Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In Defense of Taiwanese Men Part II

Not Effeminate! 

I’ve been trying to write this for awhile, but have struggled with it (as I did with cultural appropriation, which, as you may have noticed, I gave up on. The words just weren’t forming, and the thoughts just weren’t coherent).

Not long ago I wrote about how, while Taiwan is still a country that has room to improve when it comes to sexism in society and in the workplace, that I appreciate how I don’t feel subjected to the same hate and vitriol that I hear lobbed at women back home.

Now, I’m going to take aim at another issue – the pervasive notion that Taiwanese men are “effeminate”.

I’ve decided to write about this now because of something I heard recently – in a nutshell, that jokes about Taiwanese men being girly aren’t funny. I was hoping the reason given would be that this is because it’s lazy and stereotyping thinking, but no. Apparently it’s because duh we all know they are, so it’s not a good joke.

Ugh, no.

I just don’t think it’s true – but don’t just ask me. Pretty much every woman in Taiwan I’ve ever talked to on the subject – local or foreign – has agreed: there seems to be very little support among women for the idea that Taiwanese men are effeminate (although there are certainly also women who would disagree – imagine that! We are individuals!). I can say that exactly one woman I’ve talked to, a Taiwanese friend of mine in her twenties, does believe that their dress sense can be a bit girlier than she’d like (OK, Imma let my bias show: I agree with her in that I’m not a fan of skinny jeans on anyone, male or female, but especially on men, and I really do not understand the fedora thing). She doesn’t extend that to a judgment on personality, though. I’ve heard a few people relate secondhand anecdotes (ie “well my wife who is Taiwanese thinks Taiwanese men are effeminate!”) but really, none from anyone’s mouth directly.

So where is it coming from? I don’t hear it from women, generally. I hear it from Western men. Why? Well, here’s a handy list!

The judgment of Taiwanese men from a Western cultural standpoint

So…uh, Western men? Your “home culture” definition of masculinity, and what differentiates it from femininity, is not universal and to be honest, not even all that good. I can see how a man carrying an umbrella, or carrying his girlfriend’s purse, or wearing skinny jeans or drinking 2% mango beer (which is pretty good, by the way, just don’t call it beer when it’s only 2% alcohol) or spending an hour getting their Pop Star Hair just right would be seen, from a Western perspective, as effeminate.

But that’s just one perspective. From that same perspective my husband wouldn’t be seen as “masculine”, because he doesn’t care about sports, or my friend J would be seen as effeminate for carrying an umbrella (J is ridiculously fair, I’d carry an umbrella under the Taiwanese sun too if I were that fair – but we tease him anyway because that’s what friends do). I don’t think either of these men are effeminate in the least.

Frankly, I’m just not into a definition of masculinity that says you must drink, you must dress a certain way (either completely lacking fashion sense, or James Bond, apparently), you must not care about your hair and it’s best if you like sports more than, say, museums. Where catcalls are maybe kind of jerky but basically OK (and don’t tell me they’re not that common), but using hair product isn’t. I’m not into a definition of masculinity that says you shouldn’t have too many close female friends, that taking an interest in their interests isn’t OK, and that if you do have female friends they should either be hot, or know other women who are hot. And, y’know, is it really a huge deal for a man to carry an umbrella when the sun is beating down? It’s not my cup of tea but is it really so important that you find it appropriate to form a whole worldview on who is a man and who isn’t based on that?

Let’s go ahead and add the wearing of pink and purple to that – pink and purple are only feminine colors in the West because we’ve decided as a culture that they are. They didn’t used to be, and they are not universally so. I don’t think it effeminizes a man to wear a pink polo shirt. If anything it looks less ridiculous than the many ways of wearing a baseball cap, or a popped collar on a shirt of any kind.

While we’re at it, let’s add the peace signs in photos and the interest in family (there’s a reason why 聽媽媽的話 was a hit song here) to the list of things that are culturally based and can’t be judged to be objectively feminine or masculine – they can only be so judged through the lens of culture. In this case it helps to try not to judge another culture through the lens of your own (although we all do it – I do it, too). And purse-carrying – which I do believe says something about how the sexes in Taiwan relate to one another and show commitment in a relationship (and has its own pros and cons), but which I absolutely do not believe is related to effeminacy.

The family thing is an important side note – I saw on one forum a post that said that Western women aren’t interested in Taiwanese men (not true! but I’ll get to that later) because Taiwanese men are so beholden to their families. While women do tend to be wary of men who need to cut the apron strings, generally speaking this is not true, and I wonder how many Western women that guy talked to: my guess is none, and he was mansplaining. If anything, a such a commitment is a total turn-on. I know I think it’s great to see a guy who really cares about his family. We may not want to visit every weekend, and we’re not going to procreate on a mother-in-law’s schedule – cultural hurdles that needs to be negotiated – but women generally like, rather than avoid, men who love their mothers. It is generally a sign that he was raised right.

Frankly, I’ll take umbrellas in the sun and mango beer over “huh huh women don’t know anything about cars or football they just care about shoes and books with pink covers huh huh” anyday. I’ll take skinny jeans – even though I really don’t like skinny jeans on anyone – over “we’re totally privileged and refuse to admit it”.

Don't discount these guys just because they're carrying an umbrella and have Pop Star Hair.

Taiwanese men are more indirect and can seem more introverted

Well, on a general basis – I’ve met individuals who have broken that mold. To a man who’s been raised in a culture of “if I want a woman, I go ask her out” or in some more extreme cases “if I want a woman, I go get her – she won’t say no because I’m entitled to her”, the Taiwanese and Chinese norm of talking to a girl, then hanging out with her, and then slowly easing intodating her can come across as effeminate. Whatever – that’s not so different from how I started dating my husband (although it took 8 years) and both methods have their pros and cons.

There’s an assumption that they’re effeminate based on their portrayal in the media.

Also, Taiwanese men on Taiwanese TV. They often look ridiculous. But they are not representative of typical Taiwanese men, just as Real Housewives aren’t a representation of typical American women.

Western men just don’t seem to have Taiwanese male friends

…unless they’re his girlfriend’s family or friends.

Seriously, though, I don’t know what local men, if any, most expat men hang out with, but if they knew my Taiwanese male friends and acquaintances, I don’t think they’d use the phrase “effeminate” to describe them. Honestly, the one who might be described as the most effeminate is the one who, until recently, said he “never” wanted to get married because he didn’t want to get too attached or spend too much time with one person, which isn’t a very effeminate thing to say at all (he recently did a 180 and is now married to a wonderful woman, though). I’ve had to call a few of them out for Facebook posts – “check out [the back of] this hot girl running in front of me on the track” or a post of a photo of a book entitled “不會跟老婆做的事” (well, I just teased him for that one by posting a picture of Daniel Henney for his wife under the phrase “不會跟老公做的事”, his awesome wife did the calling out).

Otherwise, they’re just normal guys.

Single expat women in Taiwan totally do want to date Taiwanese guys – but nobody seems to believe this.

Why? Why??

Well, probably in part because there aren’t that many expat women in Taiwan in the first place, so you’ll see fewer Western woman-Taiwanese man pairs just based on statistics. In part because it’s harder to get over that initial cultural difference – we’ve been conditioned to wait for a man to directly ask us out or make his feelings obvious, whereas that’s not always how it works in Taiwan – it is, so my single female friends have told me – far too easy to miss the signals that interested Taiwanese men are sending. When Western women complain about dating in Taiwan, it is generally not “I can’t get a date because I don’t want to date the local men”, it’s “I can’t get a date because the local men don’t seem interested”, even though that is quite likely not true.

Another reason could be that expat men don’t seem to have that many expat female friends – I mean, they do, but fewer of them because there are fewer of us. Those of us who are here are looking for a cultural experience and are likely to spend our time with local friends, or need women to talk to and make female friends. I can’t deny that many of the expat-centered events I’ve attended seem to be overrun with men with very few women, and the expat women I know here don’t have very many expat male friends (but do have on average more local friends). Anecdotal evidence, but that’s what I’ve observed.

And with that in mind, it is easy to see how there might be a misconception that expat women don’t “want” to date Taiwanese men – based on misinformation or a dearth of firsthand or informed observation.

There’s probably some mansplaining in there too – men deciding they know better what expat women think of local men than the women themselves do.

From here - this is Daniel Henney. Feeling threatened, white guys?

Expat men feel threatened

I say this because I rarely hear expat women saying “Taiwanese men are effeminate”. I almost always hear it from men. I am sure some women do say it, but it is notable that that has not been my experience. Why would they feel threatened?

Well, first, the fact that we expat women don’t want to date them.

No, really, we don’t. OK, some of us do, but mostly, nope, not interested, sorry. The expat women here who want to date Western men (who are, say, single and don’t have a cool “we were friends before and got together in Asia” story as I do) will usually go home after a few years because they’re not going to lower their standards and the pickings are so slim. The rest of them generally either want to be single for awhile, or want to date Taiwanese men.

