Monday, February 16, 2009

Women in Groups: Question

Taiwan News reported on a poll out of Fujen University that said that more than 2 million Taiwanese have never been in love or had a relationship with the opposite sex. That's just under 10% of the population, which isn't very surprising, but one of the comments in the article caught my attention:
Yen also observed that young women in Taiwan often go out in groups, a situation not conducive to men getting to know one of the group members privately.
Skipping over the issue of whether it is hard to meet women when they are in groups (can't comment, my wife reads this blog), the interesting thing is how true this observation is. I frequently am out for a drink or dinner in my travels around Taiwan, and often encounter women in groups (I maintain my distance and never ever speak to them, honey, ever). A couple of weeks ago I visited Forkers and the owner and I fell to talking about this interesting social phenomenon, which he had also noted: a significant proportion of his customers consist of females arriving in groups.

So dear readers, what's the reason for it?


David said...

Well, I hope some Taiwanese women will leave comments here revealing all their secrets.

I have a few minor observations. The main one is that Taiwanese like to do things in groups. You will also find groups of men that do things together. It is not necessarily a behaviour specific to one gender.

Marc said...

Let's consider four studies and speculate on what it all means.

First, there's the Fujen Univ. study indicating 2.2 Taiwanese have never fallen in love.

Then there's the poll that finds 82% of Taiwanese couples plan not to get married this year because of the bad economy.

And the Ministry of the Interior reported that Taiwanese are marrying fewer foreigners (mostly meaning from China, HK and Macau) -- down 14% so far from last year.

Finally, a Bradford University (Illinois) study of 48 democratic nations finds that Taiwan is dead last when it comes to the number of people who engage in casual sex.
Bangledesh is 47.

No love, no sex, no marriage!

What does it all mean?

Ah-Ben said...

Search me ... perhaps peeps are just not so willing to make do or there's too much choice and too little time to take up opportunities ...

Michael Turton said...

My wife says it is because Taiwanese femmes lack the confidence to travel out alone.


Ben Findlay said...

Don't women do the same in most places?
Packs of feral females stagger about British streets at night. But then again they're a little less shy about making a situation conducive to men "getting to know" them privately.

Taiwan Echo said...

I agree with Michael's wife comment of "no confidence" and David's "happens in both men and women."

I believe it's a common society phenomena, and the reason behind this can be said in a short sentence:

Taiwanese are afraid of being different.

We can observe this attribute probably on all levels of interaction. Some side effects of this nature:

1) Can't tell the difference between 'disagreement' and 'attack' -- a different voice is often treated as a 'disrespect' or 'insult';

2) Therefore can't tolerate different opinions/behaviors -- whoever voice a disagreement or behave differently is often treated as a threat;

3) As a result people is afraid to voice different view or behave differently;

4) Lost of the ability to think independently;

It seems to happen in both men and women, in both pro-green and pro-blue ...

Why do Taiwanese have this nature? Culture (how about other Asian countries) ? Education? Aftermath of white terror ???

Anonymous said...

I'm a Taiwanese woman currently living in the US. There may be tons of explanations for this, but I suspect one of the reasons is the segregated gender educational system from junior high thru high school in Taiwan. We tend to have more friends of the same sex, and feel more at ease hanging out with them. But eventually, we should grow out of this comfort zone.

Anonymous said...

It isn't segregated in most schools.

I would also like an explanation to the pack of students who enter a coffee shop to study and then scatter to each take their own table rather than share a single space. They then have to carry their books all over the place the steal answers.

STOP Ma said...

I'll comment on a more general aspect that I have observed over several years of living in Taiwan. I have found that children are significantly more sheltered in Taiwan than in western countries. Play-time with friends after school on a purely social level is rare. This cultural aspect, along with boys and girls being segregated more, would lead me to believe that a social shyness towards the opposite sex is the result.

My sister-in-law, in Canada, would never be single. And yet, in Taiwan, she can't find a decent date. And I'm sure that's very common in Taiwan with young beautiful intelligent women.

I have found myself being ethnocentric on this aspect on many an occasion. What the hell is wrong with Taiwanese men with so many beautiful and intelligent women that are single. I have also found myself commenting to myself about how a lot of these women tend to get stuck with losers.

Thomas said...

My 2c. I agree that this is not gender specific, although men might find it more annoying since men are the ones who are expected (usually) to make the first move, and making the first move is particularly difficult when you must approach a woman engaging in lively conversation with her friends.

