Men in Management – Myanmar and Beyond

Myanmar - Yangon Men In Management-1

“Progress isn’t made by early risers.
It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.” 
~Robert A. Heinlein

What more needs to be said?  This is a perfect quote.

For us men, we take to heart the point of “while appearing lazy, we actually accomplish a lot.”  A thought I toasted many a beer to during travels in Myanmar with our guide Mr. Thu.

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-2

Conversely, my sister Sandi and our other guide in Myanmar, Ms. Kay-K, had the opposing view, and while they agreed with the first part of the assessment of “being lazy”, they vehemently disagreed with the last part where men actually accomplish anything.

In fact, if I remember correctly, Kay-K’s comment was simply “men accomplishing something?!?” before she broke out in laughter along with my sister.

Inle Lake Myanmar - Men In Management-3

It was at this point I realized this may be a long trip.  The banter began the first day during our drive out into the countryside and witnessing an endless amount of roadwork taking place.

The roadwork included strenuous labor; baskets and baskets of rocks being carried to-and-fro, digging, leveling and preparation of the road by pick and hand as the crew worked on repairs.

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-4

It was a matter of time before my sister asked the logical question, “Thu, there are only women doing this road work… where are the men?”

With a start, Thu snapped out of his nap, looked outside the car window, and nonchalantly replied: “Oh, the men?  The men are in management…” and closed his eyes to go back to sleep.  I stifled my laughter.

Monks at Play Myanmar - Men In Management-5

I thought Thu’s response was perfect, even though over the past decades of tormenting my three sisters about the ‘wonders of being a man’ I should have known a storm was inevitably brewing.

Hiding my smile, I would have high-fived Mr. Thu if he wasn’t fading back to sleep and I didn’t have a beer in each hand…

Yangon Myanmar - Men In Management-6

“It sounds like the old boys network,” my sister said to Kay-K.  “Men in power, pretending to be significant while the rest of us do the real work that keeps us moving forward.”

“Of course, it is the same everywhere isn’t it?” cooed Kay-K, casting a wary eye my way.  “Dalo, were you part of the old men’s club with your work in the USA?”

“Well, yeah, I suppose I was…  I was part of a male upper-management team.” I quickly inhaled the last of my beer, a little worried at what I was getting myself into.  Mr. Thu just opened one eye looking back at me as if to say  “feign sleep, it’s your only way out…”

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-7

Yet before I could put my head back and close my eyes, Kay-K was quick to ask, “And was working with this company good for you?”

“Uh, yeah, it was nice.  I was able to buy a nice house, save some money and take such nice trips as this…” I added, wondering where this was going, although knowing it was not going to end well and too late to do anything about it…

“And how about the company now; the common employees?” she looked at me inquisitively.

Yangon Myanmar - Men In Management-8

“Uh, well, I left the company last year but I do know that the employees there are struggling a bit as there have been huge cuts within the company, but they did announce record profits last year.” I smiled, and decided now was the time to close my eyes and try Thu’s trick of feigning sleep.

“Making cuts?  Record profits?” Kay-K questioned, and laughed with a sharp tone, “and let me guess, the old men in the executive positions are walking away with big bonuses…”

With eyes closed, I let out a couple snores, hoping to dissolve the conversation.

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-9

Not sure how much time passed in our conversation, but the ‘pop’ of a fresh beer opening gave me away as my hand shot-out instinctively and Kay-K replaced the one I was holding with a fresh one.

Slowly squinting, I opened my eyes, checking to see if all was well and turned to look outside.  Could not have been worse timing, as immediately we passed a group of women working the fields, and I felt Kay-K’s stare burning the back of my head.

Women of Bagan Myanmar - Men In Management-10

Cracking a meager smile, I turned and said, “If I have learned correctly, the men are in management, elsewhere, correct?!?”  Thu lifted up his beer in a silent toast as sarcastic jeers came from Kay-K and sis.

Inle Lake Myanmar - Men In Management-11

Ahead of us was Old Bagan, with some of the most beautiful landscapes one will ever see and I anxiously prepped my gear for a nice evening of shooting.  As we started walking to one of the temples, Kay-K flashed a smile and said, “so, you take photographs and drink beer…that is very nice.  You’d be a very good Myanmar man…”  And with a laugh she ran and caught up with my sister.

