Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Low Marriage Rate in Taiwan: Part II

There was an article recently in the China Post that I thought I'd address here, all about low marriage and birthrates in Taiwan.

I'll cover it in two sections - first revisiting the idea of marriage in Taiwan, and then I'll put up a new post above discussing the issue of the low birthrate. I'm very much anti short-form blogging (it has its uses but if you want to really get at the meat of something and consider every angle, it doesn't work and it promotes short attention spans) but it would probably behoove me to shorten my posts just an eensy bit!

I've already covered my thoughts on why Taiwanese women aren't marrying at anywhere near traditional rates but with the publication of this article, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic. I won't cover my reasoning and thoughts again - but I stand by what I said back then: the expectations of traditional gender roles in marriage and a rising consciousness and awareness that they don't have to stand for such treatment is probably what's keeping Taiwanese women from choosing to marry, along with feeling that Taiwanese men haven't kept up with the times and changing values brought about by modernity - the fact that hey, it's no shame to share an equal part in handling home, child and elder care duties and hey, it's OK if your wife out-earns or out-reputations you - yes, I made that nouny verb up - and hey, women ARE in fact equal to men. Different, but equal, and there is no shame in that so get over yourselves already.

To be fair, not all Taiwanese men feel that way. I am happy to be able to cite many men among my students whose wives are equally successful and of whom they are proud, not ashamed. I am happy that I can tell anecdotes of male students who, when asked what they did on the weekend, say things like "I took care of my baby" or "I visited my in-laws because my wife is on a business trip" or "I cleaned the house with my wife". Good for you. The world needs more of you.

To put it simply, encouraging the government to "instead of being pro-natalist, be pro-marriage" is just not good enough. The government, if it is to be pro-marriage, needs to do so in a modern, equality-minded way and maybe look into the reasons why women are choosing not to marry (again, covered in my last post, linked above). They need to take into account that marriage and children (mostly children) generally don't present a problem to men climbing the career ladder, but that they do present a problem to many women. They need to encourage men to accept more egalitarian household and child-rearing roles. Then we might see more marriages.

This story was linked to by Michael Turton, and I have to say that one comment on that post disturbed be a bit:

Dismissing marriage as simply a bad institution is a cop-out. There have been serious structural changes to Taiwanese society, economic in particular, that are not necessarily desirable. No, no marriage for marriage's sake, but we should think about what's changed rather than be so politically correctly dismissive. The decline of marriage, I think many will find, is a reflection of harsh realities for the generation coming of age and in its early adulthood. And the 1 year+ military draft on males just makes things worse (in a more traditional society, military draft didn't make as big of an impact, but today, that means women make more than men, at least early in their careers).

I would really, really like to know what "Anonymous" means by that. "there have been serious structural changes, economic in particular, that are not necessarily desireable...today, it means women make more than men, at least early in their careers."

Um...I can't help but read this to imply that the pro-female changes that have taken place in Taiwanese society are, according to Anonymous, "undesireable", and most undesireable of all is the idea that Taiwanese women often make more than men.

Really? Like, for serious? Why is this a problem, and while I admit that for some, it is a problem, why should it be? What is so bad about a wife out-earning her husband? Is this so shameful that it is causing women to choose not to marry, or that - even worse - it's causing Taiwanese men not to marry Taiwanese women (and if it is, why are we focusing on the women - the problem in that case is with the outdated attitudes of the men).

I did have a few problems with the article: namely, why is it that when we discuss marriage in Taiwan, we always focus on women? Why isn't any one discussing how men feel about this? If the marriage rate of women is down, wouldn't it also be so for men? There are two possible issues at play:

1.) That the marriage rate isn't really down for men, as many of them take foreign brides, something Taiwanese women don't often have as an option.

If anyone has a statistic that can prove or disprove this, I'd love to hear it. Yes, I am a lazy blogger who doesn't want to hunt for her own statistics, which is why I'm a blogger and not a journalist.

