Saturday, June 9, 2012


This isn't really Taiwan-related, but it is women and feminism related, so I figure I'll post it anyway.

I absolutely love this article, for it's super fun BS as well as how uncannily accurate that BS is. It sounds like something my Stoner Friend(tm) would come up with. And seem like she might be right about.

I'm going to go ahead and add to the BS - please don't take anything I write in this post too seriously.

Basically, the idea is that we're all derived from muppet archetypes - some of us are Chaos Muppets (think Animal, Grover, The Cookie Monster) and some are Order Muppets (think Kermit, Bert). Some of us go around sowing disorder, and some keep the show running smoothly. Some dole out cookies, others organize for greatest efficiency. In any workplace, you need just the right ratio of Chaos Muppets and Order Muppets in the organization - and in relationships, two of the same kind shouldn't be together: Chaos ought to marry Order, and Order, Chaos.

I think it's pretty clear that I'm a Chaos Muppet. In fact, those of you who have met me might be a bit freaked out by how accurately this parodies not only my cooking style, but also my entire life. I'm pretty much a living, breathing Swedish Chef - I'd probably try this if firearms were legal in Taiwan. I once had a friend remark that she loved my chocolate truffle cake, but how on Earth did I get chocolate on the ceiling?

Also, I am growing some of this, just because. If you run your hands through the leaves and touch the peppers a bit, and then touch your face, it'll make your skin tingle. Cool, huh? Soon I'm going to try to cook with it.

I also go around humming things like "doo-dee-doo-dee-doo bork bork bork" on a fairly regular basis. That's not a joke.

Brendan is, without a doubt, a Order Muppet. Not Ernie, but Bert. He's not a compulsive organizer, but he freaks out if he's going to be anything less than 15 minutes early to anything, catches the earlier bus or train rather than the one that will get him there just in time, and actually plans classes the day before he teaches them (I only do that if I absolutely must). He's great at spontaneous travel - it's when there's a plan in place that this comes out.

Bert and The Swedish Chef. Someday, our love will be legal in every state in America!

I note this because I've noticed a social trend - not just in Taiwan but around the world - where, despite generations of people expecting that men should run the world while women stay home - where wives are expected to be the Order Muppets and husbands, Chaos Muppets. You know, like this. From "men can't be expected to remember to write thank-you notes" to "if I don't do it, it never gets done *sigh*" to "he just doesn't notice the mess, so he doesn't think to clean it", a lot of women end up stuck maintaining order while men are seen, at least at home, of creating chaos (and considering what the global economy and international politics is looking like, there's a lot of chaos out in the world, too).

Which makes things difficult if you are a woman and an unabashed Chaos Muppet. Your best bet is to hook up with a Order Muppet - bonus points if he's super sweet and handsome like my Order Muppet - who is open to and accepting of a very different household paradigm from the one society expects. Also he'll remember to vacuum and pay the bills. But it's not all bad for the Order Muppet: he gets chocolate truffle cake and Chaos Muppets tend to be more creative decorators and fun travel planners. Be good to your Order Muppet: if you see him vacuuming because he thought to do so (and you, uh, didn't, or you waited until you had 5 minutes before you had to go...not that I'd know anything about that *ahem*), grab a dustcloth or start putting things away, too.

I know, there's another, parallel trope to this one: the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (think various media starring Jennifer Aniston and Zooey Deschanel), but I get the distinct impression that this trope is meant to be fantasy, whereas Doofy Husbands and women as Order Muppets, the expected reality. I do feel as a staunch "bring down the old order" feminist, that women with that chaotic streak in them are chastised by others, and society as whole, more than men, who, well, "that's how men are". Unless you're cute - then you're a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Otherwise, you're just immature.

Most societies seem to praise Order Muppetry as the ideal set of traits and values in a good citizen: the USA does (at least that's the distinct impression I got from my schooling), every country in Asia that I have had experience in does (although India is an interesting case: a culture that birthed a Sanskrit grammar manual so detailed and prescriptive that it filled 8 volumes, but also a country rife with chaos and people who joke about it in a way that betrays the idea that it's not all bad), Europe does (although you could make a case that southern Europe is different).

The USA has gotten better at valuing its Chaos Muppets - there was that guy on The Daily Show yesterday who said that "Steve Jobs wouldn't have been able to do what he did in Europe or Japan" - I don't necessarily agree with him - I think a lot of our best innovation has come because Chaos Muppets from other countries have come to the USA and helped us lead innovation, and anyway, I see a lot of cool things coming out of design, science and technology in Asia and a lot of places where the US is stodgy, saggy and getting left behind like the regular trains that the Shinkansen sweeps past. I do, think, however, that he's right in that we're doing a better job creating an environment in which our weirdos can be weird and do great things (as long as they can afford health insurance - argh).

The original article mentions that the Supreme Court is all screwed up because it's been overrun with Order Muppets - I'd say that America's biggest problem right now is that the Order Muppets and Chaos Muppets can't see the value in the other's worldview, and can't figure out how to make the two synthesize into an efficient whole. Also, the Order Muppets seem to be obsessed with legislating my hoo-hah and telling us all what religion we should be, and they really ought to knock it out. At least in Taiwan, as divisive as politics can be, the majority of people I've met can respect the views of the other side (KMT are the Order Muppets and DPP the Chaos Muppets, in case that wasn't clear) even if they don't agree.

I see Taiwan heading this way, as well - from a similarly growing value placed on creativity, handmade items, cool design and innovative R&D (I spend more time around R&D types than I do around designers, and feel they deserve a mention) all the way down to the two girls I have English Fun Time with on Saturday afternoons, whose parents encourage them to talk, play, create and build, even if they build things out of cardboard that are total failures (ie the ferris wheel we attempted that fell apart). Sometimes, they build something pretty cool:

I see this model of encouraging a bit of Chaos gaining currency against the old Confucian style model of Listen to Your Elders and Teachers and DO WHAT YOU'RE TOLD, and that just delights me. We need a little more Lao Tzu, and a little less Confucius (although he has his role, too).

I'd like to see more of this - and less regimented, buxiban-propped-up schooling - in Taiwan, and I take heart that I am seeing it grow.

Aight, I'm gonna get back to my hot peppers. Too bad my Stoner Friend(tm) is in another country. Have a good weekend, and remember to sow some Chaos.


Anonymous said...

Does the cat show any interest in the hot peppers?

Jenna Cody said...

Nope, not a speck of interest, but to get them more sun they are on the windowsill outside the back room with the washing machine, where he can't go.