Pindaya Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-12

The evening shoot was magical, the spirit of the people incredible…peaceful and playful.  Mixed within these incredible archeological sites, Thu and Kay-K talked a lot about the history and culture of the land as well as the men and women.

“There is a saying that my Dad taught me and I take it to heart.”  Thu said, “For men who think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, just remember that’s where the knives are kept.”

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-13

“Myanmar not too long ago was a matriarchal society, and women held all the right to inherit wealth and were leaders of villages…” Kay-K smiled.  “Most men hate to admit to it, but it was a very prosperous period for our country.”

Kay-K Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-14

“And when women were forced into the background, guess what happened to our country…” Kay-K added, “power struggles, egos of men creating chaos.  We lost generations of fresh minds and new ideas…it is sad.  Why are men so moronic when it comes to fighting?”

Monk and Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-15

I rubbed the small scar on my chin, a result of a long ago fight that even during the brawl I don’t think anyone knew what we were fighting for.  Hmmm, probably not the best time to tell that story.

“We’ve always had a feel for progress and for freedom, and the men know it…perhaps their knowing it makes them so lazy.” Kay-K sighed.

Myanmar - Men In Management-16

“Men know that we will cleanup their mess, so when things get tough ~ men turn to us, but hate to admit they need us.” With that she grabbed my sister’s hand and both of them tromped off to the market to find some exotic foods for dinner.

Inle Lake Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-17

I look at Thu who shook his head and smiled.  “She is a little troublesome…but it is true.  Men can either fear and repress women, and watch the world fall apart.  Or men can proudly promote women and enjoy their greatness and prosperity.”

As he popped open a couple of beers, Thu settled down underneath the shade of a tree with a newspaper in hand and added, “Me, I’d rather enjoy their greatness.”

Old Bagan Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-18

From the front page of the paper Thu was reading, the word “Hope” stood out followed by a discussions of two future elections.  Elections that may just see a change in the theory of ‘Men in Management.’

Myanmar 2015 Presidential Election:  Aung San Suu Kyi
United States 2016 Presidential Election: Hillary Clinton

Hope for the Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-19


Old Bagan Myanmar - Men In Management-24

“Say Romeo, what about your promise to the He-Man-Woman-Haters-Club?”
“I’m sorry, Spanky.  I’ve got to live my own life.”  – REO Speedwagon, Hi Infidelity Album

171 Comments on “Men in Management – Myanmar and Beyond

  1. Great post Randall! I enjoy reading it very much. Love the way you brought the social issue from a conversation among the four into a marvelous writing and photo stories. Similar portraits could be found also in India and some part of Bali (Indonesia), but recently in Indonesia, it is getting less and less of such sights. I have to agree with your sister on “old boys network” thingies – LOL – that still exist in certain industries 😉
    And this quote is brilliant – “For men who think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, just remember that’s where the knives are kept.” (Thu)

    • Thanks Indah, while it was amazing to see women doing much of the work, I was more impressed by their strong/confident attitudes. Enjoyed writing this post quite a bit. Safe Travels!

      • The work gives women the opportunity to empower them for better living condition and I am sure that makes them even stronger 🙂
        Looking at the post again this morning, I am truly impressed by the presented portraits.
        Now already back to a four season country, still suffering from jet-lag – everything I do seem slower than usual :))

  2. The title of the post and the first image didn’t give a clue on what’s going to follow and neither the first quote.

    But once I started reading the post it was pure entertainment and the grin ceased to vanish from my face even after I finished it.

    The way you have organized this post is just beautiful and the write up, Perfect 🙂

    I re-read the whole post with my wife and thank god, we were not in a mood for a heated argument 🙂

    Frankly speaking, the amount of work, women have to handle in the developing countries is just beyond imagination.

    I could also see it in person in India and I feel the imbalance is not much there in western countries.

    Thanks a lot for this thought provoking and beautiful work, Dalo 🙂

    • Thank you Sreejith, very nice comment and it is really funny that you read it to your wife 🙂 That is just perfect! It is pretty amazing to see such strength in women everywhere in the world, but I think you are right, the imbalance in the West is not there like it is in developing countries, especially the smaller SE Asia countries.