Yes, many more Taiwanese women marry Western men than Taiwanese men marrying Western women (though I can point to at least one real-life example of a Taiwanese man-Western woman marriage, so it definitely can happen). I'm not entirely sure why this is, but I think the answer is both obvious and multi-faceted. Taiwan is more progressive than other Asian countries, but I have found it to be absolutely true that there are still traditional gender role expectations among many (not all!) Taiwanese men that Western women just can't accept. If there's a language barrier, I've found that a Western woman is less likely to accept this in her relationship - here are two anecdotes that don't prove anything but do make a point:

When I first arrived in Taiwan, I posted on a popular travel forum that I was here and happy to meet up with anyone in town for drinks or a coffee (a fairly popular way for travelers to meet up in the age of the Internet). I ended up having lunch and tea with a Canadian in town for a week visiting friends, on her way to the Philippines to go diving. She told me about her last boyfriend, who was French Canadian - English was not his first language and she didn't speak French fluently. She clearly remembered a conversation they had in which she just couldn't make the nuances of her point clear to him in a way he understood. She said that she knew right there that that the relationship would not end in marriage - she couldn't be with someone that she couldn't express her thoughts to and couldn't communicate with fluidly in a common language.

After I'd been here for awhile, I changed jobs and had a coworker (who still kind of works for us, but in a limited capacity) - in order to make a point clear in a seminar we were co-teaching, he told the class about his wife, who is Taiwanese. He talked about how sometimes, she would try to say something and end up speaking pidgin, children's English because she knew what she wanted to express but just didn't have the words to get it out - so they ended up communicating in simplified language (there is a similar anecdote in the Amitav Ghosh book, In an Antique Land, which I thoroughly recommend, about his research into an individual who lived during the Indian Ocean trading decades in the 1100s. He was from somewhere in the Arab world, and his wife was south Indian - Ghosh surmised that they must have communicated in a type of pidgin language). He thought this was perfectly OK, but I remember thinking "Wow. Well, good for him, but I could never do that. I need someone I can have long, winding, tangled-up conversations with." I don't mean this as a slam against him - he's a great guy. Just...different strokes for different folks.

There's also the fact that, let's face it, there is still a prejudice towards couples where the man is bigger and the woman is smaller, and we Western women tend to be taller and curvier and so many Asian men are shorter and thinner. This is, once again, not always true, and I know many men in Taiwan who are taller and burlier than I am, but it probably is a factor. Is this fair? Well, no, but it's probably true to some degree.

And finally, there's the fact that Taiwanese men are - honestly - a bit more shy about asking women out and there is still a bias towards men asking women on dates (I've never felt that this should be an issue, but apparently it is).

2.) The more sexist reason - it's not seen as "important" or "an issue" if a man chooses to remain a bachelor, but heaven forfend that a woman might choose the same.

I would really like to think that this is not true. If it is, it's so deeply sexist that I don't even know where to begin. I mean, seriously [redacted] that [redacted]! (My in-laws read this thing - you can fill in the expletives).

Unfortunately, it probably is true, at least to some degree. Take these two paragraphs:

The largely single status of Taiwan's most popular female entertainers is also worth noting; if their chosen predicament is not a direct reflection of society, then it certainly serves as either affirmation or a consolation for the unhitched woman. Lin Chi-ling, top supermodel and considered one of the most beautiful women in Taiwan, turns 37 this year without an engagement announcement in sight. Pop Princess Jolin Tsai, despite her youthful appearance, is also pushing 30 and single. The same status goes for famed artists like A-mei (38), Vivian Hsu (36), Elva Hsiao (31) and many others.

On the other end of the public spectrum, both Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen and former vice president Annette Lu are single. Both women voiced their desire to run for 2012 presidential elections, although Lu publicly dropped out of the DPP primaries Tuesday, citing her concern for the environment outweighing her need to win in an election. Chen Chu, the incumbent mayor of Kaohsiung, is entering her 60s and has never married.

The first paragraph - "then it certainly serves as either affirmation or a consolation for the unhitched woman" - the writer makes it sound as though being an unhitched woman is some sort of disease that deserves neither consolation nor affirmation. Really? Seriously?

Then the writer goes on to name several high-profile single women - never once mentioning high-profile single men. Jay Chou is single - why not mention him? There must be a few unmarried male politicians and captains of industry in Taiwan, and I have met more than a few unmarried engineers working for Taiwan's major tech/IT firms.

So why is this only a problem vis-a-vis the women - particularly the successful women - of Taiwan? Why all the hullabaloo about the low marriage rate regarding women? Why this assumption that it's fine to be a single successful man, but worthy of a mention in the newspaper if you are a single successful woman?