It’s true: most of the Western women I know here are either attached (and many are attached to Taiwanese men), or feel alienated by the dudebro culture of their home countries and are totally down with the local fellows. If I were single, that’s how I’d feel. When a Western guy approaches them – if he does – they feel not relief that a man wants to talk to them, but a sense of cynicism and guardedness that stems from the aforementioned alienation (and please, no, don’t try to mansplain that away: go talk to some women and see how they feel about it rather than telling us how we really feel. I know it alienates me). One refrain I frequently hear is “Expat men are the worst, so entitled, so arrogant, so in love with themselves, and the ones who have it worst are the biggest losers!”. That’s not always true, of course - there are good and worthy expat guys here (see – my husband and my friend J, and a few others I know who are pretty cool).

The way to tell the difference – do they have true local friends (more than “my girlfriend and her friends”)? Have they learned Chinese or are they trying (I have found a correlation between a foreign guy being cool and how earnestly he studies Chinese)? Do they not prattle on about how “effeminate” Taiwanese men are, or how hot the women are? Do they do things on the weekend other than get blotto at On Tap? Do they actively seek out cultural experiences rather than be, well, this guy? Good – you’ve probably got a winner.

Still, the idea that a Western woman would actively choose an Asian man over a Western one, when Western men have had it hammered into them that Asian men are effeminate (see “the media” above) has got to be somewhat threatening.

I’ll end this section on an anecdote. A few weeks ago I was at Carnegie’s (we wanted to witness the train wreck that Cougar Night promised to be, and some friends of mine would be there so I figured why not go this one time – yes, I do have to justify this) and I was alone for a few minutes. Brendan did not come. Some older guy – fiftysomething? Not ugly but too old for me and not exactly a handsome older man -  started talking to me. I tried to make my wedding ring obvious and tried to insert into the conversation that I was married, but I don’t think he heard me. Then, this:

Him: “So, do you speak any Chinese?”
Me: “Yes.”
“So a little Chinese?”
“No, dude, I speak Chinese.”
“Speak some Chinese for me.”
“{sigh} 我快要回家因為我老公比你帥喔.”
“Oh, you speak with an American accent. That’s so terrible, isn’t it?”
“No, I don’t think so at all.”
“Oh, OK, I guess not. I’m going to go find my friend.”
“You do that.”

Seriously, dude? Negging me? You’re a fiftysomething dude in an expat bar and you’re negging me like it’s going to work? And foreign guys wonder why we don’t want them? Fer serious?

Men don’t understand women’s preferences much of the time

Not all of the time, but much of it. It starts with the whole “women don’t like nice guys, they like jerks” – if a man says this, he’s probably a jerk who thinks he’s a nice guy. It’s not true – we like nice guys. We just don’t like pretend nice guys. They think we want “tall, dark and handsome” when what we really want is an equal partner who respects us as we respect them. They think too-fine facial hair or a lack of chest hair or a man being of slighter build is a problem for us – it’s generally not (well, the last one is for me because I’m tall and built like Magda the Polish Plow Pusher – and I am part Polish so I can say that).  They think we want the hypermasculine traits that their dudebro culture prescribes – but we don’t. We want the sweet guy who has Facebook photos full of himself playing with his kids, who isn’t afraid to say they don’t want to drink, who is secure enough in who he is to be who he is without worrying about whether it makes him “effeminate” or not. Like my husband – a man who is who he is and he doesn’t need to be aggressive or dismiss others as “chick stuff” to prove that he’s a man. We want men who can take criticism, talk openly, not be afraid to be called out by women when they’re wrong, who won’t whine about museums, concerts or what-have-you but who instead enjoy cultural immersion.

You can find that anywhere, but just due to numbers – there are more Taiwanese men in Taiwan than there are Western ones – expat women here are more likely to find that among locals than among expat men. That idea is even weightier when you consider this: most of the bodysnarking, the “[Insert Nationality Here] women are too fat/loud/angry!” and the Asian fetishism I’ve heard in my life I’ve heard from expat men in Taiwan and China…and much of the sexist remarks, too (of course, I’ve spent most of my adult life in Asia so that does dirty my lens a bit). They are absolutely not all bad, but the loudest among them do great harm to their image overall.

In summary…

No, I don’t think Taiwanese men are effeminate. I hear it a lot, but usually from men who are likely either uninformed, prejudiced or threatened. The reasons I hear to back it up either don’t stand up (“Western women don’t want to date them”), or aren’t markers of effeminacy vs. masculinity (“He’s carrying her purse!”), aren’t things women think of as effeminate (“They are so tied to their family!”), or things we actually prefer (like not being catcalled or harassed or hit on by sketchy dudes) or are skewed through a cultural lens (“They don’t go after the women they like”).

In the end, one big reason why Taiwanese men are not effeminate is not a good one, and I am saving it for last for that reason – because sexism is still a huge problem in Taiwan. It just doesn’t really compute that men are both effeminate and sexist. I suppose it is possible, but generally those aren’t two traits that go together (and not all men are sexist – the culture can be in some ways, and that is perpetuated by men and women alike, but not all men or women). If anything, Taiwanese men are just as prone to the pitfalls and downsides of masculinity as Western men – being afraid of losing face because of, shown up or called out by a woman, justifying paying women less for the same work, not doing a fair share of housework and child-rearing, having unrealistic ideas about what women should look like: all the good ol’ sexist crap we put up with in our home countries.

Rather than whining about some pink polo shirts and funked-out hair (I kinda like the funked-out hair – I didn’t always but it’s grown on me), let’s work on that, shall we?


Ted said...

No, I don’t think Taiwanese men are effeminate.

Jenna, I liked your blog, I've been following it for a long while now, but I haven't commented yet. I want to tell you the problem I have with these types of posts: They are too anecdotal, subjective and base on bogus claims.

First of all, I don't even know why you feel compelled to defend Taiwanese men (the title). Taiwanese men are not a uniformed monolithic group, that needs to be defended - they are a very diverse and complex bunch same as the Western men are, which you seem to be attacking here. I don't think that anyone can pass a judgement of such proportions:

So…uh, Western men? Your “home culture” definition of masculinity, and what differentiates it from femininity, is not universal and to be honest, not even all that good.

Who are you talking to here? What does it mean "not even all that good"? I am a Western man and I cannot relate to what you're saying at all. I'm originally from Scotland and I have no idea what would this generic "Western definition of masculinity" be. You constantly lump all "Western men" from all Western countries together and I am asking you again: Are we such a monolithic simpleminded bunch, that can be used as an argument here? I don't think so. After all, we might be speaking of few hundred million men here. The definition of masculinity in Scotland (which is changing with every new generation, by the way) is very different from the one in Calabria, Bavaria, Southern Poland, New York, Missouri, Madrid, New South Wales, Quebec, Seattle, Lyon, Moscow and Helsinki, to give you some examples. Fact is: There is no Western definition of masculinity. The West is a concept on very shaky grounds, go google it.

Have you even traveled around "the West" and talked to all the different men in those countries? If you at least had some scientific data to backup your claims (and I mean data from all "Western" countries) that would be accompanied with some nuanced arguments, this article might have been worthy to spend the 10 minutes of reading.

I'm sorry to say, but I'm very disappointed, because I know you can do better. I think you are just too opinionated on some issues and you write a post where you come up with the introduction and conclusion within few seconds and then you spend few hours to fill the main part with some bogus claims (Some older guy – fiftysomething? Not ugly but too old for me and not exactly a handsome older man - started talking to me. <- this guy is representing the West? I had to laugh out loud, when I read this part..)

"The judgment of Taiwanese men from a Western cultural standpoint" - give me a break!

Jenna, you don't have a PHD in Cultural Anthropology, why don't you stick to topics that match your intellectual level? Don't take this as an attack or offense, I am serious. I'm a software developer, I could write a lot about Linux, but I could never (not in my wildest dreams) write a coherent piece related to social psychology theories.

Mike Fagan said...

" Well, first, the fact that we expat women don’t want to date them."

Curiously, it doesn't seem to occur to you that that's a two-way street.

And also, though your female friends might not admit to this, dating is not the only thing western women might conceivably want of men.

Jenna Cody said...

Mike - fair enough. Strangely I'm OK with that. It's not a barrier, it's a filter.

Jenna Cody said...

Well, Ted, you make some fair points, but I do feel I need to respond.

