Saturday, June 4, 2011

Marriage in Taiwan Part III

I apologize for not really blogging this week...it's just been a busy few weeks with seminars and weekend work, and when I do have free time, I'm too tired to blog coherently. There's nothing more to it than that - I have a long list of topics I've thunk up and want to write about, and no energy or presence of mind to do it right now. I hope you'll bear with me.

I did want to share a quick anecdote that made me wonder, though.

The first:

This was discussed at length in my first and second posts on the low marriage rate in Taiwan, but I had two conversations that highlighted a probable area of disagreement and likely cognitive dissonance between men and women here.

From a female peer: "Oh, Taiwanese men always feel they have to earn more than we do. So if you are a woman and you earn a high salary, a man you date will think he has to earn even more and maybe you won't find many men who can do that. They think they need to make more money than their wife just because they are a man. So they will not marry you if they are scared that you will earn more. I think that is so stupid."

From a male peer: "Taiwanese women! They always want the man to earn more! So if she earns a lot, he has to earn even more than that or she won't marry him. She will say 'you have to buy me this' or 'you have to have so much saved money' and if she makes more she will get angry with him, because she wants a better lifestyle. So it's hard for a Taiwanese man to marry."

Back to the female peer: "I don't care if I earn more than my boyfriend or my husband. If we can have a good life and he can also contribute, then it's OK." (Same woman later admitted that there are Taiwanese women who insist that they will only marry someone who can improve their lifestyle).

Back to the male peer: "If my wife earned a lot more than me, I would think it's OK, but she won't think that is OK! Then I feel like I have to work harder to make more!" (Same person later admitted that if his wife earned only a little more than him, he'd feel that he'd need to work harder to earn more than her because, ahem, "I am the man". It's only OK if she earns vastly more than he does).

So.

This is just two people - hardly a representative sample. Merely an anecdote. I do think it highlights something important, though. You could conclude from this that both men and women want husbands to earn more than wives, but I don't think that's what's going on here. It seems to me, from observation beyond these two conversations, that the men think the women want them to earn more (and are split on whether they themselves agree) and the women think that the problem is the men's arrogance, made worse by a few women who really buy into outdated ideas, which casts a stereotype over all Taiwanese women.

Which, you know, I don't know. Just some thoughts.

4 comments:

blobOfNeurons said...

This is basically what I said before.

Really it's just a lack of information causing people to become stuck with their negative mental constructions of the other sex.

Okami said...

I think you need to ask about the family aspect of it. As the saying goes in Taiwan, you don't marry a person you marry a family.

From the husband's perspective, he'll get grief from his own family for not earning more. His wife's family will consider him a loser and make it known at most opportunities. Not in your face beratement, but that slow, snarky, almost accidental malevolence.

From the wife's perspective, she'll get grief because she's making more than her husband from her own family and the hint that maybe she should give some to her family just in case. From her husband's family she'll get the treatment people receive when they do better than others, that slow tear down that though you may be good, you're not perfect and we will remind you of it constantly.

I'd be interested in hearing what their comments would of been if you had brought up family after getting them to admit it wasn't important. I'd bet there would be a very different answer following the first one.

From anecdotal experience, I'd bet family has more to do with the lower birthrate and especially marriage rate than people let on. It'd be interesting to see what the marriage rate was depending on surviving parents at the time of marriage along with order of birth.

In my own experience, a sister-in-law and I have both gotten some pretty rotten treatment behind our backs from our mother-in-law along with a good dose of in your face snark. We both limit how much time we spend around her to as little as family demands. She uses her son and I use father-in-law and my daughter to keep her subdued.

I find families teach their daughters to have secret bank accounts and that they can come home if marriage gets to rough.

Jenna said...

You make a good point, Okami, and I wish I had more time to address it...but this week is gonna be a doozy. Suffice it to say that I might investigate the role of family in marriage dynamics at a later date (I'm also intending to write a post comparing my marriage to what is expected as a standard relationship in Taiwan...it's a hard one to write as it's not something one can generalize too much about, so I've been putting it off).

Okami said...

I wouldn't say so much generalizing but as to pointing out trends I think it's interesting. I also don't even mind it from a feminist or leftist bent as long as it's backed up with reason. My wife has a lot of married with kids and single friends. The questions from her single friends can be quite amusing, breast size and kids comes up a lot. She even has a few who are divorced or looking like they will. Those tend to be husband working all the time and ignoring family.

Have you grabbed the book, "Living Rooms as Factories" yet? I think it would add some insight to it for you.

To get you started, my normally laid-back wife is asking about art classes and kindergarten. My daughter is 2.5 years old. Both are at least 2.5 years away. My wife's normal idea of long term plans is what is going on tomorrow. I'm waiting for the music class question. I'm going to try to talk her into home schooling(again), but I think that's going to be a pretty radical step for her and her family. This despite us talking about it before. I was pretty shocked about the kindergarten one as she knows my feelings on the subject I have worked in quite a few. I'd rather not have some poorly trained and supervised woman tell my daughter that her parents are dead or that they won't be picking her up.