Showing posts with label womens_history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label womens_history. Show all posts

Monday, October 28, 2019

In Taiwan, women are the real labor movement

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In both domestic and foreign labor, it's the women who are pushing the real changes

In the span of a few short years, I've noticed something regarding labor actions in Taiwan: all of the most successful ones (as well as less successful but highly visible actions) have been organized and carried out by women.

The Taoyuan Flight Attendants' strike (which you might know of as the "China Airlines strike") of 2016, called “first successful strike held by an independent labor union in Taiwan’s history" by the union director has overall been upheld as an example of what organized labor can achieve if they persist. Of course, the flight attendants themselves - remember them, occupying the road around the China Airlines headquarters? - were predominantly female, as were the organizers and public faces of the movement (including the union director, Su Ying-jung). 

The EVA Airlines strike, though less successful, garnered a high level of visibility, both domestically and internationally. Though they gained fewer concessions than the earlier flight attendants' strike, I do think it creased a sense that striking is a legitimate way to push for a better work environment rather than pushing "too far" and being taboo. Of course, most of the EVA strikers were also women.

There was also the China Airlines pilots' strike, which skewed more male (in Taiwan and globally, in the airline industry men are more likely to be pilots and women are more likely to be flight attendants. Someone's going to get mad at me for saying this, but the reason is sexism. But, it's not directly related to my point here.) The pilots' strike was also largely successful, but came on the heels of (and was perhaps spurred on or inspired by) the success of the flight attendants' strike. Other labor organizers have pointed to the China Airlines flight attendants' strike for giving their own initiatives more visibility.


2016 China Airlines strike
China Airlines Flight Attendants' Strike, from Wikimedia Commons - you'll see both men and women engaging in the strike, but I can assure you that the organization and core of this action was predominantly female

These strikes were historic in Taiwan, in part because there really hasn't been much in the way of labor movements or strike actions in the country since the 1990s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a strong uptick in the number of autonomous labor unions formed, in contrast to the old-style, often conservative, government-backed unions which were mostly formed to prevent organized labor from making significant ground or challenging KMT control of and profit from the island's most lucrative industries (there's a long history of state interference and personal and party benefit from industry in post-war Taiwan and of course the military dictatorship didn't want organized labor threatening their control, and most autonomous organizations of any kind were banned - labor, women's organizations, you name it). As Martial Law was lifted and Taiwan began the process of democratization, unions in general threw off the shackles of state or corporate control and protests, strikes and various labor actions did take place, but then the movement lost steam. 

Around the same time, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling against RCA for exposing workers to toxic waste - especially carcinogenic solvents - causing high incidents of cancer among former employees. Though the RCA workers did not have all of their demands met, RCA was ordered to pay damages to afflicted former employees and their families. And, again, most of the workers involved and the people who organized to fight the lawsuit were women.

I have been looking into it and can't find a similar example of an organized group of male workers bringing a lawsuit against a former employer and winning in the way that the RCA workers did - if you know of one, please clue me in. There's a reason, however, that this case was considered historic.

While all this was going on, there has been exactly one large cross-industry labor protest of note, which took place in late 2017. Though many of the attendees were female, if you look at the photos, you'll see that huge blocs of industrial union participants were male (indeed, check out the photo of the Chunghwa Telecom Workers' Union from that link). The women I saw in attendance tended to be foreign domestic workers fighting to end their exclusion from many of Taiwan's labor protection laws, and young protesters showing up to represent a variety of related but not-quite-the-same causes, such as marriage equality and Taiwanese independence.

For a number of political reasons which are not quite relevant here, the usual activist groups and left-leaning political parties were largely absent in any organized form, though individuals from those movements did show up.

And that protest went exactly nowhere, and a lot of people felt tricked or misled by the organizers, myself included. To be honest, beyond the foreign labor groups and some of the individual young activists who showed up, the whole thing felt like conservative older men and some leftie labor activists who aren't exactly pro-Taiwan (some people call them 'pro-unification left') coming together to hold banners, and create a whole bunch of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

In short, it sure feels to me like the backbone of the labor movement in Taiwan is female. Not only that, but the future of labor movements in Taiwan are, as well. It's the women who fight back, the women who lead historic strikes, and the women who get results while the men hold signs and criticize President Tsai (but where were they when working conditions were degrading under President Ma? I remember no large labor protests from those eight years. Do you? Why, whatever could be the reason?) and nothing happens.

I've also noticed that the fact that women are leading the labor movement is simply ignored in media reporting of their success. New Bloom, which is usually quite good at highlighting issues of misogyny and gender/sex discrimination, called the China Airlines flight attendants' strike predominantly young, which is true (flight attendants in Asia skew young), but not predominantly female, although it was. They did point out that the EVA Airlines flight attendants were all female, in the context of EVA's frankly sexist and probably illegal hiring policy, but not in the context of women being the vanguard of contemporary labor movements. Taipei Times didn't bring up gender at all when discussing the flight attendants' strike or the RCA lawsuit.


EVA Airlines strike photo from CNA via Taiwan News

Of course, it shouldn't matter, because labor is labor regardless of gender. But considering historic discrimination against women in labor around the world, including Taiwan, what is considered to be overall low labor participation by Taiwanese women (more on that later, though), and the overall tendency of small and medium-sized businesses to be represented by men (regardless of who is doing most of the work) and the painting of men, traditionally, as hard-working entrepreneurs but not women (see the male-oriented phrase 黑手變頭家 which lionizes male 'black-hand' laborers for becoming successful business owners)...it does matter. It has to matter. I hope for a world where someday it doesn't, but in 2019, it does. 
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One of the few examples of a group of women at the 2017 labor protest

It truly feels like women are on the front lines and taking the initiative in a society that is still oriented to respect male labor but not female labor, and getting zero credit.

This invisibility of women as the backbone of labor in Taiwan has historical roots - at least, I think it does.

Looking at Taiwan's labor history, those post-war "home industries" and "home factories" where individuals did manufacturing piecework in their homes were often seen as a way for the women of a household - who, by the way, still had to do all the regular household labor - to help the family income. Men and young people engaged in this work as well: I remember a student who'd reached an extremely high perch in an internationally-known Taiwanese company telling me about pressing plastic leaves for fake flowers with one hand while studying with a book in his other hand, because his father's income as a bus driver wasn't sufficient to support the family. But, so often, it was "housewives" who did this work.

