Thai-American US senator says women need to break through the glass ceiling

PHOTO: Wikipedia

Thai-American United States Senator Ladda “Tammy” Duckworth says women – in both Thailand and the US – need to take on leadership roles and break through the glass ceiling. Her speech, recorded in Illinois and played back at the Bangkok Post International Forum 2020, comes at a time where groups of Thai women attending the ongoing pro-democracy protests are expressing concerns with patriarchal society.

At a recent protest, a woman dressed in a school uniform with tape over her mouth held a sign saying “A teacher sexually assaulted me. The school is not a safe space.” At another protest, a group of women performed a dance and chant to raise awareness about how some victims sexual harassment and rape are blamed because the way they dress.

Others attending the protests have brought to light issues on gender equality in Thailand, such as how the nation’s top military school does not accept women. In an earlier report, a student protester told a New York Times reporter “The monarchy and the military have all the power in Thailand… I shouldn’t be afraid to say that men have almost all the power.”

The US senator, who was born in Bangkok, says she spent her entire life in male-dominated fields. She served in the US army and lost both her legs back in 2004 when a Black Hawks helicopter she was co-piloting in Iraq was shot down. In her speech, she told a story about her experience being a woman in the army.

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“I made sure that on every sub-zero morning there were hot teas and hot cocoas for my crew because it’s so cold in Chicago in the winter, but some of the male commanders and platoon leaders started to call me ‘the mommy platoon leader’. It was meant to be an insult.”

“Once I took away the warm teas and warm cocoas, my guys performed worse because they were cold. They were doing better when I provided them hot beverages to keep them going. What I should have done is to fight like a woman and beat those male leaders by doing it.”

She says women in America and in Thailand will never be as strong as they can be if they keep accepting the status quo that doesn’t “fully accept” half the world’s population, women.

“Our nations will never be at their best as long as 50% of our population have to keep ducking our heads to avoid hitting that glass ceiling.”

“National security is a women’s issue. The economy is a women’s issue. Healthcare is also a women’s issue. Our countries will never reach high stature as long as we keep siloing women’s issues in the way we are used to, because women’s issues don’t start and end with equal pay.”

Along with urging women in both Thailand and America to challenge gender barriers, Tammy says she hopes to see closer ties between the 2 countries.

“There’s a reason Thailand is often called Washington’s oldest ally in Asia. Ever since Washington’s ship landed on Siam’s shore more than 200 years ago. Ever since King Mongkut offered to send elephants to President Abraham Lincoln. Ever since we agreed to help strengthen one another’s economies with the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and helping defend one other through the Manila Pact.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Caitlin Ashworth

Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

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