1.) You’re right – all people are individuals regardless of larger group affiliation. I have come to the conclusion, however (and I do believe most people would agree) that it is OK to talk about groups in general terms as long as one is clear that you’re talking about the group, not the individual, your observations aren’t completely racist/sexist uninformed, and you make it clear with phrases such as “often”, “usually”, “in my observation” and “I’ve noticed”. That’s what I’m doing here.
2.) I suppose I could change the title from “In Defense Of” to something else – something more boring like “My observations of why Western expats seem to think Taiwanese men are effeminate”. I mean “defense” the same way I did when I wrote “In Defense of Taipei”. Taiwanese men don’t need me to defend them: think of it as an easier, snappier title for a post on my observations of how Western men in Taiwan perceive Taiwanese men, and why I disagree with the general consensus.
3.) That said, this has been my observation. Western male expats do tend to dismiss Taiwanese men out of hand, or go so far as to actually call them “effeminate”. Note the anecdote I started this post with – it happens to an uncomfortable degree. That does deserve some sort of riposte, and who’s to say I can’t add my voice? I do feel it’s important to have voices from the other side on this issue, especially as I do hear those kinds of insults lobbed at Taiwanese men, and expat women’s voices are few (but growing).
4.) If you read the post, or truly read this blog in the past, you’d know that my posts tend to be observation based. I realize that the plural of anecdote is not data, and I am not pretending this is a comprehensive, scientific study of cultural norms. If it were it wouldn’t be on a blog, duh, it’d be in a journal. One does not need a PhD (or even a BA) in a subject to blog on it. I’m well aware of my use of anecdotes, but I do think that’s OK – because this isn’t science, it’s my observation. You are free to disagree. You can even comment to that effect, or better yet, start your own blog and disagree there. My observations are just that – and I have every right to them, because I do feel I can defend them. A blog is not a scientific journal and does not require the same kind of research. You should know this. Telling me that I need scientific data to make some mere blogging observations (ones which seem to have really touched a nerve – wonder why?) is a silencing tactic and is really not OK.
5.) You are, however, mansplaining. It’s kind of sad, really, because you seem like you’re probably a pretty good guy. But mansplaining is just what that is – you have no right – NO right – to tell me what my observations on my own culture should be. I could change all instances in which I used the word “Western” to “American”, but I’ve observed the sort of dudebro culture I talked about in so many non-American men that I’m not going to, because it does carry validity in other Western countries. You disagree, and that’s fine, but you’re not a woman, so you don’t get to say what any given woman (or women generally) must view as the definition of masculinity in their own culture. If we didn’t feel this was a problem, words like “mansplaining” and “dudebro” wouldn’t need to exist. They do, and that says a lot – and also says that you may not be in touch with how alienated many Western women truly feel with the role of men in their cultures. Especially American women – we’re pretty pissed off right now.

Jenna Cody said...

6.) I may not have a PhD in Cultural Anthropology, but I have taken enough Anthro courses (I had the freedom to take many electives in college) to know that the observations of a person within a culture are generally, in modern Anthro, always treated as more intrinsically valid than that of an outside researcher. I’m a woman talking about how Western women often feel – that is inherently more valid than a Western man telling women what to think.
7.) Your comparison between you writing about something outside your expertise in a technical field and me blogging about my experiences, thoughts and observations is not a good analogy: first, to write on such technical issues, there’s a greater amount of convergent thinking required. There are more instances of “correct” solutions (although I realize that’s not always the case). In terms of observations on culture, I am aiming for divergent thinking – something anyone can do.
8.) That guy – well, no, I don’t think he represents “all Western men”. He’s an anecdote to represent one unsavory aspect of expat men, especially expat men in Asia. An anecdote to illustrate why Western women might be turned off – and do not lie to yourself – we are turned off. Maybe not all of us – I don’t speak for everyone – but this is the drumbeat I hear from other expat women. It’s not for you to tell us we shouldn’t be. That said, if you think this guy is a total anomaly then you’re blind to the way many Western men act. He was using a tactic called “negging” – go look it up, and you’ll see how prevalent it is in the West, and how this guy wasn’t out of the ordinary at all. Women deal with those kinds of men every day. I believe that most men are better than him – my husband is, my male friends are, people I meet are, you probably are – but do not deny that his kind exist, and that his kind are especially prevalent in expat communities in Asia.
9.) But, finally, this is my blog. You may say you don’t mean your final comment as an insult, but you must realize unless you are completely socially inept that generally “that’s not meant as an insult” is exactly what you say before you insult someone (like “I’m not racist but” right before saying something racist). You don’t get to tell me what to write on my blog, and your advice is not welcome. If I were writing for a scientific journal or even a published article, such feedback would be warranted. Here, it is not, it’s just a potshot.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I guess it's just "western-ethnocentrism", or maybe not.
Just search for something like 台湾 男 娘 on to see what the Chinese think of their sissy "compatriots".

The problem is, too many young guys (not all) talk and behave in their early twenties like they are still 12 years old.

Jenna Cody said...

Yeah, no, using the word "sissy" is not cool. As for what the Chinese think of the Taiwanese, I don't care. They're too often innaccurate, or taught to believe outright lies, about the Taiwanese, who they are, what they think and what they want (generally).

Jenna Cody said...

And, honestly, that comment is the exact sort of douchebag attitude that my post rails against. But you knew that.

Anonymous said...

There we got the problem. You "do not care" when somebody clearly contradicts the core assumption of your "theory" that it's all just "Western" prejudice. That's very very bad thinking there.

Also, very poor ad-hominem. 娘 = sissy, that's the exact wording countless Chinese have used when the topic came to Taiwanese males, but sure, kill the messenger, classy.

Lee said...

"they are a very diverse and complex bunch same as the Western men are, which you seem to be attacking here."

I stopped reading there to roll my eyes. :P Isn't it fantastic when you call a group out for something and then people start proving your point.

As for you being too opinionated, I read posts like these from dozens of expat bloggers. Ted needs to check himself.

Jenna Cody said...

Thanks for being a dick and therefore proving my whole point, anonymous. I call out one commenter for implying that I'm wrong to say this is a problem among Western expat men, and then some Western expat man comes in and does exactly the thing I was saying they do. Ah, the Internet. You're like magic.

Anyway, a few Chinese men (a far larger and less homogenous group than Western expat men in Taiwan, so one I don't feel I can make any group-wide statements about) thinking what they think doesn't disprove my point, it just means they're dicks too. This post is about my observations *in Taiwan*, and the last I saw, among people *in Taiwan* it wasn't a horde of Chinese saying this.

Jenna Cody said...

I also never said it was Western ethnocentrism. I said it was Western expat men in Taiwan being idiots - which is more an issue of sexism (gender identity, what it means to be masculine vs. feminine, how the two genders see each other - that final point being the one Ted didn't pick up on - than ethnocentrism. Western expat men (or Western men) don't have a monopoly on that, no sir. Chinese men or any other group of men are just as able to do that.

Tseng said...

As a Taiwanese men it feels so good to know that a white woman thinks I'm a big men. My grandparents say they cried from thankfulness when white missionaries gave them flour. I did not understand why until I read this post. Thank you Jena.

Eileen said...

I don't normally comment but I honestly want to give you a high five for the response you have for Ted.

". If we didn’t feel this was a problem, words like “mansplaining” and “dudebro” wouldn’t need to exist. They do, and that says a lot – and also says that you may not be in touch with how alienated many Western women truly feel with the role of men in their cultures. Especially American women – we’re pretty pissed off right now."

Thank you. (face palm)

Mike Fagan said...

"You are, however, mansplaining...

No he wasn't, he was mouseplaining, trying not to cause too much offense. You 'ain't seen mansplaining yet.

"... you have no right – NO right – to tell me what my observations on my own culture should be."

See Jenna, let me mansplain this for you: Ted did not do that; he did not in actual fact, tell you what your observations should be, he simply pointed out that they are subjective.

You did the same thing with Readin - responding to what you imagine she said rather than to what she actually said. Here, I'll mansplain a suggestion for you: make quoting people a habit. That way, you can respond to what they actually say rather than the hysterical menstrusplaining voices in your head.

Jenna Cody said...

Nope, Mike, sorry, you're wrong. I admit I didn't read Readin's post carefully, because I already know her and already don't like her for her moral objectivism (if you'd seen her posts on previous comments you'd have seen what I mean).

But I did read Ted's, and he was mansplaining, and was telling me what to think about my own culture - or at least implying I had no right to any opinion without collecting enough data to get me published through a university somewhere. That's mansplaining. I do not take kindly to it, and you're not far off from doing it yourself in many of your comments.

Jenna Cody said...

He also went so far as to tell me what I should and should not write on my blog - really not cool. It's not his blog and I'm not open to advice on what to write on it from anyone but my friends and loved ones. If my husband or a good friend says "no, you probably shouldn't write that", or "that could be misunderstood, you may want to rethink" I will listen (I may decide to keep what I've written, but I will at least listen). But if some dude named Ted wants to come in and give me "suggestions" in a Mitt Romney-esque, father-knows-best, condescending and patronizing tone, he can go fuck himself. I don't particularly care if I lose a reader. I keep this blog because I like to pontificate (love it, in fact). Some people like it, some don't, and unlike a newspaper I don't need to worry too much about it.

I barely tolerate your comments, as well. I only publish them because, while some are OK and I don't agree with others, they're not generally actively offensive (although some are kind of hilarious in a way I am not sure you realize and I publish them for general public chuckles). That said, if you push me, you can go fuck yourself, too. I'm not someone who wants everyone to like me. Women do that - trying to be people-pleasers - far too much, and I'm not doin' it.

I figured this post would piss off a bunch of Western (mostly white, not always) male expats, seeing as I did group them together (but in this case I think it's warranted). Some, I figured, would misread my post to imply I meant "all Western men" (I didn't, I meant "many Western male expats in Taiwan", but there are non-expat Western guys who do this too as well as expats who are pretty cool fellows) and get pissy, like Ted. Some just wouldn't like that a woman has an iffy-to-negative impression of some (not all) members of the opposite sex, especially in her cultural sphere. Some wouldn't want to hear that that's really how a lot of Western women feel and would get defensive.

They wouldn't want to accept the idea that for a lot of Western women, there *is* an idea of what the "Western definition of masculinity" is, even if the men don't consciously realize it.