  3. Randall, can sense that you enjoyed penning this one 🙂 and the photographs are magnificent! I especially like the one of the novice monks playing with – are they spinning tops on a string? And, I love the composition, light, and captured emotion of number three.

    The portraits are beautiful. I’m curious – do you often speak to your subjects for a while to relax them in front of a camera, or are these more candid shots? Do you carry around many lenses with you?

    • Ha, ha, thank you Tricia, I did enjoy writing this quite a bit 🙂 It is always difficult for me to take candid shots ‘cold’ so if there is a scene I am intrigued with, I usually will talk with the people and if it feels good I can begin shooting and it is a warm feeling, best being a good time shared by all if that makes sense.

      While I think just one lens/camera is necessary, I often will take another lens/body with me: a full frame body with my 24-70mm and then a 1.6 crop body with my 70-200mm that can work well for the long shots. Majority of my photos are with my 24-70mm lens, it works well in so many situations ~ and is a great portrait lens.

  4. Dalo, this post is intensely incredible. Your photography is bar none, excellent with the portraits whose faces just grab my heart. How sad to know and see and actually live in a world where the brunt of the work falls on women. Even in “developed” countries this is so. I so enjoyed your gorgeously put together post, so well thought out, and so put together it was just perfect. Bless you for your work you do. Love, Amy

    • Thank you Amy, very nice words and happy the photos caught your eye. The women, while have so much work fall on them are nonetheless so strong, and are leaders of their communities (non-politically). I was very impressed by their strength. Take care.

      • Women have to be strong, Dalo. Your post really moved me and gave me an education as well. Your photography is truly great. Thank you. Love, Amy

    • Ha, ha…yes, I think you are right. Many of us guys know that the fairer-sex have a step up on us, so we just try to ignore it the best we can 🙂 Cheers!

  5. Yupp, absolutely agree!!!
    Me and both of my sisters lost of argues with this kind of gender stuffs, we used to be much more experience with fun as a men, we through out puberty with ‘the joy’ of wet dreams while the girls should be worried about mennorrhea pain,
    not to mention that the girls carries our babies too, then my sister replies “man are lucky assholes!!!”
    i replied “that’s why i’m not gonna married a man!!!” and we ended laught out loud….

  6. Simply stunning, Randall! I remember noticing and hearing about the same phenomenon when I visited Vietnam — and all SE Asia, really. It is certainly true around many households in the United States, too; though I wouldn’t say the same thing about the workforce.

    Amazing work as always, friend.

    • Thanks Jess, it is always great to see strong women around the world…as they do keep it spinning correctly (no matter how hard us men try to do the opposite!).

  7. Great images. Love the discourse surrounding them too… I must live in the wrong country… Done my fair share of hauling cables over the years – don’t remember there being any ladies on the cable gang 😉

    • Thanks Martin, ha ~ yes, I think your work would have been more interesting with ladies helping you out 🙂 Cheers.

  8. Hi Randall, This is another delightful post with striking photos and clever writing. I love how integrated they are. This is a gentle look at an important topic. I believe the world would be better with more women empowered to live their greatness and lead with heart. Our world is swimming in male excesses of war, power and destruction, all needing to be balanced by loving kindness, cooperation and holistic approaches. Thanks.

  9. What a lucky person you are to travel to such wonderous lands and get such great photographs!

    • Myanmar was really beautiful, probably one of my favorite places I’ve travelled. Thank you Jackie, wish you a good weekend.

  10. Dalo!… I found this post absolutely revealing… The quote at the very beginning… And then later on when you quoted a woman saying: “Men know that we will cleanup their mess, so when things get tough ~ men turn to us, but hate to admit they need us.”
    I do fell that this kind of thing happens everywhere. Regardless under some circumstances the effects of this kind of manly hegemony can be tougher. Great post and I love your account!.
    All the very best to you, Aquileana 😛

  11. Wow, I love all of your posts, thanks for sharing! looking forward to discover, as there is quite a lot out there on your blog!

    • Thank you very much ~ agree there is so much out there to discover, and also to see what you uncover as well. Cheers!

  12. Apparently men in management seem to spend a lot of time reading newspapers….Always love how your portraits tell such wonderful stories.

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