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Burma's Kayan Women

This essay, at Guernica magazine (online arts and politics) may be of interest to Pulsewire readers:

Dragon Mothers Polish Their Metal Coils
by Edith Mirante
Burma's Kayan women brave indignity and exploitation to continue a centuries-old tradition: wrapping their necks in symbols of feminine beauty, otherworldly status, and matriarchal power.
Illustrated with a photo by Nic Dunlop

best wishes,


Alyssa's picture

the head held high

Dear Edith,

Your article gave an interesting perspective on the nuances of female beauty and the cultural sway it holds. I think it is fascinating how the metal rings are simultaneously a source of power, fear, admiration, respect and exotic curiosity. I think you summed up the issue best when you wrote:

"There is a pervasive fear of women's intrinsic power in Burmese culture, and a concerted effort by the military regime to demean women, especially evident in the mass-scale military rape of ethnic minorities. At the same time, the defiance of women is pivotal to the resistance movement in Burma. The Kayan women in their metal coils can be presented as freaks, animals, and amusements--but they remain an outright manifestation of defiant power, witchery, and autonomy. They are a vision of steely determination, armored and aloof."

What a testament to the power of presentation! I would be enthralled to hear more about your research and experiences with the Kayan women. How did you interact with them? Were they interested in what you were wearing?

Alyssa Larkin
Editorial Intern
World Pulse

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