Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Shocked. Shocked!

Interesting, but also kind of sad, post on YFFM (a blog I don't always like, and don't always agree with, but does offer up some food for thought on relationships in Taiwan).

Taiwanese Man or Western Man?

Yes, this is a group of women aged 16-18, so I can't expect their views to be fully mature on what would make a good husband and marriage, but at the same time I'm letting my post stand because I do hear these views repeated in Taiwanese society (I also hear them back home - some ideas transcend culture I guess). I also remember as a 18-year-old having views that I, in my not-so-humble opinion, would say are more mature than what these women are saying.

What makes it sad is that so many bad, bad, bad reasons to marry or date a Western (or Taiwanese) guy are mentioned here. That's not the fault of the blogger - he clearly just posted exactly what the women were saying. I'm not out to shoot the messenger.

But really: "...he can talk easily to my Mom … my parents can get along with him easier … they (Taiwanese husbands) value family and they obey their wife"?

I have a great relationship with my in-laws, but I certainly hope "she can talk easily to my Mom" was not a reason why Brendan married me! I do realize that family bonds, especially between parents and children, are stronger in Taiwan than in the West but I do believe it is unhealthy to choose to marry someone on the basis of family approval. Better to marry the person you want to spend your life with and agree together on how to fit your new family unit into the greater family whole. Your spouse becomes your new first priority.


"We don’t need to take plane to see each other … although they could not be as tall as western man … I don’t like the man whose hair is too much … but I really want a foreign child, maybe I’ll adopt one with my husband.”

I will ignore the fact that you wouldn't need to take a plane to see each other if you were married - you could live in the same place. But in such a short paragraph about preferred spouses, I am kind of gobsmacked that body hair and a "foreign child" (gag me - all children are beautiful except the really evil ones) are the things she chose to highlight.

Although she also mentions more fluent communication and a shared understanding of homeland and culture, which I can respect. 

Then there's this: "I think a western man would be better because I think they’re hot" - honey, hotness transcends ethnicity. 

Hotness also transcends looks - if you're saying a Western man is better because you think he's better looking, well, it's your right to think white guys (because you know by "Westerner" one so often means "white" despite that not being how things actually are) are hotter than Taiwanese guys, but true hotness comes from chemistry - both physical and mental - and a sense of connection. It comes from a shared building of a strong relationship together. True hotness comes from kindness, generosity, ethics and humor. For these reasons, my husband is #1 on the hotness scale (also, he's pretty darned good-looking).


"If we get married, we’ll have many cute kids that they look like lovely dolls … if we have a baby he or she will be very handsome or beautiful"

Gag, gag, gag, gag. 

I realize this is just one girl discussing her views, but still - gag. How your kids will look is not a reason to get married. I mention this because it is so prevalent in Taiwan (and  other parts of Asia and the world) to think this way. I hear it far more often here than back home, where the "oh we'd have such lovely kids" is a rare statement and often one made offhand, not meant to be a part of the core reasons for marrying someone. In Taiwan it's frighteningly common to believe that it's better to marry a Westerner because "mixed babies are so beautiful!"

And...gag. The problem here is not "should I marry a Westerner or a Taiwanese man?" but "we need to knock some sense into people about what's really important in marriage".

Waaaay too much emphasis on looks, and that's scary. That needs to change. But then it needs to change around the world - I only say it for Taiwan because my blog focuses on Taiwan.

However, "Western man is more gentlement [sic] and considerate" - I have met many Taiwanese men who are gentle and considerate and either are or will be excellent husbands. There are plenty who are not, and there is still a cultural undercurrent in which, despite greater numbers of women in the workforce, men still do not shoulder their fair amount of responsibility at home, there is more acceptance of marital infidelity and generally speaking, I can see why a Taiwanese woman would say this when faced with so many romantic prospects with outmoded, chauvinistic views and unrealistic standards for female behavior and beauty. But those men exist in the West, as well, and to be honest, much of the bottom of the Western Man barrel ends up in Asia teaching English so you're not that likely to get a better catch by dating a Western guy. (This is not to say that all Western guys here teaching English are awful, or that all awful Western guys come to Asia to teach English. I don't mean that).

But, at the core of it, gentleness (being a gentleman?) and being considerate are two very good things to consider when looking to marry, regardless of the cultural background of the person you marry. I can't fault that.

There's also this: "I think Western man are more handsome but Taiwanese is ok … but if Taiwanese have much money, I will change my mind.  The most important thing is money.  Second is appearance.”

