Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Sa jiao sa jiao la

Here's an interesting article - note I did not say I agreed with it, merely that it was an interesting read - on 撒嬌 or the idea of womanly coquettishness. 

I am way too busy to write a typically long post, so here's my immediate reaction:

This runs so counter to the personality pretty much every Taiwanese friend I have that I don't believe it's as common anymore as the article says it is (although I *have* seen it in action among strangers). My female friends don't do this - and my male friends don't like it. While they are interesting and intelligent people, I wouldn't say they're weird, quirky or "the exception rather than the rule" - I think they're one subset of people from a younger generation that is slowly eschewing this sort of gender role...gender role...gender role what? Well, I hesitate to say bullshit but my instincts scream it, because I have zero tolerance for "gender roles". Individual roles, sure, but gender roles can suck it.

There are other thi
ngs I don't like about the article - no mention at all of foreign women dating Chinese or Taiwanese men and how they might be affected by this cultural issue, the *(non-threatening)* in parentheses to denote women's careers (how condescending!), the somewhat
outdated assumptions that I've found don't ring as true in Taiwan...even if they used to, and even if they still exist to some extent. I also find it funny that the article notes the "strong, manly presence" of the male partner in these relationships as though it is the only thing, or the best thing, the man brings to the table. As if.

If the widespread acceptance of 小三 or "mistresses" in China and Taiwan is anything to go by, sa jiao doesn't even really do what the author of this piece claims it does, which is enable a woman to test and ensure her partner's devotion, love, and putting of her needs above his own. Which, anyway, since when is either partner's needs "above" the other's, and since when is a healthy relationship one in which love needs to be "tested" or "proven"? 

I also think that a lot of Taiwanese women who date Western men generally do it because they don't want to sa jiao...and plenty of Western men pretend to be exasperated by it but secretly love it. They whine, but deep down they don't want a woman who doesn't appear to need them 
in this way. I don't really care for that sort of attitude, but hey, those guys can like what they like and I can keep my distance (honestly, I don't even want friends who view women in that way), and we're all happy.

As a Western woman, I do have to admit that while I see the cultural aspects of sa jiao and can basically tolerate it from that perspective, I do have biases and one of my biases is anti-sa jiao: I do lose a bit of respect for men who like it (Asian or Western) and for women who engage in it (Asian or Western). I should probably be more openminded, but you know, the first step is admitting your biases.

There is an obvious answer here: my female friends in Taiwan don't engage in sa jiao because I do gravitate toward women who don't act that way, and my male Taiwanese friends wouldn't be my friends if they liked coquettish women (even in friendship) or were with a woman who was jealous of their female friends (even though I am zero threat, in fact, if it were possible to be a negative-number threat I would be).

The article mentions that needing a man and not being too independent are considered "positives" in Chinese culture - although again, I am around so many women in Taiwan who are not needy but are independent, and they've been doing just fine in the dating world - I'd like to see sa jiao die a natural death not because it's considered "wrong" to be coquettish, but because it stops being considered a good thing for a woman to act (or be) needy, clingy or dependent...because it's not a good thing.

If my friends are anything to go by,  already dying.


taiwanxifu said...

Thanks for this post. I have often obversed 'sa jiao', especially amongst young couples dating, but never knew it actually had a name. I sometimes cringe at overt displays of 'sa jiao'. I know my husband can't stand sa jiao behaviour, but maybe that's why he married an independently-minded lao wai!

Still, like many Taiwanese guys he still considers that one of his main roles is to protect 'bao hu', whether it be to carry shopping bags or drive me places. This took me a little while to adjust to, but I think I have kind of gotten used to it now.

Do you think sa jiao behaviour diminishes with time? I could see it could be kind of cute with a teenager, but in a middle-aged lady with school aged children? Does it lose its appeal?

街上小吃 said...

Sa jiao will never die, due to the amount of men liking it.