When factories - both large and small - drove Taiwan's industrial miracle, they often looked to women as sources of labor. This was in part because they could pay them less, and in part because they expected the women to leave their jobs as soon as they married and (probably) got pregnant, meaning they wouldn't have to worry about things like severance pay or a retirement pension as they would with long-term male workers. For the smaller factories, men were often the sales and public face of the company, but women did a huge proportion of the actual manufacturing. These factories and industries were seen as 'male' - all those 'black hand' laborers working their way up in the world - but they weren't, really.

When 'family businesses' became part of the small-and-medium sized enterprise boom that helped make the Taiwan Miracle possible, who do you think in the family did all the back-end work? The 'man' (usually a husband or father in the family) would be the public face of the company, but the person keeping the books, taking stock, perhaps doing a large proportion of the actual work, and often making important business decisions was that man's wife. Mr. Chen might be the 老闆 (boss) with his own business card, but Chen Tai-tai - the 老闆娘 - is the real boss. If you want something done, don't talk to Mr. Chen - talk to his wife. Of course, she does all that and also all of the housework and child-rearing, but probably doesn't have a business card.

I say all of this anecdotally, but I've brought up my observation to countless Taiwanese friends and students and not one has disagreed, and while none of my reading states this explicitly, it's strongly implied in several of my sources.

And yet, when one reads about society in the Taiwan Miracle (there's even a book called State and Society in the Taiwan Miracle, which mentions 'businessmen' but generally not the women who actually did a great deal of the work), rarely are women's contributions to this miracle acknowledged, and they're certainly not given credit for being the backbone of this miracle, which I absolutely believe they are.

I've seen this play out in my social circle as well. One of my best friend's parents run a small business in Taiwan, and until recent years my friend's father was the 'face' of that company (though her mother also did a huge amount of the work). Recently, my friend has taken over a lot of the operations and she does get credit as the 'public face' of her family's business, but that's a modern development. But, remember a few paragraphs ago when I touched on "low labor participation" of Taiwanese women? This friend of mine doesn't draw an official salary. As far as I'm aware her job isn't official at all. While she is absolutely employed, I'm not at all sure that the government considers her as 'part of the labor force' (I don't know how they arrive at those statistics). I get the feeling that a lot of wives and daughters do in fact participate in labor outside the home, but aren't counted because it's all informal.


Informality is quite possibly a key, in fact, to why Taiwanese women get so little credit when they deserve so much. Taiwanese labor contracts - if there's a contract at all, which there often isn't in the case of family - in these small businesses are often extremely informal, looking more like agreements between relatives, neighbors or friends than formal work contracts (that's backed up by academic research, not just an observation). I count women's labor for a family business to be labor 'outside the home', though often it takes place literally inside the home (the home often doubling as an office for the family business, or being physically connected to it, in the case of family factories). Families themselves might consider this work to not be labor in a workplace but rather just..women's work that women do for the family, at home.

How much of the labor of women is simply not counted because of this?

To drive home my point, I want to leave you with a story that goes further back in Taiwanese history. In her excellent book, Anru Lee narrates how textile production was banned under Japanese colonial rule, when economic policy was essentially mercantilist (foodstuffs such as rice and sugar would go to Japan, finished goods would come from Japan to be sold in Taiwan). But cloth was scarce, especially during the war, and there was profit to be made in weaving and selling it - so families, often women, would do so. Raw cotton had to be imported and wasn't available to these women, so they'd use cotton from old clothing and household products. Then they'd use their recycled-material cloth to swaddle and carry their babies in public, where they could then sell that cloth without being noticed (women were also considered less likely by the Japanese authorities to break the law, so they wouldn't come under as much scrutiny). In this way, women contributed economically to their households, and did so entirely under the radar.

And it seems women in Taiwanese labor are still under the radar, even when they take to the streets.

* * * 
A few sources for this piece which I didn't explicitly mention (and are in print so can't be linked) but deserve credit: 



In The Name of Harmony and Prosperity: Labor and Gender Politics in Taiwan's Economic Restructuring by Anru Lee

Women's Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan by Doris T. Chang

The Trade Union Movement in Ma's Taiwan by Yu-bin Chiu and Uneasy Alliance: State feminism and the conservative government in Taiwan by Huang Chang-ling, both in Taiwan's Social Movements Under Ma Ying-jeou, edited by Dafydd Fell. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

"This movement has a large youth following? Let's use sex to discredit them again!"

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A tale as old as time: a social movement with broad support that is either youth-led or has lots of youth visibility breaks out, challenging the power structures that seek to actively move some part of Asia towards illiberalism or outright authoritarianism.

Then, the conservative underpinning of that power structure - and it is always conservative, whether that's due to age, money, religion or some combination of these - realizes it can't make a convincing case to the broader public that the protesters are wrong and the status quo is better. So it appeals to the base conservative instincts many still hold through a massive straw man: discrediting the youth vanguard of these movements by accusing them of doing lots of very bad very wrong immoral dirty sexy sex.

And a legitimate fight for social and political change, this thinking goes, can't come from young people and their raging hormones because their movement has now been tainted by evil, bad sex and therefore can't actually be about social and political change, because sex! Therefore, they must be wrong. QED.


The rubber mallet is thus applied to the public's knee and the inherently conservative among them jump to attention just as they're expected to. Moral degeneracy!

They did it during the Sunflowers, and they're doing it again in Hong Kong



It's truly an ancient story: people in power are challenged by people with better ideas but less power, the powerful folks know they can't win by attacking the better ideas, so they do a ceremonial dance around those ideas to find some totally random thing to criticize about their challengers that will get the dullards who support the status quo all riled up. It's misogynist and supremacist - it reeks of patriarchy.

I could go look up the old gossip rag news from 2014, but I won't bother. We all know that it was full of stories of activists hooking up, or just joining the Sunflowers "for the sex". I don't know how much of it actually went on, and to be frank, I don't care. The sexual harassment/assault allegations against Chen Wei-ting are the most serious thing I've heard about (though I don't hear everything), and nothing reported on all this sex going on in the Legislative Yuan made it sound as though any of it was non-consensual. So who cares? People are free to do what they want with their bodies as long as everybody involved agrees, and it doesn't make their cause any less legitimate.

Of course, more recently, the same sort of (generally allied) people tried to do the same thing to fight marriage equality in Taiwan: realizing that denying the basic humanity of LGBT people wasn't working, they turned to a combination of "but all the gay sex! Diseases! And won't someone think of the children?" I'm not sure it occurred to them that all the gay sex was going to happen whether or not the people having it could get married.