And they'd get all mad that I was "attacking" their "group" when I've been clear all along that not all members of that group are like this, that these are my observations and are general statements based on anecdotes...which is a pretty clear indication that they're probably among those doing exactly the thing that I said some members of that group were doing. In Anonymous's case, being a douche who thinks it's OK to dismiss Taiwanese men as "sissy", and in your and Ted's case, getting all mad because I pointed out the mansplaining, dudebro, entitled and privileged shitty 'tude of a lot of Western expat men.

And...thanks for proving me right, guys. Great job.

Jenna Cody said...


I'm not publishing any more condescending or sexist comments. If you don't like it, that's not my problem. Suck it.

(That's the "nice" translation).

Brendan said...

Let me mansplain something to you, Jenna: You're not allowed to call out the offensiveness or stupidity of a comment if that comment's wrongness depends on a context that someone could be oblivious to (or pretend doesn't exist). If you do, you're overreacting.

Jenna Cody said...

Aww baby, I love you. Let's fight world stupidity together forever!

Joel Linton said...

Very interesting discussion, Jenna. It raises the question -- at its core, what is masculinity and femininity? I don't ask this as a rhetorical question to say there is no distinction. There very much is. Any baby knows the difference between a man and a woman. I've five and some of them specifically prefer to be held by the one or the other.

But in coming up with a genuine definition, it would help folks be able to accurately assess the masculinity of a man, be it Taiwanese or foreigner.

Kai Lukoff said...

The crux of the matter here is: what is your definition of masculinity?

The masculinity I hear about most often in conversation among Westerners today is that of the alpha male: the one who's physically the strongest, sleeps with the most women, drinks the most alcohol, takes the most risk, and has the most facial hair. Masculinity here is defined largely by difference to and the subordination of females--this male would certainly never carry a purse. And by that definition, Taiwanese men would generally be less masculine than Western men. And so what??? By this definition, I'd prefer to be described as less masculine.

Your post clearly uses a different definition of masculinity and definitions have changed over time ( But it's not clear to me which definition you're using. Is it what you, or what Taiwanese women, believe a man should be?

It seems you seek to define--or reclaim--heightened masculinity as a universally positive trait in men. But it seems 'gentleman' or 'family man' or 'husband material' is more appropriate to the man you describe. Reclaiming the word 'masculinity' from the 'alpha male' it commonly represents today seems like an uphill slog of verbal contortion.

While I mostly concur with your views here of what a man ought to be, that doesn't make me the most 'masculine' of men. Probably not even upper 50%. And so what?

Thanks for the post.

Ted said...

Hi Jenna,

thank you for taking my comment seriously and replying in such great lengths, it means I made some valid points, which you acknowledged. Allow me to reply to some of your answers, I think it would be fair if you published my responses.

1. it is OK to talk about groups in general terms as long as one is clear that you’re talking about the group, not the individual

No, it's not. This premise is completely inappropriate in your context, you are still using generalizations to characterize various ethnic groups. Would it be fair, if I wrote an article saying: All White women in Asia are angry? How would that sound? And I would come up with some anecdotal evidence to support my claim. Well, it would be ridiculous. Jenna, it's obvious that you are trying to create a story here: You are trying to defend one group (Taiwanese men) and at the same time attack another group (Western men). And it's obvious, that you are attacking White men in particular, not Western men (example: this is Daniel Henney. Feeling threatened, white guys?). It's interesting to see how you use the term "Western" 18 times, but that 1 time you mentioned "white" exposed you. And like one commentator said, you haven't delivered any definitions of masculinity and femininity, you assume that your readers already know what you mean. Well, I don't.

2. When you say "I don't think it's true that Taiwanese men are effeminate", how is that different from Western/White guys claiming "Taiwanese men are effeminate"? Both statements are based on subjective evidence, so what kind of value do you bring to the discussion here? How are you different from those you accuse?

In my previous comment I have not gone into the issue of how effeminate Taiwanese men are, but just like you, I have also spoken with my female Taiwanese friends and I got a lot of feedback disagreeing with your claim, but all in all I got very complex and diverse answers (pro and contra). The cliche of Taiwanese men being effeminate is not something expats came up with. It's a discussion, that's going on in Taiwan's society for a while now and it started way before the influx of English teachers in the past years. You can check forums like PTT or various talk shows on Taiwan's numerous TV channels that will support my claim. I have no idea how much of an issue male effeminacy is in Taiwan, but I have not learned anything about it in your post besides hearsay and some subjective conclusions, which I decomposed in a single comment.

My point is: You could've researched these forums and other resources and given us a more nuanced answer that relates to the complexities of this issue, instead you went for a black and white version based on bogus anecdotal claims. You wrote angrily, incoherently and you were in attacking mode. What's the point of this only you must know.

3. Western male expats do tend to dismiss Taiwanese men out of hand, or go so far as to actually call them “effeminate”.

Not in my circle of friends and believe me, it's pretty big, I am here 7 years already and I have seen and heard a lot. Let me remind you again, that there is no such thing as "the Western/White expat". Some of us are White, but we are from all walks of life and we come to this island from all corners of the world. If you believe that the same color of the skin makes us an uniformed group of people with the same tendencies, then this is for me simply bigotry at its purest.

4. I have taken enough Anthro courses

Jenna, I can claim the same, everybody can. Taking courses is one thing, but when I read this post, I don't see any of that knowledge input here. I am sure they didn't tell you to base your claims on anecdotes and hearsay, do they? You're just using this argument as an ad-hoc defense, but it's very weak.

(continues in the next comment...)

Ted said...


5. That guy – well, no, I don’t think he represents “all Western men”. He’s an anecdote to represent one unsavory aspect of expat men, especially expat men in Asia.

But you use him in a context, where he represents all Western/White expats in Asia. It's offensive. There are definitely many White male (pardon my French) assholes in Asia, but when you talk about them, talk only about them, not about all expats. For example, I know some pretty angry White expat women in Taiwan. They criticize everything they have to deal with here and I'm wondering what the hell keeps them here... but that doesn't mean that they represent all White women in Taiwan, does it? Certainly my girlfriend isn't anything like them (she's White American for the record). Therefore I would not allow myself to pass any simplified statements regarding White expat women in Taiwan. Just like White male expats, it's a very complex and heterogeneous group and it shouldn't be taken as something constant. I'm sure you wouldn't want that, you yourself write a lot about the prejudice of White female expats in Asia.

6. You don’t get to tell me what to write on my blog, and your advice is not welcome. If I were writing for a scientific journal or even a published article, such feedback would be warranted.

Very weak argument. First of all, your blog is open and accessible from all over the world (I assume minus China) and you allow readers to comment, which means you want feedback, you crave for reactions, but reactions are not only a one way street. As far as I know, you also won some blog awards among expat bloggers, which indicates that you are known and influential here. Your blog posts are also often linked on social media, that's how I came across this one after I have been away from your blog for a while. And as a known blogger in a fairly small blogosphere, you have the responsibility to not make a story like some bribed journalist, just because you are driven by anger. If you write about complicated social issues where you talk about certain groups of people, I expect much more from you than a few anecdotes with an obvious conclusion. Once again, these matters are complex and I demand complex answers. If not, what is the point of deluding your readers? What is the point of writing a blog? Maybe it's hard for me to relate, because I am not a blogger. As a software developer my thinking is quite linear and logical, I want things to make sense. You probably need an outlet to deal with your daily challenges, an outlet that allows you to write stuff driven by your moods and emotions. Most of your posts written in anger come out like this one and I see no value for the reader. But when you are calm and balanced, your posts are excellent and that's where I believe you deserve all your awards. It wasn't easy to write my initial comment, because I was very disappointed. I just hope that my responses will be food for thought for you. You have to allow critical comments as well. You yourself are often very critical of many things in Taiwan, you should understand that. And once again, with fame comes responsibility, don't try to dismiss that, you're bigger than that.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps everybody can check this thread

[社會] 台灣男人越來越「雌性化」 要為男子氣概而戰

Here are some more articles on the topic

China and Taiwan worry about effeminate army recruits

7-11 Taiwan sells Hello Kitty merchandise to guys

You say you speak Chinese, but you usually don't refer to any sources in Chinese language. Why?

Jenna Cody said...

Can't say I agree w/ all of this but cant reply until back in Taipei. Too hard on iphone.

There aren't refs in Chinese bc this is an Enlglish blog. I try to limit what I put in Chinese on it. Anyway I am the first to admit that while I speak well and can read, I read slowly. Not worth it when this is an observation and opinion based post.

Anonymous said...

Taiwanese men are effeminate because they have lower levels of testosterone then western men. How do I know this? because muscle mass is a direct indicator of testosterone. Taiwanese men, in general, have much less muscle mass then western men. Therefore, they have less testosterone. you need testosterone to stimulate muscle growth - duh.

Taiwanese men have less testosterone for a few simple reasons:

1) they don't eat enough protein (the taiwanese diet in general is very low in protein, so women don't get enough protein either - hence high frequency of anemia)

2) they don't get enough exercise, and the exercise they do get is not the right kind. they do too much catabolic exercise (aerobic) and not enough anabolic (strength training). therefore, their bodies are not stimulated to produce testosterone, muscle mass, etc.

