My friend Chaon passed around this link to a new blog on relationships between locals and foreigners. They are providing the content in both English and Chinese.
One beef I have with discussions of western males and Taiwanese femmes is the common claim that western men: “"have stereotypes of exotic Asian women. Kohl-eyed, sensual, and trained in the arts of pleasing a man" as one commenter put it there. That claim is itself, a kind of ethnic stereotype. Sadly, it often acts as a starting point for the discussion.
Rather than start there, let's see what fantasy "western" men might be holding about Taiwanese females.
Geert Hofstede is an organizational sociologist who has come up with a set of measurements of cultural characteristics that are commonly used in business research. Though heavily western-centric and incapable of capturing much variation, they are useful because they assess everything from a common point of view.
Hofstede defines five dimensions of cultural variation. For our purposes, we are looking at one, masculinity. Here are two descriptions from his website, in this case about the US:
The next highest Hofstede Dimension is Masculinity (MAS) with a ranking of 62, compared with a world average of 50. This indicates the country experiences a higher degree of gender differentiation of roles. The male dominates a significant portion of the society and power structure. This situation generates a female population that becomes more assertive and competitive, with women shifting toward the male role model and away from their female role.Masculinity, as Hofstede defines it, is about gender roles. A higher masculine score indicates a nation where roles are more strongly gendered and more "traditional". Here is the chart for Taiwan, where masculinity (MAS) is the center pyramid:
Masculinity (MAS) versus its opposite, femininity, refers to the distribution of roles between the genders which is another fundamental issue for any society to which a range of solutions are found. The IBM studies revealed that (a) women's values differ less among societies than men's values; (b) men's values from one country to another contain a dimension from very assertive and competitive and maximally different from women's values on the one side, to modest and caring and similar to women's values on the other. The assertive pole has been called 'masculine' and the modest, caring pole 'feminine'. The women in feminine countries have the same modest, caring values as the men; in the masculine countries they are somewhat assertive and competitive, but not as much as the men, so that these countries show a gap between men's values and women's values.
Now take a look at the same chart for the US:
a culture where "cute" does not necessarily conflict with "powerful." In other words, the role of "power" here is not as strongly characterized by behaviors defined as "male" as it is in the US and many other "western cultures."
Note that this does not mean that these societies are less "equal" but rather, shows how individuals, especially males, might regard social roles like "male" and social actions like "marriage" when they arrive in Taiwan.
What do these more masculine-stereotyped foreigners who come here meet in the way of Taiwanese femmes? Something out of their past. In Taiwan, they meet a lot of girls who come from families "the way it used to be" -- Dad works and Mom is a housewife, a situation almost vanished from the US, where the middle class has been in long-term decline since the Reagan years. This situation they interpret in terms of their own cultural expectations about gender: if I marry this woman I can replicate the kind of household my grandparents or hollywood movies or my parents or my culture expects me to replicate. The real and probably 90% unconscious fantasy of "western men" is a lot closer to Leave it to Beaver than Lily Thai.
Thus, I would suggest that the real cultural conflict between Americans and many other westerners and Taiwanese women is not between the reality of a living breathing human and the houri fantasy, but the way western men peer through their gender expectations at Taiwanese cute and miss Taiwanese power. Conflicts in relationships being mostly power struggles.......
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