As someone who has visited many clubs in both Taiwan and Hong Kong, I can say that the more traditional locals in both places tend to hang out in cliquish groups and circles. This makes it difficult to even meet friends. Try interjecting a comment into a conversation held by a group of people standing in a circle. It almost never works.

I don't know if I buy that this is the reason why so many have never fallen in love, which would seem to be more related to personal issues, but it would limit the number of potential partners.

richard said...

i would name few reasons for being single and shy:
1. focusing most of the life on education and later on work (no distractions and too tired after work to do anything else)
2. due to the culture and financial advantages living with parents
3. lot of girls are expected to be home early (11pm or so), even they are mature women
4. one of my first observations when i came here was that lots of Taiwanese are very unhappy and disappointed about their private lives, but do not know how to change it. do not know how change their lives

Anonymous said...

Survey or no survey, there seems to be a whole lot of intercourse going on. Knowledgable informants estimate that upwards of 90 percent of university-age women have lost their virginity. That would be the present generation of university students, of course--their older sisters would have lacked the internet, experienced more gender segregation, and were discouraged from dating while in school. Quite a few have gravitated towards ONS's (arranged online) over LTR's. (They are less demanding of one's time, and easier to hide from relatives.)

I also suspect that survey respondents here are more bashful than their counterparts in other countries, and therefore more likely to lie about their sexual behavior.

Anonymous said...

How do you say "c-ck blocking" in Chinese?

And I thought I was the only one that got annoyed because the women here will never hang out without their 4 best girlfriends around at all times.

vin said...

Agree with David about Taiwanese generally doing things in groups, with Marc (study cited) on the much lower incidence of casual sex, and with Ben on most young women in many cultures usually going out in groups.

What I find weird is none of these things but rather the fact that many (more than half, I would say) young women still try to bring chaperones on a first date. The effort to do so is often enough token – a test to see what the guy will say to the idea – but when the girl shows up with a friend without advance notice that she plans to do so, she obviously means to have the date chaperoned, the guy’s feelings and freedom of choice be damned.

Most Taiwanese women I have talked with feel it’s wrong for a girl, unannounced, to bring a chaperone on a date, but almost none of them would say anything critical to a peer who does so. These facts bring me to Taiwan Echo’s comments, which I agree with in full. At the end of your comments, TE, you asked why. I’m sure each of your speculations is part of why, but if change is what is desired – if a growth in Taiwanese self-confidence/ a discarding of excessive fear is what is wanted -- then the thing to focus on, I feel sure, is the “harmony” value (which qualifies as both “culture” and as “education”).

It’s right there in plain sight: the linchpin for massive social and political change. Just expose the for-millenia-glorified “harmony” value for the unharmonious, intolerance-breeding, mind-closing, idea-thwarting, fear-inducing, and capricious-authority-maintaining crock that it is.

I agree completely that the phenomena you cited exist in both pro-green and pro-blue people here. Whether Taiwan becomes independent or unifies with China makes no difference in this regard: Taiwanese will stay fear-ridden, easy to dispirit, and (on a mass scale) too unreflective until they break the power and hold of the harmony value.

I assume you’re Taiwanese, TE. And I see that you’re very intelligent. Everything will change here for the better when persons like you find enough other persons like you and you all start working together on this most potent lever for positive societal change. Clearly you care on a deeper level, and that’s a great start. Do you know others who care on that level, too?

I guess I come off as a one-note symphony when I drag the "harmony" value even into a discussion about love and dating, but something a Taiuwanese woman said to me seven years sticks with me as much now as it did then: "Taiwan would be such a great place if there were more real conversations. That's all we need, and then everything will get better."

Arty said...

Are you guys old like hell or something? Girls in the states do the same thing, you just have to do your best to break them up in the club :P. The problem is that the hot ones usually hang out with the ugly best friends. So someone has to take a hit.

Ben Findlay said...

Yeah, Vin, the chaperone thing is weird. I guess it's to do how important in-groups are in Taiwan. You usually have to establish yourself (at least to some extent) within a girl's group before she'll let you in.
That's different from many other rich collectivist cultures e.g. Japan, France, Greece.

Anonymous said...

If you actually were young and social with young people in Taiwan, you'd know that the virginity thing is completely, completely wrong. In fact, people are doing it a lot more here than in the US, and I went to a super liberal college in a big city that thinks of itself as "sophisticated". I would say that there may be greater expectation of what sex means, but it's completely wrong to say that people are more conservative (possibly except for when filling out surveys).

