Monday, March 27, 2017

A list of comestibles that I recommend for Chiu Tai-San

Here are some decorations for the things Chiu Tai-san can eat
1.) A dick

2.) A bag of dicks

3.) A big ol' burlap sack of dicks

4.) Tesco value-size bags of dicks (from a reader)

5.) Costco pallets of dicks

6.) Shipping containers of dicks imported from distant lands

7.) I hope he saved room for dessert because he's got more dicks coming (also from a reader)

8.) A dick sundae (like a banana split except with a dick - plus two big scoops of ice cream, extra whipped cream and dick sprinkles)

9.) The Pacific Trash Vortex Except It's All Dicks

10.) THIS MANY DICKS

Dear Chiu Tai-san: it doesn't matter if marriage equality is "Chinese", because Taiwan is not "Chinese"

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I just can't.

Even.

I wish I had more to say about the demonstrations in front of the Judicial Yuan on Friday, but truth be told, they were tiny. I tend to agree with Brian Hioe that the reason was likely not that it was a work day (a lot of people who show up are students, and previous government actions have caused far larger rallies during work hours). Most likely, it was due to a general feeling that pushing for marriage equality through the Judicial Yuan is either not likely a fruitful path, or that these oral arguments were not particularly significant.

It seems a few more people did show later in the day (I was only able to go in the morning) but while I was there, it was a slew of police officers there for security against what was maybe 20 people. I was sad to see so few, but honestly, during my stopover, there were no anti-equality demonstrators. So we still had them beat 20-to-0! (I'm told that a few did eventually show up, but I was long gone).

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Otherwise, I have little to say that hasn't already been said over the weekend, and I just don't know what to say about Justice Minister Chiu Tai-san's argument. Chiu - who is a Tsai appointee, remember - argued so strongly for inequality that it seemed to surprise even more conservative voices.

From Michael Turton:

Our DPP Justice Minister revealed himself to be not only a retrograde thinker, but a Han nationalist to boot. Speaking on gay marriage at a hearing that was live streamed, Justice Minister Chiu Tai-san said:


“The Civil Code stipulates that marriage shall be between a man and a woman, and as such it is not unconstitutional. The Constitution guarantees citizens’ right to marry as that between a man and a woman, while marriage between people of the same sex is not covered under the Constitution,” Chiu said.
“For thousands of years in the nation’s history, society has instituted traditions and codes of conduct regarding marriage. Has there ever been a cultural institution or social phenomenon for same-sex marriage?” Chiu said.

“Without a doubt, there has been none,” Chiu said.

He then quoted one section of the Chinese classic I Ching (易經), also known as the Book of Changes, which reads: “With the existence of the earth and the sky, there came all living things. With the existence of the earth and the sky, there came men and women,” which he said illustrates that Chinese marriage traditions have — since ancient times — been based on a union between a man and a woman.
This kind of argument is completely idiotic -- projecting modern institutions into the past in order to legitimate them.

It was unclear at first whether his views were meant to represent the Executive Yuan until Premier Lin Chuan explicitly remarked that they weren't.

In any case, what the fuck is wrong with you, Chiu Tai-san? Like, what the hell even? You know quite well that the person who appointed you disagrees with you, you know quite well (whether you want to admit it or not, you crusty old shitlord) that the general consensus of society is against you, and you must know by now that you are hurting, not helping, the administration that you currently depend on for your job. They need the youth vote, and if government officials keep mouth-pooping turds like this, they won't get it.

Queerious said it best:

It is unknown whether Chiu consulted the President or the Executive Yuan prior to the oral arguments, but there are only two possible scenarios here. In the first scenario, he discussed his testimony with the presidential office and the Executive Yuan and they gave him the go ahead. In the alternative, he did not speak to them, and neither the presidential office nor the Executive Yuan had the forethought to vet his arguments to ensure that they would not be an embarrassment to the government that still claims to support marriage equality. Both scenarios are unacceptable to marriage equality supporters and may be indicative of a dysfunctional government that fails to understand the real-life consequences of its ineptitude and passiveness.

(If you are wondering why my two long quotes are formatted differently, it's because I don't know how to fix that).

But what makes this word turd from Chiu especially stinky is that he's straight-up wrong. Marriage has not, through history, in basically any culture, been "one man and one woman". That's a relatively recent phenomenon, and honestly, something of a heavily Christian-tinged one. In China, the most well-known kind of ancient marriage was one man with many wives, but here you can see there is a whole list of other possible choices. (Michael is slightly incorrect, by the way - I didn't track down that website, my husband did as he joked that if Taiwan were going to go back to traditional notions of Chinese marriage, that I ought to ready the guest room for his second wife).

One that it doesn't mention - you can also marry a ghost (but apparently not your real-life human lover and partner of many years, if you happen to have the same genitals).

It almost feels like Chiu and his ilk are taking arguments that sound like Western-style "Christian" arguments against equality, and using them to somehow justify it "in Chinese culture". Gee, I wonder where they got that rhetorical tactic? It hints vaguely at Chinese nationalist "5000 years of culture" type nonsense but has a distinctly church-of-hateful-people tinge to it.

Of course, arguments about whether homosexual unions are compatible with Chinese culture are meaningless, especially in Taiwan, because Taiwan is not a part of China. Frankly, I was somewhat surprised to hear this line of argument from someone in the DPP, especially someone whose political past is associated with pushing the DPP to more strongly embrace Taiwan independence. Tai-san, buddy, do you really hate TEH GAYS so much that you'd adopt pro-China, Han nationalist rhetoric? Really? What the fuck man?

In any case, who gives a shit what is "traditional Chinese culture", at least when it comes to Taiwan? Not only does culture evolve, as it may in China, but arguing this is like arguing that we can't embrace progressive social ideals in the US because they are not a part of traditional, oh, I don't know, Celtic culture in ancient Britannia. Or something.

What Taiwan has been doing since the end of the authoritarian era is figuring out what Taiwanese culture is, and how it is distinct from Chinese. I am not Taiwanese and cannot speak for Taiwan, but I will say that my observations have led me to believe that Taiwanese culture embraces a level of tolerance not found in China, and a live-and-let-live attitude outside of one's own family (intra-family dynamics may be another story, but can vary quite a bit). People have labeled Taiwan as conservative: I don't think so. We wouldn't be here fighting for Taiwan to be the first nation in Asia to embrance marriage equality with a realistic chance of winning, if it were. People have labeled Taiwan as 'traditional' and the Taiwanese as 'obedient' or 'unwilling to speak up'. I don't buy this either. First, it's a blanket stereotype. Second, this is a nation prone to rebellion, settled first by seafaring indigenous people and then by people who were not always even considered Chinese, and in any case were often the travelers, rabblerousers and assorted rebellious types on the continent (would you decide to move to an offshore island and most likely work for the Dutch if you were an established, conservative scion of Minnan society?) Third, this is a nation of people who, despite being told at every turn that they belong to some other greater power and being denied international recognition even when they claim it for themselves, refuse to give up and will take to the streets for what they believe in. Who wake up every day with 1300+ missiles pointing right at them and yet keep working to build a better nation, quietly insisting that it is, in fact, a nation while the entire world pretends they can't hear.

To me, this is not a nation of supplicants, it's a nation of rebels, or at least people with a rebellious streak, and I love it.