And now, with Hong Kong, we have 'blue ribbon' uptight Dolores Umbridge Fanny Law decrying the "free sex" being "offered" to protesters as though this - if true - delegitimizes what the protesters are fighting for (it doesn't).

First, she provides no source for her claim (I'm sorry, this is not a 'source'). "I think we have confirmed that this is a true case" is something anyone can say. Where's the proof, Aunt Fanny?

Second, even if it is true, she's taking on the guise of a concerned advocate for these women while actually peddling misogynist sexual norms: the idea that these women can't possibly have decided to have sex in a way you wouldn't approve of on their own, with full mental faculties intact. No, because this is the "wrong" kind of sex, apparently, they must have been "misled" by these big, bad protester men. It's almost the opposite of a healthy attitude towards sexuality: whether both parties consent doesn't seem to matter, if it's the "wrong kind" of sex, she is essentially calling the men involved rapists (and the women involved incapable of making independent decisions)! That is offensive and makes it harder for women to speak up about actual rape or sexual assault they may have experienced.

Third, "young girls"? So, Aunt Fanny, are they underaged girls which is a truly serious issue and must be investigated, or are you calling women of legal age "young girls" in order to infantilize them? If it's the former, then you are implying that statutory rape is happening, which seems tonally inconsistent with your throwaway comment. What are these "confirmed cases"? What proof can we use to investigate this?

Let's say there is a bunch of free (assumed consensual) sex happening while, I dunno, tear gas billows overhead. I think it would be hard to get in the mood with those masks on and people running down the street while police brutalize them indiscriminately, but okay.

So what? Even if that is "moral degeneracy" (it's not), it doesn't take away from the validity of their cause - it didn't for the Sunflowers and it doesn't in Hong Kong now.

Of course, the conservative power structure knows that the cause is ultimately just, and will win over quite a few of their own support base if the message gets spread too widely, so they go after the evil bad immoral sex that Grandma would not approve of and peddle regressive gender politics and morality instead. Those always have some takers.

So of course Aunt Fanny has to paint this as dissolute immoral men and vapid unthinking "girls" because she, like many conservatives, doesn't understand consent. To her, whether sex is "the right kind" or "the wrong kind" has more to do with the social roles in which it takes place (in the confines of a married monogamous relationship = the right kind; everything else = the wrong kind) than whether the people involved actively agree to engage (consensual sex between people with no outstanding commitments = the right kind; non-consensual sex regardless of social role or relationship = the wrong kind).

So of course "free sex" - if this is even a thing, which it probably isn't - would be seen as "the wrong kind" of sex to her, but the power structure she resides within allows police to sexually assault female protesters without punishment (so far), dallied until 2002 before making marital rape illegal (marital rape is still legal in China - you know, that country that intends to fully absorb Taiwan by 2047) and allows a real domestic violence problem to fester. Those are all non-priorities to someone like her, but young men and women gettin' jiggy during protests? Oh no! The sky is falling! 




And so it goes.

If you think there isn't a direct thread between her talk about "young girls being misled into free sex" and illiberal, pro-authoritarian moralmongering, she couches that assertion in a long-winded interview in which she decries "violence" among the youth (ignoring the fact that it's the police who are instigating the violence and the youth who are pushing back against it) and calls for "civility" (as the protesters have not been violent and are fighting for values that are vital to a healthy civilization, this must mean "shut up and do what you're told, fighting back in any way is 'uncivil'"). She basically makes it sound like Hong Kong is going to hell not because a powerful, anti-democracy, anti-human rights behemoth who treats the city like a colonial possession is tightening the screws, but because a few kids weren't spanked enough by their parents so now they're running around throwin' bombs and havin' sex. What those kids stand for doesn't matter to her.

It's just another way for the power structure to try to hold on to that power: by telling us what we can say and how we can say it, where we can go, what we can wear, what we should think, what we should learn, and now, how and were we can fuck. Sex - like food, money and speech - is just another way to control us. In fact, a huge chunk of the history of the world is just people with power trying to control how other people have sex, as a way of controlling the rest of their lives as well.

When the next youth-led movement in Taiwan rises - and there will probably be one, as the threats we face have not receded - you can expect more shrieks and howls about all that terrible, dirty sex those terrible young children are having. Mark my words.

Friday, July 12, 2019

No, China is not more gender-equal than Taiwan

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I don't have a relevant cover photo so enjoy this picture of an antique shop in Taipei


People often ask me why I've chosen to settle in Taiwan, or why I've stayed here so long but only spent a year in China.

I point out that while I have always found people in China to mostly be friendly and hospitable, the food ridiculously good and culturally and historically it's fascinating, there are a few things I just can't stomach which make it difficult for me to live there. One is political freedom (including practical matters like easily getting online to access the open Internet, or just being able to speak your mind publicly without fear). Another is the pollution. Still another, I say, is sexism.

"Wait, China is more sexist than Taiwan?" is a common reply. "But everyone knows women in Shanghai have more power than men!" But "Mao said that 'women hold up half the sky'"? But "there are more women in STEM fields in China than Taiwan!" And once, memorably - "but it's much easier to get reproductive health care in China!" (In Taiwan both birth control and abortions are available but one isn't covered by national health insurance and the other is somewhat restricted). 

Without denying that these claims are true - except possibly that stereotype about Shanghai - I still say that China is absolutely less gender-equal or even friendly to women than Taiwan. Why?

Let's start here: a few hard numbers.

Taiwan tops Asia in gender equality (meaning it's ranked higher than China), as a higher literacy rate (98% with a 2% gap between men and women as opposed to China's 96.3% with a larger gender gap, if that number can be trusted). The wage gap in China is (likely) around 22%whereas it's around 14.5% in Taiwan. So just by the numbers China is simply not more gender-equal than Taiwan. 


* * *

Yet the arguments persist, so let's take a look at them, starting with the oft-repeated "but Mao said women hold up half the sky!' and 'whatever male comrades can do, women can too!"


He did say those things, though it takes a lot of soft-focus wishful thinking to think that those goals were fully realized, or that they have brought about a contemporary China that is "more" gender-equal than Taiwan.

And it's true that women's participation in the workforce skyrocketed under Mao, with more women doing traditionally masculine jobs. And as universal primary education (which included girls) was a goal of the CCP under Mao, and that goal was eventually met, we can surmise that literacy rates improved as well (on a tight schedule I can't find anything specific about this but it seems to be a safe assumption - and as far as I can tell there isn't any clear gender equality data from that era). However, even then there was great variation in literacy rates. As late as the 1980s, rural and older women sometimes had literacy rates below 3%. And the Marriage Law of 1950 did seek to end concubinage, promote freely-chosen (read: love) marriage and allow divorce (but don't think that's the end of that story).