Do I really have to say anything about this? You can basically fill in the blank, like Mad Libs:

This is a giant pile of ______(noun)_________ because ____(clause)_______, ___(clause)________ and also _______(clause)__________.

Have fun with that.

So, I realize these are just observations from a few women, and that they don't represent all Taiwanese women. I realize that the evidence is purely anecdotal. I realize that it probably isn't entirely fair to rip them all a new one for their views. I'm doing it anyway, because these are short pieces written by women and in such brief paragraphs, I'm bothered by what they chose to include as the most important reasons behind their preferences. A few good things get thrown around, but where are the real issues: chemistry, compatibility, shared values and life goals, strong ethics, kindness, generosity?

I also do see a lot of the same views in Taiwanese society - I also see a lot of the same shallow ideas back home - and it worries me that these would really be reasons why Taiwanese women would marry or date a man. Well, to be fair, I believe you can and should date someone for whatever reason you wish and it need not be serious. When the marriage talk starts, though, things like "we'll have beautiful babies", "they are rich" and "they have beautiful eyes" starts to get scary - are these really the priorities that women have in Taiwan or around the world? How is this not terrifying? 

I do want to emphasize that these less substantial reasons are perfectly OK, if not ideal, reasons to date and have fun (even if they wouldn't be my choices) - it's only when the marriage discussion gets started that it bothers me.

So, before I just throw my hands up and condemn the entire institution of marriage to Hades, I would like to point out the final, neutral piece on that blog:

“I think a person who is match with you is the most important, no matter where he’s from or how does he look like, personalities matter … the most important of all, that man must have to love me and really care about me … true love come I will not refuse, even though he is Taiwanese or Western … finding the person you really love is very important … So maybe I wont obey them (my parents).  Because it’s my life.  I have right to decide what kind for boyfriend or husband I want to have."


But then she goes and ruins it with this:

"The most important of all, is if he has enough money, is responsible and is handsome enough … they are both good …  Taiwanese BF/HB is good at normal situations, no culture fights and it’s convenient to communicate.  Western BF/HB is good at if I want to have children, they’ll be very pretty and my language will get well.  I can also travel to his country without reason.  Of course, they (Taiwanese and western men), should all have a villa, a car – audi – and not too poor because if he wants to propose I can’t accept without house and diamond.”

Oh no. No no no. Is it cruel of me to be so dismissive of other women's priorities in a mate? Maybe, but this is my blog, these are my views and that's what it is. But really - no. Just no.

I do hope some other ideas worm their way into Taiwanese and world culture (which includes the USA and other Western countries): better priorities regarding who to marry and why.

I do want to add that I realize not all Taiwanese women are like this. I know so many mature, thoughtful, intelligent and insightful Taiwanese women who are wise and have a good sense of priorities. I'm responding only to the quotes on YFFM and the fact that I hear similar things said by other women - grown women, no less! - in Taiwan. It is not meant as a reflection on all Taiwanese women.


blobOfNeurons said...

So, I realize these are just observations from a few women, and that they don't represent all Taiwanese women. I realize that the evidence is purely anecdotal.

To be precise, it's anecdotal evidence from students aged 16-18.

Jenna said...

Fair enough, I can see why women of that age would have...shall we say...immature views on dating and marriage.

But then, when I was 18 I had what I'd say were more mature views on these topics (I was beating the "he has to be kind and honest and we have to be compatible!" drum even then. Such a killjoy I am). I do think that there is room for maturity and growth in what I read from the quotes on YFFM.

I also worry because what was said there are things I do hear from Taiwanese women who are older...the views don't appear to go away in some cases.

Not all - I've also met plenty of mature, thoughtful Taiwanese women.

Also, if they are that young, how on earth could their views on Western vs. Taiwanese husbands be really taken seriously? Why would they be used as evidence of what Taiwanese women think, when the women asked are nowhere near the age when they're likely to marry? Asking women of that age about boyfriends is one thing - no problem there - but asking them about marriage? Is that not of questionable utility?

And then presenting their views as "what Taiwanese women think regarding marrying a Western man vs. a Taiwanese man"...yeah, why not ask a Taiwanese woman who is actually of an age when marriage is a possibility? A woman at least over 20, more likely any age over 25?

Kawa said...

Here I am, a fairly new reader to your blog, who's in the middle of packing up all her worldly belongings to move to Taipei, is equally ruffled enough to want to say something.