3) they eat too much soy. soy has phytoestrogens that raise the levels of estrogen in the body, and therefore lower testosterone. (these phytoestrogens are also associated with higher incidences of breast, cervical, and prostate cancer). fun fact - tofu was a staple in buddhist monasteries because it lowers testosterone levels and encourages celibacy.

how do i know this is true of taiwanese men? because I am interning in a hospital in taipei.

Of course, you are free to say you don't believe me, because you have a different "opinion". But, take a quick walk outside and see how many muscular men there are.

testosterone is extremely important for men, so much so that lower levels lead to such varied things as osteoporosis, muscle atrophy, and depression, to name but a few.

so, it seems like the issue with "western" men is not due to "manliness", but maybe cultural immaturity - the same type of cultural immaturity you expressed in your post.

but, speaking of cultural immaturity, you seem to have highlighted only what you perceive to be the good points of taiwanese men, and not the many, many negative ones. (emotional unavailability comes readily to mind. and keep in mind that you may not find taiwanese men to be sexist because you're white - and they're not sexist to you - because you're an outsider).

so, you've written an article that is simply filled with hate and lacking insight. how do you expect to stop hate with hate? was that really what you wanted to do with this article - or were you just bitching? I was expecting a defense of taiwanese men. not an attack on western men. it's a pretty weak defense if you have to go out of your way to attack someone else. I don't know if this was your intention or not, but your article just sounds like unapologetic western male-bashing, with the weak justification of "defending" a group that doesn't need your defense, and really doesn't care what you think.

your reverse sexism is hysterical. (get it, hysterical?). as is the fact that you are so blinded by your own vitriolic point of view that you sound very, very american. kind of ironic, huh? you can take the girl out of america… but no matter how much you hate the country (and by extension, yourself), you'll always be an american, and everyone will always know that.

Jenna Cody said...

@Anonymous - you're defining masculinity based on build and hormones. That's not really how I mean it, and no, I do not agree that less testosterone must = less masculinity. This is one example of a situation in which Ted is absolutely right: you're citing science (I was citing observation and giving an opinion). You can't go all sciencey without references and backup. Do you have references for your claim that Taiwanese men have less testosterone?

@MIke - you'd be surprised. Some companies do that - I have one in mind right now with a male director who pays his Taiwanese office girls badly and only seems to hire women (on very rare occasion another man will work there briefly). But anyway, if you're implying that the pay gap doesn't exist, then you're just plain wrong.

Jenna Cody said...

@Others - I would prefer that "effeminate" disappear as an adjective, and "masculine" and "feminine" stayed around but lost their cross-gender negative associations (i.e. a woman with "masculine" traits being seen as a bad thing and a man with "feminine" traits seen as even worse).

As for how I defne masculinity (at least Western masculinity) - it's more in what you can't do: no girly hobbies (knitting and other crafting), no liking things women like (romantic comedies, "chick lit" although I hesitate to use that term, fruit beer, certain cocktails, certain performance art - ballet comes to mind - no carrying purses. You can be touchy-feely but not TOO touchy-feely, you should drink (it's OK to not drink if you were once dependent or have allergy issues, but every Western man I know who chooses not to drink for other reasons gets pressure and teasing for it. You can cook, be interested in interior decorating and enjoy concerts but not *too* much. You can't wear feminine clothes. You don't have to like sports, but if you don't you may get teased for it. You should prefer dogs over cats, you should take the lead with women, you should have the instinct to "provide". He can't confide too much emotionally in other male friends.

More negatively, a "masculine" man in the West will be sent signals by society that he is entitled to a woman, as well as the final say in what sort of woman he gets (e.g., society owes him an intelligent hottie even if he's not really the sort of guy who could nab such a woman). He'll assume that as a man, he should be in charge (he may be fine with a female boss but not a dominant female partner or a woman who chases him). He will often be blind to the second-class and discriminatory treatment women often face. He'll assume that "masculine" interests (sports, beer, whiskey, politics, cars) are always of greater import than "feminine" ones (shopping, cocktails, art, domestic duties, cosmetics, fashion) - even when men partake in the latter. He'll have a tendency to assume his superiority and be blind to his privilege. He won't understand that even his assumed view of what is masculine and feminine can be called into question.

I don't like or agree with all of these things, but these are the traits I've noticed in the Western definition of masculinity, as subconscious as it often is. I personally define masculinity differently, but then it's been clear to me for awhile that *my* personal preferences in a man are at odds with what society in my home culture pressures men to do.

Fortunately for me and many other women, not all Western men fit this mold. In fact, a great number do not. There are men who are real men (in muy view), who are confident in themselves and pander to no social expectations. They cook, they clean, they listen, they are not blind to their privilege and they love, I dunno, cats or whatever, and don't think that purse-carrying or umbrella-holding is an affront to their masculinity.

That doesn't mean that they aren't being pressured by this greater Western definition of what it means to be a "man", just that they choose not to listen. And GOOD FOR THEM.

Anyway, that is not how *I* define masculinity, that's what I see as the major traits of how it's defined in a greater cultural sense in the West.

Oh, also, @anonymous - you're still looking at "masculinity" from a Western perspective as though that's the only true definition. Look at it from an Asian point of view and see what changes. The "Western" definition is NOT the universally right one.

Jenna Cody said...

@Ted - I don't have time to respond to everything, so I'll pick and choose.

1.) Yes, it is OK to group people together as long as you're clear that what you're saying doesn't apply to every individual, just an observed trend in a large group. If you don't do that, you can never talk about anything ever. You can't ever discuss cultural issues or problems that affect a larger group. I just disagree with you there. That's fine - you're not gonna change my mind on this and it's not really worth my time to try and change yours.

2.) You say you notice angry foreign women - errr, where? I don't notice that many women at all, and every single one I know in Taiwan is super awesome and generally having fun. They may be single when they don't want to be, but if they're here they own that decision and don't whine about it. If they're not happy they go home. It's the men I see who stay and bitch and whine and moan about Taiwan. It's the men who are less likely to learn Chinese, more likely to hate Taiwan but only stay for a girlfriend (or leave the girlfriend behind when they leave), or stay because they're stuck in a rut but hating every minute of it. It's the men who seem to have fewer Taiwanese friends and local connections. Not every man, to be sure, but really, if you want to talk demographics who bitch about their time abroad, don't look at women.

3.) You seem to think I hate *all* male expats or was targeting all of them. I was not. I did run this post by my husband, who is brutally honest with me because he can be (because I respect and trust his opinion). A bona fide white expat male with a penis and everything. I figured I should get a male perspective before posting and I should be sure that it wouldn't come across as hatin' on all expat men, just a subset of them. A very angry, locally disconnected, rival-male hatin' subset.

He - whose opinion I do trust more than yours on men's issues - assured me that it was quite clear that I was not ragging on ALL expat men, that I did mean a certain type of expat man, and that someone who didn't realize that was being obtuse (willfully or not), didn't read clearly, or was one of that subset but didn't want to admit it to himself, and was angry that someone'd call him out on it. So...I have to wonder which one you are.

But again, I will thank you for not condescending to me and giving me ridiculous advice on what should and shouldn't go on *my* blog based on your opinions (which, hey, don't really matter on my blog. It's out of sheer kindness that I'm bothering to have this discussion, but I cater to nobody). I talk about observation and anecdotal happenstances all the time - I can't help but think that you chose to say something about this post and not all the other ones because you just didn't happen to like the content, not out of some deep concern for scientific rigor.

Jenna Cody said...

By the way, I didn't invent the term "mansplaining". I'm flattered that people seem to think I did, but it ain't mine.

Mike Fagan said...

Jenna - I don't want to detract the conversation off topic. My comment about your supposed 20% pay gap was made on another thread.

On this thread, I agree emphatically with the point made by Anonymous (10.38pm, Oct 20th) on testosterone, and can attest to this from personal experience. I take zinc and vitamin supplements daily, eat plenty of meat, fruit and veg, and do two reps of 12 across three different grips on the pull-up bars at the park when I walk my dogs. Sometimes I switch to two reps of 30 across three different kinds of push-up (though the dogs tend to lick my face when I do that). Then there's the skipping (two reps of 1,000 every other every morning), cycling (at least 30km two or three times a week), jogging (15 to 20km when I can be bothered) and pilates. Swimming too when I get the chance. I'm 32 years old.

The 20 something Taiwanese boys at the park struggle to do even one rep of 4 or 5 pull-ups and generally have the physique of a stick-insect. I hear that the Army fitness test only requires them to do one rep of 6 pull-ups in the easiest grip. That is pathetic. I know girls who can do better than that. See what I'm saying here? It's not a subtle point.

Lotuspond said...

Thought you might like this link Jenna:

Quite frankly, I believe that we could do less with gendered lens in culturally interpreting actions of men of Other races and creeds. For instance, I have seen many African or moslem men hold hands as a gesture of friendship, but no-one thinks of them as effeminate? Perhaps, the perception of one's potential for violence and rage is utilized to gauge one's "manliness"
As a Taiwanese man, I am comfortable with my sexuality and thankfully more free from having to perform "masculinity" to Eurocentric standards. I will happily carry my wife's purse or my mother's shopping basket to ease their burdens out of consideration for their well-being over my own self-image (but I won't be wearing skinny jeans- much too hot in Taiwan!).