Anonymous said...

it is the same thing in Japan, sir. get over it. it's an asian thing. especially in japan and taiwan. boys do things in groups too, like sports. women's sports is shopping. what a dunce you are.

Michael Turton said...

I love this logic:

it is the same thing in Japan, sir. get over it. it's an asian thing. especially in japan and taiwan. boys do things in groups too, like sports. women's sports is shopping. what a dunce you are.

I ask: why do women do things in groups?

And you answer: because women do things in groups!

...and I'm the dunce.



Marc said...

Vin's comments on the "harmonious" society as a contributing factor to all this is certainly food for thought.

Another consideration to add to this puzzle:

Have we considered the possibility that ever more women have determined that they just don't need men (as husbands, I mean)?

Dixteel said...

Humm...I would say it's actually nice they go out in group, for security and safety reasons. Plus, I would say it's always nice to have some same-sex friends.

But if it's just because of some "collectivist" thinking, ie, people don't want to be different or have their own ideals etc, then I would say it's not healthy for the society. But surely, even within a group of people that have the same interests etc, they usually have different opinions about things. So they can discuss, otherwise it would be kind of a boring group, wouldn't it?

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about this, and as another commenter rightly pointed out, asking why women do things in groups is the wrong question is everyone does things in groups.

I was thinking how this compares to the US. In the US, people often live so far apart from each other that when you're young in the suburbs or rural areas (majority of US pop), you can't even see your friends without a ride from mom and pop. Any move from one state to another, and you could very well never see any of your former friends/classmates again.

Although Taiwan is a multiethnic society, it is much more homogeneous relative to many Western countries. The ties of classmates appears much stronger here at least partially because of that (and also because there is much less mixing among classes, stay in same class and switch teachers, even college is somewhat this way where people don't often take classes outside their dept). There is just a huge pool of people from every year of school that you know and can communicate with (if you so chose).

In Taiwan, the most rural areas still have all the population clustered in a central area in a village type deal. Adults hang out or run into elementary, middle school, and college classmates all the time, and they've met up with them all throughout their childhood.

I think this is how I would describe it. There is much less of a meet strangers culture because you are around so many friends that you potentially could meet friends and friends of friends all the time. And people can do things in groups because they can. A lot of the meeting up isn't even feasible in the US.

Anonymous said...

Taiwanese guys are pretty passive. That's my observation.

vin said...

Anonymous("If you were actually young and social..."), if you qualify with the idea that sex is supposed to mean something (for women), then I agree with you that there's quite a lot going on here among younger people. To one degree or another, people everywhere are driven to try to "move up," and I see Taiwanese women acting on this impulse more than Western women do. And I see that young Taiwanese women are willing to quickly write off a trade-up gamble that doesn't pan out. My only argument with you is that this does not qualify as "casual" sex. But if you say that the result is that young Taiwanese are sleeping around more than young North Americans at universities and colleges are, my response is a thank you for confirming my impression. ("Impression" because I have few clues what things are like at American colleges and universities these days.)

Interesting, Ben, that this surprise-chaperone stuff doesn't happen in Japan and in Mediterranean (sp?) cultures. That confirms my wish to say this: I'd suggest not going along with girls here on the chaperone crap or on getting in with their girl-group (in the beginning). Showing annoyance at chaperone/group stuff has gotten me iced at times, but a firm "no" backed by a relaxed, amused, and still-friendly attitude seems to always work – seems to up one’s stock considerably in the girl’s eyes. (And who cares if it doesn't?) My experience, anyway.

Again, Taiwan Echo, my hat's off to you for the insights you provide.

Taiwan Echo said...

to vin,

Thanks for your acknowledgment.

I agree completely that the phenomena you cited exist in both pro-green and pro-blue people here. Whether Taiwan becomes independent or unifies with China makes no difference in this regard:

Exactly. There are something worth more attention other than the choice between independence and unification. I always ask myself: does TI make sense, if we end up with the same society, or even worse ? I know many will argue it's impossible. But shouldn't we pay a little more attention to the influence that Chinese culture brought us on a daily life basis, but not just the 'name' that China forces us ?

Everything will change here for the better when persons like you find enough other persons like you and you all start working together on this most potent lever for positive societal change. Clearly you care on a deeper level, and that’s a great start. Do you know others who care on that level, too?