In such a nation, marriage equality is not a crazy notion. It fits perfectly. It doesn't matter if it's "Chinese" or not, because Taiwan is not Chinese. And marriage equality is - or at least can be - Taiwanese. Same-sex couples have been together since human beings have existed, and in recent decades they've been far more open about it. This isn't about radical social change: the change is already here. This is about an extension of the continuing fight for human rights in Taiwan, and about what kind of country Taiwan wants to be.

Queerious is right - marriage equality is a two-front war, just not, perhaps, in the way they think it is.

It's a two-front war as we fight Christian anti-equality believers on one hand, and "ANCIENT CHINESE CULTURE!" chauvinists on the other. In some cases, despite Christianity also not being traditionally Chinese, they seem to have teamed up.

And Chiu Tai-san can eat a dick.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Greetings from a low-level, non-outstanding foreigner!


Many in the foreign community are celebrating new regulations allowing certain "high-level" foreigners to retain their original citizenship when applying for Taiwanese nationality - basically, doing away with the requirement, for them, to give up their original nationality in order to become a Taiwanese citizen. This comes after months of advocating for change, including a period of public comment on the regulations in question.

I guess you could see this as a tiny step forward. Many people do. It's something, that's for sure - but I'm not celebrating.

What this does is allow the government to rest on its laurels, thinking they've 'done something' about the problem of very long-term foreigners, foreigners who are barely 'foreign' anymore, who see Taiwan as their home (in many cases, who were born and raised here). It gives them an out to, honestly, not do anything more for quite some time. In the meantime, the rest of us are left out in the cold. As far as I can tell, this includes Taiwanese with non-Taiwanese parents, that is, anyone who was born and raised in Taiwan and is for all intents and purposes Taiwanese, but are treated as 'foreigners' simply because they have the wrong kind of face.

It also creates more divisions in the expat community where there needn't be any. There are already unfair and unnecessary divisions between laborers, mainly from Southeast Asia, and "professionals", mainly from Western nations. If you think that has nothing to do with racism, you're kidding yourself.

In any case, what differentiates a 'high-level' foreigner from a scrub, in that gray area where people like me reside?

I can't help but take it a little bit personally. Certainly, people might read this and think "she's just mad because she didn't meet the requirements!" but, in fact, I'd be mad even if I did, because the requirements are fundamentally unfair.

Seriously, though, it does make me feel as though my many years of busting my ass to actually be a professional in a field that is not always looked upon as professional means nothing, and that I do not even deserve what every Taiwanese - and some special foreigners - is able to obtain. That ten years of further busting my already busted ass to gain credentials and experience including, but not limited to, pieces of paper, and to be an active force for raising the standard of English language education in Taiwan across the board (I am a part of a group of people trying to bring better teacher training programs to Taiwan, for example) is still insufficient: that I am still trash, as far as Taiwan is concerned, not worthy of consideration, having made no contribution to the country at all.

And, because they passed this fistful of garbage, it is likely to be some time, if ever, before that changes.

Or I could get my PhD (I was thinking about it anyway), take a job at some third-rate university teaching college students in "conversational English" classes of 65+ who don't want to be there, pressured to pass them all anyway, and obtain dual nationality because that is somehow better than what I'm doing now, working with small groups of adults and achieving real results with real-life ramifications, for some fucking reason.

So yeah, needless to say I am not exactly overjoyed that the Taiwanese government decided to tell foreigners that some of you are kind of OK, but the rest of you? Don't let the door hit you on the way out, we don't need or want you enough to give you equal rights (but then complaining that, say, standards of English proficiency in Taiwan are too low). I'm not jumping for joy that a system of divisions and double-and-triple standards is being implemented where no such divisions need to exist. I'm not excited about being labeled a scrub because my pieces of paper are not as good as some other pieces of paper. I'm not happy that the government has decided that my ten years of being devoted to Taiwan and attempting to contribute positively to Taiwan are worthless.

I am also not exactly happy that, up until recently, the government has snubbed people who were actually born and raised here in favor of bestowing a unicorn-like waiver allowing dual nationality to some missionary (as a friend-of-a-friend pointed out, always a white Christian missionary). While I do not deny that missionaries do some good work, the side dish of evangelizing that comes with it is not good for Taiwan. The institutional advantage they enjoy because they have a big religious organization funding their work (which they use to preach their religion, which often comes with preaching the intolerance and bigotry that Christianity is unfortunately known for), which the rest of us can't possibly compete with because we can't afford to work for free, earns little sympathy from me. I await your hate mail for this opinion, but there it is.

In short, I am not dancing in the street over this. It is simply not good enough.

Anyway, enjoy your dual nationality, Some Foreigners.

I'll be over here grumbling in my trash can, where the Taiwanese government apparently thinks I originated and where I belong.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Come out for equality tomorrow (because this is what we're up against)

I haven't talked much about marriage equality since the Legislative Yuan went into recess - we ended 2016 with something of a sorta-kinda victory, with the bill to amend the civil code to allow same-sex unions the same protection as opposite-sex ones passing committee - and perhaps it felt like time to take a break.

However, while marriage equality advocates (myself included) have been fairly quiet in the past few months, anti-equality factions have been ramping up the hate, and it's time to call them out.

Why now? Well, tomorrow there will be oral arguments regarding the marriage equality bill (here - be there at 9am - I will be). There are several events planned and several groups trying to get people out. I once again encourage and ask anyone reading this to attend, as well. We must continue to keep beating them by numbers. We can't get lazy and we can't get soft.

Again, this shouldn't matter, but it does. There is social consensus in favor of equality, the legislature has the votes, Tsai has said she supports it, and the DPP has typically been friendlier to it than the KMT. This should be passing with ease, but we are up against an organized force - mostly, Christian churches despite the fact that only about 5% of the Taiwanese population is Christian - that have far more political power than they ought to given the percentage of the population they represent. They have their tentacles (yes, I'm using biased language - eat me) in both the DPP and the KMT, with only the New Power Party and their 5 seats being consistently in favor of justice (yes - justice. When it is a matter of equal rights that affect a group of people directly, especially if there is social consensus, this truly is a matter of justice).

So, please, come out again tomorrow. I know it's yet another rally, and yet another hurdle of bureaucracy, but we truly cannot let up. They are organized and consistent - we must be too.

Remember, this is what we're up against. This flier was found in Xizhi (by a friend of an acquaintance) and shows, simply by the rhetoric it uses, how much Western-style bigotry is driving the anti-equality side in Taiwan. It sounds very much like something I might have seen in the USA in the months leading up to marriage equality and might still see now, in slightly updated form.


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A back-of-the-hand translation - it talks about how marriage equality has "caused distress" in countries where it has been legalized, and gives three (ridiculous) examples:

In France it has apparently caused a 17-year old Vietnamese 'orphan' (adoptee?) to give a talk opposing marriage equality, because it has meant that same-sex couples can adopt children (it is simply assumed to be bad that this might be allowed, which is not the consensus of the scientific community). It hardly matters - in any free society somebody is going to oppose something, just because one kid gave a talk doesn't mean there are deep grievances in society.