Feeling generally annoyed with this double standard - that the low marriage rate is somehow a woman's problem and not a man's (AAAAAARRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!1111!!!!!111!!!!one! NOOOOOO!!!) - I've been asking Taiwanese men since I wrote my last post what their thoughts are on this issue.

I don't have a huge sample size, but I've gotten a few answers:

- Women aren't interested in traditional gender roles

- We (the men) who would have married in an earlier era are not doing so, because we work so hard that they have no time to date (notably, engineers)

- A lot of the women who would have married in an earlier era are not doing so because they also work so hard that they have no time to date (notably, accountants)

- Taiwanese women are more interested in studying or living abroad or advancing their careers (maybe in the cities, but the countryside? And even in the cities, I already addressed how most "office jobs" in Taiwan are so uninspiring and require putting up with difficult bosses and long hours that I can't imagine that that's why women aren't marrying - we aren't talking about a new generation of women who are passionate about their work)...and Taiwanese men want women who are more interested in family and children.

- We (the men) want women who are more traditional, and Taiwanese women aren't fulfilling that (if true - and I am not sure it is - that makes me really sad)

- Taiwanese women insist that any man she marries has sizeable savings and can afford to buy an apartment and a car (not sure how true this is, but someone did say that so it's worth mentioning)

- Taiwanese women are sick of putting up with the traditional expectations of in-laws and don't want to deal with the pressure to have a baby that they may not want, so they just have boyfriends, they don't marry

- We (the men) aren't changing our outlook fast enough and the women aren't going to tie themselves to someone who can't bring himself to do the dishes (this from one of my more progressive male students)

- We (the men) can get a foreign bride so we don't necessarily care why Taiwanese women don't want to marry

- We (the men) are so scared off by the white men that Taiwanese women date that we are too shy to ask the girls we like on dates (I smell BS on this one, personally).

And of course, the Internet, which is full of all sorts of horrible comments, has dredged up some other ideas, notably that Taiwanese women aren't keeping themselves as pretty as they used to - more body fat, less makeup, hair that's not done up - and so men are losing interest. I call BS on this one because I've met plenty of average-looking married Taiwanese women (and as an average-looking American woman I can say that not being "hot" is not much of an issue of you are looking to marry a man who isn't superficial).

In short, when looking at low marriage rates in Taiwan, why is everyone watching the women, and why isn't anyone looking at the men? Aren't they half the equation?


Catherine Shu said...

I think a big part of the reason for the low marriage rate is that men and women just don't have the time to find a partner, period. I'm thinking of the statistics in this study: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2011/03/08/2003497674. It said a third of Taiwanese women are now the primary earners in their household (though I'm not sure if that includes single-person households or families), a third don't get enough sleep and many are also caregivers for someone in their family. So basically, unless a co-worker or classmate catches your eye, you really don't have a lot of opportunities to date, much less get married.
Most of the Taiwanese couples I know did actually meet in grad school or because they work for the same company. It's an interesting contrast to my American friends, many of whom met their partners through church, volunteering, Internet dating... in other words, activities they pursued in their free time.

Okami said...

I think you are a little hard on some of the posters. Here's my take:

Back in the day, say 20+ years ago, though it still happens today, most people got married through a matchmaker. The whole romance, culture of love and spousal equality we take for granted is a relatively new phenomenon in Taiwan. Women didn't use to go to college nor did most men. Most people work/ed in small family firms. In the past young women would often leave home to work in the larger factories just like they do/have done in all the Asian economies. A daughter was often looked down upon as "watering another person's field". These sort of cultural habits have lead to a society that really doesn't get a woman's role outside of the traditional framework. This leads to some rather interesting traits.

*Marriage is no longer the stable environment that it was before. Women often married before to make sure they had a roof, clothes and food. Now with changes to the divorce laws and much greater opportunities for men, women are in a much less enviable place. What do you do if your husband leaves you, runs up large debts that you must pay or just decides one day to stop working? Before they had a large family network they could count on, now they might not have such a network. They also aren't all that keen to pick a loser. With a matchmaker you have someone to blame, are often too young to know what is going on and have your parents making sure it is a good fit.

