for these young girls who clearly put so much into their weddings because it's the only thing they have to look forward to as an "accomplishment." We have seen little girls dressed in provocative clothing as they learn from an early age that attracting a man to find a husband is encouraged and rewarded. It reminds me of the UNCF slogan, "a mind is a terrible thing to waste."

  6. #96
    FORT Fogey causingchaos's Avatar
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    Re: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

    One must remember that in some European countries these kids are not allowed to go to school male or female due to laws in the country prohibiting it. Not that that is true here but as an oppressed group there are some harsh realities that go along with it.

    Also in the US there are at least a couple subcultures where kids are not educated past a certain age and where women have traditional roles. I've never seen any of these cultures lacking in appreciation in their own way of art and beauty. Nor did I see them as unable to create art and beauty including the women (in their traditional roles). Also I would hardly say in at least one subculture that these folks are not contributing members of society. But it's of their society not the majority culture.

    I choose to not filter these cultures through my majority culture lens because it's not fair to them and their realities. I see women frequently as well in the majority culture where due to where they live and what ever the realities are there drop out of school at an early age to be stay at home moms. In fact in the majority culture here it's quite looked down upon to say a negative word at women in traditional housewife roles....

  7. #97
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    Re: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

    I choose to not filter these cultures through my majority culture lens because it's not fair to them and their realities. I see women frequently as well in the majority culture where due to where they live and what ever the realities are there drop out of school at an early age to be stay at home moms. In fact in the majority culture here it's quite looked down upon to say a negative word at women in traditional housewife roles....
    I'm with you, causingchaos, in keeping my majority culture lens wide open rather than filtered. But I disagree that women in traditional housewife roles are looked down upon in the U.S. If anything, in my experience that role has become increasingly valued as there have been studies in recent years showing that even women who have successful careers are opting to become stay at home moms because they realize the importance of that job. Of course, these women had the luxury to choose to give up a full-time job outside the home, unlike the girls shown on MBFGW whose cultural bias against further education insured they had only one choice.

    Also I would hardly say in at least one subculture that these folks are not contributing members of society.
    I don't believe thieving, scamming, brawling, and disregard for community standards, like mandatory school attendance, indicate the Traveler/Roma culture are contributing members of society. I also don't believe they're an "oppressed minority." These people make a choice not to educate themselves, and I'm referring to the UK Traveler/Roma community as shown on MBFGW, which is the topic of this forum. They can choose not to take advantage of the educational opportunities available to them and their children, but as with all choices there are consequences, which in this case guarantees a continuation of the cycle of ignorance and sexist treatment of females.

  8. #98
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    Re: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

    [QUOTE=causingchaos;4339467]One must remember that in some European countries these kids are not allowed to go to school male or female due to laws in the country prohibiting it. Not that that is true here but as an oppressed group there are some harsh realities that go along with it.

    Also in the US there are at least a couple subcultures where kids are not educated past a certain age and where women have traditional roles. I've never seen any of these cultures lacking in appreciation in their own way of art and beauty. Nor did I see them as unable to create art and beauty including the women (in their traditional roles). Also I would hardly say in at least one subculture that these folks are not contributing members of society. But it's of their society not the majority culture.

    I choose to not filter these cultures through my majority culture lens because it's not fair to them and their realities. I see women frequently as well in the majority culture where due to where they live and what ever the realities are there drop out of school at an early age to be stay at home moms. In fact in the majority culture here it's quite looked down upon to say a negative word at women in traditional housewife roles....


    Because MBFGW is the kind of show that raises more questions than it answers for me, I've been doing a lot of looking on-line for research on gypsy and traveler culture. According to some interviews that were conducted with travelers, part of the reason they have misgivings about the school system has to do with the history of the way they were treated by it. Traveler kids were sometimes kept separated from the rest of the students, even at lunch. They were forced to take showers before school started, because it was assumed they were unclean (though from what they've shown on this series, they seem to be pretty anal about keeping everything clean, which, I suppose, might make them feel particularly insulted if they were regarded as dirty). They were just not treated very well. I'm not saying that's still happening--I have no idea if it is--but if you've got generations going through that kind of treatment, it can contribute to an ingrained attitude. If you were treated badly at school, you're probably doubly suspicious that your kids or grandkids will be treated poorly. There are still problems on reservation schools because of a long history of misguided (at best) attempts at public education that don't take into account differences in culture (e.g. traditionally raised native kids may think it's impolite to look anyone directly in the eye or draw attention to your by calling out the answer, even if you do know it, because that may make someone who can't come up with answer as quickly feel bad).