In Canada people have "complained online and on the street" since marriage equality was introduced some years ago (again, this is meaningless: there is all sorts of crap online, much of it trolling and much more not worth one's time or not reflecting a general social opinion, and on the street...well, there are always going to be dicks spewing their nonsense.) It goes on to say that Canadian parents are distressed that they cannot prevent their children from learning about same-sex unions and homosexuality in school. There is no evidence that this is a major social issue, however. Again, there will always be people who feel this way. It doesn't mean that society is deeply aggrieved.

In the US it talks about how marriage equality has paved the way for transgender bathroom use (with no evidence provided that this is actually a bad thing, or a problem in any way), and has "led to the election of anti-marriage-equality Donald Trump" (I highly doubt that was the issue that led straight to Trump's election - even if it were, it does not mean marriage equality is a problem).

This science-and-fact-free piece of garbage is not significant on its own. Ignorance is spewed in many forms - it means little in the face of social consensus and there is no evidence that these shallow and illogical arguments are doing anything to sway Taiwanese society, which is more progressive than one might imagine on this issue.

What matters is that an organized group took the time to write, print and distribute it. They are still around, causing disturbances in fast food restaurants, preaching to their congregations, networking to bring crowds that do not represent Taiwanese society...and passing out this garbage by the fistful.

They are still around, and still spreading hate. Their arguments are facile and not only are not based in research, but actively go against it. Their ideas are outdated. They want to keep approximately 10% of the Taiwanese population from gaining access to rights that directly affect their lives, simply so they, the anti-equality protesters, can feel morally superior (and for no other benefit). They are simply wrong.

But they're organized, and they're still at it, while we've been resting.

It's time to stop resting. We can't let up.

I hope to see you tomorrow.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Places where the KMT might have misplaced and forgotten about a billion dollars



No but for serious, the KMT just sort of "found" like a billion US dollars that they...forgot about? Or something? So I thought I'd compile a helpful list of places the KMT might have found it, since they aren't saying. Maybe look in those again and see if there's another few billion lying around?

1.) Chiang You-bo was sorting his great grandpa's old things and he found it in an old chest in the attic under Pop-pop's war stuff

2.) The other day I found NT100 in my jeans pocket, maybe it was like that?

3.) Someone finally hit Sean Lien with a hammer, he cracked open and it fell out

4.) They finally checked the couch cushions at KMT headquarters (from a friend)

5.) Well, I mean, it's obvious. They thought they'd spent it on their astronomical music and media budget producing high-cost masterpieces like this

6.) Everybody knows that Lien Chan's nickname is "Forgetful Lien" - oops! Forgetful Lien's up to his old antics again! Ha ha ha!

7.) YOU CAN NEVER UNDERSTAND OUR 5000 YEARS OF CHINESE CULTURE

8.) Hung Hsiu-chu left it in the back of a taxi. Fortunately, since Taiwan is such a safe country, the friendly taxi driving uncle returned it.

9.) They had thought of it in the same terms as the 1992 Consensus and only recently realized that, no, unlike the 1992 Consensus, this money is a real thing that exists

10.)  "Oh, but actually...ahem...errr...we knew about this money so...uh...but...what I mean is...see, we brought our own money from China and used it to help Taiwan...so...err...what are you complaining about what with all the good stuff we did for Taiwan and we didn't do any bad stuff at all" (this seems to be their actual excuse)

11.) "Oh hi honey...what do you mean? No, those flowers were for my...boss. It was her birthday. What do you mean her birthday was last month? Well, I forgot, and so I got her flowers this month...what money? Oh, that money...that's...that's for us! It was supposed to be a surprise! You know I only love you."

12.)
"Ooooohhh, that was real money? Oops"


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Feminists have no sense of humor

A humorless bloodsucking feminist
By the way, to get this photo I had to google "ugly succubus", because just googling "succubus" turned up a ream of sexy, big-titted succubi. You can't even be a hellish she-demon without the world expecting you to be sexy. 

Haha, trolled you. This isn't true at all.

But I can promise you that this post is not exactly going to offer proof that feminists can be funny. In fact I fully expect the bros and bro-allied to get all het up over this post, to which I say COME AT ME BROS.

Anyway, just like everyone else on the planet with an Internet connection, I too watched Robert Kelly's BBC interview and laughed at the family antics going on in the background. Anyone with even the slightest sense of humor can see that, from a comedic perspective, it's a masterpiece, with a visibly freaked out Kelly as the perfect straight man.

Then - because I'm a heartless unfunny succubus feminist - it started to bother me. At first I wasn't sure why. It took repeated links from friends: basically this clip got more airtime on my Facebook feed than the Malaysian Airlines plane or the Trump-Tsai phone call - for me to figure it out.

I want to say straight up that I don't know this family, and nothing I'm going to say is a criticism of them. Everyone has their own unique family circumstances. The personal doesn't always have to be political - some people choose and prefer for their lives to be a certain way which I would not necessarily choose.

I also won't criticize the specifics of what happened: Kelly is getting a lot of flak for pushing his daughter away, when a more engaged dad might put her in his lap and keep talking. So what. He was freaked out, probably didn't know what to do and reacted in the moment. Not an ideal reaction but nothing to blast him over. I do not imagine he is someone who typically pushes his kids away (I wouldn't know and I won't speculate). I won't discuss how Kelly's wife looks mortified - it's a natural reaction in the moment and not necessarily indicative of anything more than that.

What I want to say is more general. It's not about this family at all.

First - and what I think bothers me the most - is that had that been a woman in front of the camera, people wouldn't be laughing along like "oh how cute." Maybe some would, but she'd also be raked over the coals for prioritizing her career over her children (even for that one minute), and she'd definitely be crucified online for pushing her daughter away so she could continue to talk about democracy in South Korea (or whatever it was Kelly was talking about - was anyone actually listening to him?) That's not, according to the screamiest parts of the Internet, what good mothers do! But when dad does it, it's so funny and cute!

That led me to another thought: how common is it that it is, in fact, a woman in front of the camera? Husband doing high-profile work for his career while wife watches the kids seems to usually be the way it goes. We wouldn't even have this video because it's so much less common for an influential woman to be interviewed, and if one were, she'd probably want to go into a studio because, unlike with a man, there's a fair chance that interviewing from her home would undermine her credibility with audiences as a serious professional.

In any case, it's just so common that it's the man in front of the camera doing visible public work related to his high-powered career, and so common that his wife is out of sight taking care of the children. A friend of mine pointed out that maybe he watches the kids while she does interviews, too, but then conceded that it was unlikely. Power couples exist, but it seems so much more common that things go this way.

In the expat world, at least in Asia, it seems to be even more common. White guy lives in Asia and has stellar professional career and builds a family, wife is behind the scenes. I don't know how many of those wives had imagined a stellar professional career for themselves, only to find that they had fewer opportunities and choices in life. Not all of them, but certainly some. Any other match-up that involves a woman building a family and strong career seems to be that much more rare - not just for the (relatively few) female expats in Asia, but also for Asian women. As an expat woman, I have personal experience with the former. The latter is equally worth exploring but perhaps by someone with more insight and experience than me. I don't mean to shy away from discussing Asian women's experiences, and there is quite a bit to explore from an intersectional perspective, but I'm just not at all qualified to do that.

To put it another way, if my career had gone in such a way that I was giving BBC interviews from my home office in Taipei while my husband took care of domestic work in the background, it would be notable for how rarely such a thing happens. (I should point out that similar things have happened to me. I've done important work from home - at least, I felt it was important but it wasn't on the level of a BBC interview - while my husband cleaned, took out the trash and cooked dinner in the background. This is notable because, again, it is fairly rare).