*The stress of children, unless you've seen it, nothing really prepares or makes it real to you till then, no matter how many tiger mom articles you read. Before women didn't have much control over their reproductive choices. There weren't any birth control pills, condoms weren't in common knowledgeable use, and abortion is a complete mess. Education starts so early and stresses everyone out. Then there is the grandparents watching the kid. Who really wants to only see their kids on the weekends?

*Employment has changed dramatically. I suggest you pick up the book, "Living Rooms As Factories", to get an idea of just how dramatically it has changed. The books title comes from an actual KMT govt policy btw. Before people often worked 12-14 hours a day for 7 days a week for several months, then did nothing for several months because there wasn't any work. A lot of women used to do Jiagong at home thereby letting them keep an eye on their children as they worked or often having the kids work alongside their parents. No mother gets to bring her kids to the office today.

*It's a man's world. Woman are asked about their marriage and childbearing prospects at job interviews. A lot of women won't go to a job interview alone in fear of being raped. If a women is the #2 at a medium to small business, it's a give me that she's sleeping with the boss. She may not be his wife though.

*Education is a big factor. It tends to produce women that marry later and have fewer though smarter children. Women who have been through the educational grind mill that exists in Taiwan aren't keen to put their own child through it, though they often feel they must.

*What women want: On the whole women want a husband that is taller, smarter and earns more than them. They may be willing to trade off for something else they prize more but on the whole you can take those traits to the bank.

There are a lot of reasons for situation, but it comes down to both sides having issues that will need to be worked through. I expect it to work itself out in 20 years as the population decreases and living space opens up. A work/life/education balance will need to come into play.

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

@Catherine - that's a really good point that one of the people I talked to (all men - because I think that that side of it needs to be looked at and it so rarely is) brought up - basically "they work so hard, we work so hard, nobody has any time to date".

You'd be amazed - wait, no you wouldn't, you'd totally understand - how many thirtysomething single students I have, generally engineers and accountants, who work super long hours and openly admit they "don't have time" to find a boyfriend or girlfriend that they could someday marry. I have at least one student who did finally go to a matchmaker because, as an engineer, he had NO time to date. None. And he wanted a traditional home and a "country girl", and he knew he wouldn't find that in Taipei (not my choice but if he's happy and his wife is happy, well, I'm happy for them).

re: marrying a classmate - Okami mentioned this in my last post on the issue, and you've brought it up again, and it is absolutely true. Although I'm not one to talk to about that - I met Brendan in 1998. Freshman year of college. (The fact that we didn't start dating until years later is a very long and different story). :) But yes, so many of my students across all professions who are married are married to former classmates. One of my icebreaker questions is "Tell me/us about your family" (kept purposely open-ended so that unmarried students can talk about it, too, and so as to not actually ask people their marital status. No matter how "OK" that is here, my American-born sense of manners will not let me step over that line). So, so, *so* often, I get "my husband and I were classmates/met at Tai Da/studied together".

Of course, I'm the outlier - most of my friends, as usual, met their spouses through leisure activities (Ultimate Frisbee team, a Halloween party etc.) or mutual friends. One met her now-husband at my going-away party in China - the only other expat in town!

I would really like to see a change in the work culture in Taiwan. I've said it before: the Taiwanese work too damn hard for too little money. I don't know how that's going to change, but it really needs to change. I would never take an office job in this country (or most of east Asia come to think of it).

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

@Okami - by "hard on the posters" do you mean the commenter on Michael's blog? Because otherwise you have to mean the various people I talked to in writing this post, which just isn't true: I posted their thoughts and mentioned it when I wasn't convinced that they were correct, but that's it.

The poster on View from Taiwan, though? Honestly the way he worded "structural changes to Taiwanese culture that are not necessarily desireable" really gets under my skin. There is a long way to go - as you noted, the working world, unless you are in finance (something I've blogged about) is a man's world especially in the small-to-medium business sector. I mostly work with large businesses so I don't see this issue as much: huge international corporations that, while they may overwork their employees as many in Taiwan do, at least they treat women fairly, or close to it.

I have noticed that women in Taiwan seem to gravitate towards larger, international firms for just this reason and have had female students complain to me about why they won't work in a Taiwanese or Japanese company...for exactly this reason.