    Some travelers do send their kids to parochial schools, but those aren't free, and since traveler families can be pretty large, I can see how that might get expensive. Part of the reason they send them to parochial schools is that they don't like the sex and drug education classes in public school; in fact, they're not wild about the openly coed nature of public schools either. Some of the parochial schools are co-ed too, but I guess they feel with nuns and priests in charge, they're still going to get a fairly conservative education.

    I'm not saying they shouldn't educate their kids. I'm just suggesting there may be reasons they have problems with the school system that works for most students. In some other conservative cultures (e.g. the Amish in the U.S.), the groups in question have established their own schools or they've managed to work out some kind of compromise with the dominant culture in the area (in Arthur, Illinois, the Amish and the "English" have an equal number of seats on the school board, for instance). But I think part of the reason the Amish in Arthur are able to do that is that they still have a number of similarities with their non-Amish neighbors: they're farmers, for instance, and their ethnic backgrounds are similar to their neighbors. Besides, the Amish community also brings business into the area--they make quilts, harnesses, cheese, preserves etc. that pull in tourists and collectors. People also tend to think of the Amish lifestyle as quaint and admirable and just come to see the horse-drawn wagons etc. Gypsies and travelers don't have that same aura nor do they draw people in--instead, their neighbors are likely worried about their property values if a gypsy trailer park pops up next door, which, frankly, is reasonable, given the fact that gypsies do, by their own admission, like to throw some pretty extensive parties. People typically don't like to live next door to anyone who's noisy, regardless of who they are.

    If the travelers/gypsies were able to establish their own communities, as the Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites do, there would probably be less difficulties for them, but their situation is very different. Their culture isn't tied to remaining in one place and there simply isn't as much land available for anyone in Great Britain as there is in the United States, because the country is so much smaller.

    On a tangential note, a number of years ago, I attended a performance of the yearly Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant in DeSmet, SD (they do a play based on one of the books set in DeSmet every year--I don't know why they call it a pageant, because it's really a play). There was a Hutterite conference in the area at the time, so a large contingent of Hutterites were in attendance. Their daily dress is very similar to the costumes that were worn in the play, so prior to the play, when the actors were wandering around in costume, it was sometimes a little difficult to tell who was in the audience and who was in the cast. I don't know how popular Wilder's books are in the Hutterite community, but they certainly seemed to enjoy themselves.

  9. #99
    FORT Fogey Duckyface's Avatar
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    Re: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

    While I don't approve of the girls in gypsy culture marrying so young, at least the marriage is their choice and not arranged for them or forced upon them as it is in other cultures. While I also think it's a crying shame that they aren't given a choice in what they wish to do in life, I also think suggesting that raising children is not contributing to society is extremely misguided.

  10. #100
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    Re: My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

    Quote Originally Posted by Duckyface View Post
    While I don't approve of the girls in gypsy culture marrying so young, at least the marriage is their choice and not arranged for them or forced upon them as it is in other cultures. While I also think it's a crying shame that they aren't given a choice in what they wish to do in life, I also think suggesting that raising children is not contributing to society is extremely misguided.
    One of the interviews I read where the informant was in, I think, her fifties, she was asked if her marriage was arranged, and she laughed and said, no, the two of them chose each other. From what I inferred, however, some marriages are arranged, but that's not typical anymore, at least not among the Irish travelers. I don't know about Roma Gypsies or Travelers in other countries. That particular woman also felt that she was luckier than some of her younger siblings, because the majority of her schooling was in a parochial school, where she learned to like to read. Apparently her younger siblings went to a public school where they weren't as comfortable and never liked it. She didn't go to school past her early teens either, but she did mention still liking to read. She had still followed the traditional path of marriage and kids and working only in the home, but she continued to educate herself, after a fashion, by continuing to enjoy books.

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