Beyond that, what you get when you try to defend this position is propaganda-tinged, oversimplified and not wholly justifiable. It is not an obvious conclusion that Mao's reforms would necessarily include gender equality, as Marxism and Leninism are all about eradicating class differences and don't necessarily say anything about the patriarchy as male domination (in fact, the number of self-styled Communist men I've met who are sexist as hell and don't even realize it is...less surprising than you'd think.) In any case, one of the greatest obstacles to setting up Mao's ultimately disastrous 'ideal' was the resistance to ending traditional gender roles.

It's even been argued - and I'd agree - that discourses that have been touted as 'ensuring gender equality' in Communist China were actually used to silence discussions of gender, depoliticize gender as an issue, and make it difficult or impossible to debate or acknowledge gender inequality or advocate for improvements. Rather than make male and female equal, the point was to erase the female. In any case, it's hard to say that the CCP ever really stood behind gender equality when, through its entire rule in China, women have never been at the helm of power. That's not the case in Taiwan.

In fact, by 1953, here's where Mao's China was in relation to gender equality:

...the government realized that the economy could no longer absorb the amount of labor power that it had mobilized. Besides, the implementation of the new
Marriage Law, unlike the Land Law, brought about strong and widespread opposition from male members of the society. Murder and suicide of women who sought to
terminate their marriage reached such a high level that the government decided that collective stability rather than individual freedom, particularly freedom of women, was
now to be given priority.
 
For the next several years, there were more stiff regulations about divorce, and the government advocated women’s domestic duties and the importance of harmonious family life. Campaigns were launched to encourage women to be socialist housewives and model mothers, emphasizing the domestic responsibilities of
women. 

The situation did improve from there, with women brought back into the workforce soon after (though mostly to do work more typically associated with women - think caregiving work, kindergarten teaching etc.) This persisted - discussed in the link above - through the Cultural Revolution. Overall gains can be seen but they were "mixed" and "inconsistent". (From there this source starts to sound like it's trying to prove that Mao-style Communism was better for women than...not that, and that's where I get off that train.)

In any case, looking at the legacy of Mao-era China, it doesn't seem like it's done modern China much good. Female leaders? Nah. Wage equality? As a link in the next part shows....nah. As late as the 1990s, it hadn't put women on truly equal footing in education or employment. Workplace equality remains a massive issue. As of today, women in China are sometimes - perhaps often - treated more like sex objects or a dating market in Chinese workplaces. Education equality? Mostly yes, until you hit the PhD level, which is another way of saying "not entirely". The article gets it just right: being educated (up through Master's level) is a plus in East Asia, and desireable in 'wives' in more affluent circles. Getting a PhD, however? Well then you're just a terrifying, genderless freak who scares men away and clearly doesn't prioritize family and children. (This can be a problem in other countries too - it's not unique to China).

I'm sorry, but I just find the notion that because Mao said a thing one time, that this thing was true of China in his time, or is true of China now.




* * *


Although it's arguably the least meaningful of the arguments listed above, I want to talk about the whole "Superwomen of Shanghai" stereotype next. Even if it were true, one exceptional city doesn't make up for an entire nation of patriarchy. And I have serious doubts that it's true. The marriage market (a literal, physical market) in Shanghai is famous, and filled parents and grandparents trawling for spouses for their offspring. I could accept that as a 'cultural thing', but it's clear that the offspring in question aren't entirely pleased about it: 


"Does your daughter know you're here?" I ask. 
"Yes. But she hates it. She tells me to go on the dates myself. Kids these days hate parental involvement in these matters," Tsai says.

And there's no denying that these marriages are not actually based on people the younger generation might actually want to marry, but something more oriented to the family and their reputation:
Marriage already is such an important part of a Chinese family's reputation but parents these days only have one chance to get their future planned out right.


That too, I could accept if it were a way of doing things that every generation - including the one being married off - had signed on for. But it clearly isn't. While most Chinese women probably do just want to find love and have a family like most people around the world - it's a very human desire - but it seems clear to me that these sorts of tactics (among others) aren't 'traditional' so much as 'last resort' aimed more at fulfilling specific life goals (such as wanting a family) and societal expectations, as well as making older relatives happy than at actually finding love. In any case, I'm not convinced marriage is a good deal for women in most parts of the world, and China is no exception.

(If you're wondering how I can say that as a happily married woman, it's because I happened to get ridiculously lucky. My expectations of a feminist, egalitarian marriage are stratospherically high and the chances of finding a man who'd be on board with them, whom I otherwise loved and loved me back, were actually quite slim.)

So it's hard for me to agree that Shanghai is some beacon of women's equality when one of the most unfeminist events in the world takes place there. Besides, while I've heard that line a lot, it's always been anecdotal and from an 'orientalist' perspective (as this is), not proof of a real trend.  I haven't seen any data to back it up, nor is it clear that any exists. If anything, I've seen the opposite - the gender wage gap may be narrower in Shanghai, but it still exists. There seems to be a lot of talk about how "Shanghai husbands do housework" but no research into whether or not this is actually true.

What there is a lot of, however, is propaganda without any real proof: 





Because come on, it's not like we can trust Global Times, Shanghai Daily or China Daily (I wouldn't trust The Star, which is Malaysian, either.)

It sounds to me like perhaps Shanghai's relatively urban and international culture as compared to the rest of China has maybe (maybe) resulted in a slightly better social contract for women, and that was turned into this whole thing where "in Shanghai, women have it better than men!" because apparently giving women something just a little bit better than utter garbage is equivalent to giving them the sun, moon and stars more making them "superior". And it surely doesn't mean the rest of China is doing particularly well:
The current situation of gender equality can be read with certain global indicators. China’s Gender Development Index is situated in Group 2 out of five groups of countries, and estimates its Gender Gap at 0.945 on a scale of 0 to 1, 0 being the most unequal and 1 the most equal. The female Human Development Index is at 0.718 and the male’s HDI is at 0.753 (United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Reports Table 4: Gender Development Index). Life expectancy and years of schooling roughly reflect the same reasonable difference between Chinese men and women. However, the discrepancy in the estimated gross national income per capita is of no less than 5,125$ (10,705$ for women vs 15,830$ for men). 
This observation hints at the fact that gender equality might have improved in certain areas, while stagnating or perhaps even declining in others, as a result of Post-Mao economic and social reforms.