You make some good points, otherwise, although I am not sure how much some of them are related to the low marriage rate (while others definitely are). The work culture in Taiwan has improved a lot from even 20 years ago, but it's still not really improved enough. If asked to work the hours that the Taiwanese work, I would tell my boss where to stick it and walk out, to be honest (I realize not many people have that option and I blame nobody for not doing so). It was once implied at my workplace that I should be happy to go over and edit a long Powerpoint on a Sunday. My reaction to *that* was such that they'll never ask me that again. I'm aware that I'm lucky to have a job where I can take a stand, though.

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

Re: women want a husband who is taller, smarter and earns more than them - for Taiwanese women I'd agree that this is often true, at least for "taller" and MAYBE, among some women, "earns more than them", but certainly not all women (none of my Taiwanese female friends feel this way, which is one reason why I was so hard on that poster). I have one married female student who heads a department at a major financial firm, whose husband is "on break". She doesn't care that she's the breadwinner. I have had another who is legal counsel at a major firm who is single partly by choice and partly because "men just can't accept that I earn a lot, and that it's OK" (her English is cut-glass perfect for a non-native speaker BTW). Yet another who has a fairly high-level position whose husband has a law degree but is not currently working. Not a problem.

So, you know, my experience differs a lot from yours and his (I assume it's a he, but don't really know) in this.

"Smarter" - heh. You have no idea how many Taiwanese women I know who are very open about believing they're smarter than their partners. It's almost an inside joke: let 'em think they're smarter, we know better (which is a fundamentally problematic belief, but hey).

I also think that "it's because women want X", while a good point to make, obscures another point that is so rarely discussed in Taiwan: what men want. From my observation, they are not as het up about skin color as the women seem to think (although there are men who make it an issue, just as *some* but not all women want a man who earns more than she does). They are not that het up about skinniness - of course everyone wants a partner who is attractive to them, but it is perfectly possible for a not-skinny-by-local-standards (meaning, basically, not skeletal) and not-fair-skinned Taiwanese woman to marry if she so desires.

I do think that the "earning more" issue is more on men than women.

I do think that Taiwanese men generally prefer a quieter girl who, while she may not be fully traditional, will still take on most household, child-rearing and elder care duties. I do think that this is a damn shame - I'd like to see a more equalist view and more men who appreciate vivacious women, but that's a global problem, really.

Yes, there are problems on both sides to work out, but then listing what you think the women want without listing what the men want is doing exactly what I'm rallying against in my post: making this all about women and not just as much about men.

Okami said...

I tried to stay general in my terms because while some people desire certain traits in their spouse others would obviously have different desirable traits.

I think the big deal for men is the following. Some women just aren't wife material. I say this as a guy. I had multiple chances to get married before I finally did. There are just traits that some women have that aren't desirable in a wife. These views are very much from a man's point of view and may be found insulting or derogatory to you, deal with it.

*Incompetence with cash, no one wants to marry a broke-ass wife unless they are themselves. Sounds rough, but considering that your spouse's debts become your debts when you get married this can seriously handicap a marriage. Money is up their with in-laws for major causes of divorce.

*General incompetence, if she can't cook, can't clean, and doesn't know how to do much, that means I'm going to have to pick up all that slack as a husband. If I'm already getting laid and I know she can't take care of kids, why would I want to marry her unless I'm getting serious family pressure.

*Living with my parents, I just don't know how to destroy the mood for romance more than to have your parents around. This can be a real problem for women as well.

*Growing up aka no more being a man-child, when you get married and have kids the days of being a man-child are over. No playing video games all night, no carousing at KTV's with friends and whores, no buying whatever I want whenever I want. In order to give that up I'm going to have to find something very special in a woman who likes to take pictures of food and post them on facebook.

*Her family, If they hate/dislike me, the relationship is pretty much over beyond gf/bf. It actually happens often enough I'm aware of it.

*Work, if my job has me working all hours of the day and on weekends, will I have the energy and time for a wife. Considering that the free time we will have together the longest, CNY, will have us traveling to our parents' homes and being a general pain.

*Her filial/financial duty to her parents. I actually have a coworker with this problem. If she gets married she will have trouble supporting her parents and younger brother. She's also not into her possible in-laws so she considers her current situation perfect of having a bf and taking care of her family with out the duty, worry and responsibilities of being a wife.