Anonymous said...

There is generally a trend in the world to retrogress into the happy infantile state of mind, as a symptoms of the entitlement-of-course me-me-me me-too-me-only modern mindset. The younger the generation, the stronger the tendency.

Infantile state of mind is generally seen as girly or effeminate.

This is both apparent in the East (most notable in affluent welfare/entitlement states such as Japan and Taiwan) and the West.

If you look at the girly-chatty man-boy (man-girl, maybe?) behavior of Castle (the detective sit-com; I cannot accept it as a serious detective series) and his girly-chatty relationship with his live-in mother and daughter as well as with his love interest, Detective Kate Beckett, you'll know what I mean. That's the generational tendency I am seeing in Western young men.

If you look at the older generations, East or West, you'll see the "can do, must do" mindset of the war generations, a mindset generally perceived as masculine.

This is also true in Taiwan. Try looking at the older Taiwanese men. You won't perceive them as effeminate as a whole.

Marc said...

LOL, Jenna. You sure touched a nerve with some folks!

It's all about perceptions of masculinity, isn't it? And not just masculinity, but also how we react to beauty. Some of us may respond to these perceived displays of effeminacy through the lens of some kind of Western norms of male attractiveness (such as having muscles and deep voices) and see girlish aspects in the fashion and behavior, while others see the fashion as superficial and not an indicator of the degrees of manliness.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but don’t these more regional concepts of male beauty echo back to the Chinese past when aristocrats could afford to dress in fine silks, grow their fingernails long, whiten the skin, and wear makeup and perfume? It wasn't a mark of effeminacy, but a sign of higher status and income, and a life of relative leisure compared to the peasants.

There’s also a perception that still exists in some places of the “Charles Atlas” idea of manliness. Decades ago, Atlas sold a bodybuilding method in comic books with an iconic cartoon of a skinny guy sitting with his girlfriend on a beach and getting sand kicked in his eyes by a brawny beach bully. After beefing up with Atlas’ method, the previously wimpy guy beats the crap out of the bully and wins back the ardor of his girlfriend. For some, the need to appear strong in mind and body is still prevalent today with steroid-racked athletes and obsessed gymrats, and Hollywood's six-packed-sculpted actors in superhero movies—certainly true among many men in the US.

Of course, not all so-called Western ideas of manliness are the same. For example, living among the French for years, I recall that many young Parisian men favored a “softer” look. You could say that many Frenchmen were beautiful—thin, styled hair, expensive perfume, high fashion -- but their manliness, to me, was still apparent.

I saw a 1970s-era Taiwanese film that had a memorable scene. The scene occurred during the era when the US military was still based in Taiwan. In the movie, the US and Taiwanese mils were going to have a strength and endurance competition. Before the competition, the brawny, loudmouthed US soldiers were ridiculing the relatively punier and softer-looking Taiwanese soldiers, feeling confident of victory. But when the race was over, the US team was left in Taiwan’s dust.

Anonymous said...

Just an aisde- Daniel Henney isn't full Asian, nor Taiwanese, - half-white actually; and even if he was, he was brought up in the States and speaks no Korean. If you're so interested in defending Taiwanese men, can't you post a Taiwanese guy?


Anonymous said...

part 1)
so….your "opinion" tops science? let's hear it for your education. as for your opinion of men - I have no idea who you hang out with, or what clubs you go to, because I've never seen these men you speak of… do they really exist? in enough numbers to make a generalization? sounds more like a hollywood portrayal than anything else.

about "sciency" things… I'm only going to waste 30 sec. doing a google search, but here goes: maybe not the best article, but if you really care, go to pubmed and knock yourself out.

I'd also like to point out that taiwan has one of the lowest birthrates. Not necessarily related to masculinity - there could be other social factors - but, curious, nonetheless.

but, on to your argument: you've actually said that testosterone does not equal masculinity………. kind of funny because that's the one thing that actually does. it's what makes a man a man (sex organs don't! ask any transgendered individual). testosterone drives sexual development and many behavioral traits. It is THE defining aspect of masculinity across cultures. and when I say it makes a man man, I am saying it does so regardless of sexual orientation (trojans were pretty manly, wouldn't you say?).

now, slow waaaaay down, and before you start writing a response in your head, consider that the topic of your blog was MASCULINITY (or, rather, the lack thereof, or not lack thereof, as it were). Your topic was not "men in relation to morality, ethics, religion, or social responsibility". Those are completely different topics. Those are very important topics, with broad social implications, and they should be intelligently discussed. YOUR topic is very simple - MASCULINITY. You may have attempted to stay on topic, but your opinion of masculinity frequently took validation from your previously-made judgements in those other, more interesting topics. Therefore, your entire argument is weak.

You have to chose your point of view; masculinity as defined by your home culture, masculinity defined by taiwanese culture, masculinity as defined by institution (religion, philosophy, etc.), masculinity as defined by your own opinion, etc. You need to pick a point of view - all you've done is made a blanket statement, supposing that it covers all perspectives. Again, kind of a simplistic argument.

In regards to masculinity as defined by home culture - that's pretty obvious. You are, after all, writing about how you think your home country's definition of masculinity (and judgement of the taiwanese male's masculinity) is your opinion.


Anonymous said...

part 2)

In regards to masculinity as defined by taiwanese culture, I'm guessing you've never had a conversation with elderly taiwanese about what they perceive to be the degradation of their society? (or japanese, or chinese) you've never heard an old taiwanese woman saying disgustedly that she can't tell if someone is a man or woman?

In regards to masculinity as defined by institution… I'm not going to open up that can of worms.

So, really, we're left with what is simply your own personal opinion on masculinity. Of course, you've said this before - this is your blog, your opinion, etc etc. But, when you actually consider what that means, that the perspective of your opinion negates all other perspectives, be they cultural, scientific, religious, etc. Well, you start to sound crazy - or at the very least, ignorant.

so, i guess you have your own special version of masculinity that the rest of the world isn't privy to. That's too bad. But it's also confusing - why would you get so mad at other people's perspectives, if your own perspective is so different? How can you expect them to agree with you? The only thing that makes sense is either you don't know your opinion is so different (and don't know how to express it to others in a way that they might sympathize), or else you really, really like picking fights. (I'm going to guess the latter).

Either way, I guess that's why you can tell everyone they're wrong.

I wonder what can be considered masculinity in your private definition? It seems pretty loose - your girlfriends? a dog? a toaster?

From your writing, apparently you have a romanticized version of what masculinity is (and very jaded, as well), that men are failing to live up to (hence the jadedness). I'm personally very sorry for not living up to your fairytale. However, i think the issue is one of semantics - your personal definition of masculinity doesn't sounds like masculinity at all, it sounds like the "romantic ideal" of the middle ages' "minnesang" and "minneleide", with a very, very disney twist. If this is your perspective, then I absolutely agree with you - men don't measure up. But, in order for me to agree with you, consider what I said about semantics and defining your terms. As it stands, you make absolutely no sense :(

Now, I know you like to talk shit and argue. I do too, that's why I'm writing. But, to dismiss a scientific argument because you don't like science, sounds…a little like christian fundamentalism (yup, that's a judgement).

So…talk about a let down when I realize - this is what you really think? oh…my bad, i thought there was more substance here, I thought we were in for a more thoughtful discussion…sorry for wasting my time. You played me well, angry, crazy woman. But, I take comfort in the fact that, while I know that I have lived up to all of your stereotypes, you have certainly lived up to mine.

Jenna Cody said...

Again, there are a lot of people here who seem to STILL be defining masculinity based on a Western standpoint as though that is the only universal standard. My main point is that that's narrowminded and not a good way to go about such an observation. I also still see a lot of subconscious insecurity masked as bravado in such comments. I can only chuckle.

The thing is, I don't really think body shape is what determines non-masculinity from a global standpoint - maybe that's one sign of it to some, but to me, and in my observation, it's a set of behaviors. I've met plenty of burlier Western men (my husband among them - he's a tall, hairy guy with broad-ish shoulders who, despite his somewhat nerdy exterior is definitely not lacking for the hormones that give a man his body shape) who have effeminate behaviors and plenty of slightly built Taiwanese men who don't (think sneakers, Bermuda short khakis, inside-out t-shirt smoking outside and talking about listening to Radiohead). To me the former would be more effeminate than the latter and my observation says that with the exception of a lot of Western expat men, most people would agree. It's a part of it, sure, and slightly built guys who don't want to be seen as effeminate have to work harder for it, but certainly not the whole bag or main defining characteristic.

So...I still disagree - testosterone has to do with masculinity but it is not the main marker.

There's my husband, who has plenty of testosterone (his build and hair will tell you that) but may do things that by Western standards are considered effeminate (loves cats, not into sports, interested in things like concerts and museums, doesn't mind that the office is painted purple, does housework without having to be asked - in fact, is better at it than I am).

Note: I LOVE this. I consider this to be the traits of a real man, a great man. My definition of what makes a man is different from what my culture tries to tell me it is.

Then there are friends of mine who are very slightly built and short who are quite "masculine" - who, in fact, other than their body type have attitudes that would be considered more "masculine" than my taller, hairier husband.

