Tuesday, 2 July 2013

In Defence of Taiwanese Women

There is an article on the Taiwanese web that has been making quite a ripple on Chinese social media. To date the article has been shared over 220 000 times on Facebook; mainly amongst Chinese speakers. You can read the article in both Chinese and English here. It’s a long and convoluted article – but read it until you want to punch the screen and you’ll have probably gotten the gist of the content.

For those of you not up for the essay, here is an exert:

“I find TW women to be utterly selfish, insecure, and self centered. As I have seen with many couples and unfortunate friends, when they age it's even more nonstop bitching and moaning. The focus just becomes on more money, more eating, more competition to show off to family and friends. You can forget about an exciting sex life. Lately I look at them with a mild disgust, despite some of their physical beauty.”

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first; this article is disgusting and its writer is a sexist and a bigot. As a British guy who has lived in Taiwan and Mainland China for a large portion of my adult life, I feel like I have to apologise on behalf of all the foreigners in Asia with half a brain cell. Let’s just thank God this is a blog and not an article with merit.

Furthermore, this piece demonstrates a colonial attitude towards non-western cultures that should have been left behind in the ages of world wars and empires. Taiwan is an economic and cultural hub of East Asia, which politically and socially stands tall in a region of high-performing nations. But according to this American-born Chinese (ABC) writer, that doesn’t matter because the women are shallow.

Sadly, these are sweeping statements and blinkered views that I have come across all too often among western expats. One’s invitation to enter a country in order to teach, study or work does not include a licence to become the nation’s critique.

In the west we are encouraged to believe that the way we do things: culturally, socially and politically, are all superior to the methods implemented in other parts of the world. We are taught little of the histories and cultures of other parts of the world, and maybe this reinforces this blinkered view. If you pass through the UK’s education system you’d almost be forgiven for thinking that the only culturally significant points of world history were the Romans, Queen Victoria’s reign and the two World Wars.

This may explain this Western arrogance towards the rest of the world but by no means excuses it.

An Asian visiting the USA may also find some pretty atrocious social phenomena. A country in the midst of an obesity epidemic with no social healthcare and a political system paralyzed through extreme ideology.

Perhaps I am reading too much into our ABC friend’s blog, as he focuses almost exclusively on relationships and expectations of love in Taiwanese culture, calling them shallow, self centred and materialistic. But statistics would argue that Taiwan is a better place to be in love than the US. Although divorce rates are rising, they currently stand at around 25% in Taiwan. This is one of the highest rates in Asia (second only to South Korea) but still pales in comparison to the astonishingly high proportion of divorce rates in the USA and the EU, 53% and 44% respectively.

Perhaps people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

I would also suggest that one's experiences abroad are only as positive as the people your surround yourself with. I was lucky enough to be studying in Taiwan as part of a postgraduate course with local students as my peers. The women I had the privilege of knowing were intelligent, considerate and interesting individuals, albeit a little obsessed with Hello Kitty.

If you hang out in the places where bitches and douchebags go, then you are only going to come across bitches and douchebags. If this is his only experience of Taiwanese women, then it suggests to me that he hasn’t bothered to look very far. Get out of Luxy and Babe 18 [the two major clubs in the centre of Taipei] and broaden your horizons, my blogger friend. It sounds like you’re a long way from being an authority on how Taiwanese women should be conducting themselves.

1 comment:

Justin Chang said...

To start off, I enjoyed seeing you on a David Asks a while back, but it wasn't until your recent reappearance in his vlogs that I started checking out some of your stuff (and I loved a lot of it!)

The title of this blog post made me think it was going to be about another topic, and it wasn't until I committed to wanting to write a reply before I realize what it was about. As much as a douchebag this guy was, I did like how it revealed a lot of really gross parts about me. For example, before I got to the part about the writer being ABC, I just assumed he was white. I would love to be able to blame all the picture and the use of 外國人 in the title, I'm pretty sure it's just my own racism coloured glasses that caused me to think that. Another is that I've stopped reading the Chinese a few paragraphs in after I realized it was a translator. It'd be amazing if it was just because the Chinese was not the author's thoughts and therefore I won't be able to gleam more insight into the person, but it's mostly because of laziness and how hard it was to read (especially since my reading level is stuck at a grade 2 level, and anything sexual pretty much goes over my head).

It's interesting that you thought you felt the need to come to the defence of Taiwanese women, when the author is so disgusting that I doubt anyone wanting real relationship advice would follow his. I found his comments about the Japanese to be particularly offensive personally, as my grandma lived through that era, and even to her deathbed, her nicknames for my dad and his siblings are in Japanese (when I grew up with her, her Japanese was better than her Mandarin, so she would communicate with Taiwanese, which I didn't know well). And the comments were made even though he was fully aware of the Japanese occupation.

Luckily one of my sister's already married with kids, but I hope the other will never have the unfortunate displeasure of dating someone like the author. I sure as hell wouldn't be happy if a guy I was dating turned out to be like him.