*General lack of knowledge about women, Some men know nothing about how to approach or treat a woman. They often feel that if they have clawed their way to bf status they own her.

I think the overemphasis on education has really hurt certain life skills that while mundane help solidify certain desirable attributes. It's one thing to know a thing and a completely different thing to be able to do it. It's much easier to get a guy(or gal) to cook and do housework if he(she) has had to do it as chores growing up.

I think the desire amongst men for a "traditional" wife is more like mom, someone they know that can cook, clean, and get things done because they don't know or have learned how. I deal with this with my wife where I'm able to get information in Chinese that she is totally clueless or can't be bothered to find out. Just never mention the trash situation around me. >.<

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

I have to admit I almost didn't publish that comment, Okami, until the end when you talked more about education and relationships generally. The good thing about having my own blog is that if something insults or annoys me in a comment, I don't have to publish it (and I have rejected comments before). It's my little tinpot dictatorship and I love it.

About the stuff at the beginning - well, maybe for some men, and certainly for you, but definitely not for all. Anyway, I also published it so as to point out that EVERYTHING you mention you want in a woman is something that a woman could just as easily say she wants in a man, and won't consider as husband material without.

Basically, as a woman I can say that "can't/won't do housework" and, if we were planning to have kids, "can't take care of the kids" would be a big reason NOT to marry someone even if I enjoyed dating them. I see too many women in this world who do most or all of the housework because they married a man who either can't or won't help out, often despite empty promises to try, and I see how trying to get them to learn how to do it/remember to do it as adults doesn't work. I promised myself fairly early on in adulthood that I would never stand for this, and it has always been one of my dealbreakers (and I don't have many dealbreakers).

You mention "As a husband I'd have to pick up the slack", but surely you realize that most of the time, it's the husband who can't do these things and the wife is the one who picks up the slack, yes? And that this is deeply unfair and we should ALL work towards a more equal household partnership?

The same for "can't take care of finances". I don't need a man who makes more than I do, and I certainly prefer being in charge of the finances (I'd like to see more women take on this role), and I don't need a man to have a lot of money to be considered good husband material, but I absolutely have always felt it important to marry a man who could live within his means and handle money like an adult.

For me, your points about "cleaning and taking care of the kids" - I'm not that good at cleaning. I forget to do it, I put it off, I don't do it particularly well and there are some chores I absolutely abhor and will go to any lengths not to do. One of these chores is dishes and the reason why, funnily enough, is that that was my main "chore" growing up. I agree with you that for BOTH genders - men AND women - if they have to help at home as kids, then they're going to be better spouse material later, but for me, feeling like there was always a mound of dishes in front of me and I had to wash the damn things YET AGAIN made me violently against doing them as an adult.

Fortunately, my husband loves me for something other than my abilities as a housekeeper (if that was the reason why he'd marry me, Id've never married him) and he understands about my deep and abiding hatred of doing the dishes. They're his job. I do other things.

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

The thing about men preferring traditional values in a wife in Taiwan...

I wouldn't marry a man who "preferred traditional values" because, honestly, I am not that woman, I am proud to not be that woman, and I never will be that woman (nor do I want to be). I don't think I need to list the reasons how and why - they're pretty easy to deduce.

I think a lot of Taiwanese women are starting to feel similarly, and turning back the clock by encouraging them to be more traditional is not the way to go. The only realistic way forward is to either a.) accept that fewer of them will marry, or at least fewer will marry Taiwanese men who want traditional girls; or b.) the men get over themselves and accept that there are great things about progressive, feminist women.

(Of course some people will always want a more traditional family and that's fine too - I'm not saying all men have to change. If two traditionally-minded people meet and have a traditional-style marriage, I have no problem with that. Just that I'd like to see a sea change in the culture so that women who possess Taiwan's burgeoning feminist consciousness will have more and better options in work and in home life).

I managed to find such an awesome man, and for every Taiwanese woman who is not pleased with her romantic options, I wish the same blessing.

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

And, y'know, some men just aren't husband material.

Though I'd like to think that there's an ass for every seat and a woman who is not "wife material" to you will be "wife material" to some other guy. Just as a man who is not "husband material" for me might be "husband material" for some other woman.