* * *

"But...there are more female engineers in China than Taiwan!" or "China has a huge number of women in STEM!"

Does it, though?

While I won't defend the male-dominated nature of STEM fields in Taiwan (or most of the world), I can't find any data to support that point, though I feel like I've seen some before. If anyone knows of any such data, please pass it along. In any case, pretty much every source points out that women's participation in STEM in China is actually lower than it should be, and sexism is rampant. China is not listed as a country where women have achieved parity in STEM by the World Economic Forum (and if you think "well they probably just hate China and don't understand it's 5000 years of culture, in a recent crap video they put out they listed Taiwan as "Taiwan, China", so...).

So I'm honestly just not sure this is true, or if it is I can't find any proof.

* * *

As for women and reproductive health, come on. The sources above already detail how historically, the CCP has used women - their bodies, their labor, their roles in society and the family - in whatever way suited them and "the country" (but really just them). That's just as true today. When the needs of the party happened to bear a passing resemblance to feminist objectives of greater gender equality, they latched onto that as a justification for their authoritarian nation-building that Westerners might be sympathetic to. In other words:

China has some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the world, but that has nothing to do with state support for bodily autonomy—it’s because abortion coincided with the government’s desires. Female bodies have always been treated as state property that yielded what the country needed....

Mao Zedong’s famous quote, “Women hold up half the sky,” is often touted by those who cite China’s high female employment rate (reaching its peak in the late 1970s at 90 percent employment for working-age urban women) or number of self-made female billionaires as evidence of significant progress toward gender equality....
But beneath this apparent commitment to empowering women, much of the feminist messaging has always been propaganda more concerned with boosting the labor force than actually promoting women.

This was true in the past and it's still true now. Women's reproductive rights in China follow a similar trajectory.
Meanwhile, the popular narrative has gone from “delayed motherhood is beneficial for women’s health” [the official message in state media when they wanted to convince people of the so-called sensibility of the One Child Policy to meet national goals of controlling the population] to “pregnancy during university improves employment chances in the future.” “Painless abortion” ads were seamlessly replaced by “painless childbirth” ads. Huang Xihua, a National People’s Congress representative who is outspoken on women’s topics, has condemned the high number of abortions that she blames for damaging women’s health, and she has also recommended that the marriage age for women be lowered to 18. All of these narratives are wrapped around the will of the party itself, which is that “giving birth is not only a family matter but also a national issue." 
The new natalism has the old skeleton of state control, molded with fresh flesh. 

When the CCP wants women to have fewer babies, they aim their propaganda cannons that way. When they want them to have more babies (or decrease the labor force while increasing the population), they get pointed another way. It never had anything to do with women's reproductive freedom. How could it have, from a government so blithely unconcerned with the notion of 'freedom' in general? 

The “one child” propaganda of yesteryear is being condemned for “morbid unluckiness” and supplanted by a celebration of traditional family values and natural feminine roles of daughter, wife, and mother. Banners, newspapers, TV shows, industry experts—every available medium is being turned into part of a propaganda machine touting the benefits of giving birth for the nation.

(The rest of that article is fascinating, by the way, and you should read it.)

Don't ever forget - China may have easy access to abortion (for now - do finish reading that article), but that has also led to forced abortions. As you would expect, those who suffer the most from being coerced into abortions are not wealthy, married or Han. They're the poor, unwed, rural or ethnic minorities. The CCP doesn't just want to decide whether people should be having more children or fewer - they want to control who has what they would consider 'high-quality' (affluent, in wedlock, Han) children.

Just try and tell me that this is 'reproductive freedom' in any sense. It's just another way to control female bodies for state benefit.

* * *

I'm not trying to pretend that Taiwan is some sort of utopia for women - it's not. So much needs to be done, from wage equality to fixing reproductive health care (to make it affordable and accessible to all women) to fixing the divorce and adultery laws, and enforcing the gender equality laws that are already in effect. We need to make sure that women actually get access to everything the law affords them. We need to change societal attitudes to be more modern, and this is entirely possible within a Taiwanese context.

But, come on. Let's not pretend that because Mao said a thing about women one time that sounded progressive, that China is doing better than Taiwan. Wage inequality is less severe here. Women are more likely to be literate (by a small margin). Nobody is forcing women to have abortions (though forcing women to bear children they don't want because they can't access abortions is another story). Although parents still meddle in their children's affairs - "the Lins are coming for dinner and their handsome son who is studying to be a doctor will join them! Won't it be nice to meet him? Do wear something nice!" - there aren't news stories about marriage markets full of grandparents that their grandchildren are horrified to hear about.

So please, stop pretending China's beating Taiwan in this regard. It simply is not. 

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The ROC is erasing the history of comfort women's sexual slavery by romanticizing it

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I am reasonably sure that not one of these women is real


Once a year or so, we go to Kinmen for work and then plan an extra day to relax, drive around and do whatever, usually booking a traditional 洋樓 (yánglóu, or 'foreign style mansion', though they don't look terribly 'foreign') for a few nights.

This year, our first stop was the Military Brothel Exhibition Hall in Jinhu township along Qiongjing Road (瓊徑路) - if you want to go there, it's easiest to just plug it into Google Maps. I've been aware of ROC military comfort women for some time (yes, quite a bit like comfort women forced to service the Japanese military in World War II), and that the practice was particularly predominant on Kinmen as it was a major military outpost.

Having felt for some time that the issue of Japanese comfort women, while also important, has been given priority over ROC comfort women with the issue manipulated for political purposes, I wanted to see how this museum portrayed the issue. Did it get anywhere near actually tell the story of women forced into prostitution to 'meet the needs' of ROC soldiers?



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No.

I learned more about the soldiers who went to the brothels, and how the brothels operated on a bureaucratic level, than the women who actually worked in them.

The exhibit, which is in English and Mandarin, hemorrhaged copious reams of verbiage justifying the 'needs' of the soldiers (as above - and this wasn't the only culprit). A huge percentage of the words on the wallboards attempted to convince visitors that these 'teahouses' were necessities of war, because how could our boys on the front line continue to fight without getting their sexual requirements met?

I don't really need convincing that any given group of people (except ace folks) spend a large percentage of their time thinking about, wanting to and trying to get nasty. That's just human. Just about everyone likes to bone down. Fine. And I don't need convincing that sex work is important or necessary - I'm in favor of legalized prostitution, in a system in which the sex workers themselves have power over their work - not a pimp and certainly not a government.