People probably can't imagine what kid of pressure one will get if he/she dares to challenge the core value of TI movement, or criticize the behavior of TI leaders. Gradually I tend to distant myself on daily contacts, in a fear that I might become the infighting victim again (so funny that I fear my comrades as much as I fear my enemy). So I won't be able to know if there's any person like me in my circle.

I can still find some survival in this endanger species, all know them over the net. It is certainly far far away from 'enough.'

Taiwan Echo said...

Btw, vin, yes, I am a Taiwanese. But I have the luxury to be born with a rebellion mind, and to live in USA, which provides a chance to absorb ingredients from two different cultures. Not many Taiwanese have that luck.

Taiwan Echo said...

About the chaperoned date you guys are talking about. My take is that the girl who goes to the date needs a third party to help her judge. She has been in groups entire life, that she either fears to, or loses the ability to make decisions by her own. She has to rely on a third party - or as many parties as possible - to tell her what to do and which way is safer.

After collecting enough data, she then feels safe to make decision based on that.

This doesn't seem to happen only in woman. One of my buddies did that when he was dating. In one case he followed the words of a lady's aunt and uncle (who are eager to see her married) and made a completely wrong judgement about the girl.

What I see from this phenomena:

1) They grow up in an environment that dismisses individuality and creative thinking, resulting in grown-ups who know not much about their own uniqueness;

2) Such individuals won't know what's the best for them. So they can only make decision of their own lives based on the 'collective' value of a group;

3) When they get to a more intimate stage, like marriage, there's no group to "guide" them to make decisions on a minute-to-minute bases. They have no choice but interact with each other's 'uniqueness,' leading to serious conflicts - that's just something they didn't bargin for before the marriage. And they don't know what goes wrong;

4) They in turn feel the obligation to judge others with their own experiences and tell people how to run their own private lives. This has become a social activity that everybody thinks it's normal;

5) Since decisions are made based on group value, they tend to escape responsibility. "Hey, you guys said he is good, remember? It's not my fault!" They forget who makes the final decision. They might go devoice hoping to find a better partner, but since they think it's all others' fault, they will repeat the same error over and over.

Why is this not just a phenomena related only to the dating ?

Substituting the subject 'dating' with 'media,' and the term 'judging based on group value' with 'trial by press' or 'trial by public opinions', we can easily spot the same pattern.

Anonymous said...

"It isn't segregated in most schools."

Many schools idea of integration is having guys and girls attend the same school but keeping them still separated in class. Even funnier is when they are in opposite wings. Many schools, guys and girls walk up to the front door and then turn and go in opposite directions to opposite sides of the school.

I'm a Taiwanese American male that's lived in Taiwan for some time. To be honest, I have a preference for white girls and kind of miss that from college. Much less expectation of commitment, and yeah, they don't bring their friends on dates. Much more independent-minded.

In terms of what causes this, it feels like girls here sort of have the upper hand in that they can be economically independent, but they still have these expectations (the values of the society here) of the guy paying for everything, opening doors, the guy always taking the initiative--all the old school male is in charge of everything and also responsible for everything mentality.

I don't know how the "modern" idea of woman here got screwed up like that here, but I can't help but feel that bringing along friends is just one thing among many things that they get away with here. Let me tell you, Taiwanese guys are not fans of this behavior either.

vin said...

I like that you delve, Taiwan Echo, on how culture affects personal and inter-personal psychology. There’s no cultural-relativistic “explaining away” in your analysis. You identify fear as fear, and default on self-responsibility you call default on self-responsibility. And your tone is measured.

You wrote: “But shouldn't we pay a little more attention to the influence that Chinese culture brought us on a daily life basis, but not just the 'name' that China forces?”

Hell yes, I’d say. Except I’d say pay a lot more attention to this, not just a little more.

You traced things clearly in a sequence that led to this: “They in turn feel the obligation to judge others with their own experiences and tell people how to run their own private lives. This has become a social activity that everybody thinks it's normal…”

Exactly. It’s amazing to me how much Taiwanese life revolves around people pushing “you should” on their intimates and on thoe they have authority over. This seems to be the core of existence here: escape from “self” by focusing on trying to manipulate, extract from, and change others. Focus on controlling others as a way to compensate for a too-weak sense of efficacious autonomy.

The futility of it all! The waste of energy, of good minds, and of otherwise decent hearts. The waste of ability and potential. The waste of “self.” The continuing sacrifice of all of these things for the sake of a group-survivalist mentality in a time – in a stage of economic development -- when that kind of mentality is totally self-defeating for the group.