This writer pretty much pointed out what was annoying me:

Then, somehow, Kelly hears the siren song of Asia and takes an associate professorship at Pusan National University in Busan, Korea....You know what though? Being Professor Kelly seems like a pretty good gig: a nice house, a nice look, an irrepressible daughter, a shockingly mobile baby, and a wife that will do anything to help him succeed.



Yeah, he does have a pretty good gig. And it's pretty damn easy for a white guy in Asia to get that gig (I am going to get a lot of hate mail for saying that, but I'm not even remotely sorry). It's fairly standard for a man to want a wife that "will do anything to help him succeed" - I'm not saying it's a bad thing, even.

It is quite difficult, however, as a woman, to forge a similar path, no matter where you are. Both men and women face challenges in life, family and career but simply put, the deck is stacked more firmly against women.

Many people don't even believe it is reasonable for a woman to want, or expect, a husband who "will do anything to help [her] succeed". It's she who must support her husband and help his career shine. If she gets anything more than that, she ought to count herself lucky, or something?

And then people wonder why it's so much more likely in this world that it's usually husband who's "on BBC", metaphorically speaking, and not the wife. It's the wife who's chasing kids around so her husband can "shine", and not the other way around. So often. So very, painfully, often.

Again, I do not mean to criticize this particular family. I don't know what choices they made or what preferences they have. I have no idea what Kelly's wife's goals and desires are, and it's not my business. It's not about them.

I'm pointing to a greater issue of inequality in the world and how it is revealed in this clip, simply because it is so much less likely that we'd see something similar with Mom talking to the BBC. If it were just as likely or common, I wouldn't be writing this post.

People will likely accuse me of being bitter for writing this. Sure, whatever, have fun. It's not really about me, though: I actually have the awesome, supportive marriage with a husband who would do anything to help me shine if I so chose, or my life took that direction. I'm not bitter about my life, I'm bitter about global inequality, a world where it is always more likely that the Robert Kellys of the world (again, nothing against the actual Robert Kelly, I'm sure he's great and if he's not I don't care) will be on BBC, and their wives, most likely, won't.

Yet, I am inserting my own views and sensitivities into this: if I were the wife in that video, I'd be asking myself how my life got to be such that I was corralling children while my husband was giving BBC interviews. It's not that watching children is less valuable work, it's just that it always seems to be the woman doing it, whether she wanted it to be that way or not. Plenty of women do want just that, but plenty don't, and many had always envisioned something a bit more equal only to wake up one day and realize they didn't get it, and aren't likely to. I don't have children but even if I did, I have still always imagined that if my life took a turn such that someone in my family was notable enough to be on BBC, it would most likely be me. (In fact, Brendan is highly intelligent and deeply insightful, but as the more outgoing, career-oriented, politics-and-activism-involved partner, it likely would be me).

And that's all fine - what bothers me is how rare it would be for it to actually be me, simply because I'm female. How much easier it is for a man to achieve professional notability and have a family than for a woman, even if she never envisioned anything less than an equal partnership.

For all of these reasons - how it usually goes this way, how in 2017 we still don't have equality, how unlikely it would be for Mom to be a viral sensation the way Dad is here, and how she would be criticized far more if she were, I have trouble sustaining a good belly laugh over the video.

I'm sure - because I'm a woman on the Internet with an opinion - that I'll be raked over the coals for this, and lots of people will assume I'm attacking this family despite my saying twice (three times now!) that I'm not. Because, again, we still don't have equality.

Yet, before I finish, I have one more point to make. A huge number of people seem to have assumed that Kelly's wife was, in fact, the children's nanny. I can't help but think many of them came to this conclusion because she's Asian. All I have to say is that that's super racist, what the hell, don't be racist. Seriously.

Friday, March 10, 2017

It's time to stop those pro-China protesters

Yeah, China!

Awhile back, I ran into those odious but seemingly-legal pro-unification protesters that sometimes pop up at major Taipei landmarks. Imade the case that, as strongly as I disagreed with their views and goals, that as Taiwanese citizens they had the right to protest. I find it ironic that they have been protesting in support of Taiwan being unified against its will with a country that would immediately take away their right to protest, but they still had, I argued, the right to protest. Their ironic goals make them stupid, but don't negate their rights. 

I want to take that back. I no longer feel they should be allowed to demonstrate.


This is not because I vehemently disagree with their views (though I do). I disagree with lots of people, but it doesn't mean they don't have the same rights I enjoy. It is not even because what they essentially advocate is the termination of the existence of the nation they live in: if Taiwan were to democratically decide to unify with China, I wouldn't like it one bit (I'd probably sob for days), but there wouldn't be much I could say about it if the vote was fair and not done under threat. A nation can, in theory, vote to terminate its own existence. I don't even feel this way because their views are so out of line with the vast majority of Taiwanese - they would still have the right to voice them through legal protest.

No - they should not be allowed to demonstrate for a few key reasons, none of which go against the basic rights of freedom of speech and expression that I believe in.

The first is that they are one of the few protest groups whose violence is internal. 

Violence sometimes erupts even at peaceful protests - which the vast majority of protests are in both intention and execution - for what I have observed are three reasons (says this person who is not an expert in social movements or protest). The first is because law enforcement or some other force is pushing back on them in a way that begets violence. Even if your intentions are peaceful, if the police (or some other group) are coming at you with clubs, mace, smoke bombs and water cannons, or trying to keep you from exercising your right to protest through aggressively breaking up groups or fencing them in, it's easy for what is intended to be a peaceful demonstration to get out of control. The second is when an outside group or force - perhaps loosely in agreement with the protesting group, perhaps in opposition to it - intentionally steps in to sow a bit of chaos. This is what often happens in Taiwan and Hong Kong when gangsters, in the employ of other forces, try to incite violence by aggressively bullying peaceful demonstrators. The third is when the injustice set upon an aggrieved community is so great that people just snap. 

None of the reasons above is cause to dismiss the idea of peaceful demonstration.

However, there are also groups who use aggression and violence as a tactic - as above, their violence is internal. Perhaps they do it to create fear among another group (anti-abortion protesters do this, to the point that some women feel unsafe going to a women's health clinic - and that's the point). Perhaps they are in the employ of someone who wants to discredit the idea of protesting at all. Or, perhaps it is simply to anger others into striking back, or simply to get media attention.

The pro-China protests in Taiwan cannot be classified as one where violence is brought in by outside forces. They are one of the ones for whom it is a tactic - most likely for media attention. They need it - there are only, what, five of them? They have been aggressive and will continue to be aggressive because it is intrinsic to their goals to do so, not because law enforcement, gangsters with dubious motives or the righteous anger of deep injustice. They were given several chances to stop the violence and protest peacefully, yet they persisted.

Update: apparently the most recent video of protest violence is not of this group but of another gangster-led pro-unification group. Still, my point stands - they're not going to demonstrate peacefully because nobody will pay attention to them if they do, so it's time to stop them for good. Freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to be violent. They had their chance, and now they need to go.

Even when they are not physically violent, they purposely skirt noise ordinances: there is no way their Musical China Douchemobile is within the legally allowed decibel level for...whatever it is they are doing. Blasting pro-China opera songs? Yet it's difficult to stop them because they are hard to report when they keep driving around. 