But the exhibit also spent a great deal of time telling you about the different 'tea houses' all over Kinmen and why they existed or how successful they were. You even got to learn about the quality of 'service' at each one and what 'grade' each teahouse was given (which...let me tell you. Forget wanting to work at a 'Grade D' brothel - can you imagine how insulting - and terrifying - it would be for a woman to be assigned to one?)



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Every single thing gets its moment in this exhibit - except for the women. The men and their needs are centered, and there's a lot of description of the humdrum bureaucracy of the brothels. You get to see a replica of the tickets that servicemen were issued, and the rules and regulations they had to follow. There are a lot of pink and purple shades and soft floral patterns - you know, because it's women's stuff - which is an attempt to soften the truth, and was hardly the reality of the matter. The attempted romanticization is more than a little off-putting.

You heard about the women's health checks and other rules concerning their lives - including that they weren't allowed to leave, yeesh - and that they were 'recruited' as 'waiters', are expected to get the impression from this that they chose to ply their trade in Kinmen and that the military took good care of them. You could read - briefly - about how 'bitter' and miserable their lives were in Taiwan proper, trying to convince you yet again that this was a good thing for the women, and everyone was consenting. After reading that, you'll learn how often the women had pap smears, but still nothing at all about who they were as people.

The very brief text that actually discusses the women and their lives uses the phrase 'finding their way to the frontline', as though they journeyed to Kinmen of their own volition.

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Of course, they did not.

In the famous case that caused the 'teahouses' of Kinmen to finally close in the late 1980s, an underaged woman (16) was tricked/forced to go to Kinmen and then, after refusing to engage in sex work, was told she had to do so for several months before she could return to Taiwan (link in Chinese).

I also have it on good authority (and the Taipei Times backs up) that most of these comfort women were not consenting and not taken care of well. Most of them were prostitutes working illegally  (only 'municipal brothel' prostitution was legal) who were caught and essentially forced to work in these 'teahouses', often - as the link above mentions - made to have sex with 60-70 soldiers a day. As I highly doubt they agreed to that many clients, that essentially means they were raped 60-70 times a day.

And someone on the committee that designed this exhibit is aware of this, as you can see:


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Sure, the women were not forced into prostitution as a trade, but if you write 'nor did they willingly go to support one side in a war', you are implicitly sending the message that someone forced them to do so.

That's not consenting - it doesn't matter that they were prostitutes before. You can't force someone to work for you, even if you pay them. That's slavery. The government can't knock on my door and tell me I must teach in a particular government school and then frog-march me to a classroom. This is no different just because it's sex work.

And yet, that one line in one (rather terrible) poem is the only clue that these women were essentially forced to be raped by soldiers six days a week. What's worse, the NewTalk link above describes the attempts of Kinmen-born writer (and I guess politician? It's not clear) Chen Changqing to retcon the history of military prostitution into a consensual industry in which the women were well-cared for despite the preponderance of historical evidence to the contrary.

Beyond that, the exhibition hall does not tell the stories of any of the individual women who worked as military prostitutes, even though many are still alive. One could easily ask them, and many of them would likely want their stories told.

You don't even see pictures - just stylized anime-like airbrushed cartoons of generic beautiful women. They don't actually exist. Even though surely photos of the actual women who worked in these teahouses could be found, and photographs of still-living ones could be taken. I'm sure some of them (though surely not all) would give consent for their images to be used, if exhibited as a part of a well-designed and impactful exhibit. But, of course, nobody asked them.

Much easier to write a few platitudes about 'bitter lives' and place them next to soft-focus cartoon women than to face what your government did to real, actual women.



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I have to wonder why they did it this way. Was it because whoever was in charge of this didn't want to make the ROC government look bad (especially on Kinmen, where the KMT remain popular)? Was it because they - though possibly not the women themselves, given the activism of the women who worked in municipal brothels in Taipei - regard the actual work of such women so shameful that they felt they were doing these women a favor by romanticizing it while keeping the women's actual stories quiet? Was it because the moment you tell the truth of what the government did to these women, it raises the question of compensation? Or was it straight up sexism: did whoever was put in charge of designing this just not even consider that the women's stories mattered?

The government has been much more forthright about the work of Japanese-era comfort women from Taiwan. A museum was created for them, while quietly trying to squash the attempts of ROC-era comfort women to do the same thing, as the links above show. Is this because the Japanese era is in the more distant past, and most of those women have died? Is it because it allows them to blame  Japan, not themselves - blame which can be strategically trotted out for political purposes? Don't forget that the previous administration made a point of souring Taiwan's relations with Japan as much as possible, in order to garner favor with China. Is it because the women forced into sex work in the Japanese era often weren't prostitutes to begin with, so it's less 'shameful'? Or is it perhaps all of these?

In the end, it bothers me not just that this story was told badly, but that politics seems to determine who gets their stories told at all - and it never seems to actually be about the women.




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I want to be pleased that the government isn't trying to pretend this part of Taiwan's history never happened. I want to rejoice that they're not trying to bury it as so many governments do to the more unsavory stories of their past.

But I can't - I just can't believe someone thought it was a good idea to set up a 'military brothel exhibition hall' and then spend the whole time justifying the brothels' existence, without even trying to tell any of the honest, true, detailed, human stories of the actual women who worked there.

If nobody is willing to have their story included - which is possible, but I doubt would be the case - then you can at least tell the absolute truth of how the women came to work there and what their lives were actually like beyond a list of 'rules and regulations'.

If there's one thing this exhibit can learn from museums cataloguing horrible things which exist around the world, it's that you don't need to justify the past. You're not fooling anyone. We know that romanticization is just one step removed from erasure. 

It happened, and what matters now is that we look at it squarely and honestly, and whenever possible we try to make it right. The Military Brothel Exhibition Hall does not do that, and all I can suggest is that they take a good, hard look at their first attempt and try to do better. 



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Sunday, March 24, 2019

The ups and downs of International Women's Day in Taiwan

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I've had a hard time writing this, because I don't want to sow further discord among feminist activists and various feminist groups in Taiwan, but...I just can't let it go.

I'm not too involved in Women's Day or Women's March Taiwan or any of those groups, in part because I have a hectic enough work schedule that I usually can't do groups (I never went to a single Indivisible Taiwan meeting because I was never free) and besides, it may surprise you to learn I'm just not a joiner. Beyond that, I sort of see feminism in Taiwan as something best led by Taiwanese women; I'm not really needed. If I'm free, I'll lend my support by attending public events, but I'm usually not free.