That's a lovely, optimistic view and I prefer to stick with it.

Catherine Shu said...

Do you know what kind of studies there have been done about the amount of long term relationships versus marriage?

I know plenty of people who are in LTRs, even living and working together, but have no plans to get married. I wonder if part of the reason why is because many couples here have new familial expectations placed on them as soon as they get married. The women might have to spend more time tending to their in-laws, while the men face more pressure to be financially successful (and of course both get pressured to start having children), etc. Every decision the two of you make is up for family discussion. Maybe living together is a way to enjoy the companionship of a marriage minus the hassles, social expectations and family pressures.

This is pure speculation on my part. I have American friends who don't want to get married for this particular reason: their relationship is between them, but their marriage would become a family affair. I'm sure there are lots of Taiwanese couples who feel that way, too, because Taiwan is a much more family-centered country than the US is.

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

I wish I knew, Catherine. This is why I'm blogging about it and not writing real journalism about it (I like to think I have higher journalism standard than, say, Linsday Craig).

You might have a point about choosing not to marry, and I know some Taiwanese couples who live together but are not married. Often, though, they feel they can't live together until they *are* married, and feel pressured to live with family instead...I could see how a couple, both living in Taipei with parents somewhere else in the country, would choose to live together and not marry, but for a couple where one or both families are local and they're expected to live at home until marriage, I'd expect that they'd be more enthusiastic to get married!

blobOfNeurons said...

*What women want: On the whole women want a husband that is taller, smarter and earns more than them. They may be willing to trade off for something else they prize more but on the whole you can take those traits to the bank.

I want to point out that this statement of Okami's is could also have been what that Anon meant when he described the military service causing men to have lower salaries than women to as undesirable. I don't think he (I'm assuming it's a he) was trying to say that woman making money is undesirable but rather that the men suffer in "marketability", if you will.

Going further, I am willing to hypothesize that just as many Taiwanese women feel that the men are too conservative, plenty of Taiwanese men feel that the woman expect too much of them.

Jenna Lynn Cody said...

It may be true that younger men's sometimes-lower salaries might make them seem undesireable to Taiwanese women, although for the single women I know (and I know a few), if that's the case they're not saying so. Generally the complaints I hear from the female side are "men expect too much of women" or "men expect to be able to order us around", not "they don't make enough/as much as we do".

I'd also say that if men are being hired at comparatively lower salaries due to military service, gender bias in a lot of local small to mid-sized companies probably evens that out by paying female employees less than their male counterparts.

As for "Taiwanese women expect too much from us", men in Taiwan can feel that way if they wish, but I'd say in large part, they're wrong. I do not like expectations about salary and would agree that any woman who's all "I won't marry him unless he makes X/drives Y/saves Z/buys me A" is way out of line...but I honestly have not encountered this in women here (although I am sure it exists outside my social sphere. I hang out with cool women who don't think that way). I'd say in other fields - expectations about housekeeping, childrearing, dealing with in-laws and upkeep of looks that the men expect too much of the women and the women don't expect nearly enough from the men.

blobOfNeurons said...

I also doubt that is true. But I also feel (no longer speaking for Anon now) that the perception is very much alive, in part because it's a convenient excuse to avoid seeking any long term relationships.

Now for some wild theorizing (from a male perspective). The reason why people would want to avoid LTRs is because they have generally no experience with relationships. You and catherine have pointed out the time factor but I think that's just one factor. The coworker/classmate pairing happens because it's convenient. But what happens if you're a student who missed out on that (very likely for some of the people in traditional fields like engineering due to the gender ratio)? Where do you go? The answer, I suspect, is that you just spend all your time at work, just like you used to spend all your time on your studies. It seems like a good choice since you're going to need all the money you can get if you ever start a family (just like spending all that time on school seemed like a good idea because you thought it'd help you get a good job). But before you know it, you're 35 and dating seems too scary and complicated. So you remain alone, or you get a foreign bride.

Anonymous said...

now it seems that Taiwan is getting worried about all the single ladies - http://thinkingchinese.com/taiwanese-politician-calls-to-solve-the-problem-of-Taiwan-leftover-single-women - what next, a law against marrying foreigners?