You finished the sequence you traced with the observation that everything, in every sphere of life, ends up being someone else’s fault. Yes. Hell, yes.

Taiwanese Descartes: I am a victim, therefore I AM. Or “I am a ‘winner,’ therefore I AM, and you are NOT. So “Wo gali gong: you should blah, blah, blah…”

And I see young Taiwanese being aware of these habits of mind in their elders, and I see them proclaiming they will not follow the same path, but then, aware only of their own rebellion against their elders, many of them do exactly the same things with their friends and their lovers. And it all continues.

“The great evil of sleeping people,” is how Father Anthony de Mello described it. And: “Trying to change others from unawareness is perpetuating violence.”

Your stuff is valuable, TE. Hope you keep charging. Maybe I’m naively optimistic, but I keep thinking I’m seeing some young Taiwanese breaking through this old thinking in some ways. The “harmony” value and the psychic violence it breeds (both inter-personally and intra-personally [especially the victim mentality]) are sustained through falsehood and confusion – including the falsehood that culture can somehow negate genetically-programmed understanding of concepts of autonomy, justice, and fairness. Cultural conditioning is strong indeed, but a society in which these understandings were not just in serious remission but were actually dead would be a society that itself would quickly die.

I don’t just hope you find other Taiwanese (not just on the Internet) who are not confused. I say you will find others if you keep talking clearly the way you write here. Really appreciate your tracing of psychology here.

vin said...

“it feels like girls here sort of have the upper hand in that they can be economically independent, but they still have these expectations (the values of the society here) of the guy paying for everything, opening doors, the guy always taking the initiative…”

Agree completely, Anonymous. But I think it’s human nature for girls to try to get away with this cake-and-eat-it-too for as long as they can. It’s up to Taiwanese guys to not just dislike having their wallets chaperone-mugged but to actually start saying no to this common practice. And frankly, if I were female and my society still officially maintained that it’s a wife’s duty to always cook, always stay home at night, and “make her mother-in-law happy,” I’d probably try to get away with all I could while I could, too.

I’ve tried telling young Taiwanese guys to say this when a girl shows up with a chaperone: “Whoa! You needed to bring a friend to help pay for the dinner you’re planning to treat me to? I didn’t know you were so poor! Let me help out; here’s what I can do; I have enough money on me for two people, and I have plenty of instant noodles at home, so I’m going into the restaurant and leaving my money for dinner for both of you. You two have a nice meal on me, eh?”

And then do it, and leave! All with a smile, of course.

Most Taiwanese guys find this idea interesting but “impossible.” But there’s nothing impossible about it. They’re just too worried about what the girl will think of such an unusual way of dealing with the situation, even though they agree the girl will probably later call the guy up to take him out to dinner – and not with a chaperone in tow, if the guy says he won’t go to dinner with her if she brings one.

They think that though this would all work in the short run, they would be marking themselves as “too different” -- so they would fail in the long run. They feel sure of that. And they are so wrong in their suppositions. Any guy who does things like this consistently is going to have girls eating out of his hand.

Until Taiwanese guys stop fearing being different in these key ways, girls are going to keep getting away with quite a lot. And until then, girls SHOULD keep getting away with quite a lot.

Anonymous said...

And while were at it... why do Taiwanese wear their jackets on backwards all zipped up? At first I thought it was a form of arm protection, but then I realized that didn't make sense as you wouldn't need to zip up the back if you just wanted to avoid a farmer tan.

Dixteel said...

I think Echo has a point in that there are some sort of collective thinking going on in Taiwan, which is also one of my worries. A lot of problems in Taiwanese society seem to be generated at least partially by this tendency.

However, I did met with some Taiwanese (all men unfortunately) that just have totally different way of looking at things from those around them, and some that are quite independent and self reliant...but they might be a minority in the society, I am not sure. I do hope that as Taiwan progress on the road of democracy, people become more and more independent minded. It doesn't necessary mean that everyone just disagree on everything, but rather if people can think more independently and bring different perspective even if they agree on something. I think democracy certainly promote this individualism culture, and this culture is also essential for democracy's success.

But I think the Women in Group thing might not be totally caused by this collective culture. Other reasons people already mentioned like more conservative social value, safety reasons, higher population density, the way the school and education system is structured etc will all contribute to this phenomenon I think.

Michael Turton said...

Jackets zipped up backwards because they ride scooters that way, it deflects the wind better.