This year's women's march, dubbed WoMen (which means "we" in Mandarin) took place on a rainy Saturday (I wasn't able to attend due to work commitments). Looking at the news reports, you'd think everything ran smoothly and 80-100 marchers enjoyed talks, demonstrations and performances by a variety of women doing interesting things in the community. And that is what happened that day.

But it was sad watching the social media kerfuffle leading up to the Women's March when the original line-up for the march included a number of men, and was strongly criticized for de-centering women. The response was that feminism is still seen in Taiwan as something for women to fight for, that men don't need to or should not get involved - and that the "WoMen" event hoped to change this by showing a gender-diverse line-up.

Suffice it to say my days of feeling totally pumped and inspired by Women's Marches happening in Taiwan appear to be over.

I don't have screen shots or anything for this, as by the time I thought to gather them, the published line-up was taken down and - I am told anyway - changed. There was no further dialogue or communication about the event and its scheduled performances.

On one hand, I kind of agree with one critic that this was something of an "all lives matter" response - that the one day that centers women among all holidays shouldn't be used to showcase and praise male allies, but to showcase women, with men quite welcome to attend but not to take the spotlight.

I also do agree with the organizers, to an extent, that we need to do something about this particular problem in Taiwan specifically. It seems to me that they had good intentions, but bungled the approach. It absolutely is an issue, more so than in the West. I have certainly seen men show up to events to support women's equality in the US and act as allies. In Taiwan, I've heard a lot of ally-talk, and that's great, but not a lot of in-person support (the recent Vagina Monologues performance was a refreshing change; the audience was quite gender-diverse). What's more worrying, behind those words, there's not a lot of actual action taken by men to challenge the gender imbalance.

For instance, I have noted for some time that social movement activism in Taiwan is heavily skewed male (although women do participate). I know more than one woman who has given up on being involved, for a variety of reasons, or has a less-than-stellar opinion of people widely admired among Taiwanese progressives. I know that several social movement and progressive political leading voices are aware of the problem, but have not seen much attempt at all to address it.

Going back to the Women's March, however, I don't know that having a male-skewed line up was the way to address that issue. There must be a way to raise the number of male allies without having to center men at an event for women, and in any case, male performances at a women's event aren't going to draw in any man who wasn't already inclined towards allyship. There are surely ways to get the message out that gender equality isn't just something women fight for, but something we should all support, without handing the spotlight to men for an extended period on International Women's Day.

On the upside, despite these internal issues, by all accounts on the day in question people showed up, banded together and presented a united front for gender equality. That's something - it matters. I'd like to see more of that in Taiwanese politics (*cough* DPP *cough*).

But my disquiet runs deeper: on a surface level, it bothers me to see so few Taiwanese women involved in these public events. For sure, Taiwanese women did attend the march alongside many foreign women, but with only 80-100 participants, that number was clearly not large. From the media coverage, I didn't note any Southeast Asian female activist participation, although such women do exist. This still feels like an event mainly powered by the Western expat community and as such, I'm not sure how much it can really accomplish.

That said, looking at local groups, I find even more to raise my skepticism.

One of the collaborators on this event - and many other events - is Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation (TWRF). I will say now that they do do some good work. They arose from the Awakening Foundation, founded by former Vice President and current oddball Annette Lu (don't take that as an insult; I kind of like Lu, but I also think it's time for her to either get with the times or retire) and Lee Yuan-chen. Given Lu and Lee's differing backgrounds, Awakening and TWRF have no clear political orientation that I can suss out. That's great.

But...well, I've mentioned TWRF before, and in a not particularly flattering context. They are the people behind the comfort women museum. The museum focuses on Japanese colonial-era comfort women from Taiwan, and I agree their story is important.

However, it - and the KMT, who expends a great deal of energy keeping the comfort women issue in the public eye - has been criticized as taking political aim at Japan, in line with the desires of pro-China KMTers who want Taiwan to get closer to China and therefore drive a wedge between Taiwan and Japan's currently fairly close relationship. Comfort women aren't even the only wedge they use to try and accomplish this. All the while, many of those who claim to care about comfort women...don't actually.

How do I know? Because they only seem to care about Japanese-era comfort women (the still-living among them being quite old). The ROC had comfort women too, and being younger, more of them are still alive, but nobody seems interested in taking up their cause. Some of these women are currently fighting for the right to establish their own museum at the former municipal brothel, which is its own interesting story (the government quietly sold the building it was located in without informing them, and as far as I know their lawsuit to rectify this and stop the building from being demolished is still working its way through the courts).

So I have to ask why TWRF set up a comfort women museum for Japanese-era comfort women, but takes no interest whatsoever in ROC-era comfort women or their cause.

As such, I question their true motivations, and am skeptical of their current involvement in women's issues, and leaves me uncomfortable about my own support.

Suffice it to say that this post has no clear conclusion. It's messy and unclear, and I'm unclear about my own messy feelings on the matter.

All I can say is that Women's Day this year left me feeling frustrated and not particularly inspired.

That's all I really will say on the matter, because I actually do think those of us committed to similar causes need to show each other support, not tear each other down.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Sexual assault: Taiwan's great under-reported problem - my latest for Ketagalan Media

My latest piece for Ketagalan Media takes this previous post of mine as a starting point, and investigates an important issue in Taiwanese politics further. In short, it seems as though the reason why there are so few sexual assault scandals in Taiwanese politics is not because they just don't happen, but because if they do, they are likely not reported. On the other hand, in the US, women are beginning to speak out more, but the powers that be just don't care. We're not taken seriously - not even to the point of meriting a real, serious - not a joke of a circus show - investigation. 

Some numbers for you, from the piece: 


The US population in 2015 was 321 million, and reports of sexual assault in the US in 2015 totaled 431,837 (male and female). That indicates a per capita reported assault rate of 0.00134. Taiwan’s population in 2015 was 23,485,755, with 10,454 reports of sexual assault in Taiwan 2015 (gender not specified), for a per capita rate of 0.00044.

This is a massive disparity: even considering differences in population, the US still has a far higher report rate of sexual assault than Taiwan, by a factor of three.

Does it make sense that people in Taiwan are three times less likely to be sexually assaulted than in the US? It is unlikely that there is simply less sexual assault in Taiwan overall (although crime in general is on a down swing and Taiwan remains a very safe country). The picture for comparison is clearer when we look at the gap between estimated sexual assaults and the number reported for the two countries: in the US it’s estimated that about 2/3 of sexual assaults are not reported, or around 70 percent. In Taiwan, it is estimated that the number of actual sexual assaults compared to those reported is seven to ten times higher.