Another reason why they ought to be stopped? Because I am no longer convinced that they are simply private citizens with a strongly held opinion demonstrating for what they believe in. I am sure there are a few sincere pro-unificationists running around Taiwan: every society has its extremists. However, I truly don't believe that this group is so sincere. Given how common it is for pro-China, anti-localist and anti-self-determination protesters in Taiwan and Hong Kong to have ties back to gangs who, in turn, have ties back to government (it seems to usually be the Chinese government, but I wouldn't put it past some of the more radical deep blue factions of the Taiwanese government to do this too), it is not crazy to think these guys might also be paid PRC stooges, too. If - and this is a big if, but I think a plausible one - the PRC has something to do with the little show they put on at various high-traffic sites around the city, then that amounts to a foreign government sticking its hands into Taiwanese affairs. Governments do this all the time, but that doesn't mean it should be tolerated.

It also calls into question exactly who the police are listening to when they cordon off or act aggressively toward peaceful protesters (harassing the indigenous rights protesters at night, or isolating peaceful marriage equality demonstrators), but allow this group to start fights unchecked until the mayor steps in (and similarly do little to stop anti-marriage-equality protesters, blue-camp-aligned protesters or actions by groups organized by known gangsters such as White Wolf).

This is quite similar to my reasoning behind supporting laws that do not allow non-residents to participate in protests or demonstrations beyond observation: if we allowed it, thousands of paid Chinese "protesters" would be on the next flights over from China, marching in the streets for unification. Stopping that may mean that some well-meaning people who don't have the right visa can't engage, but I find this a reasonable price to pay.

The final reason why I think it's time to pull the plug on this group is related to the point above. I do not think they are sincere because they don't seem that concerned about actually convincing anybody. That's good in one sense, because if they were, they'd be failing. It raises the question, though, of who exactly they are protesting for. My best guess - and a lot of my friends agree - is that they're doing it to create good photo ops in China. Perhaps for a time they were there to put on a show for Chinese tourists streaming into Taipei 101 - look, we were right, our Chinese brothers across the strait do want to be a part of China, you can see them protesting for it against their evil government right here! - but those are basically gone now. Now, I'd put money on it being done for photo ops that can be strategically placed in Chinese media.

In short, they're not there to convince Taiwanese. They're there to make Taiwanese society seem more divided on the issue than it really is (as it's not actually that divided at all).

Freedom of speech and assembly comes with some basic assumptions: that you are acting of your own accord and not in someone else's shadowy employ; that your motives are sincere and your goals genuine; that you are not a part of some foreign government's strategy and that your intentions are non-violent.

This doesn't mean I think we should ban all pro-China or pro-unification protests. Not even close - as much as I disagree with it, the actual viewpoint being expressed is not the problem. My problem is with this particular group.

While it's difficult to say for sure, my honest opinion is that these specific pro-China protesters meet none of these standards. In such a case, I truly do not believe it violates the basic right to freedom of expression to stop allowing them to demonstrate.

The chances of the Taiwanese government investigating, let alone doing something about this?

Most likely zero. I'd love to be proven wrong.

I suppose we can look forward to them blasting music and pushing us around for awhile yet.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Let Her and Falsehood Grapple: Women's March Taipei (2017)

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Please excuse the lack of insight - this is more like personal experience and a bit of straight reporting -  I'm writing with a headache and trying to get it done tonight.

Anyway, every year I say I'm going to take Lao Ren Cha back to its roots - a blog about life as an expat woman in Taiwan, and women's issues in Taiwan and Asia. Every year I fail, instead doing what I've always done which is just to blog about whatever I want. 2017 is likely to be no different, but at least this one time I can post something in line with Lao Ren Cha's original intent.

Today was International Women's Day, and the fine folks at Indivisible Taiwan put together a march from Freedom Square to Da'an Park Station to raise awareness of women's issues in Taiwan and around the world. Perhaps 80-100 people showed up - I'm neither a great journalist nor a great crowd estimator so I'll just run with that. That's pretty damn good for an expat-heavy march not aimed at a specific issue, and I was proud to be a part of it.

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That's big for me - I'm usually not free on weekdays, and I'm not much of a marcher (but ask me to hang out at Jingfu Gate for a good cause and I'll be there), and as the years go by my loyalties really have shifted from US issues to Taiwanese ones. This is my home, after all. I don't really do signs, balloons etc., I just like showing up. You know I care about something if I make time - on a weekday afternoon! - for an activity I am not otherwise inclined to do.

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Yu Mei-nu speaks at Da'an Park
I spent much of the march toeing the line between kinda-sorta-reporting-on-it and participating, which I think is a fine liminal space for a spitballing, F-bomb dropping feminist blogger to be for something like this. I marched, and I didn't interview anyone because I am lazy, but I kinda hung around with my journalist and videographer friends. All sorts of different folks showed up - some high schoolers, many expats, many locals, a good mix of men and women of various ages. People had different reasons for marching, from supporting women's issues and causes worldwide to a targeted statement from expats in Taiwan to the Trump administration (my reason for marching - and specifically targeting the assault on reproductive rights in the US and globally) to simply wanting to see more expat-local inclusive events with greater international exchanges in the name of women's rights and progressivism generally.

Anyway here's an actual article on the march from New Bloom.

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Before the march, I wasn't even sure right up until I got on the MRT at 4pm if I was going to go - I had a lot to get done and I'm just not a marcher. I had felt like I did my part by helping to put together and edit a Taipei Times letter to spread the word about the march. That I went, and am now writing this despite coming down with a headache, says something!

Once we reached Da'an Park station, there were short talks by legislators Karen Yu, Yu Mei-nu and Jason Hsu (you can watch two of those three - with English, in fact Hsu spoke exclusively in English - in the links above - lazy journalist that I am, my phone was low on power so I could only capture two talks).

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All in all it was nice to come out, meet some people I'd only interacted with online and some expats I hadn't known in person (though it seemed like everyone knew me? If it weren't for the red hair and being super loud on Facebook that would be creepy, but okay, cool) and walk for something that matters. I don't have any deeper thoughts than that - and I have a headache - so I'll leave you with this:

Even in Taiwan our really not-that-controversial march attracted a religious nutter. As we passed she, an older foreign woman, stood to the side literally thumping a Bible (like LITERALLY thumping itm you guys, I thought that was just an expression but no!) and shouting "Jesus is the only man who can save you!"

Okay, whatevs, Jesus was cool, but who says I need any man to save me? Anyway, God is dead so that's fine.

All I have to say is that it's weird to come across that specific brand of nutbag in Taiwan. They're all over the US, we practically breed them there (literally - they tend to have a lot of kids. Again, fine, whatever). But in Taiwan? Was she a missionary? If so, she wasn't very persuasive. Was she a garden-variety expat who just happened to also be a Bible-thumper? If so, okay, but...really? It just seems like a rare type out here where the expat community I know trends very liberal.

I suppose she was out there thumpin' that Bible for the same reason we were: to come out and demonstrate for something she truly believed in. Sure. It's just, in the war of ideas, I simply don't buy that her ideas are equally valid. One side preaches equality, the other intolerance. One side preaches not judging and giving opportunity to all, the other preaches slotting people into categories based on their genitals. Like, you have a vagina, you go here. Act this way. Be like all the other vagina-havers. Or something. I don't get it. It goes against any real notion of science or ethics.