I was born in Singapore and spent my early adult life there. Sadly, many of my country women there seem to share this 'affliction'as I call it, the need to marry into wealth and comfort. Who in their right minds would say no to a life of luxury you'd say. Problem is, if a marriage is based on just that (money I mean), then it's based on nothing at all. In Singapore, they call it the
"5Cs" - Car, County Club Membership, Condominium, Credit Card and Cash. Good looks may be a bonus but not essential, same goes for good personality traits such as good sense of humour, intelligence, common values and interests, strength of character etc.

I shouldn't be surprised that some Taiwanese women share these shallow shallow views with regard to men and marriage, western or not. Views that are more often than not encouraged by their parents,family and peers. Most people, on hearing this, would shake their heads but no one would openly condemn or ridicule them. There maybe a few newspapers articles written about it but it doesn't raise much of a storm.

My husband is Taiwanese but would be considered 'poor' by Taiwanese women. I know this because when I asked him why he hasn't dated for years, he simply replied "I'm too poor". I'm Australian Chinese and could easily have chosen to marry a Caucasian man,even a moderately rich one. There's probably something wrong with me because having lived in both worlds, I see men as just... men. On top of that, I've also chosen to marry a Taiwanese man who's poor.

I still like to believe that I'm belong to a majority of women who believes in marrying someone who can make you laugh, who shares your view of the world, who's not too proud to say "I'm sorry" even when it's not his fault, someone who knows you can be a bitch who loves a fight for no good reason but is generous enough to overlook it. Why? Because you're kindred spirits.

Someone old once said to me, "marry someone with whom you can enjoy a meal with". I would like to add, marry someone with whom you can enjoy your travels with. Jenna, I believe you are very fortunate to have found your destined partner.

Kathmeista said...

I clearly remember these sorts of conversations with my girlfriends when I was 18. We were avoiding some sort of assignment, sipping bad lattes in the quad of our university. We were constructing The List, that is the essential checklist of what we needed in a man. Cars, wealth and the beauty of our babies did not figure. True, certain physical traits did but they were considered bonuses, not absolutes and were as general as "pref. taller than me" and "has nice hands" (whatever the heck nice hands are?!) We were young and wildly idealistic and really believed that love was enough, who needs money.

I didn't even start to consider the realities of earning potential until I was actually married and even then it wouldn't have made a blind bit of difference. Some woman told me I was smart to marry the man I did. Smart? Not so much. I decided that this man was The One whilst we were broke Psych majors. He worked at Blockbuster and had no idea what he wanted to do with his life. I'm not smart at all, I just fell for a man, not his future job.

I think the sad thing is that anyone, regardless of where they are from, who thinks like this may end up wealthy but they'll be missing out on the reason for life. Marry someone you can have a meal with is excellent advice. It doesn't matter what fabulous haute cuisine you're chewing on if you can't stand the person across the table.

psychanaut said...

To paraphrase Terzano Tiziano in "A Fortune Teller Told Me" (a very interesting book I highly recommend: "One day, future historians will certainly recognize the end of Chinese culture (largely supplanted by materialism) as a great loss to humanity."

Jenna said...

Kath - same here. We'd say things like "He has to: be a good person, do a fair share of housework, be honest and kind, treat women as equals, have a sense of humor, not be over-driven by money, not have stupid high standards, want to travel, not smoke, be someone I am attracted to, treat me and others well, be intelligent and thoughtful." I would also add "have gorgeous eyes" but I let that one stand because I didn't mean "magazine-worthy eyes" - I mean the kind of warmth and sparkle that comes from intelligence and thoughtfulness.

It never occurred to me that I would be anything other than self-sufficient even though I always figured I'd get married someday (not because I want a family with kids but because I always knew I wanted a life partner). It never crossed my mind to consider marrying someone for their money, career, house, power or car: if I really wanted any of those things or anything else (designer clothing or to not have to work...neither of which are things I actually want), it honestly was never an option to just find a man to provide them rather than work toward them myself.

What saddens me is that we women are equal to men - maybe we in a general sense have different strengths and tendencies (which can NOT be used to judge the individual) but overall we're equal with equal rights and deserve equal opportunities and expectations...

...and yet women themselves so often undermine this with expectations of a rich and powerful man to pull them up into a comfortable lifestyle, and buy into the notion that the important things for them are to look good and please the man, not earn your own life.

All that does is betray women and women's rights. It sets us all back. Like all the truly wonderful guys out there who get judged unfairly because of a few loudmouth douchebags, we get judged unfairly when other women in this age of equality yammer on about rich/powerful/handsome as being the most important qualities in a man and people assume that all women feel that way, which denigrates the entire concept of feminism.

All I can say is that I hope those girls grow up.