Estimating the actual number of cases, Taiwan’s number of actual assaults per capita is somewhere between 78% to 111% of America’s.


Sources for these numbers are linked to in the piece itself. 

And there's this, a point that cannot be made often enough: 


Having spent twelve years in Taiwan, I have encountered “cultural” excuses for gender-based violence here, generally along the same refrain of “it’s Taiwan’s traditional culture” or an appeal to outdated views of gender which are common across both Asia and the world (one need only look at many American conservative views to see how such sexism plays out in the West). There is no truth to these “cultural” excuses: Taiwan has undergone a seismic shift in how society views gender for several generations, yet culture and traditions in Taiwan, regardless of changing attitudes towards gender and sexual power relations, remains robust. The United States has been evolving in its views on gender since the 19th century, and yet I would argue culture in America remains identifiably “American.”  Cultures can embrace gender egalitarianism and still retain their essence.



Anyway, enjoy! 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Two roads diverged over wood

Bagildere Love Valley Cappadocia 1510927 8 9 Compressor HDR lvl Nevit
From Wikimedia

Since my last post about men behaving badly and the woman-haters who defend them, I've been thinking about Taiwan's specific situation vis-a-vis politics and sexual assault.

Perhaps it is too simplistic to say "America sucks, but in Taiwan, if there is even a whiff of sexual misconduct your political career is finished!" More accurately, one might say that in the US, only in recent decades are people beginning to fully understand what sexual assault means, and are slowly gaining the courage to point fingers at powerful men (the assailants are almost always male).

In Taiwan, however, it is simply less likely that sexual assault will be reported. I did a little back-of-the-envelope number crunching for 2015 (I have statistics for Taiwan 2017, but had trouble finding specific information on sexual assaults in Taiwan for 2016, the last year that data seems to be available in the US. So, 2015 it is.)

US population in 2015: 321 million
Reports of sexual assault in the US in 2015: 431,837 (male and female)
Per capita: .00134

Taiwan population in 2015: 23,485,755
Reports of sexual assault in Taiwan 2015 (gender not specified so I assume both): 10,454
Per capita: .00044

That's a huge difference - considering differences in population, the US still has a higher report rate of sexual assault than Taiwan.

I highly doubt that there is just less sexual assault in Taiwan, and that's why there are so many fewer reports. In the US it's estimated that about 2/3 of sexual assaults are not reported, or 70-some-odd percent. In Taiwan, it is estimated that the number of actual sexual assaults c.f. those reported is seven to ten times higher. We also know that domestic abuse is a massive problem in Taiwan, and dare I conjecture that domestic violence and sexual assault share enough characteristics (they are both about power and control, they both disproportionately affect women, they both generally stem from misogyny or a sense of entitlement over women's bodies) that where there's a lot of one, there is probably a fair amount of the other? I do dare - and low report rates of both likely have some connection to the way the Taiwanese judicial system is likely to treat women who report, not to mention cultural stigma surrounding reporting gender-based violence and the "defamation" lawsuits women who make allegations but don't wish to press charges may face.

Taking that further, it's hard to imagine that Taiwanese politicians somehow commit sexual assault at a lower rate than the general population (a rate that is much higher than statistics would lead one to believe), especially given the relationship between violence - including sexual assault - and power. I suppose once in office, some of them might realize that committing such a crime would ruin their career irreparably, but it would be silly to think that such selfish (because such a realization is not really about respect for women) reflection would extend back to their youth.

Considering that Lien Chan is widely believed to have committed domestic abuse (frankly, I find it more than likely that the allegations are true), and the penchant of Taiwanese politicians - or pretty much all Taiwanese men in positions of power - to visit 酒店 or hostess bars, it just seems unlikely that Taiwan's public figures have clean histories regarding women.

Rather, it seems a lot more obvious to me that sexual assault by Taiwanese public figures before or after they take office go unreported - or are shut down before fingers are publicly pointed at identifiable people - rather than that they don't happen.

What this means is that Taiwan may not, in fact, be much better than the United States in this regard. In the US, women feel increasingly willing to hold powerful men to account, publicly, for their misdeeds. The vast majority of the time, these women are telling the truth - research shows that, to the best of our knowledge, only 2-6% of sexual violence accusations are false. Culture is changing in the US, both in ways that can be felt (certainly, as a child of the 1980s, I can say that this culture shift is real), in ways that can be researched, and in ways we can document. Even looking at the Wikipedia entry for sex scandals of federal elected politicians, there has been an uptick as the years go on - almost certainly because women are more likely to step forward now.

Taiwan doesn't seem to have gone through that transformation yet. It's not that sexual assault is considered acceptable here - it's certainly not - it's that ideas of what constitutes sexual assault here sometimes (not always, but sometimes) feel like they're straight out of the 1980s, and the stigma surrounding reporting seeming more like what my mother and grandmother might have faced, rather than me. I mean, this is a country where raping a domestic employee once doesn't bar you from hiring another one after a period of time.

But, there's an entrenched feeling that those in power still just don't care. In the US, Dr. Blasey Ford's testimony against a screaming, weeping Brett Kavanaugh is considered by experts - and basically every woman who has had something like this happen to her, which is a huge number of us - to be credible, there's a fair chance he'll still make it to the Supreme Court. The same thing happened in 1991 with Anita Hill. We know that the President of the United States is unfaithful to his wife, and there are 22 sexual assault allegations against him as of today (20 as of when this was written - included here as it's a better source). Yet, he gets to be president, and his supporters either defend him, or are willing to believe that that many women are lying. (I, personally, think it's so obvious that Trump is a sexual abuser and possibly a rapist that I find it astounding someone might think otherwise.) Every few years, it's a massive battle to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

So, great, we can speak out now and someone might actually listen, but it still has ruinous effects on the women - hurting careers, exposing them to more trauma and harassment - and hasn't made much of an impact on the political machine, or sexual assault rates in general.

In Taiwan, if you manage to publicly accuse a political figure of sexual assault - overcoming all of the pressure not to do so and knowing you'll likely be torn apart in the gossip rags and forums full of angry young dudes (have you seen PTT? Jesus) - and people actually listen to you, great, his career will be over.

But good luck getting to that point.

Alright then - two roads diverged, but they're really worn about equally the same.