So, no, I don't agree, but whatever. Different definitions of this can exist in the same universe.

Jenna Cody said...

Also, I'm a woman. I obviously do not have as much testosterone as a man. I am not slight or petite, but I am clearly a woman with female features. You would probably, if you knew me, call my outlook and attitude more "masculine" than my testosterone-tacular husband. I am more aggressive. I tend to plow through situations rather than avoiding them. I am confrontational (couldja guess)? I am not afraid to argue. I drink whiskey, not cocktails, and go out, am good at fixing things, drive too fast, swear too much, care little for fashion, don't wear makeup and am a terrible housekeeper. I would sooner tell you to **** my **** (my mother in law reads this, but she can probably guess what I'd say) than try to defuse an argument. My husband is the peacekeeper, the dishwasher, the guy who remembers to pay the gas bill.

So, you wanna go ahead and keep telling me that testosterone is the only measure of masculinity? Yeah, no.

Furthermore, some folks are totally misreading me. My definition of masculinity is not what I'm writing about here (and I did define it if you care to go back and read).

I'm writing about the "Western" generally accepted definition of it, which is not one I particularly like or ascribe to, and how that's seen as the universal standard when really it shouldn't be. I defined it above - go back and read. This post is based on my opinion and observation, but the definition I'm working from is the one I outlined for "Western culture", not my own personal definition, which is really irrelevant (but I outlined it anyway if you care to look).

Jenna Cody said...

Also, I'm not "interested" in Taiwanese men. I'm married. I'm just sayin', a lot of Western guys (and some women, but mostly guys) are unfair in their assessment of Taiwanese men. If I were single I would be interested, but I'm not.

I posted a picture of Daniel Henney because the world is a better place when there is Daniel Henney to look at. :) But really, I posted him because a lot of Asian men get called "effeminate" and this post could be expanded to include them, so I think it's fine. I'd post a Taiwanese man but the good-looking guys, the perfectly masculine guys, I meet in Taiwan are regular guys, not famous. The famous Not such a great selection. Look at street level, not at the stars.

Finally, thank you to the poster who noted that a lot of defined-as-effeminate behavior by Western men is actually a holdover from when such behavior was done to show status, not to be effeminate, and was not seen as such.


Jenna Cody said...

As for why the birthrate in Taiwan is so low, no, that's not about masculinity. I explored it in a post ages ago. You can go find it if you want.

It has way more to do with economics (young folks who can afford more than their parents could, as a part of the first generation of Taiwanese raised in relative comfort, and who don't want to sacrifice that to raise kids, and who can afford luxuries but not necessarily a conveniently-situated apartment large enough for kids)...

...and with gendered expectations that still state that the woman is to do most of the housework and child-rearing (although this is changing). Which, by the way, if anything, qualifies Taiwanese men as more masculine, not less, than American men, but not in a good way.

As for "who I hang out with and what clubs I go to" - I don't go to clubs. Not so into that.

I hang out, generally, with Taiwanese urban professionals in their 30s who could be considered middle to upper middle class. They're my student base (I'm in corporate training) and are similar to me in age and socioeconomic class. I also know a few artsy types but they tend to be women. I meet them through mutual friends, through class, or through daily life. I go to at-home social events to which I am invited by local friends, and make more friends. It's not that hard, really. And the men I know are not effeminate.

By the way, as for "men not measuring up" to my idea of masculinity, well, clearly some men do. I don't think it's unrealistic at all. It's perfectly attainable. I'm married to one such man (and he is the bestest ever - I am ridiculously lucky). More men could be this awesome. It's on them that they choose not to, or on society for conditioning them so they just can't.

Someday, more men will start realizing that the Western 'definition' of masculinity is one that is not satisfying to a large swath of women, and they'll realize that it doesn't have to be this way. Until then, good luck.

By the way, @Ted - I brought up my Anthro courses not to say that my blog post was one of Anthro-study level research. It is not. Just that it's well-accepted in Anthro that the perspective of someone within a group is automatically more valid than the observation of that group's ideas, thoughts and needs by an outsider. I'm giving the perspective of what many Western expat women in Taiwan think (and have plenty of other expat women backing me up). My opinion of what my group thinks is more valid than your opinion of what my group thinks.

Also, while anecdotal evidence does not make a full study, it is generally accepted as a valid part of field work. Have you taken a social research methods class? Have you done field work? I have. Anecdotes and one-off interviews and observations don't make up the whole bag, there is definitely more scientific rigor there than that, but they are definitely a part of it. Same for sociological research.

Mike Fagan said...

"...people here who seem to STILL be defining masculinity based on a Western standpoint as though that is the only universal standard.

I can't speak for anyone else here, but I can answer that point for myself.

The concept "masculinity" is a description of several attributes (among which are physical strength, depth of voice, facial complexion and perhaps the possession of certain types of knowledge, e.g. mechanical) and traits (among which are a degree of biliousness, defiance of pain, and an instrumental attitude toward skill acquisition). What the concept "masculinity" does is subsume these attributes and traits such that it becomes possible for the speaker to refer to them all together without having to specify each and every one individually. Its' function is therefore one of economy in the cognitive act of description.

Now given that the word "masculinity" is an English word, the concept therefore has a cultural history (i.e. a history of being used in approximately the way I have just described) and that history is Western, i.e. it's usage occured in the English-speaking world (and elsewhere).

The supposition that there are "other standards" by which masculinity can be judged is destructive of the concept. This is because those other standards are a different set of attributes and traits, i.e. you're talking about a totally different thing but wanting to keep the already popularized word.

It seems to me that what you are trying to argue is that there are other standards by which (a) women can choose to evaluate and accept or reject men, and (b) how men might evaluate themselves and one another vis-a-vis social status. In respect of that argument, I quite agree (but would in fact go further than you*). But if that is what you are attempting to argue, then you what you need is a word other than "masculinity" to refer to your preferred alternative subset of attributes and traits.

Otherwise all you are doing is, in effect, plotting the murder of a perfectly decent word - much as the word "gay", which was formerly a synonym of "happy" became little more than a bitch-word for "homosexual" and is now just a limp wrist-slap for several other concepts such as "ineffective", "uninteresting" and "pretentious". Look at how that word is used in the South Park cartoons for instance.

"My main point is that that's narrowminded and not a good way to go about such an observation."

Not a "good way" according to whose standard of value and to what purpose? Yours? And why should anyone else share either of these? You have done nothing more than presume your own moral highground Jenna.

*Because I believe people should be free, I therefore believe everyone gets to select their own values on which to evaluate and treat others within the natural limits described by that condition of freedom (as expressed by the famous adage that "your right to swing your fist wherever you want ends where my nose begins"). Where I disagree is in any notion that there ought to be one alternative standard around which a cultural consensus should form - I'm not being "narrow minded" just because I think the attributes and traits that comprise "masculinity" are important.

Jenna Cody said...

Uh, according to the rules of not being a douchebag. I think more than one person (me) would agree there.

Just because a word - "masculinity" - is an English word and you come from a Western culture doesn't mean that "Masculinity" as a concept doesn't exist in other cultures or parts of the world, and it doesn't mean your cultural standpoint is the universally correct one (or that there even is a universally correct one).

I'm on the moral high ground, in other words, 'cause I'm right. You may disagree - whatever - but it basically ends there.

Or in terms you can understand - your nutrition and workout routine (as posted above - I got a good chuckle out of that, had to wonder if you were purposely trolling as a caricature of a Paul Ryan type dudebro) doesn't make you manlier or more masculine. It just makes you sound like a douche. Now take that concept and expand it to all areas of life - and you may begin to get where I'm coming from.

vin said...

People arguing past each other; people arguing and name-calling just to argue and name-call. To quote Rodney King, "Can we all get along?" People arguing past each other; people arguing and name-calling just to argue and name-call. People arguing past each other; people arguing and name-calling just to argue and name-call.

I love my opinions. I love my opinions.

Jenna Cody said...

If people ignore or tacitly condone (or simply fail to condemn) sexist or hateful ideas in the name of "getting along", then that's basically implying they are accepted, or even right. You can think whatever you want and say almost anything you want (there are limits - you can't legally threaten others or plagiarize, for instance), but when hate, or when people demeaning others to puff themselves up, or when sexism are ignored so we can "get along", those things are allowed by society to continue. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and sometimes opening curtains requires a little arguing.

So no, we can't all get along.

vin said...

Once the name-calling starts, it's arguing just to argue or else it's people arguing psst each other. That's people arguing and not getting along.

People can argue quite vociferously on ideas without resorting to name-calling; that's arguing, but, more fundamentally, still getting along.

I'm not arguing against arguing. I'm maintaining that name-calling is childish, is immature. In doing so, I'm attaching a a label to a choice -- a behavior -- not to any person.

Jenna Cody said...

And I say call a spade a spade - don't name-call for no reason whatsoever, sure. I'm with you there. But if a person's being a douche, don't hide behind being "nice" - tell 'em they're being a douche. They probably won't hear it, but it's better than acting as though it isn't true.

Plus, the worse name-call in this thread is the one in which people still insist that Taiwanese men are objectively effeminate (while having no notion of what "objective" means) - "effeminate" is a pejorative. If it were a neutral word, not an insulting one, that would be different. But it's not.