So, let her thump. We have better ideas. Or as John Milton put it:


“Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

We need more detailed and timely Taiwan news in English

I just have a few thoughts to share about some news from Taiwan this week that I wanted to share, despite my generally avoiding link lists or news summaries. Let's start with the key point - there are a few other unrelated links below because I don't know where else to shoehorn them in.

A quick note before we begin: on Wednesday March 8th (International Women's Day), Indivisible Taiwan will hold a march from Freedom Square (CKS Memorial Hall) to Da'an Park Station at 4:30pm. I have to work, but I wanted to spread the word.

Anyway. Let's start with this essay by Sunflower leader Lin Fei-fan on the reasons for his support of the indigenous Taiwanese who are fighting for full land rights (an explanation of the issue can be found in the essay). I can't make the argument any better - I recommend you all go read his essay instead. In fact I wouldn't even try to make it, when I have said in the past that we need to open up the international narrative and discussion on Taiwan to more strong Taiwanese voices, he is exactly one of the voices I mean. So listen to his words, not mine.

There has been discussion on my public Facebook page about how, as a non-indigenous person, Lin is not the best voice to speak for them, and we ought to be elevating indigenous voices specifically (and that this has been a discussion in those communities for some time). In fact, I agree completely. However, I do feel that while we absolutely ought to seek out these voices, there is room for well-written and thoughtful pieces such as Lin's, which exhort fellow Taiwanese to care about these causes. Both can be true, just as there is room in international discourse for non-Taiwanese scholars and academics to weigh in (or even bloggers like me), even as Taiwanese voices are sought out and included.

What I want to say, however, is that those of us who can read Chinese have known about this issue for well over a week. I don't mean to show off (okay, I kind of do a little, but please forgive me). My point is, plenty of strong supporters of both Taiwan and indigenous rights globally simply don't read Chinese, or not at the level they would need to to keep up in this way. Even I read sections I can't follow via Google Translate or just go very slowly, but I'm at the point now where that's only for sections - I don't have to put an entire essay like this into Translate.

I don't even mean that I want more original reporting on Taiwan in English, although that would be nice, and useful (original reporting in Chinese and Hoklo-language media is not always up to snuff). There is quite a lot of interesting discourse out there in Chinese that it would be beneficial in terms of engaging the international community in Taiwan affairs and promoting a greater understanding of Taiwan.

Discussions of English language imperialism aside, I just want to point something out. Lin makes an excellent case for Taiwan understanding itself before it can ever hope to be understood by the international community:

What kind of county will Taiwan become? This is a question every person who hopes Taiwan will become a country worthy of respect, where Taiwanese can hold their heads high among the community of nations, should always consider.
 
But if we are unable to understand the situation and oppression each group has experienced, then how can we expect the international community to understand Taiwan?

I want to make a corollary case: if Taiwan wants the international community to understand it as a country, public discourse on issues affecting it, even domestic issues, needs to be more available in other languages. Yes, English: like it or not, it's the international language we currently use and the current language of international-level public discourse. We currently have several great sources: Ketagalan Media, New Bloom, Taiwan Sentinel, Taipei Times (not perfect but let me put it this way: they get a mention whereas China Post doesn't), several blogs, The News Lens International and Focus Taiwan.

It's not enough, however. There is no good reason why I should have been aware of the issues behind, or very existence of, the indigenous people's protest on Ketagalan Boulevard, a full week before that information became available in English, and in less detail at that. Otherwise, it is very difficult indeed for those who care about Taiwan to follow discussions on Taiwanese issues, or join them, if the information is only available in Mandarin. Certainly one might expect any specialist to be fully fluent, but plenty of supporters and other interested people are not specialists. I am not a specialist but I don't think anyone would say I'm not a supporter or friend to Taiwan, and I only know Mandarin because I decided I was going to learn it and did, because I happen to be particularly good at that sort of thing.

If Taiwan wants more attention, support and understanding internationally, we are simply going to have to have more bilingual (or trilingual, or multilingual) sources available for the discussion of contemporary and historical Taiwanese issues.

Of course, that doesn't mean the readers will come. There is not a lot of interest in Taiwan internationally, although I wonder if part of that is because this sort of discourse about it is not available in English, or not in a timely manner. If the information were there, perhaps more people would take an interest? Or perhaps not - but we can't know until we make it a reality. We can't even begin to engage the international community until we take this step.

Along those lines, please check out Queerious, a new site focusing on LGBT+ issues (including marriage equality) with English content. There's not a lot there now, as it is quite new, but it is absolutely worth keeping an eye on. My rant about making discussions and news about Taiwanese issues more available in English isn't just reserved for the current indigenous people's protests and struggle, but for every issue affecting Taiwan.

Finally, just a quick note on this article. I can't say I'm a fan (sorry Taiwan Sentinel). It's okay, but it seems to follow the formula of asking a question in the headline only for the answer in the article to be "no", and I am typically not big on such rhetorical sleight-of-hand. Furthermore, while I appreciate that the article is clear in calling the "1992 Consensus" "so-called" and "highly symbolic", it is not clear enough in calling out the simple truth that the so-called "1992 Consensus" does not exist. 

And why on earth should President Tsai wait at all - for any reason - to acknowledge the truth of something that does not exist?

If you were curious about my reasons for insisting that the whole thing is a laughable fiction, here they are:

1.) Su Chi - a former KMT politician - admits he made up the term...in 2000 (not even 1993 - 2000!)
2.) The two sides don't even agree on what the consensus was (Taiwan says "One China, different interpretations". China has never agreed to that). Words mean things, and a "consensus" means you have, well, a consensus. If you don't agree, you don't have a consensus, therefore there can't have been a consensus because WORDS. MEAN. THINGS.
3.) Even if the two sides agreed to something in 1992 (nobody disputes that meetings did take place), nobody sent by either side to those meetings was a democratically-elected or otherwise publicly-agreed-upon representative of the people of either country. China doesn't care about such things, but Taiwan does. Let's say in 1992 some unelected officials from Taiwan did agree to some sort of "consensus" with their Chinese counterparts. So what? The people of Taiwan never entrusted them with the power to speak for Taiwan - Taiwan's first full elections didn't take place until 1996 (there had been some more local election activity prior to that). Whatever they might have agreed to in that alternate universe is irrelevant to Taiwan as the democracy it is today.

So no, Tsai should not "wait" before changing her stance to be more "flexible" on the 1992 Consensus (or anything else), because it is stupid to acknowledge a fiction as true - a lesson the US is currently learning the hard way.

For the record, here is a list of things that do not exist:

1.) Leprechuans
2.) Fairies
3.) THE 1992 "CONSENSUS"
4.) Unicorns
5.) Any version of "One China" that includes Taiwan
6.) God
7.) Bitter melon that tastes good
8.) Santa Claus
9.) Genies in bottles

I bid you good day!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Those "letters of agreement" Taiwanese universities signed are scarier than you think

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The caption reads "Chinese hearts are easily broken" - it can also be read as "Handle Fragile Chinese Hearts With Care"

Update: apparently the number of schools who signed these letters is "at least half" of the originally reported 157. Here's a link to an updated article. 

