Really? Like, for serious? Why is this a problem, and while I admit that for some, it is a problem, why should it be? What is so bad about a wife out-earning her husband? Is this so shameful that it is causing women to choose not to marry, or that - even worse - it's causing Taiwanese men not to marry Taiwanese women (and if it is, why are we focusing on the women - the problem in that case is with the outdated attitudes of the men).
The largely single status of Taiwan's most popular female entertainers is also worth noting; if their chosen predicament is not a direct reflection of society, then it certainly serves as either affirmation or a consolation for the unhitched woman. Lin Chi-ling, top supermodel and considered one of the most beautiful women in Taiwan, turns 37 this year without an engagement announcement in sight. Pop Princess Jolin Tsai, despite her youthful appearance, is also pushing 30 and single. The same status goes for famed artists like A-mei (38), Vivian Hsu (36), Elva Hsiao (31) and many others.
On the other end of the public spectrum, both Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen and former vice president Annette Lu are single. Both women voiced their desire to run for 2012 presidential elections, although Lu publicly dropped out of the DPP primaries Tuesday, citing her concern for the environment outweighing her need to win in an election. Chen Chu, the incumbent mayor of Kaohsiung, is entering her 60s and has never married.
The first paragraph - "then it certainly serves as either affirmation or a consolation for the unhitched woman" - the writer makes it sound as though being an unhitched woman is some sort of disease that deserves neither consolation nor affirmation. Really? Seriously?
Then the writer goes on to name several high-profile single women - never once mentioning high-profile single men. Jay Chou is single - why not mention him? There must be a few unmarried male politicians and captains of industry in Taiwan, and I have met more than a few unmarried engineers working for Taiwan's major tech/IT firms.
So why is this only a problem vis-a-vis the women - particularly the successful women - of Taiwan? Why all the hullabaloo about the low marriage rate regarding women? Why this assumption that it's fine to be a single successful man, but worthy of a mention in the newspaper if you are a single successful woman?
Feeling generally annoyed with this double standard - that the low marriage rate is somehow a woman's problem and not a man's (AAAAAARRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!1111!!!!!111!!!!one! NOOOOOO!!!) - I've been asking Taiwanese men since I wrote my last post what their thoughts are on this issue.
I don't have a huge sample size, but I've gotten a few answers:
- Women aren't interested in traditional gender roles
- We (the men) who would have married in an earlier era are not doing so, because we work so hard that they have no time to date (notably, engineers)
- A lot of the women who would have married in an earlier era are not doing so because they also work so hard that they have no time to date (notably, accountants)
- Taiwanese women are more interested in studying or living abroad or advancing their careers (maybe in the cities, but the countryside? And even in the cities, I already addressed how most "office jobs" in Taiwan are so uninspiring and require putting up with difficult bosses and long hours that I can't imagine that that's why women aren't marrying - we aren't talking about a new generation of women who are passionate about their work)...and Taiwanese men want women who are more interested in family and children.
- We (the men) want women who are more traditional, and Taiwanese women aren't fulfilling that (if true - and I am not sure it is - that makes me really sad)
- Taiwanese women insist that any man she marries has sizeable savings and can afford to buy an apartment and a car (not sure how true this is, but someone did say that so it's worth mentioning)
- Taiwanese women are sick of putting up with the traditional expectations of in-laws and don't want to deal with the pressure to have a baby that they may not want, so they just have boyfriends, they don't marry
- We (the men) aren't changing our outlook fast enough and the women aren't going to tie themselves to someone who can't bring himself to do the dishes (this from one of my more progressive male students)
- We (the men) can get a foreign bride so we don't necessarily care why Taiwanese women don't want to marry
- We (the men) are so scared off by the white men that Taiwanese women date that we are too shy to ask the girls we like on dates (I smell BS on this one, personally).
And of course, the Internet, which is full of all sorts of horrible comments, has dredged up some other ideas, notably that Taiwanese women aren't keeping themselves as pretty as they used to - more body fat, less makeup, hair that's not done up - and so men are losing interest. I call BS on this one because I've met plenty of average-looking married Taiwanese women (and as an average-looking American woman I can say that not being "hot" is not much of an issue of you are looking to marry a man who isn't superficial).
In short, when looking at low marriage rates in Taiwan, why is everyone watching the women, and why isn't anyone looking at the men? Aren't they half the equation?