Arguably, it should be, or it should just fall out of use and we can keep "masculine" and "feminine" as neutral terms that can be applied without judgment to certain behaviors of people of either gender. As in, I don't mind being called "masculine" for my aggressiveness, and perhaps it doesn't need to be an insult to say a man who enjoys interior decorating is "feminine".

Anonymous said...

I am an overseas Chinese with a Taiwanese background and when I came to Taiwan and saw all these white guys with local girlfriends whilst hardly seeing the inverse, I admit feeling some annoyance. It also rankled me that it was apparently easy for all these guys to get Taiwanese girls. Seriously, almost every single white guy I've met has a Taiwan girlfriend, no matter how long they've been here or how good or bad their Chinese is.

Over time, I've come to realize that maybe it's not that local girls crave white guys, or vice versa,but that a lot of local girls probably don't like local guys. There's a high amount of young women here in their late 20s and 30s who are single, and it's staggering when many of them are quite attractive. Also, factor in the local birth rate and it'd be easy to see that many people aren't getting married, aren't having kids, and aren't even hooking up with each other. Now I don't know whether local guys are effeminate or not, and I don't care. But seeing how a lot of local people are single and yet ironically that many Taiwanese girls hook up easily with white guys, I'd say this reflects negatively on local guys, effeminate or not.


vin said...

I'll reply, Jenna, in a post, and will alert you here when it has been written and posted. I may or may not comment on quite a number of things; anyway, I'm certain that I'll focus on (1) why I feel this entire topic is problematic and not very worthwhile in the first place; and (2)why I feel it greatly matters that discourse rarely if ever be cheapened through direct-address name-calling.

Jenna Cody said...

CP - you're right, it does, but I don't think that has to do with being effeminate. In my observation, even though it's easy for a white guy to get a Taiwanese girlfriend here, those same Taiwanese women seem to complain a lot about things like chest hair, not carrying purses (not a common complaint but I have heard it a few times) and "smell" (I don't understand that last one because while I admit we Westerners do sweat more, I've smelled enough Taiwanese guys on the MRT to know they are not immune to body odor, although some seem to think they are).

The things Taiwanese women who date Western guys seem to complain about regarding Taiwanese guys isn't effeminacy - I generally hear the opposite. They, so the complaints go, don't do housework, can be controlling, say things like "after we marry my mother will move in with us so you'll have to help care for her", try to get their girlfriends to stop hanging out with other male friends, have insane beauty or behavior standards, act as though their decisions are the final ones, are scared of even the slightest public loss of face.

These reasons - feeling that they'll be responsible for house and baby if they marry, not to mention mother-in-law, who has a big say in when they have that baby - are the reasons why they don't seem to be marrying and having kids, not because the men are too "effeminate". If anything, those negative traits are associated with masculinity, not femininity!

Now, I don't actually agree with a lot of this stuff, or rather, I see it happen but I am well aware that many Taiwanese men are not like that (while also being aware that many are - the world is full of jerks regardless of ethnicity). If the women in question wanted Taiwanese men who weren't like this, they could find them (at least in urban centers, especially Taipei). I can see, however, that some might feel like it's easier to just date a Western guy than try to look for the kind of man they want among Taiwanese men. That man is available, but I can understand the feeling of just not wanting to bother looking.

I felt it myself in the USA: I took off for Asia wanting to be single for awhile because I was just not OK with the men that reality made available for me to date (not just white guys, either).

So if anything, Taiwanese women who prefer to date Western men seem to want them for personality traits that could be called more feminine - not controlling, does his fair share at home, takes an equal part in child-rearing, listens well, doesn't pull this 'I make the decisions because I'm the man' crap.

Now, do the Western guys live up to that standard? Many do. Many don't. That's a whole different topic and one I'm not comfortable addressing here.

On the other hand, you quite likely see little of the reverse because a.) there aren't as many expat women in Asia, so there would by default be fewer of such couples; b.) dating culture in Taiwan is one of indirect encounters until you're "dating" - it would be more rare for a Taiwanese guy to just ask a girl out without testing the waters for a good long time. Western women are socialized to expect to be asked out, so when they're not they assume the guy isn't interested. As such you'll get fewer of them coupling up. Finally, c.) you probably just don't roll in the social circles where that's more commonly seen. I mean out of all my friends, plenty are white guys with Taiwanese women, but of those, only one is a good friend. I know as many or more of the opposite: white women dating or interested in Taiwanese men. That's the group I roll with, so of course I'd see more of it.

Anonymous said...

While it is true that this is more the case in china and japan, your recent comment was that western masculinity was the problem. From your comment, it's clear that you really don't understand masculinity in asian cultures - which leads me to believe you really don't know these cultures very well.

There are also greater resources for males to understand themselves in the west, i.e. therapy. Try and find a psychotherapist in taiwan - or a taiwanese person who even knows what that is.

You're also forgetting the lack of emotional availability in asian society. These are confucian societies. In confucian societies, emotions arise only as a result of an imbalance in the mind - they are a symptom of a lack of social cohesion. As such, they don't mean anything, and are to be ignored, with the focus being on fixing the hierarchical relationship that is out of balance that caused the symptom of the emotion to occur - the emphasis being that, the balance of society depends upon hierarchical relationships. Where do you think a woman's place is in a confucian society? BELOW A MAN. (btw, don't kid yourself, this is still a confucian society).

in the west, we live through our emotions, and we strive towards equality (at least we try). that may be messy at times, but it lets the truth come out. you're living through your emotions by emoting on this blog. and while you may think (and it may appear so on the surface) that people in the east have the same relationship to their emotional body as those in the west, you are most definitely wrong.

you seem to really not understand some fundamental philosophical differences between western and eastern society, yet you claim to have some authority in the matter. You're behaving reactionarily, and in doing so, missing the nuance of cultural difference - a nuance that would tell you a lot about your own culture, and yourself.

and as you write your reactionary response, consider that a douchebag is less of a threat to the world than an ideological, self-righteous bigot.

and as an ironic sign of the times, you attacked me as a man, and yet I feel guilty in defending myself, because I am so "trained" to never, never, never, do anything that me be considered sexist towards a woman. so, i feel guilty in even saying - hey, maybe you're wrong. what kind of a sexist world is that?

Jenna Cody said...

To be very clear - I really, truly do not mean that this is the attitude of every Taiwanese woman who dates a Western man. There's a subset of Taiwanese women who actively prefer Western men whom I have heard say things like this (the preferences listed above are from their mouths, not my speculation), but I would not say that every one would agree with this, or that every Taiwanese woman who dates a Western man has a specific "preference" or anything like that (I know enough who happened to meet a Western guy that they liked, and race had nothing to do with it, to think that).

So really that's just some anecdotal experience relating what I've heard from others. I personally am not terribly interested in why one group chooses to date another, because there's never one reason.

What I'm interested in is this assumption on the part of Western men, especially expats, that Taiwanese men are objectively "effeminate".

Jenna Cody said...

Considering that I didn't even know if you were a man (you're "Anonymous" after all), and was saying that you & Mike (if you are in fact different people) are being douchey, it was based on your words, not your gender.

All I have to say otherwise is that, assuming again that you are the same anonymous who posted above (there is more than one, it is very confusing), I find it very ironic that you think *I* don't know anything about masculinity in Asian cultures, because the posts by one "Anonymous" above were so ignorant as to be laughable.

Although really, if you want to know what I was referring to when I said "douchebag", specifically the whole attitude. It's almost a parody of a douchey guy, that, but you (if you're the same Anonymous and not Mike) didn't say that.

What I'd welcome is the insight of some Taiwanese men - I get the feeling these comments are all Westerners - be they male, female, of Asian descent or not - but we don't seem to be getting that here. I would definitely trust their own perspective over my own.

Which is too bad - you make some interesting points, but honestly, I've learned not to view Asian societies as "Confucian" - that history does influence various cultures somewhat, but it's hardly the whole shebang and hardly the foundation upon which to place all observation. Look with your eyes, not with your history book.

Anonymous said...

It seems that there are too many comments from white men offended by the article.
Please, there is no reverse sexism or reverse racism. White men, check your privileges.
And yes, you can generalise Western (white) male expats (partly) because of the said privileges.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and thank you. This white American guy living in Taiwan couldn't agree with you more. Sadly, a lot of (or most, or all) guys will never give these ideas the credence they deserve. =(

John Scott said...

Those poor Taiwanese men!

Lucky they've got you in their corner!

Don't get angry-- I think it is an interesting topic :)

But if the discussion topic is "why do western men say that Taiwanese men are insufficiently masculine", then I can't say much on that particular topic until I meet some of the western men you are talking about.

Concepts such as masculinity, femininity, beauty, etc., only have meaning in a particular time, place and culture.

Men are just as masculine/handsome/attractive as they need to be (in any particular culture) in order to attract partners and begin the next generation. Same goes for bats and armadillos. It is pointless to make any generalization regarding masculinity or femininity of men or women from two different cultures.

It would be just as pointless to say that Taiwanese comedy shows are not very funny. It's hard for me to understand the entertainment value, but I have to assume that they just are as funny as they need to be in order to entertain their audiences.