I just want to make a quick comment on the story that at least 80 or so universities in Taiwan have signed "letters of agreement" that students from China would not be exposed in class to certain areas of political discussion (namely, Taiwanese independence or sovereignty, or anything that might challenge the idea of "One China").

The agreements don't seem to have had any impact on what is actually taught in classes (from at least one account, orders are not handed down to the actual educators regarding what they may and may not cover in class and these issues are discussed), and seem at this point to be mainly intended to smooth the process for Chinese students coming to Taiwan.

I'd argue, though, that this doesn't mean they are a non-issue.

Chinese universities are hardly independent academic entities with the full range of academic freedoms one can reasonably expect in free societies. I am not an expert, and so do not know the exact extent to which individual universities are beholden to, or take orders from, the Chinese government, but I believe I can safely assume that they are all beholden to some extent, and take orders to some extent - more likely than not, to a great extent.

If, then, the letters are indeed 'pro forma', it is because nobody in China is insisting they be enforced. I don't see it as being a strategy far removed from "we'll send Chinese tourists": sure, they'll send Chinese tourists, until it is strategically convenient for them not to do so anymore. That move backfired (ha ha) but we all know it was the intended strategy. Those who relied on Chinese tourism complained as predicted, and "Taiwan's economy hit hard! Cross-strait tensions!!!!" became a bigger issue than it ever ought to have been, had the whole truth been reported rather than simply the loudest voices.

In this case, is it too hard to imagine that these letters are being asked for, and yet compliance not insisted on, for now - but that once it is strategically convenient to do so, that could easily change?

What happens when there are enough Chinese students in Taiwan, or at any given university that can be reliably expected to complain, that immediately cutting off new enrollments could serve as a threat, or be otherwise beneficial to China, the next time the people of Taiwan vote in a way China doesn't like, or the government they've elected doesn't adopt the supplicant position China demands? It seems clear to me the government could do that, and their own universities would comply.

Then it turns into headlines around the world: "Taiwanese universities suffering as China cuts off student programs", which lead to articles about how this is hurting Taiwan, which lead to piss-poor punditry about how Taiwan, by being a 'troublemaker' rather than taking the most conciliatory stance possible, is causing its own problems and creating 'tensions' across the strait. It never seems to matter that China is usually the one taking the actions and making the threats.

Indeed, bent-over, cheeks agape appears to be the only position many around the world feel Taiwan is allowed to reasonably take vis-a-vis China - often from people who in any other context talk real big about freedom, democracy and respect for sovereignty.

This would be worse than the tourism strategy, however, because Taiwan does have too many universities and, rather than allowing them to close without complaint, they actually will suffer when Chinese students are recalled or new enrollments ceased because China has found it strategically convenient to suddenly insist on the enforcement of these agreements. And they will complain, and it will make the news, and people will call Taiwan the 'troublemaker', wash, rinse, repeat.

Meanwhile every other country gets to more reasonably debate what growing Chinese influence means for academic freedom in their country. Everyone else gets to talk about how China's actions globally - most clearly revealed by the actions of Confucius Institutes worldwide - are part of a strategy to dominate the narrative about China, and truth in general.

Some universities may feel the pressure to comply, and, if this practice continues now that it's been brought into the public eye, we will have no idea which ones they will be. Academic freedom will be threatened, and students from Taiwan (as far as I am aware no class is made up entirely of students from China - even if one is, China has no right to insist that a university abroad educate them in a certain way) will also be shorted. China wins either way: the universities comply and education in Taiwan becomes influenced by Chinese censorship, or they don't and a bunch of bullshit articles are spawned that make it look as though Taiwan is the problem.

This is one reason why I get so annoyed with the "but any warming relations with China are good! It's always great for us to have good relations with China!" crowd. No, it's not, because every single thing the Chinese government does towards Taiwan that appears conciliatory is meant to advance their end goal of annexing Taiwan. No exceptions. The tourists, the students, the trade deals, the investment, all of it - is aimed directly at eating away at Taiwanese sovereignty and creating a vortex of integration that they hope will eventually push Taiwan over a critical event horizon.

In truth, this is their strategy around the world - it's not even that subtle! - but with the less critical aim of controlling the world narrative. With Taiwan they want both to control the narrative and to succeed in their goal of territorial expansion. In other countries it's a problem to be discussed, a peripheral concern to be addressed. In Taiwan it's critical to address for the very survival of the nation. Many countries do this - the US tries to promote its own narrative as well - but again, in the case of Taiwan, its own continued existence is at stake.

So, perhaps this sounds like a crazy-ass conspiracy theory - the Chinese are always out to get us. But it's quite plausible, it's in line with their actions toward Taiwan in the past, it's in line with their actual stated goal (it's not like they hide it!) of annexing Taiwan, and it makes perfect sense in the context of how universities and academic freedom operate in China.

These letters may seem like pro-forma non-issues now, but, even if you call me crazy, I truly do not believe that if they continue to be signed that they will remain a non-issue. This does not mean that I have a problem with Chinese students in Taiwan - I would like to see them here, and be exposed to Taiwan, the successes of Taiwanese freedom and democracy, and what true academic freedom means. I have no problem with them, and in at least one of my work capacities I engage with them frequently. With very few exceptions, I have never had a problem or complaint. This is not about the students.

However, I cannot stress enough that agreements like this are not an acceptable pre-condition for those exchanges to happen, and that the Chinese government will certainly attempt to use its flow of students abroad to further their political agenda.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Parsing Tsai on Marriage Equality



As the Legislative Yuan exits recess with marriage equality hot - I hope - on the docket, many have been wondering what the deal is with Tsai's mealy-mouthed, congee-like "support"-ish words for something she so clearly supported more strongly on the campaign trail.

A lot of news and analysis has come out on this issue in recent days, and it's worthwhile to gather it together and see what it says as a whole.

What I see is this: I honestly believe that Tsai personally supports marriage equality. One of the reasons why it became such an issue in 2016 is that she made it such a central issue of her campaign - the first major presidential candidate ever to do so (I don't know if any minor candidates had done so in the past). She didn't have to do that - Ma's low popularity and black-box bullshit had pretty much assured the DPP a win in 2016 - but she did it anyway. I simply do not see that as having been possible without her personally holding that view.

It is also clear that Tsai is deeply pragmatic, which at times can imbue her persona with something akin to a frosted amorality: I do believe that if she thinks a solution that is not exactly moral is the most practical, she will pursue it regardless of what's truly right or her own personal beliefs. Obama displayed this tendency too, in his Middle East policy - frankly, most politicians can be like this. I could see her backing away from marriage equality and either getting wishy-washy on the topic because it suits her interests and goals, or supporting a lesser bill (such as a civil partnership bill) because she thinks it will cost her less politically.

While it is important on some level for the president to be personally in favor of doing what's right, I'm not entirely sure it matters in a big-picture sense, however. If she weighs her options and decides that she can win re-election and take the least political losses by abandoning marriage equality, she will. So, what should matter is not what she thinks, but what she does.

Unfortunately, her actions have been disappointing. Some news items on the matter, however, have been unclear: she reportedly told one activist, Vincent Huang, that "you may never live to see marriage equality" (or something to that effect - it's really not clear) when he pointed out that he and others could not put their lives on hold. However, the transcript of that talk seems to refute this. 

Why bring it up at all if that's not what Tsai said? Because I want to point out something she did say according to the official transcript that merits attention:

Huang: "But our lives can't be put on hold."
President Tsai: "I know, but even if you can't put your lives on hold you need to consider the future of other people as well and think of them as well."

YO BACK THAT TRUCK UP.

What is that supposed to mean? That the superstitions, religious dogma and delicate sensitivities of anti-equality protesters are just as important as Huang and others having equal rights? That people who currently lack equality should spare a thought for those who want to keep it from them, even though obtaining equality would not hurt those people in the slightest, but would be a great boon to the LGBT+ community?

How can one say, in 2017, that someone else's fears and anxieties over an expansion of rights that won't affect them at all are just as important and worthy of consideration as the rights themselves and what they would mean to the group that seeks to gain them?

I'm sorry, but it's preposterous to even suggest that the direct effect of this issue on the lives of same-sex couples is no more important than someone else's sanctimonious "feelings" on the matter, and that the LGBT+ community and their supporters should show more sensitivity to them than they have ever shown us. As though their anxiety and fear of being made even slightly uncomfortable equates with your not having access to one of the most fundamental societal institutions. As though pseudo-science should be considered on an equal level with real science.

The reason given for this statement appears to be the same reasoning behind her meeting with proponents and opponents of marriage equality to listen to "both sides" - to listen to different views. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, except that in this particular debate, one side wants to deprive another of equal rights - rights that, should same-sex couples gain them, would not affect opponents in the slightest. We have listened to them enough - throughout history we have had to listen to them. Their views are well-known; there is no reason to give them yet another venue to express them. Another reason not to go through this farce: their science is clearly false. They have no evidence beyond their own fears and superstitions. Their social beliefs are religiously motivated (most opponents of marriage equality in Taiwan identify with a religious group of some sort; those who support equality are far more likely to be religiously unaffiliated). If you believe that members of one religion should not have the right to impose their beliefs on an entire society - and I do - there is no basis for continuing to give their views equal weight.

I do understand that some anti-equality religious groups genuinely feel they're not being listened to, or that they are being attacked, and they have fears that, to them, are real. On that level I can understand the motivation to talk to them openly.

However, I just have to say this: as I pointed out above, we've been listening to them forever. What they want is basically already law. They've pretty much had the floor for most of human civilization and gotten their way. It seems pretty clear to me that when the marriage equality movement started being taken seriously around the world activists in the movement did try to talk rationally to conservatives (who started out being in the strong majority). I don't think the movement would have gotten this far if they hadn't. LGBT+ people and their allies have spent literally decades laying the groundwork by doing this. There is a point when, if anti-equality believers have not been persuaded by rational discussion and good science, on some level they don't want to be. If they feel they are being attacked after decades of getting their way, simply because their views are no longer majority views, then on some level they want to feel attacked. If they feel nobody is listening when more than half the history of the movement, in every country where it's taken hold, has been about listening and discussion, then on some level they want to insist that unless they are being obeyed, they are not being listened to. This is one movement that, due to fear, superstition, irrational yet entrenched norms and straight up bigotry, might never have gone anywhere if it hadn't started with advocates being friendly, approachable and rational.

So, I find that whole "we are being attacked" line of thinking disingenuous. At this point, they have been listened to, and harsher criticisms have only been fairly recent, in response to their sheer intransigence. If they still insist on that fear and anger, on some level, it's because they want to. I am not sure what rational discussion can do that hasn't already been accomplished with those who think this way.

Finally, simply looking at support for marriage equality should be evidence enough. The key takeaway from the survey linked above is that, at approximately 40% in favor and 27% opposed, despite representing a plurality rather than a majority of the population, the consensus of Taiwanese is in support. If you take that 40% or so and group it with undecided respondents, it forms a very strong majority. Attendees to various pro- and anti-equality rallies seem to confirm this: the pro-equality numbers appear to be consistently larger despite the better organizational and networking capability, through church networks, of the anti-equality crowd.

It is folly, then, to give the two sides equal weight as though their views are truly equal. It is also folly to pretend that society is perfectly divided on the issue - it's not.

I also worry that her words - including, in one Facebook post, that "there is no need for total conflict between family values and equal rights" (link in Chinese)- can be interpreted in some very troubling ways. I would love for this to mean that she does not feel that marriage equality is an assault on Taiwanese values (and it's not). However, it could just as easily be taken to mean that, if it would foster more agreement between supporters and opponents, that she'd sell out marriage equality for the lesser accomplishment of not-quite-marriage, separate-but-equal civil partnerships so as not to anger the delicate sensitivities of a few anti-equality agitators.

She knows this - she must. Therefore I have to agree that the meeting was a stalling tactic. 

This leads me to believe that Tsai has decided that stalling on marriage equality is safer politically than adhering to her own campaign rhetoric (as a friend pointed out, I do not believe she ever actively endorsed or promised legislation - her language on the matter began and ended with her personal views. Still, the change in overall tone does feel hypocritical, as though she's unaware that we're aware that we may have been duped).

I'm not sure why this is: she won in great part due to the support of the youth, a group she may not win again, or may not win so handily, if she does not deliver on an issue that is important to them. One wonders if she realizes exactly how many votes she stands to lose simply for coming across as a two-timer on this issue, or if she fully understands that the support of the electorate is worth more than the support of a few powerful church organizations (if events in recent years have proven anything when it comes to Taiwanese politics, if you listen to powerful special interests over the people, the people will hold you to account).

The sheer lack of sense in this whole approach leads me to wonder what caused the sudden freeze-up. What caused clear words of support to turn into so much gooey rice porridge political nothingness? We know the churches, with the help of American hate groups, in Taiwan are powerful and wealthy, but are they truly this powerful and wealthy, enough that Tsai would risk angering a larger number of voters to appease the smaller numbers in their networks? What exactly is she scared of, and why? Does she really believe that promising dumplings and delivering tasteless congee is going to be enough to get the youth to come back out for her? Does she think that this sort of empty "let's listen to both sides" rhetoric and "I'll do whatever the legislature recommends" backsliding is going to be received without comment or backlash? Has she seen what has happened in the past year to other establishment politicians who tried such tactics thinking they would work in today's political climate? She's not stupid, so what is she thinking exactly?

Does she realize that, while civil partnerships would be a step forward, that they are not going to satisfy this segment of society?

If I haven't been clear enough already, let me highlight this point: if Tsai doesn't get her act together on marriage equality she will lose the youth vote. 

Full stop, no hedging. She will lose it, and there are more of them than there are of the religious folks. I deeply, sincerely hope she realizes this. In modern, democratic Taiwan if you don't listen to the people, you get burned. 

A lot of people (well, mostly other expats) have been asking the ardent activists to give Tsai a chance. She has a lot on her plate, from the economy to China to transitional justice to labor and pension reform. I get it. But her approach to marriage equality, then, ought to have been "I support this. I'm also working on these other things, but I am open to seeing this progress", rather than the halfhearted stalling and feinting that impresses nobody and is already starting to turn off the youth and progressive voters. I gave her time - I didn't expect that marriage equality would make it through the legislature in 2016, but I see no reason why it shouldn't pass in 2017 and I am not impressed with how Tsai is handling the process. It's not the time, per se - we get that these things take time. It's how she's comporting herself on this issue that is worrisome.

It's taking a lot of time - time enough for a hearty bowl of rice to be boiled down into icky, sticky congee.